Vietnam – Day 4 – Ba Na Hills

I was woken up by a noise at 4:15am and couldn’t get back to bed. I edited some photos and wrote some of my blog while waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast. I went for breakfast at 7:00am and  had Mi Quang, which is a noodle dish that has quail eggs. It was absolutely delicious. After breakfast I waited for the tour bus to pick me up for a tour that I had booked to Ba Na Hills, which is a French resort located in the Truong Son Mountains west of the city of Da Nang. The tour cost roughly 1,345,000 Dong ($85 CND).

Ba Na Hills was built in 1919 by French colonists and is located 1500 metres above sea level. The resort has a view of the East Sea and nearby mountains. Being so high up the resort offers substantially cooler temperatures than the cities below, with the average temperatures hovering in the high teens or low twenties.

The 120km trip from my villa to Ba Na Hills took roughly 1.75 hours. On the bus I was sitting next to a girl from Germany named Yasemin. She was really sweet. She was travelling with a friend but they were fighting so they were sitting in different parts of the bus. She also had a very touching private story that she told me, but it melted my heart. She’s such a kind gentle person.

On arrival we boarded the Ba Na Cable Car to the top of the hill. The Ba Na Cable Car, opened on 29 March 2013, holds the world record for the longest non-stop single track cable car at 5801 metres (19032 feet)  long.

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After arriving at the top we first visited the newest attraction to the resort; The Golden Bridge. The Golden Bridge is a 150 metre (490 foot) long pedestrian bridge that was built in 2018. The bridge is designed to connect the cable car station with the gardens above, thus avoiding a steep incline, and to provide a scenic overlook and tourist attraction. The bridge is designed to appear to have two giant stone hands supporting the structure and loops back around to itself.

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After walking along The Golden Bridge we then took another cable car up to the gardens above. The gardens were absolutely beautiful and kind of gave the vibe of Alice In Wonderland. After viewing the gardens we then visited the Ling Ung Pagoda and large Buddha statue, which stands fairly tall at roughly 27 metres (89 feet).

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After that we sat down for a rather disappointing lunch buffet. Everything was cold and chewy. During lunch it started to rain very heavily, and then the power went out for roughly 15 minutes before the power generators kicked in. Since it was raining out we decided to explore the indoor Fantasy Park. I rode on the Bumper Cars, Alpine Coaster, and a shooting game.

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It was approaching 3:00pm and unfortunately it was time to head back down to the tour bus. I didn’t get to experience about half of Ba Na Hills due to the weather and time constraints unfortunately. I was dropped off back in town at roughly 5:30pm and decided to eat again at Banh Mi Phuong for dinner. After dinner I walked back to the Villa and went to bed early at 9:00pm.

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Portland – Day 2 – Exploring Portland

The next morning, I started off the day by smashing my left foot on Catherine’s bag and breaking one of my toes. We made a new rule that we are to leave our bags in the corner of the room to prevent that happening again. We started out the day with some Starbucks coffee and breakfast. Next, we walked around downtown Portland exploring all the sights. The first stop was Keller Fountain Park, which was closed for the remainder of the year for extensive repairs and renovations. While I didn’t take any pictures of Keller Fountain Park I did see some pretty interesting sights along the way.

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The next stop was Chapman square. Chapman is center of three squares that comprise the Plaza Blocks which are bounded by Third and Fourth Avenues and Salmon and Jefferson Streets. The center square is named for former Iowa territorial legislator Virginian William Williams Chapman, who sold the land to the city in 1870. Chapman Square, originally designed for the exclusive use of women and children, and features all female gingko trees. Lownsdale Square, the square to the North, was to be the “gentlemen’s gathering place.” Fortunately today men and women can now safely coexist in either of them.

