November 2019


A Bit of Asia

A Bit Of Asia ~ In November of 2019 I traveled to Vietnam, Thailand, & Singapore. My favorite was Vietnam's Ninh Binh NP journeying by rowboat & bicycle exploring caves, bird sanctuaries, monuments, and more. Then there was Thailand's elephant.

Pics L->R: (1V) Halong Bay, (2V) Stairway to Heaven at Ninh Binh NP, (3T) Khao Yai NP, (4T) Royal Palace Pavilion, (5T) Elephant Ride, (6S) La Famille de Voyageurs.

Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven is the pinnacle of a set of about 500 stair steps near the Mua Cave (or dancing Cave) at what is now Ninh Binh NP. At the top is a simple alter to Quan An (the Goddess of Mercy). According to Vietnamese legend, when King Tran arrived at Hoa Lu to establish the Thai Vi temple (at the base of the stairway), the King used the cave to enjoy dance performances by imperial ladies. [Reference]

Halong Bay

Hạ Long Bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes. It is a center of a larger zone which includes Bai Tu Long Bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà Island to the southwest. These larger zones share a similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters. The name Hạ Long means descending dragon. [Wikipedia]

My visit to Hạ Long Bay was 3 days and 2 nights. Although the scenery was stupendous, I felt the boat (Halong Phoenix Cruiser) was lacking, the activities were sparse, and the food tasteless. Hạ Long Bay was also very crowded. Rather than visiting Hạ Long Bay I suggest looking into one of the nearby bays which have similar scenery and should be less touristed.

A Pearl

A Pearl ~ Hanoi is a city of chaos. Walking the streets is an experience in danger from ubiquitous motorcycles. But with a lot of care Hanoi is a stupendous place to visit. One day I randomly walked the streets to find a disused railway bridge. There I came upon this Pearl being professionally photographed.

Water Lilies

Water Lilies ~ In Ninh Binh NP I biked everywhere with 2 delightful German ladies and an excellent guide. Along the way we explored the Mua Cave, beautiful scenery, a stupendous sunset, a tribe of goats, a gaggle of geese, this ocean of water lilies, and more. We had perfect lodging and dined extraordinarily. Ninh Binh NP was the highlight of my 7 week Asia holiday.

Powered by Feet

Powered by Feet ~ Our first adventure in Ninh Binh NP was an hour long tour of the park by water. What was amazing was that the guide in the rowboat was a petite lady who powered the oars with her feet [I guess she needed her hands to hold an umbrella]. We traveled one hour enjoying beautiful landscapes and at several points we passed through natural caves often with duck, watch your head clearance.

Homestead by the Water

Homestead by the Water ~ Ninh Binh was my absolute favorite destination while in Asia. It is located about 2 hours south of Hanoi. With its hundreds of limestone cliffs emerging from the ground scattered across rice fields, the region is appropriately nicknamed the Halong Bay on land. Apart from its stunning scenery, Ninh Binh is a great opportunity to peek into the rural way of living. [reference]


Sunset ~ As the end of our first day in Ninh Binh NP approached, we rode bicycles to a bird sanctuary called the Thung Nham Bird Park. In the evening, tens of thousands of birds return from a day of toil to roost at night. From our vantage point from across the water we could thousands of birds, but we were too far away to make out any detail. Then as the evening waned on, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. If you're a birder, then I suggest you view the evening bird activity by rowboat. For more information about birding see reference.

Tribe of Goats

Tribe of Goats ~ We were on bicycles in Ninh Binh NP. A few goats made us feel at home in the country.

Gaggle of Geese

Gaggle of Geese ~ While we were peddling the backroads in Ninh Binh NP, along rice fields and whatnot, we came across these geese. They didn't seem to like us as they all scurried away and into the safety of the water.

Lana Folklife Museum

Lana Folklife Museum ~ The Thai-colonial building that houses this museum in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is a former Provincial Court dating back to 1935. As you make your way through the rooms, life-size dioramas show what life might have been like for Lanna villagers. Scenes depict monastic life, the importance of dance rituals, pottery making, and more. The explanations of the symbolism on Lanna-style monasteries are an excellent primer for visitors who will soon be seeing those buildings (usually with no-one around to discuss why they were built the way they were).


Weaver ~ While we were near the Doi Inthanon Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand, we walked the streets of the village Mae Klang Luang. We observed a local woman who was weaving a traditional colorful Karen scarf. Very talented!

National Museum of Thailand

National Museum of Thailand ~ The museum, located in Bangkok, was established and opened in 1874 by King Rama V to exhibit relics from King Rama IV's rule. Today the galleries contain exhibits covering the Thai History back to Neolithic times. The collection includes The King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription, which was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme registered in 2003 in recognition of its significance.

