Hair Washer of Hanoi

Hanoi ShrineLike Saigon, Hanoi, is  a city that stirs the imagination into over-drive. Saigon is colorful and warm; enveloped in the friendliness a traveler through Asia would come to expect. Hanoi on the other hand is darker; more overcast and shrouded in brooding. It is a city somewhat stuck in the past; lacking the bright lights and glamour of its sister to the south.

In between these two cities is the DMZ; the demilitarized zone that separated north from south during the conflict of the 60’s and 70’s. The DMZ was eventually overrun by the north and Vietnam was reunited as a whole country however the scars which remain are obvious and the cultural differences and attitudes very apparent. Hanoi is one of those cities with an underbelly beckoning. A lure to a side of the city that is best left undisturbed; be enticed by the lure and you will undoubtedly wind up in the company of trouble.

For me, the stories of those seeking to explore the seedier side of Hanoi were enough to keep me on the surface. I had several weeks to travel in this country and I intended to follow through with my plans. For that to happen I required both paperwork and money and back alleys lined with various promises could be left for others. Continue reading Hair Washer of Hanoi

The American War

Saigon, VietnamMy mind goes into high gear as anticipation and excitement collide mid-air while strapped firmly to the light blue cloth of a United economy seat. Head back, tray table upright, seat forward; we’ve heard it all before. The aircraft makes its final descent. There are few moments that get my blood pumping like touching down in an unfamiliar area. The unexpected becomes the expected; you just don’t know what it is.

You know you can count on the chaos. Throngs of motorcycles, plumes of exhaust fumes, honking horns, animals commanding equal road rights, and people; regardless of when you arrive the city beats to its own drum. Manic becomes the new norm.

Saigon is a sprawling city; hot, sticky.  It’s the kind of place I knew I was going to love before I even looked around; it had that feel. My reading of “A Quiet American” had helped promote the romance of Saigon and build in my mind a set of expectations; all of which would be surpassed. Continue reading The American War

The Elusive One

Spooked ZebraFor everyone visiting Africa there is a deep desire to capture in memory the experience of witnessing all cast members that make up the “Big Five”.  It’s not an easy feat and for some it never happens.

My time in Africa was fast coming to an end. After 2 months and seven safaris across four countries I had seen and photographed hundreds of animals. Impala and springbok by the herd, wildebeest by the chaotic stampede, meerkats  by the family, and birds by the undulating flock.

Of Africa’s Big Five I had seen four. In the two months of traveling Southern Africa the Cape Buffalo, elephant, lion, and rhinoceros had all made themselves available to me on more than one occasion. Sometimes standing there right in the middle of the road.

It was the leopard that remained elusive. Continue reading The Elusive One

Blues Meets Lion King

Moremi JeepThe Okavango Delta is one of those storied international locales that brings to mind instantly a series of marshes and waterways teeming with wildlife synonymous with Africa. It is a protected area in the heart of Botswana and at its center is the Moremi National Park; home to countless creatures who have been fortunate enough to happen upon this sanctuary.

My story is about one of these creatures. A lion whose ear for music tapped instinctively into the rhythm of the land upon which he was king.

The roads into Moremi are little more than dusty tracks; a far cry from the tarsealed center-striped highways of Kruger. Then, even those disappear and you find yourself without a pre-conceived direction; lost in the intoxicating vastness of the African bush. It becomes easy to feel like you are in uncharted territory; like it must have felt 100 years ago. Continue reading Blues Meets Lion King

Adventure Botswana

Meerkat RoommateBefore rays from the new sun managed to penetrate the darkness of early morning I was up and about; bright-eyed and eager to get moving to a new destination. I was leaving behind the town of Victoria Falls and heading into a more rural Africa. I had no place in mind where I would next be sleeping. No place in mind for my next drink or meal. I was going to hitch-hike and let the cards fall where they may.

With backpack secured I closed the zipper on my tent, bid farewell to the meerkat who had been my companion, and headed out into the dawn. The meerkat winked from his slumber as I left. As sad as it was for me to leave him behind I am doubtful I was anything more to him than another source of food, passing through town.

My hitch-hiking got off to a good start. No sooner had I made it to the main street than a car pulled up and offered me a ride to the junction. The driver was heading straight; I would be veering right so our journey together was brief however the day was starting out as a success for someone new to the game of traveling as a guest of others generosity.  Continue reading Adventure Botswana