A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Hanoi

sunny 33 °C

We arrived in Hanoi this morning around 5am and were greeted with the usual thousand taxi drivers swarming around the bus to take us into the city centre (about 15 minutes drive). We knew the drive should only cost around $3 and we told the taxi driver who was gunning for us that we weren’t stupid and we knew how much it should cost to which he replied with a nod and a smile, so we hopped in.
Twenty metres later the illegal taxi meter was already at $2 so we hopped out onto the busy streets to find a more reputable source of transport. It wasn’t long before we found a more legit taxi to take us the entire way for $3.
The morning was made worse as I was suffering diarrhoea for the first time this trip, although I thought I would get it much sooner than day 22 which is a good thing I guess :).

We were only spending the day in Hanoi before taking the overnight train to Sapa, so we decided to check out the Ho Chi Minh museum.

The museum was not what either of us expected. It was more a trippy, artist’s version of the national heroes life. It is hard to describe, there were bits of factual information describing important key events in Ho Chi Minh’s life which were accompanied by various forms of art, whether it be a painting or sculpture or whatever. It was pretty cool. The best bit was walking around the room that contained all of the messages and presents that various governments had sent Vietnam after they won the war against the West, some interesting countries sent gifts!
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^^ Fruit platter in the Ho Chi Minh Museum
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^^ Metaphors were everywhere
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^^ Kirby with Ho Chi Minh
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^^ Beast in the museum

We also tried to visit the mausoleum to view Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, but unfortunately it was closed, although still well guarded!

Instead we headed off to Jade Island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. The Ngoc Son Temple on the island is small but still beautiful and it holds the remains of an ancient 200kg, 6 feet long giant soft-shell turtle that was once thought to be extinct, although a month before we arrived they had been rediscovered in the lake! (Didn't take photos of it for some unknown reason...doh!)

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^^ Burning incense at the temple
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^^ Lady selling face masks

Before we knew it time was up and we had to head to the train station to catch our locomotive high up into the mountains of North West Vietnam to visit the tribal peoples who call Sapa home.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:43 Archived in Vietnam Tagged taxi museum illegal hanoi turtle ho_chi_minh ripoff rip_off ngoc_son_temple jade_island Comments (0)

Hue

sunny 40 °C

You won’t believe what happened!!
We were all set to catch the overnight sleeper bus from Hoi An to Hue. We were both snuggled up in our little bunks with the laptop between us ready to watch a movie before we tried to get some shut eye, and then we heard something. Kirby and I both looked at each other; we weren’t sure what we had heard. I could see from the stillness of Kirby that she was holding her breath to get a better listen, she wasn’t alone. I too had been frozen into non-respiration at what I thought I had heard…and then we heard it again. There was no mistaking it this time, a thick female German accent ushering the ‘babies’ onto the bus, and with that all thoughts of sleep vanished.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about read this blog entry. To make things worse they were sitting directly behind us. At one point during the movie one of the ‘babies’ ripped the ear phones from my ears, as if I couldn’t hear it’s tantrums loud enough.
Anyway I promised myself I wouldn’t dwell on another hellish overnight bus ride as it’s in the past and I’m sure we won’t see them again, lightning can’t strike 3 times…right?

So we made it to Hue and found a nice cheap hotel, although it turns out that the Sun had also arrived in Hue and brought along its friend Mr. 40 degrees. Thankfully we had air conditioning in the room and so did various bars and restaurants around town.

Hue was the national capital of Vietnam until 1945 after which the Imperial Emperor Bao Dai abdicated to a communist government that declared Hanoi the new capital. The city is home to a massive citadel that occupies a large area on the northern side of the Perfume River. The Citadel is surrounded by a wall 2 kilometres by 2 kilometres, which is then also surrounded by a moat. Inside the Citadel was the Forbidden City where the imperial family called home. Although….you know what’s coming right?.... In 1968 America bombed the shit out of it as a response to the communist takeover of the city. Consequently most of the Citadel’s inner buildings were flattened and what remains today is rubble and grass, however the Vietnamese government has plans to rebuild the Citadel to its former glory.

