A Travellerspoint blog

bumps in the night mean a bandage on the head

hopefully

overcast

We took the night train from Ha Noi to Da Nang and arrived around noon today. After being brought to the WRONG train station by a taxi arranged by our hotel, we were rushed by motorbike to the RIGHT train station, luggage and all. I thought it would be horrifying to ride on a motorbike in the middle of all the traffic we keep talking about, but it was actually A BLAST and wish that I had taken more rides! YIKES!! but totally fun--and probably seriously dangerous, but these people know what they are doing.
train_vietnam.jpg
Anyway, so we board the train and find that we are roommates (our soft berth had room for 4) were 2 Aussies named Jason and Cait. They were the very very very best roommates we could have asked for. We drank warm beer together and while we were chatting, and while Cait was on her way to the water closet (as they call it here) we felt quite a thud and then the brakes squealed the train to a quick and jerky stop. Turns out the train actually hit a motorbike. We were all horrified but looking out the window revealed a non-smashed bike being pulled away from the train and a man with a white bandage on his head. Now, we don't know if the scenario is really that simple - that we just nicked the bike and everybody is ok - but, that's what we are choosing to believe. There are things that don't match that scenario, such as the swiftness of the placement of the bandage on the head, and the fact that we felt the bump all the way back in the 10th car...We just don't really want to think about those things. (Plus, if it had been serious, it seems that the train would have had to wait around much longer than the 15 minutes that we were stopped, right? Unless this is a common occurence.. Enough!)train_vietnam2.jpg

Anyway, we are now in Hoi An, a much quainter town than Ha Noi.
Smaller, quieter.
IMG_1115.jpgWe ate the best food ever this afternoon - Cao Lao (a dish special to this area because the water comes from a well here) and the most fantastic fried wontons ever. Seriously. Holy moly!
IMG_1124.jpg
IMG_1126.jpg

Time is running out - more later. And, Jase and Cait, if you are reading this, we stayed in Hoi An one extra day so find us at Vinh Hung 1 on Tran Phu road. We should drink some COLD beer together on Friday if possible!

Posted by radish 03:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (5)

Beep Beeeeeeep Beeeeep Beep

Ha Noi to Ha Long

semi-overcast 33 °C

Amy Sez:

Just to back up a bit, our entry into Viet Nam was as uneventful as can be. Not sure why we thought it would be difficult. We left Thailand on a huge plane that could easily seat 350 and there were only 25 of us. We'd been strssing about our Visas since in America, it is a lot more complicated and can take weeks and cost 120 bucks or so. As it happened, our hotel in Thailand (We love Reflections Hotel), arranged it all and cost us no more than $80 and we didn't have to stand in any lines at the Vietnam Embassy or nothing. Going through customs is EZ and was less stressful that Thailand. We declared nothing and stepped on into Communist Vietnam.

The ride from the airport was the most exciting and we were so in shock of it all, we forgot about ouur cameras for the first twenty minutes or so. The simple quaintness of the bicycle has been replaced by thousands, let me repeat that THOUSANDS of motorbikes but they still wear the Nón lá hats (conical white woven ones) and the women still carry their wares in their double baskets. One photo we both missed was the man carrying the 10 or so little pigs squished into baskets on the back of his scooter. Rats.

We got to town at dusk, in time for a quick stroll around the famous (and apparently mosquito riddled. doh! more itchies) Hoan Kiem lake. We are staying in the amazingly fascinating old quarter where every street is named for the guild that was stationed here a century or two ago. There is a silk road, a metal road, a bamboo road, etc. We are on the onion road. Although our road is filled mostly with coffee shops and art galleries and cheap hotels for westerners. Oh, I always knew vietnamese coffee was good, it is so far - the best ever.

