Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nha Trang

After a hellish 12 hour bus ride from Hoi An we arrived in Nha Trang
tired, cranky and in need of a sleep in a proper bed.

What should have been a relatively comfortable sleeping bus from Hahn
Cafe that we booked at an agent in Hoi An (well we thought we were
booked on to) instead was a cramped sleeping bus from TM Brothers -
definitely not the same standard.

The bus was overbooked with some passengers having to share these
miniscule 'beds'. We kept making unscheduled stops to drop off items
for relatives of bus staff and finally when we got to Nha Trang we
were told we were going to be dropped off in the centre if town, but
instead we were 4km north.

A taxi ride later and we were in the centre of town. We found
ourselves a lovely little mini hotel, quite aptly named Nice Hotel. It
wasn't till after a nap that we ventured out. Nha Trang reminds me a
bit of Surfers Paradise. Much more built up than any of the other
cities that we've seen to date. As we were told, very touristy and set
right on the waters edge. After a short walk around town we put on our
bathers and headed for the beach!

The sand was much coarser than the beach in Hoi An, but the water was
still clear and warm. It's impossible to sit on the beach here and not
be approached with people trying to sell you things. Drinks, local
foods, cigarettes, sunglasses, jewellery, books (photocopies, and not
very good ones at that) - pretty much anything and everything. At one
stage there was a young girl walking around selling a live lobster!
After a while your patience begins to abandon you and you become tired
of saying no thank you every minute or so. Every now and then someone
with a bit if personality will go past - one that sticks in my mind is
the lady selling fruit singing 'mango, pineapple, banana' - and you
actually feel compelled to purchase from them.

From the main beach area in Nha Trang you can see a number of
surrounding islands. The largest and most noticable is Hon Tre or
Vinpearl island. Being most noticable isn't due to the sheer size of
the island, but instead the Hollywood-esque 'Vinpearl' signage
blazened high up on the hill tops. Linking the mainland to the island
is a 3km long cable car suspended high above the water.

Late that afternoon we headed down town to take the scenic cable car
across the water. It wasn't till we got down there that we found out
about the theme park on the other side! The ride across scared the
shit out of me. It was so high above the water and me being the
paranoid freak that I am couldn't relax because I kept thinking about
drowning in our little cable car box.

The park itself was eerily clean and quiet. It wasn't till we were
about to leave that we saw a huge crowd. We're not sure were they came
from, but 1 minute there was 3 people in the queue for the return
cable car and then quite literally 150 or more!

Anyway, we had a go on some water slides before the water part closed.
We went on this one together in a rubber tube and the initial drop was
terrifying! It seemed almost straight down! I'll tell you what though,
but but was bloody sore after it. And boy did I scream. Andrew too!
The other hilarious one which Andy went (I wasn't brave enough) a long
dark tube and at the end you flop out from this UFO like contraption
into a pool of water. I'm not sure if these rides would pass safety
regulations in Australia but they were a bit of fun! The rest of the
time we wandered round, went on dodgem cars and played video games.

We spent most of our remaining time in Nha Trang laying under the
beach umbrellas on the beach (der). It was lovely and relaxing and we
both got a tan (well Andrew was a little red LOL. Okay, as was I).

We did take a rather exciting bike ride through the city to visit the
Long Son Pagoda and Giant (it certainly was) Seated Buddha. It wasnt
the destination that was exciting, it was more the exhiliration (read
terror) of riding through the busy traffic. Making left hand turns
through 6 point round abouts with hundreds of bikes and no rules was
enough to scare the living daylights out of me! Andrew loved every
minute of it though LOL, of course.

It was on this journey that we visited the Long Thanh Gallery, an
amazing photographer who manages to capture the essence of Vietnam in
his pictures. Well worth the look see.

We took a chance and booked another night bus to Saigon. More details
of that debarcle to follow, LOL.

Sent from my iPhone

My Son

Pronounced Mee Son, we left our hotel at 5.30am for this tour. The
lack of crowds made it much more serene and beautiful.


This guy was at the Pagoda and I couldn't help but want to twiddle his
beard. We think it was made of horse hair.

