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!

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.

BOLT in the Time of Rona

These are trying times for us all. Kathy and I are safely in Vietnam and doing well. We are practicing social distancing which is not so easy for these 2 Black old lesbians! This blog is about some of the things Kathy and I are doing to stay physically well, mentally strong and emotionally positive during the pandemic.

I assume we’ve all read all the information about hand washing, avoiding crowds, corona statistics, etc. In fact, I feel like I’m reading the news more than I should. We feel a lot of concern for our family and friends all over the world. There’s a lot of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Here are some of the things we can all do instead of spending time in worry or the 24 hour news cycle.

Spend Time in Prayer, Meditation and Quiet

I think this is probably the most important thing that we each do daily. We give each other time and space, every morning and evening, to attend to our individual spiritual practices.

Get Plenty of Fresh Air and Exercise

Even in “shelter in place” situations going outside for a walk or exercise is allowed, and even encouraged. But people are asked to keep their distance from others. I’m participating in the Girl Trek 30 Day Walking Challenge. I’m also extremely grateful that we have a pool and I swim daily. Kathy goes out for a daily walk. She says that if she didn’t walk daily her days would feel very empty.

Keep Mentally Active with Reading, Hobbies and Creative Activities

I’m writing this blog and fool around with Pinterest pages. Kathy has created a YouTube channel. We both read and play brain challenging computer games. These are all great ways to pass the time when faced with stay at home situations.

Keep Your Immune System Strong

There are lots of beautiful fruits and vegetables here in Vietnam and we have found plenty of healthy choices for food. We drink lots of water. Devise at home self care rituals. A silver lining of the pandemic is that we have plenty of time for rest.

Reach Out, Be of Service, Stay in Touch

Even with social distancing or quarantine I think we can find ways to connect with and help one another. If you are member of a 12 Step fellowship there are phone and online meetings. You can brighten someone’s day with a phone call. You can arrange a treat to be delivered to a neighbor or friend or offer to shop for an elder. We’d love to hear from you. Please share your ideas for thriving during these difficult times.

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.

BOLT REVIEWS: Hoi An

Any visit to DaNang is not complete without a trip to the ancient town of Hoi An.

Hội An is a city on Vietnam’s central coast known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture, a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda.

Hoi An is also a well known spot for bespoke and tailor made dresses and suits. On the recommendation of a local we visited Naly Tailor and Cloth Shop. For a very reasonable price we are having some pants and dressses made. The owner, Twi, is very lovely and creative.

I do have to say that Hoi An is quite touristy and the vendors can be very assertive. There are beautiful lanterns, kimonos and jewelry for sale everywhere. Be sure you bargain for your souvenirs, etc. Remember, the first price is never the final price!

Be sure to stay for the evening in Hoi An as that’s when the town really comes alive. The lights are so beautiful!

We ended our day with a lazy ride down the river. It was so peaceful and our boat captain was fantastic!

By the way, BOLT is now an Amazon affiliate. Throughout our posts you may find links to Amazon products you may be interested in. For instance, I took all the photos for this post using my Redmi phone. Click the link for more details. As always please let us know if you have any questions or comments to share.

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 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.

Our Colorful Chiang Rai Trip

Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.

Arriving in Chiang Rai our first stop was Baan Dam. Commonly known as the Black House it’s a park containing a diverse and sprawling series of buildings, displays, sculptures and installations. The park and highly eclectic contents are the life’s work of local and nationally renowned artist Thawan Duchanee. We spent a delightful hour exploring the grounds and exhibits.Our next stop was for lunch. Lesson learned: don’t ask your driver for restaurant recommendations. Leelawadee was overpriced with not very good service. The food was delicious though and we had a nice view of the river.Full from lunch, we ventured on to the Blue Temple. For me this breathtaking temple was the highlight of our trip! I understand that this is a fairly new temple. It is built at the site of a ruin of an temple abandoned 80 to 100 years ago. In 1996, the villagers decided to rebuild a temple here. The construction started in October 2005, the White Buddha was completed in 2008 while the main hall was only completed on 22th January 2016. There are so many intricate carvings and paintings to enjoy!Our last stop was the White Temple which is the most famous temple in the Chiang Rai area. I’m sorry to say that the temple was closing when we arrived. It turns out there is a special event there right now where they illuminate the temple in the evenings. As we only had our van until 10 pm we had to leave for the 4 hour drive back to Chiang Mai before the illumination began. We did get some good photos, both of our own and a very kind Thai lady who shared hers with us.Overall our trip was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the time spent with members of our beautiful Chiang Mai community and visitors!

Black Family 5K: We Did It!

GirlTrek.org

Early in November I got an email from GirlTrek.org. They inspired me to start a new tradition, right here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today, Friday, November 29 we gathered at a local park and got our walks/runs on. It was a wonderful way to work off our big Thanksgiving meals, talk and get to know each other better. The Brothers and Sisters of Chiang Mai were well represented! From Northern and Southern California; Louisville, KY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, the Cayman Islands; Eritrea; Little Rock, AK; and Lampang, Thailand we showed up and out!

Hope you enjoy the pictures from this glorious day and of these amazing folks!