A Travellerspoint blog

Hue

Huewehh

sunny 33 °C

Hue

Hue was the capital of Vietnam, the feudal sovereignty, in 1744 when the Nguyen lords controlled all of southern Vietnam from the city. The city was severely damaged in the 1968 Tet offensive during the American war, when house-to-house fighting lasted for weeks.
Hue is divided between the older fortified Citadel, containing almost everything interesting, and the new, smaller sprawl that has developed across the river. This is where we were staying.

At the first hotel our bus stopped we had a look at and it looked very nice so we stayed there. Everything in Hue is within walking distance so we took a stroll to the Citadel after some lovely food and coffee. I was again VERY UNCOMFORTABLE due to the heat and I wasn't feeling very well and I was nearly going to go back to the hotel and leave Lisa to it, when we decided to jump in one of the many Cyclo tour drivers’ cyclos. (a guy with some seats attached to the front of his bike)
He was waffling and curb crawling beside us for ages until finally we gave in and took him up on his offer of a tour around the citadel. It turned out he was a very nice man, who was full of waffle about the citadel itself, how his father was killed during the war and how he hates violence etc.

He brought us up on top of a part of the citadel wall (which stretches for over 10km around the city and is about 5 meters thick) to a gun bunker thingy where the US troops would have kept lookout over the gates. Then we cycled to a few different places like temples and old buildings etc. AFterwards, he also read our palms. lol. :) He said I was very lucky because I have a star on my palm and that my dead relatives are always looking out for me and taking care of me. he he After reading Lisa’s he said she would have two children and they would suffer… lol how nice of him.

We finished up the tour and went on our merry way back to the hotel. Day two was spend lazing about nursing sunburn and drinking beers until we had to get the dreaded night bus to Hanoi … a gruelling 12 hours of hell awaited us.

Big Tall Jim

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Posted by squeakylee 10:55 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hoi An - Vietnam

On the first day in Hoi an, I forgot to mention to Jim, that he was well overdue for a blog. Jim He he he

sunny 32 °C

Hoi An

We got on the over night bus to Hoi An at around 6:30pm and after about an hour an a half of driving around it was filled up with westerners and mucho Vietnamese. There were lots of people trying to do the sit on the outside seat and put their bag on the inside seat, thus taking up the two seats and having more space to themselves. PIGS! Alas this doesn’t work in Vietnam, every seat possible is sold in advance and sometimes they even add a little plastic chair or two down the middle. So little by little peoples bag seats were begrudgingly removed and given to Vietnamese. EXCEPT for one big American pig. Wearing his Yale cap and t-shirt and a copy of Newsweek in his hand, he tried to look big and busy and not give away his seat. A Vietnamese guy wanted his wife to sit on the outside seat beside him. The Yank realised this guy was gonna ask him to move over so he says “No, look she’s sat down the back and she’s not movin, OK”. Ignorant bastard. Anyway he got his comeuppance when the bus drivers took turns sitting in beside him every few hours and a French guy in front demanded his right to put his seat back all the way into the yanks lap.. ahh sweet justice.

Anyway, the journey was uneventful bar some cool fork lightning, doggy bathroom stops and some near crashes. We awoke to an amazing sunrise over the rice paddies and villages on the way to Hoi An. After much pissing about with the bus driver stopping at all his friends hotels a couple of km from town, we found a nice place pretty central with a pool and free internet.

We caught some much needed Z’s and headed out to explore the town. The town was really cool. It was Vietnam’s important international seaport town from the 16th century to the late 19th century with merchants from both Asia and Europe trading all sorts of goods from spices to gold. Located on the bank of Thu Bon River 30 km south of Danang, Hoi An is a quiet riverside town dotted with temples, shrines and Chinese style tile-roofed wooden houses on long narrow roads. It's JAM-PACKED with tailors. You can walk into any shop on the street with a copy of GQ or a woman’s mag, point at a dress or suit and have it made exactly as it looks in the mag and to fit you perfectly within 24 hours. All for about 20 dollars or maybe a lil more.

The first thing on our list of things to do was as usual – EAT! So we went to a nice place by the market for some delish spring rolls and fantastic iced coffee with sweet milk. After much friendly harassment by a trinket seller called “Ciao“, we bought some coffee from her and she dragged us to her market stall to show us more trinkets. We promised we would return and buy some stuff the following day. She gave Lisa a fan for free, we bidded ciao ciao and off we went home.

We spent the next day walking about exploring, eating nice food on upper balconies over looking the small streets. Twas v nice. The third day we decided to do a tour to My Son, a World Heritage site, 40 km southwest of Hoi An. Located in a lush valley, My Son was a capital and religious centre of Cham people, now remaining with red brick towers and sanctuaries. My Son is considered to be in the same league as some of Southeast Asia's greatest archaeological sites, including Angkor in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, Ayutthaya in Thailand and Borobudur in Indonesia. These towers and sanctuaries were built from the 7 to 13 centuries. It wasn’t nearly as spectacular as Angkor, mainly because the US bombed the shite out of it during the war and because I was feeling rather sorry for myself. It was about a million degrees out with sunshine and my sunburn was SOOOOOO ICHY! But I was really glad we went on the trip.

