A Travellerspoint blog

Day 28 Halong Bay

This morning we left the hostel to go on a tour. Two of the men from the hostel gave us rides on the back of their scooters to the harbour. Both men coasted down the hill and turned their engines on about half way down. Only my guys bike wouldn't start so while Dan whizzed off I was dropped at the bottom of the hill and asked to walk the rest of the way.

After a very choppy sea sick boat journey we found calm sea around Lan Ha and Halong Bay where we kayaked through caves. Dan did jump off the boat 3 times because I was completely incapable of capturing a good photo. I blamed our cheap camera.

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On the way back to the harbour a man on another boat waved at us. He was squatting over the edge of his boat having a shit.

In the evening we had a treat meal which soon led to talking about Landos (having a Nandos when we land) and various other things we are starting to miss. For me it is cereals and real cheese. They seem to believe that a dairylea triangle is mozzarella and that a cheese single is permitted outside of a burger bun. Which it is definitely not.

Posted by vincerb 07:07 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 26/27 Storm

This morning as we drove through town we noticed a certain quietness around town with locals clearly preparing for the storm coming from in the path of typoon Haiyan/Yolanda.

We headed to Cannon Fort in the morning.

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We enquired about booking a ticket off the island and were basically told that there were no boats till the storm has passed.

And then the rain started.

So we got ripped off in a little shop buying Mars bars and a toblerone and seeked shelter in the hostel watching Jurassic Park 3 and the latest Walking Dead episodes.

Then we got hungry and there was a power cut so we went to the common area and the hostel owner made us all instant noodles in the candle light.

The storm sounded very scary but by daylight it proved to have caused minimal damage. While the locals cleaned up and attempted to restore power we took an easy day reading and researching the rest of our proposed Vietnam stops.

Posted by vincerb 03:33 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 23 Vietnam Hanoi

Hanoi is mental. Crossing the road involves walking at a steady confident pace looking straight ahead and hoping everything weaves around you. The scooters drive on both sides of the road, cut corners, jump red lights, drive on the pavement (if there is any because most of it is used for parking scooters) and drive out of shops/alleyways at speed.

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We arrived late evening tired and hot from carry backpacks through the maze of the Old Quarter. We avoided the men putting there heads into the mini van as we tried to get out offering motorbike taxis.

The next day we went to Hoa Lo Prison Museum, temple Hoankiem and the Vietnamese Women's Museum.

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At the Women's Msueum we read some inspirational accounts of Vietnamese women during the war. Including taking down 100 soldiers in guerrilla forces. And then we tried to put on traditional hats.

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On the walk back to the hostel a street seller tried to rip us off doughnuts for 150,000 dong. By walking away saying they were too expensive (£4.50 ish) she dropped to 30,000 dong. Out of principal Dan refused to buy them. It is annoying being targeted for scams and most of the time it doesn't happen or we don't engage. It was just a noisey road and a double harassment from a tuk tuk driver and doughnut lady that got us a bit agitated. But there were good times too- children saying hello and old women trying to rub Dan's arm clean! Feeling a bit overwhelmed we planned to head to the quiet island of Cat Ba next.

Since arriving in Vietnam we haven't stopped singing Sisqo- Thong Song each time money is discussed. (Currency is Đồng)

Posted by vincerb 03:07 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 25 Hospital Cave

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This morning we rented a back firing scooter from the hostel and headed to Cat Ba Island's National Park. The drive was beautifully scenic passing colonial French inspired buildings alongside make-shift shacks. Having watched Jurassic Park in the hostel last night I hummed the theme tune as Dan drove us through the lush green mountains. The drive was without any major hiccups but as always on the roads of SE Asia there was some undesirable situations. Like coaches driving on the wrong side of the road round corners heading straight towards us. Luckily Dan is able to remain logical in these situations as I squeeze my legs tightly and make incomprehensible squels and gasps. (Note to Mum's and motherly figures in our lives we of course wear helmets and drive as sensible as Vietnam will allow)

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After a poor attempt at exploring the park. We saw stags and butterflies and then the steep climb got all a bit to hot for me and in a moment of weakness we retreated.

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After a injection of 7Up we went onto the Hospital Cave used in the 60's. We pulled over at the cafe opposite. A man emerged claiming he was the key holder and that he'd be our guide for 30,000 dong each. Probably double the actual price but we went ahead anyway up a rickety steep wooden ladder which clearly had an older broken version underneath that they'd just built over. Essentially the cave was many empty concrete cells but worthwhile for the eerieness the dripping walls and bare light bulbs gave it. At the end of the tour a group of boys enjoyed pointing at Dan's arm whilst another man in the cafe inspected his arm and asked how much it cost. This happened three more times today with Dan making 'friends now' with one man who was keen to show his own backpiece off to us.

