Bec and Paul are trundling through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia until school is back in March 2009. They insist on keeping a blog despite the facebook thing being much more likely to attract any interest.

8.12.06

new photos, new video.

There are a few new photos taken by Claire in the gallery section.



wearing a snake-thing on Vimeo

2.11.06

new photos

For those that are interested, there are some new photos in the gallery.

30.10.06

cool change

It's been a long time, but here's more video.



cool change on Vimeo

7.8.06

new gallery

If you look to your right, you'll see a new link to a gallery of photos from the trip. We're going to dump a heck-load of images here, so have a look.

- Paul

22.7.06

Untitled!

I've been too uninspied to post. Being home is nice and cosy, but that's about the only plus involved. I told myself, well i'll pick up where I left off. But I quickly realised that I wasn't doing anything. I had nothing to pick up. Why did I come home again? Oh, I remember, my Visa expired and I had to go to work on Monday. I need a hobby.

Here is a photo. I am still in the process of retrieving them all from my infected iPod, so it will be a while before our photo page is up and running.


Anyway photo. This was at the PLAN kindergarten. I assure you all the other children were much happier to be there. I think this little tacker had just woken up. I tried to ask her permission to take the photo, but she didn't blink, so I had a good minute or two to line this one up. Colour adjustment was done very skillfully by Claire. Go Claire!

the pickled corpse of unky ho


We weren't allowed to bring cameras in to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum so in respect, I've done a doodle of him instead. Well, I guess it's no less respectful than turning his body into a Madame Tussauds exhibit. Like Lenin, Unky Ho's body was preserved against his will. It's a pity he can't turn over in his grave because if he did, he'd have those four armed guards on duty to put him back. And if he dislikes the way his body has been treated, I guarantee he'd be upset about the souvenir shop just outside.

- Paul

21.7.06

back in time

Yes, so we've been back home now for almost a week. But that doesn't mean the blog is dead. Remembering that I shot over 15 hours of video, I've been going through it slowly looking for stuff to upload. Here are the first nuggets of goodness.

I can't believe I used up almost half a tape before we even got to Vietnam. Here's part of our flight from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City.



Vidblog - Hong Kong to Saigon on Vimeo

And here... from tape 7 or 8. Fun at a truck stop.



Hoang Long Hotel, Hotel on Vimeo

Also, I'll be heading back over to Vietnam about the same time next year - but with about 10 relatives. We're going to be the same giant group of tourists that gave us the shits this time. Looking forward to it.

- Paul,
Melbourne

16.7.06

Home Again

Why didn't anyone tell me that i'm going to be totally out of sync with my life?
Coming home has been a bit of a shock for me, I have gone from having a routine of no routine to 'Damn what is my routine, what should i be doing with myself'?
Vietnam has been an amazing experience, I have definatly been bitten by the travel bug and i don't want a cure, I am going to start saving asap to get my ass back there and hopefully to travel the rest of S E Asia. I have heard Laos is an amazing place and of course all about the parties in Thailand (I will be careful not to get a real 'Thailand Tattoo') If anyone has any advice of S E A or anywhere else to travel let me know! I would like to get one of those around the world tickets that have a years validity and have a stop almost everywhere.
Here are some random pics of our trip

These are the beautiful jarrasic parkesque islands off the northern coast of Vietnam, near Cat Ba Island



This is Paul in DVD heaven in Hanoi



This Is me and our Plan translator having some breakky at a pavement food stall, these are everywhere in Vietnam.



I snapped this one in the Bich's village. The lady is carrying seeds.



This photo was taken on the boat from Cat Ba. You can't see it in the pic but there was about 10 of us crammed in the same area with the captain. I think they overbooked!

14.7.06

farewell

So...
it will be goodbye Vietnam, i am feeling quite sad.
It has been very easy to be in this country, everything is so simple, yet the difference in culture is enough to make it a slight challenge. The change in weather from Viet to Aus will be hard i think, i will have to crank up my portable heater and try and simulate intense humidity to make the transition a little easier.
Right now we are in our little cheap internet cafe, which had been the best internet connection we have had the whole trip and only costs us 2,500 dong per hour (around 15 cents) which is much better than 15,000 dong in cat ba (BAH!!) that wouldn't even open hotmail without a struggle.
It just so happens only a few days before we leave we found the best grocery store, we found chocolate milk, sunnyboys, fruit juice. we stashed a heap of sunnyboys and froghurt in our hotel freezer for snacks! There has been nothing i have missed here in vietnam, the place has everything, i can't wait to return!
Our flight home is at 7:10 pm, we fly to Hong Kong first then to Melbourne, i hope the food is good and there are some good in-flight movies.
well i can't think of anything else to write now but i'm sure i will have a heap to say when i get home.

goodbye
Claire
-Hanoi

Home James

This will be our last post from overseas. Unless we get upgraded to business class and find ourselves with some air-borne internet. I am very tentatively charging my tainted iPod. If no-one touches it and no-one speaks to it, I think the computer I am on will remain safe. I carry no guilt about stuffing up the computer at our hotel, but this place is fantastic (2.5 thousand an hour) with top speed and friendly customer service, so I don't want to stuff them about.

My Lonely Planet book has certainly served us well here in Vietnam. It was pretty much new when I left Australia, but now we have to carry it around in a plastic bag for fear of losing pages. Last night it slept in a puddle of water (we got caught in a killer storm by the way. Everything flooded!) and this morning the entire cover peeled off. I'll post a photo of it when I get home.

I almost managed to rid myself of dong just in time to leave the country, but I realised I would like to eat some lunch today (and maybe buy some more awesome stuff!) So i've risked another ATM transaction.

We are really sick and tired of being ripped off by everyone we meet, so this morning at coffee time we compared the prices on the english menu to those on the vietnamese one. There were many differences but the only one that applied to us was 1000 dong between the bottle of coka. So we worked out the bill oursleves and handed them 26,ooo instead of 27,000. It's only ten cents, but my god we have to uphold our principles. The cafe guy didn't try very hard to get his extra 1000 dong. It's stupid but these rip-offs happen everywhere and for a lot more money too. I think every taxi in this city has two settings on their metres. Local and Foriegn. I think this may even be implemented by the taxi companies.

Anyway I'm kind of stuck for words. I'm going to be depressed for another four years back in Australia, so no one talk to me. Until I travel again. It was four years between Nepal and Vietnam, but hopefully the next trip will come sooner and I can stop my whining.

Sad sad sad. I'm going to whip up a second blog, with bundles of my Vietnam photography on it. This will be accessable from the top of Notes from Vietnam so everyone check it out. Sad.

Did I mention that our four week's of spending in Vietnam - that's food, accommodation, clothes, gifts and knick knacks - has yet to exceed the cost of our plane ticket!? I guess we'll conclude this blog from back in Australia . . . so keep watching.

Sad,
Bec,
Hanoi.

sorry about the swears

I promise I won't swear anymore.
We're flying back today. This is your official reminder to pick us up from the airport at 10am. If you are not there when we walk out the gate, then NO PRESENTS FOR ANYONE!
I kind of went spend-crazy in the last day or two. I mean, I still only spent about $150, but it's a lot. I still have about 350,000 VND to get rid of before we fly out. It's gonna be a struggle, but I think I'll be able to rid myself of it. We're heading over to a propaganda art gallery to get something later on today. Really, I haven't bought much of anything while I've been here. My pack is about as full as it was when we left. We've lost a few things though: my hat, my sunglasses, Bec's travel pillow... so it all evens out.
When in Hanoi be sure to look for the Bodha Cafe near DVD lane (the name we gave to the street with all the DVD shops)... um, sorry I can't give you less vague directions but I can't remember the proper name of the street. The food is good there, the service is much better than most other places (you actually get service in other words), and you can use their internet for free while you wait for your food. They have a dumb waiter (it's like 3 or 4 stories high) thats constantly going up and down with food. Nicely furnished, great atmosphere, you'll be able to find a quiet corner somewhere no matter what. Neat hang out... I think we'll head back over there one more time before we leave.

