What Goes Up

That stripe on the right is the Queenstown Gondola. It’s super-steep, and gains about 1500 feet of elevation.

The main reason people go up there is to come back down in some creative or exciting way. There’s one part of that wants to point out that you’d end up in the same place a lot easier by not going at all… but that would be boring!

Early in the morning, a lot of mountain bikers use the lift and barrel down. There’s a little luge-thing at the top, which we rode and which was a lot of fun.

But the best was the paragliders… I wanted to do that but it only goes certain days… next trip.

Our motel was right next to the landing field… here’s a video.

Let there be light

For Mother’s Day weekend the fine folks who plan this sort of thing put on an evening show of lighted-up stuff down by the Viaduct. I had jogged by in the morning and it looked like a thing to do so we did.

That’s a person in a lighted costume up above, who did a mesmerizing fairy dance that even managed to make lots of high fives look elegant and mysterious.

Thousands of other people also thought it would be a fun time! It was shoulder to shoulder. Some of the installations seemed pretty cool, like one that made noise when you touched it. But the artist’s vision might or might have included the reality we saw: 50 sticky overstimulated kids slapping as hard and fast as possible so all the sounds and all the lights.

The Harbour Bridge got in on the act.

This sculpture is actually there all the time but looked cool all lit up.

This Plexiglass tunnel boasted the most pretentious artist statement. Vitruvian Man, polygons, harmony, blah blah blah. But many many people lined up to walk through and experience the novelty of lights. And Plexiglass!

Many of the same sculptures will be on display in Parnell in July… maybe with a smaller crowd?

Singapore Gardens by the Bay

We had a nice tour of Singapore’s giant garden domes. I think they have to keep the plants indoors because it’s too hot outside.

Giant indoor waterfall

Cherry blossoms

Flowers

All the pictures above are things you’d expect to find in a botanical garden.

More surprising … downright surreal in fact… was the All-Stars of Cosplay convention.

I am a little uncomfortable around a lot of this cosplay stuff, to be honest. But this family of tourists was all in and didn’t share my queasiness, and it was cool to watch mom and kid having such a good time.

Supertrees light show

Adding to the feeling that Singapore is actually Disneyland, twice every night you can watch a fantastic music and light show at the giant tree sculptures. Just like Fireworks on Main Street USA.

It was amazing… maybe not breaking any new artistic ground with the classics themes and the flashing lights… but still, wow!

Our boat, the Silversea Cruise

There’s the boat we stayed on for two nights in Ha Long Bay, the Silversea Cruise. We were ‘upgraded’ to this boat after choosing another one. All the details of what amenities you get for what price are highly specified , but somewhat opaque to the average punter like me.

The basic deal is you can do one night or two. I opted for two, but in reality one would have been enough. Same basic itinerary each day. The boat holds 40 guests, but we had about 25 on board.

Inside was fine… about like you might expect: cabin small, food beautiful to look at and pretty good to eat, staff a bit smarmy. We saw a few roaches in the bath, probably unavoidable in that climate, but unwelcome.

Prov and I got to take a turn driving, that was fun.

There are no pictures for proof, but I did catch a squid 🦑 (I’m adding the emoji because it was auto-suggested, which is its own kind of awesome) during the evening fishing activities. It was only a couple inches long.

Ha Long Bay Cruise

If you’re in that part of Vietnam, you gotta see Ha Long Bay. It’s recognized as a unique natural attraction by UNESCO. What makes it so special is the population of tourist boats that cruise around. There are thousands of them, or hundreds anyways!

But like all Earth’s special places, Ha Long Bay is under threat. You see, it can actually be difficult to observe the boats due to the nearly 2,000 steep rocky islands that also occupy this sacred place.

The Vietnamese government is doing what it can to allow the boats and the pesky islands to coexist. They’ve even turned a few of them into tourist attractions… you can go ashore and explore caves,

climb up steps to get a better view of the endangered boats,

learn about pearls,

and even buy souvenirs from a floating market!

I’ll make another post focused on our particular boat, but for now just keep all the endangered boats in your thoughts and hope someone figures out how to control all those islands!

Marble Mountain

Halfway between Da Nang and Hoi An you pass through a stretch of road lined with shops selling carved marble stuff from little trinkets like we bought to giant Buddhas suitable for a town square.

Turns out there’s a quarry nearby. And you can tour it.

After riding up in the fun external elevator, you wander around a bunch twisty little (trails and) passageways, all alike. There are pagodas and carvings and views…

The view from Seawatch Point is a-changing.

Some of the carvings depict important cultural icons. Can you make out the symbology of this bench?

The boys climbed up into a cave and couldn’t find the girls on the other side, so the visit got truncated a bit. But we still had time to exit through the gift shop.

Down by the riverside

Hoi An is built on a bunch of rivers and estuaries. A lot of the nicer stuff is along one waterway or another. Early in the day it’s pretty peaceful.

By afternoon it’s cafe society time.

And at night it’s shoulder to shoulder.

Old Town Hoi An Sites

We bought the combo ticket good for up to five of the old town attractions, and we managed to find four to go in.

1. Phuc Kien Assembly Hall

One of several 19th century Chinese assembly halls. Shrines, sculpture, carvings, bonsai, etc. Very pretty but also easy to overdose. The spiral things hanging from the ceiling are long incense sticks that must burn for weeks or months.

2. The folkloric music performance

This was the most ham-fisted production I can ever remember seeing. Traditional instruments and seemingly well-trained musicians and singers and dancers, but all stuck behind a bunch of bad artistic choices. Flashing lights, sappy choreography, and then this:

3. The old merchant house

This was the neatest of the attractions we saw. A 300 year old house, supposedly in the current family’s hands for six generations.

The light in those pictures make them look painted.

One of the previous generations.

4. I can’t even remember

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