Castaway on an island in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – Day 2

Waking up on Castaway’s boat in Ha Long Bay and walking to the sundeck for a relaxing morning would have been fantastic.  It was cloudy and we had to transfer to a smaller boat soon after breakfast and hustled across the side to the other vessel.  A few hours on these choppy seas caused the worst hangovers to grow exponentially worse.  Luckily that wasn’t me.

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I jumped up and down enjoying the sway of the ocean while dancing to a fellow traveler’s tunes.  Some of my companions huddled inside fearing each swell while the bravest of us enjoyed the salty spray aboard the bow.  Green islands skirted along either side towering over of us when suddenly someone spotted a massive jellyfish off of starboard._DSC9518 _DSC9525 _DSC9531 _DSC9547

Lighthouses and tour boats grew scarcer the further away from the mainland we sailed.  Unfortunately the trail of littler seemed to intensify as each luxury liner was replaced with smaller local fishing & market boats.  Around the next bend we began spotting small floating houses and villages; their nets already hauled in from a morning catch.  It was suddenly clear that no one wanted to haul the trash that these natives generated and we all felt a twinge of guilt for bringing even more garbage to the seas.  At least everything we brought would stay aboard and get shipped back to shore.

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Slowly the waves died down and a happy calm swam across the ship.  Our vessel turned and glided between the green monsters which now protected us from each treacherous wave.  As the waters calmed we began to see more floating houses and islands with tropical beaches.  Most of these lush paradises were devoid of all signs of humanity.  Simply a beautiful beach protected by an overgrown jungle filled mountain.

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Before we knew it our boat slowed and turned towards one such beach.  Castaway Island was clearly inhabited, albiet there were a few shanties, a solitary bar and 2 docks roped off in the waters.  We landed, had a beer and found out that electricity would only be on for a few hours in the evening.  Rock climbing began after lunch as did tubing and some other festivities.

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After eating I tried my luck at rock climbing debuting the cliffs for our trip.  Without too much struggle I reached the peak of the “easy” climb.  It was by no means easy but certainly a ton of fun.  I took my free beer for making it up and waited while plotting my ascent of the “hard” path to secure 2 more cold ones.


My 1st belayer's awesome tatoo!

My 1st belayer’s awesome tatoo!




















Meanwhile tubing began with a hilarious group of Brits who affectionately referred to me as “dirty Mike” and themselves as “& tha boys.”  Conner an unusually short gentleman was hilariously tossed great distances from the tube; a fate I later found out that it was inevitable as I too flew into the tropical waters.  (no one went nearly as far as Conner in this dwarf tossing experiment)

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After getting a good laugh I took a chance on the tough climb.  Harnessing up, my belayer (who was an expert climber) gave me some last bits of advice.


“Keep breathing.  Follow the crack on the right.  At one point you’ll need to brace your back legs and use a technique called ‘stemming’.”

Alright, I thought to myself.  I got this!

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4th grade overnight field trip to Gongju – Buyeo

Field trips are great.  They can be exhausting for students and teachers alike but its a welcome reprieve from the classroom and an exciting opportunity to see a different side of each other.  Last week we embarked on a 3 hour bus trip to Gongju for my first overnight field trip as a teacher.  Each of 4-36 student classes had 2 tour guides, an English teacher and Korean counterpart to chaperone.

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After arriving and eating lunch we stopped at historic sites and Korean bounced off my ears in a complete lack of understanding the significance of the region.  At least it was a gorgeous fall day!

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Next up was a series of museums and a revitalized Korean palace where I took out my camera.  I was excited to snap some potential panoramas to play with on a recently downloaded editing program.  Click away for some stunning panoramas shots of Baekje’s history UNESCO palace.


Baekje Palace Panorama

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Overnight in Yangdong Hanok Village – Seoul Hiking Group

As the Spring blossoms breached full force I took my 2nd overnight trip with Seoul Hiking Group to Gyeongju, our first stop was Yangdong Hanok Village.  We arrived at roughly 3am and were ushered into our pensions amid confused roosters and howling pups.  Upon waking up we discovered an ancient village still housing hundreds of Koreans clinging on to many old traditions.  Enjoy these shots of a morning stroll through UNESCO World Heritage Site Yangdong Hanok Village!


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