New York 2015 Week 1

10th of July

At an unsettlingly early 5:00 o’clock in the morning, Nuriye woke me up. Forty minutes later we were in our car, heading to Brussels Airport. From there, we would fly to Geneva, and from Geneva we’d fly to the Big Apple.

Up until about my eighth birthday, me and pap suffered from an evil curse that made sure all our flights would be either delayed or canceled. But luckily, the curse seems to have worn out and when we entered the airplane on time. In fact, the only nuisance in and around the airport was my dad, who never seemed to stop complaining about the teenage smell coming from my armpits…

Hm. Although we were aboard our airplane on time, we still left almost an hour too late, and once we got off the plane at Geneva, we ran through the duty free to buy vodka and cigarettes for Susan–Papa’s friend in New York–and from there straight to the gate.

Our transcontinental flight seemed to take forever. At a certain moment, I fell asleep, resulting in a food cart bumping into my head due to the awkward way my head was bungling next to my chair. Also, I somehow managed to break the cable of the earphones the plane crew gave me during my beauty sleep.

Eight extremely boring and tiring hours later, we arrived at JFK at around 5:00 pm local time. Of course, I forgot my fleece in the airplane, so by the time we got going it was 5:30.

We bought and refilled our metro cards, took the subway–I know, we’re so unpredictable–to somewhere and from there we took a bus to somewhere else and three blocks later we arrived at Susan’s apartment, a teeny-weeny three-room apartment on Broadway. After twelve hours of traveling, papa and I sat down and relaxed.

To make sure I stayed awake so I could adjust to the New Yorkian time, we went for a walk. That was probably a good idea; as soon as we came home, I took a shower, tried to watch some Wimbledon semifinals and then fell asleep.

 

11th of July

 

I woke up around 9:00, aroused by the light from outside. Luckily, I was just in time to watch Serena Williams beat Muguruza in the Wimbledon final. While watching tennis, I ate my first two bagels. Papa, unsurprisingly, stole one of them but replaced it before I could become properly annoyed.

When we–me, papa and Susan– had all finished our breakfasts, we went outside to spend the rest of the day walking through Manhattan. We–mainly papa, of course–wasted some time by talking about the price of prescription glasses for my dad, wasted some more time by asking for a free replacement of his MacBook charger cable, I wasted some time at Niketown looking for shoes while trying to bear the incredibly terrifyingly loud music they play there.

Around 5pm we were all sort of hot and tired from walking in the hot sun all day, and so we dropped in at a place called Dylan’s candy bar. Here, we refreshed ourselves with milkshakes and mocktails, whatever they’re supposed to be.

Full of ice cream, we slowly walked to the west side of Manhattan through Central Park. There, we sat down pretty much at the first restaurant we saw because we were hungry and well, we were hungry. Big mistake.

In the restaurant, we met Olga, my dad’s sister. She was there to share the terrible meal with us.

As we were about to run away from the restaurant, a friend of Susan’s joined us while Olga left because she had some vague plans. Together with Erma, Susan’s friend, we went to the movie theater to enjoy Jurassic World, or Giraffic World, as papa says it.

When the movie was over, Erma went to her apartment and we went to Susan’s apartment, where we washed up and went to bed.

 

12th of July

 

I woke up just in time to watch the first half of the Wimbledon’s men’s final. When  Djokovic had just won his second set and the rain break started, we decided to go out, because otherwise we would miss all the daylight outside. Because we did want to finish watching, we recorded it so we could watch it later.

As we got in the subway, headed for Brighton Beach, that wish was crushed by Olga, who texted us who won… It’s no fun to watch once you know how it ends.

We got out of the subway at the Brighton Beach station, which was actually quite far from the beach. Unlike all the other subway tracks I had seen so far, the tracks in Brooklyn were elevated above the ground several meters.

It was already almost 2pm, and our stomachs slowly started rumbling. The area of Brooklyn we were in was full of Russians, and so instead of asking for directions to a restaurant in English, papa started asking directions in Russian–he grew up in Russia–meaning Susan and me couldn’t understand why all the people he talked to started giggling. Maybe because of his monstrous beard.

We sat down in a good-looking, Russian restaurant and filled our stomachs with traditional, Russian lunch. Then, eager to reach the beach, we left the restaurant and headed towards the sea in the hot and humid weather.

When we had finally reached the coast, we laid down our towel on the beach and put our feet in the cool water. Papa went for a swim–he magically managed to switch from shorts to swimming shorts while standing wrapped in a towel. He almost pulled me in the water with all my clothes still on, and if I hadn’t been threatening to throw his sandal into the ocean, he would have probably done so.

The Coney Island Fair was not far from where we were foot-bathing. If you have read my previous New York journal, you would know that papa took me there for my tenth–or eleventh, honestly, I don’t remember…–anniversary, through the subways, while I was blindfolded. So, having bathed, we decided to walk there.

On the way, I saw several people walking the opposite direction with what appeared to be an entire mango on a stick, cut like a flower. Since I looove mangos and I had never seen anything like it, I asked someone where he bought it and then bought one myself. I’m gonna remember this all-mango recipe!

At the Coney Island Fair, we bought tickets to the bumper carts. “Bumper carting”, that’s what I’ll call it for now, is one of my favorite fair attractions. That’s also partly because I don’t like roller coasters. Sorry.

After we bumper carted two times, we skee-balled. However, since it was already late, and we had a dinner appointment with someone, we couldn’t really stick around much longer and thus left the fair and walked back into the Russian part of Brooklyn. On my way out, I bought another mango.

Before we took a subway train back to Manhattan, we went shopping in a Russian supermarket. We miraculously ended up with over a hundred bucks worth of Russian food products.

In the subway, papa called a sushi place to make a reservation, but halfway the connection failed. So, when we arrived at the apparently very popular restaurant, we  did not have a spot. However, papa pretended the mistake was made on their side and somehow got us a table.

A few minutes later, my relative–I keep on discovering new relatives–Dimitri came in. I didn’t know it was possible, but Dimitri and his beard were even bigger and huger than my dad and his beard. And, coincidentally, his last name is Plotko, whereas our last name is Plotkin. He might be my cousin, but he inherited his last name from his father, who was not originally from our family. Everything about them was the same. Except Dimitri made better jokes.

Together with a lot of sushi and sashimi, papa ordered something called Kaki Fry, purely because of its name. Kak means that brown stuff that you flush down the toilet or the act of producing it in a whole lot of languages. You’d be surprised. So, the rest of our evening was filled with disgusting jokes.

“Fried kaki? I usually have steamed kaki!”

“Wow! This is the best kaki of my life!”

I’ll spare you the rest–of the kaki. The kaki was indeed very good, and so was the rest of out dinner.

When we had all finished eating (our kaki), papa and me said goodbye to Dimitri and went home. There, I fell asleep instantly,

 

13th of July

 

I woke up late because I went to bed late the night before. Once I had showered, I had my breakfast which consisted of a bagel with newly-bought Russian caviar.

After breakfast, papa left to pick up Sabrina, a Sicilian friend of ours. As the airport is quite far from Manhattan, papa was basically gone for the greater part of the day, which was too bad, really. So, with papa out of town, Susan and I went out with the two of us.

Before going anywhere else, we quickly picked up Susan’s fancy, fashionable new prescription shades–for which she had paid a fairly fancy price. Then, with Susan armed with new sun-blocking armory, we went to a Barnes and Noble’s Bookstore.

The Barnes and Noble’s was enormous–for Dutch standards, anyways. We spent some time there looking through the many piles of books. Finally, we walked out with four books, including “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which Susan insisted I read.

Loaded with over a thousand pages of books, we ambled on, slowly moving down along Broadway, looking for new shoes for me. We entered a store called Harry’s Shoes–very creative name…–where I found a model that I really liked. I liked the shoes, but I thought black, the only color they had them in, was a little boring. I know, I’m sorry, but I’m really picky concerning shoes and clothes. So, instead of buying the shoes, I checked the name of the model and left the store, so I could look for the model in other colors somewhere else.

Before entering another store, we stopped at an ice cream place, where I bought a mango-banana smoothie.

Deprived of hope, my poor soul–I know, sniff! What a sad story it is!–entered another store, Modell’s, continuing its everlasting search for the right shoes. But, I actually got lucky for once, and they actually had the actual shoes I actually wanted!

Back at home, we met papa and Sabrina and went for a small walk. Afterwards, we just hung around at home and I read my book.

We didn’t do a lot of other things that night, and when night fell we simply went to bed and fell asleep.

 

14th of July

 

Papa unexpectedly woke me up around 9am because he had apparently agreed to meet Sabrina at the South Ferry at 10:15. So, I had breakfast, dressed, and we jumped on the subway train headed downtown.

Two stops before our stop, at 34th street, the train halted and stayed put due to “a police investigation at 14th street station”. After ten minutes, we were still not moving and papa tried to send Sabrina a text message to tell her we were late. However, the the connection wasn’t strong enough to send a message, so when another ten minutes had passed and the subway train still hadn’t moved an inch, we walked out of the subway and the subway station, sent the message above ground, and walked back into the same subway train. It took another fifteen before we started moving again.

At 10:45, we met Sabrina in front of the entrance of an enormous Staten Island Ferry. Apparently, everybody uses this ferry to look at the Statue of Liberty, because it passes the statue and it’s free. The ferries to the real thing cost a shitload of money and are absolutely overcrowded.

I liked the Aunt Liberty, but you sort of have to because it’s so famous. What I actually liked more than her, was the magnificent view New York’s skyline and everything around it.

Once we were back in Mànháaaton, as Sabrina says it, it started raining. Our original plan was to go to Chinatown to have dumplings, but because it was raining we didn’t feel like walking there. Instead, we dropped into some French cafe next to the Fed Building.

While I was eating my “salad césar”–come on, really? Couldn’t you just write Ceasar salad?–, I took out my reservation for the Federal Reserve Bank tour to check the time. Apparently, instead of two o’clock, I had to be there at 1:30pm because you have to come half an hour in advance for some reason. Not only did papa manage to arrange only one ticket instead of three–he only arranged a ticket for me, he somehow managed to not arrange a ticket for himself and Sabrina–, but if it weren’t for me, I would’ve missed the tour as well. Oh well. Nothing went wrong for me, so all is well.

The tour was very cool. To start off, a security guard led me through the first part of the building to the museum. After a little while, the tour guide showed up. The building was built around a vault that weighs over 2000 tons. Inside the vault, there is 7000 tons and $560 BILLION worth of gold. The entrance is secured by a 90-ton steel cylinder. The whole thing is so heavy, it had to be placed 25 meters under the surface because otherwise it would simply sink into the ground.

When the tour guide had told us all of the history, we went down into the vault. That was amazing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see all of the gold, but we saw some of it, which was still pretty cool. The lock itself was maybe even more fascinating than the gold. It’s just so big and complex. It took four different people with four different keys to open the vault.

For the rest of the day, we just walked around downtown New York, looking at buildings, Wall Street and dropping into shoe stores–I just like shoes…sorry.(Footlocker’s the best!)

Around 5pm, we dropped Sabrina off at her B&B and took the subway train to Susan’s apartment. Back there, we ate stuffed cabbages we bought at the Russian store and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

 

15th of July

 

Papa had let me sleep, for which I was very grateful. It did mean, however, that we were not in time to meet Sabrina at the Guggenheim. Instead, Sabrina walked around a little more on her own while we were on our way downtown.

We met up with Sabrina somewhere around the 14th street subway station. From there, we headed to Chinatown, for which I was actually pretty excited. A small Chinese neighborhood in the middle of an American city was just always a fascinating thought.

Chinatown totally lived up to my expectations, in every aspect. All the signs were in Chinese, small food stands everywhere–Chinese people everywhere. We sat down at some Chinese–didn’t see that coming, did ya?–tiny little indoor food stand, where we ate a reasonable and ridiculously cheap–Chinese–lunch.

Finished with our meals, we slowly walked uptown, towards the diamond district. After a few blocks, however, Sabrina went to her apartment because she was “tie-red”

Halfway to the diamond district, papa sat his big bum down on a chair in front of a beautiful old building. I didn’t catch its name, but it’s very tall, extremely narrow on one side, and reasonably wide on the other side, completely inspired by Roman architecture. Pretty cool.

The diamond district was crazy! There were just so incredibly many diamond and gold stores! Pure amazement as I walked from Fifth to Sixth Avenue, down Forty-seventh Street.

It was nearing 5:00 o’clock, and many shops would be closing soon. And, papa was looking for a familiar face, but he didn’t remember where that familiar face had his precious, diamond-filled stand. Luckily, we only had to pass fifty-three kazilion shops filled with many more kazilions worth of diamonds, in both in kilos and in dollars, before we found our big old Sovjet-Russian Alex and his stand.

Two hours of talking and Russian-tongued negotiations later, we were on the bus uptown. We had some pizza a few blocks from the apartment, washed up when we came home, and went to bed.

 

16th of July

 

We woke up early, with a busy day ahead. When I had finished my breakfast, we immediately left for Brooklyn.

We had agreed to meet Sabrina at 10:15, so, naturally, we were there at 10:30. We met in front of a little-known discount broadway show ticket reseller. So instead of a ludicrous $180 per ticket, it was only an outrageous $90 per ticket. We bought tickets to Kinky Boots, not knowing what we were in for.

Once we had all bought our tickets, we walked through the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights and back. Well, papa and me and Susan were. Sabrina is sooo, sooo, soooo slow! Every two minutes we’d have to wait for Sabrina to crawl back in sight.

Anyways, we were done in Brooklyn Heights and decided to walk to a good Barbeque place. Thirty minutes later, however, we were still nowhere near it. The heat was unbearable and the wind nonexistent, and since we still had a long way to go, we jumped in the first cab we saw.

Even by cab it took us another fifteen minutes, but it was worth it. The meat was delicious. Especially the funny-looking beef rib I ordered tasted amazing.

Finished eating, we took a cab to the Brooklyn Bridge. Just before the bridge, we got out, because we wanted to walk over the bridge. Just like five thousand other people. The view of Manhattan was beautiful! Although the crowd was enormous, it was definitely worth it. Along the path, people were trying to sell us “ice-code watah” for “one dallah” with a ‘Brooklynian’ accent.

