Monthly Archives: August 2012

Hoi An – an ancient town by the river

hoi an

My trip in Vietnam 2009 started in Hanoi (separate blog post here), went on to Ha Long Bay (separate blog post here) and then continued south in Vietnam. We passed very nice places, met some very nice people. The country is not rich, but people seem happy and smiling. We felt welcome. The food was good and there was a lot to see. We passed Hue (I will write about it later), Danang, the border between north and south Vietnam and we finally arrived in Hoi An.

boat

Boat in Hoi An

bug

Beautiful bug on the river

We arrived in Hoi An in the afternoon and took a walk in the town entering it throught an ancient bridge. We walked around and explored the town. It’s small and very pitoresque and there is a lot to see. When we came to the town people were preparing a celebration and parade of some kind, so everything was shining, there were pictures of Ho Chi Mingh everywhere and you could feel excitement and preparations.

star

Preoaring for parade

kid

A school kid in a town preparing for celebration

The town of Hoi An is next to the river and every year in October-November the water of the river raise and had filled streets of the town several times. People are used to this and just continue with their lifes. It’s fascinating how easy it is to go on. In one of the houses that we visited there are markings on the walls how high the water was different years. Strange.

houses

Hoi An houses

houses

City by a river

We walked at the market, we walked by the river, we watched people, boats and life. We met also a restaurant owner who got really excited when he heard that we came from Sweden. He ran into his restaurant and came out with Swedish poster from early 20-th century, from prohibition time with pro-alcohol campaign.

kräftor

Restaurant owner with Swedish poster

woman
Woman on the market

There is a silk-factory in this town, some of us visited it. Others visited one of the large number tailors, and ordered custom made clothes. I did too. One shirt and skirt were pretty cool and one linnen dress that I never used. But they were fast, the clothes fit well and some were really pretty. There were also shops with pretty lamps everywhere. Cute town.

Lamps

Pretty lamps

One morning I woke up with the sun and went to the local market. When I got there I met our other photographer. We are strange people. The market was totally different early in the morning. There were only local there and very few tourists (all with large, nice cameras). There was a lot of trading, fish boats comming in, motorbikes with pigs, geese and chicken, still alive, fresh fruit and vegitables. The tourist stuff like souvenirs, fabric and pearls were not there yet and it was very different, very interesting, very nice. The real market.

market

In the market, there is a lot happening

woman

Pretty woman in the market, the hats are not only for tourists

fish market

Selling fish

selling ducks

Selling ducks

My fellow photographer-friend and I took also a walk to the railroad tracks to take some pictures. The train was just comming, so the traffic was stopped. While waiting my friend passed to the other side of the street. When traffic started he couldn’t get back and was helped by an old happy lady to cross the street. Westerners need lots of help sometimes. We saw also an old temple with dragons and sculptures and beautiful surroundings.

temple

An ancient temple

wishes

Sending wishes for the gods and spirits

statue

Budda statue

dragon

Dragon watching the temple

We stayed in Hoi An for three days. One of the days we visited the nearby beach. The day at the beach was nice and relaxing. We drank lemonade and ate fish and were laying under an umbrella reading. The wind was strong, so we didn’t swim. And guess if I got burned. That’s typical.

coast

On the beach

One of the evenings in Hoi An was also the Earth Hour. I went down to the river and watched the town put out all the lamps and turn black. Ot actually no. There were lanterns everywhere. Hundreds small lights were sent out on the river and it was beautiful.

preparing for earth hour

Preparing for earth hour

We left Hoi An happy and continued south to Ho Chi Mingh city, or Saigon, as it was called before.

Bridge

The famous bridge

The Ancient Town of Hoi An is a world heritage since 1999. Link to the site: Hoi An

My grade for this site is four out of five:

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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Kasubi Tombs, a piece of history, very much alive

sunrise

Finally I returned to Africa. This great continent is like a magnet for me and I wish to return to its heat, its coolness, its deserts, its green jungles and savannahs. Its great animals are in my dreams, Kilimanjaro is a still unreached goal and its cities make me curious and its people make me happy.

