The Otematata Sheep Station…RTW Blog #23

I arrived in New Zealand on Monday, Nov. 4th and was met by my friend, David, who lives on the east side of the North Island.  This is David and Toni’s backyard.

After a day relaxing at their place, David and I left for the South Island.  That trip included a visit with David’s friends near the ferry terminal in Wellington.  It’s about a two hour ride from the North Island to the South Island and we were blessed with a very smooth ride.  We were going to spend the weekend of Nov. 8-11 at a working sheep shearing station called Otematata a couple of hours south and west of Christchurch with New Zealand professional photographer Scott Fowler.

Scott actually used to be a herder at this 104,000 acre sheep station.  Yes, that’s right….it’s 104,000 acres of mostly mountain.  We spent Friday and Sunday at a house near the base of the mountain and Saturday night we were at this hut…two bedrooms with bunk beds for five people in each and a kitchen/dining room (a picnic table with bench seats).

From here we loaded up into two 4-wheel drive vehicles to head to the top of the mountain at about 5,000 ft.  It was a rough but beautiful drive with a little excitement thrown in to keep things interesting. We were never in any danger of rolling but from inside it looked felt like we were.

At the top, Scott led our group the last 10-15 minutes to the top for a look down on the other side….1818 meters high.

We spent time shooting images around the main house  and some of the old buildings on the property near the base of the mountain

and watching one of the herders bring her flock of sheep…along with her dogs…into the paddocks.  These sheep will someday have their wool turned into merino sweaters.

The herder works with a flat whistle in her mouth and uses the dogs…each has specific jobs, some hunt out sheep in the mountains and others move the sheep around to where the herder wants them.  It was fascinating watching her maneuver them where she wanted them with just the dogs.

Also, got a chance to shoot a portrait of my friend at a window in one of the old buildings.

On Monday, we closed up camp and David and I headed south for another two weeks of photography.

We’ve been so busy traveling and photographing that I haven’t taken the time to post.  I’ll try to get caught up soon.

New Zealand is a beautiful country and David has told me several times that I’ve probably seen more of the country that many New Zealanders have.  David’s wife, Toni, joined us on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and together we’ve been on the move.

This is a country that is accessible to everyone and while the opportunity to work with professional photographer Scott Fowler has been a great learning experience for me, this is a place anyone of any age can come and see some fantastic landscapes.  I’d strongly suggest you add it to your bucket list!

More to come!



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A Visit to the Local Market – RTW Blog #22

Yesterday I visited the Ben Thanh local market.  It’s a large market a couple of blocks from my hotel with everything from soup to nuts…..literally!

The first row is fresh fish and veggies.

And a young guy crushing ice to keep the fish cold.

The second row was primarily meat.

Along aisles were people serving meals.

The rest of the market was an assortment of fabrics, clothing and just about anything else you might want.

On the way back to the hotel I ran across this lady getting lunch on the go!

And this guy cutting your glasses lens to order.

Must be plastic lens!

More in a few days from New Zealand.



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The Mekong Delta – RTW Blog #21

Today wraps up my visit to Vietnam.  I visited a couple of historic museums in the city but skipped the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels among others.  The War Remnants Museum is a collection of US warplanes, tanks, etc. left behind after the Vietnam War and the Cu Chi Tunnels show off what the locals refer to as the “steel frontier”….the tunnels used by the Viet Cong to move troops south and where several people I know fought.  I saw several marketing pictures of cute blonds smiling as they popped up out of the tunnels and I doubt whether any of those who actually fought in these tunnels came up smiling.

I did learn about life on the Mekong River from my two day/one night trip there.  Tourists go there to see how people live on the river but it is not a tourist site.  It also shows how commerce is conducted in the floating markets. I also visited the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh City.  I’m going to make these two different posts.

First, the Mekong River Delta.  People use the river as transportation, commerce and home.  Today was laundry day for this lady.

