Thursday, December 17, 2015

Granada and the Alhambra (December 2015)

Pat and I went to Nerja, Spain, to celebrate Christmas with Jim and Mary Jane Vergin, our friends from across the street in Charlotte, NC. When Pat and I moved to Singapore, they decided to spend a year overseas in Spain, Ireland, and Germany.

Nerja is located on the Costa del Sol and the apartment they rented is only a short walk to the Mediterranean Sea. It is also a short bus ride (about 2 hours) from Granada, the home of the Alhambra, a former Moorish fort/palace, with its first structure being built in 889. The name means "Red Castle".

We arrived in Granada on a Thursday afternoon and checked into the Hotel Inglaterra, for our 2-night stay. I found this hotel on and picked it because of the price and the great location. The rooms were nice; the bathrooms newly remodeled.

Since our entry tickets for the Alhambra were for Friday morning, we set out for a walk. Our first destination was the Albaicin, an area near the Alhambra, "that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. It was declared a world heritage site in 1984" (wikipedia). That description of the streets is so true. There are small plaza interspersed throughout.

In one of those plazas, Mary Jane and Jim waited for us to go retrieve a geocache (GC2NB69 Mirador de San Cristobal), our first in Spain. We then joined them for a beer and a tapas (which is often free with a beer!! Don't know how they can afford to do this but we loved it.). Jim and Mary Jane were just finishing up when we got back.

A view of the Albaicin

Albaicin Passage

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Vietnam (21-26 November 2015)

Pat and I have returned from a short trip to Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and the island of Phu Quoc). The main part of the trip was arranged by Eco Adventures here in Singapore. They arranged our flights on Vietnam Airlines and the hotels we stayed in. We arranged our own tours using Viator.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Our flight left Changi Airport at 1:15 PM for the 2 hour flight into Ho Chi Minh City, or the name most residents call it - Sai Gon. (It's interesting that most signs spell it as 2 words, while I remember it from the news as a single word). We are flying into Ton Son Nhat International Airport, which was known as Ton Son Nhut Air Base during the war. We are heading into the country that dominated the news while Ray was in college, Pat was in HS, and for a number of years after. A place many of our friends served in (some did not return). We both had strong feelings about our visit. Hard to put some memories, photos, and news reports out of our minds.

Visa Letter
In order to get into Vietnam, we needed to carry with us a letter from the Vietnam Immigration Department, which cost us $10/each before even getting our airline reservations. Having that document allowed us to pay $45/each to get the visa once we got to immigration in Saigon. However, we missed the window for picking up our visas and, instead, went directly to the immigration line. After waiting for quite some time, and presenting a copy of the letter, we were informed we needed to go to another window to get the visa. Once we got to the visa window, we found out we were missing passport photos. For another $5/each, we had our pictures taken, waited another 20 minutes and finally got our visa. Ah, the joys of traveling!

We were greeted at the airport by a guide and driver, who took us to the Golden Central Hotel. It is nice not having to figure out how to get to the hotel and have someone waiting with our names on a sign. The hotel was nice and the location was good.

Sai Gon

View from our hotel room on a not-to-busy traffic day.