On Genealogy: My Connection to Explorer, Louis Joliet!

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 10.35.15 AMIt’s dreary and rainy out today, and I don’t wanna get out of bed.  Since I am taking a bit of a break from traveling, I thought I’d focus more so on the Genealogy part of my blog … I still have so many lines that I need to “EXPLORE”.

I select which one to follow next as I go through my green leaf hints on ancestry.ca.  I seem to gravitate the the photos and the stories prior to the actual statistics.  While doing so last night, I came across my step 10th great-uncle again – Louis Joliet and thought that I would spend more time writing about him.  I had touched a bit on him during my very 1st ancestry blog and, I thought I’d dedicate a whole page to him and his awesome accomplishments.

Before skipping onto how I got here – I suggest you read the original post which breaks down my family connection to Martin Prévost – because he is the connection to Louis Joliet, the French Explorer.


My Lineage

When Marie D’Abancourt (Louis’ mother) and her twin sister Marie were born in 1619 in Soissons, Côte-d’Or, France, their father, Adrien, was 36 and their mother, Simone, was 30. She was married three times.

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Marie D’Abancourt married Jean Jolliet in Quebec City, Quebec, on October 9, 1639, when she was 20 years old.

Her husband Jean passed away on April 24, 1651, in Quebec City, Quebec, at the age of 55. They had been married 11 years.

Marie D’Abancourt married Godfroy GUILLOT in Quebec City, Quebec, on October 19, 1651, when she was 32 years old.

Her husband Godfroy passed away on July 18, 1665, in Quebec City, Quebec, at the age of 46. They had been married 13 years.

Marie D’Abancourt married Martin Prevost on November 8, 1665, when she was 46 years old.  This was Martin’s 2nd marriage.  HE IS MY CONNECTION TO LOUIS JOLIET.

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Marriage Record between Martin Prévost and Marie D’Abancourt

From her marriage to Jean Jolliet, Marie had a child Louis – this my friends, is MY step 10th great-uncle – LOUIS JOLIET.


Louis Joliet the Explorer – Facts

At the age of 10 Louis Joliet was sent to the Jesuit College in Québec where he was educated until he left in 1667.

He became a fur trader at the age of 23, dealing with the Native Indians.

On 4th June 1671 Simon Daumont de Saint-Lusson, a military officer from New France, claimed the lands of the great lakes area for France. The ceremony in Sault Ste. Marie was attended by many of the local Indian nations and Louis Jolliet was one of the declaration’s signatories.


Mississippi Expedition

In 1672, Jolliet was chosen by Intendant Jean Talon to lead an expedition to determine whether the Mississippi, known from Aboriginal accounts, flowed into the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean.

On 17 May 1673 Louis Joliet and his party left St. Ignace in two birch bark canoes. They headed for Green Bay on Lake Michigan before traveling along the Fox River and, after a portage (carrying water craft overland), they arrived at the Wisconsin River. Louis Joliet eventually reached the Mississippi River in June 1673.

Believing that the river would flow into the Pacific, Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi writing notes and drawing maps along the way. After reaching an Indian village near present day Arkansas, Louis Joliet was able to conclude that the Mississippi would flow into the Gulf of Mexico rather that into the Pacific.

The friendly Indians in this village warned Louis Joliet and his party of the danger from hostile Indians further down the river. Taking into account this warning and the danger of running into the Spanish near the Gulf of Mexico, they decided to turn round and head back to Quebec.

Louis Joliet returned via the Illinois River and Green Bay, where, in 1674, Father Jacques Marquette decided to leave him and remain at the Saint Francis Xavier mission. While traveling through the Lachine Rapids on the Saint Lawrence River, his canoe was capsized and he lost all of his maps and journals as well as his 3 traveling companions. He was rescued by fishermen and continued on to Quebec where, after traveling 2500 miles, he arrived in 1674.

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Louis Joliet reported their discoveries to the French Governor Louis de Buade Frontenac, and went on to rewrite some of his journals from memory. However, the notes written my Marquette were relied on as being the more accurate resource.

However, in 1675, working from accounts by Jolliet and Marquette, Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin drew a map of the expedition that was published in Paris in 1681 under the title Voyage et découverte de quelques pays et nations de l’Amérique septentrionale.

Many statues of Marquette and Joliet have been erected all over the area, read this article to find out where in Chicago.

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Hudson Bay Expedition

Upon his return to Québec City, Jolliet was denied a fur concession he sought for the Illinois area and joined his father-in-law in 1676 in a fur-trading company at Sept-Îles. Jolliet became seigneur of the Ȋles de Mingan in the Gulf of St Lawrence in March 1679, and of Île d’Anticosti in 1680.

In April 1679, at the behest of officials in Québec City, Jolliet embarked on an overland journey to Hudson Bay to survey the influence of English traders in the region, and to assess the possibility of a trade alliance with Aboriginals in the area. His reputation preceding him, Jolliet declined an offer from English Governor Charles Bayly to come and work for him, but became convinced that “if the English are left in this bay they will make themselves masters of all the trade in Canada.” Upon his return, Jolliet recommended that the French “remove the English from this bay,” or at the very least, “prevent them from establishing themselves any further, without driving them out or breaking with them.”


Labrador Expedition

Jolliet then concentrated on trade and fisheries at his concessions, until two raids by the English in 1690 and 1692 dealt him a financial blow from which he never recovered. On 28 April 1694, with the backing of a Québec merchant, he set sail from Québec City aboard an armed ship with 17 men and travelled along the coast as far north as lat. 56°8´ N near present-day Zoar. In addition to fishing and trading with Aboriginals along the way, Jolliet took detailed notes of the coastline and its inhabitants and completed 16 cartographic sketches — the first recorded account of the northern Labrador coast and the most detailed description of the Inuit to that time.