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The next stop was Mill Ends Park. Mill Ends Park is a 452 square inch park located in the median trip of SW Naito Parkway. The Guinness Book of Records recognized the park as the smallest park in the world in 1971. The history of the park starting in 1948, when a hole that was intended for a light pole never received its light pole and weeds started growing in the opening. The park was named by Dick Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal. He planted flower in the hole and named it after his column in the paper, “Mill Ends”. This park has had some interesting history occur over the decades and has been home to such items as a swimming pool for butterflies (complete with a diving board), a fragment of the old journal building, and a miniature Ferris Wheel (which was delivered by a full sized crane). In 2001, on St. Patrick’s Day, the park had a tiny leprechaun leaning against a pot of gold and a children’s drawing of glovers and leprechauns. The park was temporarily relocated in February 2006 during road construction. In December 2011, plastic army figures and small signs were placed inside the park as a mock of the Occupy Portland movement. In March 2013, the park’s tree was stolen. A new tree was planted, and the next day the stolen tree was found lying next to the new one. In April 2013, officials from Burntwood complained to Guinness, claiming that Mill Ends was not large enough to be a park and that Prince’s Park, smallest in the UK, should hold the world record because it had a fence around it. In response Portlandians built a fence that was a few inches tall around and placed an armed figurine in the park. In 2018, Portland Parks & Recreation installed a miniaturized park sign and planted miniature roses.

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The next stop was Voodoo Doughnut. Portland is known for two doughnut shops; Blue Star Donuts and Voodoo Doughnut. We ended up trying both on this trip and preferred Blue Star over the two, but more on that in a later post. Voodoo Doughnut has seven locations throughout the states, with two right here in Portland. The original location, which we went to, was opened in 2003. There are over 100 varieties of donuts in total ranging from simple glazed doughnuts to extravagant donuts such as the “Captain my Captain” doughnut which has captain crunch cereal on it. Voodoo Doughnut has offered some strange varieties in the past such a the Nyquil Glazed and Vanilla Pepto Crushed Tums doughnuts, but these are no longer available due to order of health officials. In addition to doughnuts, they also offer legal wedding services, complete with doughnuts and coffee for the reception. I had The Loop, which is a raised yeast doughnut with vanilla frosting and Fruit Loops. Catherine opted for Chuckles, which is a raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting dripped in mocha powder and topped with peanuts, caramel, and chocolate drizzle.

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After stopping at Voodoo doughnuts we explored Chinatown. We came across Lan Su Chinese Garden, which was absolutely beautiful. We only looking at it from the outside due to the fact we though the entrance fee of $11 USD was a bit steep for the small but beautiful garden. I messed around with my camera for quite a bit here because it was so pretty, playing around with different depths of field and lighting. The garden was envisioned back in 1988 when Portland and Suzhou, China became sister cities. The garden was built on leased land donated by NW Natural in China Town. The garden was designed by Kuang Zhen and built by 65 artisans from Suzhou. The park was officially opened on September 14, 2000. The name of the park is a blend of the names Suzhou and Portland; Su representing Suzhou and Lan representing Portland.

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Next up was checking out Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s City of Books is the Powell’s Books headquarters and is the world’s largest bookstore. The family owned and operated book store occupies over 68000 square feet of retail floor space and has nine color-coded rooms and over 3500 sections to choose from. The book store has about four million new and used books; some of which are even out-of-print. Powell’s even buys used books; purchasing about 3000 used books a day!

The Powell company was founded by Walter Powell in 1971. Water’s son Michael had opened a bookstore in Chicago, Illinois in 1970, which specialized in used and hard to find books that were primarily academic books. Michael joined his father in Portland in 1979 when he’s fathers store in Portland was not offered a lease renewal; and thus abandoned Chicago. They both found a great location for the new headquarters, which is the same building that Powell’s City of Books stands today.

In 1982 Michael purchased the bookstore from his father. In 1984 a second Portland bookstore was opened in a shopping mall in the suburbs near Washington Square. Over the years a few other stores were opened, and a few closed, with 5 still in place today; including one location at PDX airport. The City of Books headquarters grew over the years with its first expansion in 1999, and a major expansion in 2008 with two new floors being added to the stores southeast corner. Michael handed over management of the bookstore to his daughter Emily in July 2010.

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After visiting Powell Books we were both starving so we went to Grilled Cheese Grill, which was in the parking lot that has about 50 different foods trucks parked in it. I ordered The Moondog, which was a grilled cheese sandwich with Provolone, Hard Salami, Pepperoni, Sliced Tomato and Green Olive Tapenade on Sourdough Bread, served with sour cream and onion chips and a pickle. Catherine had The B.T.G.C., which was a grilled cheese sandwich with Tillamook Cheddar and Bacon with Tomato on Sourdough bread, also served with sour cream and onion chips and a pickle.
After eating our lunch we started the long walk up and out of the city to the west to the International Rose Test Gardens and Japanese Gardens. The journey took roughly 45 minutes. The rose gardens were absolutely beautiful and has a bunch of fully bloomed roses as well as some junior trees that had not bloomed yet. After finding out the price of the Japanese gardens was $19/pp we opted against them as we had both seen some amazing gardens in Japan in the past.

