Monthly Archives: May 2015

Anniversary Trip – The Maldives

This year Benjy and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  The actual date isn’t until November, but because of some conflicts in the fall, Benjy decided to plan a big get away for us in April.  I knew the date of our trip and the length of it, but I didn’t know where we were going or what we would be doing.  He revealed to me at the airport that the first leg of our trip would be an overnight stop in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but we would be proceeding early the next morning to our initial destination, the first of three.

The big reveal came at breakfast where he told me The Maldives. I must have had a blank stare on my face because Benjy asked me if I knew where the Maldives is.  I said, uh, no, but I think I’ve heard of it…a romantic island place with those fancy rooms on the water, right? Well, if the lavishness and extravagance of a vacation destination is an indication of how much a person’s love is for another, then Benjy’s love-o-meter for me must be off the charts!!  This place is NICE!! Fair warning: I took a lot of pictures which I know gets boring to look at, but the purpose of this blog is to keep a record of our adventures, so please indulge me.  Also, you’ll have to excuse the fact that at times I might drone on and on about how wonderful our trip was, but it was our 20th wedding anniversary celebration and Benjy put a lot of thought and effort into planning it.  I deeply appreciated everything he did and I want him to know it! ;0) So, we flew from Colombo on one of those small prop planes.  All I will say about that part of the trip is that we got there and back safely, so really what more can you ask for? CP MD Benjy airplane CP MD tala airplane

This was the view from the window.

CP MD islands   CP MD islands 2

The Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean consisting of about 1,000 islands grouped in a chain of 26 atolls.  Many of the islands are privately owned and serve as vacation resorts. We landed at the airport in Male, the capital, and the view from there was itself stunning.

CP MD airport 1

To get to our island, we still had to take a 45 minute boat ride.

CP MD boat2

And then we arrived…

CP MD OW rooms

Ahhhhh!  Each of the rooms at the resort was its own little cabana.  The room we stayed in for the first 3 nights had its own pool and

CP MD pool room pool CP MD pool room path

a private beach access.

CP MD pool room beach shot The room itself was divine.

CP MD pool room bed

…with indoor AND outdoor showers and an outdoor tub, too!

CP MD pool room bathroom   CP MD pool room tub

The resort was, of course, spectacular.

CP MD Tala beach sofa   CP MD tala pool CP MD beach OW room   CP MD pool 2 CP MD beach bar

The island was pretty small.  It only took us about 20 minutes to walk the perimeter of it.  It’s covered with these trees which provided cool shade for our strolls.

CP MD benjy tunnel

We enjoyed lovely sunsets and sunrises.

CP MD sunset CP MD sunset OW room CP MD sunset big cloud    CP MD fishboat sunset 2 (2) CP MD fishboat sunset 2 CP MD fishboat sunset CP MD fishboat island sunset

The last 2 nights of our stay we sprung for an over-water room.  We actually quite enjoyed our beachfront room with its private pool, but we figured this may be our only trip to such a destination, so we better take the opportunity while we had it.  And of course that room did not disappoint either.  There was a back deck with a huge sofa hanging over the water.

CP MD OW room deck CP MD OW room

Obligatory feet shot from the sofa.

CP MD OW room sunset feet

The room had floor to ceiling windows on 3 sides which opened fully.  We opened all the windows and let the ocean breeze blow through.  Here are some shots of our room.

CP MD OW room bedroom

CP MD OW room tub CP MD OW room tub (2)

There was a ladder going down from the deck directly into the ocean, so we could easily snorkel whenever we wanted.  And speaking of that, the snorkeling was spectacular.  The minute you would put your mask on and look into the water you could see beautiful, brightly colored fish and coral everywhere you looked.  We snorkeled everyday and saw sharks (there were reef sharks which I think means they don’t eat people; they seemed completely uninterested in us) and swam with a sea turtle.  I’ve heard people say that Maldives has the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world and I believe it.

Here are some more shots of the over-water rooms.

CP MD OW rooms (2) CP MD OW room 2 CP MD OW rooms sunset

It’s hard to believe that Benjy and I are old enough to be married 20 years.  We’ve definitely had our ups and downs, but looking back on our journey together, I have to thank the Lord for not only bringing us together, but for keeping us together.  The Lord and His word is the glue that holds us together.  It’s been a wonderful, blessed adventure and it just keeps getting better!