Today we went to Ha Long Bay. We got front row seats in the tourist van for most of the way which was a little nuts, even for young crazy drivers such as C and I. A few times, I couldn't help but reach out for her arm. Lanes do not exist. And the beeping is non stop for three hours there, and three back. I saw a few gun turrets left over from both the French (two story brick) and the American war (one story cement). It was the only reminder so far of these wars here. I am reading 'The Quiet American' by Graham Greene and am much excited to be in the same places.
A few words to describe what we saw: sweeping with straw brooms, pineapple stands, masked faces on bikes, Nón lá hats over long black pony tails, trash turned over into the soil, trash not turned over, trash, squatting, stacks of red bricks, water buffalo, and a plethora of green rice fields.
Halongbay1.jpg
Anyway, Ha Long bay, a World Heritage site was misty and rainy and we sat with some terrible young Germans tourists who complained about everything including the donation they had to make for an optional twenty minute boat tour set up by the British for a school (suggested donation of 30,000 dong equates to about $1.90) . The mist was lovely but did detract from what I magine could have been a lovelier day. We met Han, our 28 year old tour guide who we talked politics and old war talk for just a bit, and Darlene a 75 year old Canadian celebrating her birthday today. She gave us home baked chocolate/p-nutbutter oatmeal cookies on the journey home.

The biggest notice so far has been the constant barrage of touters asking you to buy whatever it is they are selling. We had at least 12 people ask us today to buy their pineapples. Everywhere you look, there are souvineers. Of everything! Usually trinkets and such. Usually nothing you want especially if you are travelling light. But things are so cheap. If you stop for just a moment to look at anything, they are on you to buy. They are in the street g\trying to get you into the restaurant or bar, they are on you to travel by trishaw (thre wheeled bike), even if you have only two blocks to go. So you smile, and shake you head no - and walk on. Much worse than Thailand for some reason. I think because the guilt is worse when you walk away. You can see how poor they are. What to do? How many pineapples can you buy?

Tomorrow we have the day in Ha Noi, and we leave by train overnight to Da Nang and then spend the day and night and day in Hoi An - one of the most pristinely picturesque towns ever. Our cameras will be happy.

Oh - there has been some trouble with taking pictures in Ha Noi. Mostly people being fascinated and or paranoid by what we are doing. Chris - ever brave - just takes 'em like nothing. I've decided to focus on more graphicy things, like cool signs, and grafitti, decrepid paint, and animals. People - not so much. More when we can.

Love to all,

---A

Posted by Antonogurl 09:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Traffic wherever you are is nothing like it is here

I promise...

We arrived savely in Ha Noi yesterday afternoon. Our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel (Golden Sun Hotel) was exciting to say the least. Closer to the airport, it was interesting to see stray cows and big bulls all over the place - some were being led by a man or woman on a trail near the road, others were just wherever they chose to be. As we got closer to Ha Noi, traffic became crazy. The streets are FULL of cars, motorbikes, and bicycles - all swerving around each other, seemingly in chaos, yet nobody was killed. Everybody, aside from the bicyclists - who are not riding sleek road bikes, but rather just ordinary bikes - uses their horns excessively. It is the craziest thing I've seen. The very very few traffic lights are ignored by at least half of the road population, and lanes are non-existent. We tried to take pictures, but pictures couldn't do justice to that scene.

Today, we will visit Halong Bay. It will be an all day affair. We will write about that later, I'm sure.

And, I'll just mention that our last night in Bangkok, we saw a traditional Thai puppet theater production. The previous night, Amy and I went to the night market and got hungry. We, unknowingly, decided to eat at the place where these productions take place and Amy happened to win tickets to a show (900 baht/$30 dollar value). We waffled about going because, come on, its puppets, but we went, and it was spectacular.

Ok - there's plenty more to write, but its time to eat some pho.

Posted by radish 17:17 Archived in Vietnam Comments (11)

Happy songkran!

we are wet and white.

sunny

ok - my turn.

Sawat dii ka, everybody!
Yes, the snorkeling adventure was great. 5 islands in 8 hours and a lunch of squid, chicken, rice, and freshly cut fruit on a white beach island. It really was a lovely day - the sky was overcast, and so the view underwater wasn't as pleasant as could be, but it was still amazing. The variety of corals were unbelievable, the schools of fish were plentiful and surrounding our every move, and the weird creatures like clams and wierd mouth things were everywhere. I think Amy and I held up the whole group at the first (and biggest) island we went to because we decided (accidentally) to swim all the way around it. Ah well, its vacation - they can wait. Anyway, it was just like any underwater, Jacques Cousteau documentary you've seen, minus sharks and jellyfish. The last island, Koh Wai, had a resort called paradise - very nice. Amy and I decided to enjoy yet another Singha and some oreos instead of snorkelling. Yum. The evening ended early as we were pretty exhausted after that trip.