- Paul,
Hanoi

13.7.06

thrifty traveller, happy traveller

Cheap internet is not neccessarily CHEAP internet, I guess. I mean, we are upstairs in a cramped corner of the cafe; the roof too low for us to stand. It's hot, and I'm sweating and I'm really worried about being electrocuted (ed: Bec is more worried about falling through the floor), but at least it works.
I haven't blogged properly for a while now, the girls have really been picking up the slack for me. Really, I've run out of things to say about the country. For a while I was having a really shit time. Many local people out to make money off us have left me somewhat jaded. I can't count the times I've been lied to, ripped off, or just been left with the feeling that something is a bit dodgy. The place we are staying at is a little off. The room is okay, but they tried to charge us $25 a night for it. It's not even as nice as Sa Pa, and that was $12 with breakfast. Anyway, just a warning that when you come to Vietnam you WILL BE RIPPED OFF. This is not a maybe, this is a definate fact that you will be ripped off, more than once, every single day you are here. It's just the way it is. If you are not Vietnamese, if you do not speak Vietnamese, if you are not familiar with how things work you will end up paying more, getting less and then being looked at funny. That said, the people here are very friendly. Not five minutes ago we were sat on the steps of a makeshift stall run by the friendliest 'little person' named Phu. He is the first Vietnamese dwarf I've met. He wanted to know if there were little people in Australia. He was amazed to hear that little people are able to hold proper jobs, and even marry tall people. He wants to come to Australia and do some fishing. Of course Claire traded email addresses with him.
But money, I think, is the one thing that sours the experience here--as anywhere I suppose. There are so many people that just see us as walking money-sacks. And it's not just the people on the street scraping to make a living either, the official train ticket prices are stamped as either Vietnamese or Foreigner. If you are foreigner, you can pay up to twice as much. Of course, there are the swindlers that try to get a commission on top of that by spouting their horseshit stories about the boat or whatever being sold out and that they can call the captain and maybe you can sit in the front with him. Whatever. It's all lies. Taxi drivers trying to charge you up to twice what a ride will be worth, maybe pretending the meter doesn't work. NEVER ride in a taxi that doesn't have a meter. If the driver says it isn't working, then GET OUT. Maybe it will miraculously start working again. Also, try to at least look like you are paying attention to where you are going. A good technique is to get a map of the area and follow the streets as you pass them. This way it is more difficult for the driver to take you on the scenic route. If you are sleepy, you WILL PAY MORE. And yes, even using these techniques you will pay more if you don't speak Vietnamese, or if you have white skin. They only do this because they can get away with it, so the best thing is to prepare yourself and never give away more money than you are comfortable with. Don't let people rush you in a decision. If they want your money, they'll wait for it. Believe me. They want it.
We were going to post a photo of the internet cafe we are at right now, but we just noticed that there are no CD drives in the computers. Maybe once we get back to the Hotel we can use theirs for a few minutes, just to upload.
Here it is 2,500 VND for an hour, the hotel... not so cheap. Closer to a dollar.
Then, of course, there are the homeless people, the people that haven't eaten in days, the children trying to sell post-cards and cigarette lighters. You'll end up feeling like a total son of a bitch at least a few times during your trip. This cannot be avoided unless you buy something from every single peddler you see. This would end up costing us as much as our plane ticket on a trip this long. So I don't buy anything. I don't give away anything. Often, I don't even acknowledge them. If I did, I'd have to give it to everyone.
It's just something you have to deal with. You'll either feel like shit about it, or you won't.

- Paul,
Hanoi

Sick as an iPod

Goddamned Cat Ba Island has ruined my life. I think i'm going to coin a new word in its honour. Cat Ba: Disaster. Usage: What a Cat Ba! This whole thing has been nothing but a bloody Cat Ba. Anyway, my moaning is almost over, I just have to break the news that Yakumoto has contracted a virus. It happened at that piece of crap place with the overpriced dial up. I don't know how a computer that crap could even support a virus. Suddenly my iPod is riddled with applications disguising themselves as Folders. They double up every folder, put the new one of the same name inside the original and give it a folder icon. But you double click on it and all of a sudden the computer you're on has the same applications all over everything. It also disable's the computer's ability to view hidden files. You can't do it via the tools menu anymore. Maybe some round about course of commands might help but what the hell do i know about computers anyway!? It doesn't seem very malicious, but. I have already infected the computer at the hotel we're staying at (they deserve it - bunch-o-sleazes) and its hard drive hasn't been wiped and nothing's crashing. I don't know what the hell it does. For a brief moment we accidentally glimpsed an MS DOS Batch file called Ghost - subtle - and Paul deleted it and it's accompanying 'folder' but i think they're back on there already.

My ten point plan for the future is to go home, back up my entire computer, plug in my iPod and burn nothing but photo files to dvd, wipe my iPod, wipe my computer, reinstall everything, replace all my files, return all my music to iPod land, and send a letter bomb to Cat Ba Island.

Our visit to Bich yesterday went awkwardlessly enough. It was great to see that all that advertising from PLAN led to something solid. Bich was very quiet and didn't know what to say. We gave her two scarves that Paul's grandmother made (one for Bich's mum) and a Vietnamese translation of Jane Eyre (it was that or Harry Potter the third) and a bunch-o-stationary, books, pens etc, even though she just finished school and has only one exam left. Her mum was really cool and somehow reminded me of my mum (don't go thinking you're cool now). She gave us a bunch of bananas as a gift and a huge bag of peanuts. Unsalted. They gave us the bananas after we told them that in Australia there's a banana drought and they cost $14 a kilo. Everyone just about fell over and now they think Australia is completely fruitless (haha). They showed us this massive bunch, about two kilos, and said it cost them 9000 dong. That's 75 cents. We're gonna smuggle a truck-load home and pay off the customs officials in bananas.

About three doors down from our hotel there's this incredibly short vietnamese man who sells water and drinks and fruit. He has a little table and a bunch of plastic chairs (you get this set-up about every ten feet on every street in Vietnam). His name is Phu and he's been teaching himself English from an exercise book and conversations with foreigners. He speaks really well and is really interested in how we live in Australia. He was blown away when Claire said she drives a car everywhere and understood better when Paul and I said we don't drive at all. But we insisted on explaining that we are the only people we know who don't drive a car. He didn't quite get it.

We left Paul alone for one hour today and when we met up with him again we found over 50 DVDs on his person. I felt bad for the poor pirate that had to sit there with him in front of the tv and prove the quality of every disc. At around a dollar fifty each, he spent about as much as he would have on two DVDs at home. So the only thing I can say is PIRACY FUNDS TERRORISM!!! Sigh. Piracy funds the nice lady with the remote control and that's about it.

Tomorrow we see the pickled corpse of Uncie Ho and then some Temple of Literature. Then we shop. I bought a fish today whose name is Loi. They wanted $40 for him, but I got him for $15. I was the good luck morning customer and I refused to pay the good luck morning price. They caved when I said i can't afford to bargain. Same thing happened to Claire. A guy was asking 800,000 for this zillion year old antique magic pot thing brought to us from whatever dynasty via a radical time machine doova and she said she only had 300,000 to spend. Half an hour later when she had almost made it to the door he wrapped the thing up and sold it to her to her for 300. Why bargain when you can plead student.

Anyhoo, I'm gonna schedaddle. The Devil's Advocate is on HBO tonight! No only joking. We missed it because Claire insisted on eating dinner. Joking again.

alrighty,
Bec,
Hanoi.

PS: ARGH my poor iPod and my vulnerable collection of priceless photography! What will i dooooooooo?!?!? (*#IUFHPIUWTY_BR($365-9WTEUIFHAP9R865-Q93!!! (the virus says hi)

12.7.06

shop till we drop

Hey there peeps!

Right now we are in a fantastic restaurant in Hanoi with free internet and an amazing decor, kinda chinese style, loads of polished wood and mood lighting.
We are having a great time shopping in hanoi, it has worked out quite well travelling from the south to the north as the shopping is much better here. Yesterday We visited Bich in her village, it was fantastic. She was a little shy, though it was great to see the facilites plan has given to the community, i really appreciate Ian and Dee (Pauls grandparents) for their generosity as i have now seen first hand how important a their assistance is to the community. The village have now got a kindergarten, schools, community health centre, and healthy drinking water. Plan also supply the sponsor children and families with animals to raise like chickens, cows and buffalo. Visiting the Kindergarten was great, the kids were a bit confused at the start but opened up and had a great time. They loved our digtal cameras, they were totally amazed at the sight of themselves on the screen.

Anyway i had best be off as i don't want to overdo the free internet. you'll hear more from Bec and Paul.

Claire
-Hanoi

10.7.06

Fuck the Cat Ba!

Back in Hanoi, and we're having trouble contacting Plan. We've tried calling them with all the numbers we've been given, but they are either the wrong numbers or we're doing something wrong. Anyway, we're going to head over to the office today and see them in person. Hopefully it won't all fall through. At worst we might have to postpone the visit for a couple of days, but that wouldn't be such a problem because we'll be in Hanoi until we fly out anyway.

Anyway, Hanoi is a big relief after the Cat Ba travesty. We are finally paying reasonable prices for internet (2,500 VND per hour), and it actually works. I can finally access my email. Plus the best thing about Hanoi is that less people stare at us as we walk down the street. In planning next years trip, please do me the courtesy of avoiding Cat Ba Island! Halong Bay may sound nice, but it's more trouble than it's worth.

Once again... Sa Pa is the place to go. Do not book a tour without including Sa Pa in the itinerary. Urgh! Gotta go, things to do.

- Paul,
Hanoi

iuhefO*^7*($djiygs!

Man why is everything so difficult? We can't get onto Plan in Hanoi and we're meant to be going tomorrow. The telephone numbers we were given didn't work from Cat Ba but hopefully a local call will srve us better. We gots to get on over to the post office quick smart. Hopefully the whole thing won't fall through or I do'nt know what we'll do.

We managed to find a room last night and got a 10 dollar discount because we're a trio of cheap bastards. The guy wouldn't let us leave and eventually dropped the price far enough to justify sleeping next to the train tracks. That's no small thing, by the way. We caught the train back from Hai Phing yesterday and still have trouble hearing each other speak. I didn't know anything could be that loud. Really! I won't get over it.

Anyway, we can't dilly daddle. We'll keep you posted on the PLAN disaster.

So long,
Bec,
Hanoi.

9.7.06

Hannoying?...only in Cat Ba!

Well don't be sitting there thinking we have neglected our blog duties. We have just returned to Hanoi after our short stint in Cat Ba (island) town. We encountered a sprawl of vietnamese tourists (imagine rosebud at it's peak) and skyrocketing internet prices, and dial up to boot! We were used to paying 3,000 dong in Sa Pa per hour and in Cat Ba they were asking 15,000 ...stuff that (did i mention it was dial up!?) so we went on strike, and rightly so!