Once we had made to the other, Manhattan side of the bridge, we took a subway back to Susan’s place to rest.

A few hours later, around 7:00pm, we took a subway downtown to watch the Broadway Show we had bought tickets for, “Kinky Boots”. It was fantastic! In short, it’s a musical about a young man and a transvestite man–or woman, I guess…–that try to save their shoes factory by producing something new things, which turned out to be “kinky” boots. And, their ending line goes like this: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds!”

We got out of the theater and found bike taxis waiting for all the spectators. But I am afraid that SEVEN DOLLARS A MINUTE is just a little tiny bit above our price range.

We somehow managed to come home without getting overrun by one of the incredulously many seven-dollars-a-minute-charging bike taxis, and instantly fell asleep.

 

17th of July

 

We woke up around 9am, had a slow start and performed all our regular morning rituals. When when we had done those, we headed uptown to Columbia University.

At Columbia, we had a very interesting information session and a fun tour through the gorgeous Columbia complex. Also, we had an extensive lab tour that took a full fourteen seconds!

Finished at Columbia University–get it?–, we went all the way to the Bronx to visit my Russian grandparents. It was fun to see them again. Their age–They’re both already 85–made them slow, physically and mentally, but to me they still seemed pretty engaged in life and although I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying, it was, like I said, good to see them.

After three portions of homemade borscht and two homemade meatballs with potatoes, I laid down on Vitaly’s–my grandpa–to read my book. Instead, I fell asleep and did not wake up until papa woke me almost three hours later, at 6pm.

We said pakka–goodbye in Russian–to my dad’s parents, and walked up the stairs to the elevated subway station. We heard the train downtown coming, and we rushed up the stairs in order to catch our train. Then I slipped on the stairs…hrmpf. I didn’t fall or anything, but it was still annoying. Stop laughing, pap. It happens to everyone. Remember when I accidentally ripped your pants in Scotland? Now that was funny.

Anyways, I had stumbled my way up the stairs and then I swiped my metro card. Insufficient fare. On the other side of the turnstile, I could hear my dad yelling my name. Luckily, a helpful man swiped his card for me, and I was able to pass. So, I turned a corner and saw that papa was actually still holding the doors open, and I managed to squeeze in.

Before we went home, I insisted that we stopped by the bookstore. I had already finished one of my books and wanted to buy some more. With three more books than I had co

 

Sri Lanka Week 1

10th of July                                                                                                                                                 2011

Anu, our guide picked us up from the airport in his van.  and the second we came outside I saw a yellow-billed babbler!

We drove for about 5 minutes and out of  the window I saw a                      greater racket-tailed drongo sitting in a palm tree.

We were almost at the hotel and I saw a white-throated kingfisher on a dead branch.

We went outside the van to look at the white-throated kingfisher.

After 2 minutes  we saw a second white-throated kingfisher sitting on a electric wire, and then I alsow discovered a red-wattled lapwing walking on the grass, a white-breasted waterhen walking away  and a common myna sitting on a dead palm tree.

We came at our hotel “Lagoon paradise” in the wetlands on the east side of the island,  we saw another common myna.

The owner of the hotel gave us jong green coconuts, they said that when it’s jong it’s water and good to drink, when it’s old it’s good to eat.

After putting everything in our room papa and I went to the swimming pool

to splash each other.

While we were splashing each other alexandrine parakeets were flying above us.

In the lagoon we saw roosting little comorants and one great egret.

At 7:00 p.m, it got dark.

 

11th of July

 

Papa and Nuriye woke me up at 6:00 am

Because they heard lots of birds tweeting.

I quick dressed and took my camera and my binoculars and we went outside.

We went to the waterside and we ride away saw fishing great egrets, little egrets, our first 3 intermediate egrets (!), and some little cormorants.

I went to the room and saw a greater coucal sitting in between the crows!

After a good breakfast I saw a pair of white-throated flowerpeckers in a little tree playing and tweeting

At 8:00 am Anu picked us up by boat because we were going  on a boat ride through the river and the Dutch canals.

to go to the river you first need to cross the lagoon, which is where we saw lots of egrets.

The river

We had a warm welcom by a brahminy kite showing high in the sky.

Also a white-breasted waterhen 2 red-wattled lapwing’s and 3 blackwinged-stilt’s showed wel on a sandbank.

It was also very cool to see the big monkey family sitting in the tree’s looking at us.

Then we were lucky, a striated heron was showing great about 5 meters away from us.

a white-bellied fish eagle showed in a tree not so far away.

An the way we saw lots of water lizards which we could get very close to.

Above us flue an asian openbill.

Also lots of purple swamp-hen’s showed well.

At the end of the river we saw a specie that was very rare in that river cold the spotted dove.

The dutch canals

there we also had a warm welcome by another striated heron that was luckily showing very well.

We were quiet for a second then we so a rose-ringed parakeet coming out of here nest in the palm tree(!).

After that we saw a shikra also in the palm tree’s

We saw an white-bellied drongo far away.

At the and of the trip I  saw a common kingfisher flying away

On the way back we saw a whiskered tern sitting on some dead branches.

Anu brought us to Colombo to eat and underway we saw 2 spot-billed pelican’s!

 

12th of July

 

Papa and Nuriye were very sleepy and stays in bed for a while  in the morning,

So I went for a walk around the hotel with Anu.

I went outside and the first thing I saw was a crested serpent eagle!

(it is very special that it was so close to us because it always hides and lives in the forests and now it was in the hotel garden!)

We saw a asian koel flying away, a pair of purple-rumped sunbirds and 2 white-throated kingfishers.

In the afternoon we went to our hotel in kandy and underway we saw lots of birds, a red- vented bulbul on the wires, lots of white-throated kingfishers, egrets, and 2 Indian pond herons.

We arrived in our little hotel  in the middle of the jungle, there are no tourists at al, we are the only gasts, the people are friendly

 

13th of July

 

We had some Sri Lankan breakfast(which is really big).

After breakfast I went for a walk with Anu up the hill and we saw lots of things.

Under way we saw 2 kinds of sunbirds.

Also lots of yellow-billed babblers, even feeding each other

When we were walking for about 10 minutes, and then we saw a black-hooded oriole in a tree not so far away but not even 2 seconds later we saw a big bird flying in a tree close to us, I looked through my binoculars and this was a great moment for me, it was my first endemic, the Sri Lanka grey hornbill!!!

When we were at the end of our walk we saw a emerald dove fly away.

When we were back at the hotel we saw a liguana very close to us and 1 common tailorbird  hopsing in a big tree.

After that I made a walk with papa to the village and we saw a oriental magpie robin on the terras of a small house.

Also lots of monkeys we haven’t seen before, I told papa about the hornbill and he got jalous at me.

When I went back to the room I saw an other liguana.

Papa and Nuriye are having a massage.

 

14th of July

 

last night one of the 6 dog was sleeping in my room.

We woke up at 6:00 o’clock in the morning and went for a walk to see a temple.

Underway we saw some black-hooded oriole’s.

the second thing we saw was our second endemic, 2 Sri Lankan hanging parrot’s eating some big fruits!

When we came close to the village we saw some oriental magpie robins.

At the temple we saw monkeys sitting on the roof of the temple!

In the temple we saw people meditating, didn’t like it so I went out but papa said I needed to came in again, they like that very much because they almost never have white people there and everybody wanted to see us as much as possible(al villagers want that for the same reason).

Today is a national holiday and this is why there were so many children and grandmas all dresses in white.

When they were leaving the temple they meat Nuriye and one by one they all kisses her and touched her and hugs.

After that we went inside where kids were and there again Nuriye tickled and kissed every child one by one.

They asked us to have a little meal with them and we all eat rice and curry.

They eat with hands but for us they gave spoons.

after that we went back to the hotel.

From the hotel we went to Kandy to see the temple.

They were first checking if we had any explosives, after that we needed to take our shoes of.

On the way to Kandy we saw our 3d Indian pond heron about 1 meter away from us.

Local people don’t need to pay but we are foreigners and needed to pay 1000 roopies entrance fee per person and we didn’t have enough cash so we went to walk around the park next to the temple, we saw a elephant(not wild) that was piecing(about 10 liters)and pooping(about 50 kilos)at the same time!

His zoom lens (penis) was the size of my leg!(very impressive)

After that we went back to the hotel.

On the way back we saw a guy that was selling Sri Lankan styled bird posters, papa bought me one.

Although we were tired we wanted to go see the waterfall that was not far from our hotel.

We didn’t want to go earlier because we were afraid of leeches,but we went while Nuriye was sleeping.

An old guy came with us to the waterfall because the road to the waterfall  went trough the jungle, water, rocks and for in case of leeches of corse.

It took a while to get there but when we were there we were reworded by a nice, naturally, fresh water with no dangers in the water plus a nice waterfall of corse.

Because the guy that took us there had only a few teeth Papa gave him a nickname, toothless(the dragon in the movie how to train your dragon is cold like that).

When we were done swimming we went back and when we were halfway trough the jungle we saw a big eagle flying very close to us for a second.

When back in our hotel room I saw my first 2 hill myna’s, and 2 little shrikes.

When we went to eat our kook was kooking in front of us.

 

 

15th of July

 

We woke up at 6:30 to take the train from Kandy to Nanu-oya.

We were a little bit late so we were driving like maniacs.

When we were at the train station we were right on time.

Anu drove to the same place we were going by train and he took our baggage.

The train looked disgusting, smelled disgusting, and was disgusting.

At the back people were making music and dancing.

We were squeezed like sardines, in every wagon were about 18 places to sit but about 30 people!

Fortunately we found a place next to the door so we had some wind(it’s very hot in the train).

The train wasn’t going faster then 50 kilometers per our.

I was hanging outside the train in the wind and that is about the best place in the train.

I saw one red-rumped swallow flying almost the same speed as the train.

When we were at Nanu-oya we went to a restaurant for lunch cold “grand Indian”.

It looked good but the food was not delicious at all.

We ordered a lot of Indian bread with garlic and butter.

We ate all of them in 5 minutes.

After the lunch we got the bill and a paper that you were suppost to fill in  and say how you found the service and stuff like that.

I put average everywhere except at the ambiance I put good and at choice of beverage(drinks) I put poor(they only had 5 kind of drinks, horrible).

After that we went looking for a hotel to stay.

Nothing was good enough for papa and in the places he did like were moskietos(Arabs)

After lots of places to stay papa finally chose which hotel he wanted.

That was 2 hours away from the city.

 

16th of July

 

We slept till 7:00 am for a change.

At breakfast I saw a Asian paradise flycatcher flying.

At 7:30 am we went to the tea plantations.

Next to one of the tea plantations was a poor village with lots of kids.

The kids were walking with us and they all wanted to look through my binoculars.

One of the kids gave me his one bracelet(I am still wearing it)

One woman was making her clothes blue with some kind of water.

One man invited us in to his house,he wanted to serve tea but we didn’t want. His wife gave us three bananas, they were small but delicious.

Children wanted to show us a good place we didn’t go because it was so far away, we changed our road.

I asked them are they going to school or not.

They are all going to school, some children were talking better english than adults.

when we whent back to the van we saw our first woodpecker, the greater flameback!

We left the this little Indian Village with good feelings.

we went back for packing and we would see the little Adams peek.

We walked up the stairs more than two km.

After that we started to new journey to our new place cold Tisa.

on our way to Tisa we stopt next to a lake to refresh for a second.

The first thing we saw was a Indian peacock hen.

When papa and I started our walk we saw a pair of little green bee-eater!

Lots of purple herons and our first pheasant-tailed jacana.

We saw buffalo’s swimming in the water.

We slept in an hotel called “my village”

Go to Week 2

 

New York 2011

New York journal

22d of October                                                                                                                 2011

Papa woke me up at 7:00 and we took a shower and had breakfast (scrambled egg).

After that Maxim(we where staying at his apartment for a week) went to work and papa and I went outside to the Wall street, papa told me everything about it.

We came to the subway station and went into a metro, went out at another subway station and from that subway station we went to a train station.

We went into the train and after a while a female conductor was passing by, she really had a character! About half an hour before we got out the female conductor said through the whole train: ” for everybody that doesn’t know where Poughkeepsie  is, walk to the back of the train and you’ll meet a female conductor that will tell you where it is.

When we after sitting in the train for 1:30 hours we finally went out at breakneck ridge. Well … Let’s say we weren’t the only ones.

About three quarters of all the people in the train went out there!(80-100 people)We waited for about 10 minutes so the biggest crowd would be gone.

While waiting I saw my first northern mockingbird. Then we decided to go up.

It was a big, long and crowded clime to the top.

Papa said I went up like a cat because I went up very fast and handy by using little cliffs for my feet and lifted myself up with my hands.

When we reached the top, we saw a flag and a lot of people, plus we saw we weren’t at the top. We saw people even higher a little bit further. When we came to that top we saw we still weren’t at the top. At the fourth top I saw my first two turkey vultures. Well, in total we had that six times till we reached the extreme top.

When we where at the extreme top we were looking for the red trail with two other boys. We found the red path and went there, but after a while we didn’t see any signs anymore. We just made our own path through the woods.

It was very difficult to climb down without support, so I walked from tree to tree to hold myself onto something. Papa after a while did the same thing as I did, going from one tree to another. After a while papa was hanging on a small tree and the it got pulled out of the ground and that happened a few more times.

After maybe an hour we found the road and the boys went to their car (because  we couldn’t  see the the beginning of the trail the boys went back by taxi and we got picked up by Emma and Vitaly (my grandparents).

We went to their house and had some lunch because we only had an egg.

We ate chicken soup, pancakes with salmon or with jam.

I had some bread with caviar as well.

From there we went straight to Suzan’s house.

We talked a little bit and then went to the riverside park from 5:30 to 6:30 and I saw lots of cool birds right away.

It started with two Eastern phoebes sitting on a fence.

Because we were looking for a while I after a bit longer saw a group of three American robins.

On the ground a Wood thrush was moving.

On the way we saw a rat.

On the way back I saw my second Northern mockingbird and also my second rat.

Back at Suzan’s house we had dinner and we were too tired to go back to Maxim’s house so we slept there.