In April 1697, Jolliet succeeded Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin as teacher of hydrography at the Jesuit College of Quebec. He was appointed hydrographer to the king of France in 1680.

In 1679 the presence of the English in the Hudson Bay area was proving a worry to the French Colony, so Louis Joliet was sent over to assess the situation. Together with seven others he left on 7th April 1679 and traveled via Saguenay, Lake St. John, Lake Mistassini and Rupert River to James Bay. The English invited him to join them, however he declined and made his way back to Quebec. He reported that the English control over Hudson Bay was a threat to Canadian trade as the area was the richest source of furs in the country.

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Routes for Joliet’s 3 expeditions

In 1681 he built a fort on the island and settled there. In the winter of 1690 the fort was briefly captured and occupied by the English.

Louis Joliet undertook an expedition sponsored by a merchant, François Viennay-Pachot, to explore the Labrador Coastline. He set off in the spring of 1694 sailing through the Strait of Belle Isle and Eskimo Bay to Zoar. He kept a journal and made notes and sketches of the people he met.

He was appointed professor of hydrography at Québec College on 13th April 1697.

Louis Joliet died in 1700 sometime between May and October. The exact place of his death is unclear although it is generally believed to have been at l’Île d’Anticosti.

Click here to read some more fun facts on Louis Joliet.

Joliet’s main legacy is most tangible in the Midwestern United States and Quebec, mostly through geographical names, including the cities of Joliet, IllinoisJoliet, Montana; and JolietteQuebec (founded by one of Joliet’s descendants, Barthélemy Joliet).

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Joliet, Illinois is a populous southwest Chicago suburb

Check out The Story of Chicago in Maps . It’s amazing what you can see when you get a little perspective. You can slide the Time Machine slider bar to see how dramatically Chicago has changed since Marquette and Joliet first visited the area.


Other Namesakes

A local cruise ship in Québec City, Québec

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Cruise Ship namesake in Québec City

He also has a fine cognac named after him – see manufacturers notes below!

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A fine cognac too, c’mon!

This makes me want to get into my LandRover and driving the 7 hours to Illinois to see all of my ancestors stuff in person.  Maybe sip on some of that nice cognac?  Maybe I can score a free bottle if I can prove I’m a relative 😉

@chicago peeps – is there a Joliet Street there?

What kinds of things are you learnings from your research?

Namaste

T xo

 

On Genealogy: Updated DNA Ethnicity Estimate

As you know, I’m a genealogy nut, or more like nerd. I love working on my family tree, although in the past 6-8 months I’ve barely looked at it more or less worked on it. I can’t even remember the last genealogy blog I posted (hang on let me check — other than a quick update on my Lee side of the family, it was on my relation to Willis Carrier King of the A/C – I posted that one in July in the midst of a sweltering heat wave – in the hotter months I’m sure most people REALLY LOVE my 9th cousin 2x removed.

I did my DNA test back in 2017 – I was super excited to get my results, and to see if they matched what I already knew about my tree.

Ethnicity updates are regularly provided on Ancestry.ca to reflect the most recent AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate.

My passion was reignited because I’ve been binge watching seasons 9 and 10 of Who Do You Think You Are? I  LOVE this show!  I’m not a celebrity but I’d LOVE if someone could collect all the little nuggets that I can’t get my hands on.

Check out my On Genealogy: series in my blog posts to read ALL my historic familial connections to a King of France, filles du roi, Honest Abe Lincoln, John Ritter, Amelia Earhart, founding members of the American Colonies, a connection to the Salem Witch Trials, my family from England, Ireland and France, an Explorer, the first documented marriage between a native and a white man and soooooo much more!

I have SOOOOO MUCH history and so much more to discover. I  have some trees I can date back to the 1500’s and others that stop in 1900 and I can’t trace them back any further – I’m stuck on an Irish line and a Scot line and I can’t find anything more on the 1st Ambrose Richards – where’s he from? Why can’t I find out anything on Joseph Edward Lee’s military records, but I was able to locate all of his brother George’s?  

As I decided to dip into my tree today, I noted some updates to my DNA Story and estimate. Since AncestryDNA first launched, they’ve continued to add new regions and improve the precision of results. DNA research is a fast-paced, cutting-edge field, and we can expect them to make more advancements as DNA science evolves.  DNA is crazy!  Each person gets 50% of their DNA from Mom and 50% from Dad. But that means 50% of each parents DNA also gets left behind. Also, what gets passed down and what gets left behind is completely random. 

This Ancestry.ca update features:

  • 16,000 reference samples
  • 500+ possible regions

What might change?

Percentages for a region could change. Some new regions could appear. Some old regions, especially low-percentage regions, could disappear. Or you might not see much change at all.

Ok, so let’s see what’s changed this time around.

(previous estimate on the left and up to date estimate on the right)

 

When AncestryDNA launched in 2012, they compared DNA against 22 possible regions. They now have more than 380.

Not only have new data and new methods enabled AncestryDNA to identify new regions, they have also improved the ability to determine how likely it is that we belong to a region. These improvements mean that our percentages for a region could go up or down.

So, I have some minor changes – mainly the elimination of low confidence regions and more clearly defining France (47%), Ireland/Scotland (27%) and England (26%) – which is congruent with my family tree research.  The percentages have also changed to a certain degree – but the findings remain what I know to be true.  The only thing I really don’t see anywhere in this is my first nations heritage – I have roots that I can trace back and I have my Algonquin card.  