We also spent a day on the beach nearby which was very beautiful but FULL of people trying to sell you stuff. We gave in a few times for Lychees and for some more beads hehe. So with our tour, day at the beach and some boozing done we headed onwards on our happy tour open bus ticket to Hue.

James :)

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Posted by squeakylee 10:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Nha Trang - Vietnam

Nha Nha na na Nha Nha

sunny 35 °C

On the first day in Nha Trang, Jimbob said to me – “lets go out and get some grub”
On the second day in Nha Trang, Jimbob said to me – “It’s pissing rain so lets go to the Internet Cafayyy”.
On the third day in Nha Trang, Jimbob said to me – “It’s still raining, let's treat ourselves to a mudbath."
On the fourth day in Nha Trang, Jimbob said to me – “The sun is shining, and the birds are singing, let’s go to the beach and drink some beerr”.
On the fifth day in Nha Trang, Jimbob said to me – “I’m SUNBURNTTTT, and my body hurts, and I’m tired, let’s stayyy in and work on a musical tracccckk”.
On the sixth day in Nha Trang, Jimbob said to me – “We’ve seen the beach, I GOT SUNBURNTTT, we had a mudbath and did the blog and saw the sights now lets get the feck outtt of Nhaaa Trannnnggggg”.

:)

Ps. The mudbath was brill.
Pss. The beach was gorgeous and had the comfiest beach lounging chairs ever.
Psss. Whenever we turned on the light in our room, trunty million flies appeared by the light. When the light went off, they went away.. weirrrrddd..d
Pssss - i realise that the above song is krap.

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Posted by squeakylee 07:58 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Dalat - Vietnam

Part 2

sunny 25 °C

Our next stop which involved a nice stroll through the forest to relax our legs. The drivers dumped us in the forest and drove off. I was wondering if we’d have to do a Hansel & Gretel on it and leave a trail of coconut candy, but when we arrived at the end, the lads were there.

One of the first few stops was at a flower farm, where there were lots of carnations, roses and poppies growing. James’ easy rider snipped me some flowers and I put them in my hair. I felt like a right hippy. (except not half as cool)

We were brought to various different people’s houses during the day. Each of these houses contained some type of vegetable or animal growing or had some type of money-making activity going on in it.
We stopped at a gaff that had tonnes of silk-worms writhing around in reed baskets in it. Our dude explained the life cycle of the silk-worm and how the locals collect the silk-worms pupa’s and sell them to the silk factory. The pupas are worth a good bit of dosh to the Vietnames and it is a good source of dong.

Onwards and upwards into the highlands where our guides pointed out tea plantations, peanuts growing and stopped at a coffee field. The coffee smells so good.

Then it was onto someone elses house to see the lads making round baskets made from reeds. The lads making the baskets were watching the Vietnamese equivalent of Wheel of Fortune whilst working and the elder lady of the house was very impressed with my Vietnam t shirt. Herself & our guide started saying “Vietnam Number 1” and smiling. I gave her the thumbs up and a smiley nod.

Back to the bikes and off through the highlands. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was great. I risked it all to twirl around on the bike to take pics of Jim behind me and videos of the passing fields.

We were brought to another house to see how rice wine was made. We also got to see some giant pigs. Woohoo. :)

Our final stop before lunch was the great ‘Elephant Falls’. We all hopped off the bikes, but our older guide sat this one out. We soon found out why. To get down to the falls, we had to clamber over wet and very slippy rocks. Everywhere was very muddy. I was glad I had worn my Merrels. :p
Jim gave me a hand down and we took some pics in front of the falls. It was an impressive falls. Then we followed our non-English guide further in behind the falls to see the backsplash – which was loud and splashy. I nearly fell on my arse and decided then and there to just stand still. Burrowing our way back out through some slippy, sticky holes, we made it back to the top and then were directed towards a big Buddha & temple over to the right of the falls. The big Buddha was cool. As we walked around behind it, we saw two doors leading into the inside of the Buddha and there was people sitting at a table in there! How cool would it be to live inside a giant 49m Buddha with neon lights behind his head! :)

Then we were whisked off to a local noodle shop for ye olde noodles soup. We shouted our guides some noodles and followed their instructions to make sure we were doing it correctly. Add the lettuce & herbs, squirt some red stuff in, then some brown stuff, squeeze a lemon in, more lettuce, more red stuff, scrape some chilli in, twirl it all around and have a taste.
I was enjoying mine until Jim told me the soup was made from boiled cow bones. Errggh.

The next stop was the mushroom farm, where we saw big bags of stuff hanging up in the shed. The bags of stuff were cut and at the places that they were cut, mushrooms grew. We also saw some passion fruit trees and avocado trees there too. I was so amazed at all the stuff they could grow here. Rice, rice wine, corn, peanuts, avocados, aubergines, cabbages, passion fruits, tomatoes, mushrooms, coffee, tea and tonnes of other stuff. The climate is amazing.