All birds I saw today:

Turkey vulture.              Kalkoengier.    6

Northern mockingbird                              2

American robin.                                          3

Eastern phoebe.                                         2ff,

23d f October

When papa and I were both awake Suzan was still sleeping.

So we had breakfast without Suzan and went to the central park(also without Suzan)

At the central park we saw lots of birds(and squirrels).

We saw savannah sparrows on the path, lots of ruby-crowned kinglets, song sparrows in the bush, at the water a group of ruddy ducks, lots of yellow-rumped warblers, after a while my first white-throated sparrow and lots of dark-eyed juncos.

When we were walking for a while papa saw two people behind us both with binoculars so papa asked: are you birders as wel?

And they said yes and the guy walked towards us and said that he was a professor in  ornithology so he gave me some birding tips.

On the way back I saw my first red-bellied woodpecker.

At Suzan’s house we were getting ready for my birthday party.

At Maxim’s house we dressed up and we went to the subway.

I had no idea were we where going.

Papa blindfolded me when we came out of the subway so I couldn’t see anything after like half an hour papa took the blindfold away from my eyes.

I saw grandpa, grandma, Maxim, Suzan, Olga, Hula and papa.

I saw that papa brought me to a amusement park!

We first went into the wonder wheel.

We went in a car that said swinging and I was like who cares, well I do!

Because as soon as we went in the car started swinging like crazy!

I was screaming so hard you could hear it on the other side of manhattan.

When we came to the floor again I was so happy because I thought we would go out but no, another circle.

But this time I wasn’t screaming.

After that lots of other things; we went in the bumper cars four times, throwing balls in the holes, hitting balloons with sharp darts, basically to many things to say.

Back at Maxim’s apartment Maxim and his parents and my grandparents had some thee, but I, papa and Suzan went down to the pool table that was below the ground.

Papa told me that that building was first the bank and they made apartments out of it, there was an old and real bank door were they keep the money behind(now the pool table is there)

After a night of pool I went to sleep.

All birds I saw today:

Savannah sparrow.

Ruby-crowned kinglet.

Song sparrow.

Ruddy duck

Yellow-rumped warbler.       10

White-throated sparrow.    5

Dark-eyed junco.

Red-bellied woodpecker.      1

24th of October

I woke up with the happy feeling it was my birthday.

I dressed up and went to the living room and papa and Maxim started singing.

After breakfast we went to the New York stock exchange because Maxim lives like next door to it.

The reason why we went there is to see how the the barricades moved away so the cars could pass.

Police where checking the cars that where passing with a dog(!)

When we were done watching we went to the subway heading to the Bronx Zoo.

My grandparents picked us up at the subway and we drove to the zoo but first we picked Suzan up(she was next to the zoo as well)

The reason we went to that particular zoo was because they had lots of bird departments.

But because it’s in the middle of a park I saw lots of wild birds as well.

There were to many (not wild) birds that I can’t tell you witch ones I saw.

We saw lots of American robins(wild).

We saw a blinking polar bear, lions and more.

When we were done looking at a tiger that came very close I spotted a blue jay!

When we were looking at some kind of antelope I saw a Cedar waxwing in a tree very close to us, at least, I thought it was one but when I had a clearer look I saw that it was a female northern cardinal!!

I almost bought the male northern cardinal as pet and now I get to see the female in the wild(the male is totally red with a little bit of black at the eye and the female is brown with red)

When we were walking again is saw a pool with lots of mallards and one redish duck when I looked very carefully I saw that it was a white-eyed duck.

After a while I heard a sound and it went like this: toktoktoktoktok and I as a birder right away now that that would be a woodpecker so when I finally found the bird with my binoculars I saw that it was a downy woodpecker trying to crack a nut!

On the way out of the zoo we met the giraffes.

Two eastern phoebes and my first least flycatcher were trying to catch the flies that were sitting on the shit of the giraffes.

At the subway Suzan went back to her house and we would come later because papa was looking for something(I had no idea what he was looking for)

But when we went of the subway at the 42nd street I did have an idea and when we went into Toyzarus I knew it, papa was looking for a present for me.

Inside the Toyzarus I was like: “wow! They have everything here”,and it’s a kind of true, they made the Statue Of Liberty out of Lego(!)

But when papa stopped at the boxes with remote-controlled helicopters I was totally happy.

At the Times Square I was amazed by all the digital advertisements on the buildings.

At Suzan’s house we had dinner.

After dinner papa and Suzan surprised me with a birthday cake.

Back at Maxim’s apartment we played golf in the base(with real clubs and real shooting but shooting against a digital screen)

After that I went to bed.

All birds I saw today:

American robin.

Yellow-rumped warbler.    1

Northern cardinal(female).  1

White-eyed duck.                          Witoogeend.            1

Downy woodpecker.            1

Eastern phoebe.                    3

Least flycatcher.                  1

25th of October

As usually I woke up and ate breakfast.

After that we went to see the 9/11 Memorial.

We went into the subway and got out at some place pretty close to the place where the Twin Towers stood.

When we came to the entrance we weren’t the only ones, like two hundred people were waiting to get in!

When we finally came after the security and stuff like that I saw all those names on the memorial and I saw the water falling.

After a while we went to the subway again heading to the central park.

At the central park we first didn’t see any birds at all because of the crowd.

But then all of a sudden a hook-billed kite showed up high above us.

To bad it flew pretty fast so we couldn’t see it that long.

After a while we came out of the (big) crowd.

When we were resting on a rock I saw a red-bellied woodpecker flying and I saw it went in an tree close to us.

I got up and went to look for it while papa was sitting on the rock, but no sign of the woodpecker.

When I was just about to turn around and walk back I saw it flying in an tree even closer to me, so I went to look again but again no sign of the woodpecker.

When I was walking back to papa this was that I was thinking: ” that woodpecker is a master a hiding”!

I saw that same woodpecker flying a few more times, but never against the tree.

When we started walking again a big red-tailed hawk was circling above us, amazing!

When out of the crowd I  went to pee in the bushes and I saw a curios grey catbird coming pretty close to me.

Because of that we sat there for a while hoping it would come back.

Well, I didn’t see it again but because I was standing very still all the time lots of hermit thrushes came very close and weren’t afraid of the sound of my camera at all so I got pictures of them as well but those weren’t the only ones.

I saw two wood thrushes, heard lots of blue jays and I saw one as well and lots of squirrels were looking for nuts.

After that we went towards Suzan’s office.

On the way papa showed me where he used to live.

We we came to Suzan’s office Suzan kept on working for a few minutes.

The reason we went to Suzan’s office was just to pick her up to go to toyzarus to buy my present’s(because I turned one day ago)

At toyzarus I firstly looked at the star wars Lego and the Playmobil but I didn’t see anything like” wow, I really want that”.

When I saw the Lego Technic I knew that I wanted that.

I took a crane and a jeep.

After that we went to a broadway show cold wicked, it was like The wizard of Oz only then different.

Back at Maxim’s apartment I brushed my teeth and went straight to bed.

All birds I saw today:

Hook-billed kite.      1

Red-tailed hawk.     1

Red-bellied woodpecker    2(both flying)

Grey catbird.            1

Hermit thrush.

Wood thrush.            2

Blue jay.                     1

26d

Of course, as usually I woke up, but this time I didn’t have a bagel with chicken chopped liver at Maxim’s apartment.

Because we didn’t have anything so we went outside to look for a breakfast-shop.

In to seconds we found one, the one that papa used to eat in as well when he lived in New York.

We saw them make a lot of salads, that was because at 12:00 to 14:00 before everybody went to work they would swing in and have a fast  breakfast.

When were both done with our breakfast we went to the subway heading to the Guggenheim museum.

At the Guggenheim museum there was a whole line of people waiting to buy a ticket.

When we were finally at the counter we heard that the rotunda was closed.(that’s a bad thing)

I made a deal with papa one day ago that we would go out within two hours, no second(it was an art museum and I don’t like art that much) more I even clocked it.

After the Guggenheim museum we went to the central park and we did not take the subway because the museum was literally next to the park, you only need to cross the road and then you’re in the park.

We saw a group of ruddy ducks at the water as usual.

When walking I all of a sudden saw a downy woodpecker!

It was funny because it went from tree to tree.

Weird enough I didn’t see any dark-eyed juncos, song sparrow nor savannah sparrows.

But instead of that the park was full of golden-crowned kinglets.

Also lots of American robins.

I saw like 6 blue jays, a really weird day in the park, confusing.

When we were walking on a small road lots of curios squirrels came very close to us all standing up and holding their breast.

On an open spot we heard and saw lots of mourning doves flying over and my first brown creeper(in New York)

When we came to another open field we saw a American kestrel showing up from time to time.

Then it went to sit somewhere pretty far away but we were able to see it.

We saw a little golden-crowned kinglet sitting in the grass and it clapped out his wings, it started flying very fast, but missed his prey(to bad)

Before we went to the subway we went to a big group of stores inside one big building because papa was looking for a present for Nuriye.

We went to a clothing store, papa bought some clothes for Nurye and for himself.

On the way to the subway, we came to a beauty shop since papa was stil looking for a present for Nuriye, we asked the women that worked there how to let the bags under your eyed disappear.

So she got something for  papa to try it.

And funny enough it disappeared, but it only works for like a day but papa liked it so he bought it.

At Maxim’s apartment we met his friend cold Zack, the last time I saw him was when I was three.

After I little bit of talking we went to the basement, we picked up our food that we ordered(two big pizzas for them and for me a salad and ravioli)

I ate one bite of the ravioli and the rest I didn’t eat, I found it the worst ravioli ever.

After that we played pool.

When we were done with playing pool we went swimming but we could only use one lane because the other lane was in use already.

After ten minutes another guy came to swim laps so the guy on the side looking if nothing goes wrong said that we were only aloud to swim laps.

Because we didn’t like that we got out.

Back at Maxim’s apartment I read a Donald Duck and went to bed.

All birds we saw today:

Brown creeper.        1

ruddy duck.

Downy woodpecker.  1

Golden-crowned kinglet.

American robin.

Blue jay.                      6

American kestrel.    1

Hermit thrush.

American robin.

27th of October

I woke up very sleepy, but if finally got out of my bed.

To have breakfast we went to a cafe with Maxim.

When we looked outside we saw it was raining(first time since) so we took umbrellas.

We all had a bread with tomato, baked cheese and ham(disgusting)

After breakfast Maxim went to work and we went to the subway.

Papa bought some clothes as a present for Nuriye as I told you,well he returned them because he was thinking she wouldn’t wear them anyway, plus he thought the bottle with let-the-bags-under-your-eyes-disappear stuff in it was good as well.

We were going towards my great grandmothers cemetery.

When my grandparents picked us up we got in traffic and I got carsick.

When we finally arrived at the cemetery it was still raining so we didn’t stay long.

After that we went to have lunch at my grandparents’ house.

We firstly had soup(I forgot which kind) and because I liked it so much I asked for an extra portion.

After that we had tomatoes and cucumber with salt, also delicious.

After a delicious lunch we went heading back to Maxim’s apartment.

At Maxim’s apartment we started packing because we would leave this evening.

All birds we saw today:

European starling.

American robin.

 

Spain 2012

Somewhere between Benadalid and Benelauria Journal

Day 1: arrival                                    30th of December 2012

At 7:00 o’clock we were on our way to Dusseldorf Weeze, where our plane to Malaga (Spain) was leaving from at 10:20. We were flying with Ryanair.

When we arrived at the airport at 8:20 we immediately went to the check-in counter so we didn’t have to stand in line for a very long time. However, when it was our turn after 10 minutes, the woman behind the counter said the tickets were invalid because papa just showed the e-tickets on our IPad instead of having them printed. This meant that dad would have to pay a fine, because one of Ryanair’s stupid rules was that you have to print your ticket 4 hours before departure.

Eventually, after what seemed hours of papa being angry at the manager of the manager of the woman behind the check-in counter, dad payed the fine. The reason why dad didn’t print the tickets is that it didn’t say so on the site where he booked the tickets, so after this week in Spain I think dad will ask for the refund from the company the site was of. I’ll just call it “problem number 1”.

Next was checking if our bags were not too heavy nor too big. Let’s call this “problem number 2-A”. 1 person was allowed 1 bag, so we had 3 bags in total, mine, dad’s and Nuriye’s, at least, WE thought we had three bags, but the stupid woman behind the counter also counted my camera bag! I think that was ri-di-cu-lous, but I don’t think that mattered.

So we left the que and stuffed my camera and its bag in 1 of our bags.

When it was our turn again, we had to weigh them, luckily, no problems there. Though next step, looking if it was not too big, was one. We can call this “problem number 2-B”. Papa’s bag was no problem but Nuriye’s was. It didn’t fit in the measuring box, which meant back to the manager to pay some more money. My bag was not a problem, since Nuriye silently slipped past the stupid woman behind the counter so she didn’t see it.

security clearance was luckily not an obstacle.

At 10:20 we finally took off.

We arrived in Malaga at 12:45, 35 minutes earlier than expected which meant we had more time which was not bad at all. We rented a car and left for another trip, we still had to drive 120 kilometers before arriving at our house we rented more or less in the middle of nowhere.

On the way we stopped once, because I spotted a whole “swarm” of vultures. I took a few pictures with my camera with gigantic lens (120-400mm 4.5-5.6 APO HSM).

Papa didn’t and still doesn’t believe that I counted around 60 of them, which is, of course, a lot for that big birds. But I can’t do anything about it, it’s just the truth.

We came to our rented house and decided to go for a walk. Then we all of a sudden saw a young boar! I have got some pictures of it!

Then we had some tapas in Benelauria which cost us €10,50. Papa payed €11. Papa walked away because those fifty cents were meant as tip, but I didn’t know that, so I waited ’till I got my fifty cents.

When we came back, we relaxed and went to bed.

Day 2: New Year’s Eve                                  31st of December 2013

We woke up at around 8:30, ate breakfast and went to the store in Benelauria to buy some food. I think we spent at least an hour there buying everything we needed and did NOT need.

After we brought everything bought to our house, we went to visit the city Ronda. We parked our car somewhere and started walking. Very soon we came to a beautiful bridge which was built high above a sort of small canyon. Me and papa took some pictures of it and walked on toward another bridge we saw from the bridge.

