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Home Again

Well we made it all the way home finally. Our house is as it was (seriously we had a few people stay a while and I don't think they touched anything). Even the junk mail I dumped on the kitchen table was still there. Sigh. The only change was in my garden, which was just beginning to look nice when we left. Most of it is now dead.

Last night I accidentally stayed up until 4am. Will have to reset that clock when I get the chance.

Once I get Photoshop CS4 installed, I will be able to upload plenty of photos to the blog. We can reminisce about how happy we were.

It's funny being home. I went to look for a jumper (Melbourne is cold!) and was overwhelmed by choice. I have way too many clothes all of a sudden. Also I'm trying to keep everything as neat as possible, as I have a great head start. So far this is going well, except for over on Paul's desk where there's currently one bowl, one tea cup, two spoons and a glass half full of Milo. I won't say anything until we r…

Not Dead and Not Stranded

Woot! We made it to Darwin without much incident. The pilot did turn on the seatbelt sign at one stage, and we were all going to die, but it turned out ok.

We filed off the plane to the sirens of the fire alarm, and were informed 40 minutes later that we didn't need to evacuate. Baggage took a while but not too long, declared all my wooden tidbits to the amusement of our friendly swat team guy. This time only the Asians were drilled about their business in Vietnam and Australia, it's nice to see some racial profiling by a (ginger) security worker every now and then.

Meanwhile, at the Darwin domestic terminal, Paul and I are stalking Paul Macurio (I don't know how to spell his name... I'd google it, but he might see. *edit: It's Mercurio) Paul is more interested in the camera guy and his equipment(pun intended).

We've spent more money than we have in a week on a coffee, a juice and a sandwich, despite the fact that we're getting breakfast on the plane in half …

Observations

With only a few hours until our exit from Saigon, I think it's time to reflect, summarise, and make sweeping generalisations about the three countries I have visited.

1. Cambodia has a garbage problem.

A big one. A waist deep one. As soon as our mega bus crossed the border, we started noticing roadside rubbish piles. The cleanest spots we found were probably Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville (I will mention the conditions of this statement momentarily) and the Angkor temples.

So Sihanoukville did have a rubbish problem, but it also had big bins for businesses and we did witness a garbage truck actually collecting garbage. I say Serendipity Beach was clean, and it was, and we were surprised by this. The however is a large one and it comes when you walk down the beach beyond the wall to wall restaurants and you see some sand. This is where the rubbish ends up. It spreads until the tourist spot starts up again 4km down the coast. The bottles and cans are collected by very young childre…

Guesthouse Review

The sale of this tee paid for about two thirds of a night at the following guesthouse.

NHU Guesthouse
Saigon, Vietnam
$8 USD per night

Includes:

A sign!
A precarious three story climb up ladder steps.
Two single beds (can be pushed together!)
Hot and cold water showers
An adorable basin
A balcony
A bird's eye view of the alley
Cable TV
A table!

Guesthouse Review

The sale of this tee paid for about two thirds of a night at the following guesthouse.

Nice Dreams Guesthouse
Dalat, Vietnam
$11 USD per night

Includes:

Complimentary buffet breakfast.

Homely kitchen.
Early morning sunshine.Banana pancakes!Snazzy bathroom with NO ventilation and a funny smell.
Hot water and functional toilet.Cable TV with three movie channels!
Swavo dresser, big bed, mosquito net.
A nice chair and a not external window.
A complimentary hairbrush with complimentary hair. Gross.A water feature with six goldfish and two dead turtles, also with a funny smell, left on the rocks for decoration.

Saigon Again

Four days in Dalat and we can't wait to get home. One afternoon in Saigon and suddenly we're in no hurry. We found (were shown by a crazy lady in a blue shirt with a badge on it) an awesome little guesthouse down three alleys, each one smaller than the last. We're up three flights of tiny ladder stairs (I have no idea how we're going to get our bags back down!) in a room with cable tv and hot water and a tiny balcony from which we can jump to three of the neighbouring buildings. Two opposing fans create a nice tornado above our bed. This is good as it is really hot again. Saigon apparantly has two seasons, wet hot and dry hot.

There are two long term guests staying in the other rooms, a Canadian on the second floor and an Australian on the first.

Tomorrow we will eat as much Pho as possible and maybe take a sun sauna. Good for the complexion.

Bec,
Saigon

Dalat Market

Remember Hoi An?

Honeymoon Capital of Vietnam

...

First impressions of Dalat are a disappointment! Maybe we're comparing it too closely to Sapa. Maybe we got dumped in the ugly part of town. Lonely planet said we might be forgiven for thinking we'd walked into the French Alps at springtime. Dalat is certainly on a hill, but I see no other comparison. I did see one nice building from the bus ... And we haven't checked out the lake yet, or the golf course next to the lake which is about three times larger than it's neighbour.

Apparantly there are some nice things to see out of town like waterfalls and stuff, but out of town is so far! And the moto drivers are so shifty and annoying.

On the upside our room is nice and it comes with free internet (hence the long and whingy post) and free breakfast. This will either kick arse or totally suck, I will let you know tomorrow when I abuse the internet resources a little more. On a side note, my keyboard has no letters, so please forgive the typos.

Our connecting bus sorted itse…

To Dalat!

We've spent all our money on clothes and shoes (even Paul!!!) and now have no room to put anything. I'm scouring jetstar's website for baggage allowance rules - it's not looking good!!