Hoi An

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Hoi An to be perfectly honest,
from the write up Lonely Planet gave it. Other than the tour out to
the My Son ruins I wasn't expecting too much aside from the old
buildings and some nice meals.
But it has by far been my favourite city in Vietnam that we have
visited. The town is very quiet by comparison Hanoi and even Hué. It's
old buildings are on the Unesco Heritage List and rightly so. There
are many streets of them pretty much unchanged for many hundreds of
The next thing I liked about Hoi An is the food! It's sooo good (with
a little help from our trusty Lonely Planet guide book). Both mentions
of the food and buildings of Hoi An are so pleasantly understated by
Lonely Planet, I had such a wonderful surprise once we got there and
actually experienced them. If you, wait, WHEN you come to Vietnam you
can't miss Hoi An and two restaurants. One is Bele Well where a very
hospitable Mai practically stuffs you full of authentic Vietnamese
cuisine, while teaching you basic Vietnamese lessons and customs.
"Mot, hai, ba,YO!" (1, 2, 3, CHEERS! roughly translated) She is quite
the charmer and puts on a superb feast. It's a meal you will NEVER
forget. You will come away with a fuller mind, belly and heart. The
people are what has made Vietnam so special to me (I'm pretty sure
Katie feels the same way) and Mai is one particular person that stands
out. Not forgetting the beautiful old lady from the rice museum in Hué.
But I digress. The other restaurant is Truc Vien just around the
corner from our hotel. It was so good when I saw other travellers
walking by to consider the menu is was telling them how good it was.
And then the next day we went back there for lunch again, the family
we ushered in and another couple who came after them, were all there
again for lunch. I had a wonton soup the first time and the second
time I had a sweet and sour pork which was more spicy than sweet and
sour bit it was absolutely delicious. Katie had the Hoi An specialty,
cao lau which is doughy flat noodles mixed with croutons, bean sprouts
and greens, topped with pork slices and served in savoury broth.
Apparently the real thing can only be had in Hoi An as the water for
cao lau noodles must come from Ba Le well.

Another main attraction of Hoi An and BIG drawcard for a lot of its
vistors are the tailors who can put together any clothes or outfit you
want in just a matter of days, perfectly tailored to fit in the finest
materials for less than it would cost to buy some nasty polyester/
nylon garments from kmart. I got a couple of silk cotton fitted
shirts, a couple of pants for work anf another pair for going out and
a 'Hugo Boss' suit made out of a wool silk blend. Katie got a really
flattering fitted french cuff shirt, two pairs of pants, a nice
floraly top with a deep round collar that almost comes off the
shoulder, a really nice white shirt that has rolled up, button up
cuffs and a beautiful fitted casual jacket. Lots of beautiful clothes
ready for...winter...(cough) but knowing Melbournes weather we will
probably get plenty of wear out of them on our return. =P The ladies
at Silk Road were wonderful. There was one particular lady who's name
I never found out who was so lovely. She spoke very good English even
though she finished school at 10. From what we could tell, she also
spoke spanish and was learning to play the piano in between customers.
We had a good chat with her about many things. The rat race that
people in Australia seem to be so hypnotized by, Vietnam and the
Vietnamese peoples plight were some of the topics that I remember.

How we found out about Silk Road was from some aussie travellers going
the opposite direction to us on the way to Hoi An from Hué, who were
very happy with their clothes also.

I'm noticing that we are meeting lots of nameless faces on this trip.
I really should make more of an effort to find out peoples names. Like
the Dutch couple that we kept on bumping into throughout Hué and Hoi
An and the Spanish and german couples who we kept crossing paths with
since Ha Long bay. All with no names.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

more ha long bay.

Some more pictures from Ha Long Bay...

View from the Amazing Cave out into the harbour

Inside the Amazing Cave

A few pictures from Ha Long Bay...

The 'Humanity Centre' on the way to Ha Long Bay

Our room on the junket

The beautiful view...

Us looking brown!

The amazing shrimp cocktail that was served for dinner!!

More Hanoi pictures...

hoan kiem lake.
next to the lake at night.
from the balcony of the h silk restaurant. which was curiously only accessible from the silk clothing store down stairs.

