Saturday, December 29, 2018

Last post of the year!

One year has already gone if we do not take into account the three days left to say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019.

For almost each of us, this is the time when we look back at what we have done during this year, where we have succeeded and where we have instead failed. Also, it is a time to understand where we want to go from here. Are there some goals we want to set? Are there some errors we need absolutely to remember not to repeat?
What are the lessons this last year has taught us?
Sometimes it is important to recall day after day, and maybe, since my memory might be a little short, I think it would be wiser to make some written notes to self, on what I am not supposed to repeat.
Sure there have been lessons during the last year that I will remember for my whole life, but there are many others that I might forget with the time. So, if there is anything I will write down next year, this won't be any propositions, instead writing down all the success and achievement in order to repeat them again and again but also to write down all the mistakes and fails to avoid repeating them.
I am sure that at the end of the next year I will have an entire book filled with all the mistakes I will have to avoid in the future, but if this will be a way to really improve myself, then I guess I might give it a shot.

This year the Wandering Writer has been quite a lot on the road, although those wanderings were mostly work related and they brought nothing else but stress instead of the richness I am looking after every travel I make.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that next year things will go better as I cannot forecast how it will go, but at least for what concern my personal travels we have already a plan.
So be prepared to hear something more about West Africa, because we are going back to my favorite continent.

The Wandering Writer will bring you on a road trip from Nigeria to Ghana passing through Togo and Benin.
Be prepared for savoring the heart of African Voodoo tradition, which will also give me precious material for the new novel I started to conceive a couple of months ago. It will be a sort of paranormal thriller based on the voodoo rituals in Africa.
I plan to bring you more places around Italy and also insight about Portugal. It will be a year full of adventures.
The main adventure that I forecast is the acquisition of all the necessary visas, but for this, and for hints about the best way to get them, (if ever you might be interested in travelling to the same countries) you need to wait until next time, as we are just thinking about them.
So now the countdown has started and the excitement is at the stars. I wish you all a prosperous new year full of great news.
Stay Tuned!!


Saturday, December 22, 2018

When holiday stress adds to working stress.

This last period was crazy as hell, at least for me.
If we count that after the last holiday in September I came back to work straight, knowing that after a couple of days, I had to take once again the flight to northern Finland following field work on a construction site on a ten-hours shift to keep up with the schedule. As the week was over, I had one day back to the office before leaving for Ohio for the Author Academy Awards. As soon as I came back, I had only two days at the office before leaving once again for northern Finland. 

December was the craziest of all and finally yesterday the fiscal year at my company ended with my team and me, stretching for 14:30 hours of continuous work without taking a lunch break.

Now, I have almost three weeks of deserved holiday, but the ghost of this Christmas is still haunting my rest. You know we still have to wrap our gifts, prepare the dinner for the family, and the most horrifying task of all, going for grocery.

Honestly, now I remember why I generally escape the Christmas being on holiday for this period and I am regretting the decision of being with the family instead than being far away to a place where nobody knows it is Christmas and there is no hurry.

I have been during this week to the shop just to buy small everyday items, and I felt lucky that I was going by foot, instead of having a car, because the traffic was the craziest thing I have ever seen around here.
Helsinki, besides being the capital of Finland, is not very densely populated, so the city itself, road and junction are thought and planned accordingly. Something they didn't expect was the craziness that the traffic can reach during this period, and everything looked like stuck.
But what's happened on the road is just a foretaste of what is going on in the shop. Finnish people are (thankfully) calm and do not give up on stressful behavior, but when they are all in one shop... I give up to stress.
There is a song that came to my mind recently during my brief visits to the market, "sometimes I feel like screaming" of Deep Purple. Indeed I felt like exploding inside myself, wishing only to be far away on the small, dark, lonely path that leads home, where the only beings I might come across are the wild hares or squirrels and birds.

