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Kulen Mountain – Where Tigers roamed

Not too many years ago wild Tigers roamed the Kulen mountain and the surrounding Savannas. Today however, Tigers are considered extinct in Cambodia, but there is a reintroduction effort underway that started in 2017. With the help of WWF the Tiger will be reintroduced in the country.

Phnom Kulen, the Kulen mountain range is located about 50km (about 30 miles) N/E of the city of Siem Reap. Some 1200 years ago in the 900’s, Phnom Kulen was named Mahendraparvata and it was the first capital of the Khmer Empire (also called the Angkor Empire). Today it is a place revered by and considered to be sacred to Hindus, Buddists and Cambodians in general. This is where Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire.

Siem Reap River headwaters up on the Kulen mountain has some spectacular waterfalls on it's way down the mountain.
Siem Reap River headwaters up on the Kulen mountain has some spectacular waterfalls on it’s way down the mountain. This is the big Kulen falls. Oh, and Lara Croft jumped from the top of this waterfall in the Tombraider movie.

So the story goes – according to locals: First came the farmers and poachers up the mountain and the Tigers largely moved away or were decimated. Then came the tourists who were visiting nearby Angkor Wat and the farmers were shooed off the mountain by the authorities who looked at tourism as a larger catalyst for change than farming.

Siem Reap River high up on the mountain.
Siem Reap River high up on the mountain.
These are the upper falls of the river up on the Kulen mountain.
These are the upper falls of the river up on the Kulen mountain.

Tourism can be a driver of positive change, but it has to be managed very carefully to be a good force and can not be left to self regulation, as this is likely to cause more harm than good.

This is where the river goes over the edge into the big Kulen falls.
This is where the river goes over the edge into the big Kulen falls.
Next to where the river goes over the edge is this big Kudzu overgrown - something.
Next to where the river goes over the edge is this big Kudzu overgrown – something.
Kulen falls. The plunge-pool is perfect for swimming and trunks and change boot can be rented if you did not bring trunks.
Kulen falls. The plunge-pool is perfect for swimming and trunks and change boot can be rented if you did not bring trunks.
Another look out over the area surrounding the Kulen mountain.
Another look out over the area surrounding the Kulen mountain.

Here is a video of the Kulen Falls:

Expand to full screen when playing by clicking arrows in the upper right corner.

Featured

Ha Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin Vietnam

Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin in Northern Vietnam is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Vietnamese legend has it that the bay was formed when a Dragon fell to earth. There are just under 2,000 islands and rock formations in the bay and most all are uninhabited. Halong Bay is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. You can easily get there from Ha Noi and most of the companies that are allowed to operate boats in the bay also include transportation from Ha Noi.

Leaving the harbor on Cat Ba island and sailing out into Ha Long Bay on the Djonk for a three day sail.
Leaving the harbor on Cat Ba island and sailing out into Ha Long Bay on the Djonk for a three day sail.
The Captain is navigating out of the harbor.
The Captain is navigating out of the harbor.
Looking up at the Bridge.
L
The limestone islands in Ha Long Bay are spectacular to look at.
The limestone islands in Ha Long Bay are spectacular to look at.
More limestone formations.
More limestone formations.
A fisherman is on his way.
A fisherman is on his way.

The cruise company does a pretty good job of entertaining the guests when nature alone is not enough to fill the time. One popular event is the “make your own spring roll”. There is a demonstration to follow along in to show you how to roll it and then you may try your hand at making a spring roll.

Making spring rolls

Making spring rolls, put in the fillings!

Making spring rolls, now the hard part - roll 'em up!
Making spring rolls, now the hard part – roll ’em up!

Once you have mastered the technique of spring rolling, you get to eat your creation as an appetizer at dinner.

My own handmade vegetarian spring roll! With a Ha Noi Beer!
My own handmade vegetarian spring roll! With a Ha Noi Beer!
Dinner soup - Pumpkin Soup.
Dinner soup – Pumpkin Soup.
Vegetarian dinner option.
Vegetarian dinner option.

Being a vegetarian or even vegan in Vietnam, is in my experience easy. The pork is of course used a lot here, as in most S/E Asian countries, but good vegetarian options are readily available. If they are not on the menu, most kitchens will change dishes so as to be vegetarian/vegan if you just ask. For the Ha Long Cruise companies, just notify them in advance and they will have your options available.