People fish on the river although I was told there’s not a lot of fish here.  Some fish for themselves and others fish to sell in the market.  Most seller boats seemed to be couples working together.

In the floating market, large boats collect produce from farmers inland and bring it here to sell to wholesalers who will sell it to resellers in the towns.  Others, in smaller boats, will buy produce to sell to people living on the river.  For many along the river, there are no roads that come to their homes.  They depend on delivery to their homes.  A reseller loads  potatoes in the first image and watermelon in the second.  When sellers come to the floating market they may be here a day or several weeks depending on how fast they sell out.

The first boat below sells along the riverfront and the second is referred to as a 7-11 boat because it offers a variety of product from soft drinks to everyday needs.

On this boat, rice husks are being loaded and will go to a factory for making different products.

Kids still have to go to school.

For some kids, when they get to school age, they live with grandparents on land while Mom and Dad live on the boat.

Along some of the side channels, we visited some families who produce different products for local sale like rice paper for making spring rolls.

The mixture is cooked then dried and the cut into smaller pieces.

Rice noodles are done similarly.

A mixture of 30% tapioca powder and 70% rice powder is mixed with water, cooked, put on reed racks and dried for a week.

They’re stacked and in this form have a consistency of heavy plastic.  Thinner than floor mats in your car but nearly as indestructible.  They’re then sliced for packaging.

They end up here.

In the next post, I’ll show you my visit to the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh City….







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I’ll Give You a Hand…or Two! RTW Post #20

I arrived in Hoi An, a city about a half hour from Da Nang, on Saturday.  I’ve spent the last three days seeing a variety of sites around the city.

One of the places I wanted to go was the Golden Bridge.  It’s about an hour from Hoi An and according to what I’d learned doing my research the place is elbow to elbow with tourists arriving by the bus loads with tours from Da Nang and Hoi An.  So….I hired a private driver for a 5:30 am pick up that would get me there before the first cable car heads up the mountain at 7am.  I wanted to be on that cable car.  And I was.  I rode up with some employees and this was my view.  The Golden Bridge is at 4,000 ft. (Sorry for the water marks on the glass but the attendant wouldn’t wipe it down as it went around the bottom of the lift.)

Yes, it was a little foggy.

The Golden Bridge is part of an French entertainment center similar but a lot smaller than Disney World.   I wasn’t interested in coming to Vietnam to see a Disney World but I did want to see the Golden Bridge.  This is why.

The Golden Bridge appears to be supported by two sets of hands.  Due to the fog you couldn’t see but one at a time.  By being there before most tourists, I got a fairly uninterrupted view.

There were three photographers shooting wedding pictures there, too.

If you strain a little you can see another wedding couple in the background.  By 8:15, the first buses were arriving and the crowd began to thicken.

As I started back down at 8:30, the cable cars were full and by 9:00 or so, I’m told the bridge appears to be elbow to elbow with people taking pictures of themselves.  It seems like many people are more interested in a picture of themselves then they are of what they came to see.  “Here I am in front of (pick a place) then they are in the place itself.”

The driver cost me $50 ($10 per hour for five hours) plus $32 to get into the theme park to see the bridge.  Not a bad deal, at all.

I also spend a couple of evenings wandering around the night market and photographing the lantern boats and a lighted bridge over the river.

A lady floats a candle-lit lantern into the river.

I’ve eaten 90% of my meals at street side places like these.  The only restaurants I’ve been in in Vietnam are as part of tours or when I was on a cruise.

Another excursion took me to My Son (pronounced…me son) Sanctuary.  This is a Hindu temple and surrounding buildings built around 400-1300.

According to my guide, it was bombed during the war.  As an aside, at home, it was the Vietnam War…here, it’s the American War.  As one reader ask, “What do the Vietnamese think of America?”  According to a few I’ve talked with since being ask that question, I think the answer is that it’s been such a long time ago that it doesn’t bother them any more.  I haven’t had the opportunity to visit with anyone of that era.  Most of the young people that I’ve encountered are too young to remember it or are also in the tourism industry in some form or other, and aren’t going to speak negatively about Americans who are spending money here.  The general feeling I have is that they were angry for some time but it’s been so long ago that they’ve largely put it out of their minds.  I’m not sure if that would be true for those my age who fought in that war from either the United States or Vietnam.

