Ho Chi Minh City Day tour

I book a couple of day tours in Saigon. Logistically it just seemed easier to do so then plan my own transportation to all the different sites. There is a travel agency in the lobby of my hotel’s sister hotel. I book my tours through them. The first tour I book is a Ho Chi Minh City day tour. It is a 1/2 day tour with an optional Cu Chi tunnels afternoon tour (another post about that).

Not loving my tour companions for today’s day tour. They show up 30 min late because their breakfast is more important than the rest of the tour and now we are still waiting to leave for them to finish their cigarettes. Eventually they get in the van and we head to our first destination.

Independence Palace, or Reunification Palace

First stop is the Independence Palace. This headquarters of the South Vietnamese almost seems frozen in time.

We are given a tour of the underground bunker. The original maps and charts are still in place from the war. You can see how they kept track of troops and casualties.

After the reunification palace we stopped by an old temple Taoist temple

Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda)

Temple for a Taoist god built in early 1900’s.

War Remnants museum

Next we stop at the very powerful War Remnants Museum.

A thorough museum on the vietnam war but from a south vietnamese perspective.

*TRIGGER WARNING* There is a very hard to see photo exhibit on the affects of agent orange on the population. One would have to be a monster to come out of there without tears in their eyes. Out of respect I did not take photos of that section. Only the piece of art below.

We complete the morning tour with a visit to the historic post office and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Notre Dame Cathedral

Historic Central Post Office

Part two of my day tour includes a visit to the Cu chi tunnels. I’ll post about that later.

Cappadocia Red Tour

A couple days after my not so great green tour I take the Cappadocia Red Tour. I thought I may have overreacted a couple days ago but after taking the red tour with a different vendor I know I am correct in my opinion. The red tour is well organized and the guide is very personable. His name is Sonny and he made our day sunny.

First stop is a view of Uchisar Castle.

Next is Goreme Open Air Museum

A favorite of mine in the Open Air Museum is the Dark Church. It is a separate ticketed option but well worth it in my opinion. The artwork inside is very nice (no photos allowed).

Love Valley

I have no idea why they call it that. <sarcasm>

Avanos pottery demonstration

The pottery is nice but it is way too early to start weighing my backpack down so I forgo any purchases.

Then we stopped at lunch. I don’t remember what I ate but I had to try all the desserts on the buffet.

Before we went back out sightseeing we stopped for a silk demonstration. It is interesting to learn how silk items are made.

Aaaannd the demonstration of the rugs. Some are nice enough to tempt me but they are so expensive. I just can’t purchase one….especially with no job and no permanent place to stay.

After the tough sell we stopped at Devrent Valley where there are a bunch of rocks that look like things.

A snail?

A hand

On the left it is supposed to be two people dancing

Finally we finish out the day at Paşabağ

Great day, great tour guide. All the magic of Cappadocia in one day.

Around Selcuk

I got to visit the 6th century Basilica of St. John the Apostle. John spent his last days in Selcuk/Ephesus and it is rumored that he is buried here. The Turks destroyed it during the 10th century.

In the background you will see the fortress nearby.

On my way out I took some time to admire some of the plants that were along the pathway.

The next two major sites in the area I did not visit: Virgin Mary’s house and the Artemis temple. Virgin Mary’s house I didn’t visit because there is no public transport to get there and cab rides were very expensive. I didn’t have it as a high priority to visit. I chose not to visit the Artemis temple due to it being mostly destroyed. In lieu of visiting the temple I chose to visit the local museum which provided a good overview of the temple. I’ll talk more about that later.

Khajuraho

After our visit to the holy city of Varanasi we flew to  Khajuraho to learn about Jain religion and a whole other side of Hinduism.

This little bitty Spicejet plane we took to Khajuraho from Varanasi was one of the nicest forms of transportation that we experienced in India. The one hour flight was very comfortable. We were pretty much the only English speaking tourists on the plane.

After our comfortable flight we had another long car ride to our hotel in Khajuraho. Everything in India is a long car ride away. The scenes on the way are quite like the pictures below. Most Indians are poor and have a very hard life. They lack what we would consider basic necessities like a toilet and sewage system. You will see many men relieving themselves on the side of the road (number 1 and number 2).  Visiting there was a very eye opening experience. We really don’t know how great we have it in the United States.

Also typical, cow dung is saved into round “plates” and used as burning fuel. 

Soon we are back to the luxury of our 5 star hotel again since we are rich Americans. (Note: We are not really rich but nice hotels like these are cheap to stay at for us but unobtainable for most in India)

Our hotel overlooks the temples we are able to see later.

The temples in Khajuraho were built by the Chandela dynasty from the 10th to 12th century. The dynasty eventually fell and the temples were “lost” until rediscovered by the british in the 1800’s.
The artwork on the temples is quite amazing. The western group of temples are most famous for their erotic images. We started with a smaller temple and worked our way around.

Vishnu’s Varaha Temple (boar)

We then explored the other temples with all the detailed images. Each depiction had a story behind it.

We then moved on to view the exterior of the other temples. We notice stories being played out in stone like the one below where a man looks like he is being torn apart.

And this very voluptuous woman.

Ganesha is everywhere.

Scene after scene appears on the walls.

One of the smaller temples nearby.

This lady is showing this little man or doctor the splinter in her foot.

Soon things get interesting. We get to see what the temples are really famous for. They are know for their erotic religious scenes. It is believed that this sect of Hinduism used sexual energy to bring them closer to god.

The time of day was great to watch the sunlight drape over the temples. All in all it was a great day to visit. We did later visit a group of Jain temples but they were soon to close and we rushed through them. I unfortunately did not get any pictures. I will say that the Jain monks have very strict diets and a sect of them spend time naked. You can read more about it here.

Later on that evening we returned for a light show of the temples.