Anywho, we were biking along on the way to our next stop when a tooting van pulls alongside us. Out of the window dangles some grapes with an arm attached. A lil ole lady was trying to give me some grapes. I didn’t know if she was trying to sell them or not and didn’t know whether to take them, but she had a big smile and was shaking them furiously at me so I took them and said thank you whilst grinning like an ejit. :)

Our next stop was the blacksmiths house. His large extended family were all obviously having lunch inside the house and we were greeted by a flurry of waving hands and ‘hellos’. Lots of kids came outside to see us and I gave some of my grapes away to the kiddies. Our guide told us that the blacksmiths here comb the countryside collecting old artillery shells, metal from bombs & other war leftovers and chop them up and reshape them to make farm tools. This is a very dangerous job as lots of leftover war paraphanalia may be undetonated and can still be fatal for decades afterwards. When I mentioned this our guide told us that the blacksmith’s son had been killed when an old grenade he had found had exploded. :(
As we left the house there was lots more ‘goodbye’s and I got blown some kisses by a young Vietnamese chappie. He he. Well in. ;p

I think our next stop was our last. We were brought to a house called the ‘Crazy House’. It is a guest house that is being built by the daughter of the second Vietnamese president. Work on the house has been going on for 15 years and it is still not finished.
There are stairs leading up and down and everywhere, and around every corner is another nook and cranny with a desk or chair or bedroom in it. The rooms themselves were named things like ‘Tiger room’ or ‘Bear room’ and each room had a giant wooden animal in it. The tiger room had a giant tiger in it, the bear room a bear, the kangaroo room a kangaroo and so on. Everything in the rooms was made out of darkly polished bamboo wood or something and it was all a bit odd.
The garden outside had toadstools, giant fake spider webs and what looked like a kids playground area. I am unsure who would like to stay in a place like that but it was definitely worth a peep.

Our tour was over and we thanked our guides and bid them slan. We headed back to our gaff to wash the mud and sweat off us. I tried to make Jim go to Larry’s Bar again that night but to no avail. ;)

The next day we were leaving Dalat and we were up at about six am. (uggh). We got up early to make sure we could have breakfast before our 7 hour bus journey, but alas the guy on reception didn’t understand a word we said and by the time our bus arrived (nearly an hour later) we were only just getting our huevos & baguettes. We made small sandwiches out of them, but the bus guy told us to wait twenty mins for the next bus.
Affs says we, but we waited anywho.
The next bus that pulled up was tinchy. Shite anyway. We hopped in and then the bus drove ten feet across the road and we were pulled out and onto another bus. (why didn’t he just point us across the road??)
The other bus was big, but because it wasn’t our tour bus, we didn’t get to stop at the Cham Towers and the bus itself didn’t stop anywhere at all for at least four hours.

Posted by squeakylee 08:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Dalat - Vietnam

i forgot the rest of the text.. next time gadget, next time..

sunny 25 °C

With a constant spring climate lots of sunshine and rain this place is perfect for growing vegetables, fruit and pretty much everything. It was also one of the few places spared from Bombing during the war due to its beauty. During the war it was used by Southern Vietnamese high ranking commanders as a place to come and relax in their villas but little did they know, the VC were doing the same here in their villas. Its climate was refreshingly cool for us arriving from Saigon where it was humid and soooo hot. Dalat has a prefect climate not toooo hot and never really cold, so no AC or fans are needed in any of the hotel rooms. Dalat has a lot to see and hugs around a huge lake, which we done the 7km walk around on the second day.

The only way to really see all the surrounding area of Dalat is by motorbike or tour bus because its very hilly and certain things are quite a distance away. So the lonely planet recommends using the services of “The Easy Riders”. A motley crew of motorbike drivers that have very good English know a lot about the area and are all characters. You don’t have to go looking for them they find you. Approaching you with their cap on and their book of recommendations and big ups from previous travellers from all over the world, it was hard to say no. So we booked a guy and his mate for the 12 dollar Dalat tour at 8:30 the following morning.

We woke up grabbed some eggs n baguette and some lipton tea (god I’d kill for a Barrys or Lyons tea bag). Then met our two Easy Riders for the day. They weren’t the two guys we met yesterday but were sent by them. One man was about 60 and had very good English. The other was about 40 and had shite English lol, he was my guy and all the English I got out of him for the day was “Yes, Cabbage there.” Or “Lots of Coffee plants” hehe luckily for us tho the old guy was leading the way with all the talking at all the places we visited throughout the day.

It was a great day. The wind was in our hair. The sun was in Our first stop was to a Buddhist temple place with a giant dragon sprawled about the whole complex and various other colourful Buddhist figures in a garden. We pried the camera lense out and tried our best to take some cheesy pics. J The dragon itself was hella cool.

Then it was back on the bikes and onto our second stop to take pictures of a fantastic view of the vegetable terraces.

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Posted by squeakylee 04:21 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

From Mytho To Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 34 °C

We didn’t listen to our guide properly yesterday as we jumped on the back of the motorcycles, so neither of us knew what time kick off was this morning. We set the alarm for 6am as usual just in case pick up time was 7am. So at 6.45 we went in search of breakfast. We strolled down the road and stumbled across tonnes of Vietnamese out playing football in the cool morning air, tonnes more on bikes going places & tonnes more having tea & coffee. We found a lady dealing baguettes with meat & what not in them and we got two to take away. We decided then to take the two back to our room and wait for instruction. That way if we were being picked up at 7, we would be ready and if we were being picked up later, we would at least be in the room. :)

So I ate a porky type roll and Jim promptly fell asleep. ;) I started to read Porno (the book by Irvine Welsh – not the mag (if there is one) ) And then I fell asleep. :0

The alarm woke us up at 9.30 and we peeked outside to see what the gringos outside were up to. They were all piling into a bus but the lady told us we were not being picked up until 10.30 so we lolled about a bit more.

Finally our guide arrived and almost instantaneously, Jim had to use the jaxx. (Jim always has to use the jaxx as soon as we are just about to leave – it usually leaves me waiting around biting my nails while people ask me ‘where is your friend??’ )) We all piled onto another boat and off we went for another day of Mekong River travelling.

First up we went to a coconut candy-making factory. Mm mmm mmm. We all got to taste the candy, then we all got to taste some banana rice whiskey (which is apparently good for your back).. now I had a sore back and was tempted to buy a bottle, but Jim put the spending reigns on ;) .. he he.

After the whiskey tasting, we were shown to the Bee keeping area. A poor girl (obviously oblivious to the bees and them to her) picked up a big sheet of honeycomb covered in bees and posed for pictures. We were given some honey tea, which had some ‘kampot’ fruit squeezed into it (we can’t remember the proper name). But the honey tea was delicious. Then we were given some rice wine or something, which tasted like Ecuador Jungle Firewater!!

Soon after a young chappie came around with a python on him. A pretty big python. Maybe two metres or so. Uuuuhhhooorrggghh – I secretly said. He started to pass the python round the shoulders of the group, so they could take pictures. The guide said.. “ this python, he young, he friendly, he not poisonous, he not bite, he only baby,” etc etc
Now I don’t know if any of you have ever watched Animal Planet or Discovery Channel, but there is no such thing as a pet python. They are wild animals. They CANNOT be tamed.

So everyone was taking an auld bash at the python. I didn’t really want to have the yoke on me, but when the auld French dear had him around her, I could hardly say no now could I?? The python was very well behaved. I wished I had had him for a bit longer as it was so quick, it seemed like a dream (although that could have been the banana whiskey!! ) but on he went. He felt very weird, very heavy, very cool but very weird!
Just then a huge group came in behind us and we were glad to have such a small group and to be on our way. :)

So off back to the boat and onto the next stop, which was lunch on Turtle Island. The turtle is a symbol of long life. We were shepherded into this restaurant and offered the choice of pork or spring rolls. We got one of each. At this stage again, my stomach was sore. My stomach seems to be sore every time I eat something and I have myself worried to death with ridiculousness whilst reading all the ailments in the Lonely Planet. I think I may just have had a bad dinner and am still suffering a bit from it. Either way I passed my spring rolls to Jim as I was a bit ill. But once I was a bit cooler back on the boat I felt better. The heat in Vietnam is unbelievable. I’ve been on truntymillion sun holidays and I’ve spent hours sunbathing in the past (though no more) and I would consider myself to be able to handle the heat. And if I was sunbathing in it, I probably could. But trying to conduct a tour or normal trekking around stuff in this heat (it is at LEAST 32 ) is pretty uncomfortable. Sitting in a seat involves sweating bucket loads. Walking at least gives some sort of breeze. August in South Vietnam is pretty darn hot. God knows how the VC or the Americans managed to conduct any sort of reconnaissance or any semblance of sanity in this heat.

Anywho after lunch we were brought to smaller unmotorised boats and were taxied down a small river that was covered overhead with coconut leaves. I was reminded of the jungle once again and how great the jungle was and how much I liked the jungly type life.

Our next stop was an ‘orchard’. We were all sat down at a table with a huge selection of fruit to choose from. We tucked in and a while later, we were treated to some Vietnamese folk songs sung by young to middle aged Vietnamese ladies, backed up by a small band made up of very tall skinny Vietnamese men.

Our guide gave us some great info on the folk songs. He said they were mostly to do with the history of Vietnam – the good times and the bad. They played an important role in educating both the children of Vietnam and those Vietnamese who couldn’t afford to go to school. The folk songs passed on the history of the country.
Then we were given time to ‘mingle with the local people’ - i.e. go to their stalls and buy something from them.

After this, it was back to the boat and back to the bus. We were brought to the ‘beautiful bonsai gardens’, which were far from beautiful. Plus there were some monkeys who were trapped in cages and had nowhere to go and no trees or anything. It was quite sad. :(

Off on the bus to Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived at about 6 and trekked off to a hotel, that DIDN:T have holes in the wall and had AIR CON and HOT WATER and lots of other things that I had been missing in the last few weeks. It’s $13 dollars a night (as opposed to 6 dollars for the cheapest but I don’t care)! .

We went out to ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ for some expensive western grub and then bought a bottle of apple vodka.
Booya.

