This online shoebox contains random pictures, notes, whatever. I've been a professional writer-photographer for so many years now. It's a damn good excuse to carry a camera around.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

And so, yet another year has passed and we're well into the next one. 2013 for me was a year of return trips. Some destinations, like Danang and Bhutan, were totally unexpected. Others, like Myanmar and Iloilo, were long planned and much anticipated. And I definitely did not expect to start and end the year in Vietnam's central highlands. But of course, all these places came with their own share of fulfillment - return trip or not, every journey was different. And every journey was a great learning experience.

 

So here's my best of 2013 :)

 

10) Good Morning Vietnam

 January 1, 2013: This was the best way to start the year: on the back of a motorbike, taking in the sunshine and the cool winds of the Vietnamese central highlands. Having tied the knot just a few weeks ago, my wife and I were on our first holiday as a married couple. You can call this our honeymoon - one that eschewed boring resorts with their stiff confines and stuffy people. Instead, we barreled down the highway on a pair of wheels, visiting waterfalls and coffee farms and slurping pho at little roadside stalls. Then we rode some more, through pine forests and rustic villages before ending the day at a cathedral in Dalat. Here we reflected on the exciting year that was, and said a short prayer for the next twelve months ahead.

10

 

But of course, many more things happened in Vietnam - read my article in Cebu Smile Magazine to find out the whole story!

 

9) Danang Revisited

 October 27, 2013: My first Vietnamese steps were in Danang, way back in 2005 when I was a struggling freelancer. On that trip, though, the city was just a quick beach stop on the way to other, more popular destinations.  This time it was different; on a 3-day layover between assignments, I was presented with a chance to roam this place I knew little about.

 

09

I’ve gotten familiar with Vietnam in the eight years that have passed, but I was pleasantly surprised with this new neighborhood. Danang was laid-back and friendly (they all thought I was Viet kieu – an overseas Vietnamese), with none of the typical Hanoian snarl, and just a little bit of the hectic Saigonese pace. The food was excellent, and the location - right amidst a cluster of awesome cultural sites - was perfect. Hue lay up north, while Hoi An, My Son and the Marble Mountains were down south. And there’s the fine yellow sands of China Beach, just across the road. The eight-year, three-day wait was worth it – I found my favorite Vietnamese city.


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

It's coffee harvest time once again in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. At the town of Da Nhim, just outside Dalat, a buying station collects freshly picked coffee cherries from the surrounding plantations:

 

Harvest1

 

Just off the road, a farmer from the Ca Tu ethnic minority group picks Arabica cherries:

 

Dharvest2

 

 

Dharvest3

 

The going rate for a kilo of red cherries is VND 6,800. That's around 12 Pesos.


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

Speaking of the new year, here's what the Vietnamese highland city of Dalat looked like on the last afternoon of 2012:

 

 

Dalat

 

This place is a bigger, cleaner, version of Baguio. With French colonial heritage mansions, delectable Viet food, and plenty of motorcycles. And pine trees. And strawberry jam :)


 

 

 
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