I am not the only one to deal with the dinner, the gifts, the preparations, the decorations, being also able to follow your own life, that one that goes on regardless of the season.
The only suggestion I can give you all is trying to simplify the process and focus only on enjoying each other's company, feeling blessed for another year we have been given to spend together. Nobody expects a Michelin star restaurant experience, so let's take it easy and make sure to be ready to spend a great evening with your beloved ones.
To you all, I wish a great holiday as next time we are going to talk about New Year's resolutions and goals to be achieved during the next year.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Escaping the Christmas?

For those who remember the movie "Christmas with the Kranks," a brilliant comedy about the stresses that Christmas involves and a plan to escape them even if only for one year, maybe this is the time to make some serious considerations about it.


https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/A1JAkQt5kSL._SL1500_.jpg

My husband and I are generally escaping it like in the movie, but we are luckier, and we get really to leave (LOL).
The fact is not escaping the dinners, the relatives, and the feelings. It is mostly connected with the melancholic mood that Finnish Christmas is bringing along.
The week before Christmas the streets are a real explosion of lights, happy faces, hurrying people, sounds and joy.
This lasts until the 23rd of December.
After that, Finland transforms that happiness into a dystopian nightmare.
Totally deserted streets that still keep their lights on. Restaurants are almost empty if not closed for the season. Like humanity has been wiped out from the planet.


This lasts until the 26th. After that, with the starting back of the working life, the streets become once again busy and jolly, getting ready for the New Year's Eve celebrations.

Jokes and sarcasm apart, the fact is that Christmas in Finland is meant to be spent only with the family. We use to spend our time indoors taking the time to talk and enjoy each other company, which during the rest of the year might become more complicated due to the different schedules, work, and other issues that seem to keep people apart.

Our escape is not an escape from
the family gatherings, it is instead an escape from the depression that grabs our hearts when going for a walk in the city.

The solution that puts together the family celebrations and the escape plan?
Easy peasy!
Spend Christmas Eve with the family, and the morning after, fly away to a far away holiday until the New Year. Since Finnish people celebrate mostly the Eves than the real days of holiday, this seems to be the best solution for all.

Now another little suggestion to lighten the stress.
The gifts!

What to give nowadays to people, when we have all that we desire if not too much of it?
The answer is to keep it simple!
What is the thing that people need and appreciate is something that doesn't cram the shelves or storages, so what about something that fills the bellies?
Yes, I am talking about food.
We are generally preparing for the whole family cookies, mustard, jams, liver pate and similar. All, of course, homemade, nothing bought ready.
You might think that it takes time, but what about the time you spend thinking about the right gift to buy, the run to the shops hoping they still have the item you are looking for?
Isn't it better just do the grocery and stay calmly at home preparing the food packets?
However, this year, we are not planning to travel anywhere, just take it easy and spend the time in the family, planning the next trip.
Sometimes it is good not to have any plan and enjoy your holidays day after day without overthinking about any program.

With this, I wish you a great weekend and a fantastic holiday season to you all!


Saturday, December 8, 2018

When the day of holiday is not enough. The Finns and the Eves

Today, I am going to tell you about a characteristic of the Finnish people that I haven't mentioned before.
That is the sort of obsession of Finnish people not just with the holidays but with the day before the holiday itself; the Eve.
The Eve is everything, it means anticipation, excitement, celebration; the holiday itself is feeling sometimes like devoided of any meaning because you know the following day you need to go back to work.
It's just like the feeling of the Friday and Saturday compared with the dullness and bitterness of the Sundays. Nothing cool happens on Sundays, because you know already what is going to happen the following day.
Back to work, back to the usual routine, with the usual projects or worse with a project you seem to be stuck into without any way out.

But if you have never met a Finn, I can tell you that they bring the Eves to a brand new level. So you have the Christmas Eve, the New Year's Eve the Labor Day's Eve, the Midsummer fest's Eve.
Nevertheless, this is sometimes not enough.
Think about it, the whole world is celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve, so what do they invent? The Eve's Eve.
This means celebrating not only the day before but two days in advance the official day for the holiday.
Those who can, they will take a day off to celebrate Eve's Eve, those who can't, well they try at least to have a shorter day at work.

