ALASKA… Where to See Wildlife… tips from a cruise ship insider

NEW VIDEO POST… I just posted a new video to my YouTube Channel “Travel Guide and Photography”…

This is the seventh video in a seven part series on Alaska and the Inside Passage. This video focuses on Where to View and Photograph Wildlife. I have been a professional photojournalist and published since 1979. I have lived and worked on cruise ships for the past 11 years and spent eight of those years in the summer cruising to Alaska… Enjoy the video, information and photographs…

My Favorite Shore Excursions… Tips From A Cruise Ship Insider

NEW VIDEO POST on my YouTube Channel “Travel Guide and Photography”… It is the 6th video in a 7 part series on cruising to Alaska and the Inside Passage… I have been living/working on cruise ships for close to 12 years and for 8 years in the summer I have cruised Alaska… This video focuses on my Favorite Port and Shore Excursions… Enjoy the video, information and photographs…

TRAVEL GUIDE and photography | Inside Passage Glaciers…Tips From A Cruise Ship Insider

NEW POST… Yes it’s Monday and another new post on my YouTube travel channel “Travel Guide and Photography”… Whether you are going or want to go on a cruise to Alaska this information is guaranteed to help you with your travels… Even if you are not planning on cruising to Alaska at the very least you are going to see some really nice photographs of glaciers…


I have been a professional photojournalist and published since 1979. When I started this channel one month ago it was the first time I have ever shot a video let alone edit one… I think I’m starting to getting the hang of it… The format is a little bit different and I’m learning so much every day…
Please take a look, let me know your thoughts and enjoy the wonders and beauty of Alaska…


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZWoc9dp8k&t=907s

NEW POST on my YouTube Channel… “Travel Guide and Photography”

NEW POST on my YouTube Channel… I posted the fourth video in a seven part series on Alaska… “Port of Call – Skagway and Haines… Tips From A Cruise Ship Insider”… Join me on an adventure to Skagway and Haines, Alaska on where to go, what to see, favorite restaurants and shore excursions…Oh yeah some nice photographs too…. Enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJYyf5mT1Ok&t=7s

Alaska Itineraries | Selecting Your Cruise Itinerary

UP and RUNNING…. I posted the first video on my new YouTube Channel called Travel Guide and Photography. Yesterday was the “official” start to channel beginning with a 7 part series on Cruising to Alaska and the Inside Passage.

Please take a look… all comments are greatly appreciated. If you like what you see and/or where I am heading please Subscribe”… It cost nothing and Hit the Bell Button to know when I post a new video… and the Like Button if you like the video…

Thanks in advance

Tips from a Cruise Ship Insider… I’ve lived and worked on cruise ships for 11 years and for 8 of those year during the summer I was on a cruise ship in Alaska… This has given me a very unique perspective…

Travel Guide and Photography – YouTube Channel

I just started my YouTube Channel today…

I invite you to watch a brief introduction of Travel Guide and Photography. Let’s explore the possibilities of the worlds travel destinations through conversation, videos and photography together. 

A professional photojournalist since 1979 specializing in travel, landscape and wildlife photography I have traveled to over 80 countries with my camera and notebook in hand. For the past 11 years I have worked and lived on cruise ships traveling the globe. The channel is not just for those traveling by cruise ship, many places I have visited cannot be reached by ship. It is for all travelers regardless of how you reach your destination. 

Each weekly video will explore the possibilities focusing on a given destination. We will discuss what to see, where to go, my favorite places to eat and favorite tours. I will also focus on photography. At the end of each video I will include several still images giving photographers an idea of the photographs they may capture. I will also select a favorite image and tell the story behind it. For those that are not photographers this will give you a sneak peak of what you can expect at that destination.

My goal is for you to benefit from my experiences, lend advice and answer questions on destinations that you are considering and maybe some that you have not considered.

Please join me at the link below. If you enjoy the channel please subscribe, hit the bell to be notified of my next upload and hit the like button…

enjoy

Travel Guide and Photography – YouTube Channel

I just started my YouTube Channel today…

I invite you to watch a brief introduction of Travel Guide and Photography. Let’s explore the possibilities of the worlds travel destinations through conversation, videos and photography together. 

A professional photojournalist since 1979 specializing in travel, landscape and wildlife photography I have traveled to over 80 countries with my camera and notebook in hand. For the past 11 years I have worked and lived on cruise ships traveling the globe. The channel is not just for those traveling by cruise ship, many places I have visited cannot be reached by ship. It is for all travelers regardless of how you reach your destination. 