Moon over Ha Long Bay.
Moon over Ha Long Bay.
Sun is on the way up.
Sun is on the way up.
Daylight is starting to light up Ha Long.
Daylight is starting to light up Ha Long.
Early morning is the time when the re-fueling barges comes around and refuels the Djonks for another day in Ha Long bay..
Early morning is the time when the re-fueling barges comes around and refuels the Djonks for another day in Ha Long bay..
One of the awesome limestone little islet-cliffs in Ha Long Bay.
One of the awesome limestone little islet-cliffs in Ha Long Bay.
The beach on Ti top island (named for Russian cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov) above at a time when it is pretty much deserted, however when the boats shops up this beach can be full of people, so full that it is a challenge to walk on it. My best guess is that maybe as many as 1,00 people crowded this beach at my visit and made it pretty much unbearable.
The beach at a time when it is pretty much deserted, however when the boats shops up this beach can be full of people, so full that it is a challenge to walk on it. My best guess is that maybe as many as 1,00 people crowded this beach at my visit and made it pretty much unbearable.

One of the excursions takes you to The beach on Ti top island (named for Russian cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov). This is one of the few beaches in Ha Long Bay that is now open to visitors. It used to be a “free for all” but the local government had to step in to make sure that the area was not totally destroyed by tourists that had no regard for the fragile environment. Today there are only a few beaches where the boats are allowed to take tourists that want to go swimming. This restriction obviously mean that the most accessible beaches get overrun by people and the obviously takes away ,most of the enjoyment of the beach trip. The boats are also only allowed to anchor up in certain areas and after an accident in 2010 they are put in the same areas so as to have help nearby should anything go wrong.

The Ti Top island has a statue honoring the Russian Cosmonaut that is tis named for, Gherman Stepanovich Titov (1935-2000).
Ti Top island has a statue honoring the Russian Cosmonaut that is tis named for, Gherman Stepanovich Titov (1935-2000).
The sun came out to shine on Ti Top island and the beach.
The sun came out to shine on Ti Top island and the beach.
A bit more crowded here at the small Ti Top island beach.
A bit more crowded here at the small Ti Top island beach.
More limestone cliffs against dark rain filled clouds.
More limestone cliffs against dark rain filled clouds.

Long way to Ha Long…

Long way to Ha Long, is if the company that takes you there from Ha Noi doesn’t take the toll road to get there. The long way (about 190km with lower speed limits) adds a lot of time and may take as long as three to four hours. The toll road (150km) is much faster, about two hours. The scenic value of the slow road does not make up for the added time. I did not know this in advance, so I wound up on the slow road going there. Going back I changed to the toll road which is a better choice.

This is the not quite so scenic, but much faster route.
This is the not quite so scenic, but much faster route.
Speed limits on the toll road leaving Ha Long Bay going back to Ha Noi.
Speed limits on the toll road leaving Ha Long Bay going back to Ha Noi.

SLOWMO FLYERS

  • STARRING:
  • Moth of Pai
  • Bangkok Bumblebee
  • Doves of Chiang Mai

Moth of Pai – or maybe even a butterfly…

High up in the Mountains in Northern Thailand lives a moth, it is close to the mountain village of Pai, so this is the Moth Of Pai. Moths and Butterflies are similar creatures, so the above might be a butterfly, maybe in the Pappilonidia family, but Moth of Pai also sounds better than the Butterfly of Pai… or maybe not…

Bangkok Bumblebee

In Thailand, in the big city of Bangkok, Sukhumvit area, on top of a high-rise next to small single family homes lives a Bumblebee. Sometimes the Bumblebee takes flight and sometimes in what could be nectar drunken flight, it seems to almost stall while correcting the direction of travel and trying to level out.

Doves of Chiang Mai

In the North of Thailand lies the city of Chiang Mai. The city was founded sometime between 1294- 1296 as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and remained so until 1556 when it was occupied by a tribe called the “Taungoo”. You can read more about the history of Chiang Mai here.

BRIDGES & BEACHES Da Nang Vietnam

My Khe Beach in Da Nang.
My Khe Beach in Da Nang.