Waiting for the night train we sat at this cafe overlooking a busy Ha Noi intersection

Crossing the road is tricky!

Hue 16th - 18th

We arrived in Hue just before midday and the first thing we noticed
was how quiet it was on the streets in comparison to Hanoi. While
there were people around it certainly wasn't the hustle and bustle of

We caught a taxi to one of the guest houses in the guide book and were
greeted by this bubbly lady at the door. She quickly showed us around
the hotel and we settled on the cheapest room they had, which was
still well equiped in our eyes. I'm finding it hard to describe just
how lovely this lady was. It was impossible not to smile in her
presence though.

We left the hotel in search of a bank and food. Walking around Hue, we
noticed not just how quiet it was but also how much wider and open the
streets were. On finding the bank we saw that it was closed for what
we thought was lunch, so instead lunch became our priority. We sat
down on the plastic chairs of an open front 'cafe' called Minh and

While we were enjoying our lunch this man came and sat by us and made
small talk about the usual, where we're from, how long we've been
here, when do we leave. He introduced himself as Mr Trung. He then
started talking about the tours he does (it seems that approaching
people in restaurants is quite a common thing as it happened to us
more than once) and showed us a big book filled with recommendations
from others. Not wanting to make any decision then and there we left
to explore the rest of Hue.

After a trip to the market to find a hat and a lovely sit and chat by
the river side with a couple from Holland (the man was very tall - 6
ft 8 - and his head was enormous!) we decided to book a motorcycle
tour for the following day with Mr Trung.

The tour was amazing! We really weren't sure what we were in for, but
after the first stop we were so glad we did it. I was on the back of
Mr Trung's bike and Andrew on another.

Our first stop was a covered bridge, Thanh Toan, a gift from the
Japanese. There are four of them on Vietnam. On the other side of the
bridge was a rice museum. Inside we found what Vietnam is all about.
Not rice, but the people. We were lucky enough to meet an amazing
elderly lady. When we came on she happily showed us around and how
everything worked. The frail old lady literally got on and showed us
all the equipment, singing and chanting along as she did. She was so
happy to pose for all the pictures we wanted and at the end made us
take a picture of the three of us together. All of this done without a
word of English. Andrew and I left with tears in our eyes as we were
so touched by the kindness and enthusiasm of this women.

Back on the bikes and we zipped off towards the Tu Hieu Pagoda. Mr
Trung told us about the different types of monks in Vietnam and the
ones that live here at the Pagoda. We were lucky enough to see them
pray, something that they do a number of times a day - involving
drumming and chanting.

We also visited Tu Doc Tombs (quite an eerie place), a hat making and
incense making community (were I got to have go at making incense
sticks and saw the amount of work that goes into creating an authentic
hat) and the Royal Arena (a coleseum type area were they uses to fight
tigers and elephants).

Our next stop was Vong Canh Hill. From here you had a magnificent view
of the Perfume River. The top of the hill was also home to a number of
American and French bunkers. To the north of Hue is the DMZ. It was
while we were on the hilltop that Mr Trung told us about the Vietnam
War and his part in it. He was a 4th lieutenant in the South Vietnam
army. It was a real honour to have him share his story with us. He
seemed to still become very emotional when talking about the torture
that he faced.

A visit to Thien Mu Pagoda and the Citadel finished off our day. By
the time we got to the Citadel we were exhausted and could barely lift
our feet. We bumped into a German couple we met on our Ha Long Bay
tour and shared with them the amazing time we'd had that day.

We definitely slept well that night. We were absolutely exhausted from
all the walking, but still blown away by what we has seen and who we
had met.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, August 22, 2008

First pics of Ha Noi

The amazing Water Puppets in Ha Noi

They certainly know how to pack a lot of stuff onto their bikes!

An undercover market selling all sorts of things! Much of them ALIVE!