Each weekly video will explore the possibilities focusing on a given destination. We will discuss what to see, where to go, my favorite places to eat and favorite tours. I will also focus on photography. At the end of each video I will include several still images giving photographers an idea of the photographs they may capture. I will also select a favorite image and tell the story behind it. For those that are not photographers this will give you a sneak peak of what you can expect at that destination.

My goal is for you to benefit from my experiences, lend advice and answer questions on destinations that you are considering and maybe some that you have not considered.

Please join me at the link below. If you enjoy the channel please subscribe, hit the bell to be notified of my next upload and hit the like button…

enjoy

Southeast Asia’s Spectacular City of Lights

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When most people hear the phrase “City of Lights” they think of Paris. But when I hear a reference to the City of Lights, I think of the colorful central Vietnam coastal town of Hoi An, and its brightly, multihued buildings, French architecture and streets adorned with hundreds of lanterns of various shapes, sizes and colors lighting up the night.

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When I hear a reference to the City of Lights, I think of the colorful central Vietnam coastal town of Hoi An.

Traveling to Hoi An your adventure begins in Da Nang, which hosts the closest airport. I would suggest applying for your Vietnamese visa online. There is a Vietnam government website, as well as several private websites to assist you, I have used both. I would highly recommended paying the extra $25 — and it must be in U.S. dollars — for the assisted expedited service. If you do, on your arrival in Vietnam, you will be met by a representative who will help you bypass the long lines and goes directly into the immigration office, saving you a great deal of time and red tape.

I would also recommend considering spending a couple days in Da Nang, either at the beginning or the end of your vacation. The city is steeped in history and there are many interesting sites you can take in, from Marble Mountain to the Golden Hands and Dragon Bridges. Or you can just lay on the beautiful white sand beach that stretches for 20 miles.

Da Nang is only a 30- to 40-minute taxi ride to Hoi An, close enough to make a day trip once you are settled in your hotel. Most hotels will arrange for airport pickup and, depending on your length of stay, it might even be complimentary. If not, it is 250,000 Dong, the Vietnamese currency, around $10.

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The biggest draw of Hoi An, and the reason why most people travel there, is the Ancient City, dating back to the 15th century.

The biggest draw of Hoi An, and the reason why most people travel there, is the Ancient City, dating back to the 15th century. It sits on the bank of the Thu Bon River. From the 15th to the 19th century Hoi An was an important Southeast Asia trading port, and in 1999, it received the status of an UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Lone canoe on the Thu Bon River – Hoi An

During what the Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War, both sides agreed not to bomb or destroy the city. Because of this agreement, Hoi An has maintained its unique architecture of colorful buildings. In contrast, the neighboring cities of Hue and Da Nang saw devastating battles throughout the war.

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One of the many art galleries located in the Ancient Town

Hoi An is known for the colorful lanterns which hang in dozens of shops and across almost every street, illuminating the night.

You can enjoy a ride in a 30-minute canoe ride along the river for 100,000 Dong, less than $5.

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If you are lucky enough to be there on the full moon, you will witness the town’s Lantern Festival. 

If you are lucky enough to be there on the full moon, you will witness the town’s Lantern Festival. During the festival, the river is filled with lantern boats to close to capacity, with many boats nearly colliding, but like Vietnam’s street traffic, it is highly orchestrated chaos.

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Evening approaches on the Lantern Festival

Hoi An is quickly becoming a “foodie” destination as well. With its multiple outstanding restaurants, many of which offer cooking classes for those who want to learn how to cook the local cuisine.

Vietnamese food is fresh, healthy and, for the most part, locally sourced from surrounding vegetable farms and herb gardens. Because of its close proximity to the ocean, Hoi An’s restaurants are always filled with fresh seafood.

Be sure to try the white rose dumplings, filled with shrimp or pork. The dumplings are made of rice paper and steamed in the shape of a white rose and are accompanied with a delicate dipping sauce of shrimp broth, hot chilis, lemon and sugar. What makes these elegant treats so special — besides their wonderfully aromatic taste — is the fact that they can only found in Hoi An. This is due to the fact that the unique water needed to make them comes only from the Ba Le Well, built by the Cham people in the 10th century. The Ba Le Well is also used to produce the town’s signature cao lau noodles, another dish you should try, used for centuries to produce traditional medicinal tinctures and teas.