Da Nang International airport arrival area is filled with taxi wranglers and other questionable characters, be aware! I use Grab whenever possible and I have not had much problems with the service.

Da Nang International Airport (DND) Arrival, with the usual scam artists and taxi customer wranglers.
Da Nang International Airport (DND) Arrival, with the usual scam artists and taxi customer wranglers.
This sign points to the downtown area of Da Nang.
This sign points to the downtown area of Da Nang.
Buildings along the Han river.
Buildings along the Han river.

Da Nang – Bridges and Beaches.

Da Nang has about 1.13 million inhabitants as of 2019 and it is what is called a first class municipality. It is the fifth largest city by population in Vietnam and it is one of only four centrally controlled cities in the country. Da Nang is the educational and commercial centre for the central coast of Vietnam.

Han River swing bridge.
Han River swing bridge.

The port is a big part of Da Nang’s importance as a trading hub. The port is well protected and it used to be accessible by going up the Han river. This is where the country’s first swing bridge was built to make it possible for ships to get into the harbor and at the same time have a bridge for transportation across the river in the city centre. Today the bridge swings for tourists instead of ships since other ways to access the port has been developed.

The Han river swing bridge seen from the side. The round column in the middle of the bridge is where it swings around and opens up for ships that are higher than the bridge span to pass going up river and into the harbor.
The Han river swing bridge seen from the side.

The round column in the middle of the bridge is where it swings around and opens up for ships that are higher than the bridge span to pass through going up river and into the harbor.

Han River bridge opens for tourists nowadays every weekend Friday and Saturday night 23:30 - 00:00 (best info - check schedule locally for viewing).
Han River bridge opens.

Today the bridge opens for tourists during season April – September every weekend Friday and Saturday night 23:00 – 23:30 (best info – check schedule locally for viewing).

A fishing boat on the Han river with the Dragon bridge in the background.
A fishing boat on the Han river with the Dragon bridge in the background.

In many ways Da Nang, as well as the country of Vietnam is a mix of high tech new ways of design, ways of doing things and the old traditional ways of getting things done and the way things look.

Dragon Bridge
Dragon Bridge
The head of the Dragon.
The head of the Dragon.
The head of the Dragon from another angle The dragon breathes fire at certain times at night.
The head of the Dragon from another angle. The dragon breathes fire at certain times at night.
The Nguyen Van Troi, Tran Thi Ly bridge was finished in 2013 and replaced two older bridges.

The Nguyen Van Troi, Tran Thi Ly Bridge (most often just referred to as Tran Thi Ly Bridge) was finished in 2013. The bridge was designed and built by Finnish firm WSP and it replaced two older bridges. The old bridges were named after two revolutionaries in the Vietnam war that ended 1975, one for Tran Thi Ly a female who was imprisoned and tortured in Saigon and the other for a male fellow revolutionary named Nguyen Van Troi.

Tran Thi Ly Bridge
Tran Thi Ly Bridge

Beaches

My Ke Beach wild surf.
My Ke Beach wild surf.
Scooters riding along the beach road.
Scooters riding along the beach road.

The beaches in Da Nang span between 20 – 30 miles depending a bit on who counts. However, this is a long stretch of public beaches on the South China Sea that attracts vacationers and surfers en masse.

One of the hotels lining the beach road in Da Nang.
One of the hotels lining the beach road in Da Nang.
Sometimes the hotel pool may be a good option to the wild sea.
Sometimes the hotel pool may be a good option to the wild sea.

Vinfast

The Vietnamese brand Vinfast is manufacturing affordable e-cars and e-scooters.
The Vietnamese brand Vinfast is manufacturing affordable e-cars and e-scooters.

Vingroup is a private company headquartered in Ha Noi with entities in among many areas, retail, hospitality, real estate, healthcare, education and even auto and scooter manufacturing. In 1987, the founder Phạm Nhật Vượng studied at the Ha Noi University of Mining and Geology and was sent on a scholarship to the Moscow Geological Prospecting Institute.

After finishing his studies and graduating in 1992, he moved to Ukraine and opened a Vietnamese restaurant. While he was operating the restaurant, he also started making and selling instant noodles. He founded a company called Technocom in 1993 which eventually became a market leader in dehydrated food products. The company was sold to Nestle in 2009 for USD 150 million.