I’ll have a little more to say about this after I visit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on my next stop.

Back to the My Son Sanctuary.  This place is similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia but a lot smaller.  A couple of interesting construction points.  If’ you’ll notice, the bricks have no mortar between them yet they are said to be connected.  Also, the tight shot of the sculpture brick, they assembled the brick, smoothed it, then carved out the designs.

Also, there’s one image here of sanskrit.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I landed in Da Nang.  From what I saw, Da Nang is more a coastal resort city.  I saw multiple luxury resorts on my way to Hoi An.  Similar to golf resorts in North Carolina coastal areas or beach resorts in Hawaii or Florida.  Its  a much more modern city than Hanoi. The roads both in Da Nang and here in Hoi An are good.  There is lots of develop in the works with cranes and construction sites everywhere.

Today is my last day in Hoi An.  I’ve enjoyed it here.  Tomorrow I fly to Ho Che Minh City for my last few days.  Sunday night I leave for New Zealand.

I covered a lot in this post.  I hope you enjoyed the information and the images.



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A Daytrip to Ninh Binh, Vietnam’s First Capital. RTW Post #19

I took a day trip to Ninh Binh today.  It’s about 3 1/2 hours southeast of Hanoi.

First, here’s a look at motorbike traffic during rush hour this morning as we were leaving town.  The downtown streets were nearly impassable.

Ninh Binh is Vietnam’s first capital from 968 to 1010.  Prior to that, Vietnam was ruled by the Chinese.  When they won their independence from China the then king of Vietnam decided to make Ninh Binh the capital because it was easy to defend being located in the limestone mountains and with rivers all around it.

In 1010, a new king decided that their army had grown enough to defend the country and  the population of Ninh Binh had also used all it’s available area and could no longer expand, so he moved the capital to Hanoi.

Today we visited the original capital and the temple that honors the first king.

The grounds are beautiful even for something as old as it is.  The original capital building has been destroyed but the temple is still there. Pictures are not allowed in the temple.

After lunch we went for a boat ride on the river where the women row with their feet.

The nearly two hour ride up and down the river was very quiet and relaxing.  We went through three caves/tunnels.

I learned a valuable lesson on this trip.  Don’t raise your camera over your head to take a picture in a dark cave.  Especially if you don’t know how much clearance you have overhead.  Luckily for me nothing was damaged except for a scrape on one knuckle and a little embarrassment.  The picture wasn’t all that great anyway!

And no matter the mode of transportation, there’s always someone who has to be on their cell phone while driving!

I fly to Da Nang tomorrow.  $38.  The ticket says the fare is $7 with $31 in taxes.  I believe it.

More later.


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It’s Like a Mini-United Nations! RTW Blog Post #18

It was a three hour bus ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay for my 3-day/2-night cruise.  We stopped at a craft village were handicapped individuals produce artwork and jewelry to sell to tourists.  There’s enamel painting, thread art, sculpture, and jewelry with various stones and pearls.

From there we continued to Halong Bay.  After boarding our ship,

the Cristina Diamond, the nineteen of us were served lunch and then head out for our first excursion, a visit to a water village where we had a choice of kayaking or riding around the islands with a lady rower

who took us past floating homesteads were people living there have been grandfathered onto their floating homes when the government changed the rules and no longer permit people to settle on Halong Bay.

The limestone rock formations in Halong Bay are very photogenic.  The first day had some sun but otherwise it was very overcast.

Then it was off to the Pearl Farm where oysters are raised to produce pearls.  We see examples of oysters raised in different parts of the world and then watch as a oyster is opened to check on the growing pearl inside.