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The next stop on the list was Pittock Mansion, a French Renaissance-style chateau in West Hills overlooking the entire city. As it was 600 feet of elevation gain and my broken toe was causing me some agony, we opted to take an Uber. We had a wonderful lady named Melissa. Melissa was originally from New York and had lived in Canada for 26 years before coming to Portland. The drive was about ten minutes and I’m very glad we opted for the Uber instead of walking.

Pittock Mansion was originally built in 1914 for Henry Pittock and his wife. The 46 room mansion was built of sandstone. Construction was started in 1909 and wasn’t officially completed until 1914. The mansion was designed by Edward Foulkes, from San Francisco. The mansion feature technology only the very wealthy could afford; such as a central vacuum system, intercoms, lighting, an elevator, and a refrigerator. Henry’s wife Georgiana died in 1918 at the age of 72, and Henry died the following year at the age of 84. The Pittock family remained in the mansion until 1958, when it was put up for sale by one of the Grandsons. The mansion went unsold an a very bad storm ended up causing extensive damage to the home. The local community raised funds to have the mansion restored. In 1964 the City of Portland purchased the estate for $225,000. A 15-month restoration project was initiated and the mansion was opened to the public in 1965 and has been a Portland landmark since. The view from the top of the hill that Pittock Mansion sat on was amazing. There were amazing views of the entire city, the port, and Mount Hood.

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After visiting Pittock Mansion we walked roughly 40 minutes through the forest to Witches Castle in Macleay Park. It actually wasn’t as exciting as the internet made it out to be so I’d honestly give it a skip if anyone is visiting Portland and is thinking about visiting it. It’s just an abandoned house with some graffiti.

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It was time to head back to the hotel so we could get ready for the Darci Lynne show. Again, because my foot was killing me and we had already walked nearly 20km I booked us an Uber. We had a lady named Marilyn who had nearly 20000 Uber clients over the 5 years she had been driving for Uber, which is quite impressive. She was into photography and graphics design so we had quite the chat during our rush hour commute back into the city.

After being dropped off at the hotel we got ready for the Darci Lynne show and enjoyed an IPA beer and cider in the hotel lounge area before walking over to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at Portland’5 Centers For The Arts. Portland’5 Centers For The Arts was established in 1987, as Portland Center For The Performing Arts (PCPA). The campus consists of three buildings; Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Antoinette Hatfield Hall, and Keller Auditorium. PCPA changed its name to “Portland’5 Centers for the Arts” in 2013. The “5” in the brand name is intended to highlight that the organization has five separate venues, by counting separately the three theaters that occupy Antoinette Hatfield Hall.

Darci Lynne, a 14 year-old singing ventriloquist, performed her Darci Lynne & Friends “Fresh Out Of The Box” show and I must say she was even better in person than she was on YouTube and America’s Got Talent (AGT). Darci Lynne was the winner of season twelve of AGT and received 2nd place on AGT: The Champions. No photos or videos are allowed in the venue, but if you go on YouTube you can find videos of her performing her acts.

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After the show we walked back to the hotel to change into some warmer clothes before walking back to Deschutes Brewery again. We loved the place so much the previous night that we decided to come back. I tried a few more beers and Catherine had another cider. I tried Blushing Brut Rose, Lil’ Squeezy Juice Ale, and The Kveik Freak. We shared some garlic cheese fries and something called Sweet Fire Cheese, which is a pistachio biscotti topped with fresh chevre and marionberry-habanero jam. After eating and drinking we walked back to the hotel and went to bed as we were both tired.

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Check back tomorrow when we explore the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, and Wings and Waves Waterpark!

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Japan – Tokyo

This Summer I had the opportunity to go on one of my most memorable trips of my entire life. I spent 3 weeks in Japan exploring Tokyo, Nagano, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and the countryside. Today you’ll explore the beautiful massive city of Tokyo. I spent a week here exploring the beautiful temples, shrines, delicious food, Japanese gardens, architecture, and culture. I saw the world famous “Shibuya Scramble”, Shinjuku district, robot show, and got to eat some of the most amazing ramen of my entire life. Japan is known as the land of weird and technological advances, and it definitely didn’t fail to deliver. Stay tuned for my next installment of Japan… Japanese Snow Monkey’s, also known as the Japanese Macaque!

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