After 14 years of living in Finland, this seems to me something reasonable and every January, I try to see where I can put my holiday so to keep also Eve's Eves free.
This seems reasonable also since the government decided that there are some holidays which can be moved to the Saturdays/Sundays, so to avoid that workers have too much of free time on their own. Not all, of course, but those minor holidays like All Saint's day is celebrated on the last Saturday of the month, whether it is the 2nd of November or not. Likewise, MidSummer is celebrated the second to last Saturday/Sunday of June (although it should be the 21st of June celebrating the solstice).

This decision doesn't seem to stop Finns from having their days off, so in case those holidays are scheduled on Sundays, they also celebrate on Friday, as the Eve's Eve. It does make sense doesn't it?
It makes us feel like rebels.
 Finnish people are quiet and calm, they do not make any riot, they calml think about the way to fool the rule, so that everybody is happy.
And so I wish you all a great weekend!


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Columbus, a city you couldn't guess

This is a funny story about my trip to Columbus, Ohio. I have told so far that I have been there for the Author Academy Awards, but today I would like to linger a bit on a city that deserves a special mention.
On my flight to Columbus I had a stopover in Chicago, and since I arrived at the International terminal, I needed to go through the passport control to reach the Domestic one.
This is what happened with the Border Officer:

Me: 'Morning!
Officer: Good morning, is Chicago your final destination?
Me: No, I am going to Columbus.
Officer: Ohio? (with a confused expression)
Me: Yes - brightly smiling -
Officer: Going for business?
Me: No, just leisure.
At this point, you should have seen his expression. It was like I said that I was going to visit some friends from Mars, who were going to have a party.
Officer: Do you have any friends there?
Me: No - and I started to enjoy his confused expression -
Officer: Why? I mean Why then going there?
Me: Oh, but if you haven't visited it yet, you need to! There is the German, Italian and Victorian villages that are a must see. Not to mention the old town. -At this point, I felt like a tour operator trying to sell a holiday package-
Officer: -His eyes got wide open- Really?

Sometimes we are so much caught into what are the most common holiday destination that we miss what we have just under our noses. Sometimes the least beaten path means discovering something genuinely amazing.
Now, besides this, I have something to show you that will surely put you in the Ohio mood,
Meanwhile, the downtown might not offer what you are looking for concerning excitement, you might walk (or take a ride, depending on your mood) to the south, and get the vibes of the German Village
To the north and decide to have a walk to the Victorian or Italian Village:
http://italianvillage.org/
Or choose to go east and get to know the Old Town. Whatever your mood, you will find plenty of exciting spots, lovely cafeterias, beautiful parks to spend your days on holiday.

I think I fell in love...

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Fear of speaking in front of an audience? Have fun reading this!

Well, we all know that speaking in front of an audience made of people you've never met before, and who are also going to be your potential followers is something scaring. We have been taking the speech at the dinner table during the parties, we have been through job interviews, but what when you have a hundred people listening to you?

This is what happened to me when I had to present my book at the Author Academy awards in October. From Finland, I had to take the flight to reach Columbus, via Chicago, and this for the Wandering Writer is almost the story of my life, so nothing to see here.

The fear was that I was supposed, as one of the 10 finalists in my genre to talk about my book in.
Another reason to be nervous was that on that occasion nobody could come with me to support me emotionally, so I had to look at the mirror:
"There is no other option, so you do this right, or you do this right!" I said to myself, and it was true, I couldn't come back when I reached that far.
My husband who helped me to prepare my 90 seconds (!) of speech told me something that actually worked. Besides the old trick to imagine the audience and the judges naked, he said that when you are talking in front of five, ten people, the attention is definitely conveyed at you, because the group is so small that you will definitely be the only voice. When the number of the audience increases, then it starts to become just a human mass. Some might listen to you, others will browse on their phone, others will wonder whether it would have been better staying at the bar. But you will not be able to understand who is really listening to you so treat the big audience like a mass.
Well, that is easy to say, but not to do, mainly when "the mass" is anyway looking at me.
I had to go with the flow. I knew I learned my speech, I was confident of my book, a friend of mine borrowed me a great dress, and there was that awesome book of mine. It had to work, and if it didn't, no problem at all, it will be what it has to be.
 I guess that sometimes we just need to forget about performance and think about just enjoying ourselves.
Talking to an audience can be fun if you take it with the right attitude, and that is that there isn't any right or wrong way to say what you have in mind. It is just you taking time to have fun in a way different than your usual ways.
Now, if you think you are going to have fun, it shouldn't be that scary anymore.
Of course, the butterflies will be shaking their wings in the stomach anyway, and the voice might be shaky in the beginning.
But you know what happened after the first sentence?
I looked at the people listening to me, and then I realized that they were all like me, people without any perfection, who were not there to judge but to hear what I had to say.
At that moment I started to feel better, and I really enjoyed.
Of course having 90 seconds to tell about your book, might be challenging, but in the end, who knows your book better than you?
So here I was talking about my ghosts

The speech went great, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed every second. People came to congratulate me, and I also sold a book.
Most important of all I met a lot of new friends, amazing writers and people, which I would have never met had I decided to stay comfortably at home for fear of failing.
I wasn't the winner of the evening, but once again I felt like I won because I gained more confidence in what I do and in the person I am, I will for sure participate to other events, whenever the possibility arises.

So fear of speaking in public? There is only one cure, get out and talk to the audience, but most of all, enjoy every moment.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Changing hat to the 'Marketing Writer'

Although recently I am always on the road, I also need to take care of my writing career, hoping one day it can become the only one.
Today I wanted to share with you my next to release novel, the second book of the series Deadly Deception.
So, Title: Deadly Deception - Insomniac-

My husband continues to say that it sounds like a horror story, rather than a thriller/crime story. Nevertheless, I think that what some people can do when blinded by greed and thirst for power, is more horrific than zombies and vampires, so we might also call it a horror story.
The name comes from the common thread that bounds the whole story which is insomnia, a common problem experienced by many of us. Some people are suffering from it just occasionally, others can reach the real chronic state.
But what if those people who seek help in treating their insomnia will be inserted in a twisted test to become unaware killers?
Following the line of Book 1, in this book more and more people will get tangled into an intricate net of lies and deceptions.
Nothing is what it seems.

So get ready because in December, date yet to establish but much probably for Christmas, there will be a new release, and I am planning it to be full of surprises and great deals.

One thing, I got confirmation about is that I have a fantastic team of followers. I do not have tens of thousands of them in my email list, but those who are there are showing me such support as I could never imagine.
I send them a monthly newsletter, they go and click to my links, but that is all. This time, as I asked for volunteers to join my review team, I got an unexpected amount of positive reactions, who couldn't review, promised to help me with the promotion.
I am speechless, and I feel so grateful for their support, as I couldn't really imagine possible.

I drop a couple of links, just in case you might be interested:
Join my awesome team in my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dny4RL
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PJ.Mann.paperpenandinkwell
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PjMann2016
Follow me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+PJMann
Check-out my website: https://pjmann2016.wixsite.com/pjmann


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Never miss Nha Trang! You'll regret...

As our journey reached the fourth leg, we felt as surprised as hell to discover a place that resembles more a wester city, than a vietnamese one.
Nha Trang is a real tourist attraction, maybe it is for the perfect beach, for the fantastic climate, for the exciting nightlife, and for the Asian twist that Vietnam has to offer.
Whatever your reason, this is a place where you need to stop.

