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    www.www.gzbgl.cn / Travel

    The Travel Bug

    Australia Costa Rica Indonesia The Philippines Trinidad and Tobago
    Belize Czech Republic Japan Russia Turkey
    Brunei Egypt Malaysia Singapore United Kingdom
    Cambodia Fiji Mexico The Solomon Islands Vanuatu
    Canada Guatemala New Zealand Thailand Vietnam


    Sydney opera house

    Sydney is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia, with lots of attractions for residents and tourists alike.

    Much of the action is based around its large and picturesque harbour, which features boat rides, swimming and sightseeing, either from the water, the shore, or high up on the magnificent bridge which straddles the harbour.

    Far North Queensland cities like Cairns and Townsville are gateways for the Great Barrier Reef, where the water is extraordinarily clear, and the reef is full of surprises, such as remarkably colorful giant clams.

    From Cairns you can explore the surrounding attractions of the tropical rainforest, while Townsville and Magnetic Island, just offshore, are home to animals of the dry forest, like echidnas and koalas.

    giant clam
    cane toad race

    Delight yourself with the comical antics of those adorable fun-loving Australians.

    Who can forget such classics of "dinkum Aussie culture" as gambling on the outcome of toad races?


    Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America and a good introduction to the pleasures of this area of the world.

    Tucked away below the south-eastern edge of Mexico, its relatively undeveloped attractions are ideal for adventurous travellers.

    San Pedro
    flamingo tongue

    Belize has the second longest barrier reef in the world, three of the only four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere, and the Blue Hole, a perfectly circular 1000 foot diameter hole in the middle of one of the atolls.

    This makes it a heavenly place for divers and sport fishers.

    The mainland offers numerous nature reserves and some Maya ruins, though not on the same scale as in neighbouring countries.

    The jungle is a good place to see local wildlife, including lots of exotic bugs, mammals like howler monkeys, reptiles like lizards and snakes, and attractive tropical birds.

    parrot snake


    Waqif mosque at night

    At the time I visited his kingdom, the Sultan of Brunei had for many years been the world's richest man, courtesy of the massive oil wealth which he distributed as he saw fit.

    Since then he's fallen on harder times, his richest man bragging rights taken by a computer geek called Bill Gates, his moral purity tarnished by accusations that he kidnapped an American beauty queen as a sex slave, and his family's unity broken by the financial scandals brought about by his brother Jeffrey.

    Still, the oil keeps flowing, and the largesse trickles down to the general populace in the form of free education, free health care, and no taxes.

    A little bit of the money even came my way, as I spent a month working in Brunei, commuting on giant helicopters to the oil rigs.

    oil rig
    Kampung Ayer and the Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque

    The oil wealth has resulted in a population lacking in initiative and enterprise, with the ironic result that the jungle which forms the background to the narrow inhabited coastal strip has been left virtually untouched, to the benefit of the local insect and bird life.


    Cambodia is perhaps most well-known for the slaughter perpetuated by the genocidal ultra-communist Khmer Rouge, commanded by the infamous Pol Pot.

    If you come to the capital, Phnom Penh, then it's well worth a visit to the memorials of this dark period, like the Choeung-Ek killing fields and S-21, otherwise known as Tuol Sleng, one of 196 detention and torture centers.

    S-21 detention center (Tuol Sleng)
    Angkor Wat

    Cambodia is almost equally well known for the magnificence of Angkor Wat and the many other ancient temples, palaces and public works in the surrounding area.

    For the last thousand year these monuments have been a source of national pride for Cambodians, so sacred that even the Khmer Rouge would not touch them, in spite of their religious significance.

    When the Khmer Rouge were toppled in 1979, the country's infrastructure had been largely ruined by war and the Khmer Rouge's own disdain for modernity and utopian longing for an agrarian Angkoran paradise.

    This made travel on the country's terrible roads difficult even during the dry season, but in recent years there have been huge improvements which today make it practical to travel around and visit Cambodia's many scenic highlights and see its people living their lives with relative freedom and hope for the future.

    Bousra waterfall


    Horseshow Falls from the air

    As all informed people know, Canada is a frozen wasteland, a vast country with a razor thin inhabitable strip just north of the border with the United States.

    It's a land where the currency is called the looney and the national animal is an oversized rat.