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The Ba Le Well was built by the Cham people in the 10th century. 

Most Anthony Bourdain fans are already aware that Vietnam was one of his favorite places on Earth. Located in Hoi An was Bourdain’s favorite place to eat, a small store front and café called Bahn Mi Phuong. The city’s trademark sandwich is the banh mi, a sumptuous concoction of meat, fresh herbs and pâté, served on a French baguette. The sandwich can be found throughout Vietnam, but to have the best, according to the late Bourdain, you must come to Hoi An and the Bahn Mi Phuong Café.

If street food is your thing you will not be disappointed in Hoi An. There are plenty of food carts on the Walking Street across a small bridge spanning the river.

The streets of Hoi An are lined with shop after shop selling everything from tourist trinkets and T-shirts to custom-made suits. There are over 200 custom tailors in Hoi An that will whip out anything from silk shirts and suits for men and luxurious blouses, cocktail dresses and wedding gowns for women. You can arrive with a photograph from your favorite designer, and within a day or two have your order in hand at a fraction of the price.

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The old Japanese Covered Bridge was used to connect the Japanese and Chinese neighborhoods. 

Another iconic landmark of Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge, built in the 1590s. The ornate bridge was used to link the Japanese and the Chinese quarters traversing a small stream. It is adorned with a small shrine and statues of a dog and a monkey, which some people say commemorates the fact that the bridge was started in the Year of the Dog and finished in the Year of the Monkey. Others say the statues represent that many of the Japanese emperors were born in the Year of the Dog or the Year of the Monkey.

Accommodations in Hoi An range from modest hostels to mid-range hotels to five-star resorts. The last time I went, I stayed at a wonderful mid-range hotel named Hoi An Reverie Villas, and was pleased by my very large room, complete with a sitting area, balcony and large bath. It also had a nice breakfast buffet, swimming pool and patio for $26 per night. Located 1.5 miles from the Ancient City. Five-star accommodations can be found for approximately $50 to $70  per night.

Someone Needs Tell The Glaciers

SOMEONE NEEDS TO TELL THE GLACIERS…

If you follow my articles you know that I write of my adventures and the places I have visited around the world. My hope is to lend some insight to help you decide on your next vacation. This article is going to be a departure, this article is going to be on a personal level, this article will hopefully shake you to your core… Global Climate Change is real, I’ve seen it firsthand.

I am not going to delve into the scientific research and the politics of the issue other than to say that I agree with the ninety seven percent of the world’s scientists that state man has played a significant role.

Since 2010 I have spent seven summers working on various cruise ships traveling to Alaska and the Inside Passage. One reason thousands of people every year travel to Alaska by cruise ship is to experience the glaciers, many of which can only be seen by ship.

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Tracy Arm Channel – Alaska – May 2010

Having lived in Yosemite National Park and in the Rocky Mountains and I have seen and hiked to a number of glaciers. However, you never really experience a glacier until you are up close and personal from the deck of a ship. From this vantage point you witness its power as immense walls of ice crash into the sea.

I visited my first glacier in Alaska during the summer of 2010. I was working on the Rhapsody of the Seas as we cruised through the Tracy Arm Fjord. As the steep mountain walls narrowed and we approached the Sawyer Glacier I was mesmerized by its size and its beauty. I was only to be brought back to reality with the sounds of massive blocks of ice tumbling into the water.

For the last several years I have visited Glacier Bay National Park and its many glaciers. I have stood silent watching the mile wide Marjorie Glacier in all her glory.

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Marjorie Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska – Aug 24, 2017

I have observed the Hubbard Glacier, a magnificent seven mile wide mountain of ice advance to the water’s edge only to shed mammoth flakes of its frozen skin.

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Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska – May 19, 2016

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Hubbard Glacier “Calving”, Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska – May 19, 2016

Although I have witnessed the retreat of many glaciers it is hard to notice the difference when you visit year after year. That changed this year when for the first time in seven years I returned to the Sawyer Glacier.

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Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord – Alaska – May 15, 2012

To say I was shocked is an understatement of what I felt as the ship came to rest several hundred yards away from its face, it was a shadow of its former self. We visit the Sawyer every week and there has been a number of weeks that we could not approach the glacier safely with the amount of ice in the water.