A few things grabbed our attention.
I was sure that such a touristic place like Nha Trang, would have all the shops names, restaurants menus, and street signs in two languages, Vietnamese and English.
Everything I could expect except finding the second language being Russian (!)
Shops, cafeterias, and restaurants, hotels, tour agencies, you name it they were all in those two languages, and only in a few spots, the signs are also in English.
When we asked for this reason at the hotel reception, they could not offer any answer, mostly because their English wasn't really good, and my Russian is a bit rusty (LOL).
As usual, our best friend, in this case, was Google, where I found a blogger explaining that the reason lies on the fact that Russians consider Nha Trang as the best place for a holiday, and honestly I have to say they are right.
The place is awesome.
Not the right place to find quiet and peace, but it is perfect to have fun. My research led me to another fascinating piece of information, which is that many Russians who can work from home, decide to move to Nha Trang and work from there. They buy apartments, and they establish their "office outside the office" there.
Some other come to spend months here during the right season (far from the monsoon's season that can be a pain in the neck for those looking for fun).
So, let's talk about the main attraction, the beach:

That is something you really want to enjoy; fine, white sand, stretching as far as the eye can see, inviting you to undress and lay down to be caressed by the gentle breeze from the sea and kissed by the Sun as your mind drifts away with the crashing of the waves.

Second, the food. In Vietnam I have enjoyed mostly the local cuisine, and taken aside a couple of not so good experiences, I can say that you need to dig into what the local culture has to offer. Of course, a place like Nha Trang has to offer international cuisine to accommodate the most of the tastes, but, at least for me, going to Asia to have a cheeseburger, is out of the question.
Another thing that will attract your attention is the things that are forbidden on the beach:
Some of them I can understand but really flying a kite is prohibited? Why in this world?
Although, as usual rules schmules, there were people flying kites and fishing.
I am not sure what you might fish on shallow water, on the other hand, I am not a fisherman, so I might be wrong.
Next leg, it's back to Saigon, but there are a  few sites you'll need to see, so stay tuned for the next adventure!
Have a great weekend!



Saturday, November 3, 2018

Train traveling in Vietnam, the Wandering Writer




Hello and happy Friday everyone!
Today this post will be dedicated to the different way to travel by train in Vietnam. For many of us, train traveling means having a comfortable seat, if you're going by day or a sleeping berth if your journey is overnight.
Vietnam, instead, offers a few more choices depending on your need and economy. Although the price difference between the classes doesn't much differ, unless you need to count every penny.
From here the say "a cent saved is a cent earned."
We traveled twice by train, the first time from Danang to Nha Trang. Then, from Nha Trang to Saigon, where was our final destination for this interesting loop travel between two countries.

So, the Vietnamese Railways offers four different classes of travel that can be used regardless of the length of your journey or whether you travel by day or night.

1. The soft berth,
2. the hard berth,
3. the soft seat
4. the hard seat

I guess you can imagine by yourself the difference between the four classes, but perhaps, just like we thought in the beginning, your idea might still be flawed by the concept of train travel you have in your own country, and there is where you will get surprised.
The soft and hard berth, do not have really much any difference between one another (yes, we tested them). At least concerning the comfort of the berths, they were much comparable with each other and the hard ones were not uncomfortable at all.
I can say this because we traveled for 10 hours on the "so-called" hard ones. The difference is that instead of having four berths in each cabin, our had six berths, but there is anyway enough space to move.
I was happy with this solution because I felt it very comfortable for reading (and sleeping), which I did for most of the travel.

The soft seats also are very comfortable, and the cabin has AC perfectly functioning so you can have a good trip in all comfort either by sleeping, reading or playing cards.
https://12go.asia/images/operator/1847/class/14-inside.jpg
The part that gave us big question marks were the hard seats:
We could not even think about sitting there for ten hours like our trip required without injuries on the lower part of your spine. There isn't any comfort for doing anything, and I hope this is the choice for people who have to travel for maximum one hour.
The longer the travel and I start to consider it as torture.
https://halongsapapackages.com

Likewise in many other places we have traveled, we suggest to bring something to eat, because there is no restaurant in the train.
Regardless of this detail, quite often someone is passing with a trail from where you can purchase snacks and food. Not being able to have a table where to eat, you might want to opt for a snack, instead of a meal, just to avoid making a mess.