    However there is some magnificent scenery, with mountains, forests and lakes, and the coastlines are home to interesting maritime birdlife.
    Maid of the Mist boat trip
    tourists watching the Horseshoe Falls

    As the more astute among you might have already deduced, my actual experience of Canada is limited to the area around Niagara Falls.

    Perhaps if I'm not assassinated by enraged Canadians I might one day have an opportunity to explore more of the country.

    Costa Rica

    Costa Rica is about the most attractive country in Latin America for tourists who want adventure without the fear of violent crime.

    After a brief but bloody civil war Costa Rica disbanded its military forces in 1949, sparing itself the political turmoil which wrecked so many other countries in this region.

    bullet marked fortress in San Jose
    Iglesia la Agonia in Alajuela

    Costa Rica's volcanoes are a definite drawcard, and some tourists are even lucky enough to see them when the ever-present clouds part.

    The architecture, though often pleasant, befits the country's position as a modest backwater.

    There's very little worthwhile diving, and although there's some surfing and some attractive white sand beaches, this country will never be in the same league as the Caribbean islands inundated by hordes of sun-worshippers each winter.

    It might be lacking in the usual tourist attractions, but many people come for the same reason I did - the wildlife.   Although very small, Costa Rica's location, variety of habitats and pro-active conservation policies have made it a very popular location for researchers and eco-tourists who want to see a wealth of bio-diversity unequalled in any other similarly sized area of the world.   With over 850 bird species (more than the USA and Canada combined), 135 snakes (17 of which are poisonous), thousands of varieties of butterflies and 6 of the world's 8 types of marine turtle, this is a place where almost every visitor will see something exotic.

    Small Postman butterfly (Heliconius Erato)

    The Czech Republic

    Old Town Square in Prague

    The Czech Republic has some of the most attractive architecture in the whole of Europe, with Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance towns, castles and chateaus scattered all around the country.

    Even without travelling around, you can sample a lot of these cultural treasures by spending a few days in the very lively and pedestrian friendly capital of Prague.

    There's plenty for nature lovers, with mountains, forests and hiking trails to enjoy.

    The main reason I came here was to attend the 2006 Czech International Air Fair, which featured a dizzying array of modern military hardware from a dozen or more European countries; however I also made time to enjoy the outdoors, spending most of a day in the forest photographing mushrooms and toadstools, as well as some interesting wildlife, including the first salamander I've ever seen.

    earthstar mushroom
    Sedlec ossuary

    Salamanders, toadstools and killing machines aren't the only exotic delights of the Czech Republic.

    Aviation enthusiasts like myself can also visit the Kbely aviation museum in Prague for a broad selection of German aircraft from world war two, as well as Russian cold war equipment and machines designed and built in the Czech Republic itself.   Fans of the really freakish can make a beeline to the town of Sedlec, which has a chapel decorated entirely with human bones!


    Egypt has been a tourist destination for longer than almost anywhere else on the planet.   Napoleon's short-lived occupation at the start of the 19th century, which included a very large team of scholars and researchers, created a huge amount of interest throughout Europe, and laid the groundwork for many famous authors who followed and spread stories of the wonders to be found here.   Then in 1869 an enterprising Englishman called Thomas Cook pioneered the age of mass tourism in Egypt, which has continued to this day.

    the pyramids at Giza
    ancient grafitti on the walls of the Shrine of Hathor at Cairo museum

    However Napoleon and those who followed were by no means the first or only people who had been drawn to the extraordinary relics that are found here.   So while you can certainly see French grafitti inside the Red Pyramid and British grafitti on the Temple at Philae, there is even more ancient grafitti on artifacts such as this Shrine of Hathor which is now at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.   This country is jam packed with monuments and artifacts.   At times it seems as if there are almost too many ancient wonders in the country, and if you're not careful you might find yourself secretly dreading your next visit to that awesome temple or tomb.

    One wonder which earlier tourists certainly didn't experience was the beauty along Egypt's Red Sea coastline.

    Modernites who've had one too many mastaba, pylon or hypostyle hall can come here to chill out on a beach, shore dive on a reef or enjoy the dramatic desert scenery of the Sinai Peninsula.   It's a special delight for those who choose to enjoy the marine life here, because not only is everything very accessible, but many of the species found here live nowhere else.

    a lionfish photographed on a night dive at Dahab


    the lower waterfall at Bouma on the island of Taveuni

    The island nation of Fiji has a huge amount of variety, with sandy beaches, flat coral islands and large mountainous volcanic islands with thick forests and waterfalls scattered across a large area of the South Pacific.