On the way we stopped at a “Pasteleria” and bought a cake which I don’t know what it consisted of, champagne worth 18,50 and a cake with gamon on top!

After a nice walk we came back to the car and drove around a near valley in which we spotted a kestrel. When we were done with that, we drove back to our house passing Benadalid, which papa pronounced as “Benalablid”.

At around 5 o’clock we went to Benelauria and had some dinner there. I had rice pudding as dessert. Hmmm! Papa guessed that this dinner would have cost us 50 euros, which was pretty close when the bill showed us it was 48, 80.

At our house we were waiting until midnight because it was New Year’s Eve. But at around 10:00 I didn’t feel well and as result I had to throw up at 11:00.

I stayed up until new year, but at 00:02 I was in bed and at 00:03 I was sleeping, because I still didn’t feel well.

Day three: the walk                      1st of January 2013

I was awoken by papa at 2.30pm. So I slept for 14.27min. That’s the Guinness record for me. At 3:00 I ate breakfast, but since it was noon for some time already, it was more like “dunch” (combination of dinner and lunch, just like brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch). When we all finished dunch at 3:30, we took a walk. It’s really strange, because our house was built next to a dirt road and there was only 1 other house next to that road, at least, that’s what we THOUGHT. The road went on after our house, all the way into 1 of the millions of beautiful valleys of Spain.

As far as birds are concerned, there was nothing to write home about, up till the moment I will write about now. All of a sudden we heard birds and then they all flew away again, except 1.

So we decided to have a good look at the only left and wildly jumping around bird. Most of the time we only saw branches moving, because it was hiding behind the branches, but once it showed, we could right away see a beautiful tit with an also beautiful crest, which had a very logical name, “crested tit”. I would recommend to google it, it’s a really nice bird!

A little later we walked past a house with some really freaky dogs, they just couldn’t stop barking. 1 don’t know ’bout you, they didn’t please me.

Not a lot later we came to the end of the road, where it split up in three private roads, so we decided to walk back slowly, enjoying the weather. Oh, the weather! Soooooooo nice! Can you imagine, walking around with the temperature as high as 20 degrees Celsius in JANUARY?

After half an hour we came back to our house, ate dinner watched a movie and went to bed.

Day 4: Reserva Natural Laguna de Fuente de Piedra           2nd of January 2013

Our plan was to wake up this morning at 7:45, but for some reason(totally not because I didn’t want to wake up) that became 10:00. Anyway, after we ate breakfast me and papa went for a walk around the house while waiting for Nuriye.

We didn’t see a lot as far as birds are concerned, just one, beautiful bird called “firecrest” and with a length of 9 centimeters it’s Europe’s smallest bird. Such a colorful bird: green with a red-, orange-, yellowish breast and a red- goldish stripe on its head. Another bird you should google!

When Nuriye was done too, we got in the car and papa drove us to Reserva Natural Laguna de Fuente de Piedra (Spanish for “National Reserve Lake Piedra”). We wanted to go there because papa heard there were flamingos there, which I obviously would love to see in the wild instead of in the zoo or on television.

Once, along the way(middle of the main road) papa all of a sudden started acting like a drunken Spaniard without a drivers license, he decided to stop in the middle of the road because Nuriye spotted 2 vultures. Anyway, I took a picture of them and then papa drove on.

Once we arrived at the lake, we followed a sign to a “mirador”, which means an observation point. Obviously we were totally confused because we were driving on a dirt road. Then we saw a stinky looking metal shop but with a nice view on the lake. So we walked to the metal shop to have a look on the lake. Yes! The flamingos papa heard about were no lie! There they were, at least 150 meters away but they were there. After a few pictures we saw a stinky looking man walking around in the now almost lethally stinking metal shop, and decided to drive on. That was obviously not the mirador.

Once we were back in the car we drove but after less than 3 minutes we came to an unexpected, but awesome surprise. Cranes!(a word of advise: google them before you read on if you don’t know what they look like) we were looking at them as if it was Santa, very unusual. First we saw 17 but then we looked a little more to the left and we saw another 30 and then event more to the left and, WOOOOW! I had troubles guesstimating a number, but I think there were like 800 of ’em! Really awesome. If you have never seen something like that and you think “wow” already, than if you will see it in real you would feel like I felt at that moment.

Papa and I got out of the car and slowly came closer to the cranes, we went for a close up.

Every 30 steps I took a picture, so when they would fly away I at least had a closer picture than if I didn’t get out of the car. And then they flew up! I could hear my camera going “click!click!click!” As I took pictures of them. 10 seconds later they were all gone.

Back in the car we drove out of the reserve. We did stop at one place though. An olive plantation. That has nothing to do with it, we were just stopping there to walk through it to come closer to the lake. So I could take pictures of the flamingos from closer. That plan worked. We came to the edge of the lake and from there I could take pictures of flamingos that were only 30 meters away, not 150.

We were walking back when I asked papa and Nuriye what they were doing while I was taking pictures, and as answer they told me: “We tasted the olives, but it would have been better if we didn’t. Bleerghhh! They’re not ready yet!

Later, after we sat in the car for some time, we came home, ate dinner after which Nuriye got a habit of saying “Tea is not good!”, watched a movie and went to bed.

Day 5: trip to Gibraltar                                  3rd of January 2013

I was unwillingly awoken by papa and Nuriye at 11:00 who claimed it was time for me to get out of bed. So I followed my orders and within 1 hour I we were all sitting around the table eating breakfast.

After breakfast we got in the car planning to go to Gibraltar but of course papa forgot to take our passports so we had to wait for papa to get the passports(you need them to go to Gibraltar because Gibraltar is part of England).

Finally, after papa came back and we drove away, we came on the main-ish road. I can’t really call it the main road because it was small and crooked, but I can’t say that it ain’t the main road, because it’s the biggest and pretty much only road there is there.

Then papa went off the road and used the brake like it was the last day on earth because Nuriye spotted vultures really, really close. I got outside, checked if there were any cars coming and crossed the road so I would be even closer to the vultures. Click!Click!Click, that is how the noise that came from my camera sounded. Now papa saw the living proof that vultures can be seen in huge amounts, like the first time we saw them this holiday, because me and Nuriye counted about 40 and papa saw it.

I took a lot of pictures but I  didn’t see (on my camera’s screen) any specially awesome ones, they all looked a bit alike. And just when we decided to go back to the car, I took an absolutely amazing picture! My last and best picture that was, no doubt about it.

After about 60 kilometers we came to Algeciras (pronounced as “algethíras”), from where we would cross the bridge to Gibraltar. However, we didn’t even get to see the bridge, because the police at the customs didn’t let Nuriye pass because she had a Turkish passport and she didn’t have a visa. And of course we didn’t want to leave Nuriye behind alone, so we decided to go to a park close to our house.

When we were very close to the park papa and Nuriye felt tired and they decided to go home. At home we ate dinner, had a look at the pictures I took, watched a movie and went to bed.

Day 6: Málaga

We woke up at 10:30 Because of some noises from outside, had brunch and started packing. We were going to Málaga for our last night because otherwise we had to drive for like 2 hours to the airport and our flight was at 6:45 AM!!

At about 12:00 o’clock in the afternoon we were done packing and set course to Sostoa 2, Málaga (address of our hotel).

It was a beautiful day, no cloud to be seen and a sweaty 25 Degrees, but I still saw a lot of birds, more than on other car drives. I saw 2 birds I only know the Dutch name of (Roodborsttapuit), a siskin, some goldfinches and a ring ouzel, a bird we didn’t see before that holiday.

We arrived at our hotel at 2:00 pm, checked in, threw our stuff aside in our room, and walked to Málaga’s city center in about 20 minutes.

We spent the rest of the evening walking around in Málaga, and I had some delicious mango ice cream somewhere. We also stopped somewhere to stuff ourselves with tapas. We had silver fish, fried cod, tomato salad, mussels which I did and do not like and something typically Málaga’s which I also didn’t like. But I loved the rest.

At 9:00 pm we were back in our hotel room, I read a little bit, and we went to bed.

Day 7: Adios Muchachos

We woke up at 5:00 am, well, at least papa and Nuriye did, I was already awake, I barely slept.

We went to the airport and didn’t have any problems, we safely arrived at our gate.

The End

Drenthe, The Netherlands

Drenthe journal

This journey was made entirely on a horse-drawn wagon.

Day 1.                                                                                                        27th of April 2013

We were–if you know us well you know this is usual–at least an hour too late to pick up the horse and the wagon somewhere in Drenthe. While Nuriye went to a nearby store to get things for on the way, some weird woman who worked at the horse-drawn wagon rental showed us how to “dress” the horse.

Nuriye came back from the store and the three of us left the horse-drawn wagon rental A.S.A.P.

I found it really fun  to steer and even more fun to “switch gears” by hitting the horse! We “drove” for a couple of hours through the woods and arrived at a camping. Our horse, Pablo, was apparently really hungry because as soon as he was allowed to eat he didn’t stop anymore.

We had dinner and went to bed, but that wasn’t as easy as it sounds, because it was freezing! That’s why we were sleeping in our sleeping bags and under lots of blankets. But we still weren’t comfortable, because papa was too big for the bed and so had to lay diagonally!

Day 2.                                                                                             28th of April 2013

We woke up due to the stupid rooster outside and of course Nuriye started complaining she was cold last night.

We had breakfast, dressed Pablo and left the camping.

We pretty much got lost as soon as we left, but that’s just a detail. A-hem!

Where were we?

When we found our route again we picknicked somewhere in the forest.

Nuriye was “resting”, but I don’t know how one can rest with a bottle of wine it one’s hand.

Sadly, we had to bring Nuriye to the bus-station after the picknick.

I was allowed to drive to the bus-station by papa, but I guess he wouldn’t have allowed me if he knew there was a market on the way and that it was really busy. Fact was, that we dropped Nuriye off pretty much in the center of the market. I started counting and we were upholding AT LEAST 12 cars!

We got back into the forest–without Nuriye–and right away got a call from Nuriye that she couldn’t find the bus-station! So we called a taxi for her.

We had a pine corn fight and went on. Because I knew we would have another fight sometime, I started collecting pine corns and I therefor got really angry at papa when he used one of MY pine corns.

We arrived at a camping, took a shower and had dinner. Papa put spaghetti on our plates. Then he figured out that he forgot the forks and said: “Didn’t I just have ’em?” And then he said: “oh, never mind!”

He put them on his plate and then put spaghetti on it so he couldn’t see them anymore! A-hem! Where were we?

We changed into pyamas, watched a movie and went to bed.

Day 3.                                                                                                     29th of April 2013

I woke up in two sleeping bags and 3 blankets papa apparently wrapped around me last night. I had breakfast inside the wagon because it was raining outside, but that meant that we had to put the table inside, which would leave practically no space to sit. Not the most comfortable breakfast I have ever endured.

When it stopped raining we dressed Pablo and continued our journey. We found out Pablo didn’t want to wear his equipment, because he started pulling on it and made those funny sounds horses can make and almost kicked papa.

At some point I jumped off the wagon to collect pine corns. But soon as I started I stopped again, because I saw a small turned-over ladder meant for getting in the wagon, which was in a perfect position to sit on. From that point on it was my private seat.

Within an hour of driving we were already halfway our planned route for the day, so we changed the route a little bit. I thought I knew where we were when we turned left at a certain moment, but when we came to the end of that road I appeared to be wrong. A-hem! Where were we?

We went to the supermarket to buy some food. I had to stay with the horse while licking my ice cream I had just bought. That turned out to be not such a good idea. It wanted to lick my ice cream! Grrrr! Papa came back and we went to the camping.

We had dinner played a little bit, read and went to bed.

Day 4.                                                                                                    30th of April 2013

We were awoken noisily by our neighbors’ kids at 9:30.

We had breakfast, dressed Pablo and left.

As soon as we got into the forest, we turned right on a certain road, but found out it was a bad idea because the road stopped not even 50 meters further.

Papa had to turn around to wagon because the horse went too far so it couldn’t turn around itself anymore.

After a few hours of driving we stopped, had lunch and watched a movie.

We found out our horse was or really stupid or a real treehugger, because it was walking around the same tree over and over so it got stuck because the chain was not long enough (!).

It’s really unfair! When I get lost I always end up in the middle of nowhere, but when papa gets lost he always ends up where he has to be, as he proved today once more. Unfair!

We came to the camping, had dinner and went to the forest nearby for a pine corn fight. When we came back, we brushed our teeth and went to bed thinking how much fun we had in the previous days, since this day was our last in the horse wagon.

Vietnam Bird List

Vietnam Bird List

 

Grey-capped pygmy woodpecker

Green-eared barbet

Ashy drongo

Racket-tailed treepie

Black drongo

Spangled drongo

White-rumped shama

Common iora

White-throated bulbul

Bar-winged flycatcher

Pied falconet

Spotted dove

Thick-billed green pigeon

Asian fairy bluebird

Ashy woodswallow

White-bellied Yuhina

Yellow-browed warbler

Mountain fulvetta

Hill myna

Pompadour green pigeon

Black eagle

Common tailorbird

Red-whiskered bulbul

Yellow bittern

Alexandrine parakeet

Pied kingfisher

White-throated fantail

Japanese tit

Oriental magpie-robin

Red-collared dove

Brown-breasted bulbul

Grey-headed woodpecker

Long-tailed sibia

Great bittern

Cinnamon bittern

Von Schrenk’s bittern

Black bittern

Chinese pond-heron

Little egret

White-browed rail

Plain prinia

Zitting cisticola

Common kingfisher

White-throated kingfisher

Common crane

Common moorhen

White-shouldered starling

Red junglefowl

Rufescent prinia

Long-tailed shrike

Olive-backed sunbird

Green-billed malkoha

Sooty-headed bulbul

Black-crested bulbul

Asian openbill

Himalayan black bulbul

Lesser coucal

White-breasted waterhen

Black-eared kite

Black kite

Pied harrier

Dollarbird

Stripe-throated bulbul

Chestnut-winged cuckoo

Crested myna

Scaly-breasted munia

Little pied flycatcher

Pacific reef-egret

Greater coucal

Mountain imperial pigeon

Large-tailed nightjar

Pale blue flycatcher

White-cheeked laughingthrush

Scarlet minivet

Mrs. Gould’s sunbird

Eurasian jay (leucotis)

Black-headed sibia

White-throated fantail

Blue whistling-thrush

Rufous-backed sibia

Black-browed fulvetta

Slender-billed oriole

Grey-crowned tit

Burmese shrike

Tiger shrike

Chestnut-vented nuthatch

Moustached barbet

Two-barred warbler

Grey bushchat

Australian bushlark

White-crested laughingthrush

Lineated barbet

Dark-necked tailorbird

Greater racket-tailed drongo

Great iora

Ruby-cheeked sunbird

Red-and-black broadbill

Puff-throated babbler

Oriental pied hornbill

Emerald dove

Black-hooded oriole

Purple-naped sunbird

Chestnut-headed bee-eater

Purple sunbird

Bronzed drongo

Scaly-crowned babbler

Ashy-headed green pigeon

Grey-faced tit-babbler

Velvet-fronted nuthatch

Siamese fireback

Vietnam Week 3

Go to Week 2

30th of July

We woke up at 5:45, dressed up and went outside to watch birds. We barely came outside and we were already surrounded by birds. While we were looking at White-shouldered starlings, I saw a beautiful Chestnut-winged cuckoo for a second before it disappeared.