CP MD benjy tala beach 3

Happy Anniversary to us!!














We went to Hanoi for a few days to experience Northern Vietnam.  When we were in Ho Chi Minh City we were told by one of our tour guides that people from Hanoi are less friendly and much more serious than them.  He also said that Hanoians don’t like Americans as much because they were “the enemy” during the Vietnam War, referring to the fact that during that time Hanoi was communist and allied with the Soviet Union, while Saigon sided with the Americans.  I didn’t really find either to be true.  The people of Hanoi were just as friendly and kind as the ones in Saigon.  To casual observers like ourselves, we didn’t notice anything tremendously different about the two regions.

We saw much of the same as we what we saw in Ho Chi Minh City, like markets with fresh fruits and vegetables. I thought these baskets of produce were really pretty.

CP HN market CP HN market 2

There was (very) fresh poultry and the not so usual ingredients like…

CP HN market rooster


CP HN market frogs


CP HN market eels


CP HN market turtles

…and idol offerings.

CP HN chicken offering

We went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Ho himself is preserved and on display.  They have strict rules for visitors such as no talking, no hands in pockets and no uncovered legs or shoulders.  Photo taking is strictly prohibited (otherwise I would have included a shot of him here).

It was a bit creepy to see this dead guy lying in state.  The mausoleum is kept frigidly cold for reasons easy to guess. So there he lies pretty much year-round except for two weeks when his body is annually shipped to Russia to be freshened up.  I guess the Russians are considered to be the experts in the field since they put 2 former leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, in such a state.  Stalin is no longer on display, but Lenin has lain in state since 1924.

This led Benjy and me to a discussion of how many former leaders are likewise preserved.  A quick google search reveals that there are 8: Russia’s Lenin and Stalin, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, China’s Mao Zedong, North Korea’s Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong Il and the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos.  The conversation then devolved into a discussion of whether we should create a bucket list that included viewing all 8 embalmed leaders.  We already had one marked off the list and it seems most are in or around Asia, making it theoretically possible for us to complete the list with relative ease.  But it might prove to be a bit tricky getting into North Korea and, darnit, we missed our opportunity to see Chairman Mao in Bejing when we were there last year.  I’m not sure why we bypassed it.  The line must have been too long.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum from the outside.

CP HN HCM tomb

And here are some shots of Ho Chi Minh’s house

CP HN HCM house

and tree house

CP HN HCM tree house

Nice, huh?  Seems odd that a Communist “man of the people” would live in such grand accommodations, especially compared to the average Vietnamese.  But, no one seems bothered by the contradiction.

We also went to Hoa Lo Prison, derisively named the “Hanoi Hilton.”  The prison was initially built by French colonists to hold Vietnamese political prisoners.  These were the prison uniforms.

CP HN prison uniform

“MC” stands for Maison Centrale, which was what the French called the prison.

During the Vietnam War, American prisoners of war were held there.  Here is a picture of John McCain’s flight suit.

CP HN Mccain

It was interesting to observe that most of the information at the museum dealt with its use by the French.  Much discussion focused on the poor treatment political prisoners suffered under the French.  There were only  2 small rooms devoted to the discussion of its use as a prison during the Vietnam War.  In those rooms are pictures of the American prisoners who were held captive.  Their lives were depicted to be quite nice and comfortable, in stark contrast to the lives of the Vietnamese political prisoners held by the French.  Much was made of how well the Vietnamese treated the American prisoners.

I suppose if you win the war, you get to tell your own version of the story.

One of the things that Benjy and I have grown to love about Asia is the street food.  It’s cheap (the operative word for Team Woods) and it’s soooo good.  I know the thought of eating food made by some random hanging out on the street would make a lot of you germ-a-phobes cringe, but we’ve never gotten sick (well, not that sick) and it’s fun to just try all the stuff that’s out there.  So, we wandered around the city sampling Northern Vietnamese cuisine.  We got our first sampling of egg cream coffee at this shop.

CP HN egg coffee resto


CP HN egg coffee

Bun Cha (barbequed pork meatballs with rice noodles).

CP HN bun cha2

loads of rice and

CP HN rice

bun bo nam bo (beef noodles).

CP HN bun bo nam bo