    Most tourists restrict themselves to their hotel or resort, and never experience this interesting land or its friendly people and culture.

    a tiny resort island in the Mamanuca group
    Vanua Levu and its coral reefs

    The only part of the natural environment which many tourists encounter first hand is the coral reef which they snorkel on, an attraction which brings thousands of hard-core scuba divers to this country each year.However, there's also some interesting native birdlife and other wildlife, including flying foxes as well as beautifully coloured dragonflies, damselflies and beetles.


    Years of pro and anti communist civil war have left Guatemala economically backwards and devastated, a major victim of the Cold War.   The killings have cheapened life here, and the often violent crime which continues to this day makes this a destination for only the most adventurous traveller.

    boy playing with hoop
    Temple of the Grand Jaguar at Tikal

    It's a shame, not only for the people who have to cope with this legacy, but also because Guatemala has a lot of geographical and historical sights to offer visitors including Tikal, the largest and most spectacular complex of Maya temples and buildings in Central America.

    For those brave or foolhardy enough to come here, it's possible to see some of the local bird and insect species as you move around the ancient city.

    violaceous trogon


    Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world, with over 230 million people, and it's also very diverse culturally.

    The most well-known tourist destination within Indonesia is the island of Bali, renowned for the Hindu-based culture of its people, expressed in painting, carving, dance and the many temples which still form a vital part of daily life.

    The main island of Java is less well trodden by foreigners, but equally fascinating, with spectacular Buddhist and Hindu temples dating back hundreds of years, as well as geographical wonders mostly related to the country's volcanic history, which continues to this day with more than 130 active volcanoes, the most of any country.

    Mount Bromo ranks as one of the world's most spectacular natural sights, and it's only one of the highlights of Indonesia.

    The large human population and a largely unfettered plundering of natural resources has decimated the original flora and fauna, but Indonesia is still considered the second largest region of bio-diversity in the world, after the Amazon basin.

    In particular, divers will find a whole universe of other-worldly creatures, and Lembeh Strait in northern Sulawesi can justly claim to be the "muck diving" capital of the world, home to more extraordinary animals than can be seen on any coral reef, such as the "bearded ghoul" shown here.


    The ancient culture of Japan lives on strongly even amidst the modernity and ugliness of its commercial buildings and the practical needs of its citizens. 

    You only have to scratch the surface of a thoroughly industrial looking city like Tokyo or Kyoto and out pop ancient temples and shrines.

    Todai-ji temple in Nara, largest wooden building in the world
    the Atomic Bomb Dome from Peace Park

    The atomic bombing of Hiroshima is one part of history that many Japanese would rather forget, both for the terrible direct consequences, and for the memories of their own actions which most Japanese prefer not to think about.However, a visit to the city reveals a real desire to learn from the past and benefit from all its lessons.

    Okinawa is a tropical island which seems to combine some of the worst aspects of Japanese and of American culture.

    Perhaps a leisurely exploration of its remote areas and of the surrounding reef-fringed islands would leave a more endearing memory, but the first impression of any visitor is likely to be of noise, traffic and the sort of suicidal determination which made the bombing of Hiroshima necessary.

    sea snake


    Kuala Lumpur is the dynamic heart of Malaysia, with skyscrapers and a telecommunications tower which are amongst the world's tallest, along with other symbols of Malaysia's drive to become an economic power.

    Nestled in amongst the modernity of Kuala Lumpur and other cities around the Malay Peninsula, there's still plenty of colonial architecture to admire, as well as mosques and temples belonging to the Indian and Chinese communities.

    In spite the best efforts of its leaders, Malaysia still hasn't succeeded in wiping out the extraordinary birds, butterflies and other wildlife which inhabit this part of the world, giving Malaysia a mixture of modern, colonial and natural sights.


    Mexico has almost 100 million inhabitants, making it the second most populated country in Latin America, and enough of those inhabitants are crammed into Mexico city to make it the second most populated city in the world, after Tokyo.   Its huge population has made this a sprawling, infuriating city where even a day in the park feels more like a visit to a circus or amusement center, and the chaotic traffic causes the air to regularly exceed basic health standards.