We are currently abusing free internet as the hotel we want to stay at finds us alternate accommodation for the night as they are full. Poor Paul is waiting for us at a cafe with all our luggage whilst we scout.
Though he had a flowing supply of vanilla icecream that i hear is amazing. I have however tried the coconut wich is amazing....also.
so enough of my ramble, i don't want to get to involved in a topic just in case we are whisked off on a moped to our other hotel room.
we have just heard news that the hotel room that was to be our alternate, is no longer free so we now have to wait for an alternate to our alternate...the good part about this is, (besides the free net) that we don't have to arrange a thing! So we are just sitting here listening to the frantic phone calls being made to accomodate us annoing westerners who think they can just stroll in off the street and have everything fall into place...well it has hasn't it (free net!!)

ciao for now
Claire and Bec
Hanoi

6.7.06

HelloMoto

Claire made friends with some aussie guys last night. They're from WA I think. Claire had organised to go with WA#1 on his moto to the Silver Falls today. But he "fell ill" with a mysterious illness called Veronica. So his two mates (or maybe brothers) took us up there. Paul and i squished on with WA #2 (shannon) and claire went with #3. The roads were apparently the worst they'd encountered out this way. Pretty muddy and very pot holed. But no one died so it was fun fun. The waterfalls were huge!

We've gone the way of the lazy and booked the bus to Lao Cai from our hotel (15000 extra) just so we don't have to carry our bags all the way to the church. (it's not that far)

Today I feel not so bad, still hot but no need to puke my guts up in the street. I have had half a banana and half a baguette with jam. That is all since Tuesday. All I kept in anyway. I think i'll risk some Pho tonight. Broth will be good for me.

And mum, don't say i didn't warn you that you'd be the only line dancers under the age of 65.

So if we can manage it, we'll go straight to Halong Bay. But more likely we'll stay one night in Hanoi again while we sort ourselves out.

Bec,
Sapa.

5.7.06

beware the spring roll!

Well we are still in Sa Pa having a great time.
last night we got a little food poisoning from some vegetarian spring rolls, bec and i were vomiting all night, yukky!
i am here now with two of the local girls, They live in lao chai, near-by Sa Pa, they are very good sales girls. They are very cheeky and are alot of fun! even though they are very traditional they all have email and to my surprise are amazing at pool.
Tomorrow night we will be leaving Sa Pa i wish i could stay here forever, it is such a warm hearted place and absolutley stunning.
i don't have much time to write now but i'll make up for it tomorrow or tonight.

-claire
Sa Pa

Sick as a Bec

At least it happened in Sapa. Where I don't have to worry about the heat. I think Claire and I ate some bad spring rolls (not to mention the pork one that they told me was vegetarian). I have never puked so badly in my life. Did you want to know that? Too bad. Claire was sick all night too and is sleeping now. But wait there's more! I have had a sore throat for about a week, which just yesterday developed further and here I am with flu-like symptoms. Then this morning I wake up with a fever but i'm bloody cold. Everyone is staring at me wondering what the hell i'm doing in my coat. So of course it's a unanimous decision that I have contracted Malaria and will die very shortly. We mosy downstairs and ask about a doctor in Sapa. The nice girl says the doctor can't come to us for reasons too complicated to try and translate. So she hails us two motorbike taxis and says hospital. We say great! At an emergency crawl of 30km an hour we head for the hospital and arrive just in time to see three 12 year old H'moung boys escorting a dead body out of the building. Inspired, we soldier on into this really great courtyard complex hospital thing. It was painted pink. The only sign that was in english was 'Emergency' so we went there but only found a squished giant butterfly and no people. After finding an English speaking doctor and jumping the queue ( bloody tourists!) we descern that my temperature is 38.5c. I'm googleing right now what temp I should be. The doctor wasn't interested in our Malaria theory, but explaines that the evil spirits in my throat headed for my stomach after I couldn't cough them out. Which resulted in vomiting and fever. Am I elaborating too much? It just didn't ring quite true. Considering I puked up whole spring rolls and so did Claire. I still think it's a combination of cold and food poisoning and/or Malaria. No not really but I have to entertain myself somehow.

Anyhoo, if want the more graphic verison of the story, ask my parents for a transcript of my email to them. My temperature is meant to be 37c, by the way.

So back to happy things, I thought the French might have had something to do with the brilliant coffee!

I'll keep you posted on my temperature and things.
Bec,
Sapa.

3.7.06

Sapa-rty time!!

Well we arrived in Sa Pa this morning via the surprisingly comportable train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. We purchased the hard sleeper this time and were lucky to stumble apon our irish buddies at the station so we all shared a cabin. Even though the beds were hard, it is amazing the difference between being sitting in a cramped bus and being able to lie down. We all had a sound nights sleep.
Sa Pa has blown me away it is absolutley amazing, we are surrounded by mountains that are dotted with rice paddies and villages. The mountains are so high that you can't see the top through the clouds. We were greeted by some children from a hill tribe 7 km away who walk to Sa Pa every day to sell their handy crafts. They are all dressed up in their traditional costume and speak english very well. They are cheeky and playful and have a great sense of humor.
The first thing we did when we got here was wound our way on foot through the hills to the waterfall. It was a fair hike on the dirt road and up concrete steps, but well worth it.(i'll post some pics) we had a great swim in the fresh mountain water.
I plan to purchase some traditional sapa costume and jewellery, The make it all by hand. I just hope there is enough room in my back pack!



Lunch with a view on Vimeo

Chillin in Sapa

We made it to Sapa in one piece. Our sleeping quarters on the train were brilliant fun. It was two narrow beds and an aisle wide, and three bunks high. You could sit up straight on the lowest level, lean back to save your head on the middle one, and on the top you could barely rest on your elbows. Our train buddies were the two Irish guys we met in Hoi An and a nice Vietnamese girl who taught us all a card game. We stretched a sleeping mat between the two middle bunks and managed to play alright. Once you had your bags away it was prettty comfy. I got to use my sleeping bag so yay! We were, however, invaded by a drunk Vietnamese guy who didn't speak enough english for him to clearly communicate that he wanted one of us to give up our beds. I was topping and tailing with paul on the bottom bunk. After about twenty minutes on the top one I actually felt like i was going to puke. The rocking is amplified the further you are from the ground. So this strange guy (technically he had already made friends with the Irish lads on the Bar carriage) thought he could sleep up the top. But Paul monkeyed his way up there quick smart to demonstrate that the bed was taken. Which was good thinking but he left me wide open to attack from the crazy drunk guy who sat down and shook my hand hello then grabbed my head and tried to kiss me. I think he really just wanted to say hello but i still say that the punch in the chest was justified. Now that i'm into it, i'll tell you the whole story. He eventually got the message and left (we locked the door) but came back (useless lock) with a cardboard box and a sheet and bed down on the floor. But thankfully this only lasted ten minutes before magic train lady came along and asked what the hell he was doing. We thought this would at least be a fast paced yelling match because speaking calmly in Vietnamese usually requires some sort of raised voice, but she spoke really quietly for about ten minutes and he got up and left. Talk about awkward.

Anyway, Sapa is much cooler. We are all thrilled. There are mountains all around us and they're mostly tiered with rice fields. We trekked about 2km to the local waterfalls (in our thongs which i won't do again) and found a place to swim. But apparently this river is not really for swimming (we were kind of between waterfalls) and everyone sat on the edge of the wall thingy to laugh at us. It was freezing but the absolute best fun.

There are some hill tribe people that live near by and we've met about a hundred girls from the H'moung tribe and one lady from the D'zao tribe. I'll fix the spellign later. These girls flock around you and chatter away and they're all selling embroidery and blankets and jewelery. They just hang outside the hotel and they all bring their embroidery to work on. They're great fun but if we bought one thing from every girl we'd have to fly home tomorrow. I've been adopted by one girl called Che. She's twenty and has a gold front tooth and has made me promise to buy something from her. I said something small and she said good. She doesn't seem to have anything on her to sell, but i'm sure when i see her tomorrow she'll unfold a whole store from the front of her pinafore. They wear these warm pinafore things and the older women wear all this fabric wrapped around their heads. The girls wear long stips of heavy fabric wrapped arounf their lower legs and I imagine this would serve the purpose of knee-high socks. But there feet are bare and they wear sandals and thongs anyway.

Our room is at Cat Cat hotel - there's three of them but we think they're all run by the same family. $12 gets us two big (big enough) beds, a fireplace, a spacious bathroom with tub and a tea pot and some tea leaves. And a television but we've hidden the remote from claire. She does this thing where she turns the tv on and falls asleep or leaves or has a shower. Any number of activities that don't include watching the tv. So four hours later when paul and I still aren't ready, I say why the hell are you watching tv anyway?! And he says, hey man, you put it on! And I say bloddy claire has left us with the tv on again and we haven't acheived a goddamned thing.

There's a little slice of our day-to-day life abroad. Did i mention how great Sapa is?? It reminds me a whole lot of Nepal so i'm getting all nostalgic. But no one has told me to shut the hell up with the nepal stories already so i might get another day in yet.

We're holding on as long as we can before we go to bed. Siesta would be fantastic but then my night's sleep will be average.

