BOLT Reviews: Cenote Santa Barbara

Words and pictures can not fully express the magic I experienced on our recent trip to the little town of Homun and the Cenote Santa Barbara.

A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. The regional term is specifically associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where we are currently living.

The Maya believed cenotes to be a gateway to Xibalba, the underworld, and the god of rain, Chaac, was believed to live at the bottom of these sacred wells. The Maya performed rituals and ceremonies at sacred cenotes to ask for rain and good crops.

Cenote Santa Barbara has three really beautiful and accessable cenotes. We were able to explore and swim in all three. The stairs down to the cenotes were well designed and very stable they all had hand rails. This was not true for the cenote we visited in Valladolid and I chose not to risk going down.

To get to the first cenote you could ride a bike or the horse drawn cart. It’s a fun less than 10 minute ride, whichever you choose.

Our friends and we swam in all 3 cenotes. The water was cool but not cold. For me it was a relaxing and healing experience.

We ended our day at the restaurant on the premises. We were able to choose from many delicious options of Yuccatecan style food. Admission to the cenote, including lunch was 290 pesos, less than $15 USD!

For more information about these amazing gifts of nature visit https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/mexico/articles/mexico-s-cenotes-hidden-gems-of-the-yucatan/

BOLT Reviews: Playa Bonita Beach Club

Just a short 3o minutes away from Mérida, Mexico is the city of Chelem. This sleepy little pueblo is home to the perfect spot for a getaway.

Playa Bonita Beach Club is the perfect spot for a day trip. For only 100 pesos (about $5 usd) you can spend all day on a comfortable beach lounge.

There is a lovely little pool, changing rooms and very clean restrooms.

I was especially delighted by how good, I mean really good the food and drinks were. There is a full, moderately priced menu. The waiters were attentive and friendly. You can have your food brought to your oceanside lounge or table.

I enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and several people were actually enjoying time in the waves. All in all I spent a perfect day at Playa Bonita Beach Club. I can’t wait to go back!

If you have a special getaway spot in the Yucatan or wherever you are, we’d love to hear about it. Comment here or write us at BOLTraveling@gmail.com

?!Merida!?

My friend, Olivia, gave me the inspiration for this week’s blog post. She asked some great questions which I will answer here.

The value of questions!

How was your time in Vietnam? It was wonderful! Vietnam handled the Covid crisis very well. It was very safe. Da Nang is beautiful and affordable. However, we came for a month and ended up staying for 10. We were concerned about having to review our visas every month and the strong possibility that we would eventually be denied.

Beautiful Da Nang!

Will you ever return to Asia? We hope so. We love Asia, especially Thailand and Malaysia. Plus there are several countries we still want to visit (India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia for sure). But if 2020 has taught me anything it’s that nothing is for certain.

Yep!

What was your impetus to move to Mexico, in the middle of a pandemic? How did you choose Merida? Merida is one of the safest cities, not just in Mexico but the world. While the pandemic is of course a concern, we chose Merida because of it’s relatively low Covid numbers, thriving black ex pat community, affordable housing and proximity to family and friends in the U.S.

In or out of a pandemic Merida is very safe!

How are you feeling today? We traveled for 2 days, 4 planes plus all the packing and preparation. We are exhausted and jet lagged but grateful to have arrived safely. We tested for coronavirus before leaving Vietnam and were both negative. We plan to isolate for the recccomended 10 days and will wear masks and practice social distancing until further notice.

Covid Testing, Family Hospital, Da Nang

One question Olivia didn’t ask but I wanted to share on briefly is: What was traveling like during a pandemic? It was really surreal and a bit anxiety producing. Most of the airports were REALLY empty until we got to Houston. We treated ourselves to better seats, lounges and a hotel stay during our Houston layover. We wore masks at all times and my hands are so dry from all the washing and hand sanitizer. Overall our travel was a positive experience, for which we are very grateful!

Ho Chi Minh City International Airport
All Nippon Airways Ticketing Desk
Vietjet Travel Lounge (only 3 people there, including us)

Thank you Olivia for helping me to clarify what I wanted to share today, our 5th day in beautiful Merida.

Casa Dulce Casa

BOLT: Reflecting Gratitude

As I walked along the beach this morning in Da Nang, Vietnam I was reflecting on how grateful I am for our time here. We planned on a month but it’s almost a year, thanks to Covid.