    Despite all of the hassles, it's worth visiting to see its museums, and ancient sites like the Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor alongside Spanish colonial architecture and modern world-class buildings.

    the Centro Bursatil on Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico city's main thoroughfares
    the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan

    There's plenty more to do in the areas surrounding Mexico city, like visiting natural sights such as the massive caves called the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, and the spectacular volcano Popocatepetl, snow-covered even in summer despite being in the tropics.

    There are also human-made wonders, including attractive Spanish colonial cities and many monumental structures built before the arrival of the Spanish.   As well as the famous pyramid complex at Teotihuacan, there are other pre-hispanic cities such as Xochicalco, Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl, with restored buildings and remarkable artwork.   Further south, the Yucatan Peninsula is home to amazing Maya cities, some of which are extraordinarily well preserved

    Although most of the country's natural environment and wildlife has been devastated by the needs of its large population, there are places scattered around the country where you can still find some of the original wildlife, like flamingos and other waterbirds living on the Yucatan Peninsula.

    Even in more populated areas it's possible to find lots of beautiful smaller creatures such as butterflies, spiders and lizards, living on the fringes of human society.

    flamingos at Rio Lagartos

    New Zealand - my homeland

    fur seal basking in the sun

    At the ends of the earth, New Zealand is the first country to see each new day.   Fifteen hundred miles and three hours by jumbo jet from its nearest neighbour, New Zealand's native wildlife is unique and benign with no land mammals, no snakes and only one venomous spider, which never bites anyone.

    The lack of dangerous animals is one thing which makes New Zealand a hiker's paradise.   It also helps that there are many miles of trails with cosy cabins and lots of virgin native forest, including some sections of rainforest which receive over 8 metres of rain a year, as well as fantastic snow-covered mountains with trails which take you above the treeline to stunning views of the valleys below.

    Mt Cook, highest mountain in Australasia
    boiling mud pool at Rotorua

    This country is a unique collection of what the world has to offer - mountains like the Swiss Alps, fjords like Norway, glaciers like Iceland, geothermal wonders like Yellowstone National Park, and some things like nowhere else on earth: a city whose harbour is dominated by a volcano and caves filled with thousands of glow-worms shining like stars.

    The Philippines

    The Philippine Islands consist of a very large collection of islands with a variety of geography, including lowland forests and jungles, many active volcanoes, limestone caves and mountain ranges covered in picturesque terraced rice paddies.

    The human inhabitants add to the interest too, with many colorful indigeneous cultures as well as the hustle, bustle and noise of the modern capital city of Manila.

    There's plenty of fascinating wildlife to see for people willing to leave the cities and beaches, including endemic animals like this Philippines Tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world, with the largest eyes of any mammal relative to its size.

    Even the local insect life is fascinating, with attractive butterflies and dragonflies, jewel-like beetles and weirdly shaped ants and other critters.

    Since I used this trip to learn to scuba dive, I didn't spend as much time on the local insect life as I normally do, however I did spend a lot of time underwater, including a trip to the town of Donsol to snorkel with whale sharks, the largest fishes in the world.

    There are many pristine dive sites around the country, so be sure to check out the underwater highlights of the Philippines and an entire page of the incredibly colored and shaped sea slugs of the Philippines.


    St Basil's cathedral in Red Square

    Russia might no longer be the sinister and inaccessible place it once was, but it's still a long way off the beaten track for anyone who doesn't live in Europe.   And travellers who have filled out the Russian visa papers can be forgiven for thinking that this place is still in a Cold War time warp.

    It's a shame, because there's a wealth of interesting architecture and scenery in the country, and although I only had an opportunity to see some of the highlights of Moscow and the "Golden Ring" towns, it has left me with a desire to return and see other parts of the country.

    My visit wasn't made primarily for the architecture or scenery, instead I came as a media representative to photograph the exotic military and civilian aircraft at the 2005 MAKS airshow at the once secret Zhukovsky airfield south of Moscow.

    As well as classic Russian fighter aircraft like the MiG-29 "Fulcrum" and Su-27 "Flanker", there was also a good turnout of helicopters like the Ka-50 "black shark" gunship, Ka-31 "Helix" and Mi-8 "Hip", as well as several jet display teams from France, Italy and Russia itself.

    Tupolev Tu-334 airliner at the MAKS airshow
    V-12 Homer, largest helicopter ever to fly

    For hardcore aviation enthusiasts like myself there's another must see site near Moscow, the Russian Air Force museum at Monino.