Cheerio,
Bec,
Sapa.

2.7.06

videos

Videos galore (well, three). You'll need Flash to view them. I'm not telling you how to get Flash, if you don't know, then how did you even manage to navigate your way here?



OK100 on Vimeo



Claire being vain on Vimeo



Late for the tour on Vimeo

Or you could go to Vimeo to download the quicktime versions. But that's probably too difficult.

I'm a multi multi millionaire here.

The clothing on the back of my neck is damp and stuck to my skin, and it's old sweat too, so it's cold - which isn't a nice sensation like it should be, it's actually quite gross.
In an hour or two we catch a 9 hour train to Sapa(ish). We've decided to splurge on a sleeper, since busses are terrifying and the last train ride (in which he only had a seat) was horribly uncomfortable. We didn't get a 'soft' sleeper though, so we have to bring our pillows (I'm going to use my laundry bag - it's only got clean stuff in it), and maybe use our sleeping bags as mattresses. We'll have to get our bags soon, they're in the 'lobby' of the guest house we stayed in. The people there don't speak any English, so it's always awkward trying to communicate, but I think they understand we'll be back to pick them up later.
Apparently there are no ATMs in Sapa. This isn't a problem for me, but the girls are freaking out. They definately plan on buying things there so they've taken out a giant wad of cash from the bank and stashed it in their bags. ATMs here only give out 2,000,000 VND at the most, which sounds like a lot but is actually only about $175. The thing is, the biggest note available is only 100,000 VND ($7 or $8), so you get a giant brick of notes to carry around. It was worse in Saigon, where the ATMs only spat out 50,000 VND notes. I've been thinking about collecting all this worthless money and making a gangster rap video where I flash my bling everywhere.


- Paul
In the Hanizzle.

Hansel loses Gretel

I realise now that trying navigating Hanoi using a map is just silly. It doesn't work. All you have to do is leave a trail of bread crumbs. There are a lot of one way roads here with a constant stream of traffic so crossing the one wayers is tricky tricky. And the general direction rule doesn't work either. We know the lake is off too our right somewhere, let's head in that general direction and get some ice-cream. But we end up at the train station and find ourselves buying a baugette from a lady with a basket on her head.

It's really weird but we can't access our blog anymore (again). The overpriced, slow running travel office internet got us there no worries. But from here we can't find the server. So rather than walk all that way and pay all that dollar, I'll reply to comments via this post.

MUM: learn to use the keyboard already and say hi or i'll think you don't love me. I have so much cool stuff to buy (gonna wait till last minute in the country) and we can sift through it when i get home. yay! Do you have any advice about getting an oil-painting/canvas back to Australia? How would you like a forgery of the Mona Lisa for the living room?
STEPHEN: Don't crash the new car. Did you get the salary you wanted?
JESS: You're in New Zealand! How cool is that!!?! How long are you there for etc? What does the internet cost? It's really hard to imagine snow sitting here in this heat. Thanks for visiting the blog, man, I was thrilled to hear from you.
DAD: Vietnam has The Best Coffee Ever! They bring it to your table while it's still perculating. So it looks like a stainless steel cup and saucer (with a lid) sitting on a ceramic cup and saucer. The one I had today also came in a bowl, which was filled with boiling water to keep the coffee hot for longer. The stainless steel cup is filled with coffee and water and it drips down. You can have it black, brown or white. White means fresh milk and brown means condensed milk which also means super sweet. I think the fresh milk is just for the westeners. Brown is definately the way to go. The coffee is really really strong, so equally real amounts of sweet helps. I'll bring you home a perculater thingy. Did they have coffee like this in Thailand? If so, ignore my detailed explanation of coffee.

I didn't think i'd buy much stuff but we have discovered a bundle of things in Hanoi we're coming back for. I don't know how i'm going to fit them in my bag but i'm definately ditching a few things. My sheet and pillow case will be the first to go. What else can I get rid of? All the smelly soapy things. Crap! I need more space. Maybe i could post some stuff . . . do I trust the Vietnam Post Office?

Anyway, we're gonna grab some dinner before heading to the train station. Did i tell you about the half-hearted taxi driver who tried to rip us off? I was in the front seat so I had to deal with it. He says four dollars. I say no meter? He says meter broken. I say goodbye then. He say meter ok. The trip ended up costing $1.25.

Cheerio,
Bec,
Hanoi.

pho (minus the accents and pronounced fer)

Well i Have found my favorite (common) vietnamese dish, i am quite excited! It is called pho (pronounced fer)and is a rice noodle soup. you can have it with beef chicken, shrimp pork but usually i just get it with veg. (cheaper that way) They bring it out with a green salad little dishes with soy and fish sauce and lemon to squeeze in. YUM!
The bus trip to hanoi was a litte horrific but i did get the window seat so at least i had somewhere to lean.We were one of the last to get on the bus, well we thought we were when we took the last seats, but there must have been an over booking because one guy ended up sitting on a tiny stool in the isle. I was sat at the back of the bus with bec and paul (with the bad suspention) with a young vienamese boy sat between us. Half way through the trip he must have got out for something to eat and came back with a little yoghrt drink for me, It was really lovely because he didn't speak much english and i have no idea with vietnamese but we managed to communicate well enough and swapped emails.
Hanoi is a rainy city, we are quite relieved as it is a litte cooler. it is a bit like melbourne in the summer. It seems to be more of a fashionable city compared to the other large cities and there are far fewer peddlers and people yelling from their shop to buy things. I can't wait to come back and go shopping! Tonight we are off to sapa, a small city in the mountains. We are catching the train with the irish lads. This time we have sleepers which should be a little more comfy.
at the moment i am typing on a keyboard with the letters all worn off so i will have to cut it short and i am very frustrated!!
Bye
Claire
-Hanoi

Sapa tonight

So we found an internet cafe that is three times cheaper than the travel angency ones! Yay! And it has better computers. Still no dvd burner. I have already used 14Gb of space for photos alone. I have 7.5Gb and two weeks left. I'll have to start deleting music! This can't be the most thrilling news about my overseas adventure, but it is the most pressing.

Why don't I update you on the weather? Boy is it hot. Still. However it's a lot wetter up here! We were walking in squares looking for this internet cafe we could have sworn we saw last night when it started raining really lightly. But there's still bright sunlight but everything is wet. We're loving it! We feel right at home and are more than happy to use our ponchos to cover our bags and just soak in some water ourselves.

I'm really looking foreward to Sapa. We're not sure Halong we'll stay because we are hoping to get a bungalow set up for a few nights on the bay. I'm so funny.

Bec,
Hanoi.

1.7.06

Not Least

Hanoi is just like Hoi An if it had been picked up and dumped in Saigon. Nice to look at but difficult to see. We're not exploring too much yet as we're catching a train to Sapa tomorrow evening anyway. We got a cheap room just for the night. $8 (between us) gets us quite a large room with tv and a really great fridge. We're currently trying to use this to make Froghurt but it's slow going. Our bathroom however is not so much of a bargain. There's a shower nozzle but no shower so you just treat the whole bathroom as your oversized novelty shower room and wipe down the toilet seat when you're done. It's great fun getting even the cieling wet!

My main concern right now is charging my iPod but I can't find a decent internet cafe. This really blows me away because we're in the capital city of Vietnam for god's sake. The only two places we've found after lots of asking and walking, are two rival travel agencies of the same name, boasting equally crap computers. At rediculous prices too. I walked out of the first one without paying (claire is still there) because the USB connection was flaky and the computer performance was awful. So i'm at the second place and they sit me down at this computer with a USB cable running from the back. I don't know what version of windows it's using but the RAM metre counts in KBs. It eventually crashes and they move me to another computer running windows xp and front USB ports and i'm really irritated that they directed me away from this corner until I complained.

Anyways, we're off to see good old Uncle Ho tomorrow morning, all shrink wrapped for display. And then we kill a day a hop a train to Lao Cai, followed by a bus to Sapa. We successfully purchased train tickets (overnight sleeper second class) with the help of the two Irish boys we met on the bus to Hoi An. The group comes to five, which will allow us to dominate the poor sixth person we're put with in our second class booth thingy. It's funny, the further from the floor your bed is, the cheaper the price is.

The bus that got us here was rediculous. The suspension was so shot that every pebble on the road felt like we were surfing this massive wave. We were stuck at the back again, so got the worst of the bounce. Cars were flashing us we looked so stupid. We may as well have been bouncing the hydralics, hanging our arms out the window and nodding to bassy beats.

Hopefully this non USB 2 connection (i'm such a snob) will charge my iPod just the same. Still no luck on the DVD burning front. The first place i was at tonight was going to charge me to use the CD burner even if i provided my own CD and did it all unaided. I said forget the burner, and he sat me down at the same computer anyway.

Gargh. I was really looking forward to the technologically savvy capital of Vietnam, but it seems that Saigon takes the cake. Hopefully humble middle of nowhere Sapa will do a better job.

Tata,
Bec,
Hanoi.

30.6.06

Meh..?

