23 Mar 2018

Da Nang to Hoi An Bike Ride 2018


Guest blog by Allyn Shulman - One of the great days of my life was spent with my daughter Jess bike riding from Da Nang to the beautiful quaint UNESCO designated city of Hoi An. It is such a treat being able to spend significant travel time unemcumbered with an adult child.

We began our excitement leaving the pier in Hon Gai by motor coach  which drove us to Da Nang.  On the way, our expert guide explained honestly about the Vietnamese regime and about how a revolution will come.  Young people are now more educated and understand that a one -party government can never work.  Corruption is rampant and the new generation cannot accept it.  Change WILL come.







We reached Da Nang, got bikes and helmets and 22 of us began our 17 mile journey to Hoi An. The country side was lush with rice fields, water buffalo and even a cow blocking our path!!  Thanks to our sweet, very  athletic friend, Howard Slechinger, he biked way past us and then stopped and took pictures of us on our way.



We passed Vegetable Village were beautiful vegetation grew in every garden.  Then we stopped at a chilling site.  Their cemetery was full with many interesting tombstones, none the same, but among them was an area  designated for all the little tiny babies who clung to life but died before their lives really began. 



After 17 miles, we were starving and stopped for a delicious Vietnamese meal, before entering the magical city of Hoi An, with it’s signature colorful lanterns.  In the 15th Century Hoi An was the country’s largest, most important trading center where merchant ships from the world over would come to buy silk, pottery, tea and other goods.  The moss covered walls are reminiscent of days gone by.  The shops are filled to the brim with clothes, jewelry, coffees, teas and anything else you may want.

We were hesitant to get coffee as their famous Kopi Luwak coffee is made from cat feces.  Its not really as bad as it sounds, although sadly, at the time, I opted not to try it.  There is a tree that produces coffee cherries which the Asian palm civet cat eats but they cannot digest the seeds so they defecate and the farmers rush to pick up the feces, which are cleaned, processed and made into famous coffee.  As a matter of fact Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil.

20 Mar 2018

Halong Bay, Vietnam 2018

The major city in North Vietnam is Hanoi and it is definitely worth a visit for one day, once. It is three hours inland. Staying at Halong Bay makes for a much more relaxing and exjoyable day.
We have now visited Halong Bay four times and it is still a great day and gorgeous. However it is getting so run over with tourists that it is just not the same. In fact it is reported that they are in jeopardy of losing their UNESCO World Heritage Site designation because of careless disregard for the ecological needs.
It was a madhouse when we were there yesterday.with an estimated 30,000 tourists bumping along together on the boats that seem to occupy the entire water. At the port there was way too much pushing, showing, delays and other aggravating travelers issues that you just don't expect in this part of the world.
Official Vietnamese (entire country) tourism numbers have shown annual visitors up from just over 500,000 people 15 years ago to over 15,000,000 this year. About two thirds are from China.
 There still were many peaceful sights.
 Besides the natural water beauty and their 2,000 islands, it is fun and interesting to visit the wonderful caves.
 This picture that Allyn took just four years ago shows the peaceful, beautiful Halong Bay that I fondly remember.

17 Mar 2018

Hong Kong 2018


Hello from Hong Kong. We are so excited that for the first time on one of our major cruises daughter, Jessica, has joined us here until we return home in a couple weeks.


Hong Kong is still our favorite city and Hutong is still our favorite restaurant here - great Chinese food, ambiance, service and view.

I think they worked up an appetite yesterday going shopping in mainland China. They had to buy a suitcase to bring it all back.

13 Mar 2018

Manilla, Philippines 2018, Day 2



Many people went to this museum or that park or some shopping center  today. I just wanted to blend in and travel around like an inconspicuous local.

Maybe my transportation wasn't quite as unassuming as I thought.


Anyway it was fun seeing real people living real lives here.

12 Mar 2018

Manila, Philippines 2018


The only real memory I have of my previous visit to Manila was the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. A group of our friends chartered our own bus to visit it along with the synagogue and other usual sights. 


It is much easier to read numbers of needlessly killed boys than to look at the headstones. Over 17,000 are buried here and another 36,000 were never found. 



Every direction we turned had thousands of tombstones.



The ship's rabbi (and our friend) was with us and said some appropriate words and a couple of prayers. After visiting a cemetery like this, one can't help but wonder if isolationism makes more sense. Then we realize that we wouldn't be around if we just let these terrible people win the wars by default. All that you can really come away with is that war is terrible. I wonder if the average age of the people buried here is over 20. What a waste.



We visited the beautiful and only synagogue in the Philippines. The presence of the Jews in the Philippines dates back to the Inquisition, but the community grew with three groups at three times in the 20th century. First came the Sephardim as the Ottoman Empire was crumbling. Then after World War I many Jewish refugees arrived from Russia to escape persecution. 

Then in the 1940s, at the request of the Jewish community in Manila, the government issued visas and permitted more than a thousand European Jews to enter the Philippines and escape the war in Europe.

During World War II, the Philippines was under the Japanese occupation and the synagogue was destroyed. After the war, the community shrunk when many Jews left the for Israel or the United States because the manufacturing industry was moving to China.

 A new rabbi came in 2004 and has gradually built the synagogue up from about 30 families to 100. 

Anti-Semitism has always been virtually unknown in the Philippines.