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Posted by squeakylee 01:14 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mytho - Vietnam

Mytho, Mytho, it's off to work we go...

sunny 33 °C

After lunch we were spirited off on our way to Mytho.
Everyone else on the bus was heading to Ho Chi Minh City. Jim and I were the only two staying in Mytho. Before we reached Mytho, we stopped off at an incense stick making factory. It was pretty cool watching them make the sticks.

Then back on the bus and on to Mytho. We were all due to get out and have a wander around at the Bonsai Garden but we didn’t get the chance. (Jim couldn’t be arsed so we decided to head to our hotel). Our guide whistled up some motorcycle taxis for us – basically we sit on the back of a motorcycle (but get this) WITH OUR BACKPACK ON OUR BACKS! Sheesh – holy moly.

First of all, I wasn’t even sitting properly on the bike before yer man started taking off! The weight of the backpack on my back nearly swept me backwards off the bike. Eek! So I grabbed yer man and held on tight – a laughable offense in these countries where the moped is king. We have seen motorbikes loaded with all kinds of everything; 3,4 or 5 people on one bike, two lads carrying a pane of glass between them on a moped, another bike with a barrel full of pigs on the back, and countless numbers of people carrying sacks upon sacks or boxes upon boxes of stuff on the back of these mopeds that have no rear view mirrors!!
Now imagine all of the above multiplied by ten all on the road at the same time, all going in different directions, no traffic lights, lots of beeping, tonnes more bicycles, the odd few cars, and me and Jim on the back of two bikes with humoungous bags on our backs, giggling insanely, holding on for dear life, whilst our two drivers went hell for leather aboot the town in a semi race to our hotel! Staying in Mytho was worth it just for the bike ride!

Mytho itself has not too much to see. Our hotel room had the potential to be a mozzie free for all, but we found some nets in the wardrobe. It wasn’t the happiest of hotel rooms, and the pillows smelt musty but we were pooped out after our big day. It also had satellite TV and Jim half enjoyed the Liverpool match later on. I say half enjoyed because obviously the krappy TV was not able to cope with the satellite and the blinking yoke kept going off.

Tired as we were, we went for a stroll down by the river all the same. Well it was back to celeb-land, with local children and adults all vying for our attention, shaking Jim’s hand and asking us our names (while a sneaky one tried to rob my bracelet – “off ye go mate, it’s worth about 4pence). Tee hee.

We hit a recommended place for some grub and may I say I wasn’t too pleased with the frosty reception we received!! (I nearly said – Do you know who we are?? – we’re local celebs). Not.

Obviously not impressed with our westerner status, they didn’t give us any frozen wet wipes to wipe our hands with and they forgot Jim’s rice. Plus they didn’t even say goodbye. :(
With a heavy heart we left, and took to strolling up and down the part of the street where everybody was really nice to us. Ha, I jest I jest, we just walked home, I thought about writing to Lonely Planet to tell them of the frostiness, but really, between blog-writing, track-making, temple-viewing, market-hopping, match watching, coconut-candy-shop-visiting and general beer comsumption, who has the time….

We watched the Pool match and a documentary about Octopuses. (not Octopussi as previously thought).

Schnerf..
:)

Posted by squeakylee 01:10 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Cantho - Vietnam

sunny

Well up again at feckin 6am, despite the fact that I only got to sleep at 2.30 or so. Bah humbug. Up we got for our free breakfast of bread & huevos. We also got free tea with ‘milk’ – a gloopy sticky substance that you mix into your tea. It wasn’t too bad actually. For breakfast desert there was green banana. Every time I took a bite out of my sandwich, I had to lean my head forward over the table and into the sunlight. Couple that with the hot tea and within minutes I was sweltering. Vietnam is without a doubt the hottest country we have been in so far.

We were all herded into small buses and driven to the gas station. We thought we had stopped to get gas but actually we were walking the rest of the way. We got into our little boat of loveliness and tupatupatupatupatupped our way off down the river to see the fabulous floating markets of Caing Rai etc

Big floating boats stuffed to the gills with pineapples, jackfruits, watermelons, ginger, and tons of other vegetables, fruits & herbs & spices sell on their wares to the smaller business person in their smaller boats. The trip down the rivers to the markets was fantastic. The weather was scorching and the kids continued to wave and shout hello from the riverbanks. After a while, we donned our Vietnamese cone hats to shelter us from the sun. Between markets, we stopped at a rice noodle making factory to learn how rice noodles were made. Unfortunately I was so busy taking pigtures of the piglets out the back that we missed all the rice noodle pictures. Whoops. :)

After another trip to a different market and some more fantastic boating, twas back to the ranch for some noodle soup. We were in a group with some Israelis and an Ozzie girl. The tall Israeli guy had a mega beard and totally owned Jim with his beardiness. The other Israeli couple were a bit moany but the Ozzie girl was very nice and chatty.