Today is the real Songkran. The street is littered with all kinds of people - young, old, Thai, not Thai - dumping water, white powder, and yes, even white lotion on each other.
IMG_0446.jpg
Amy and I went and bought some super awesome water guns and joined the fun for a while this afternoon.
IMG_0443.jpg
Soaked and oddly white is how we arrived back at the hotel - quite a sight to be scene, but not out of the ordinary. We will probably venture out again after a while. Its really a party scene out there. Unbelievable! We are lucky to be here at this time.

And about my bites - mine don't itch as much as Amy's do. I chose the bed by the window in our bungalow - probably a mistake. Maybe my bites are from a different gross insect. But they are little puss filled sacks and i look a bit like I have scabies. Gross.

Tomorrow we are back to Bangkok. And Monday we leave for Vietnam where I'm pretty sure our internet access will dwindle quite markedly. We have a woman named Mrs. Moon who has taken care of ordering our train ticket from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh City. We will stop for one night in Da Nang. I have no idea what to expect...

More later

--oh, and the sun has arrived, once again.

Posted by radish 02:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged events Comments (7)

Name That Oozing Puss Filled Sore!

Bug bites and Other Trials of Tropical Climates

storm

Amy Says:
Sawaat dee ka! Sorry for the brief intermission. It costs about 30 cents a minute for internet here and our recent expenditures have cut into our budget.

Here's a contest for you! All who read this are welcome to join in. Not sure what the prize is yet - but do take a guess.

So, we can't post pictures as we have no laptop to download them. Instead, I'll describe. You google symptoms. Get back to us with your diagnosis. Needless to say, the malaria medication I've spent 90 bucks on probably won't help any.
oozey_sore.jpg
Okay - first night we were here, we fell asleep in our cute looking bungalow which appears to us now to have been the gatehring place for every bug known to man thanks to the lagoon nearby. When we awoke, little red marks everywhere. Not in any patterns really. Just everywhere. Not too itchy. That was day one. Day two - itchy and then the little bumps became blistery and started to ooze. Yay! Even itchier today and now have become little crusty scabby things. Bigger Yay! Luckily I'd brought hydrocrtisone cream. Combined with the benedryl I just took, things are a little better. Though the benedryl has made me quite sleepy. Christina has won out with 50 bites. Me only a paltry 35. So, what do you guys think?

Okay on to the fun stuff. Wednesday night we stopped in at the Cha Cha bar to have a couple of Singhas (local beer) and watch some street fire dancers spin their flaming metal poi balls and batons. It was quite impressive. Especially when the littlest one caught hers T shirt on fire. She slapped herself out - but I'm sure it was a scare. There was some joking with the bartenders who were all young skinny and scantily dressed thai ladies, about the thatched roof catching on fire. Ha! Yeah, that would be bad. During the second set, a very nice German man came over to tell one of the scanitly clad ladies that the roof above our heads was indeed on fire. No worries though, it is so humid it didn't burn fast and the littlest one again, patted it out. Yay! Oh - the official song here is anything Cher. Thorugh the thin walls of the bungalow, we've heard that terrible "Do you Believe in Love" song at least three times in one night. Cher fans, we are not.

Yesterday was spent on a too small but fast moving motor boat on our way to snorkel five of the many little islets littering the ocean here. We were crammed like sardines (fish joke!) into this boat with a plethora of annoying tourists who did things like try to light their cigarettes on said fast moving boat. I'll let Christina continue the snorkeling adventure in the next blog story since it is quite lovely.

christinahermit.jpg

Today is Friday - the official Songkran. Thai New Year! We just bought our water guns and have chosen our outfits to wear since the white powder is a little tough to get out. It has thundered and rained for a few days now. The sky and water have become about the same color, all gray. I'm sure the mosquitoes and frogs are having there hey day though. We've left our bungalow, by the way. Opted for a cush room in the hotel part and away from the swamp. Seems about 20 dollars more will get you a luxury room complete with robes, paper slippers and SCREENS on the windows. Funny how quaint it all was only a few days before.

Love to all!

---Amy

Posted by Antonogurl 22:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (9)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 17) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »