BOLT Reviews: Ba Na Hills

Take a deep breath, face any fears of heights you may have and ride the world’s longest non-stop cable car to the beautiful Golden Bridge.

I had been looking forward to seeing this bridge since I knew we were coming to DaNang, Vietnam.

Little did I know, Ba Na Hills, home to the Golden Bridge, offers much, much more.

Bà Nà Hill Station (or Bà Nà Hills) is a hill station and resort located in the Trường Sơn Mountains west of the city of Da Nang, in central Vietnam. The station, advertised as “the Da Lat of Danang province” by local tourism authorities, was founded in 1919 by French colonists. The colonists had built a resort to be used as a leisure destination for French tourists. Being located above 1500 metres above sea level, it has a view of the East Sea and the surrounding mountains.

Today it is home to a world class theme park and a must visit when in DaNang. There are several levels of the park with cable cars and walking paths connecting each level. The Golden Bridge is the first stop and of course, everyone spends lots of time marveling at the bridge and taking pictures.

There are meticulously maintained gardens and lovely statues to enjoy. We certainly got a lot of walking done on each level.

There is a whole amusement park level full of rides, exhibits and arcade games!

I was especially impressed as all the games and rides were included in our admission price of 750,000 Vietnamese Dong ($32 USD). Its really a great place to take children of all ages. You could really spend the whole day just on the amusement park level.

We enjoyed a modestly priced Asian buffet ($14 USD) and there are lots of snack options throughout the park.

We went with a great group of people which of course made the whole outing more enjoyable. I highly recommend BaNa Hills to anyone visiting this part of Vietnam. If you have any questions or comments please leave them here. We’d love to hear from you.

A Visit to Tu Hieu Temple

We are in Vietnam, in the beautiful and historic city of Hue. Today we visited the root temple of Thich Naht Hanh, the world renown Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher.

This is the temple where Thay, as he is affectionately known by his students, received his monk and where he wishes to end his days.

We understand that Thay is currently in Bangkok for medical care but I felt his influence and presence at this peaceful spot.

We enjoyed our time here, walking mindfully throughout the beautiful grounds.

Portions of the temple closed to visitors and are reserved for the monks only. We understand there are tours and meditation teas available.

For today we felt very happy and blessed to just stroll around. We do hope to find and return for a meditation retreat soon.

Arts and Live Entertainment in Chiang Mai

One more thing to love about Chiang Mai is the wide variety of options for live entertainment. I recently attended a great evening of dance at the Woke Folks Festival. This four day festival is still happening now. Don’t miss it!

Krump Dancer KSee Battles at Woke Folks Festival
Traditional Dancers at Woke Folks Festival

BOLT’s favorite spot for a night out is Corner Bistro. We frequently go for Trivia Night and Friday’s Fries and Hip Hop are very popular. We recently attended Nubian Speakin’s Show Me Sunday.

This event was a truly amazing evening of comedy, spoken word and song! The best thing is that this fabulous event happens twice a month!

The Fabulous Nubian Speakin

Corner Bistro Owner, Kevin, Always a Wonderful Host

The Incomparable Comedian and Story Teller, Jazzie Mas

There is also a wonderful jazz scene in Chiang Mai. The last king was a jazz aficionado and you can always find first class live jazz right here in the city. I especially like the sounds at North Gate.

North Gate Jazz Co Op

If you prefer a more traditional type of entertainment you can experience Lanna style dance and music at a Khantoke Dinner at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. There are also many venues where you can enjoy European classical music.

Lanna Dancers at Woke Folks Festival

So, whether visiting or living in Chiang Mai be sure to check out the many opportunities for some great entertainment. Chiang Mai City Life magazine or Facebook are always full of up to the minute entertainment news. Go ahead and life that Chiang Mai life!

Songstress Kiora accompanied by Idris at Corner Bistro
Flamenco! At Woke Folks Festival

A Hidden Gem in Chiang Mai!

Horizon Village and Resort is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing day in Chiang Mai. It’s not on the usual list of tourist spots and even many long time residents don’t know of it.

Thanks to my friend, Keidra, who is a tour guide here in Chiang Mai, I discovered this hidden gem.

For an inexpensive fee of 85 baht (less than$3) you can enter the resort and spend the whole day exploring. There are waterfalls, a botanical garden, petting zoo, labyrinth, and more.

You can rent a bike for 75 baht for all day, which was a great way to explore the massive grounds. You can also rent a golf card or take a tram ride.

There are several restaurants and a coffee shop. We enjoyed a delicious, moderately priced lunch.

After a day of bike riding a visit to the resort pool (100 baht admission) was a perfect way to end the day!

There are all sorts of hidden gems and special ways to spend a day or longer in Chiang Mai. Contact Keidra for some great ideas or to book a tour.

BOLT in Chiang Mai: Stay or Go?

Kathy and I love Chiang Mai! It’s affordable, the Thai people are wonderful and welcoming, the food is delicious and we’ve found a wonderful community of POC ex pats. However, there are some challenges to living here full time as ex pats.

We’ve been talking a lot about those challenges lately and whether we should stay or go. We’ve decided to leave for a few months. Here are two main reasons why.

Burning Season

Every year for the months of February through April the air quality in Chiang Mai is some of the worst in the world. I’ve heard it compared to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day! My understanding is that this is due to the traditional practice of crop burning. I believe it is also caused by the amount of cars on the road and by industrial farming practices. In any event, the air is already becoming bad. It’s January 12 and today’s reading was already”unhealthy”.


Chiang Mai kind of snagged us. We love it so much and got really comfortable here. But our intention is to travel the world. We’ve decided we’ve been here long enough (this time) and we are excited to be embarking on some more adventures. We’ll be in Vietnam in early February and who knows where we will end up after that. Suggestions? Follow us to see.

Missing Mom…

On January 5, 2015 we set the ashes of my mother, Muriel Crowe adrift at sea. It’s over 5 years since she died and I think about her and miss her every day.  Mom was a strong and courageous woman: a communist at the height of McCarthyism, a white single mother of a black child in the 1950s and a fierce anti-facist, trade unionist and civil rights activist. My earliest memories are of picket lines, protest rallies and poker games (where the talk was more about politics than cards). Almost until the end of her life she read the paper daily and kept abreast (and appalled by) the state of the world. We shared a love of reading, the ocean and swimming.

She was my first and finest example of living life on your own terms. I’m so grateful that she’s my mother! This quote was read at her memorial service.

Furaha Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.

I have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and Kathy and I have celebrated together for the past 14 years.

Kwanzaa is a holiday rich in symbolism and culture. I love it’s rituals, principles and lack of materialism.

This year we celebrated Kwanzaa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hope this will be an annual event.

Kwanzaa has seven core symbols:

1. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.

2. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.

3. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.

4. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.

5. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.

6. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.

7. Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.

Kwanzaa celebrates what Doctor Karenga calls the Nguzo Saba  (the seven principlesl. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles.

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations always include an opportunity for our guests to come up and speak on one of the Nguzo Saba and what it means to them.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations are always joyous events filled with lots of love and laughter.

Children are always a key part of our celebration. I hope we are creating memories and instilling pride in our rich culture.

Wherever you are you can celebrate Kwanzaa and most importantly, we can all practice these principles every day!