How does AncestryDNA predict the migrations in my DNA story?

Migrations are based on Genetic Communities Genetic Communities are groups of AncestryDNA members who are most likely connected because they share fairly recent ancestors who came from the same region or culture.

Once they identify a Genetic Community, they look for patterns in ethnicity and data from family trees linked to AncestryDNA, including ancestral birth locations, to see where their ancestors lived and moved to.

Historical researchers use that time and place data to look for the overarching story that binds the members of a Genetic Community together. While migrations may not tell your ancestor’s story exactly, your DNA suggests that you are connected to this historical journey.

Below is my family’s migration history from Europe from the 1700’s to 1900’s.

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This is absolutely fascinating!  

The site has also introduced ThruLines which illustrates how you may be related to your DNA matches through a common ancestor.  This is excellent as it may lead me to common ancestors who can hopefully provide me with some information on the blanks in my tree – like the Lee Tree – and information on George Edward Lee’s military history and death – I’m at a complete stand still on this 😦

For those of you have Ancetry.ca what do you think of the improvements?  If you don’t have Ancestry, which site do you use?

Namaste 

T xo

On Travel: Vietnam – What I Loved and Didn’t Love

I’ve been back from Vietnam for about 2 weeks now.  I have to admit it’s been tough being back – to the cold, the snow, back to working 9-5, not traveling …

Today I want to share a little about my overall experience in Vietnam.  What I loved, things I wished I had done and things that perhaps I wasn’t overly fond of.

If you’ve been following along with my blog and my journey through Vietnam, you’ll quickly remember how much I love this country.  Every one should get to Vietnam given the chance, it truly is spectacular (well I think so anyway) … I’m envious of my daughter for making this country her home.

As with any other country, Vietnam has a glowing list of fantabulous things to see and do, its natural beauty, its history, culture, kind and giving people whom I met and made my experience in Vietnam one for the record books.  But, it also has things that need to be improved upon and aren’t so glamorous, I’ll highlight some of those things in this blog.

I encourage you to go back and read my last few blog posts if you haven’t, just to catch up on the amazingness of Vietnam prior to reading this post.


🎶 Let’s Talk About Food Baby 🎶

The food 😋 was one of the absolute best parts of Vietnam, so many yummy choices, which vary from region to region.  For example, some of the foods I loved in the north (Ha Noi) weren’t necessarily available in the south (HCMC).  But, it’s great to be able to experience each region’s specialty dishes.

Eating street food in Vietnam is a rite of passage for every visitor, and I’m all about throwing myself into the local culture so I was prepared to give most foods a go. In every doorway, on every street corner, and down every alley, food is being prepared literally on the street.  Many a time I pulled up a tiny plastic stool to a tiny plastic table and ate.

Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, complementary textures, and reliance on LOTS fresh herbs and vegetables. Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world and always combines fragrance, taste, and colour.

Below are just SOME of the foods I ate over my month long visit.


👍🏻  Fan Faves:

(1) Bún chả  –  served with grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs with a side dish of dipping sauce.  I ate this twice while in Vietnam.  Definitely worth trying guys! It was super good!

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Bunch in Ha Noi (not yet assembled)

(2) Bún Rieu – LOVED this, I first tried this in Ha Noi –  it was incredible.  See below for the types of Bún Rieu I wasn’t so fond of.  Freshwater crab flavours this soup which is made with rice vermicelli and topped with pounded crabmeat and deep-fried tofu.  Chilies, lime and fresh herbs add the finishing touches.

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Bún Rieu in Da Nang

(3) Bánh khọt – if you love crispy savoury pancakes, you’re going to love Vietnamese bánh khọt – it’s usually provided with lettuce, tons of herbs and dipping sauce – really good. Equally as yummy in the pancake department is bánh xèo.

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Bánh khọt, a specialty of Vũng Tàu

(4) Bun Bo Nam Bo – could be the best street food in Ha Noi – the broth at the bottom of the deep bowl is made of fish sauce, sugar, lemon and chilli and has deliciously light sweet and sour undertones. The sauce is topped with marinated beef, vegetables, noodles, onion crisps and crushed nuts.

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Ate this yummy dish in Ha Noi

5) Cơm tấm – broken rice and pork chop – very basic meal – but reliable, inexpensive and yummy.  Usually served with pickled veggies and a side soup for about 20K – about $1.15 CDN.

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A staple for me in Saigon

I could GO ON … I had sooooooo …. many amazing meals whist in Vietnam, but, I’ll limit it to my top 5 —- Honorable Mention to rau muong xao you- morning glory with garlic.

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👎🏻 Not So Fussy On:

(1) Chicken Feet – I just didn’t enjoy them at all – no meat on them.  They were crispy, like chicken wings, but with NO meat. Imagine just eating chicken skin on bone – that’s what I can best compare it to.  I didn’t hate them, but I could definitely do without them.  Don’t quite get the appeal.  Is it your thing?

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(2) Bún riêu with congealed pig’s blood – bún riêu is a truly sensational Vietnamese street food — if you forgo the blood cubes.  I realized that in different areas of Vietnam – there are differing varieties of bún riêu.  For example I DID NOT like the bún riêu in HCMC at all, I liked the one in Da Nang and loved the one in Ha Noi – all a little bit unique with their own regional touches.  But , the main thing I realized is that I did not like it at all with the congealed pig’s blood. So, now I know to always order my bún riêu “không huyết” — with no congealed pig’s blood.

