It's A Big World

and I'm just a squirrel trying to get a nut.

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I haven’t posted anything lately because of the very limited access to internet.

We flew from Beijing to Ho Chi Minh City – connecting through Hanoi.

We didn’t get to our hotel until around midnight but we managed to still explore the area.  The place we are staying is popular among backpackers so many of the business speak at least English and we see many “westerners” around the area.

We hit it hard the first night and saw the sun come up :) After a few hours of sleep we met up with some of Kevin’s friends who live in Ho Chi Minh and they showed us around for the day. We didn’t hit the night life as hard but we still managed to make a good showing.  We left to go on a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels were used by the Viet Cong before and during the Vietnam war. We took a boat up and rode the bus back. It was a great experience but it was a little bit odd hearing the story from their points of view.  When we returned to Ho Chi Minh, we went through the War Remnants Museum. Kevin’s friends told us that they just changed the name of the museum from something like “Museum of American War Crimes.” They had American fighter jets, tanks, artillery, etc. on display and there were several floors of photos taken during the war. Many of the images were very graphic and harrowing. Was really surprised they displayed some of the images…

Our schedule has been changed somewhat…we weren’t even supposed to be still in Ho Chi Minh but the other guy that was to meet us last night had some major issues with his flight. Basically, his flight was canceled to mechanical malfunction and was delayed 24 hours.

We were going to go to Phnom Phen to see the killing fields museum and then head up to Angkor Wat. Because of the delay, we are now going to fly directly to Angkor Wat and spend two full days there. Our flight leaves at 11:40am tomorrow.  Eventually we will make it Bangkok – some way, some how…

Has been a great trip!  Feeling great. Haven’t been hit with any traveling bugs – yet.

All for now…

Real quick post this time as we got in late last night and are heading out early today to do some last minute shopping for our trip.  We fly out Saturday morning (tomorrow).

Day 5 consisted of eating some great dumplings for lunch and then we went to JinShan Park which overlooks the Forbidden City.

We crossed the street to actually enter the Forbidden City and we found out they quit giving tickets at 4:00pm and we were there around 4:15…so Kevin told the security guard in the booth we were just going to take  a picture by the big red door at the entrance and eventually the guard agreed to let us do that.  As soon as he wasn’t looking we took off!  The Forbidden City is an outdoor labyrinth of concrete hallways and buildings. There were large concrete courtyards throughout…very cool place and the entrance fee was even better!

The picture of the guy with is shirt half way up is representative of what guys do when it is hot out.  It is so normal that this guy does it in a picture…

Earlier in the day we took the scooter in for a repair as the tire blew while I was riding on it.  We picked up the scooters and went to a hole in the wall to eat some pasta, home made chips, fried bread, lamb, and some beers.  For an entree, three appetizers, two beers, and two waters…the total bill ran around $9. Not bad.

The picture is of the outside of the dive we ate in. They cooked the bread and lamb skewers in the black thing behind the guy sitting down…

The last couple of days have been so hot but we’ve forged on with our travel plans.  Today it reached 106 and it feels so  much hotter when walking to the down the street surrounded by concrete!

We started off the day eating Thai food. I sampled several dishes and struggled with my chopsticks.

Thai Food

We then rode the subway to the other end side of Beijing to visit a park called the Summer Palace. To give some perspective, the subway trip took around an hour to get there from the Thai restaurant.  The Summer Palace was built by an emperor as a vacation home of sorts.  We rented a boat and cruised around the lake, did some hiking, made some friends, and drank lots of water.

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After exploring the Summer Palace for hours, we jumped in a cab and rode to the CCTV Tower for an awesome view of Beijing. The viewing deck gave some perspective on the extent of the city. Beijing has 12 million residents.  In comparison, New York has 8 million & L.A. has 4 million.

We then headed for some Peking Duck and some big beers. We hailed a cab for the long journey back across town. I mentioned in a previous post how crazy the traffic is throughout town.  Well, we saw how crazy it was when our cabbie started taking a right-hand turn and a guy on a moped tried to beat him through the corner…the cab one.  BUT, it didn’t appear that anyone was badly hurt.  We jumped in another cab while the cops did what they had to do.


The duck was amazing but we didn’t eat any of the head that was also cooked and brought out.  We also had watermelon juice.  Weird.

Head of Duck - Look for the eyes

Heading to the Great Wall tomorrow!

After a long night, we awoke early to go and meet some administrators from FHSU that happen to be in Beijing on business.  We spent several hours with them and then headed to the area of Beijing that is commonly referred to as the Silicon Valley of Beijing. It is also an the section of Beijing where the majority of colleges and universities are located.Pictured is one of the more interesting buildings.

Kevin and one of the other guys that is going on our trip went downtown to the Silk Street District to buy some clothes.  The stores were basically 10ft x 10ft booths selling leather, wallets, purses, clothes, etc.  It was a cool experience but the people working the booths were very aggressive and would try to pull you into their booth. Very annoying but something I had to experience. I did buy a tailor made shirt that I have to pick up before I leave – it costs me something like $12.  It should be pretty nice.

Kevin, Darren, and I then hit a joint for some mexican food and beer and headed back to the apartment. This was certainly one of the more interesting events of the day. I rode on the back of Darren’s scooter and saw my life flash before my lives on a couple of occasions. I recorded the whole thing and will eventually post to youtube.  The driving rules and regs are certainly different than in the US!  Good times.

Finally, the heat and humidity here make South Louisiana feel like Colorado.  With the exception of a few parks (which are beautiful), Beijing is a city of concrete. Walking through the streets feels like walking through an oven baking at 350 degrees!  Really has me wondering how we’ll make it through Vietnam and Cambodia!

Flag Raising

CCTV Building "Squatters Building"

Downtown Streets of Beijing

Streets of Beijing - Bicycles!

Double Decker Bicycle Parking

My Southeast Asia Adventure begins in a few days and I’m not quite sure how to pack. I need to fit everything I need for two weeks into a backpack and still leave room for any souvenirs I want to bring home with me.

The itinerary as I know it is like this:

July 2nd – Fly from KC to Chicago and then the 13 hour flight to Beijing.
July 3rd – Arrive in Bejing
July 9 or 10 – Fly to Ho Chi Minh
July 16 – Fly from Bangkok to Kansas City

What will we be doing is still up in the air. I’ve listed some of the places we may be visiting on other areas of

While in Beijing I will be staying with my friend and former grad school classmate, Kevin. A South Dakota native, Kevin lives in Vermillion during the academic year and lives in Beijing for two months each summer and still owns an apartment there. He knows the lay of the land, the right people, the best places to eat, and most importantly – the language.

One of Kevin’s friends that lives in China permanently will meet up with us to fly to Ho Chi Minh. Another friend of Kevin’s will be flying in to Ho Chi Minh from Sioux Falls, SD and the four of us will begin the 800 mile trek to Bangkok, Thailand. Travel arrangements have not been made but we know we must make it to Bangkok within 5 days for me to catch my flight home. All we know is that we will be crossing through Cambodia and I hope to visit the Killing Fields museum as well as travel on the Mekong river.

I’ll post more as I know more!