One big plus in the trail in the cleanliness level. Every now and then there is someone passing and cleaning the floor, changing the sheets of the berths for the next customer and the restrooms are spotless.

I generally love traveling by train, but for long routes, unless it involves a good night sleep, it might become a bit tedious, but on the vietnamese trains, I can say that it is a real enjoyment.

Take care and see you next week where I will tell you something about the beautiful Nha Trang.
Stay Tuned!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Danang and the beautiful Vietnamese coastline The Wandering Writer



Here I am back to the usual appointment with this journey to discover the beauties of Vietnam, trying to get the advantage of every single day to move around, rather than staying in a single place. As we left last time, we reached the city of Danang, famous for being the cultural center of Vietnam and also for being the first port where the US troops entered Vietnam in 1965, when soon after the city became a sort of "small American town."
Of course small was something that didn't last long as soon refugees from the fire free zone, and people from the rural areas conveyed to the city. At that point, the population started to grow exponentially until nowadays being the fifth largest city in Vietnam.

One thing we immediately noticed was that despite being a large city, the traffic on the street was not even comparable with that on Saigon.
In Danang, life seems to move more quietly and for us was a blessing because in this way we could rent a scooter and move around quite freely for the city's attraction. One offside was that we had a short time to visit everything, so we needed to choose wisely our destinations.

Something that I truly recommend is the famous Con Market, which is the largest and busiest open market in the city.




Likewise, the one we visited in Saigon, here you can find everything for everybody. The western concept of "mall" here means open market, and people get not only their groceries here but also the houseware, clothes, shoes, spare parts and whatever else except large electronic ware for which there are dedicated shops.
Something I have noticed though is that on traditional shops (the way the westerners mean LOL) the prices are surprisingly high, and this put into perspective the wealth of this country, far from being a place where to find bargains, like we did for example in Hong Kong.
Do yourself a favor, do not go to sleep early!
The city turns itself into a carnival of lights during the night. Mainly the bridges are something spectacular you do not want to miss.
You will regret.
Moreover, the nightlife in Danang, like I presume in every big city of Vietnam is vibrant and full of attractions, from the late night markets to the nightclubs, restaurants and much much more.



Vietnam, with its diversity, liveliness, with the friendliness of its people will fascinate you and is supposed to remain in your memories like a dear destination.
There are undoubtedly many other places that deserve to be seen, and probably we will be back to Vietnam once again to experience it one more time.
That said, I wish you a very bright weekend and don't forget to stop by next week, because there are funny experiences we had on the train trip from Danang to Nha Trang, a place that will surely make you wonder for its peculiarity.
Stay tuned!

Friday, October 19, 2018

On the road between Laos and Vietnam with the Wandring Writer

One thing I have learned during my journeys around the world is to never expect much when buying a bus or train ticket. Although with the train it is generally a question of how crowded it might be, on the bus, you really can expect everything.
On the paper, everything seems to be fine, but even those rides that read VIP might be deceiving.
And of course, you want to reserve a spot on a VIP ride, particularly in those countries where the standards are quite far from those you are used to. Nevertheless, also in those cases, the acronym VIP might be subjected to many interpretations, and not necessarily they meet your expectations.

In Tanzania, we were accommodated for a 10 hours ride on a rusty little bus where the floor was missing in a few spots, no air conditioning and it was sold for a VIP ride (I do not want even to know what would have been the normal ride).
In India, to reach Kathmandu, we had a bus which you could barely call it that way, and the windows wouldn't close.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we were supposed to travel on a night boat with a private cabin. The actual boat was a small ferry so rusty that it seemed a miracle it could still float. No, there weren't cabins, but the captain was so kind that offered his own little sleeping "room" (I think I have thanked him one thousand times).
These are just a few examples on the topic "never trust a salesman when he is offering a comfortable ride."
To reach Danang, Vietnam, from Pakse, Laos, we choose another VIP ride, because we know the alternative can be a nightmare.
The ride was supposed to be relatively long, about 12 hours on a bus, and we sincerely hoped that for once in the lifetime, the trip would have been at least comfortable.
We were instructed to wait for the taxi to get us from the hotel lobby at 4:30 AM, but they arrived with a half an hour delay rushing like crazy to be able to reach the bus terminal in time.