I’m grateful for sheltering in a place that took the virus seriously, where everyone wears masks and respects social distancing rules when in effect.

I’m grateful that I am here with my beloved, Kathy, and that we both remained physically healthy and mentally well.

I’m grateful for time with family. While we may not be related by blood I have truly found family here.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do: support another woman in birthing a baby. I’m a doula y’all! Look for a blog soon about this experience.

I’m grateful for some amazing sunrises, wonderful adventures and beautiful sights to see. As our time here is winding down (we leave in early December, details soon) I wanted to express my gratitude to Da Nang for helping me to #findbeautyeveryday

Thank you for allowing me to share my gratefulness. I’d love to hear what you are grateful for.

The Magical World of Zoom

At dawn today I participated in the opening ceremonies of BLU via zoom. I was able to represent the far east with an altar dedicated to our ancestors, family, friends and community. It was an amazing experience, connecting with my sisters in the U.S. all the way from Da Nang Vietnam!

Later in the morning I had a good time laughing with the fabulous Jazzie Mas at her virtual comedy show, also on Zoom.

Then at noon today the Brothas and Sistahs of Da Nang group got together for a virtual brunch. It was wonderful to see everyone (we haven’t seen each other since lockdown began July 26).

I’ve played games at Zoom meetings and been to Zoom birthday parties. I use my free Zoom account to connect one on one with friends and family. Zoom is a real blessing for those of us in recovery. There are 12 Step Meetings for every fellowship!

This pandemic is awful. I never want to forget all who are suffering. For me, Zoom is one thing I am grateful for. It’s made these difficult times a little easier.

If you have any questions about using Zoom or connecting with any of the groups I mentioned email me at boltraveling@gmail.com

I’d love to hear about your Zoom experiences!

Da Nang! BOLT Top 5 Things to See Here!

We are so fortunate to be sheltering in Da Nang during this pandemic. We are able to go places and do things. The virus appears to be under control and with sane precautions we are able to enjoy this part of Vietnam. We’ve been here long enough that we have our top 5 spots.

5. Hoi An Ancient Town

This picturesque town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s touristy with lots of shops and souvenirs. It also has lovely ancient buildings and views of the water. Hoi An is a short. (less than 45 minutes) ride from Da Nang. A highlight for us was the river boat ride.

Hoi An

4. Bana Hills Sun World

This place is amazing! A marvel of engineering and design, it’s set high above the city. To get there you take the world’s longest cable car. After a breathtaking ride you can spend hours exploring the park. There are amusement park rides, arcade games, flower gardens and beautiful buildings. A highlight of Bana Hills for most folks is the amazing Golden Hands Bridge.

Bana Hills

3. Kwan Yin Statue

I love that we are sheltering in a city that is overlooked by Kwan Yin. She is the Buddhist goddess of love and compassion. A short ride up into the hills can take you for a visit. There you can oooh and ahhh at beautiful statues and gardens and even see some monkeys (a highlight for me).

Monkeys at the Kwan Yin Statue

2. Vinpearlland

It’s a water park! It’s a zoo! It’s an amusement park! It’s an awesome place to spend the day! Vinpearlland is the kind of place you have to experience, it’s hard for me to really tell you how much fun can be had there! I’ve been twice and each time I discover more. I especially loved feeding the giraffes on the safari river!

Vinpearlland

1. Hot Springs Park

I LOVE a good soak in a hot springs or even a hot tub. Unlike most hot springs that I have visited, this place has so much more! It’s a fully loaded water park with all the slides and water features you’d expect. There’s a 5D movie theater, an area full of growling, moving dinosaurs and there are lovely gardens. I really enjoyed the mud bath I had and spending time with Kathy and our friends at this lovely place.

Hot Springs Park

We are grateful for our time here in Da Nang. It’s a beautiful big city. We are looking forward to exploring more of Vietnam in the near future and sharing our experiences with you!

Good Morning Vietnam!

I love mornings here in Da Nang. No matter how early I’m up there are folks up ahead of me. The markets are bustling at 6am.

The coffee shops and bahn mi stands are also up and ready for business by 6.

But the thing I love most are mornings at the beach. I went today for the 5:18 sunrise, enjoying the beauty of the path leading to our local beach.

The beach was already crowded. The sights of families swimming, elders exercising and crowds of people briskly walking bring me joy.