After the sale of the company he moved back to Vietnam where he already had started a Vinpearl resort back in 20003 and he had developed the Vincom City Towers in Hanoi that opened in 2004. The two entities Vincom and Vinpearl were later merged to form the Vincom Group in which one of the brands is Vinfast. The once restaurant owner Phạm Nhật Vượng is now recognized as the richest (in monetary terms) person in Vietnam with an estimated net worth according to Forbes magazine in October 2019 of USD 7.8 billion which is about VND 181 trillion (VND=Vietnamese Dong).

A closeup of a pretty attractive looking Vinfast e-scooter.
A closeup of a pretty attractive looking Vinfast e-scooter.

Sidewalk scooter repair and junk yards

This like many shops spills over onto the sidewalk with their business.
This like many shops spills over onto the sidewalk with their business.
Sometimes the business completely takes over the sidewalk...
Sometimes the business completely takes over the sidewalk…

Son Tra Night Market

Overview of the night market area.
Overview of the night market area.

Night markets are common and popular all over South East Asia. Part of the attraction is of course the food, and when another thing that adds to the attractiveness is the fact that nighttime is a cooler time that brings some respite from the sweltering daytime temperatures that are getting more and more common.

Entrance to the night market.
Entrance to the night market.
One of the food stands.
One of the food stands.
Children's ride area.
Children’s ride area.
One of the food stands.
One of the food stands.
A majority of the food offerings are seafood, fished locally.
A majority of the food offerings are seafood, fished locally.
One of the seating areas.
One of the seating areas.

Public Art

Birds in a tree.
Birds in a tree.

Along the Han river walkway there are many public art sculptures to enjoy. Art is well supported by the local and country government so public art and museums are plentiful throughout the country. I think art is part of what makes a country great and Vietnam has a great thriving arts community.

More of an abstract piece.
More of an abstract piece.
A Marble female figure.
A Marble female figure.
Beautifully carved Eagle and a serpent.
Beautifully carved Eagle and a serpent.
Abstract kissing couple.
Abstract kissing couple.
Female with Lotus flowers.
Female with Lotus flowers.
Female face.
Female face.

CONG CA PHE – Vietnam coffe shop extraordinaire

One of the Cộng Câ Phê coffe shops in old city Ha Noi.
One of the Cộng Câ Phê cafés in the old quarter of Ha Noi.

Cong Ca Phe (Vn – Cộng Câ Phê), was started in Ha Noi in 2007 with the first store located at 17 Trieu Viet Vuong Street in what is called the French Quarter of Ha Noi (the French Quarter lies just South of the Old Quarter). Trieu Viet Vuong Street is the traditional café street in Ha Noi. The decorations in the “Cong Ca Phe” cafés can be described as hip rustic with a lot of metal and concrete mixed with reclaimed wood and a cool interior design. Of course at the center are the different, innovative and oh so delicious coffee and other drinks, and bites too for that matter.

Entrance at one of the Cong Ca Phe locations in Da Nang
Entrance at one of the Cong Ca Phe locations in Da Nang.

The name is derived by using the first word, “Cộng” of the full name of the country, “The Socialist Republic of Vietnam” Vn – “CỘNG HOÀ XÃ HỘI CHỦ NGHĨA VIỆT NAM” and THEN adding the Vietnamese word for café “Câ Phê” – that makes – Cộng Câ Phê. Read more on their website here.

Interior of the Cong Caphe in Da Nang, the bar and some of the staff.
Interior of the Cong Caphe in Da Nang, the bar and some of the staff.

Cộng Câ Phê is expanding throughout S/E Asia and now has cafés not only in Vietnam but also in S Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. Here are the locations.

Another angle of the interior.
Another angle of the interior.
The rustic bar stools.
The rustic bar stools.
A look inside the bar with the drink making in full swing on a busy afternoon.
A look inside the bar with the drink making in full swing on a busy afternoon.
Many items at Cong Caphe have coconut cream in them, one popular items is the coconut coffe.
Many items at Cong Caphe have coconut cream in them, one popular items is the coconut coffe.
Another favorite is the coconut Cacao  shake, mmm.... just superb!
Another favorite is the coconut Cacao shake, mmm…. just superb!