So after the last goodbye to the beautiful night sky of Laos,

We were ready to leave.
 The bus was not exactly what we were expecting, but it had air-conditioned, and it was reasonably comfortable, at least enough to be able to fall asleep like babies.
Yes, we could have taken the flight that would have brought us to our destination in one hour, but we hoped to be able to see something more of the scenery offered by a road trip. This was true only for the part of the journey when we were awake, so to be honest quite few.

Nevertheless, something I could notice is that in the countryside, both in Laos and Vietnam,  people are building charming houses. I believe that, like everywhere else in the world, the prices to buy the land in those isolated areas might be way lower.
The journey went on flawlessly except for a small problem at the border. We had only a single-entry visa for Vietnam not really thinking that we should have paid for multiple-entry one (silly us).

Well, sometimes you just forget the smallest detail, and since this trip was mostly not planned at all, this kind of problem was to be included in the holiday package.

No problems at all, we just paid 5USD for the re-entry, and everything was solved, except for a small delay on our schedule, which seemed not to have bothered the other passengers, who could enjoy having more time to eat and stretch their legs.

Note to self: remember to think about the kind of visa you need in advance (and I should have seen that coming)!

So in the end, we reached Da Nang, which is one of the most important cities in Vietnam.
This is the commercial and educational center of Central Vietnam, as well as being the largest city in the region. It is close to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Imperial City of Hue, the Old Town of Hoi An... but for this, you will have to wait until next week.
Wish you a great weekend!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saigon to Pakse, Laos, the Wandering Writer's style

After a few days in Saigon, we headed north to Laos, to be precise Pakse.
Now this is not the most  popular destination among the tourists who decide to visit Laos and for this reason you might imagine how this attracts me the most. Few tourists means also that the place didn't adjust its image and heritage to accommodate the tastes of international travelers.
Despite the small deviation at the airport of Saigon, where we arrived one day in advance, the flight went smoothly and within a couple of hours we reached our third leg of the trip, where we would have stayed for other five days before...
Hmm... what then?
The fact was that because the failure of the dam that happened last month, we didn't dare to make any plan and considered wiser to plan as we go, from that point on.
In a few famous words, No Reservations.

The original idea was to take the bus to reach the border and from there trying to reach one of the cities along the coastline of Vietnam, but we needed to figure out the whole trip one reservation at a time.
In the meanwhile we could enjoy our stay at the hotel my husband booked in Pakse. If there is a word that can be associated with my husband is minimalism and character, two words I really appreciate too. However, when we talk about a hotel stay, I wish at least the basic comfort being granted, and if I can also have wi-fi and air conditioned that would be the top I can expect.

The hotel was a surprise:

I don't know what's going on but this was rated as a three-star hotel! I would have given a good five stars.
The room was perfect, even if we took the standard one, I considered it far better than many other four-star hotels I have stayed in.
Now once settled in our room, it was time to go and check out the hoods.
Pakse, is a very small town, it has just a couple of attractions, but the main thing it has is the beautiful nature it is immersed in.
When traveling in Asia, particularly in areas where the tourism is not as developed as in other cities you need to forget where you come from, and start over again.
This is the best way to appreciate and get to know the local culture. If you keep comparing with the place you come from and things that are familiar to you, the result will be always disappointing. Instead if you keep your mind open, thinking like you have just been born that day, your experience will be amazing. Your heart will be opened to understand better what's around you, and the differences that make this world amazing.
In the town there are many restaurants, and I think we'd tried all of them. However two were the busiest and also the ones which could grabbed the attention of the tourists. They are located side by side, and I guessed the owner is the same, as their menus are identical.
The staff spoke perfectly English (something quite rare to find) and they offered a great variety of international and local food.
There were things we could not go and see due to the low season and the flooding of the area, but this doesn't mean that there wasn't anything to do or see.
Considering the almost absence of traffic on the streets, we dared to rent a bike and go around to have some fun. Something really worth to be seen was the Golden Buddha statue watching the city and giving the chance to have a great panoramic view of the city and the Mekong river.
 