Then, when we decided to walk on, it started to rain and so we went back to bed. After 10 minutes though, it stopped raining and so we went outside again and started walking.

Quickly after that, we saw a gorgeous “Dollarbird” perching in a dead tree and some Racket-tailed treepies flying around. We continued walking until we reached a overgrown grass fields, where we saw 2 Crested mynas sitting on a buffalo! Next to the buffalo, in the grass, a Lesser coucal was perched and this time I was finally able to take a picture. After looking at those birds, it started raining again and we took shelter in somebody’s luxurious house.

The owners (4 men), shared a whole room with 4 big planks on which they slept and nothing else. Their most valuable things they had were their 6 puppies. Those were really cute.

When it stopped raining, we continued walking again. We walked past some planted pieces of forest, but the trees planted did not look as if this was their natural habitat. When we just turned around, we saw a plain prinia and some sparrows. At least, at first sight we thought they were sparrows: when we took a better look, we found out they were Scaly-breasted munias.

Back at the Ecolodge, we rested in hammocks. Well, at least I did. Before papa could relax, he found out he was too heavy for one of the hammocks and he broke it. Just after that, I heard a noise coming from his direction sounding something like a very loud “Oy!!!”

From our hammocks, we had a good view at a pair of Stripe-throated bulbuls eating berries. After we rested for a while, we took the scooter and went for a ride to Cat Ba city.

On the way, we stopped in a small town to fill up our gas tank. Just 1 little problem: we could not open the fuel tank. So we decided to go back to the Ecolodge before we ran out of gas. On the way we took some nice pictures of a Black-eared kite flying barely 5 meters above us.

When we were on a road in between a group of houses (not really a village or anything like it) when our scooter decided to give up. A woman tried to sell us some green stuff in a water bottle, at first we thought she refilled the bottle with water from the river or something, but later we found out she put gas in the bottles! Before we made any attempt to buying it, we asked her and all the other village-(ish)-ers to open the fuel tank, and those weren’t able to open it either.

Papa called the Ecolodge because they rented us the scooter which apparently did not work. We left the scooter there and walked back to the Ecolodge which took us a while. When we were almost there a private bus from the Ecolodge passed us and so the last bit to the Ecolodge we travelled by bus.

Back at the hotel, we took a shower, rested for a while and went for a walk opposite of the direction we had just walked in.

We again saw the beautiful Chestnut-winged cuckoo flying past, but we did not see it sit down. We walked on, on a path trough planted forest heading toward a small hole between the mountains where we would probably have a very nice view. It probably would have been a nice view, but we did not get to see it, because we heard a bear roaring really loudly and so decided to go back to the hotel quickly. You never know…

Back in the hotel, we had another amazing dinner. Before we ordered, we looked at our friendly Australian neighbor’s plates and saw they ordered very nice spring rolls and  “Vietnamese popcorn”, which was actually just fried corn with a nice crust. We decided to copycat them. We also ate a delicious freshly caught “small ” fish fried with butter and lemon. Papa kept on asking: “Is this the SMALL fish?”. A tasty “sweet and sour” chicken and OK beef soup also appeared on our table.

After dinner, we went to bed.

31st of July

We woke up at 5:32 exactly and took a walk toward the zoo. When it comes to birds, it was the most boring walk ever. Virtually, we saw no birds.

Eventually, we decided to turn around and walk on the same path we walked the day before. There, at least we saw 1 new bird species: the Little pied flycatcher.

A local guy, the same one we met the day before while we were hiding from the rain, was trying to show us a cave, but in order to get there, we had to walk through the dense jungle without using a proper path and that guy even had to use a machete knife to cut his way through the jungle. Somewhere along our walkway the forest became so dense that we decided to walk back, back to the path. Mainly because we were wearing sandals.

When we came back to the hotel, we observed a Greater coucal juvenile and had breakfast: I had a delicious pineapple pancake. And Lipton ice tea which was not bottled as you see in the western world. They would pour hot Lipton tea in a glass, add some sugar and, of course, ice and to top it off, they added a slice of lime. Tasted really good!

After breakfast, we went on a tour with a few other people to “Monkey island”.

We sat in a bus with apparently a ridiculously low number of CC, because it could barely go up a tiny little hill! When we came to the harbor, we switched from the bus to what they call a boat here in Vietnam.

The boat was square, there was something plastic to roll out if a roof was needed and to start the engine, the skipper would first have to open the floor of the boat! We saw lots of Black- and Black-eared kites (kite is a bird species) and Pied harriers flying above us while we were on the boat.

We came to some sort of floating restaurant and there we switched from our boat to kayaks and we started kayaking to a beach somewhere. Our skipper, Chris, went kayaking with us to show us the way. It was nice to be kayaking there. We were kayaking in the “Lan Ha bay”, which is part of the South China Sea.

While we were kayaking, we stopped because we were thirsty. The funny thing is that we stopped at a FLOATING shop. The not funny thing is that a loudly barking dog was greeting us. Somehow, we managed to get our drinks anyway.

There were very small, mountain like, uninhibited islands and floating houses just a much as there was water. Unlike everywhere we had been to in Vietnam so far, the water was very clean.

We stopped at some kind of beach with only sharp rocks and it was probably the only spot in the bay where there was dirty water. Chris told us we would go swimming there, but we, the mere passengers, decided ourselves that we would go look for a different beach, and that worked. We found a nice, sandy beach without any rocks or dirty water and swam there for a while.

Together with the other tourists, we had a cozy lunch in the shade. I did not eat much though, because everything was disgusting and it was a packed lunch so we had nothing else to chose from.

After lunch, the boat came to pick us up and we went to Monkey island. On the way, we saw a black kite grabbing fish out of the water right in front of our noses. What was funny is that it started eating the fish already while it was flying. We arrived at Monkey island, which was like all the other islands in the bay (small and very tiny), and went for a swim right away.

After swimming, we sat in the shade and found out from the other tourists that there were really monkeys on Monkey island. But they would only come out at sunset.

After relaxing at Monkey island, we went back to our hotel. On the way, we stopped in Cat Ba city to buy a watermelon. Back in the hotel, we took a shower, ate our watermelon, rested and had dinner.

For dinner, we ate a fried fish with garlic and ginger, a Russian salad or “Russia salas” as the serving lady called it, fried corn and amazing homemade chips with good homemade ketchup. After dinner, we went to bed.

In bed, papa got scared because there was a bat flying through our room. I didn’t mind. When the bat left, papa was able to fall asleep.

1st of August

We woke up at 6:15, threw the remains of our watermelon outside and waited for a scooter to arrive so w could drive to Cat Ba National Park. The park  opens at 7:00 so it made no sense to wake up earlier.

When the scooter finally arrived at 6:35, we found out that it was the same piece of shit we abandoned somewhere 2 days before. We decided to wait for a different scooter, because again we were unable to start that crap on wheels. Finally, at 6:50, a different scooter arrived and we drove to Cat Ba National  Park.

When finally arrived at the park, we paid entrance fee. The person charging us was very particular(-ly annoying): we gave him as slightly damaged banknote and he did not accept it, and he was changing the price all the time.

We arrived in the park too late: all the birds were resting already and the sun was burning on our skin.we decided to come back in the afternoon when it would be not so  hot. We didn’t burn though.  We also decided to walk in the park for just a few minutes to have a glance of what it looked like. All in all, I’d say we walked about 200 meters in total. My first impression was that I liked the path around the Ecolodge a lot better than this park.

We went back to the Ecolodge, ate a delicious pancake with mango, rested and went to the beach. To get there, we used the scooter again. The road to the beach was beautiful. We were driving on quite a big road through the hills and next to the clean South China Sea.

On the beach it was entirely deserted, except for 2 other people. We enjoyed the privacy. We swam in the clean water as the only ones, rested in the shade of an oversized umbrella and looked at the many Black-eared kites flying around us.

We played a game, whoever reached the water last was the winner. It’s more difficult than it sounds, because the sand was hot like hell so you have the desire to jump in the water all the time.

There were an amazingly many  Black-eared kites flying around us. We found out that there was a nest of them located right on the side of the beach, but we only knew that because the birds kept on flying there, we couldn’t see the nest.

I was also able to take some pictures of one grabbing fish out go the water.

We had lunch on the beach, because papa went to the market quickly to buy 2 tomatoes, an egg, rice, bread, vegetables and chopsticks in an all-in-one and warm food package. That wasn’t too bad. We were too comfortable and lazy and decided NOT to go back to the park and chill at the beach some more.

After some more swimming, passing gas and urinating in the “clean water”, the country all of a sudden woke up and came to OUR beach in swarms! There was less water than there were people. Why did all those bloodsucking mosquitos called “humans” have to come to OUR beach?

Just before we left, we counted 35 Black-eared kites flying above us, we figured they were gathering to roost. Kites roost in big groups sometimes.

On the way back to the Ecolodge, papa let me drive for a few kilometers, which was a lot of fun. Papa was apparently very nervous, but that didn’t seem to matter. We stopped at the village just a few kilometers before the Ecolodge to look for kingfishers.

As I had expected, we saw a kingfisher and a took some nice pictures of it. I think  it’s strange that the kingfisher was in the village, fishing in the ditch, instead of fishing somewhere with less humanoids. But I don’t mind, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been able to see it.

Back in the Ecolodge, we took a shower, rested and had dinner. After dinner, we went to bed.

2nd of August

We woke up at 5:32 and scootered around. We saw a Hoopoe, Common kingfishers, a Yellow wagtail and some Black kites while we were scootering.

Eventually, we came to the national park and took a (less then) 5 minute walk.

When we were walking back to the scooter, a woman was sort of ordering us to sit down in her cafe, she kept on saying: “Hello si dauw!!!” (probably the only English she knew) and that was supposed to be “Hello, sit down”.

On the way back to the Ecolodge, we stopped twice: first because we saw a Pacific reef-egret (black morph) and the second time because we wanted to look at kingfishers in the village again.

We saw a few kingfishers. Some of them were diving which was really cute to see and once we saw one gobbling down sort of tiny crab. That was really cute to see. The crab was just as big as its head (its head  wasn’t very big though)! Imagine, eating something as you own head?

Back at the hotel, we ate a delicious mango pancake once more and once more with Lipton ice tea. After breakfast, we rested and went to the beach for a quick dip before we had to leave to catch the ferry.

At the beach, we could not lay in the shade, because the oversized umbrellas were put aside. Probably because everybody was expecting a typhoon that evening and they didn’t want the umbrellas to be ripped.

After a quick dip, it was already time to go back to catch the bus leaving from the Ecolodge. On the way there, we decided to take a shortcut, but instead, we wasted our time waiting for road repairs to finish and ended up turning around.

When we were finally back, we immediately got a call from the reception to get in the bus, so we had about 2 minutes to take a shower, pack the last few things and get in the bus. I have never taken a shower that quick.

The bus was full with other foreigners going back to the harbor too and we had a discussion with a “Catalonian” guy who spoke “Catalonian” instead of Spanish about if Catalonia should split from Spain or not. Papa also enjoyed himself a lot listening to Dutch people talking behind us. Oh man, he was happy! That’s probably why he started muttering things I couldn’t understand.

On the ferry, (this time no man urinating form a boat next to us) we were once again packed as sardines. It was like “Deja vu” all over again.

Finally, we stumbled off the boat, had a sandwich with chicken liver as lunch and let somebody drive us back to Hanoi.

When we were back at Paul’s house, we paid the driver and had dinner at “Victoria’s”. I ate a good risotto with a delicious mango milkshake. After dinner, we drove through the rich neighborhood. That really was RICH. Nothing like the rest of Hanoi: the buildings looked beautiful, they were big, good cars and protected by gates.

On the way back to Paul’s house, we passed the official entrance of Hanoi. It was ridiculous! In the middle of the road there stood a pillar to support an arch above the road reading: THE INTERNATIONAL CITY OF HANOI. If you didn’t understand what ridiculous means, you’ll understand now.

When we came back to Paul’s house, we went straight to bed.

3rd of August

Papa woke up a little earlier than me to pack, and woke me up at 7:10.

At 7:30, we said goodbye to Paul (Gyldys was sleeping) and we took a taxi to the airport to fly to Da Lat, which is somewhere in the middle of Vietnam.

We were queued up for the check-in counter at the airport, waiting for the people in front of us to finish. It took them a while, because their bags were to heavy by half a kilo and so they had to move and remove things from their bags. When it was our turn, we found out that our bag was almost 4 kilos to heavy, but for some reason we didn’t have to remove anything! Oh well.

We did not realize Vietnam was so big until we found out that our domestic flight took 1:40 hours! There was a lot of turbulence: we could see the wings of the airplane shaking! That was scary.

After an 1:40 hour flight, we arrived at Da Lat airport and we were immediately asked to step in a taxi to Da Lat city (32 kilometers away from the airport) for only 250.000 Dong. We said we would ask different taxi drivers first, but he said they all charged the same.