The beautiful tree lined streets on the way to the Mausoleum

Crossing the train tracks

fashion faux pas' and thailand.

you don't have to believe us if you don't want to but this seriously wasn't planned.
dunlop volley club 2008 reprazent!
(my) first pics of the land of thai. from out hotel balcony.
and another...
and again...

from outside our hotel. a photo of our hotel.water with ring-pulls. whats that saying? small things amuse...i forget. =P
somebody looking very pretty in a shelter beside the river near our hotel.
ladies on their way back from the shops.

did we mention that our hotel in thailand was close the airport? that was kinda the point. =)
taken out the front of our hotel.door to door salesmen drive cars here.rice is a popular dish in thailand. they even serve up katies civic with rice. note the sporty intake on the bonnet.
man on river in boat.

The train to Hue...

After arriving back from Halong Bay at around 4, we had about 7 hours
to kill before our train to Hue at 11 that evening. We left our packs
at the travel agents before embarking on another stroll around the
city. After searching for a hat for Andrew for an hour we decided to
find a cafe and chill out for a while. Above a busy intersection, we
had a perfect view of the chaos below.

Soon it came time for us to grab our packs as the travel agents was to
close. As we walked to find dinner we stumbled across a market in the
main street of Hanoi. Filled worth much of the same stuff we had
already seen and art prices that seemed go be assumed for tourists we
moved on towards Pho, the place that we ate at or first night in Hanoi

Another tasty meal in our bellies and we set off for the train
station. We walked a fair distance before spotting a taxi and taking
it the rest of the way. It was still a while till our train was to
depart so we sat in the lounge to wait.

It was still over an hour till our train when this train station
official came and asked us if we where going to Hue and hurried us to
the train. Turns out it was not an act of kindness but a ploy for a
tip. So there we sat for the next hour patiently waiting to depart.

The trip itself was quite comfortable. We were in a hard sleeper,
Andrew in the bed above mine. Not long after we departed the lights
were turned off and we could try to sleep. After intermittant sleep
for the first few hours Andrew grabbed our ear plugs and we both were
able top snooze a little easier.

The sun blaring through the window soon woke up the cabin outside the
scenery had changed from the worn and tired houses of Hanoi to trees
and open spaces. Andrew was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these
rock formations in the same vein as Halong.

Around 11 the following morning our train pulled up in Hue.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, August 18, 2008

These manikins scare me.

And they are every where here. I'm not the only one right? They do
look spooky to you too?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ha Long Bay. 14-15th

We booked a 2 day/1 night cruise on a Vietnamese junk through Ha Long
Bay through a tour group in Ha Noi two days in advance as there was a
back log from poor weather stopping scheduled tours.

Leaving at 8am from their tour office we made a 3 hour bus ride to Ha
Long Bay with one one stop along way for a toilet stop and some
massively inflated prices on souvineers and refreshments. The building
was huge with 2 stories of china, jewellry, tapestry and art.

There was one room that had about 20 or so tables with young kids
creating the 100's of tapestries lineing the walls, suspiciously
called "Humanitarian Centre". (read: child labour)

Arriving at the harbour had a similar atmosphere to theme park
somehow. The were buses everywhere and a good 20-30 junks in the
harbour of varying sizes and colours. It was a relief to see ours was
exactly as described in the brochure and the photos they showed us.

After a short delay waiting for the captain we were on our way and the
buslte of the harbour was behind us, leaving nothing but spectacular
scenery of the bay. The water in Ha Long Bay is absolutely tranquil.
We cruised for about an hour and a half taking photos from the sundeck
on top before stopping for a seafood lunch. Katie took the safer
option of no seafood but in hind sight it wasn't that much safer as we
both have acute cases of the squirts. My lunch started with a whole
crab being presented on a plate. Having never had seafood like this
before I followed the lead of a Finnish girl on our table who showed
me how. Pulling the lid of his head off I was told I could eat
everything but the lungs. Very tasty but very fidly too. There were
was so much food and all of it was pretty good except the fish, which
I don't think was for lack of trying. The fish itself was just muddy
tasting. Katie had pretty standard asian fare of chicken and beef with
the exception being chips like you get back home in a fish and chip
shop. We were sharing a table with 4 Fin's, 2 of which worked at
Nokia. Who woulda thunk hey? They we very friendly and we had really
good conversation about the differences in our languages, culture and
countries among other things, later that night.