The last step is the gift shop were you have the opportunity to purchase pearl jewelry…rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, earrings, etc.

Back to the ship for a cocktail party before dinner and a little squid fishing if you’re interested out the first deck door.

All you need is a light, a bamboo pole and a hook.  All supplied for you.  No one had any luck hooking a squid.

Here’s a night shot of another ship that was anchored near us the first night.

Day two I was transferred to another small daytrip boat to go kayaking and to a very small beach.  There were two ladies on the trip with me.

One was from Spain and the other from Belgium.  I took my camera in a dry bag and got a few pictures.  I also got soaked as we rowed into the wind and had plenty of water coming over the bow.

I was with two different groups because most were on a 2 day/1 night trip.  I met Germans, Brits, Swiss, Japanese, Vietnamese, Danes, Netherlanders, Spanish and Estonia. Everyone spoke a little English. We had a great conversation.

Before our last lunch together, one of the crew showed us how he makes the table decorations from a cucumber and carrot.

This last piece looked like a fish net and was made from a carrot.  It was used to cover a fish that we were served for dinner the night before.  It looked realistic!

It was a relaxing couple of days.  Now I head to Ninh Binh for a daytrip before heading off to Da Nang/Hoi An on Saturday.

Thanks for following my blog.


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A Horn and Trust: What Do They Have in Common?

They are the two most important ingredients for traffic.  It took a few minutes to work up the gumption to cross the street in Hanoi.  The most important accessory on a car or motorbike is a horn.  The most important character trait in a pedestrian is trust.  I’ve seen cross walks and in a few places where there are stoplights, they seem to work.  But in places were there are no traffic controls, I think they are merely a suggestion.  So how does it work?  You simply start walking across the street moving at a steady pace.  The cars and bikes will find their way around you.  Haven’t seen a pedestrian hit yet!

This lady wasn’t in any peril but I’ve seen them cross at rush hour and the motorbikes are flying by.

Whoever gets to the intersection first seems to have the right of way….unless maybe it’s a bus.

Spent the afternoon doing some street photography.  There is a place in Hanoi called Train Street.  It is a narrow street where people go about their lives until the train comes through then they pull the kids off the tracks and let the train pass with not much room to spare.  This has become quite a famous place for people to come and take pictures.  About two weeks ago the Hanoi government…or somebody with the power… closed Train Street.  Too many of us tourists have been hanging out there and not everyone was getting clear of the train fast enough so the train would have to slow down or stop and that isn’t good for commerce.  So now, you can’t walk down Train Street and the businesses along the street have also been forced to close.

Here’s a shot I took this afternoon looking down the track through a metal barricade.  There are police at every crossing to maintain the rule.

I went back tonight at  7pm when the only train of the day was to go down this track.  Police kept everyone back but this is what I got.

Many of the streets are dedicated to a product.  For example, I walked a street this afternoon that was all fabrics, another was electric materials: wire, conduit, etc.  Around the corner were stores selling lights.

Some other random street shots from this afternoon.

Slow day at the office!

Moving stuff!

A funeral.

My lunch being cooked at a street side vendor!  5000 Dong, .22 cents. I’m going to spring for a bigger dinner.

And I did!

Tonight’s dinner was noodle soup with duck.  Very tasty but served very hot.  $2.38 USD including a Coke.  A street vendor near the railroad tracks.  The bowl is about 9″ across.  I learned how to eat this with a spoon and chopsticks.  It’s okay to slurp

The previous guy (from the funeral) may have smoked too many of these…Thuoc Lao pipe.  It is inhaled and is stronger than a regular pipe.

A potential customer checks out the birds and bird cages while the store owners look on.  There are real live birds in every cage,

As a kid I used to play a game called Chinese checkers where you try to move all your marbles across the board before anyone else.  This, I’m told, is the Vietnamese version of Chinese checkers.  Apparently, these guys have lost their marbles!


As the old saying goes, “Shave and a haircut, two dong!”  You need to say it kind of sing-songy.






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