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Posted by squeakylee 01:06 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

sunny 33 °C

Well after consuming the whole bottle of vodka between us last night, I had a bit of a sore head but nothing compared to the fighters on The Contender 2, which was on AXN. He he. We did intend on getting up for our free breakfast but we faffed about for way too long, so we packed up our stuff and headed out to Allez Boo for some huevoso. I had difficulty opening my boiled eggs and Jim had trouble with the ketchup but it wasn’t too bad. Then in an effort to sweat off the vodka, we strepped our way up to the War Remnants Museum, but it was closed for lunch so we tiptoed on over to the Reunification Palace. We headed off around the palace walls, each time we came to a gate, the guard there waved us around to the next gate. Sheesh.

Eventually we got in the gate. The palace itself was pretty cool. It was designed by a Vietnamese architect in the 1960’s and was very retro. It was built for General Diem, the president of the South Vietnam Republic. The building started in 1962, but the General himself never got to see the end product as he was shot by his own troops in 1963. After years of terrible fighting, the south finally fell to North Vietnamese & VC forces. On 30th April 1975, two tanks burst through the gates of the palace (then called Independence Palace), and a VC soldier entered the palace. He ran into the room where the president of SV who knew what was coming, was waiting for him. The president told him that he had been waiting all morning to hand over the power. The VC soldier replied by telling the president that he could not hand over what he didn’t have.
The palace interior was very lush and beautiful. See (some pics). (the stupid NEW camera broke!!! FECKIN HELL), and Boo.

So we continued around the palace feeling a lil bit sad about the camera (well I was anyway but I was trying to also take in some info) when we finally got to the top floor of the palace. Low and behold, there was our saviour, a lil ole lady selling water and ‘cameras’! was sitting awaiting our arrival. WOW, said I. I’ll have a camera and two waters please. So now feeling watered and with a camera to take a picture of the helicopter on the roof, we were much pleased. But we were just at the end of the tour. We took some pictures of Jim and the tank and headed off to the War Remnants Museum.

The war museum was very sad. It had lots of photos taken by journalists and photographers in the field. A lot of the photographers had been killed whilst taking pictures of the war e.g. Dicky Chapelle, Larry Burrows etc etc so it was sad to see their last pictures that they had taken, or the last pictures that had been taken by them.. the pictures themselves were saddening. Pictures of elderly Vietnamese just before they were shot, pictures of young American soldiers caught in traps and crying out for help, a picture of a young Vietnamese baby abandoned by it’s mother as soldiers came to town, pictures of many many children and babies disfigured and handicapped by Agent Orange. It was very sad. Jim was laughing as he had seen a Western woman outside crying so I tired very hard not to be one of those dorks but I found seeing the babies and children very sad and had enough after the Agent Orange exhibit. I couldnae take no more cap’n. So finally we headed off home. Jim wanted to buy a war movie to watch, as we were in Vietnam, but I couldn’t take any more war or war noises that day so we left it for the moment. We walked allllllll the way home, then headed out for some grub in a place with some girls with some hats on. The food was pretty lame but the ladies were very nice. We had a few beers and headed back to the gaff where we chilled out and worked on a track.

The following morning we had a tour booked with Happy Tours to take us to the Cu Chi Tunnels at Ben Dinh. During the Vietnam war, the VC lived and organised attacks on the US troops from approx 200km of underground tunnels around the Cu Chi area. These became known as the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels enabled the VC to evade American troops and pop up above ground in hamlets or small towns or wherever they needed to be, yet still remain uncaught. These tunnels were amazing. The VC used these tunnels for travelling, living in, organising attacks etc. The tunnels themselves were very small and there were a few levels of them underground. The first level was the living area for many VC. Many ate, drank and slept in the first level which was about 3 metres underground. The second level was perhaps 6 metres underground and the third level was nearly 10 metres underground. The VC could not afford to be claustrophobic, plus there were very few airholes leading to these lower tunnels. These tunnels were a triumph for the VC as no matter how hard the Americans tried to locate them they always failed and the tunnels were a source of safety for living and transport for the VC.
The Us troops tried many ways to ‘pacify’ the area around Cu Chi which came to be known as the Iron Triangle. Tens of thousands of troops were sent in to locate the tunnels but they failed. In order to decrease the cover of the VC, the American troops then used plenty of chemiucals on the area from the air and then later used napalm to clear the foliage and expose the VC and their tunnels. But to no avail. The tunnels were too far underground to be seriously effected. When the Americans started using dogs to sniff out the tunnels and the VC, the VC started to wash with American Soap to put the dogs off the scent. Many dogs were killed during this war. The US then declared it a free-strike zone which meant anyone and everyone We were up at the crack of dawn for our free breakfast of huevos & bread and tea. Then we headed out to our miniature bus with only 3 others to head to the Cu chi area. On the way we picked up another guide and another 5 people and off we went. Me & Jim were doing the dance of the sleepy heads all the way out on the bus. We stopped off at a lacquer ware factory to see how the lacquer pictures & goods were made. Then it was back on the bus and off to the tunnels.

