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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.