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The bún riêu in HCMC that I was not fond of

(3) Mixed Rice Paper in a Bag – this wasn’t a salad – I’ve heard of Rice Paper Salad – this was more like a seasoned rice paper snack in a bag – which was essentially rice paper strips as well as chilli powder and other seasoning.  I had seen it on many vlogs and YouTube videos on Vietnamese street food, and I was disappointed.  It was hard, the texture was weird and only got soft after you chewed it for a bit – I guess I would liken it to chewing rice paper 😂.

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Did not enjoy the rice paper snack while in Cần Thơ at the Night Market

(4) Rượu rắn – Cobra Snake Wine – an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The snakes, preferably venomous ones, are not usually preserved for their meat but to have their “essence” and snake venom dissolved in the liquor. The snake venom poses no threat to the drinker. It is denatured by the ethanol – its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactive and would be denatured by stomach acid anyway.  It was good just to say I’ve tried it, but I just couldn’t imagine sipping on this  – it tasted more like tequila than wine to me (and I loathe tequila).

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Tried rượu rắn during our trip to the Mekong Delta

(5) Sweet Snails with Lemongrass – oc huong hap xa – not a dish I was particularly fond of.  They say half the fun is extracting the hot cooked snails from their shells (who actually says that?) – I did not find it fun nor tasty.  I’ve had snails here in Canada  – but we cook them with lots of garlic and butter and out of the shell.  Even here, I don’t LOVE them, but I liked them less in Vietnam.  They were chewy in texture – especially the head and had little to no taste.  It was decent enough to try, but I won’t order them – thankfully, I was offered one by a girl I met who ordered an entire plate – she loves them 🤢

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Tried these at Bến Thành Market in Saigon

Things I Really Enjoyed/Liked:

PLACES TO VISIT

I can’t pick just 2 places I loved to visit — I really enjoyed every place I chose to visit for different reasons.  Some were for beauty, some for historical importance or significance, and others for simple relaxation.  There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t enjoy being in Vietnam.  The sights, the sounds, the culture, the people and the food ♥️.

For things to do I would suggest the following as they were my top places, but truly, I loved every place I went, so you can’t go wrong:

  • Hoi An – all of the silk lanterns at night were gorgeous and the ancient town is a fabulous place to visit.   See my blog on Hoi An here for more details on things to do  and see.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels – outside of HCMC – you’ll learn about its important role in the Vietnam War, the daily struggles of its inhabitants, as well as the ingenious strategies and weapons that were used. Click my blog here for more about the tunnels.
  • The War Remnants Museum – HCMC – sad and heart breaking at times, but I would 10000% going to this while you’re in Saigon – it really gives you pause for thought
  • Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City – WOW!  Spectacular views, scenic, breathtaking – I only did a day trip – but next time I go I’d like to do an overnight trip and sleep on the ship.  Click here to see more about my trip to Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City.
  • Mekong Delta – this is what I think of when I think of Vietnam – this trip was priced right 550K for 2 days, 1 night – hotel breakfast and lunch included as well as English speaking guide and A/C Bus, for more click my blog here.

COST OF LIVING

As a foreigner, the cost of living is ridiculously low for us.  The exchange rate when I was there was $1.00 CND Dollar to 17,000 VDN.

Most basic every day things are super inexpensive for us as Westerners.

Here are some approximates:

Beer was between 11K and 20K on average, depending where you purchased and the type of beer – Larue was usually the cheapest (and luckily my favourite common beer), and then 333, Saigon and Tiger.  My absolute fave was Tiger Crystal in a bottle (I could def use one of those now).

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Most street foods ranged between 10K and 70K – bánh mì was always on the low end at about 10-20K as was cơm tấm at about 15-20K

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1.5L of water was approx 10-20K, again depending on where you purchase it.

Grab taxis are super cheap compared to Canada – I think the sitting rate just to enter a taxi is now up to $3.80 where I live – in Vietnam that could literally be my whole trip (by Grab).  Taxi’s are more expensive and not always reliable for pricing.

Fresh fruit was always well priced – I picked up pineapple for 10K, jackfruit and a 1/4 watermelon both for 50K.  There are fruit cart ladies on each street corner, sometimes more than one.

Ice coffee was anywhere between 10-25K (depending where you went – chain coffee houses are more expensive).

Even hotels – my most expensive hotel on the trip was $17.00 CDN – and it was a very nice hotel.

Some days, I was living off less than $20.00 CDN and that included my hotel rate!

Below are some of the every day items that we would buy back home and their associated VDN price — remember $1.00 CND is 17K VDN!


Things I Wish Were Different:

HONKING

What I could have done without perhaps is all of the HONKING! They honk at and for everything.  Unlike us back in North American – we honk when we are trying to relay something important or semi important “hey, you’re crossing over into my lane”, “Come on man, the light is green!” or even “I’m at your house, let’s go.”

But in Vietnam they honk to signal EVERYTHING …  I’m here watch out, I’m behind you, move over, get out of my way, I said get out of my way 😜, I’m not stopping, go already, I’m turning … 

Honking is so loud and so regular in the country that people just seem to accept it, I’d be scared, in fact, of asking them not to honk … somewhere along the way, it has become habitual and a major cause of noise pollution. It can really get on your nerves when drivers keep pressing on their horns for no apparent reason.

I was fairly decent at blocking it out most days, however, the one day I was about to scream out “please, for the love of God, stop effin honking” … I mediated when I got back to the hotel and the moment passed 😂


LACK OF RULES OF THE ROAD

In certain parts of Vietnam there weren’t any traffic lights or signs – it just seemed like a free for all – some type of organized chaos that I wasn’t privy to – but somehow works, I don’t know how but it does!

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Crazy traffic in Saigon as we were heading home on our motorcycle

I’ve literally seen people drive on sidewalks rather than waiting in congestion.

The Vietnamese don’t often obey the traffic lights or signs when there are any – they seem more like suggestions than an actual legal traffic requirement.

Traffic moves in all possible directions, no matter if it’s a sidewalk, a pedestrian street, an alley obviously too narrow for a motorbike – I’ve also seen on many occasions traffic flowing in the WRONG direction – YEP – coming at you when it’s clearly a one way street!

Pedestrians:  Forget all the standard rules of crossing the street, the Vietnamese don’t seem to have the culture of respecting pedestrians. Pedestrian cross walks are rare and if they do exist, they are ignored. Crossing the street for a pedestrian is like a game of chicken each time! You learn to have faith. You start to walk and hope that the motorcycles and cars that run in both directions will avoid you. I became a pro at it very quickly – I look, I go and I watch – they will usually manoeuvre around me.

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Also, they park on the sidewalks (which is customary there).  So walking can be a pain from time to time as you’re constantly switching from road to sidewalk, back to road etc …


LITTERING

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I was struck by its beauty.  However, as I started exploring I came across a lot of litter on the ground in Ha Noi.  I thought it was initially just Ha Noi but as I explored I noticed that even in remote regions, I always came across large areas that were inexplicably strewn with trash. The litter consisted mostly of plastic bags, plastic bottles, beer cans, leftover food containers/items and plain old garbage. I didn’t get it!  The trash wasn’t piled up, awaiting collection at the side of the road; it was spread around, over large areas and in natural beauty areas such as river beds, beaches etc. Thousands of locations all over the country are now utterly ruined by trash. It’s sad, disappointing and infuriating.

These are just SOME of the pics I took – I only started taking photos of this my last few days in the country. I could have taken dozens more.

Very few people bothered to clean up after themselves – I would see people open items and then just toss the wrappers on the sidewalk. I was told by my tour guide to just put my litter in the gutter while I was in HCMC (which I absolutely did not) and a local once brought it to my attention that I had “garbage” in my back pocket – I put the wrappers there because I could not bring myself to just toss them on the ground – it just goes against everything we’re taught here in Canada and most certainly for me as an environmentalist.

I can’t even recall seeing trash bins, if there were any, they certainly weren’t prominent enough to stand out, given I was carrying my personal trash with me.  If they were more available, would people even use them?  Click here to read an article by Forbes Magazine on Vietnam’s littering epidemic.

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Taken on a river bed in the Mekong Delta
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I took this as I randomly walked down a street in Vung Tau

Things I’d Still Like to Do

  • Head to Sapa to discover the spectacular scenery of the Tonkinese Alps where Montagnard hill tribes have lived for centuries.
  • Ninh Binh is a good base for exploring quintessentially Vietnamese limestone
  • Ha Giang is a beautiful destination located in the Northwest Highlands. scenery.
  • Ban Gioc Waterfall – the most famous place in Cao Bang province, the landscape is dominated by limestone hills.
  • I hear you can opt to skip out on Halong Bay (which is touristy) and head over to Bai Tu Long instead. Located North East of Halong Bay, this area can stretch up to 100 km to the Chinese border.
  • Co To is an island located in the middle of the sea in Quang Ninh Province, a beautiful island with fine white sand and blue water
  • Nam Du is one of the islands in the Nam Du archipelagoes. It’s about 60 km from the mainland. Nam Du is beautiful, pristine and peaceful with beaches.
  • Kon Tum province of the Central Highlands has a border crossing with Laos and Cambodia, also known as the Indochina Fork.

These are just some of the MANY MANY places I’d still like to visit in Vietnam – I chose most of these places specifically because they were less touristy and would allow me to truly explore the country and all that it has to offer.


Conclusion

Overall, while Vietnam has its quirks that it’s still trying to iron out, I still very much like the country.  I’ve had nothing but positive experiences there.  I’ve heard others have mixed reviews and others nothing but negatives.  I suppose part of it can be attributed to the way you prepare for your trip and how you’ve set your expectations … and the way you choose to look at the experience.  True,  you may get scammed – then try not to put yourself in a situation where you may be – book only with reputable companies, ones that come recommended to you by others.  You may get pick pocketed – well, that can happen any where in the world, not just Vietnam.  Yes, they will try to overcharge you on items – they’re trying to make a living – do you how much they make and live on? What’s an extra 50 cents or a dollar to me in the grand scheme of things?

It’s not a country without its share of faults, but it is an emerging country trying to change its past global footprint. They are now posting anti-littering signs and I hear that police are trying to enforce non littering (that I have yet to see).

Some ex-pats and locals who are passionate about the cause gather groups and clean beaches, neighbourhoods and streets.

Certain restaurants are now committed to recycling – when I saw this at one café in Saigon, I wanted to hug the owner.

At an ex-pat green market I attended (in D2 Saigon) they were focussing on the sale of reusable items – such as water bottles (it’s not common there to use reusable water bottles as we do in most other places in the world).  They also focussed on eliminating the need for single use masks by creating cloth ones.  There were also reusable cloth coffee holders for your motorcycle.  I know this is probably hard to understand to us, but, because everyone travels by motorbike, they actually sell you your coffee and put it in a plastic bag or plastic cup carrier (single use) so people can hook it onto their bikes when they drive – more plastic waste.  EVERYTHING comes in a plastic bag.  They looked shocked when I would tell them “no bag” cause I had my Herschel knapsack with me.