Greetings all,
Well we have spent a few days in Hue...it isn't all that and a bag of potato chips but has it's interesting parts all the same. There is alot of ancient chinese history in this city which is fascinating. We visited the citadel in which stands the emperors forbidden palace. We though we were special for a minute when we were let in, but apon seeing other tourists inside, we realised the name was all for effect....what a sham! We have been on a couple of tours in the last few days; the DMZ (demilitarised zone tour) and today the perfume river tour. The DMZ wa interesting, we visited 'the rockpile' a group of mountains stripped bare from agent orange, Khe sanh, (i couldn't get the song out of my head for at least 3 hours) which was the largest naval base in southern Vietnam, then onto the vin moc tunnels which were built by villagers during the war to shelter from bombs. The tunnels housed hundreds of people and buried as far as 35 metres underground. The villagers lived underground for 5 years. It is quite amazing! The perfure river tour was nice though we couldn't afford to visit all the attactions. We saw the making of conical hats and inscence (bec and i had a go rolling the inscence...we did good!) oh yeah, and 'many many pagoda!'

looooong bus ride tonight to hanoi,

so long,
Claire
-Hue

Hue are outta here!

Sorry, once we leave Hue the puns will stop. Because puns are very Hanoiing. Get it?? That's where we're going next!! We're only crashing there one night then we're training to Lao Cai and bussing to Sapa. We are told it will be cooler. Yay!

We went pagoda-ing today and it rained heaps which was great! Big fat drops. We got a motorbike to some incense maker people stalls (they called this a village but i didn't see any villagers villaging) and it was great riding in the rain. Air conditioning at it's best. We purchased plastic ponchos to keep us dry, but in the end we just used them to cover our bags. Getting wet is much more fun.

My iPod is misbehaving and crashing everytime I do a transfer. It also periodically forgets that there are any photos on it at all, which is disconcerting. Ten gig and two weeks of photography are very precious to me. I have been unsucessful at finding anyone with a dvd burner, so backing up would require hours of cd burning and reshuffling of files.

I would like to find a supermarket before the bus ride to replace my now black facewasher and maybe stock up on pringles for the trip. The pringles available on the street have all faded in the sun and we suspect they may be stale . . . But supermarket's are rare and I can imagine our whole conversation with whoever we ask. They'll send us to Dong Ba Market for some pretzels or something.

There's no ATM in Sapa, but we'll see how we go with internet. I am screwed on the photo front without a computer.

See you later, hue?
- Bec

PS people: Identify yourselves better. We don't know who's dad belongs to who. OMG! We just saw a portable laminator walking down the street. It has it's own soundtrack! Yesterday we saw a woman sitting on the bridge, in front of a set of scales. And i'm all, hmm, have i lost weight or put it on. And how much am i willing to pay to find out? Is this a long PS? Too bad.

28.6.06

Hooray for Hue!!

Yes that title does rhyme when pronounced correctly.
We arrived here yesterday afternoon after a 3 hour bus ride. The ride wasn't too bad, we got to see alot of the countryside which is covered with rice fields, pagodas and the occasional catholic curch. The people here are always working from the crack of dawn (around 5am) and all day till around 10pm, we often stumble into a restaurant or shop where people are having a deserving nap and have to wake up to serve us.
Hue is built on an a river with the city on both sides of the bank, the beach is around 14km away. This afternoon we are going to visit a citadel which was built for the emporer and have a wander around, i would like to go to the beach at some point and bathe my wounds it is looking awful!
Anyway back to the bus ride; We were quite annoyed at the service here as the bus keeps dropping us off at hotels that pay the bus company commissions. There is always a long line of scouts waiting where the bus stops to get us to go to their hotel, so, out of principal we braved the heat (and my full bladder) and set off to find our own hotel. Unfortunatly for us we picked a shit one that leaked and is mouldy, but at least we feel proud that we have stood up for the non-commission paying hotels and us un-suspecting travelers that were told that we would be dropped off at the bus depot!
We are exactly half way through our journey and we (well def me) are having a brilliant time!!
bye for now
Claire
-Hue

Hue to go!

Hue isn't that hot, well its bloody hot, but it's not that great. We're officially shitty with our bus company for dropping us off outside a hotel that pays commisions instead of their ticket office like they said. We're also officially shitty with guys also collecting commisions by following you down the street and recommending a hotel. Literally following. One guy got on his bike and met us again three blocks away. They drop you off at reception, disappear and come back later for a reward. If we got the room that is, which we won't, on principle alone. One guy said six dollars for a triple room, and we're all, hey man that worth checking out even if it is a load of crap. So we get to reception and the woman says 12 dollars so we don't say anything and just turn around and walk out. Hopefully when the guy goes back to collect, she'll crack the shits at him and they'll both have learnt a lesson.

We eventually found an okay place, but its more hotel than guesthouse, which is really crap, i've decided. You never see the same person at reception twice and when we complained about our leaky bathroom, we had to tell the story to six different people and none of them knew what we were talking about. Another drawback is you have to put up with tourists taking 30 minutes to get their huge group down the stairs (right next to our room) and argueing about the best way to do this the whole time. Then someone is trying to get into our room, fiddling with the doorknob (the one that's threatening to fall off anyway) at 10:30 at night. So i rush over a grab the handle and swing the door open real fast like (i thought it was unnattended children) And there's this guy there (and about 5 other adults and 5 or 6 kids, clogging the hallway with their bags) trying to open OUR door with HIS key that was probably for some OTHER hotel or something.

Grr. But for ten dollars a night, we can't be bothered finding another place, we won't stay long here anyway. Did i mention the leak was from the air-conditioning? There's a valve missing or something. So we had a river of water going from one corner of our bathroom to the other. We eventually got given another room. They gave us a choice between the cheaper one with no bathtub or the better one with two double beds. I'll let you guess which one we took.

So just as soon as I'm finished with my bitching, we're heading across river to check out the citadel, and we might book a tour to the DMZ for tomorrow. Demilitarised zone. Don't let the name fool you, there will land mines a-plenty.

Cheerio,
Bec,
Hue.

Blah... Hue

Blah. Hue. I'm bored. Don't care.
This place is fairly uninspiring. There's the Citadel, which sounds big and scary but is probably just a wire fence. There the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) pretty close by, I'm gonna go into those tunnel things, fire an AK-47 and jump on some mines. Or maybe I'll just visit Khe Sahn and make a silly video to put to some awful pub-rock music.
Whatever. It's hot. I fell asleep after lunch. I've started eating western food again, because 2 weeks of nothing but noodles and rice and spring rolls actually gets old. I'm sick of Cyclos, and motorbikes and being hassled to buy something. We should have stayed longer in Saigon. Next trip I suggest we try to head south as quickly as possible.

- Paul
Hue (yawn)

27.6.06

It Burns!!

Hello!

Well the last few days have been very hot here in Hoi An, We can hardly bare it, bec and i have had a few item of clothing made, i have had some shoes made and two jackets, soo cheap!!we have made some friends here, Paul and Ed from Ireland, i went to watch the football with them the other night then went to a few bars, we went to this great one out in the middle of nowhere where they played the beatles and henrix and had thousands of names written on the wall from past visitors, good fun.
Yesterday i visited marble mountain, a group of temples and pagodas built on top of a mountain overlooking the beach. We had to climb up hundreds of barble steps and scale cliffs and treck through caves to get to the top but it was all worth it for the view.
We have another ailment to add, i burned my leg on the motorbike 'Thailand tattoo' they call it...OUCH!
today we are off to hue, I hope it is as quiet and friendly as hoi an, i hear it is hotter which isn't too good but i'm sure we'll get used to it.

c ya

-Claire
Hoi An

Trouble in iPod

Whew, for a gut-wrenching hour I thought my iPod had upped and died on me. You're not meant to let it overheat, right? 35 degrees c is the little tacker's limit, then it just conks out. Well in Hoi An it's about 30 something. So if i even turn my iPod on, just to look at it, it probably hits 35 without any effort. I've had to start taking it out of its black Yakumoto suit everytime i use it, cause overheating is really easy here. Even for me. We're about to check out of our hotel and we've left about 13 empty water bottles, 1.5 litres each, in the bathroom. If they even fit into the bin provided, we still feel they should be recycled . . . somehow.

So we're catching the 2pm bus to Hue, which only takes around 2 hours. We're skipping Denang because who can be bothered.

Claire came back after a 24 hour absence with a bad hangover, a scrape to the knee and a great big burn on her lower leg. We're all excited about this as we can finally crack open paul's (paul's mum's) giant first aid kit. It has lots of fun things in it that we can play with. Paul has fashioned himself an eyepatch, and I a sling . . . so Claire doesn't feel left out with her great goopy bandage.

Enough of the medical update,
Bec,
Hoi An

vague?

We're leaving in 3 hours, so I don't really have anything to say. It's hot, but that's nothing new. I'm sweating. I guess Australia are out of the world cup now, but who cares? I'm only really sitting in the internet cafe because Bec needs to charge her iPod. (Note to self: next time, bring power adaptor).
We have to check out of our hotel in about 40 minutes. Claire burned her leg on a scooter's exhaust. (Who's scooter, you ask?)
The good news is, we are leaving Hoi An behind, and probably leaving the weirdness here too.

Hmmm. Vague? Yes.

- Paul

26.6.06

Bolted Down by the Back Wheel

We did end up hiring bikes yesterday and we made it to the beach in one piece! Everyone except this poor girl I crashed into. I apologised profusely but she just stared at me, horrified by this crazy white person who can't ride a bike.

... So the beach was really great and i took a killer photo of this toddler with no pants on. I Don't think he minded though, because he stood there posing for about five mintues. We purchased some peanut brittle from a girl named sun-sun. It is the best and i need some more. Paul drew her picture and she was very pleased.