After lunch we moved on a bit further to the site for kayaking to be
greeted by some old ladies on a boat from the nearby floating village,
fully stocked with drinks and snacks. Kyaking was awesome. We had
absolutely stunning weather and for the kayaking was no different. We
were taken through some caves by our guide Anh, a very friendly guy
with a huge charming smile and teeth like a broken picket fence in our
double kayaks. No photos I'm sorry. We wisely left it behind afraid it
was going to get wet if we did. We were right fortunately as it would
gave been a shame if we were wrong as it was very beautiful.

After the kayaking we just lazed about on the sun deck till the sunset
and it was time for dinner. The sunset did not disappoint. It was
superb. I have some good photos to come. i.e. Not from my iPhone. =P

More seafood for dinner again, and lots of it. The best course was a
very tasty crab cake made in the crabs head. More standard Asian fare
for Katie which was very good too and plenty of it. We had dragon
fruit for desert which none if I'd on our table had had before. I
really liked it. The flesh was kin of like a a white kiwi fruit and
tasted like a less sour variety of kiwi too. Very refreshing.

The next morning after breakfast we were off to the amazing caves.
With a name like that I couldn't help but be a little skeptical.
Heheh. Fortunately they were pretty spectacular they were absolutely
enormous. One of the Fins who had been to what claims to be the
largest caves in the world in the czech republic thought this one was
larger. There we area in the cave where the highest point in the
ceiling would have been a good 10-15 metres high. It reminded me of
the Sidney Meyer music bowl they way the roof was concaved and the
huge space inside but it was easily much larger in space. One of these
days wears going to upload some pics. =P

From the caves those moving onto the island resort took a different
boat to the whole island while the rest of us went back to the harbour
for lunch and the return trip. An awesome 2 days.

And the correct answer is...

You could be mistaken for thinking this was a tourist attraction of Hanoi in the same vein as the big pineapple in Queensland, 'The 3 story high Vietnamese $2 shop bag but you would be wrong. It's actually a 3 story high Vietnamese $2 shop bag style tarpaulin. (There is a building in construction behind it. Ok so maybe you had to be there, it seemed funny at the time. )

Friday, August 15, 2008

What a view...

Here is just a taste of what we got to see at Ha long Bay. We were both blown away by the beauty of the place. One of us will write a post about it soon.

Da main homies palace yo!

13th Aug.

One of the more notable places of interest in Hanoi is the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum so we thought that would make an interesting trip. Being the distance it is from where we were staying we consulted the lonely planet bible for the plan to catch a taxi and their list of reputable taxis. Given that none of compaies on the list we had seen before we decided to walk in the general direction. I'm glad we did as we found beautiful tree lined steet along the way whick was so different to the ones we were used to seeing.

By the time we got there it was just after 10 which left us 45 mins to visit. First we needed to check all bags and water but we had to take our camera and phones with us. Then we had to follow a bee line to security where we had to walk through metal detectors and get what stuff we had with us x-rayed. Everything that was x-rayed was put into special red bag with some engrish written on it. Once we had cleared that check point there was another bee line to check-in our cameras from our little red handbags, which we were told we could collect from the exit of the mausoleum.

One more bee line and were entering the mausoleum with guards in white every 5 metres, making sure no one was disrespecting the man by wearing hats or sun glasses, laughing or talking too loud or stepping off the red rubber "carpet".

Inside was incredible. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees as soon as you get the door and the light was very low and reverant. Every where you looked was beautiful, absolutely spotlessly clean marble and granite in sharp, angular and somewhat modern design for it's period. The guards made sure no one stalled and kept people moving if they we too slow by grabbing your elbow and giving you a push or a pull. The main chamber where Ho Chi Minh is kept was really surreal. Very dark with his body in a glass sarcophagus on top of a high mable ledge, with guards below in all four corners in a moat without warer for lack of a better description. He was lit in soft yellow light, I'm guessing as some attempt to give his skin a more natural colour, yet he still looked like he was carved out of soap due to the enbalming and at the same time it looked like this guy was lying there asleep. Very bizarre! (By the way he was enbalmed against his burial wishes. He wanted to be cremated. I guess they figured there was no point fearing the wrath of a dead guy.)

After exiting the mausoleum, there was a pickup booth for our camera's, and we were able to visit the presidential palace (see pic coming of a yellow french looking building.) I think it was called were he lived and worked for a period as well as his stilly house which was really beautiful house finished almost entirely in dark varnished wood. (No pics cos the iPhone camera is a piece of crap, especially in poor light)

Oh and they had a garage showing all his cars. He had a Peugeot 404 like yours dad, except a sedan, not a wagon. =]

More coming very shortly.

Day 2 in Hanoi...

Today we spent exploring the city. We found the most western looking cafe we could for breakfast as we weren't up for noodles surprisingly. Breakfast is probably the most difficult meal to find here. A lot of western places have what they call an American breakfast, which is basically bacon and eggs. Finding something like toast or cereal can be a little harder.

After breakfast we set off for market which was set in the top part of the old quarter. What you soon start to notice as you wander around the streets is that all the shops are kind of grouped in categories. You can walk through the 'electrical district' and there will be many shops selling similar products. It's the same for hats, shoes,
clothes... pretty much anything you can think of.

So we began strolling through the clothing district. It was pretty much like walking past 200 of those cheap Asian stores back home. They all seemed to be selling pretty much identical clothing; cheap looking studded jeans and tshirts, some sporting fake brand names. We had grand plans to buy a light pair of pants to wear inside temples though finding something like that was SO hard.

We found the market after much walking. Set inside, this market was like a 3 story $2 shop. Everything you could imagine was sold here (well apart from the pants we wanted, LOL). Unlike the market back home this place was like a rabbit warren with the aisles only wide enough for 1. Every now and then there would be an enormous hole in the floor that you had to climb over precariously.

After our market exerience we continued to look around the streets. Walking the streets can be challenge enough in Hanoi but I seemed to have a knack for getting dangerously close to the boiling pots the street venders were using to cook. That seems to be on par with walking to close to the exhaust of a motorbike.

After much walking we caught our first cyclo back down towards the lake. Settling on a price first is key to not being ripped off. I think we agreed on 20 000 dong for the trip which is about $1.50. We sped through the streets with motor bikes and cars coming at us from all angles. With no horn on our cyclo the driver simply went 'beep beep' to alert of our presence.

We arrived at the lake and decided to pay a visit to the temple in the middle of the lake. It is said that giant tortoises live in lake though they haven't been seen for years. On the island they displayed one that was from the lake that had been embalmed. It certainly lived up to the 'giant' name. Inside the temple it was interesting to see the offerings surrounding the figures of worship. Coke, beer, cakes, cigarettes and money. People seemed to be offering plates to the figures as well containing similar things.

Next on the agenda was to find a tour for Halong Bay. With scams being so abundant in Vietnam it isn't as easy as walking into the first place you see. After much walking, talking and assessing (with a little lunch in between) we decided on and booked a tour for later in the week.

After visiting another small temple in the middle of town we began walking again. Strolling back to our hotel Andy spotted a skateshop! Not something that either of us expected to see here. I still can't figure out where on earth they would be able to skate! Filled with of the same sorts of things you would see back home I spotted a jumper and fell in love. LOL. Designed and made here I decided it would be the most perfect imperfect souvenir and bought it.

Walking back to the hotel we seemed to notice things that we'd never seen before. Like the supermarket type store at the end of our alley way. Having seen these cakes called Custas being an offering in the temple I wanted to try them myself. Yum! I can see myself craving these back home.

After resting we consulted our LP guide for dinner suggestions and chose New Day restaurant in the top part of town. We caught a cyclo but even with a map we seemed to be no where near the restaurant. A short walk and we found it. More yummy food a stroll back to the hotel and our second day in Hanoi was done.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

H Silk Restaurant

This is were we had lunch today. It was a tiny little restaurant above
a silk shop with a beautiful French balcony for two.

The next 24...

Ok so we left bangkok after a 1 hour delay and arrived in Hanoi after
what seemed by comparison a short 1.5 hour flight. OMFG were we in for
a surprise.

