Korea’s DMZ, Nagasaki, Taiwan, Manila Bay. These places bring to mind unresolved Cold War conflicts, the tragic destruction of an atomic bomb called Fat Man, and famous World War II battles like Corregidor. The wars have not been forgotten. Some memorials are poignant, while others have become tourist attractions. In addition to military history, we saw modern cities, fishing villages, an active volcano, colourful temples, parks and trails, and young people who are talented and polite. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines – these are countries, not wars.
Rickshaws and rice paddies – that’s what we expected to find in China. Instead, we saw high-rises, glitzy hotels, and giant public works projects. “We are growing up,” says the waiter in our Beijing hotel, and the pace of modernization is head-spinning. Our favourite sights? The ancient terracotta warriors in Xi’an and a chunk of the Great Wall near Beijing – two pockets of antiquity preserved for sightseeing. Most unique tour? A motorcycle-sidecar tour of Shanghai’s back streets.
Ten days of temples and torrid temperatures in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Angkor Wat, Big Buddha, and other must-see sacred sites – check. We rode an elephant, a tuk tuk, and a sampan. Our favourite tour: a guided bicycle ride through Saigon, the Kingdom of Motorbikes.
Towering skyscrapers and steamy jungles. Huge shopping complexes and vast industrial areas right next door to the colourful cultures of Little India and Chinatown. Thoroughly planned and controlled – no gum-chewing allowed – but wide open for business.
“We’ve never been to Cuba,” said Doug, as he put the Christmas turkey in the oven. By the time we sat down to Christmas dinner, we had booked flights and three one-week adventure tours in Cuba, commencing January 15.
The Christmas holidays hadn’t started out very well; our 180-day around-the-world cruise had been cancelled in late December. Oh, we were sad. But then we moved on. Soon we’ll be walking on a warm beach, watching the sun set, and taking photos just like the one above.
Cuba, here we come!