We were brought in to watch a really really old video of what seemed to be some type of propaganda for the Cu Chi tunnels. It was interesting but slightly hilarious as they had put the video to some type of clown/circus happy/goofy stylee music. It all seemed a bit surreal imo. After the video we were led off down the beaten path to some old original tunnel entrances. It was very interesting to see the tunnels. We were led around the Cu Chi Ben Dinh area and shown various original tunnel entrances – which were tiny, and plenty of ‘tourist’ entrances – which were a lot bigger. We were shown rooms which were used for dining, cooking, making weapons and we got to climb into a tunnel and make our way 10 metres or so down the road. It was very hot down there and very tight. Not the kind of place an Irishman would like to spend a lot of time. The two other girls in our group wouldn’t even go down into them. Me, Jim & a Japanese guy, (who owned a Toyota company) all went down and scoocheed through the tunnel. We had no torch so Jim shouted to me to warn me when the tunnel went a bit awry, and in turn I shouted to the Japanese guy and together we all got through a little bit dirtier than when we started. It was great fun though. Although I can’t imagine having to live down there. No sirree bob. :/

Anywho after much tunnel exploration, rubber shoe observing, rice-paper-making-watching and souvenir perusing, we made it back to the comfort of the air con bus. HAW LAY LUU YAH. Air con, as pretty krap as it is in south east Asia, is still an air con bus and still slightly more impressive than a non air con bus. J

So we headed back to Ho Chi Minh City for our free lunch at Happy tours. Once again, twas only the three of us for lunch. The two weird girls just disappeared! DISAPPEARED _ WITHOUT THEIR FREE LUNCH>>>>????? He he, they are obviously not schooled in the backpacker ways. Lunch was great – free noodles, rice & spring rolls.

We bid adieu to the Japanese guy (we did learn his name but I’m fucked if I can pronounce it) and headed off to the War Surplus Market, where there are stalls selling old army & war surplus items. We hovered around admiring the gas masks & ponchos, before heading off to the normal market to splurge out on some presents.

Then we headed off back home with a few beers to chill out and work on a track. J

The following day we decided to head to Dalat. Upon awakening, we had to wait for some lady to sew Jim’s pants. Now we knew darn well that she had forgotten to do it, but we still hoped for the best. Alas, twas not to be. Upon discovering we were leaving and not coming back, and eh yeah we’re leaving now, the reception girl made a call and asked for the pants (we reckon). She said it would be another ten minutes, but to be honest, we didn’t have ten minutes. So one of us decided to stay and another to go and hold the bus. I said I wasn’t going to hold the bus as I am ALWAYS waiting on Jim whilst other people ask me where he is, so for once I thought twould be good to be the one who was making other people wait. So I decided to stay. Well it wasn’t as much fun as I thought as I was waiting for yonkers and I hate when people are waiting on me. But finally, after putting on my backpack and nearly sitting on the reception girls lip waiting for some attention, she made another call and the young one with the pants arrived. J yeehaa. So off I went trotting down the road.

I caught up with Jim and we headed off to the bus. I was slightly embarrassed as I thought the whole bus would have been waiting on me, but I was wrong to be worried. There was no body else on the bus except me, Jim, the two drivers and some kid. Which was cool in one way as noone was waiting on me and bad in another way, as the young dude insisted on slowing down at every half-assed town, hanging out the door and shouting ‘Dalat?’, ‘Dalat?’ all the way down the road. Which makes for a very slow journey indeed.

After stopping for lunch, picking up pukesy o tool and wombling our way to Dalat, we finally arrived there at about 5pm. 2 hours later than planned. But the day was beautiful, the colours of the area were amazing and all our arses were numb. Twas a golden echo of a day. ;)….

As soon as the bus landed in Dalat, trunty million people launched themselves onto the bus, obviously looking for our business. Although I think they were hoping for more people than just me & Jim on this 48 odd seater bus. Lol. Anyway, me & Jim being the non-fussy types, followed yer woman to have a look at her rooms and picked this really nice room with two huge beds, a bathroom and a window with a view of some vegetable gardens. I love windows. J we chucked our stuff down, arsed around for a bit, then went out to grab some grub. I was trying to push ‘Larry’s bar’ on Jim, but he was having none of it, as it was nearly a kilometre out of town (ten mins walk). He is getting lazier as we go along!! ;) So we settled for eating in some place that was literally 2 mins from our gaff and was recommended by the LP. So off we went and there was very few veggie options for me so I asked for a veggie taco. I got lettuce in a tortilla. WOW. Sheesh. This is the land of vegetables and fruit, I should not be getting lettuce in a tortilla for a vegetarian option!!!! Anywho I ate it and it wasn’t too bad when it was washed down with two glasses of wine. Fnar.

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Posted by squeakylee 03:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

From Chau Doc to Cantho

sunny 34 °C

Well up and atom at 6am for our free bread and jam, that wasn’t really free because I had to pay ten thousand dong for it. Hey you, don’t tell me I’m getting a free breakfast, make me choose between bread & jam or bread and cheese and then make me pay for it!! Jaysus.

Anywho, a big load of us were shambled down the road to the pier. Most of the heads were going to Cambodia (back the way we had just came) so they were on a different boat. Us two were on our own little boat with three weird ladies. We headed off to visit a fish farm on the Hau Giang River.