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Enter a captionSawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord – Alaska – May 31, 2019

Returning to my cabin I took my book on Alaska off the shelf and began to compare before and after shots. My heart broke, it ached, and my eyes began to tear as I realized two thirds of the Sawyer Glacier had disappeared over a seven year period.

Later that evening I searched my computer for past images of other Alaska’s glaciers that I had taken. I was speechless at what I found, it was happening everywhere and it very noticeable.

Another image in my book was the Lamplugh Glacier. Comparing photos side by side it too had changed dramatically. Easily on third of the glacier had disappeared and the images were a mere three years apart.

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Lamplugh Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska – May 16, 2016

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Lamplugh Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska – May 25, 2019

As I write we are experiencing a major heat wave in Alaska with many of the ports in the 80’s and Anchorage even topping 90 degrees. The record heat has sparked wildfires though out Alaska and the once blue skies are now a brown haze obscuring the mountain tops.

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Cruising on teh Carnival Legend near Ketchikan, Alaska – July 7, 2019

And it is not only in Alaska, Europe is also setting records with temperatures as high as 114 degrees Fahrenheit in France. News reports have stated that June was the hottest month on record.

Over the past week I have watched a few documentaries on climate change. I’d ask that you watch “Chasing Ice”, the 2014 Emmy Award winning documentary. As you watch what James Balog documents remember it takes 100 feet of snow to make 1 foot of glacial ice.

Is it “fake news” that so many would like you to believe? Or is it really happening like the vast majority of the world’s scientists have proven, what cameras have documented and study after study has shown.

If it is fake news somebody needs to tell the glaciers because they are melting at an alarming rate!

 

 

 

WELCOME TO THAILAND… PART 3

The Sights of Pai

Pai is filled with places to create wonderful memories and places to take beautiful photographs. I have decided to share with you a few of my favorite places for you to explore.

In order to visit these places and to get around Pai your best bet is to rent a scooter. Scooters in Southeast Asia are its life’s blood. Everyone has a scooter. They are usually the Honda Click or the Honda Wave, though there are other brand names and 110cc to 125cc being the average size.

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Honda Wave photo credit honda

I have seen kids as young as 10 to adults in their 70’s and 80’s all using scooters as transportation in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. I have seen families of three people being common and up to four even five on one scooter with babies in the arms of their parents.

I have seen them with a couple of objects in the basket to loads of rice, corn and firewood to four or 5 mattresses balanced on the back of the scooter. The locals are master of loading these scooters to haul their every need.

The cost of a rental in Pai is around 90 – 100 baht per day which is close to $3US. If you have never driven a motorcycle or a scooter there is no need to worry, they have fully automatic transmissions. The throttle or gas is with your right hand as well as the rarely used front brake. The left hand is used for the rear brake. Usually the person renting you the scooter will give you a short crash course, no pun intended, and you are off.

I cannot stress to you enough to be sure to drive VERY defensively. First if you are an American like I am in Thailand they drive on the “wrong side” of the road. But don’t worry it does not take long to get the hang of driving on the left hand side. Make sure to pay attention to everything going on around you, go slow and take your time and you will have no problem.

I also bought an International Drivers License from AAA before I left the states. After driving for the last four and a half months almost every day in Thailand I have never been stopped or asked by the police to see it. I also bought overseas travel insurance just in case.

Now that we have discussed how to get to Pai and I have given you a couple ideas of where to stay, where to eat and how to get around let’s talk about what to do.

As I was in Pai for 10 days I had a lot of time to explore and I was in no rush to see the area. One my first day I decided to go to a couple of the Buddhist shrines and temple and to the Wat Phra That Mae Yen also known as the White Buddha. It is located about two kilometers from town on a hillside.

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Wat Phra That Mae Yen… The White Buddha

The shrine faces west and sits on a large platform of red tiles and a climb of 353 steps it takes to reach the top. It has a spectacular view overlooking Pai Valley best to visit at sunset.

Nestled in one of the canyons outside of Pai is the Land Split. In 2008 a large earthquake shook the region and split the earth creating a crack 2 meters wide and a depth of 11 meters.

A hiking trail has been built ascending a small hill and weaving its way down to the bottom of the crack. Following the trail through the split with the earthen sides towering overhead the trail gently eases downhill and back to the entrance of the farm.

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Exploring the trail in Land Spilt

After your hike there is an area to purchase fresh fruit or a drink, vegetables or a salad grown on the farm to be enjoyed. Donations are gladly accepted as an entrance fee and for the food available and used to keep the site open and run the farm.