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After a much needed decent burger for lunch. (Yes we should be eating local foods but sometimes you just need a fix and a break from the gamble of getting ill/ordering something horrible). We headed to Cat Co Beach 1 where a Vietnamese version of PGL was kicking off with all sorts of games for the boys and photo shoots for the girls.

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Yesterday we went to a bar advertising hair cuts and pedicures so Dan decided he was ready to risk a Vietnam haircut and I decided my feet were going to have some $2 TLC. Both treatments happened just next to the bar top with the hairdresser doubling up as the bar maid. I watched in apprehension as Dan's hair was randomly hacked at by a clearly unqualified hairdresser. But for $1.50 it doesn't look as bad as it could! My pedicure encountered no issues and all toes are intact.

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Posted by vincerb 02:48 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 22 UXO

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In the morning we visited the COPE exhibition which is a charity committed to providing prosthetics for all people injured by scatter bombs UXO's. It was fascinating, humbling and hopeful.

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The charity is providing free prosthetics to people who cannot afford them. This gives the people a chance to continue an active working life. We read and watched many stories of individuals hardship including young children injured by bombies found through searching for scrap and even UXO's under kitchen stoves exploding.

In other news- I crumbled. We're flying to Hanoi.

After hearing about coffin style beds and cockroaches I came round to Dan's way of thinking. Is 24+ hours of my life really worth the price difference. Lets flashpack.

Posted by vincerb 00:15 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 21 Coin Toss


We travelled to Vientiane this morning and went to the Vietnamese embassy this afternoon to organise our visa's.

We faced a dilemma which eventually could only be solved by a coin toss.
The dilemma: Travel from Vientiane> Hanoi by:

Becky votes: Bus- 24hoursish-$30
or
Dan votes: Plane- 1hr-£100

Becky won, a long coach journey awaits us tomorrow evening.

Posted by vincerb 06:56 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 20 Tubing

Today we went on a tubing/kayaking tour. We were the only ones to book on so we had our own personal guide. He took us to the elephant cave where he answered a lot of our questions on Buddhism. Then we went tubing through low caves with head torches. Dan was a little bit scared. The guide nicely pointed out some stalagmites that resembled female genitalia. He was greatly amused.

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Our guide then cooked us a BBQ before we began kayaking for 15km. Much to Dan's entertainment our guide 'Air' took a liking to teasing me which included splashing me with water, asking if my tattoos were English football badges and laughing hysterically whenever I tried to say something in Laotian. I was also pretty weak at kayaking. Air was actually really nice and keen to practice his self taught English- which he was very good at. We learnt all about his family and the Laos way of living. Sometimes a bit too much information was shared about his tired wife saying no to his dream of 12 children!

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We stopped at one of the last remaining tubing bars (one free shot was enough after yesterdays hang over) and rested our arms before finishing the last 6km off. Our arms now feel like lead.

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Posted by vincerb 06:48 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 19 Hanging

Today was a complete right off due to the both of us being completely hung over and useless.

I stupidly woke up at 8 am claiming not to have any illness. Come 10 am I could hardly speak and was in no state to do anything but go back to the pool, shade bathe, sleep and read.

Posted by vincerb 06:48 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 18 Relax


After last nights long bus journey today was declared a chill out day. We went to a posh hotel and used their swimming pool. There was great views of the mountains from the infinity pool and we watched kayak groups paddle by.

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Then there's the gutting realisation that I've left a pair of sandals on a shoe rack outside a hostel in the last town (Sorry fashion police it wasn't the practical sandals) It was bound to happen at some point as my short term memory is shocking. I've only got one pair of shoes left from my original 3 so now the hunt begins for a size of 'large' shoes begins (size 6)

In the evening we went to a friends TV bar and met a German couple and two Irish guys. We went on to a few bars and drank far too much Laos whiskey.

Posted by vincerb 06:46 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 17 Hilltribe Education

Today we visited the TAEC museum about Laos tribes and the clothing they wear- which was fascinating. Some information that captured my attention:

  • Girls start collecting silver for their headdress from the age of 12 and continue to add to it. The headdresses are even worn to work and when bathing.
  • A women's clothes are all she takes to a marriage. They are an advertisement for her wifely skills in creativity, patience and diligence.
  • The tribes of Laos marry outside of their own tribe and each new year a party is held where most people will meet their partners. Special outfits are made in the months prior to this.
  • Long ago a handmade ornately beaded piece of fabric held the same worth as a buffalo.

I didn't take any photos inside but here is a cute dog from outside.

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We also went to the National Museum which didn't cater well to an international audience with labels such as 'bed' 'urn' 'chair' which were quite uninspired. The cabinets with gifts from other countries were the most entertaining most had given silverware or ceramic. Australia gave a boomerang. America gave a bit of the moon.