    As well as a very complete collection of Cold War fighters and bombers, there's also a collection of American lend-lease aircraft from world war two, and a large number of historic Russian helicopters, including the extraordinary V-12 "Homer", by far the largest helicopter in the world ever to take to the air.


    Right on the doorstep of peninsula Malaysia, and only 100 miles north of the equator, Singapore is yet another product of British imperial planning.

    Raffles Hotel
    apartment block with washing

    Fear of racial tension amongst its mixed Chinese, South Asian and Malay population, together with a love of orderliness has now made this the world's ultimate Nanny State.

    Planned to the nth degree, it's hard not to be impressed by the cleanliness of the city and the law-abiding people - this is perhaps the only place in the world where people like their government sponsored high-rise apartments enough to buy them.

    Like any good theme park, there are plenty of organized entertainments to keep the populace, and the tourist passing through, amused.   But who wants to spend the rest of their life trapped in Disneyland?   Certainly not some of the Singaporeans I spoke to!

    The multitude of rules (like a ban on the sale of chewing gum anywhere within this city-state) and the government's attempts to squeeze out any vaguely threatening elements (like bulldozing all but one backpackers' hostel) have lead to sterility and a lack of entrepeneurial spirit in the population - the government even runs courses on dating to help people meet the opposite sex!

    The Merlion, symbol of Singapore

    The Solomon Islands

    beached American tank landing ship

    Very few of the young American marines who departed from training in New Zealand had ever heard of the island of Guadalcanal before they landed there in 1943.

    The fighting turned into an extremely vicious and prolonged struggle, but not without results - before Guadalcanal the Japanese always advanced, but after Guadalcanal they always retreated.   After all these years, the relics of war are still around.

    War veterans from America and Japan still make the pilgrimage to this out of the way spot in the Pacific, to relive their memories and come to terms with the often brutal events which happened here.

    Nowadays, however, visitors also include adventurous young people drawn here to experience underwater excitement in what many people rate as one of the world's top ten diving hotspots.

    snowflake moray eel
    Malaitan boy with tattooed face

    Struggling to develop a national identity on top of traditional tribal loyalties, the Solomon Islands has recently experienced a major period of unrest and upheaval.   Its location means that it is fated to remain a backwater, with tourists as a tiny but economically significant minority.

    Hopefully the genuine friendliness and helpfulness of the local people will continue despite the difficulties, and they'll find a way to keep this small tropical paradise peaceful and pleasant.


    Thailand is easily the most popular tourist destination in south-east Asia, and for good reason.

    The heady mix of sunshine, beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, interesting history and fascinating ancient and modern cultural artifacts means that there's something for every taste, and the friendly local people makes it all readily accessible without fear of losing life or limb.

    Wat Pho Buddha, Bangkok
    Ko Phing Kan James Bond Island

    Thailand is blessed with lots of great landscapes, with large limestone formations providing not just other-worldly Karst scenery around the south-west coast, but also interesting caves scattered throughout the country.

    The jungle-clad mountainous areas have great landscapes and also provide the settings for many attractive waterfalls.

    Thailand has many national parks, both on-shore and off-shore.   Those on land preserve some of the best scenery in the country, and they have hiking trails to allow you to easily penetrate the jungle or forest.

    The parks also preserve marine life and terrestrial life, some of which will be happy to see you and some of which won't!

    black-backed kingfisher

    Trinidad and Tobago

    Scarlet Ibis with Black Bellied Tree Ducks

    The original inhabitants of Trinidad called it Lere, "Land of the Hummingbirds", and it's still a mecca for bird and nature lovers, with 400 species of birds, 600 species of butterflies, 50 reptiles and 100 assorted mammals such as agouti, armadillos, and monkeys.

    The people of Trinidad and Tobago have the largest Carnival in the Caribbean, which gives them an excuse for two months of unbridled excess.

    They're also more than happy to help the innocent tourist with his or her excess  - excess money, that is.

    steel pan band
    male filefish

    Tobago's no slouch in the tropical bird stakes, but whereas Trinidad lacks coral reefs because of its proximity to several large South American rivers, Tobago has spectacular reefs and underwater sights, including the largest brain corals in the world.


