We have said many times that we are not really morning people and therefore don’t often see sunrises during our travels. Our time in Africa was quite different as we had to be up at sunrise in order to see the different wildlife while they were still active. As it turned out, the animals seemed to be active throughout the day, but some animals were not as easy to see during the heat of the day. We saw many gorgeous sunsets during our trip, but the sunrises were often just as spectacular. We especially enjoyed watching the sunrise during our balloon ride in Maasai Mara, which gave us a different perspective. Several of the sunrises that we saw were during our drive from one national park to another, so we did the best to take the photograph through the window of our vehicle. Here a few of the sunrises that we saw while we were in Tanzania and Kenya.
Dragons have been an important part of Vietnam’s mythology literally going all the way back to their origin story. It was believed that all of the Vietnamese people were descendants of a dragon and a fairy. Whether it was in Hanoi, Halong Bay, or the Ninh Binh province, we came across dragon mythology everywhere we visited. Dragons are considered to bring rain, which provides agricultural wealth and prosperity. As with other Asian cultures, they are also a symbol of power and were often used by their rulers throughout history. Throughout the years, the style of the dragon changed throughout the years in a combination of being snake-like to being cat-like with the latter being the one that we saw the most.
Our first encounter with the legend of dragons in Vietnam was when we went to Ngoc Son Temple that is on an island in Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake gets its name from the legend of Emperor Lợi who received a magical sword from the king of the dragons in order to defeat the Chinese. After defeating the Chinese armies, a Golden Turtle God, Kim Qui, came to surface of the lake and asked Emperor Lợi to return the sword to the Dragon King, Long Vương, who had given it to him. So Emperor Lợi gave Kim Qui the sword and renamed the lake Ho Hoan Kiem, which means Lake of the Restored Sword or Lake of the Returned Sword.
When we visited Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam dating back to the 10th century before it moved to Hanoi, we learned about how the images of dragons featured twelve humps to match the twelve months of the year. We saw an ancient tablet at one of the two temples that featured an ancient dragon. We saw dragons of various styles throughout the temples, especially on the temple roofs like we saw at many temples throughout the region.
Probably one of the most well known legends is that of Halong Bay. According to the legend, shortly after becoming a country, the people of Vietnam had to fight back an army of invaders coming from the sea. Fearing that would be defeated, the Jade Emperor called upon Mother Dragon and her children to help them beat back the invaders. Mother Dragon and her children stopped the invasion and then after burning them with their firery breath, they left their teeth behind as emeralds that have become the islands that we see today in order to protect them from future invasions. Some people even say that the islands look like the humps of dragons.
There are many other Vietnamese myths, but clearly being the descendants of dragons is certainly one of the most important. We really enjoyed seeing these various images carved and painted in the various places we visited. In fact, it was such a dominant feature of our trip, we even purchased a couple of small dragon statues to bring home with us.
We love holidays, especially those where we can decorate the house, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we enjoy Halloween. It seems to have gotten a bad wrap over the past few years and there have even been calls to ban, which makes no sense to us. Perhaps because everyone has been trapped inside for the past seven months, but we’ve noticed many more people decorating for Halloween this year. We have no idea if anyone will allow their children to go door to door to get candy, but if nothing else at least it feels festive.
When we moved to Germany a few years ago, we were surprised to find that there were little to no Halloween decorations. In fact, the only one we found to put in our apartment in Frankfurt was a little orange pumpkin with some flowers in them. There was one restaurant that was pretty well decked out and had a special party for the occasion, but that was all that we saw. We know it isn’t as popular in Europe as it in the United States, but considering the traditions started there and were brought to the States, it was a little surprising.
Because we usually take a big trip in November, we don’t often travel over Halloween, but a couple of years ago we went to Carlsbad, California. It was fun seeing how the town embraced decorating and there were plenty of Halloween items on display. Even when we took our wine tasting tour in Temecula, we found some of them had decorated for the season. Regardless of what you think of the holiday, we think it is a fun time to divert ourselves from the typical day to day chores.