Tea plantation

Tea plantation

tomatos

Selling tomatos, yes we bought a few

I was on a trip to Masai Mara National Park and gorillas in Uganda and few things there between. I will write about the whole trip later. One of th stops we made on the way, during the trip was Kampala and in Kampala the Kasubi Tombs of kings of Buganda. That’s right, Buganda. Buganda is a subnational kingdom within Uganda. On the way to Kampala we saw wonderful sunrise, we saw people transporting bananaas to a market on their bikes. We passed tea plantations, lots of them.In the market they were picked up by a truck. We saw small shop selling tomatos and pineapples. We stop at a place like that, where we got some pineapples for the lunch. Jany wanted to get two or three tomaos, he got about five kilos, maybe more.

banana transport

Banana transport . This looks heavy.

banana transport

Banana transport version 2.0.

In Kampala we stayed there in a noisy camping, called Red Chili. The camping site was OK, there was wireless internet in the bar and a pool. But the place was crowded with people that wanted to party, so it was noisy and maybe not so good if you wanted to sleep. Thanks heaven for earplugs.

entering Kasubi Tombs

Entering the Kasubi Tombs

Kampala is the capital of Uganda. It’s a big city, a bit chaotic, ugly and charming at the same time. We didn’t spend so much time there, but enough to go to a coffee shop and a market. Both were better than good. Ugandan coffee is truly nice and the market had some really nice crafts. I bought a mask for my collection and a comb.

Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi Tombs

We travelled by minibuses, called matatu, together with locals. It was an interesting experience, in a good way. We travelled through poor neighborhoods and better ones.  The poorer ones were packed with sheds, people, vibrant and full with life. The poverty was obvious and painful, children looking in garbage, dogs running around. It was some sort of organized chaos. We were told that there are about three million people in Kampala plus those living in that kind of places. There were butcheries with meat hanging outside, there were stuff everywhere, the streets were narrow and dusty.

Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi Tombs, roof inside one of the buildings

And then we went up on a hill to Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi. This is the site of the burial grounds for four kabakas (kings of Buganda), and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. On 16 March 2010, some of the major buildings there were almost completely destroyed by a fire, the cause of which is under investigation. The site id being rebuilt.

Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi Tombs, the yard with some houses

Our gouide told us history of this amazing place, history of the kingdom of Buganda and history of Uganda. He showed us pictures of the kings. The kabakas buried at the site were:

  • Muteesa I (1835–1884)
  • Mwanga II (1867–1903)
  • Daudi Chwa II (1896–1939)
  • Sir Edward Muteesa II (1924–1969).

Suddenly we realized how little we actually know about recent history of this huge continent and this country. O rguide told us also about Idi Amin, how’s he got the power, the pretty good start and how monstruos he became. The history very much alive.

Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi Tombs, view from the top of the hill

We walked out in the area and looked at the tombs, looked at the houses and were told that desendants of the kings and their wives still live here. The heritage site is very much alive. We saw a women in great African dress with vibrant colors walk across the courtyard, we saw a guy with a goat, we saw children.Even if it is a museum, it still is home of people. The view from the hill was of the entire Kampala. The sunsets must be magnificent from here.

Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi Tombs, woman, maybe she lives there?

After visiting the tombs we went back into the city for some lunch. We found a place on top of a building with a pretty nice view of the city, sat down and ordered sandwiches. The waiter came back few minutes lter telling us that they don’t have sandwiches, only goat. Never had a goat in my life, but this was too strange situation to try it. But the guys in our group decided for goat anyways. Well, the story doesn’t end here. After a while the waiter came back with a womderful question: “Do you want a dry or wet goat?” The difference was that both were stew, but one was cooked with veggies, the other without. I tried the wet goat from Jany’s plate and it was OK. We survived the lunch, one experience richer.

sunrise

Sunrise in Uganda

Kampala is a city, maybe a little charming, but still a city with traffuc, dust and lots of things happening, but not to much nature to enjoy. If you pass it, go visit the tombs. The site (take a look at the link) is worth it. How many globes? This is hard. Visually, maybe three, the history told by the guide: five, view from the hill: four or five. My grade is four globes out of five.

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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Muzungus in the mud hoping for gorillas with or without mist

Morning mist

The goal of our recent trip to Uganda was to see gorillas. These great endangered animals are hard to reach and on a dream-list of many travelers. And on our as well. On a cold day in March in a lecture about the gorillas in an adventure fair in Stockholm, far far away from the mountains of Uganda we decided that we will go. Soon. And we found a trip with a company that we already travelled with previously, Nomad.