If you continue to follow the road through the canyon you will also come to a waterfall and further out encounter the Boon Koh Ku So translating into The Bridge of Merit but known to most as the Pai Bamboo Bridge.

The bridge is made entirely of bamboo slats and stretches over 1 kilometer winding through the rice paddies of a wide valley. At the beginning of the bridge there are a couple small cafes to have a drink or something to eat. Along the way there are places that you can stop and sit in covered structures that provide shade from the sun and enjoy the view.

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Boon Koh Ku… Pai Bamboo Bridge

I noticed that most of the people did not follow the bridge until it ended and that was a mistake on their part. At the end of the bridge is a Buddhist Temple that is not lavish but very peaceful and serene set on a hillside forest.

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Buddhist Monk at Boon Koh Hu Temple

I entered one the temples to find a Buddhist Monk in deep meditation. I watched him for some time, unmoving not even a blink. I sat and meditated in his presence for about thirty minutes before taking out my camera to photograph the surreal scene.

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Meditating Buddhist Monk

Later while wondering through the rest of the temple grounds one of the monks told me the monk in the temple mediating was one of the most revered Buddhist Monks in all of Thailand. I visited the temple a number of times during my stay in Pai. The distinguished monk was there every time I visited unwavering as if frozen in time.

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Buddhist Monk at Boon Koh Hu Temple

Another place I liked to visit was the Love Strawberry Pai hilltop café and fruit stand. Overlooking a valley and a small strawberry farm I would sit enjoying a plate of fresh strawberries recently harvested by a small group of workers in the field below.

As I sat on hillside bench relaxing set against the bright blue skies and white clouds were umbrellas hung overhead providing a splash of color and a dreamlike atmosphere.

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Strawberry Field at Love Strawberry Pai

There is also a small Chinatown outside of Pai known as the Santichon Village or the Chinese Yunan Cultural Village. It is not the typical Chinatown that comes to mind.

The village was settled by the Chinese people that fled the Mao Tse Tung revolution. It is a traditional conservative Yunan village much as it was first built. There are mud and clay buildings, stores and places to try traditional foods.

It has become a tourist destination as of late and you can rent traditional Chinese attire and have your picture taken, try your hand at archery, ride a donkey or take a ride on a large wooden swing.

When you leave the village and continue up the mountain taking a steep dirt and rocky road you will reach the Yun Lai Viewpoint located about 5 kilometers outside of Pai. You can enjoy a cup of tea while witnessing spectacular views of Pai Valley below and the lush green countryside.

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View of Pai Valley from the Yun Lai Viewpoint

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View of Pai Valley from the Yun Lai View Point

An interesting place to visit very close to town is the Karen Long Neck Village in Pai. I have mixed feeling about the Karen Tribe Village. It is absolutely a tourist attraction in Pai and not a full village. There is maybe a half dozen of the tribe women and girls sitting in stalls weaving or with goods to sell. There is a donation to enter the “village” and I also slipped a little extra to those that I photographed. On one hand it is a commercial endeavor, on the other hand it is a way for them to make money to support themselves, still I have mixed feeling.

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Village Girl at the Karen Longneck Village

Photographically speaking and one of the most crowded and most popular places you will visit in Pai is Kong Lan or Pai Canyon. Located about 8 kilometers outside of town it is very accessible even though once at the parking location there is a steep climb up earthen stairs to get to the viewpoint.

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Afternoon at Pai Canyon

Once there you are rewarded with the outstretched canyon and a number of trails and places to stake your claim and wait for the sunset. Though the view is beautiful any time of day the sunset is when the crowds are at their peak.

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Late Afternoon the same day at Pai Canyon

It is truly breathtaking was the sky changes from blues to orange and red and the sun sets behind the distant mountains. I visited Pai Canyon a more than once and every time it was sky transformed into a different scene of colors and hues.

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Another Day at Pai Canyon

If you are going with photography in mind, I would suggest arriving at least an hour, maybe earlier to look around and decided on which view and image you want to capture. If you wait until the last minute the space is crowded and limited for the best views.

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The Third Day at Pai Canyon

Pai is a wonderful place and I am sure you will enjoy your stay there and I hope you have enjoyed visiting Pai through my mind and my eyes.

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Working on images from my cabin at the Bueng Pai Farm (iphone photo)

Enjoy…