Perhaps this is not scientific but I think that the Vietnamese commitment to community and wellness has contributed to the low Covid numbers. As beloved and frequently used as the beaches are when ordered everyone respected the closing of the beaches and following the rules was the norm.

Kathy and I are so grateful to be in such a safe and beautiful place during these difficult times. We hold all in our prayers and meditations. We surround you all with love and light. We pray for an end to this pandemic. We pray for the dismantling of systemic racism and injustice. We trust and affirm that healing is happening and change is coming!

Please visit, like, subscribe and share Kathy’s YouTube Channel. She is offering excellent tools for dealing with these time. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGchxaPN1j9p0PjVDyu2a_A

BOLT Dong Budget

Dong is the currency here in Vietnam. We get lots of questions about the strength of the American dollar here and the cost of living. Of course, Covid 19 has affected prices, bringing them down. This post reflects our current budget for life in Da Nang.

RENT: 7 Million Vietnamese Dong ($300) for our spacious studio apartment, with rooftop pool and twice a week maid service

FOOD and SUPPLIES: 9 million VND ($386) This includes groceries, eating out and all household supplies.

ELECTRICITY AND WATER: 2 million VND ($85) we try to be mindful about our air con useage but it’s really hot right now in Da Nang. This amount includes our monthly electric and tap water bill as well as delivered drinking water.

TRANSPORTATION: 1 million VND ($43) Kathy rents a motorbike when she wants to go out for a solo ride. I prefer the local ride .service called Grab (like Uber in the states). I have a favorite driver who i call for any longer distance trips. We are fortunate that we are able to walk to the local market, etc so we rarely use all of this budget allotment.

ENTERTAINMENT: 4 Million VND ($170) There is lots to see and do here in Da Nang so we have a generous budget for sightseeing. I don’t think we have ever exceeded the 4 million.

Life is really good, affordable and easy here in Da Nang. We could never afford life in a U.S. beach city on our retirement income. We are very grateful to have landed in this safe spot during these difficult times.

THANK YOU VIETNAM!

Kathy and I feel very safe here in DaNang Vietnam. We have good reason for this. Vietnam has one of the lowest incidences of Covid 19 in the world. This is amazing when you consider that we share a border with China and are a mere 1200 miles away from Wuhan (where the virus first was documented).

There are many reasons for the low number of cases and the fact that there have been no deaths. This NPR article gives some details as to why this is so. The Vietnamese government was very proactive from the start. When we got off the plane in February we were carefully screened including our temperatures being taken. Masks have been worn for months, hand washing and social distancing have been stressed and for the most part respected.

I feel that in addition to a respect for governmental authority (say what you want, this is a Communist country), there is also a real level of concern for the well being of others. Masks are worn, not just to protect the wearer but for the protection of others. There has been no hoarding or panic buying of food or home goods. To alleviate food insecurity rice ATMs have been installed. While I have heard about some xenophobia, it is my understanding that it is not sanctioned by the government.

So BOLT intends to remain in DaNang until the pandemic is over, maybe even until a vaccine is created. We are practicing social distancing, eating well and enjoying our time together. We know we are extremely privileged during these times. We hold all those who are sick and are affected negatively by the pandemic in our prayers and meditations.

BOLT❤️Da Nang!

Kathy and I are really enjoying our time here in Da Nang. This coastal city in central Vietnam has so much to offer. I love all the photo ops and keep my camera phone handy at all times.

We love talking long walks along the clean beach and breathing the fresh clean air. There is usually a nice breeze blowing too.

In Da Nang you are literally surrounded and by water as the lovely and peaceful Han River runs through town.

The river has played a significant role in the development of Da Nang. There are 10 bridges crossing the river. The city is on both sides of the river.

One thing we really love about Da Nang is the towering Kwan Yin statue that watches over the city. I really feel the energy of her loving compassion.

There’s an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in Da Nang. I especially like visiting our local market, Bac My An.

Being right on the ocean, Da Nang seems to be a seafood lover’s paradise.

I’ve been super pleased with the vegetarian options I’ve found.

One of the best things about Da Nang is our ex pat people of color community. We meet frequently for brunches, game nights and outing.

We are looking forward to at least another month here in Da Nang and have found a great apartment with a rooftop pool, 2 blocks from the beach!

We have found the people of Vietnam to be friendly, helpful and kind.

We are very happy here and feel quite safe. I know people have concerns about the Corona virus but Vietnam is currently considered one of the safer countries to be in Southeast Asia. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, comments or concerns.