There are around 1000 fish farms around the river in Chau Doc. The fish farmers live on wooden houses that float on the river on big barrels. The fishermen collect fish eggs and breed up to 400 tonnes of fish a year underneath their gaffs. The eggs grow into small fish, which are fed lots of fish food until they are 6 months old. Once they’re bigger, they’re moved into a different tub underneath the gaff and fed fresh food (spinach and stuff) every day until they’re big enough to sell to the market. They usually breed two types of fish, a pinky one which sells for 4 dollars per kilo in the market and another white fish, which sells for 2 dollars per kilo. Because the river is so polluted, (within three minutes I saw one girl washing her hair in the water and around the corner a young fellow was doing a turd in the water) quite a few of the fish die. Twice a day, the fisher dude has to sweep the tubs to remove the dead fish before they start to float on the top of the water. It was quite interesting. (Lisa)

After the fish farm, it was back to the boat and onto a Cham minority village. To be honest, I didn’t really understand much of what the guide was saying, and her upper lip was very sweaty but she was very friendly. We docked at a small area of land at the side of the river an were immediately set upon by aboot 10 little kids. They were all selling pastry cake things and asking us for money or a pen or failing that a piece of gum. We bought one little waffley cake that was as dry as a nuns knickers but we chomped it down approvingly. The main focal point was this house on stilts under which a girl was weaving silk scarfs and had many on display for purchase or funny photos. She was a Cham girl, Chams are muslims but they don’t have to wear the head scarf and are educated with normal Vietnamese but have their own lil traditions. The house on stilts had a water line measure along the side of it showing the water lever of the Mekong from previous years. In 2003 it was about 6ft higher than normal and people lost a lot of crops.

As we were leaving, the tour woman pointed out what looked like a pink licourice allsort attached to a leaf in the water and told us it was a SLUG in its cocoon. When we got back to the port we were the only ones to get the bus onto Cantho. Not understanding the ladies instructions from earlier, and she was no longer around, we presumed we should make our way back to the hotel were our bags were left and get the bus from there. We decided to jump on one of those little carriages pulled by an old man on a bike. LOL he was about 70 and the carriage was only big enough for one and a half western ass. Soooo I (Jim) sat in the back Lisa threw her legs off the front bit and on we went…. huffing and phuffing to the hotel. But once we got there, we were told we “get bus from port”. Ah Jaysus. (our cycle guy rubbed his hands together) so a 5 minute cycle later we were on our way on a lil bus with some grumpy guide.(Jim)

Aboot half an hour later the bus was stopping for ‘five’ mins. Yahahaha right. The bus tyre needed to be changed, so we sat out in the sun for a half an hour, dangling our legs over the river in an effort to tempt some crocs up to the surface but to no avail.

After the tyre was fixed, it was back to snoozing in the bus on our way to Cantho. We were supposed to stop at an incense stick factory but we didn’t. Upon arrival at Cantho, the ‘guide’ just ran out of the bus. Not a word! Weird. So we checked in to quite a nice hotel actually. (clean, toilet paper, mozzie net, bish, bosh, bang).

We grabbed our brolly and head out to face the pouring rain. Along the way we got stopped by some lunatic named Malcolm who was selling bric-a-brac. He was speaking very fast and I dunno what the hell he was on aboot. Something about ‘white rice being poison’, ‘tomatoes are good’, ‘you don’t have this in your country’, ‘I don’t like being in Vietnam, my son is in California, with four degrees ‘(Aren't they a band??) .. etc etc.. We bought something off him and did a legger once the rain was gone. Then we set about getting lost in the streets of Cantho.

Eventually, after much hair wringing and flipping the map aboot, we found our way to a restaurant that served some western cuisine (woohoo) and promptly ordered Vietnamese food. (lol)

After lunch we crossed the road to take a picture of the Ho Chi Minh statue. The statue is a silver colour and likened to the Tin Man (from the wizard of oz) by westerners. Vietnamese, obviously, don’t like this comparison.
Then we headed up to take a look at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, but alas it was closed.

So we strolled back to our gaf to get out of the heat (I didn’t feel too well. I attributed my pains in my stomach to the fact that I had crispy noodles for lunch and beer. I reckon the beer soaked the noodles inside my belly and made them balloon. No more crispy noodles says I)
I fell asleep again! (eek) and later we went out for ‘a snack’. We ended up at this restaurant that served cow, pork, mouse, snake, mudfish, gobyfish, cuttlefish, squid, crab and basically everything else that I didn’t really want to eat. I ordered some fried rice and Jim got some beef. We also ordered some spring rolls as we hadn’t tried them yet. They were quite delicious. (although I suspect there was pork in them)

After dinner, we sauntered back to the gaff and started to get out of our sweaty clothes when I realised I had lost my Buddha Beads!!!! NOOOOOO
So we trekked back to the restaurant and there they were sitting on the floor. Phewf! They must have dropped out of my pocket when I was peering at the snakes in the glass box!

So back again and off with the sweaty t shirts. It was time for showers and cold coca cola. (Lisa)yum

Posted by squeakylee 00:56 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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