Today we went out to My Son where some really cool Cham Ruins are. I took heaps of photos- almost 2 Gig's worth.

Paul might have mentioned Claire's absence today. We aren't supposed to talk about it, but we're putting together a short film, from snippets of interviews with witnesses, which will be released on DVD in early August.

Ha, i think about three girls have spoken to me in the last day or two and after a few minutes of polite getting-to-know-you, they've just come out with "You have very white skin." I appreciated their frankness. I said "I am very sunburnt." And then we said goodbye.

I'll apologise for my random rambly style of post - i had terrible sleeps last night and am moula tired. Tomorrow we go to Hue, where i'm told it will be even hotter. Goddamnit. How is that even possible???

I'll keep you posted,
Bec,
Hoi An.

Trouble in paradise... or, in the third world. Whatev!

So Claire has disappeared. She went off to watch the soccer yesterday and we haven't seen her since. She missed the tour bus so Bec and I went to My Son by ourselves. There are some spectacular Cham ruins there. Much better than the ones we saw in Nha Trang.
I've decided to put off buying anything until we get to Hanoi, and even then I don't think I'll really buy anything. It's okay for the girls, they can get good clothing made for them in a day for a pittance, but the offering they have for men is rather limited. Anything you get from a market is just utter trash, there's no reason to buy anything. You end up seeing the same t-shirt in every single stall and eventually you start to wonder whether someone else might have bought the same shirt. It would get embarrassing bumping into someone with the same Tin Tin shirt, right? I did however buy a pair of sunglasses and a hat, but this is only because I lost my sunglasses and my hat somewhere. Other than that I haven't bought anything really. I did get a little musical donger thing for a buck, which hopefully will make it past customs. Oh, I bought thongs because my shoes were too hot (30,000 dong / $3 or so).
There are some other things that I'm not allowed to talk about. I won't go into details, but I am hereby announcing my intent-to-dissent (maybe). We're coming down with a bit of Cabin Fever. Or, more like, Hotel Fever. In any case, it was bound to happen eventually. I'm sure we'll get over it soon enough.

- Paul

25.6.06

Ugh, more shopping.

Hoi An is basically just a bunch of stalls lining the streets. There are some heritage buildings dotted throughout but it's pretty rural, without a whole lot to do except shop. The girls are on some kind of spending spree. Like, I know $7 isn't really a lot to pay for a fitted skirt, but they're stopping at every single shop and stall that we pass. The people there, they give out business cards like it's the newest big thing and the girls just keep taking them. They stop and point at a dress casually and suddenly there's an attendant taking it down and offering to let them try it on. 'Come in, try, no worries'. They clearly know not to bother with me, although I still have to wave away about twenty motorbikes a day.

Today I have been promised a frozen yoghurt if I put up with all the shopping. They wouldn't let me get it on credit, so I have to wait until I am exhausted and sweating like The Hulk after a showdown with an Apache Helicopter or something. I mean it, it's fucking hot here. You have no idea. We go through about 4 or 5 litres of water a day, but we ain't doing any wee. It all comes out in our sweat. Luckily for us laundry is only 8,000 Dong a kilo (75 cents). I'm getting some eczema on my wrists, probably due to the humidity. I think it's hotter here than it was in Saigon, but I have no way of telling - actually I'm avoiding the weather channel. I think it would just depress me.

Last night was some kind of special thing. We have no idea what it could be, and we can't be bothered finding out, but everyone was burning little bonfires in the gutters. There was smoke all over the place.

Tomorrow we'll do a tour around some interesting stuff, and then head off the day after, toward Hue. Until then I guess I'll just follow the girls around, from shop to shop while they take advantage of the exchange rate and the disgustingly cheap clothing. I'm going to wait until Hanoi before I do any of my spending. So far I'm surviving on around 200,000 Dong a day. If I keep it up, I'll spend less than $800 for the whole month.

Go team me!

I think I'll live HERE

Hoi An is so photogenic it's making me look like a talented photographer. I think i'll live here and sell postcards of my photos. It's hot-hot-hotter during the day here but cooler at nights.

Everything closes at nine, though. In Nha Trang everything except the bars closed at ten. But we're almost half way up the country now so we can expect some later nights further north.

My sunburn isn't quite so hideous today. Yesterday Paul kept saying, geez bec your back is covered in beads of sweat. So I eventually told him to get a towel already, and he dabbed away but only took off skin! I am bubbled through with blisters yay super happy fun!

Every other shop here is a cloth shop with all these really funky designs on display. Every other-other shop is a shoe shop where they make shoes to fit. Claire already has some red sandles, two different sizes to fit her strange feet. We both got skirts made yesterday and mine is so cool but warm also so i can't wear it until i get home. My plan is to get a jacket to match and a short cotton skirt to wear here, then maybe a summery top aswell. The skirt I had made was $8 US. Which is a-okay with me. It is tourquoise and chocolate brown.

Later today we plan to hire a bicycle (10,000 dong for the day) and ride to the beach. Claire knows the way as she was scootered off there yesterday by an Irish footstool. He is OUR NEW FRIEND.

Tomorrow we get a tour bus to My Son, the greatest Cham ruins something something. I would have loved to do it without the tour, but Claire won't drive us anywhere at 5am. Which means my spectacular photographs will also be crawling with tourists. But nevermind, I am also a skilled photoshopper.

Smelling Like Sunscreen,
Bec,
Hoi An

23.6.06

Me Again

I've been given Claire's camera to upload some piccas. My photography is off limits until I find some Photoshop CS2 action. Not likely. So please enjoy the following, brought to you by Claire. In no particular order . . .

This is us all happy and smiling before the sunburn set in.
This is a strange thing we keep seeing. It says 'Happiness to Everybody'. Paul insisted we post it.
This is Claire drinking our favourite water, Festi.
This is us about to have the best pancakes ever!
This is our rediculous hotel.

Over and Out.

...Next Stop, Hoi An!

Hello!

So the last day in Nha Trang was a lazy one, we seem to have lost momentum after being fried by the sun.
The Bus ride to Hoi An was a long and trecherous one. The though of being killed did cross my mind a few times, especially after the driver, whilst driving around a sharp bend,(those who have driven up to Kinglake will have an idea of the kind of road i am talkng about) drove into the on coming lane in front of another bus and screeched on the brakes narrowly avoiding a collision, which woke us all up! We also witnessed an overturned truck that had landed half sunken in a rice paddi with the driver asleep on top, i was a bit worried as they don't wear seatbelts in Vietnam that he may be a little dead, but i think i'll just keep telling myself 'the little man is just sleeping'
The bus dropped us off at 6 am at a hotel 'recommended' by the bus tour, we weren't sure at first but it costs the same as all the other hotels and is mich nicer, the only issue is that we get bugged to buy a tour everytime we try to walk past reception, but for $7 us dollars a night each with breakfast, i can't really complain.
I am looking forward to exploring the city of Hoi An tomrrow. It used to be the main port in south east asia and was spared in the war, so there are many old buildings and artifacts to look at. There is also the beach not to far away and cheap cheap made to measure clothing that i am going to take advantage of.

Bye for now
Claire
- Hoi An

Oh the Pain

That's right, I'm still on about my sunburn! Even in beautiful Hoi An. The bus ride was harrowing. We're meant to stick to the right side of the road, yeah? Well, not according to this bus driver. He seemed to enjoy taking every completely blind or hairpin corner on the left. Not just crossing the line with one wheel for a moment, just absolutely on the WRONG side of the road. We were all going to die. This went on for eleven (hey maybe it was only nine! who would have thought?) hours or more. Eventually i stopped watching the road for oncoming traffic, and stopped lifting my head every time we ground to a shuddering halt all too quickly. I guess you get used to it? Claire made friends with two Irish boys who shared the back seat of the bus with us and ended up using one of them as a pillow. And a foot rest. Poor boy never had a chance. Another guy's chair completely broke about an hour into the trip. We all felt thankful that it wasn't us.

So when I'm almost so exhausted I can finally pass out sitting up, we arrive in Hoi An. 6am it was. They dropped us at thier tour bus affiliated hotel and we fell asleep on the steps and woke up in a room for three. I don't remember checking in at reception but apparently it happened. This place is way too nice for us and no more expensive than our other accomodation so far. (Except we pay and extra $1.50 for breakfast - apparently we signed up for that too) It appears, so far, that the further north you go, the more you get for your money. I won't explore the ins and outs of this theorum, because there are too many associated with our naivety. Which I am having trouble spelling.

So everyone welcome Robyn to blogland as she has finally visited Sai-Gone. Which we still can't access!! We had somehow associated this horror with Nha Trang, don't ask us how, and we skip down to the local internet cafe and still can't get to our own site. We're getting all of the comments through Paul's live feed inbox setup thingy.

Did I mention our hotel has a pool AND air-con AND an elevator AND illuminated artwork in the rooms AND hot water AND a bath AND this really great toilet that doesn't threaten to overflow everytime you flush?!? Its great! I feel spolied. AND a fridge!! We've sticky-taped it shut though. 3 times the price.

Did I also mention the sun rises really bloody early here? Like whatever times come before 5am. And people get started as soon as the sky shows signs that maybe the sun will rise sometime soon?? I can't get over it. Coming home and getting up at seven will be a dark and dank affair. No brilliant daylight to wake me up.

Anyhoo, I'm rambling.