 
 
The city seemed a oasis of peace, particularly after Saigon, and offered many idyllic views that enchanted me.
 After a good rest and wandering around the question was still open, what next?
The answer arrived just at dinner time, when we noticed the big poster on a side of the restaurant wall, about the bus trip from Pakse to Danang, in Vietnam. Since we didn't have any other plan, and we needed to get back to Vietnam at some point, this sounded like the best chance so we booked the trip right away, together with a hotel for a couple of nights in Danang.
As I said we would have continued our trip one reservation at time.
Have a great weekend and stay tuned for the rest of the journey!!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

From Turkey to Saigon, a brand new experience

From the small, but interesting parenthesis in Turkey, my journey continued East towards Vietnam, precisely Saigon. Ho-Chi-Minh city is the name given by North Vietnam, and it is generally accepted, but South Vietnam people prefer to call it Saigon, and personally, I do also prefer to call it that way.
The country during its history has endured a lot of conflicts, from regaining its independence from China to the latest of the events the Vietnam war.
Nevertheless, its economy and development are on a constant rise.
About Saigon, I will have to stop again, because there is a lot to discover just in this city and it would be a pity not to show you the most I can in the time of this blog series dedicated to Vietnam and Laos.
The first thing you notice about Saigon is the impossible traffic on the streets. Half of the population moves with scooters and motorbikes, while the other half with cars, taxis, buses, and tuk-tuk (although the latter is less common to be seen and it seems to be used mostly by tourists).
You can rent a scooter for something like 4USD a day plus gasoline, but be warned, the traffic rules are mostly ignored, and you will have to be very skilled in not ending up into an accident.
Kudos to Vietnamese people for being able to drive in such conditions without causing accidents.
This was just a typical Monday...
The city has a lot to offer to the curious eye, and if you are looking for bargains, you need to visit the street markets. Those are the places where you can buy food of any kind, meat, fish fruits, dried cereals, vegetables; you name it. Kitchenwares, decorative items, militaria, clothes, shoes and everything you might need or desire.
The smells are strong, but you'll get used to them ad you will soon be able to recognize to which food they do belong and let your nose be your guide.
Those places are generally a labyrinth where it is easy to get lost, but once again your sense of smell can guide you to the exit, where usually, the food court is located.
Don't miss for any reason in the world the Vietnamese coffee; a little bitter than the one we are used to, but full of a very particular aroma that will surely entice you.
Personally, I bought a big amount for myself, not to forget about the tastes of this incredible place.
Meanwhile, during the day, the streets are busy, and the business is running, the nights are vibrant of colors and lights of the restaurants, bars, and late shops.
Saigon is a city that never sleeps, a place where a vampire won't feel lonely.
People are very friendly, and although they do not speak very well or at all English, they will never refuse to help you, if you need some directions to find your hotel.
Another thing you should visit is the war museum, be warned, you won't leave without tears.
What Vietnamese people, just like many other populations that experienced war, had to endure, (and many of them are still dealing with the aftermath nowadays) is something that always makes me wonder how we still have wars.
The sad fact is that humanity never learns a lesson and greed, thirst for power, desire to show who is the strongest, will sadly continue to blind humanity, so instead of living together sharing the planet in peace, they will try to annihilate each other.
My question is how long until we will finally destroy the whole race?

After three days in Saigon, it arrived the time for our departure for Pakse, Laos, we arrived at the airport well in advance... Yes, one day in advance!
That didn't mean anything wrong, we got another night to an airport hotel, and we had the chance to see another district of the city.
Stay tuned and come back to discover Laos and its natural beauties!


What have I learned?

 Life is made of learning steps. Every day we learn something new, either about ourselves, someone else, the world around us, a new skill, o...