Road in the morning mist

Road in the morning mist

Few months passed and finally we were back in Africa. I will describe the entire trip in another post, now it’s special time for the gorillas. The place that we were going to see them was in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The time was decided to be July 11:th. The previous day we were divided in groups. I was supposed to go with a group to see the Mishaia family and Jany with another group to the Kahungye family. Since another couple was split as well, we decided to switch and I moved to Jany’s group. I was hoping for a short and easy trek.

Morning mist

Going to the Impenetrable Forest

Sunrise

Sun rises over Bwindi

Early in the morning we got up, got in the cars and went up in the mountains. Driving in the mist, watching a wonderful sunrise, we went up, higher and higher. Finally we got to the forest. We had a short briefing of the day, registration and were told that the trek can take about 2 hours if we are lucky and 8 if we are not so lucky, but the chance to see the gorillas is about 99%. Fair enough. I hoped for 2 hours. We were also told that we can get porters in the beginning of the trek. The backpacks are maybe light now, but the weight increases during the day, or it feels like it.

Briefing

Briefieng just before we start

And we went to the starting point. There were eight people in our group. And the porters. And I hired one. My pride said no, some part of my logical mind said yes, so I did. His name was Godson and he was a really nice guy.

We started. And up a hill we went. Up, up, in the sun, step by step on the red ground. Step by step, higher and higher. The sun was already warm and strong, even if the time was about 8:30 in the morning. The views were wonderful and the mood high. I was thankful for this opportunity, I was thankful for the porter and I was hoping for short and easy trek.

Just started going up

Going up, up, up

After a little more than one hour we reached the trees and the forest. This is the jungle. This is the famous impenetrable forest. And here are the gorillas. Soon. The rangers lead the way and there was also a ranger behind us, to lead the way, ro find the gorillas and the way back and to scare other wild animals. There are more gorilla families in the forest, there are chimpanzees, elephants and many more creatures that are not used to human being.Good to know.

jungle

Jungle is green, thick and umpenetrable

In the beginning it was easy to walk. After another hour or so the forest got thicker, denser, we went up, we went down and we went up again and down again. Steep, very steep. The trekking got harder. Every step was harder than the one before. The roots that we walked on were huge, the branches heavy and the bushes thicker and thicker. And the time passed quickly. A few times the guides screamed “Ants, run!” and we did. The ants were huge, didn’t care if we had nice clothes, they bit. And they bit really hard. One sucker got into my shoe and bit me in the foot a few times before it died, it hurt.

ranger

Ranger, making sure that we reach our goal

ranger in the jungle

Ranger in the jungle

After about four hours we reached the place were the gorillas were hiding. The first one scared the shit out of Jany and a woman that trekked in front. And a little bit later the silverback jumped out from the bushes in front of me and made me jump up, high as a Masai. Almost. The feeling of seeing that amazing creatures, so much alike us is not possible to describe.

Gorilla

Gorilla male peeking out from the bushes

Just imagine a huge gorilla, over 200 kilos, easily climbing the trees, easily swinging himself from branch to brach, almost trying to show off. Maybe in some ways we are superiour, but in many ways we are not.

Gorilla

Gorilla, almost looking worried

Gorilla

Gorilla climbing a tree in the jungle

The hour spent with the gorillas passed very quickly. There is one hour limit, I could stay there a lot longer, but that’s the rule and I understand it.

Gorilla

Gorilla jumping in a tree

Now the way back started. The very same way that we arrived, now it was time to go back. Now the up-and-down-parts became down-and-up. The jungle was as dense, the ants as huge and the way as long. It felt longer. After getting up the first, and worst hill we stopprd for lunch. I was too tired to eat, so I gave my lunch sandwiches to my porter. I know, the energy is vital and I gave it away. I had an energy bar instead. After the short stop we continued. Up ans down and more up. Somehow I managed to put one leg in front of the other, my porter helping me, Jany as well.

It started to rain. Nice, cooling rain. The way in the jungle became wet, muddy and slippery, which didn’t make the trekking easier. The dark in the jungle seems to come early and we were supposed to get out of the forest before the dark. Somehow we did it! The last part was on the hill, going down, on a very muddy, slippery path. Not easy at all. Finally we were down. We actually did it! The time was just after 6 pm and we were back were we started the same morning. We got diplomas and took some last photos and… had to walk few more steps to the cars that took us back to the camping at lake Buyoni.

me and Godson

Me and Godson

Certificate

I did it!

What an adventure!

Bwindi and Impenetrable National Park became world heritage in 1994. Link to the site.

My grade for this site is undoubtfully five out of five.

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