Think of what changes could be made IF every person, used a reusable bag, had a cloth mask, used a reusable cloth coffee carrier and water bottle!

On Travel: 24-hour Transit Into Guangzhou, China Without Visa

As I write this, I’m home, in bed, it’s 3:00 AM and I cannot sleep.  My body still thinks it’s 3:00 PM, jet lag sucks!  So I thought, what better time than to start my layover in China 🇨🇳 blog.

The process was a lot easier than I imagined, so I thought I’d share in case it’s something you were stressing about or just wanted to know in the event that you too have a layover in China.

24-hour Transit Into China Without Visa

I’m flying back to Canada from my monthly long adventure to Vietnam (please be sure to check out my posts on that amazing trip).

When I landed in Guangzhou, China, at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, the temporary immigration process to enter China was much simpler than I expected it to be.

If your layover in China is less than 1 day, you can possibly enjoy a 24-hour transit without a visa (24-hour TWOV). It is available to passengers of most nationalities at most ports of entry.

If your layover is more than 24 hours, you can consider 72-hour TWOV or 144-hour TWOV.

Most countries are eligible for the 24-hour TWOV except those listed below: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

When I deplaned, I went over the area for the Visa (the sign is easily displayed – you’ll be heading to the right).  I filled out the necessary application form and handed it to the kind lady at the counter.  After providing her with my passport, boarding pass from my current flight, and for my flight onto Toronto, I was asked to take a seat as they reviewed my application to enter the country. The process was smooth and quick – I hardly had enough time to vlog that I was waiting for a response before she provided me with the answer – YES!

From there I went through to Customs and then made my way to Gate 50 (it’s downstair on the first floor – you’ll be walking to the right), the China Southern Airline counter for my FREE hotel accommodation. I found that gate a little hard to find, but once I found it, the rest of the process was fairly simple.  I showed the counter agent my boarding pass and passport and was then asked to review a selection of hotels from an iPad and select one.

Free Hotel Provided By China Southern Airlines

I chose the W.Y. Lera Hotel based on the looks of the hotel alone, I didn’t read the whole summary of each hotel because there was a line up behind me.  It looked like something I might see in Vegas – tall, flashy lights, had a tower, and it looked as if there was be something “happening” near by.  That wasn’t the case so much.  The hotel is located in the Huadu District of Guangzhou in the far northern suburbs of the city, quite the distance from any sightseeing in the city centre.  But, it was provided for FREE and I am definitely grateful for that and am not in a position to complain.

I noticed online that China Southern Airlines also offered FREE sightseeing tours. I asked at the desk, they do, however, it ended at 1:00 PM and my flight was at 2:30 PM,  I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the tour, get to the airport, through security and make my flight – so that was not an option for me.

After selecting my hotel, I was provided with a sticker with the hotel name and asked to wait in the designated area until the airport shuttle could take us to the hotel.

When I arrived at the hotel I asked at the front desk how long it would take by metro to get to the city centre – by subway 1.5 hours each way — having to grab my shuttle at 11:00 AM the next morning, this was not going to work either, so I would have NO sightseeing during my time in China 😞.

I really applaud China Southern Airlines for providing this service to their passengers, I was happy to sleep in a (hard) bed rather than on an airport floor.  This is a 3-star hotel, has 178 rooms.  The  room was “nice”, it wasn’t outstanding.  The room was tired and dated.  The carpet was worn and dirty, the decor tired.  Also, the WiFi did not work in my hotel room at all, it barely worked in the lobby.  The rest of the hotel however, was quite nice.

Breakfast was provided a NO COST, the buffet style selection was endless and was quite yummy.

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Enjoying some egg, fruit, beignet, fried fish cake, gyozas, a nada, ramen soup and a coffee

The best part was the view from the 22nd floor revolving restaurant (it did not revolve while I was eating breakfast). It was an overcast day and was overlooking the tops of other buildings,  but, I still found the views quite nice.

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View from the 22nd floor restaurant

The next morning, I decided to go for a walk around the hotel to check out the neighbourhood.

It was pure suburbia, mostly stores, banks and car dealerships. I found it interesting nonetheless simply because of the language of the signs.

It would have been nice to see some of the things I wanted to during my brief stay in Guangzhou. The city features avant-garde architecture such as Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House; the carved box-shaped Guangdong Museum; and the iconic Canton TV Tower skyscraper, resembling a thin hourglass. The Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, a temple complex from 1894.

At 11:00 AM the airport shuttle did exactly that – shuttled us the 20 minute drive to Baiyun International Airport.  We arrived rather early.  Having already received our boarding passes in Vietnam, we just needed to clear security and customs, which was a breeze.  Although they did confiscate my fave hot sauce from Vietnam – it was over 100 ml 😢. (I only traveled with  a carry on and a Herschel knapsack, no checked luggage / best way to travel 🧳).

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While I waited for my flight to board, I sat, had coffee and chatted a bit with my new friend Petr, whom I met the night prior as we both waited for our shuttle to the hotel.  That helped pass the time quickly.  Then, off I went to departure Gate A160 to board and be on my way back to Canada.

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The flight was long – I don’t know how else to make 15 hours pass fast – most of my flight was during the “day” – so I watched a lot of movies, read, did word search (I clearly made a typo in my Insta story above lol).  

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Upon landing at Pearson International, I was greeted with a blanket of white snow and a balmy temp of -11, a huge difference from the 31 degrees I had become accustomed to.

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Welcome Home!