We stepped in a taxi that drove us to Ana Mandara Resort&Spa, somewhere in Da Lat, and when we stepped out of the taxi, he asked 400.000 instead of 250.000, but papa just gave him the original amount and the taxi driver  didn’t even flinch, he just drove away with 250.000! That “Anushole”, to put it nicely, tried to rip us off. Well, when he tries that again, papa will probably “rip off” his head.

We put our big bag on the side of the reception desk and we had a look at the very nice room with a tub in it. It was in a huge villa with 5 rooms, but we would be the only ones.

When we came back to the reception, booked a room and then I all of a sudden found out our bag was gone! Papa and somebody from the hotel quickly stepped in the car, following a bus that had just left. The guy from the hotel suspected the bus driver might have taken it. Apparently, (I did not come with them) they were following the wrong bus but they passed a certain bus statin and papa just saw it laying on the bus station. Lucky us! We got our bag back.

We checked in at the hotel, unpacked and went to Mount Lang Biang by a scooter we rented to watch birds. Quickly after that, we found out we did not want to be there, since it was overpopulated by tourists. We drove onto some dirt track with lots of holes in it. That’s what I call a “holy” road.

We parked the scooter somewhere and walked around to look for birds. For some reason, we only saw Mountain-imperial pigeons, but at least it’s something. When we came back to the scooter, papa found out that his reading glasses had been stolen. He had left them in the scooter.

We dropped off the binoculars and the camera at the hotel and had dinner in the center of the city. It was good dinner: I ate a delicious French onion soup and a “prime New Zealand” beef steak which was at least as good as the soup. Papa had pumpkin soup and beef with “lemongrass” and chili. It was too spicy for me, but that means nothing. Papa liked it. Together, we drank 3 delicious pineapple juices.

After dinner, the owner of the restaurant helped us get papa new reading glasses. That was nice of him. We would be able to pick them up the next day. After that, we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

4th of August

We woke up at 5:30, rented a scooter and drove to “Ta Nung”, a valley close to Da Lat. We never arrived there , though. On the way there we kept on seeing birds next to the road. That was cool too.

The first time we stopped, we saw a cute and tiny Grey-capped pygmy woodpecker and a Pale blue flycatcher. We had a lot of trouble with trying to identify that flycatcher. Then a whole group of birds flew past, all entirely brown with a black and white head. At first, we did not know what it was, but later on we found out they were endemic White-cheeked laughingthrushes.

The second time we stopped, we saw some beautiful red Scarlet minivets and also some females which were yellow. Also beautiful. Then, papa spotted a tiny bird behind us which appeared to be some kind of sunbird. Then a bird flew by, the same size but a lot more colorful and it had a longer tail. It was blue-black at the head, it had a scarlet red chest and a yellow “vent” with a long, glimmering black tail sticking out. It was the beautiful male Mrs. Gould’s sunbird. We figured the other one must have been the female.

When we almost left, we saw a whole bunch of Black-headed sibias very close, a pair of White-throated fantails and some Rufescent prinias and we watched those for a while. Then, again, when we wanted to leave, three Eurasian jays were showing themselves in the trees. They were very funny though. They had an almost white face.

After birding, we had an amazing buffet for breakfast and we made some sandwiches for lunch there too. After stuffing ourselves with pretty much anything you can think of, we relaxed in the heated swimming pool, played pool, slept and then we went to visit the silk factory called “Cuong Hoan”, 30 kilometers from Da Lat.

While we were driving there, we stopped to pick up papa’s new reading glasses. I sat on the scooter while papa was receiving his reading glasses. Bad idea: the scooter fell with me right on top of it. That ripped off a bit of skin on my leg. Luckily it was just skin that was ripped off so it wasn’t a deep wound at all

By the time we were there, nobody in the factory was working and the only interesting things we saw were the silkworms. That was very interesting to see, except for the fact that there was nothing to see. The main reason we came there was to buy souvenirs, but everything they were selling was extremely unbelievable. Boring.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to look at a Black-crested-bulbul, but once we wanted to start driving again, we were unable to! Papa called the hotel, because that’s where we rented the scooter and first they wanted us to pay for somebody to come and pick us up and I heard papa shout: “WHAT!!! No, I am not paying, this is your fault!”

Eventually, they sent somebody to look at the scooter. While we were waiting for him, we saw some night birds flying around. We found out they were Large-tailed Nightjars. They made no sound while they were flying.

When the scooter guy arrived, he found out we couldn’t start it because the kickstand was not folded in entirely. How were we supposed to know?

Back in Da Lat, we had a tasteless dinner, went back to the hotel and went to bed.  When the soups arrived we both tried it and decided it was tasteless. Papa called the waitress and told her the soup is tasteless and she said “Thank you”.  Papa had to explain that we did NOT like the soup.

After dinner, went to bed.

5th of August

We woke up at 5:15 and drove to “Tuyen Lam Lake” by scooter. It’s a man-made lake surrounded by pine forest. We drove around and every time we would see something, we would stop to look. We had trouble with identifying almost every single bird, but in the end we identified all of them except two.

The first time we stopped, we saw a Blue whistling-thrush, Black-browed fulvettas and a pair of beautiful Mrs. Gould’s sunbirds. The second time, we saw 2 beautiful Rufous-backed sibias, more Black-browed fulvettas and something we couldn’t identify. And a Two-barred warbler which was extremely hard to identify: there were 22 other birds which looked a lot like it!

While we were driving somewhere else, we saw a Grey bushchat and some Grey-crowned tits. At our third spot, we hit the jackpot: we saw a

Black-naped oriole, a Common iora, Plain prinias, more Black-browed fulvettas, lots of Tiger shrikes, Chestnut-vented nuthatches crawling on the tree trunks, a Moustached barbet and another bird we couldn’t identify.

When we looked at all the birds there, we walked down a small path to check out what was all the way down the path. The path was made on a hill, so one side was higher than the path and the other side lower, which made it difficult to walk off the path.

While we were walking, we saw another Black-naped oriole and 2 beautiful Burmese shrikes. Then I heard papa say: “O MY GOD!!! Simcha walk this way, off the path!”. I thought he saw a bird or something, but then I looked in the direction papa was looking and I saw an elephant walking on the path! Somehow, we climbed up 5 meters in about a second. First we thought it was a wild elephant, but when we saw a man walking behind it and a sign saying: “Elephant Riding”, we knew it was domestic.

We never found out what the buildings all the way down the path were used for.

Back at the hotel, we rested, read, played pool and swam IN the pool.

When we rested for a while, papa and I went to check out a shop which sold jackets from good brands such The North Face because it was cheap. (Those brands were produced here in Vietnam). We didn’t buy anything though.

We looked for souvenirs too, shoes for Nuriye which weren’t in her size (too bad for her) and other things. Things such as tea cups we saw too, but we didn’t buy them because we found out it was “Made In China”. And they tried to convince us that everything they produce in China is very good.

When we were back in the hotel, we did the same things we did before we went to the shop. Except this time we also ate lunch which consisted out of waffles we stole from the breakfast buffet. And papa went to the sauna.

After all of that, we had dinner. Our dinner consisted of a French onion soup for me and a pumkin soup for papa. That was because the “chicken with Chinese mushrooms” we were going to split didn’t show up in time.

After dinner, we went to bed.

6th of August

We woke up at 5:20 and drove to “Tuyen Lam Lake” where we saw a few birds. We saw a bunch of beautiful White-crested laughingthrushes which were brown with a white crest, obviously. We saw a hard-to-identify Australian bushlark. The only way we were able to identify it was because we took some good pictures. At the spot where we saw the elephant the day before, we saw a Grey bushchat male which was actually black and some more White-cheeked laughingthrushes.

Back in the hotel, we stuffed ourselves at the breakfast buffet and sneaked some things with us as lunch. We played pool and swam in the pool for a little bite and then we went to Cat Tien National Park by taxi.

“Of course”, as papa would put it, I slept for 3 out of 6 hours we were in the car. I woke up when we stopped to buy a watermelon.

At Cat Tien National Park, we found out we first had to cross a river. Before we crossed the river to the park, we first had fill in a form somewhere so they knew who was entering the park.

We asked the taxi driver for a signature so he would show up to pick us up on the way back to Hanoi. That was because Cat Tien is still pretty far away from Da Lat.

We crossed the river and got picked up by a buggy from the hotel we were going to, the Forest Floor Lodge. We chose a room and went to the headquarters of the park to arrange a bird guide. We wanted the buggy to bring us there because it was only 1.5 kilometers from the hotel. But they wanted money for that!

Not just a little bit, but they wanted 10 U$$ to bring us there and back! That’s

just as much as it costs to go from Da Lat airport to Da Lat city! And that’s 32 kilometers instead of 3! It’s just they’re taking advantage of us having no choice but to go by buggy or to walk in the dark. Papa was angry at them and quickly they halved the price.

On the way to the headquarters by buggy, we met 2 Swiss girls walking in the dark with a torch because they too did not want to pay that much for the buggy. But, nice as we are, we offered them a lift.

We quickly arranged a bird guide for the coming days starting each morning at 6:00. The receptionist wrote down the price for the bird guide on a piece of paper. When we walked back to the buggy, I saw there was a name written on the same piece of paper. It read: “Phil Hefford” and I got confused because our bird guide was Vietnamese and that’s not a Vietnamese name! I figured out, after I made fun of it, that it was not the name of our bird guide but that the receptionist just recycled the paper and wrote somebody else’s name on it.

Back in our 100 U$$ hotel room, papa found out how bad it actually was for that price: dirty sheets, holes in the mosquito net, lamps full of bugs, dirt on the floor and a bad smell. Papa told the people form the hotel to clean everything and they changed a few things, but not everything. They kept on saying: “OK sir,tomorrow we will change and make better.”.

That meant that the first day we had to sleep on old, smelly sheets and so papa told somebody we were not paying 100 U$$ for the first night and that person went to talk to the manager.

While that person was gone, we decided to go back to the headquarters to check out the guesthouses around there. It could hardly get worse.

We sneaked away from the hotel, each took a bicycle without anybody noticing because to use those you had to pay of course. We rode through the jungle just 1.5 kilometers but it was enough for me to say that I found it even scarier than by scooter.

We passed a restaurant and a few guesthouses, but they were all closed and so we went back. Then, we found out we could stay the night for free instead of paying 100 U$$! It’s still a shithole, but it sounds a lot better now it’s free.

They also told us that the next morning, at 6:00, they would pick us and our luggage up to drive to a “more suitable” place to stay for us. And the buggy that would bring us there would be free!

After these good news, we went to our uncomfortable bed and fell asleep.

7th of August

We woke up at 5:44, packed and checked out of our horrible hotel. We were brought to the headquarters by buggy. We dropped off our luggage at the reception and met our 63 year-old bird guide “Dzjen”.

Before we left, we bought some leech-socks, obviously to protect,ourselves from leeches. We were wearing long jeans, but still.

We walked away from the headquarters and almost immediately saw a Lineated barbet perching on the top of a tree far away. sitting on the wire, we saw some Dark-necked tailorbirds.

Vietnam Week 2

Go to Week 1

23rd of July

We woke up at 5:30, had breakfast and me, papa and Paul went into the mountains to watch birds.

We just entered a mountain pass and we heard a wild rooster, called a male Red junglefowl and saw it too. We walked on and we saw 2 very colorful and beautiful sunbird…ish thingies which we couldn’t identify.

We saw some beautiful Long-tailed shrikes. There were a whole lot of them. We took some nice pictures of them. Then we saw a Rufescent prinia which looked almost the same as the Yellow-bellied prinia but after a hard time of trying to identify it, we did it.

During our walk we saw brick factories, some other birds like Common ioras, Green-billed malkohas, Sooty-headed bulbuls and Asian palm-swifts.a

Time passed and then it suddenly started raining cats and dogs so we found shelter somewhere and waited until the cats and dogs stopped falling on us.

We continued our walk when it stopped raining cats and dogs,  but then it started raining tourists! We couldn’t find shelter for those. How often do you see a group of 22 tourists in the middle of nowhere?

On the way back we had a hard time separating flying Asian openbills from flying White storks, when we found out it could have been a lot easier. There was a whole flock of them just sitting in a tree.

In our room sitting on my “bed”, I found out which sunbird it was, but nothing in the book looked quite like it. I figured out it was a Vietnamese subspecies of the Olive-backed sunbird “Rhizophorae.” We discussed what would be our next destination (Ba Vi National park), ate lunch and rested while the cats and dogs were falling once more.

At 16:00, when it stopped raining, we went out with all of us plus our very friendly neighbor Daniel. We were pretty much in the same room as him with only a curtain separating us.

During our walk we only saw sparrows, Common ioras and Common tailorbirds. It was a nice walk though. On the way back papa took a shortcut on his own, the rest of us were afraid the road would lead to nowhere. Papa was back earlier than the rest of us.

We had dinner, heard people shouting at each other in Vietnamese and went to bed.

24th of July

We woke up at 5:00, had breakfast and drove by scooter to Ba Vi National Park. The weather was very strange: one moment the rain was pouring down on us and the other moment the sun was burning on our skin (we didn’t burn).

On the way papa’s helmet fell off and I had to walk back to get it. Our scooter wasn’t functioning very well either: uphill we could barely move!

When we came to the park and payed entrance fee because the hotel we were looking for was inside the park, we found out the hotel was full and so we had to go out of the park again to look for a different place to stay. We found one, very expensive (for Vietnam), but we went there anyway.

Somebody came to look at our scooter, took it with him and repaired it.

He told us to wait until the next day 16:00 o’clock though.

We had some dinner, after papa stopped arguing with the serving lady because we got something we didn’t order, looked at what they were doing with the scooter and went for a walk.

We saw a Lesser- or Greater- coucal, a White-throated kingfisher and we looked for rails but didn’t see them. On the mountain we were walking towards, we saw 2 beautiful waterfalls.

We went back to our hotel and went to bed.

25th of July

Paul, me and papa woke up at 5:30 and went to Ba Vi National Park, since we still had the tickets from the day before.