Here is my best British tourist outfit outside the museum:

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We checked out of our hostel (which we were never asked to pay for) and got aboard a local '6' hour bus to Vang Vieng.

The journey took close to 9 hours. That bus had four wheels but not much else.

We stopped loads for the bus driver to get a flashlight out and check the engine. Each time we went round a corner the entire tin can vibrated like a washing machine on full spin. If the driver wasn't accelerating the engine cut out and we just coasted until we were half way up a hill and about to roll back down again. Then he'd start the engine again.

At one stop seemingly in the middle of nowhere at 10pm half the bus got off and bought their weekly groceries. As we were conversing about a boy and his two bags of cabbages Dan exclaimed with dismay:

"What has that man got. What has he got!? ...
-Its a bird in a cage.
That man has bought a bird in a cage...

Yep. Just store that in the foot well"

At this point I got the serious giggles. We began to realise that we'd stopped acknowledging unusual things that if we were at home would be outrageous. For example I was sat outside a cafe today when a boy of about 8 in school uniform drove his motorbike through the regular sized doorway and left it in front of the counter.

This managed to lift our spirits enough to get us through the next few hours.

Posted by vincerb 06:46 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 16 Rope Swing


Day 16
We arrived in Luang Prabang around 5am and went with another couple we met on the bus to the hostel. On arrival we found a Laos man asleep on a mattress in the common room. After a few 'drop flip flops from a heigh/loud coughing' we realised he wasn't getting up for us. An hour later we managed to nab some dorm bunks and nap. It felt like we'd stolen a nights sleep!

So at 11am we went to a bear sanctuary and Kwang Si Waterfall. All very beautiful and scenic.

Here is a bear in a hammock.

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We have video evidence that neither me or Dan are particularly able to use a rope swing- here is a teaser as we can't seem to get the videos off the camera at the moment.
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After my attempt my lower back and bum cheeks looked like two raw rashers of bacon.

In the evening we went to Utopia. Unfortunately we bumped into someone really annoying that we'd met on a mini van from Pai. We've met a sweet couple from Kingston, one a nurse on a career break, two Dutch girls who spent 5 hours on a roof of a bus in Burma, a 'zen master' from Canada, two Irish guys with matching Movember tashes and many more. But this guy is the most infuriating guy who insists on preaching to us about how to travel. Why can't we bump into nice people again!

Posted by vincerb 06:40 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 15 Border Crossing

Crossing the border day. Far too boring to write much about. On the plus our 14 hour overnight bus left an hour late and arrived 3 hours early!

Posted by vincerb 06:40 Comments (0)

Day 14 Scooter!

Why haven't we got a scooter already? Should we fly home now and spend the rest of our savings on a Vespa?!

Today we posted Dan's 'silk' kimono home along with various other bits and pieces that we've picked up in markets along the way.

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In the afternoon we went to our first swimming pool and scrambled up a hill to see 'Big Buddha on the hill' which is still being built and yet to be painted.

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Today also we booked our onward 'VIP' bus to Laos which delightfully involves a 7 hour mini bus, over night stay, boat across the Mekong, wait 7 hours then a 14 hour coach to Luang Prabang. On writing this we are at the waiting point. In true Thai style the mini bus driver drove the first leg of the journey like it was a police chase - speeding up to drive in the wrong lane around corners through the mountains around Pai and swerving around cows sleeping on the road. We both decided that attempting to sleep was better than having our eyes open.

On check out we did two trips to the bus station with our rucksacks. After seeing families of six riding scooters whilst the driver is on his mobile, the mum is holding a baby and kids are clutching a mattress I think we were probably being over cautious!

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Posted by vincerb 23:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 13 Chinese Village

Today was another day of drizzle but we were still keen to make the most of it - and the scooter.
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We drove to a waterfall and Chinese Village, read at the top of a view point and watched films at our hotel in the evening

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The novelty of how bad I look in a helmet hasn't yet worn of for Dan who chuckles each time I try to talk to him whilst wearing it. Looking through the camera pictures his two favorite things to take photos of are: 1. Me in the helmet & 2. Stray dogs.

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Backpacking doesn't mean giving up all fashion consciousness- matching accessories!
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Posted by vincerb 23:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 12 Mountain View

The weather in Pai was pretty awful today. But on plus side we're staying in a wooden bungalow that looks out over the mountains. We have a hammock and lots of snails in the bathroom/down the toilet.

Today we rented a scooter and took a 20 minute ride through the mountain to visit a hot mineral bath.

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Much to Dan's excitement we found a bar showing the Man City Chelsea game (11pm here) which we watched (okay I read/napped) whilst it continued to pour with rain.

Posted by vincerb 23:12 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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