I’m suffering from jet lag, my sleep is off and I have no motivation for the time being. Thankfully I took 2 work days off at the end of my trip to deal with the time difference.

Next blog will cover my fave moments, foods and things about Vietnam and well as some things I wasn’t so fond of.  Tune in shortly.  

On Travel: Mekong Delta, Vietnam 🇻🇳

tạm biệt Việt Nam

Today, I left Vietnam.  The country I have come to love over the last 3.5 weeks  It’s a mix of emotions having to go back to Canada.  I’ll miss it there, I’ll miss exploring, the food,  the culture, the adventuring and of course, my eldest daughter.  

On the other hand, I’m anxious to get back to my own bed and not having to live out of a suitcase and of course seeing Ellie (my dog), my family and friends.  But, I’m not looking forward to the weather – which I hear was absolutely atrocious while I was away – massive snow storms, blizzards, wind storms and freezing rain. 

As I say farewell to Vietnam and shortly say HELLO to Guangzhou, China for an 18 hour layover.  Let me take you back to the last couple of days of my vacation as Cassandra and I explored the Mekong Delta.

MEKONG DELTA

The Mekong Delta is a water world that moves to the rhythms of the mighty Mekong, where boats, houses and markets float upon the innumerable rivers, canals and streams that criss-cross the landscape. Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road.

The Mekong River itself starts in the Himalayas and passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam, which partly explains why the waters are so murky. More than half of Vietnam’s rice and fish comes from the delta region.

Day One:

Firstly, we booked our tour of the Mekong Delta via Khải Hoàn Travel in HCMC. With many options available, we booked a 2 day, 1 night excursion which included stops in Mỹ Tho, Bến Tre, Cần Thơ and Cái Răng. The entire trip cost 550K (only $31.00 CDN).

We departed at 7:45 AM to pick up the rest of the folks on our tour and left HCMC at approximately 8:15 AM for Mỹ Tho on our air conditioned bus.  Over the 2 hour ride, we passed rice fields before eventually arriving at our pre-determined rest stop/tourist trap 😆.

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From there we departed for Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda, Vietnam’s gorgeous Buddhist gardens. A happy place with Buddhas, beautifully maintained gardens and fruit trees.  Originally built in 1850 it has survived colonial wars, neglect and tropical storms.  It’s located approximately 3 km from the centre of Mỹ Tho city.

The Vĩnh Tràng pagoda features three enormous Buddha statues.

  • The standing Buddha represents Amitabha Buddha, who symbolizes ultimate bliss and compassion.
  • The Laughing Buddha symbolizes happiness and good luck and has become a deity for good fortune around the world.
  • The reclining Buddha represents Gautama Buddha before he enters parinirvana, the death of one who has attained nirvana during his lifetime and has been released from the painful cycle of samsara, or rebirth.

Our bus eventually stopped at the pier where we boarded a wooden boat to cruise the Mekong River in order to further discover the 4 islands:  Tortoise, Dragon, Phoenix and Unicorn.  

We were afforded the opportunity to visit a honey farm and try different honey and pollen products.  We were served a very sweet honey tea (which I and others found to be a bit too sweet) and given that it was 34 degrees out, the hot tea would have been better served cold.  I purchased lip balm (for those who know me I’m a lip chap addict (lol) – I bargained for 2 at 80K ($4.58 CDN) – she was selling then for 50K each, I didn’t want to bargain down too much, it is their way of making a living and the price was decent as far as I was concerned.  I’d have paid way more back home and these are all natural.  

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Hot sweet tea, candied ginger and banana (not sure what the little round balls were)

We had the chance to visit a coconut workshop, to see how they make the coconut candy from beginning to the end.  How they first break apart the coconut, then mulch it up, and watch it go through the rest of the process until it ends up with the lady at the other side- who puts in into molds, adds rice paper (which is edible), cuts it up,  and passes it onto the few who manually (and very fast I might add) wrap it and package it for selling.  We were given the chance to taste test each of the different flavours of candy which were also for purchase – we didn’t buy any, but it was good!  

Forget eating the worm after downing your tequila, we drank Cobra Snake Wine! Cassandra and I tried something I never thought in a million years we’d ever try or get the chance to try.  Actually, I didn’t even know it was a thing — Snake Wine (rượu rắn), yes, that’s right folks — wine made with a real venomous cobra.  It’s an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The snake venom poses no threat to the drinker. It is denatured by the ethanol—its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactive.  It did NOT taste like wine – it tasted like Tequila in my opinion – I cannot see any pleasure in sipping on this on a nice night in.

As an FYI – dating back centuries, snake and scorpion wines are known as a natural medicine used to treat different health problems such as back pain, rheumatism, lumbago and other health conditions.

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Shot of Snake Wine
Not the best shot, it was a video – but you get the idea

Coming to Turtle Island, we were provided the opportunity to taste fresh fruits, and listen to traditional folk Vietnamese music. The fruit included: papaya, dragon fruit, Vietnamese apple and longan.

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The most amazing part of the trip followed – we cruised along a small canal on a traditional wooden boat with two rowers at the front and back.  This was exactly what I was thinking when I thought Mekong – traditional way of life and transportation and the  traditional conical hats (nón lá). 

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We had a Vietnamese lunch on the island (honestly, I’m sorry I don’t remember which island) – it was basically cơm tấm.  This meal was included with our booking. We then had a little free time to explore the island – which was a semi amusement area with kids playing in play areas, balloon balls on the water, an alligator pen (they’re also on the menu, sooo put 2 and 2 together).  