Other than preserving and displaying Thai artifacts dating from the Dvaravati, Srivijaya, to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, the museum also displays extensive collections of regional Asian Buddhist Arts such as Indian Gandhara, Chinese Tang, Vietnamese Cham, Indonesian Java, and Cambodian Khmer arts. [Wikipedia]

Baby Buddhas

Baby Buddhas ~ Everywhere in Thailand there were symbols of Buddha. But I found these three baby Buddhas located near the Provincial Local Museum in Chiang Mai especially quaint.

The Best Fun

The Best Fun ~ The day started with a surprise telephone call at 6:30 in the morning. The evening before I received a sad message informing me my outing to Khao Yai NP had been canceled. But at this early morning hour the driver was waiting for me in the hotel lobby, what good luck. It turned out to be a fun-filled day, and I was joined by a pair of Japanese ladies. We first drove about 2 hours to Nakorn Nayok Province for a short walk at a local market. Then we enjoyed a ride on historic transportation, an ox-cart. After lunch at a fruit plantation we traveled to Khao Yai NP, a World Heritage Site, where we walked and viewed the beautiful Haew Marok Waterfall. Later we went on an hour long elephant ride. At the beginning of that ride I was seat-belted in while my guide sat atop the elephant's head guiding it through the jungle and creek. At one point my guide got off the elephant's head and instructed me to take his position, all the while he used my camera to merrily snap pictures of me. It was an exciting adventure.

The Parade

The Parade ~ While in Bangkok I visited the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. The grounds were groomed with all kinds of creatures. Here is a parade of elephants.

Pavilion at Royal Palace

Pavilion at Royal Palace ~ A short 40 mile drive [or easier by tour bus] north of Bangkok along the banks of the Chaopraya River is the summer palace of the kings of Thailand, called Bang Pa In. The palace dates back to the seventeenth century, pre-dating the establishment of Bangkok as the capitol. All the buildings you see date from its revival by King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the nineteenth century. Today the palace is infrequently used, mostly for state occasions rather than as a royal summer residence. [reference]

White Temple

White Temple ~ Wat Rong Khun, perhaps better known as the White Temple, is a privately owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. It is owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed, constructed, and opened it to visitors in 1997. Entry costs THB50 (less than US$2).

By the end of the 20th century, the original Wat Rong Khun was in a bad state of repair. Funds were not available for renovation. Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist from Chiang Rai, decided to completely rebuild the temple and fund the project with his own money. To date, Chalermchai has spent THB1,080 million (approximately US$35 million) on the project. [Wikipedia]

Queen's Monument

Queen's Monument ~ High atop the mountains in Doi Inthanon are the King and Queen's Chedis (Thai word for stupa or monument). They are dedicated to the late king and his wife, and were gifts from the Royal Thai Air Force for their 60th birthdays. The king's was built in 1987, and the queen's in 1992. [reference]

Mural at King's Monument

Mural at King's Monument ~ The King and Queen's Chedis (Thai word for stupa or monument) are decorated with beautiful art. This mural is part of the King's Chedi.

An Apple a Day

An Apple a Day ~ This handsome guy, a male Macaque, was waiting for us as we were leaving Khao Yai NP. A small price to pay for a fine picture.

Open Air Market

Open Air Market in Nakorn Nayok Province is about a 2 hour drive from Bangkok. We had a short morning visit while we were on our way to Khao Yai NP.

Haew Narok Waterfall

Haew Narok Waterfall in Khao Yai NP is about a 2 hour drive from Bangkok. Although its total height is over 150m (~500ft), it tumbles in 3 drops with this being just one. Very impressive. From the parking lot there is a short trail walk of 1km (~1/2mi).

Sages' Lookout

Sages' Lookout ~ Standing on the grounds of Bang Pa-in Palace (near Bangkok) is Ho Withun Thasana (or the Sages' Tower). It was built by King Chulalongkorn in 1881 to view the surrounding countryside.

Flower Child

Flower Child ~ One of many bronze sculptures which adorn the streets of Singapore. I thought the real flowers that someone placed into the child's hand was a nice touch.

La Famille de Voyageurs

La Famille de Voyageurs (or traveling family) by Bruno Catalano at the Flower Dome is a bronze sculpture in Singapore.

Supertree Grove

Supertree Grove ~ Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens by the Bay landscape in Singapore. They have heights ranging between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). [Wikipedia]


Planet ~ Marc Quinn's monumental 2008 sculpture Planet was donated for permanent display at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The work depicts Quinn's son as a sleeping baby and appears to hover above the ground.

Quinn said, on the occasion of its unveiling, "To me, Planet is a paradox - hugely heavy, yet the bronze appears weightless; overwhelmingly big, yet also an image of vulnerability. It is both a reflection of ourselves and the earth upon which we live."