We have joined the ranks of the lazy and purchased an open tour ticket that goes: Hoi An - Nha Trang - Dalat - Saigon.

The Hoi An to Nha Trang leg is another sleeper bus, and we're catching that tonight at 6.30. Suddenly feeling rushed, we're going to skip Nha Trang and jump straight on the Dalat bus. Assuming the first bus takes us where we're meant to go (the bus station) this won't be a problem. However, if the bus driver does what bus drivers usually do (dump us at a shitty hotel not quite in the centre of town) then catching the connecting bus might prove a bit difficult. I will inform you of our adventure from Dalat. Or Nha Trang. Depending on how well it goes.

Overnight Bus Review

Due to the impending end of our adventure, I fear I am running short on accommodation to review. Hence this overnight bus review! The sale of this tee paid for not quite half this bus ticket.

Camel Travel Sleeper Bus
Hanoi to Hoi An
18 hours
306,000 dong (US$18)

Includes:

A bus!
A little reclining seat bed perfect for short people.
Wide lanes!
Luxury aeroplane-style toilet.
Killer opportunity for tri-podless long exposure photography.

Thavisouk Guesthouse Review

This one's a bit late but here's a review of a guesthouse in Vang Vieng, in response to the sale of this tee. The sale got me one night at:

Thavisouk Guesthouse
Vang Vieng, Laos
50,000 kip (US$6.25) per night

Includes:

Attractive welcome banner.
Space filling side walk.
Cleanest bathroom we'd had in a while. This one also had the best water temperature and pressure ever.
A mountainous view. You're going to have to trust me when I say there are mountains outside this window. I was too lazy to expose correctly.
A cosy bed complete with doona! This was the first doona we'd had since home. Good thing too as it wasn't exactly boiling in Vang Vieng.
And a reception baby who was just the cutest.
Thanks!

Hoi An

Back in Hoi An and it is hot again! One week in Sapa and you forget that the earth revolves around the sun. It's quite nice being back in the heat. Things dry quickly. Drinking cold water becomes a spiritual experience. You don't have to wear much and I may even get a tan.

The drawback of being in the heat again: during the cold I wore my entire wardrobe and this afforded me more space in my bag for things and trinkets, which I filled with no trouble. Now I have nowhere to put my long pants, my jacket, my gloves, my jumper. To make matters worse, I am in the tailor capital of the world and fully intend to purchase another full wardrobe even though I have nowhere to put it. Oh the humanity.

Things have changed in Hoi An. They have paved the road. This is amazing news and as soon as Paul and I noticed we started dragging our feet and walking in zig zags and saying things like "so luxurious!"

One drawback of Hoi An is the local's enthusiasm for making a sale. People co…

Pickpocket

Before I tell you how awesome Hoi An is, I'd like to tell you about my brush with a pickpocket!

That's right people, ever trusting, it will never happen to me Bec was very nearly robbed in the streets of Hanoi by a local pickpocket.

So we're walking along looking for Stamp Street, where the guys make all the stamps, and a guy selling postcards crosses the street and starts walking along next to us, holding a handfull of postcards. Paul is on my left, my cumpler bag (totally hard to open without the whole street hearing it) is hanging on my right side and next to that is an over enthusiastic guy trying to sell me postcards. I look at him politely, look down at his postcards, look back up and say no thank-you. He keeps walking along, a little close for comfort. This is irritating and down-right rude so I'm less interested in being polite to him now. He's fanning out the postcards, which are conveniently obscuring my bag from my view. He actually drops one, and I'm …

By the way

On a side note, we are catching an 18 hour sleeper bus to Hoi An this evening. Two nights of travel in a row. We are hardcore.

Will attempt to post in Hoi An, assuming the tailors also have internet!

Escape from Sapa

Leaving Sapa was harder than we thought! We moseyed on over to the 'official' train ticket office to find that the fare back to hanoi was 50,000 dong more expensive than the fare to Lao Cai. When we started pointing to the price sheet and what not (amongst ourselves) wondering what up with the price hike, the woman about to sell us tickets walks over and says 'Full, go to Binh Minh hotel.' We ask 'Huh? Where? If it's full (it must have filled up since we walked in the door and the woman must be getting live updates from her telekenetic antenna) how can a hotel sell us tickets?' She gave no further information, as to how this was possible or where this magic train emtpying hotel was located.

Off we go back to our own hotel to ask them for tickets. 'We have tickets available,' they say, 'cost is 300,000 dong for hard sleeper.' Our hard sleeper fare from Hanoi to Lao Cai was only 140,000 dong for the top bunk, and we knew that the bottom bunk co…

Back in Sapa!

After a very noisy train ride, and an over-priced bus ride, we are back in Sapa. The train ride was ok in the end, we each got a top bunk (the coffin sized one) but I rediscovered my super flexibility and not only managed to climb up and get in, but also fold in half and thirds in order to reach my bag and rearrange my blanket. Surprisingly, Paul was less happy with the situation than he was the last time. I also slept really well, and only woke up thirty times. Every time the train made a new noise I would wake up and brace myself, convinced we were going to derail. But we didn't!

So Sapa is COLD. Here is a photo of Paul (again) to illustrate the weather.
We arrived yesterday and found Chi pretty quickly. Zi had received my email and had sent Chi to find us. Chi showed us a good market stall and we got some Pho for breakfast, and then headed off on an overpriced moto to the bottom of the valley. There was a Hmoung festival on to celebrte the new year and I'm beginning to think …