Survived a bus ride,
Bec,
Hoi An.

22.6.06

some stuff we did



Cham Towers on Vimeo

Another clip. I can't hear the audio, but this is at the Cham Towers. The girls each had an ice-cream here, and they both smelled like feet. Apparently they tasted like green capsicum and powdery banana (and feet . . . and pepper). Yum!
The inside of the towers were really smokey because of all the incense, but we figured out that they are actually ventilated; there is an exhaust at the back that pumps out the smoke.

21.6.06

more photos

If anyone wants me to buy them some movies, please list what you would like and I'll see if I can find it. If I can't find it, then you're out of luck. Dad, if you're reading this - I lost the list of movies you already gave me, could you remind me what you wanted?

I'm uploading a movie from Claire's camera. I don't know what it is because this computer doesn't have quicktime so I can't preview it. Anyway. It probably contains material not suitable to children, so discretion is advised. Who knows what it might be?



Our hotel room in the Phu Quy on Vimeo

- Paul

PS. Here are some random photos:





What a RIP!

Greetings family and friends and others!

Today we had a lovely day on our boat cruise. On the way there we must have been running late as the bus driver had his hand perminantly on the horn...the cars/mini busses here even have a second, more intense horn to warn people, as the horn behaviour here is more of a precautionary one rather than a reactionary one like in Oz and the people are desensitised to it. Anyway, back to the boat cruise, we were rushed to the boat and got there just as it was leaving so they had to haul back into dock to get us annoying westerners. Our first stop was snorkelling, The water was amazing with colourful fish and coral but it was all fun and games until the jelly fish came out to play. We started to get these little stings then stings turned into lashings and lashing turned into sheer agony. Paul still has the battle wounds, we'll have a image up soon.

And or the unknowing people around the world...DONT BUY SUNSCREEN FROM VIETNAM...we did,smothered ourselves in it and now we are burned....BURNED...we were jibbed 45,000 dong for useless cream!!

but it is all part of the experience!

cya
Claire
-Nha Trang

Fried Bec, Please

I am so unbelievably sunburnt. Try not to think of the words 'searing' or 'flesh'. And i was attacked by jellyfish,just to add to my wardrobe of pain. GArjhsefh;diufhAJhf!@^%@$%^#. I have about ten minute intervals between drawing everyone's attention to my hurt. They are becoming used to my scheduale and saying 'poor bec' before i can get in there with my complaints.

So yeah, the glowing embers of my skin and the patterned welts all over my legs are the results of today' boat tour and yesterdays tragic sunblock purchase.

Paul got jellyfished the worst and he's very proud of his little red dotted lines. They are quite impressive.

Anyway, booking lady told me no trains to denang and she was too scary to argue with so we have three tickets to Hoi An via an air-conditioned tour bus. TOUR bus. That means we wont get to have amusing misunderstandings with the locals. Just dangerous ones with the germans. ...Anyway, we leave thursday at 7pm, ride all night and arrive somewhere in Hoi An (I'm yet to ask where) at about 10am. Assuming it is a decent bus.

We went to a seafood kinda restaurant last night and were horrified and insulted when we weren't given chopsticks or bowls. WTF!? Then they bring out our dishes and place them right in front of each of us as if we're going to eat the whole thing by ourselves. with a fork! Then they don't give us rice even though we ordered it. We are total snobs now, and when we see tourists ignoring their bowls and the communal values of a vietnamese meal, we say BAH! Look at those humans and their pathetic ways. ...Yeah anyway, when we asked for bowls our waiter guy was thrilled and very proud of us. THEN we had the best desert ever in the history of man. It was black sticky rice next to grilled mango with coconut sauce and so delicious i'm trying to talk the guys into going back there just for the dessert. Maybe if we get it with coffee they'll forgive us for going straight to the sweets.

Anyhoo, i think we'll chill out on the beach for our last day in nha trang.

Alrighty, see youse all in Hoi An, unless we get bored killing time tomorrow,
Bec,
Nha Trang

20.6.06

Traditional Vietnamese music



vietnamese music on Vimeo

Here are some muscians who performed for us on a tour in the Mekong delta.

ankles not so sw anymore!

hello!

Well i must start with saying that i am having an awesome time here in Vietnam. We have spent our first whole day in Nha Trang. It is a beautiful city and the people are lovely. It is great to be visiting a country where we are the minority. As far as tourists go there it is nothing like thailand or bali, there are a handful, though few enough to get pointed at by children and giggled at by teenagers. It makes the holiday more of a unique experience.
Today the swelling of my ankles has reduced substabtially, i think it is a combination of the cooler ocean breeze in Nha Trang and that i purchased some flowy pants that allow my legs to breathe in the heat. My next hurdle is to overcome the tummy bug that we have all caught, we seem to be handling it well.
Today we started off our day at the beach, we hired out beach chairs seated under umberellas made out of grass. The water was warm and deep. we then set out on foot across town to a pagoda with a giant buddah seated on top a mauntain as the main attraction. (we can see it from out hotel terrace) it took us around 1 1/2 to 2 hours to walk there through the city. It was a beautiful place (photo's coming soon) with lovely gardens and stonework.
Rebecca, Paul and i have pondered the thought of buying a small terrace house here to frequent as a holiday home, It would be perfect...for now it is just a dream, maybe in a few more years time!

i hope you enjoy the photos we have posted

Love
Claire
- Nha Trang

19.6.06

Spotty McSpot Spot

I have spots all over. Claire thinks it's measles, Paul has diagnosed me with meningococcal meningitis but i think it's heat rash. We three are doing google searches on spots right now.

We have made it safely to Nha Trang but have only just found an internet cafe that isn't dodgy. Technically it's a Flight Centre but who cares. The beach here is really great and it's cooler at night. Mum, you can head straight to Nha Trang while Dad goes exploring. Our hotel isn't too enormous and it has a great rooftop terrace. We opted out on the air-con, saving us $3 a night. We figured we'd have to aclimatise eventually. All the brochures of the hotels around here have been heavily photoshopped and we find this very amusing. Neon signs of tall hotel buildings have been cloned away, and replaced with flat out text. At least they tried to match the perspective on that front. The nice looking sedan out the front is 3 times the size of the truck down the road. The exterior wall goes off to the left but the interior one heads right. We laugh all day long.

Claire and I have decided to move here and start a chain of Laundr-o-matics. As there are none available anywhere. We went strolling to find a laundry service today, as the hotel was charging about 50 cents too much - 15.000vnd/kg. One guy had a sign up for 6.000vnd per kg, so we went inside to ask if we could pick up that same day. But he thought we were asking about price. So he wrote on a piece of paper 70.000/kg, which is just stupid. So i wrote down 6.000/kg and he said ok. But we didn't trust him with our undergarments so found somewhere else for 10.000. But then the receptionist at the hotel saw us leaving with our laundry and dropped her price, so after all that walking, we dropped our 2kg off at the desk. Interesting story, huh?

We found ourselves oweing each other money, after one picking up another's dinner bill for whatever reason. So to Paul i say, oh, you owe me 20.000 from lunch. And he says, but you owe me 5.000 from afternoon tea. And i say, ok, give me 15.000. It took us a day or two of this to realise that we were holding debts of $1 or 50c. And we all laughed and thought ourselves doofis.

I have purchased too many post cards as we keep befriending the sellers. So i'm going to send some home with nothing on them. haha. No, i'll think of something to write.

We have all found that we are simplifying our English even when we speak to each other now. We omit whole words and keep eveything to a single-cyllable. We have also developed a habit of guesturing to explain our meaning. "Tomorrow we visit big mountain" (hands indicate size) "How?" "Bus" (point to nearest bus) "Bus good" (thumbs up).

The problem with this is that we're dropping english, but not picking up vietnamese. So we'll come home with no native tongue.

Nevermind,
Bec
Nha Trang

P.S: we can't get onto our own blog. What the! So sorry if we aren't returning comments. However, if it's blogger's problem, you couldn't comment if you wanted to.

Traffic negotiation 101

Another night another post. Bec has a rash we are optimistically attributing to the heat, apparently it isn't itchy. I've stubbed my toe and it's bleeding a bit. Claire still has swankles, but they've started to settle a bit and we have all had traveller's diarrhea; Rebecca is in denial.

When some of you guys come over here next year, you're all going to learn some of the lessons we've learnt. We can tell you, but you're only going to learn the hard way like us. So here are a few examples.

#54 - Never say 'maybe later', they will come back later.

#15 - Just say NO.

#32 - Don't glance at goods, unless you actually want to buy them.

#05 - Bottles of coke cost less than cans, because they keep the bottles and recycle them. This is more of a nice thing, so support the bottle industry.

#01 - Cross the road slowly slowly. No sudden movement. Keep looking both ways as you walk, you will probably forget which direction traffic is coming from. A good rule of thumb is that traffic is coming from EVERY direction. And there will NEVER be a break in traffic.

#01(b) - Do not assume the footpath is only for pedestrians. Keep an eye out.





18.6.06

cheap internet is CHEAP internet

We made it to Nha Trang, after an arduous 7 hour train ride. I very nearly threw up just before we arrive (not sure why... I'd been on the train 6 and a half hours), but the toilet was gross so I decided to hold it in.