When we just arrived, the temperature was OK, but already at 7:00, we had to stand in the shade and even there it felt so hot. Apparently the birds didn’t mind, because we saw Red-whiskered-, Sooty-headed- and Black-crested bulbuls and a new species for my list: a Himalayan black bulbul. These are only bulbuls, we saw Long-tailed shrikes, Common tailorbirds, a Green-billed malkoha and a few beautifully fluorescent Crimson sunbirds, subspecies “Tonkensis”.

Once we were done birding, we had breakfast (fried corn and fried egg) of which I got diarrhea later on the day.

After breakfast we got some good news: we could pick up the scooter at 13:00 instead of 16:00! It was already 12:15 when we heard that and so we went to the “garage” to wait for it. There was a pool table there, so we played pool until 13:00.

At 13:00, papa paid the agreed price (1.000.000 Dong (€33,-)), but then the guy that repaired our scooter asked for more money (200.000 Dong)! Papa tried to bargain, but that didn’t work. So papa and Paul decided just to drag the scooter back to our hotel without the key.

Just to check, Paul stuck his scooter key in our scooter, and it worked! He drove it past the repair guy and he was looking as if Paul were a wizard!

We reached our hotel, tried to stick Paul’s key in our scooter again but it didn’t work anymore. Luckily, the repair guy didn’t see that, so papa told him: “I’ll give you an extra 100.000 Dong if you give me the key, or I’ll just use that key and you get 0 extra Dong”.

Back at our hotel, we packed, checked out and bought straps to bind our huge backpack on the scooter, because the repair guy never gave us the straps back.

After all that we drove 50 km back to Hanoi. We unloaded our stuff, put all our dirty clothes (which means virtually everything we had) in the washing machine and went to a Russian restaurant to eat.

On the way there papa bought a new T-shirt, because ALL his T-shirts were dirty and thus in the washing machine!

In the Russian restaurant where apparently nobody could understand a word of Russian, I ate a delicious beef stew and a plate of fresh vegetables like cucumber and tomato.

Then, after dinner, we had a nice drink called “water pickled apricot” and after that we went to a place where people use to dance each evening. That was fun, especially because there was also a boy there who kept on falling while he was trying to “ride” his roller skates. He felt literally every 5 seconds!

After looking at women (and men) dancing, we went back to Paul’s house and went to bed.

26th of July

I woke up at 10:00, found out everybody else was already awake and had breakfast.

At around noon, papa, me and Paul went to a travel agency to book a trip to Ba Be national park. They wanted a lot of money though (750 U$$), and so we decided first to book a hotel room for our last night in Hanoi, on the 10th of August. We would not be able to stay with Paul at that time anymore, because by that time he would have already moved to Kazakhstan. We booked a room with jacuzzi.

After that, we had to stop at a clothing shop so papa could buy a pair of shorts, because he was walking in his swimming shorts. Before going to Paul’s house, we had a delicious Mango smoothie somewhere next to the heavily polluted lake in Hanoi.

On the way there, we asked a taxi driver how much he would ask us to drive to Ba Be and back. Surprisingly, it was less than half the price that travel agency asked (only 350 U$$)! So we arranged to meet at 8:00 the next morning in front of Paul’s house.

After that, we had dinner and drove to a street full of snake restaurants. There, you could drink scotch with snake heart while it is still beating and also things like “King cobra alcohol”. The food sounded even worse: would you like to have a whole fried, freshly killed cobra or perhaps a plate of snake PENISES?

The alcohol was mostly for the show, because what you saw was a big bottle of alcohol with a dead snake in it and apparently they didn’t want to sell the whole bottle, because it would have cost us 950 DOLLARS!!!

When we were looking inside somebody’s snake restaurant, it all of a sudden started raining really hard. So we waited inside that person’s restaurant.

He was trying to tell us that he cooked really well and that foreigners came there like this: “you want to eat snake, I cook good for you! Many foreigners come here, yesterday there were 2 Americans, 2 Australians and 1 Russian!”

He was a little bit annoying, but he was very friendly. When we had to go and get our scooters, he lent  us his ponchos (rain covers). After we would come back from our trip to Ba Be and Halong Bay, we would actually go and eat snake there.

On the road back to Paul’s house, some parts of the road were not even visible because of the pools the rain created. We stopped at an ATM machine to get some money to pay the taxi driver.

Back at Paul’s house, we went to bed.

27th of July

We woke up at 7:00, had breakfast and found out the taxi driver did not show up. So we took a taxi  to the headquarters of the taxi company to talk about it.

At the headquarters, we left the bags in a taxi, so I had the honor of guarding them and I enjoyed myself by doing nothing for 50 minutes while Paul and papa were doing something else.

Apparently, it did not work out because the taxi company all of a sudden changed the price to 450 U$$! They came up with the bullshit that they thought we wanted to go to Ba Vi, but if that was really so, they should have changed the price to something a lot higher! Because, Ba Be is four times further away from Hanoi than Ba Vi, so if what they said would have been true, they should have asked a lot more money!

Papa decided he was not going to go to Ba Be by taxi and we let a taxi driver drive us back to Paul’s house. The taxi driver asked for money, but neither Paul or papa gave him that because the taxi company only wasted our time.

Back at Paul’s house, we invited Miss Hang and together with her we found a different driver. He was more expensive than the taxi company (460 U$$), but papa just didn’t want anything to do with the taxi company anymore.

Eventually, we left Hanoi heading toward Ba Be.

Apparently, we had been driving for 6 hours in total, but I didn’t notice, because I was sleeping most of the time. I didn’t even notice we drove out of the  street in Hanoi, because if I have to believe papa, I was already asleep. I woke up after 4 hours of driving when we stopped to buy bananas on the side of the road. Papa also bought a watermelon which he gobbled up entirely on his own.

When we were already inside the park, we had a little problem: apparently a tree fell on the road just a little prior to when we came there. We saw cars coming from that direction, but it would have been impossible to pass without moving the tree. Papa, the driver and somebody else who also had to pass, pushed the tree off the road.

When we came to a little village inside the park, we drove to a recommended guesthouse (In Vietnamese a guesthouse is called “Nha nghi”), Hoa Son. However, it was quite expensive (for Vietnam) and there was a really annoying baby screaming all the time. So we went to check out another place which we found a lot better and it was also cheaper. And,the people were friendlier. Luckily, a guide was staying there too, accompanying 2 British tourists. She could speak English and without her we would have been unable to communicate.

After putting our luggage in our tiny room, we ate dinner which consisted of cold cuts of meat, cold vegetable, cold bananas, cold water, cold spring rolls and warm rice.

After dinner, we took a shower pretty much on top of a toilet,and in a room with a moth and with a door that kept on opening itself. Therefor, I had to keep the door closed with one hand and protect myself from the moth with the other hand. Eventually, I got clean though.

After that we went back to our cabin and went to bed.

28th of July

We woke up at 6:15 and found it was still raining. Still, we went for a walk because we wanted to go see the information center, but we found out it was closed.

On the way back, we saw chickens, pigs and buffalos but no birds. Stupid rain!

We sat down on luxurious (false), comfortable (false), plastic (true) chairs and ate breakfast, served on a

We asked the English-speaking guide why the information center was not open and we found out that it opened at 8:00! Not fair, because it was 7:25 when we were there!

At 9:15 we went to the information center again, but again found out it was closed. Well, at least we took 2 nice walks, in the rain, looking at miniature pigs and oversized chickens.

With nothing to do in our tiny cabin with only a small double bed in it, we decided to take a boat trip around Ba Be’s lake for 5 hours.

The weather was really screwed up:  one moment it would be raining cats and dogs and the other moment it would not be raining at all. We didn’t hear the rain, because the engine made a hell of a noise. During the boat trip we only saw Sooty-headed- and Red-whiskered- bulbuls and one new species: the Lesser coucal. Perhaps because of the noise the engine produced.

Also, we stopped at a waterfall. That was pretty impressive. We also stopped at a very dark, mysterious cave: it was believed 7000 bats live in that cave, but nobody ever saw them! Like us, everybody who had been there had only heard the bats. I really did not like the cave, due to the fact that it smelled a lot worse than my farts and that it was so dark. The only thing I did like, was the very clear and loud echo.

Somewhere on the way, the skipper let 4 other people on the boat, 3 noisy children and an adult. The reason why we did not enjoy it, was that those children were even noisier than the boat’s engine! Besides, papa had asked for a private boat trip, so he decided to pay the skipper less money because he broke the promise.

After 5 hours, we came back to our village, paid the skipper who didn’t even mind that we payed him less money and had lunch in somebody’s “shop”.

It was more of a house with a few things standing outside the house so people could buy them. Our lunch consisted of a watermelon with a few cookies.

While we were eating, the owner of the house laid her baby in a hammock right next to us. Then, she started softly pulling and pushing the hammock so that the baby would fall asleep.

When we wanted to pay “Lei” or whatever her name was, she had trouble with adding the prices of our drinks, the cookies and the watermelon. When I calculated it before she did, she was amazed!

After lunch, we went back to our “shoebox” as we named our room, and rested there for a while.

Just before dinner, we tried to arrange a guide for the next day, but apparently all 4 of them decided to go on holiday at exactly the same time and so we weren’t able to book a guide. That meant it would be useless to stay another day, because we don’t know anything about the area and nobody around and there were no signs (that were understandable for) us whatsoever.

We decided just to leave a day earlier and head to Cat Ba island, which is located next to the apparently famous Ha long Bay and spend a day more there.

Dinner was slightly different from usual: we had cold cuts of delicious meat again, warm chicken meat with sautéed onions, some green stuff called vegetables, rice and this time also potato crisps! That doesn’t seem so special for us funny people that live in the western world, but if you get potato served here in Vietnam, especially in the countryside, it is not a common thing to eat. And for some reason, when I asked for salt, I got it served in an “instant chicken soup powder” package. I did not figure out if it really was salt or not, but won’t think about it anymore, because I don’t like the idea that I really spread chicken soup powder over my potato crisps.

After dinner, we wanted to take a shower and so we walked to a bathroom. For some reason though, we did not have hot water there. Luckily, when we tried a different shower in a different bathroom, we did have HOT water.

When we were done taking a shower, we went to bed, preparing to wake up at 6:00 the next morning.

29th of July

Indeed, we woke up at 6:00, had breakfast and we got into the car heading for the ferry from Hai Phong city to Cat Ba island, our final destination.

“Of course”, as papa would put it, I slept 5 out of 7 hours we were in the car.

When we arrived in Hai Phong, we wanted to book tickets for the super fast Hydrofoil (45 minutes to Cat Ba), but there was too much wind for the Hydrofoil to boat and so we booked tickets for a normal boat (1 hour to Cat Ba), which is still fast.

Our private car was not going with us to Cat Ba island. There was no space for a car on the boat. Talking about space, there was enough space for everybody, if we there would have been 2 people sitting on each chair. There were seats for 40 people on the boat, and so when all seats were occupied, we thought nobody else would come on the boat anymore. Too bad for us, that wasn’t the case: people started sitting on stools in the aisle! When we left, about 60 people were accompanying us on our boat trip.

Just before we left, we saw somebody urinating of a boat next to us.

Same story for our bus ride from the harbor to the center of the town called “Cat Ba”. In Cat Ba, we wanted to call the newly built “Cat Ba Ecolodge” to come and pick us up, when papa found out there was no money on his SIM card anymore. Luckily, we could call them with somebody else’s phone and we got picked up by a taxi.

On the 14 kilometer ride from the city center to the Ecolodge, we saw a lot of birds, especially eagles, but we couldn’t identify them because the binoculars were in the bag. The landscape was beautiful: high hills entirely covered by dense forest, there was no ground visible.

We took the V.I.P room because we would get discount, due to that we would stay 4 nights. It was really V.I.P-ish: we had a huge room 2 king-sized beds and an amazingly big and CLEAN bathroom. And a flat-screen television which we find totally useless.

After checking in, we went to the restaurant to have dinner. A dinner I will never forget. It was delicious! As appetizer I had a nice western “mixed vegetable soup”. We ate a freshly caught fish which was amazingly well fried with garlic and ginger. A Russian salad in the form of a heart outlined by precisely cut cucumber disappeared somewhere down our throats too. Desert was served as 2 tiny pieces good-tasting watermelon.

After dinner, we researched about our surroundings, rested and went to bed.

Go to Week 3

Vietnam Week 1

16th of July

We arrived in Hanoi at 8:30 in the morning local time after a 14-hour flight from Amsterdam . First we flew from Amsterdam to Moscow in a little more than 3 hours. At the airport in Moscow we had to wait an hour for our connecting flight to Hanoi which took 8:30 hours. We didn’t see Snowden in Moscow though.

Once we arrived in Hanoi and papa withdrew some Vietnamese “Dong”, we were millionaires. But it’s not that weird though, because 1 Euro is about 30.000 “Dong”.

We took a taxi to an American called Paul Byler and his Kyrgyzstanian wife Gyldys who lived in Hanoi and were nice enough to let us stay at his house. From the outside, I found it really ugly, but the interior was very nice. In the taxi we saw a little bit of Hanoi and I have a double impression of the city. Almost everybody drives a scooter instead of a car and the people are really friendly, but the city is heavily polluted, most people are poor and from the outside, all the houses looked like crap.

We were not used to the temperature there (The average temperature is 30 degrees Celsius) and we had jetlag because of the 6-hour time difference with Amsterdam. I saw virtually no birds in Hanoi, but tomorrow we’re going to some parks inside Hanoi, which sounds really cool.

Just before the vacation, I went to the hairdresser, but it was really bad so I decided to go to the hairdresser again in Vietnam. Now it’s good. What was funny was the fact that I was bigger than my hairdresser.

In the evening a Vietnamese woman, Mrs. Hang, cooked Vietnamese spring rolls for us, which is the same as loempia. We were dipping them in a small bowl with soy sauce and noodles and lettuce. After a delicious meal we went to bed.

17th of July

We woke up at 5:00 and went to Red River Island, an island in a river which flows through Hanoi. Like everybody else, we went there by scooter. We had to drive on the pedestrian side of a bridge, because otherwise our scooters were unable to get on the other path. Papa did have to drive down on a staircase, because we had to drive from the bridge down to the island.

On the island there was only a mud road, and because there was a storm last night, it was full of muddy pools which made it really slippery. Everything was flooded because of the storm and we didn’t see many birds: we saw Common tailorbirds, sparrows, a Red-whiskered bulbul, a Yellow bittern, I saw a flying Alexandrine parakeet, 2 Pied kingfishers and some pigeons. The only inhabitants were poor farmers that lived in what didn’t look like anything more than floating shipwrecks.

What was worst, is that we got bitten by mosquitos all the time because we forgot to use the spray. At the end of the day I counted a record amount of mosquito-bites: 68 in total; 30 on 1 leg, 31 on the other, 5 on 1 arm and 2 on the other. Believe me, this is not a joke and if it was it would have been not funny!

Except for all that and that we got stuck with the scooters a 1000 and 1 times, we had a lot of fun.

We had a western breakfast somewhere and went to the botanical gardens, where we saw Japanese white-eyes, more Red-whiskered bulbuls, 2 White-throated fantails, a Japanese tit, Oriental magpie-robins and a Yoga-class for women. After that we went back to Paul’s house and rested.

In the afternoon we went to the old centre of Hanoi and walked around there.

We were also brave enough to drive the scooter on the road like everybody else. It sounds easier than it really was, because nobody used the traffic signs and nobody followed the rules. For example, everybody was driving different directions on the roundabout and if you want to cross a busy road you just cross and make the others wait.

We saw lots of bats while it was still daylight and we saw an old temple which was not ruined by the war. After we found a nice restaurant, we wanted to know the English name for some dishes and the waiter couldn’t understand a word of what we were asking and kept on saying: “No understand”. After another delicious meal, papa had to pay which he of course didn’t want to and he told the waiter:”let’s play hide and seek. You go hide and I’ll walk outta here”

And the waiter told papa his favorite phrase again; “No understand”. We did pay though. It was only 15 Euros for meals for 4 people and everything included. After that we went home and slept.

18th of July

We  woke up at 11:30, had some soup for lunch altogether and me, papa and Paul went on our trip through northern Vietnam. We went by scooter. In Hanoi, we bought some things like cheap raincoats for on the scooter, maps and straps to keep our bag stable on the scooter. It was resting on the scooter, behind my back, but it was still hard for me not to let the heavy bag swing.

We were on the scooter for more than 2 hours before we were finally out of Hanoi and we saw not a single bird! The area was great but because the people hunt everything they can eat, there were no birds. Too bad.

The roads were only 2 lanes wide and not very good, although made of asphalt. It’s weird, driving a scooter next to cars and trucks.

Every 45 minutes we stopped to urinate (let’s not talk about where), drink and rest our behinds. Because of sitting in the same position so long my behind kind of froze after a while.

Finally, after almost 4 hours of frozen butts, we arrived to our hotel “Van Long Resort” which was next to the Van Long National Park. Only 25 US$ per room per night! It was huge, but we were the only ones and it had potential.

We walked around the hotel and saw some birds: Red-collared doves, Brown-breasted bulbuls, a Grey-headed woodpecker, Long-tailed sibias and a Yellow bittern.

Somebody told us where a good restaurant was, but we had difficulty finding it.

Every time we thought we found it, we were looking at some crappy house with a table inside. Bwèèèèhg! Every time they were trying to convince us to have dinner in one of those shitholes. We did find the restaurant eventually.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we understood why the guy that told us to go to this restaurant, told us to do so: it was run by his own family!

We had dinner in that restaurant, we ate all the same thing: dry noodles with beef and vegetables. Papa took a double portion though. We got served by a drunk guy.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

19th of July

Papa woke up at 5:00 and found out it was raining, and went back to bed. Then papa  woke up again at 8:30 and found out it stopped raining and so we dressed and went to the marsh called ”Van Long” to go birding.

We saw mainly herons and bitterns, but also a few other birds: we saw a Great bittern, lots of Yellow bitterns, Cinnamon bitterns (they are beautiful!), a Von Schrenk’s bittern, 3 Black bitterns, Chinese pond-herons, Little egrets, a White-browed rail, Plain prinias, a Zitting cisticola, Common kingfishers, a few White-throated kingfishers, 3 Common cranes, something not very big and entirely black a lot of White-shouldered starlings.

We went through the marsh by boat, luckily with somebody rowing for us.

The marsh was about the only flat surface in between many steep, gorgeous mountains. The people living there lived entirely off the marsh. Surprisingly there were a lot of bus loads with tourists at the lake who all wanted to go around the marsh by boat. Most of the locals were just rowing for the tourists and the others were trying to sell the tourists anything they could. The tiny percentage of people that was left, was farming and fishing.

Papa was pissed off because he was forced to buy “A @#!! Ticket” to get on a boat and he even tried bribing people because he didn’t want to give his money away to the “Bastards that worked for the communism party”l

After that, we went back to the hotel and sadly, Paul had to go back to Hanoi because he desperately needed a visa for Kazakhstan. While Paul went back, papa and I scootered on to Cuc Phuong National Park.

In Cuc Phuong, we found a hotel for 25$ which is not thát cheap for Vietnam, but it was not very good and not kept up. The problem is that nobody cares because of the communism. The people that run the hotel get paid anyway.

We hired a bird guide for the next day too.

We had not a bad quality meal at the hotel’s restaurant, went to our room to write my journal and read a book. Our room was 1.5 kilometers inside the park borders and next to a beautiful lake, “Mac Lake”. To get anywhere, we would have to use the scooter, because almost all public buildings were at the border of the park.

20th of July

We woke up at 5:30, dressed, sprayed ourselves with mosquito-repellent and jumped on the scooter to meet our bird guide at the gate of the park at 5:40.

In Holland people PAY for a sauna, to work up a nice sweat. When you come outside here, you have no choice but to work up a “nice” sweat.

Our bird guide had worked in the park for 12 years and he had seen all the 334 species that lived there. His name was Huyen. “Who-when”, as papa pronounced it.

We walked on a trail and we saw an amazing amount of birds, all different. The trail was beautiful! It was entirely surrounded by big bushes and very tall trees.The only sounds you heard were the bird songs and noisy langurs. This is where I saw something like the smallest woodpecker on the planet: the Grey-capped pygmy woodpecker.

We walked around there until we came back to the main road at 7:20 and had breakfast. For some reason, the restaurant was out of bread, so we ate an egg with those delicious bananas they grow there. We were talking about that breakfast was free with Huyen, and he kept on saying “Flee bleakfast”.

After “bleakfast”, we went to the botanical gardens where we saw the rare White-winged magpie flying by. We took a shortcut into the mountains, where Huyen played the sound of the Limestone wren-babbler to attract it. We did hear it calling back, but we didn’t see it.

In total, these are the birds we saw in the morning: 1 Grey-capped pygmy woodpecker, Green-eared barbets, 5 rare Green-billed malkohas, we saw the rare White-winged magpies flying, 2 Ashy drongos, Racket-tailed treepies, Black drongos, the very rare Spangled drongo, 1 White-rumped shama really close, Oriental magpie-robins (even papa saw it :)), Common ioras, Black-crested bulbuls, 1 White-throated bulbul, Red-whiskered bulbuls, Sooty-headed bulbuls and we heard the Limestone wren-babbler which is endemic for Cuc Phuong. That’s the rarest bird in the park and Huyen said that we were lucky just to hear it. He also said that people came specially to Cuc Phuong just to see the Limestone wren-babbler!

When we came back to our hotel room, we rested until 15:00 o’clock. After resting, we walked around the botanical garden and added these birds to our list: Bar-winged flycatchers, a rare and beautiful Pied falconet, a Spotted dove or “Dob” as Huyen said, the rare Thick-billed green pigeon, a juvenile Asian fairy bluebird, an Ashy woodswallow flying away, a White-bellied Yuhina and many Yellow-browed warblers. We were lucky Huyen was with us, because without him we would have seen a lot less birds.

After bird watching we moved from our room at the border of the park to a bungalow in the “Park Centre”, the middle of the park. There they had electricity only for 4 hours a day (From 6 pm. to 10 pm.), which means also no telephone service nor internet. The next day we were going to watch birds around here.

While we were checking out the bungalows, papa fell on stone stairs and bruised his lower back. He was trying to catch himself by putting his hand on the ground, but instead he also hurt his hand a little.

We went to a restaurant in the forest and ate delicious beef and rice there. We also discovered a new, fantastic drink called “lemon green tea”. They don’t sell it in Holland :(. Also 2 British women were eating there. They were very friendly and we talked with them for a while. 1 of them was from London and just had a very British accent, but the other 1, she was from Yorkshire and we couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying, that’s how funny her accent was!

After dinner we had a cup of very, very strong tea in a tiny, tiny cup with the women that worked at the restaurant. We couldn’t understand half of what they were saying, but it was very nice. They said I look like papa. They gave us some cream for papa’s back too.

They had an English self-study book they shared with the 3 of them, and we were helping them. They kept on saying “Fibty” though.

When we left, the girls taught us how to say “good night” in Vietnamese. It was something like: “Tjuk-gung nang”. When we came home, I wrote my journal, read and after that we went to bed.

21st of July

We had a horrible night in our softly expressed DIRTY bungalow. First papa opened the window because he was hot. Then he closed it because I got scared of the sounds.Then papa saw a mouse in our room. Then I had a nightmare about insects. Then I got bitten by mosquitos even though I had a mosquito-net hanging over my bed.

We woke up at 5:30 and walked around the Park Center with Huyen, but did not see a lot of birds because there the forest was very dense. We heard Yellow-naped woodpeckers, but didn’t see them. This was the case with many birds and we only added 2 species to our list: the Mountain fulvetta and a beautiful Hill myna. The myna was black with a golden-feathered neck and an orange beak.

We wanted to have breakfast at the same restaurant as yesterday, but we had to wait because somebody first had to get food, due to the fact that they had none left.

After a while of waiting we did have very nice breakfast though. Pancakes made of eggs, sugar, (local) flower and a little bit of (local) honey. And (local) bananas.

After breakfast, we saw 2 more new species: a Pompadour green pigeon and a Black eagle. After that we drove back to the botanical gardens and looked around there for half an hour and we saw a few more birds: Racket-tailed treepies, a Green-billed malkoha and 2 Green-eared barbets.

After a not very productive morning when it comes to birding, papa decided he wanted something with clean sheets and so we went to the recently opened up “Cuc Phuong Resort&Spa”. Instead of 20$ a night it cost us 93$ a night, but we did have clean sheets. We took a bath and rested until 14:30.

We had lunch in a restaurant at the border of Cuc Phuong and at 15:00 we met Huyen to go birding with him for the last time.

We started walking and right away we saw a Golden-headed barbet sitting in the tree somewhere. After a while of walking, we heard Huyen shout “My god!”,

and we saw a female Crimson sunbird, which was green with a long, curved bill and gorgeous to see.

Further along the path, we saw one of my personal favorite birds: the Hoopoe.

A little while later, we came to a place where we saw a lot of different birds.

First, we had the pleasure of seeing a beautiful Lesser racket-tailed drongo passing by. It has 2 beautiful long feathers on its tail. Then we saw 2Thick-billed flowerpeckers, which even had never seen in the park and we saw a beautiful female Black-naped monarch.

Papa told me and Huyen to look at a beautiful red flower which he just saw, but it appeared to be the amazingly fluorescent Crimson sunbird male, which has a reflecting red chest.

When we finished birding, we said goodbye to Huyen and offered him a tip of 10.000 Dong, but he didn’t take it for some reason.

We came back to our resort and played in the swimming pool for a while and after that we had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. We ate very good beef called “Bo luc lac” in Vietnamese. We googled it because the serving lady couldn’t explain what it was, so we knew what to expect. We also had a very nice lemon lemonade freshly made. We also had spring rolls, but we didn’t like them.

When we came to our bungalow, we realized that we forgot the charger for our phone and iPad in the Park Center. It was dark already, so we scootered there in the dark. We went through the gate, wondering if we should have paid to enter the park or not. For 50 minutes we drove through something as scary as hell called “A jungle at nighttime”. They don’t call it a jungle for nothing.

When we finally reached the Park Center, the girls from the restaurant luckily found our charger and we drunk a cup of tea with them before we went back to the resort again. We also bought some gas there, because we were low on gas and you do not want to end up in the middle of the jungle with no electricity and nobody that can hear you. There was no traffic on the road either.

When we were safe back in our bed, we felt pretty happy that we made it through that jungle.

22nd of July

We woke up at 8:45 after a good night in a bed with CLEAN sheets, packed our bag and had breakfast at the same restaurant as yesterday. Some delicious bananas, salted eggs, some kind of passion fruit and lots of other stuff disappeared in our mouths.

Having finished our delicious breakfast, we went to the swimming pool and played in the water for a while. After that, we checked our room and checked out in the awesome resort.

A little while after checking out, Paul arrived and brought his wife Gyldys with him and the group was reunited. They had already been driving for 6 hours and so took a rest. When they were done resting, we left the resort heading to Mai Chau city. There were more holes than that there was road though.

On the way we had lunch, but I didn’t eat much. We ate “Phô” and I found it more disgusting than anything I had ever tried before.

Back on the road, we drove through beautiful mountain landscapes and all of a sudden we saw a crashed truck laying on the road and a big truck wouldn’t even be able to pass. Everything that was not burned and was useful, was taken out of the truck, but for some reason they didn’t remove the truck from the road. I took a picture of it with papa next to it in a way that it looked as if he crashed the truck! That was funny. What was also funny, was when a driver stuck his tongue out at me. Paul saw it too and we had to laugh really hard.

At 18:00, we arrived at Mai Chau, after 7 hours of scootering. We got a room in which they didn’t have normal beds, but just mattresses. That and the fact that the house was built on stilts was because of the tradition. The tradition of the “Hill tribe” or something like that. We could look outside, but there were no windows. The village was

We had dinner together with some Swiss backpacker. The girl that was serving us all of a sudden changed in to different clothes and papa asked why. She replied: “I go bambooo dansjing in night club”. Then papa asked: “Oh, are you going to do boomboom?”.

After dinner, I wrote my journal, read a book and went to bed.

Go to Week 2