Namyangju ~ Sujongsa Temple at Ungilsan

We were off to hike Ungilsan (운길산) to see Sujongsa Temple. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, and the tables at the base weren’t yet filled with thirsty hikers. Continue reading “Namyangju ~ Sujongsa Temple at Ungilsan”

Hiking Bukhansan Amid the MERS Scare

A few weeks ago, South Korea accidentally ran headfirst, like a drunken idiot toward an unseen sign post, into MERS. Schools closed, hospitals prepped for the worst, residents freaked out; however, the three people who actually HAD the disease decided to take a flight to Hong Kong, go drinking at a pub or hit the golf course! Continue reading “Hiking Bukhansan Amid the MERS Scare”

Laggio di Cadore ~ Into the Dolomiti

The mountains surround Udine in a massive embrace. They are pale gray in the day, and bluish in the setting sun. Jagged, steep and imposing are these baby Alps. The Dolomites are concentrated in a small corner of NE Italy. The people here speak Italian as well as the local Friulian dialect. The hearty local food aims to winterize your body with hefty portions of cheese, polenta, meat and wine. Continue reading “Laggio di Cadore ~ Into the Dolomiti”

Vang Vieng ~ Ha Long Bay on Land: Full of Natural Beauty: and Tubing!

Deep amid Northwestern Laos, within the old growth forests and the Nam Song river, nestled in a valley of grandiose limestone hills, a tourist hot spot has arisen: Vang Vieng. It gained notoriety a few years ago when, within a 3 km tube session, it was possible to consume at a minimum, if you stopped at all 12 bars, all with free shots upon entry, you can see how an afternoon could just slip away. Not shots of that irascible tequila, or the maddening whiskey, or the swashbuckling rum, but the home made LaoLao. It’s a highly potent rice wine. Those shots were on top of any Beerlao that you consumed during the hours floating the river. Somehow, amid all the drunken buffoonery mixed with an unpredictable river, dozens of people managed to die every year. There were rope swings, zip lines, deck jumps, mushroom cocktails, uppers, downers, Fear and Loathing in Laos Vegas. But, that binging paradise couldn’t last, and now the memories exist only in the rotting, empty bars on the slopes of the river. Although the drug and liquor fueled haze can be seen in some of the tubing patrons’ eyes, the town seems to be moving into the realm of respectable town with the possibility to party. Outdoor activities abound and are sure to please. I had an amazing rock climb and a slow kayak ride (it’s the dry season). Food comes in a few varieties, fried meat, fried rice, fried noodles or Pad Thai. I ate some great Indian as well as a nice schnitzel with sauce, but it’s not made for the gourmand tourist.

The surroundings are surreal. Its setting is a miracle in green. The mountains are between 500-1500 meters high, and almost every morning you could expect to rise and see this make-out session of cloud and rock.


This was the view from my 4th floor balcony.



This was the view from my tiny hostel balcony.

There were a few temples and I had some fish-eye fun with the paintings.






I got to do my first real rock-climbing up ancient limestone cliffs.


Bob was working on prepositions and he approached me for help. I think he knows the difference of “in” and “on” now.

This place was way more than I expected. The landscape was so irrepressibly intriguing and benignly beautiful. The villagers apparently willing to tolerate our behavior for going shirtless and watching Friends and Family Guy all day. For some reason, a few bars have all ten seasons of Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Rachel’s hi-jinks and innuendos. It was such a comfort being so far away from anything familiar and having those 6 perfectly cast goofballs on the tube set ’em up and knock ’em down. “How you doin’?”




Leaving on the bus, winding through the mountains, heading toward Luang Prabang, I found these misty mountains in a quiet drizzle.