Nha Trang is a little quieter than Saigon, but right now (8.50pm) it's fairly loud outside. There is some kind of Scooter Festival going on. There's a big Honda showroom on the beach, and about 20 million kids on their scooters riding around. We're currently deciding what to have for dinner before we go to one of the bars to watch the world cup and cheer as Australia loses to Brazil.
The beach here is really nice at night, although we haven't been swimming yet (maybe tomorrow). The hotel we are staying at, 'Phu Quy' is pretty nice, the staff are friendly, and the rooftop terrace is worth three times what we are paying (nice and cool, with a great view).

Just a little advice for those of you wanting to use internet cafes while over here. Do not go to the ones that only charge 3,000 dong an hour. They will be slow slow slow. Right now is our third try, and we've finally just come back to our hotel to use theirs. It's a fair bit more expensive (200 dong a minute), but it seems to actually work. And now we can't upload the photos we wanted to. This is extremely frustrating. I'm getting really shitty.

So instead I'll just describe the photos we were going to upload. The first one was of all three of us in a canoe. It was taken by the tour guide, who was really nice. The second one I wanted to upload was me holding a python, and looking a bit bored.

I'm sure I'll find a good internet cafe that has actual working computers somewhere around here and upload the photos. Anyway, we're going to go eat now. Bye.

- Paul

17.6.06

Swankles!

Hello!

Well i am sad to say that we will be leaving the wonderful city of ho chi minh tonight and venture off north to the beach town of Nha Trang. Today we spent visiting the meekong delta, it was amazing. We canoed through mangrove canals, held a python and listened to some traditional vietnamese music. The Delta is so big that is has over 4 islands 3 of which we visited. i am having writing block at the moment so i will have to cut my entry short but i see over my shoulder that bec and paul have both written extensively so i am probably just repeating anyway.

oh yeah, my ankles and feet have swolen up to twice their size, if anyone knows of a cure please help as it is very uncomfortable, i hope it is because of the heat and humidity and not because i have caught some deadly tropical disease, though i am on the look out for and further symptoms.

bye for now
Claire
- saigon

Nha Trang Tomorrow

We have successfully organised train tickets to Nha Trang, which we have been pronouncing SO incorrectly that Paul's family member Ngân, whose name we can barely pronounce either, laughed at us for about five minutes. She is lovely and treated us to a fantastic dinner with all the extras: coconut jelly drink stuff and wine drinken sticky rice for dessert. We are disappointed we only met her the night before we are leaving Saigon, and would love to see her again, but we have to keep moving etc.

Our tickets are for the night train, which leaves at 11pm. We went for the air-con soft seat as it was cheaper than the hard and/or soft sleeper. Our ticket tells us we will arrive at 6am in Nha Trang, but we won't count on it. We already checked out of our Saigon guesthouse so as not to pay for the day, and they are kindly holding our packs for us so we didn't have to cart them too and from the Meekong.

Which was fabulous! $7 got us an air/con bus there and back, about eight boats to and from markets and islands and through canals, and a row boat along a smaller canal. And a performance by some musicians, and an introduction to coconut candy, and honey tea and all sorts of great stuff. We tipped our tour guide as he was very friendly and funny and spoke to us about where to go in Vietnam. He was happy.

AND! I rode on the back of Ngân's scooter-mobile all the way to her house. This traffic is insane but I can imagine doing a better job of scootering around myself in Saigon than in Let's-All-Obey-The-Road-Rules-Australia. You kind of take it as it comes, and no-one goes very fast and you beep the Everything-Is-Okay-Horn all the time!

This post is completely out of order but hey, we're busy busy beavers. I am now addicted to coconut candy - we bought some at the workshop on the tour - but am steering clear of banana wine.

The only reason this post is so long is that i'm charging my iPod and i'm only paying 8000vnd and hour. So 11900vnd is equivilant to 1aud so you work it out. I spotted an internet cafe near Ngân's house - away from the tourists - which was only charging 3000 dong per gia, which i assume is hour, but hey, we're tourists. We deserve what we get!

So i've run out of things to report, You'll probably hear it twice more as Claire and Paul are posting as we speak. Or as I type, really.

And to everyone at home, hi! Hope all is well. Please water my Bonsai and feed my cat. Tabby cat, you know the one.

By the way - the gardens here are super manicured bonsai setup. Everything is in pots, and the grass is really special - no-one steps on it. This might interest Stephen . . . so i'll be sure to take photos.

So it's quarter past seven now. We figure we'll head on over to the Train Station at ten. It should be interesting to see how we handle it. We learnt inter-district wandering quickly enough, now we're on to inter . . . province? I think that's it.

Wish us luck!
Bec
Saigon

Our last night in Saigon

We're all at the internet cafe killing time before we go back to pick up our bags and get a taxi over to the train station. This is our last night in Saigon, tomorrow morning we'll arrive at Nha Trang and wander around looking for new accomodation. I've given up trying to control my hair as it has taken on a life of it's own. I now have a full on afro.
Last night (as I'm sure the others are explaining simultaneously) we visited Peter's relatives at their home and went out for dinner with Ngân (Teresa) at a proper fancy restaurant.
Everyone was very friendly and we got on incredibly well with Ngân especially. We were having trouble trying to pronounce her name properly, so we stuck with using 'Teresa' for the most part. She gave us each a ride on the back of her Scooter through the streets of Saigon, which was the single most exhilirating moment of my trip so far. Although the streets are utter chaos, no one ever gets up any speed so it's really very safe. We've finally got the hang of crossing the roads and I'm feeling very comfortable here already. It's a pity we have to leave so quickly. We're already planning our return.
We have an open invitation to visit Ngân and the family when we all come over next year, so I hope the tour that you guys had planned isn't too rigid, it would be really nice to spend a couple of days extra in Saigon.
Earlier on we went to the market. When I say 'the market' I mean THE market. Although I forget the name, it is apparently the largest market in Saigon. Haggling over the price of pants is lots of fun, especially when it isn't your money or your pants that are involved. Ngân told us that 70,000 Dong is a very good deal for pants, so the Bec did alright there, but apparently we got ripped off on the Tin Tin T-shirt. Anyway, I figure we came out about even.
The food here is great. It's amazing being able to eat out at a restaurant for every single meal of every single day, and still be able to afford it. Although we are paying tourist prices (far more than the restaurants that the locals go to), we can feed the three of us for about $5 AUS.
Today we took a $7 (US) tour to the Mee Kong Delta. It was a 2 hour bus trip (bad suspension, but air-conditioned) out, and then a whole day on the river and various canals. We ate lunch (included in the price) in the middle of some 'jungle' and had fun with snakes.
Anyway, I'm sure the others are posting extremely similar posts right now. So I'll leave it at that. Lucky you, getting to read about the same thing from three different points of view.
Next post will be from Nha Trang.

- Paul
Saigon

day 3

Hi there all

It is approx 11pm and we have just arrived back to our hotel. This evening we spent with the lovely Theresa, a relative of pauls. We visited her family at their home and she also took us to their shop where we met some more of her family. We then went out to dinner at a beautiful coconut-themed restaurant and we ate the most amazing vietamese food. Theresa suggested we try the braised snails but apparently it is a very popular dish and they were all out tonight, damn!
It is a shame we have to leave saigon tomorrow, we would have loved to spent more time with Theresa and her family.
Well it is off to the Meekong delta tomorrow at 8am then the night train north to continue the next leg of our journey. I am sad to leave saigon, it is such a huge city and i feel like we haven't even scratched the surface, but there is plenty more to see in the rest of the country.

bye for now
Claire
- Saigon

16.6.06

convincing literature

I honestly thought I would be able to come up with some really good literature to post once I got here, and that I would even have time to do so. So far I've been too exhausted to even think, let alone write a blog. We've spent only two nights here so far and basically we've all just crashed into bed at the end of the day and slept. But there is stuff to write about, so much has happened in a day and a half, I just don't have the time or energy to sit down and go through it all. It's the heat, and the humidity. My brain just can't take it. The brief moments of rain are welcome when they come, and they do come randomly. The weather here is probably even more random than Melbourne, which is nice. My hair has gone weird, it's never been curlier, it's like a basket of noodles on my head (sorry about the simile, we had fried noodles last night).
Thankyou everyone who commented, make sure you guys keep reading this! I promise it will get more interesting.

- Paul

15.6.06

We Live!

So we successfully navigated our way around three airports and made it to our guesthouse in Saigon. It's down a small alley which is frequented by people on bikes singing about what they have to sell. Water bread fruit etc. Not far from a park where heaps of kids play a mutated form of hackey sack involving springs and feathers. I know I've seen this doo-hicky somewhere else either Nepal or Melbourne . . .

It is hot hot hot and who would have thought? My fingers are sticking to the keys. The rain we heard so much about has come and we might need to buy an umbrella or maybe a garbage bag.

Our room is nice and there IS room to swing a cat, so we're happy. Navigtion is a bit wierd, but we're only new so we might catch on. Inter-district travel is our next hurdle.

Hot and Sticky,
Bec,
Saigon

wow!

So we are in Vietnam...

there is so much to say; When we arrived we were picked up by our a driver and taken to our hotel....and it was CRAZY!! there were bikes flying everywhere, no 'right' side of the road, the only road rule is drive moderatly slowly and beep your horn because no one looks where they are going. We saw one accident and no one seemed to care. As i speak, a monsoonal rain has just drifted over...and now it has finished...oh it has started again...well at least i feel at home with the weather!

love Claire
Saigon.
.