    Turkey straddles Europe and Asia, a strategic location which has made it a great power centre from Roman times right up to the current day.   The religious life of the great imperial city of Byzantinium, which later became Constantinople and then Istanbul, has been tempestuous, with pagan worship ousted by Christianity and Christianity in its turn ousted by Islam.

    Relics from all these periods are still to be seen around Istanbul, including the unmatched architectural achievements of the great church turned mosque known as Aya Sofya.

    Aya Sofya, which started life as a church but later became a mosque
    oil tankers on the Bosporus

    The Bosporus (literally "place where the cow crossed') is the geographical feature which made Istanbul so important.   This waterway connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean, and separates Europe on its eastern shore from Asia on its western shore.

    Even today it's a major transport route, and no visit to Istanbul is complete without a ferry excursion along its length to see the traffic that plys its way through the heart of the city, as well as the many historical buildings, fishing villages and villas which overlook its waters.

    Perhaps surprisingly, a ferry trip along the Bosporus is also a good way to see some of the local wildlife, especially the seabirds which make a living catching fish in its clear waters.

    cormorant landing on the Bosporus

    United Kingdom

    Bearskin clad guard at the Tower of London

    The famous wit-about-town Dr Johnson said "If you're tired of London then you're tired of life", and what was true in his day is still true today.

    Of course Johnson and Bosley would have no problem recognizing most of the landmarks that people associate with London.   The historical sights scattered around the centre give the place a familiar and well-worn feeling.   It might not be flashy, but this slightly shabby place is undeniably one of the world's truly great and memorable cities.

    London is the largest city in Europe, but it has more than just population, it has a heart and soul - a superb public transportation system with a character all its own ("Mind the Gap!"), lively and interesting people, busy public parks, and night life to keep you awake even if you don't dance!

    Tower Bridge at Night
    Tibetan statue of guardian Garuda

    For the noble, sensitive and artistic souls among us, museums stuffed full of treasures stolen from all over the world!


    Vanuatu is one of the least familiar of the Pacific Island nations, but also one of the most interesting.   Previously known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu was ruled by the British and the French - at the same time!   Formally called the Condominium, this style of government was known locally as the Pandominium.

    The capital, Port Vila, is on the island of Efate and is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the Pacific, beside a coral-filled and island-speckled harbor.

    Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu
    dugong (manatee)

    Other islands in the group have their own charms, like Pentecost, where bungy jumping was invented, using jungle vines and 90 foot bamboo towers.

    And on the island of Tanna you can stay in a local village and test your nerves against a lecherous ten-foot dugong, a close relative of the Caribbean manatee.

    While you're in Tanna, visit a classic "cargo cult" village next to an active volcano, and see the place where the local people used to throw irritating people to the sharks.

    In the evening, drive up the volcano and take a short walk to the rim, where you can watch the vents showering hot magma around the crater.

    Yasur Volcano on Tanna Island


    fish farms at Cat Ba island in Halong Bay near Hanoi

    Vietnam has numerous scenic attractions for visitors, from the highland areas with their scenic beauty and interesting ethnic cultures, to limestone formations and caves in places such as Tam Coc and Halong Bay, to classic white sand beaches with palm trees and crystal blue waters.   There's also a considerable amount of historical architecture, including various sites in Hanoi such as the Temple of Literature, through to the emperors' tombs and remnants of their Chinese-style imperial city in Hue, and the little known Cham Towers, which are of Hindu origin.

    Of course, modern-day Vietnam is dominated by history of another kind, namely the Vietnam War, which is known locally as the American War.   For the Vietnamese this was just another episode (and not even the most recent) in a struggle for independence which has continued off and on for over a thousand years.   There's extraordinarily little obvious resentment in Vietnam towards foreigners, and many tourists make a point of visiting military museums in Hanoi and Saigon.   If you take some internal flights within the country then you might also be lucky enough to see the Vietnamese Air Force in action.

    Vietnamese Air Force MiG 21 jet fighter at Danang
    Common Imperial butterfly in one of Vietnam's national parks

    I made a real point of visiting some of Vietnam's few remaining natural areas while I was there, so I could photograph some of the extraordinary creatures that live in the world's tropical regions.   Although it was the wrong time of year to dive on Vietnam's reefs, I was still able to photograph many colorful butterflies and dragonflies, and I also saw many equally attractive moths and caterpillars, as well as beetles and spiders.   Despite being the cold season there were still many lizards about, especially in the south, as well as frogs and toads.

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