After lunch we departed for the 3 hour bus ride to Cần Thơ which is the fourth largest city in Vietnam, and the largest city in the Mekong Delta.  It is noted for its floating market, rice paper-making village, and picturesque rural canals. It has population of 1,520,000 as of June 2018 and is located on the south bank of the Hau River, a tributary of the Mekong River.

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Bus ride to Cần Thơ

Our booking included an overnight stay at a 2* hotel.  We stayed at An Hotel.  I have to say this was more than a 2* as far as I’m concerned.  Looking at the cost for the standard room – 350K – that means the rest of our trip – 200K – was for bus, guide, lunch, samples of food and the experience – well worth it to me.  Some of the folks on our tour paid about $25.00 CDN more than we did for basically the same tour (except they had a 3* hotel and were given a fish and rice wraps at lunch).  

Once we checked in and freshened up – we went down to the Night Market in search of some dinner.  We were both exhausted from our day of travel and getting up at 6:30 AM.  The market included shopping, but, we immediately bypassed all of that and headed for the food stalls. 

Eager to find some tasty street food, we made our way around and came across bánh tráng nướng – which they call Vietnamese pizza.  The line up for this stall was bumpin’ so we knew it had to be the place to eat – and boy was it! Cassandra always wanted to try this dish so we ordered 1 each — we both loved it so much that we ordered another one, at a stall further up the way.  They were ONLY 10K each $0.57 CDN!  What they are is dried small shrimps, saute/chili paste, quail egg/chicken egg, spring onion, fried ground pork on rice paper, cooked over an open flame – I still cannot stop drooling when thinking about it.  I  may have to make these at home one night for dinner.

I also tried another dish I had seen on vlogs – rice paper bag salad (also 10K) – it wasn’t what I expected and to be quite honest, I wasn’t too fond if it.  It tasted like tough rice paper in spices. Now I know and can happily cross that one off my list of foods to try.  I also wanted to try bắp xào, a popular street food snack in Vietnam (corn) – but I was too full from the bánh tráng nướng to even consider tying it … next time for sure. 

Cassandra also had an order of fresh spring rolls – 2 for 10K and  I grabbed my fave Nước Mía – freshly pressed sugarcane juice – for 20K – these prices are outrageously cheap aren’t they?

With full bellies, we ordered a Grab car and headed back the hotel – our next day’s adventure started bright and early at 6:00 A.M.

Breakfast was included in our fee – it was basic and consisted of 2 eggs, a French baguette and a mini banana – as well as juice, water and coffee (boo – they had no milk – fresh or condensed – just sugar – and I need milk in my coffee).  Two people woke up feeling unwell – likely from something they ate the night prior.  One did not continue on the trip and he and his GF opted to stay behind in Cần Thơ and other other girl (and her friend) got off at the next stop to stay behind.  I honestly felt for both of them – I had a bout of food poisoning about the 3rd-4th day in Ha Noi.  It is not a good feeling, especially if you’re on a traveling tour and have no immediate washroom access.

We cruised along the small picturesque tributaries and trolled by the Cái Răng Floating Market – I found this amazing.  This is the biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta, Cái Răng is just 6 km from Cần Thơ.  People actually LIVE and SELL on the river. This is a wholesale market, so look at what’s tied to the long pole above the boat to figure out what they’re selling to smaller traders.

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We took in the scenery and the daily living of the local people.  We also toured a rice paper factory and witnessed how they make rice noodles – another very interesting process.  I should mention that this process as well as the process of making coconut candy is all done by hand – this is not an automated process – they are hands on with the entire process.  With our free time Cassandra and I made our way down to the village open market – which offered a variety of fresh fruit, fish, meat, eel and cafés.  We grabbed an entire pineapple for 10K, a pancake like yummy goodness for 5K and an ice coffee with mild 10K — are you catching that?  We got all of that for a mere 25K — $1.41 CDN.

We pressed on to visit a homestead ecofarm (ecofarms aim to increase agricultural sustainability & farmers’ resilience to climate change) where we visited their personal catfish farm, durian and dragon fruit plantation/orchards and livestock. 

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To round out our trip, we disembarked the boat in Cái Vồn where we set off for our 5 hour trek back to Saigon (there was one stop at the 2.5 hour mark).  

Once back in HCMC we relaxed for a bit and then went out for dinner to our favourite restaurant in Cassandra’s neighbourhood (I have to ask her to get the name because I would def recommend it) – we get the same thing to eat each time (except for the time we accidentally ordered chicken feet 🤣) — morning glory, chicken wings and Singapore Noodles. 

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This order was from our very first visit to the restaurant

Then it was time to hit the hay – we were both totally zonked.  She had to teach in the morning and I had to get up and pack for my departure.  

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Flying to Guangzhou, China For My Layover

I’m on my flight to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (China) as I write this blog.  I have an 18 hour layover there. 

I’ve done some research online prior to my departure and saw that China offers citizens of certain qualifying countries 72 -144 hour entry Visas.  And, through China Southern Airlines – I read that I can be eligible for a free overnight hotel and free Guangzhou tour in the morning prior to my departure back to Toronto. 

So, I’ll ask when we land and hopefully that is the case.  I’d really not prefer to have to spend that time in the airport.  I’d rather sleep in a cozy bed and do a bit of sightseeing prior to my 15 hour flight back home. 

I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out in my next blog … 

NOTE: I wrote this on my flight to China, but the wifi was horrible at my hotel so I wasn’t able to post it.  I had to wait til I got back to Canada and had some time to adjust to the jet lag.

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T xo

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Stilted houses on the river

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