By comparison the airport was ancient, looking like it was built about
30 years ago (a quick google shows it was built in 1975. Bangkok
airport was amazing, like something out of a sci-fi movie.) After
getting through customs and baggage claim pretty quickly, we found our
escort to our hotel and got some money changed. (Hot Tip: Get your
money changed in Hanoi at Vietcombank on Cau Go at the north end of
Hoan Kiem Lake for a WAY better exhange rate)

Ok the trip in from the airport was much like what I had seen before
in my stay in Beijing, but a a fair bit more dirty and third-world
than I was expecting.
Both being very nervous about whether we are being taken for a ride to
donate our organs to black marketers or actually being taken to our
hotel, we were more than on edge by the time we hit the outskirts of
Hanoi. The car pulled up outside a tiny little alley packed full of
bikes and people, with no hotel to be seen. A lady came out of it to
meet us a took us down said dingey, now sinister looking alley. I
though for sure we had been taken for a ride as I couldn't see our
hotel. Fortunately for us it was just around the first dogleg in the
alley and we were shown to our room. We were pleasantly surprised
about how well appointed our room was for $15US a night. AC, H&C water
with private bathroom and satellite tv. Oh and the topper is FREE
WiFi! So far so good.

We had just driven through the traffic to get here but nothing
prepared us for the culture shock of our first walk around Hanoi.
There is SO much unrelenting traffic and noise we both were having a
very hard time getting comfortable. You couldn't walk on the footpath
because there were either people or bikes that weren't going to move
and everywhere you looked there were people wanting to take you
somewhere, sell you some nasty trinkets at poisonous prices or run
over you with their bike! We both were thinking this is the biggest
mistake ever and were dreaming of home and our bed. (our nice soft
bed. The one in our room was just a slab of hard foam. Nothing you
could sink into and escape reality with.)

I was getting a serious case of the emo's and I didn't see the light
at the end tunnel. I wasn't even sure if any of the food was safe for
us to eat without getting a case of the squrts for a few days. ARGH!
Get me out of here.

We somehow ended up out front of a cafe that looked a clean a western
as we had seen anywhere and decided to take a seat and collect
ourselves with a drink and a bite to eat. I saw another whitey (that's
what I'm calling us folk) eating some apple thingy and thought it must
be safe for my delicate whitey digestive system.

As we were eating our cake and sipping our cokes, Katie mentioned how
comforting it was to hear our accent from the ladies who I used as my
justification for the cake we consuming some what gingerly. I think
they overheard Katie mention it to me and they turned around made
conversation. I think it was written all over our faces that we were
both shit scared when they asked us how long we have been here. "Just
got here". Both ladies looked sympathetic, reminiscent and excited at
the same time when they asked if we were "shell-shocked". Boy! What a
relief that was to know we weren't the only ones. They started raving
about the wonderful time they have had and reassuring us that we will
have same. It was very comforting for both of us.

It's been all up from there! We are both now pros at parting the
torrents of bikes and cars when we step put on the road and happily
and politely wave off the the street hawkers and the
"students" (read:con artists) we have just recently encountered too.
Our Lonely Planet has been our safety blanket and has held us in good
steed. We have done plenty of walking and I can now safely say we are
both having a ball!

That night night we ate at a soup retaurant called Pho which was
really tasty. I've quickly aquired a taste for the spicy food that is
so popular. After we went and saw the water puppets which blew us both
away at the colour and sounds and the technology if I can say that
about a 1000 year old artform. Video and pics to come.

If by now it isn't abundantly clear, I take back all the negative and
skeptical things I have said about Hanoi. Everyone is just beautiful,
so friendly and helpful now that I have learnt to view this place from
a better perspective. There is just so much spectacle and life to be
enjoyed here. It's like nothing you will ever see in the western world.

Before we left, katies mum showed us both some scrapbooking she had
done that had a quote that she pointed out and stuck in both our
minds. It was something like "a journey isn't about the destination,
it's about a new way of seeing things" I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lights, switches and penises

We saw this while killing time at Bangkok airport.

That's right, you turn him on by playing with his peepee. (he's called
Mr P too by the way)

Oh and you will have to excuse the strange formatting. It seems
mailing from my iPhone does weird shit to it.