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^^ Citadel entrance
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^^ Temple inside the Citadel
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^^ Hungry goldfish in the moat
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^^ I was helping the lion do whatever it was doing
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^^ Remains of the Forbidden City
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^^ Horses now call the Forbidden City home

It has been stinking hot in Hue over the last couple of days so we are escaping on the sleeper bus to Hanoi.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:30 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hue imperial citadel Comments (0)

My Son & Last Night in Hoi An

sunny 32 °C

The Kingdom of My Son is remnants of the ancient Cham civilisation that called this area of Vietnam home between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Although their ancient cities are now abandoned the descendants still live in Vietnam and we even met some of these friendly people during our time in the Mekong.

My Son was an establishment dedicated to intense religious study and was also the site where Cham Kings were crowned and buried. Monks were the only people allowed to permanently dwell in the actual city, although villagers from the nearby communities could visit freely.

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It feels pretty special, maybe even spiritual to be visiting a site with such a rich history and culture attached, unfortunately though that feeling is quickly extinguished when you are but one in a crowd of hundreds of tourists with their hungry cameras and sweaty bodies clambering around you to get a good position to hear the guide recite his daily facts that he so noticeably finds monotonous. Although maybe I’m just disappointed I couldn’t explore uncharted ruins like Indiana Jones. Apart from the sea of tourists it really is beautiful.

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^^ Crowded
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Unfortunately, like most things in Vietnam, it was also an adopted field-headquarters for the Viet Cong and consequently the Americans sent in the B52’s. About 90% of the ruins were turned into craters and those that remained are undergoing delicate restoration.

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^^ The rubble
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^^ Exploring!! :)
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I would still definitely recommend visiting My Son as the feeling of being inside an area that was once teeming with ancient culture is still very much in the air around you, albeit competing with the body-odour of the abundant tourists.

That afternoon we visited the market in Hoi An and just chilled out on the river front, hopping from bar to bar all evening.

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^^ Hoi An Market
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At one point a local woman selling various roasted nuts and banana approached us. She was full of complements; exclaiming how handsome I was, and how beautiful Kirby’s eyes were, suffice to say we ‘fell’ for her and ended up buying some of her banana, for which she was quite happy as it was her first sale for the night.
About half an hour later she returned with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. She had returned to thank us and shake our hands as apparently we were good luck for her and just down the road she sold 10 packets of peanuts, 5 bottles of tiger balm, and a few packets of bananas. She was so pleased with her sales and thankful for the luck we had bestowed upon her that she wrote down her address and invited us to her house for dinner tomorrow night with her family. A really kind gesture, unfortunately this was our last night in Hoi An before we head to Hue, so we couldn’t have dinner with her :(, fingers crossed she is still doing well!

Tomorrow we set our sights to conquering the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 04:15 Archived in Vietnam Tagged ruins vietnam hoi_an my_son hoian myson b52 Comments (1)

Hoi An and the Crazy Woman on the Bus

sunny 30 °C

Last night we took the sleeping bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An. Believe me when I tell you it was the most horrendous experience we have had so far haha. Where do I even begin?

In theory the idea of a sleeping bus is great; a bus full of bunk-beds that travels during the night while you sleep and you wake up in a new city, awesome!

Where this theory breaks down is... when the air-con is not working and the bus has no windows, when the bus is so overcrowded that locals are sleeping on the floor (the lucky ones in hammocks hitched between two bunks), when the man sleeping on the floor keeps grabbing and touching you all night, when the toilet door latch is broken and slams every time the bus turns a right corner, when the driver beeps the horn every 10 seconds to warn the motorbikes to get out of the way or die, when a German woman brings her three kids under the age of seven on a 13 hour bus ride.

Before I continue let me just tell you about this German woman. She was travelling alone with her three children or ‘babies’ as she so whiningly called them. She had a clipper number 1 shaved head, along with her two little girls and boy. Her outfit consisted of loose hanging shrouds and sarongs, minus shoes and bra, of course. The children were wearing what looked like tea-towels that just hung off their bodies; the poor seven year old girl was struggling to keep her body covered as her dishtowels flopped around with a mind of their own, why isn’t she dressed properly and at school?
It was actually quite disturbing to see, and if this woman was in Australia I can guarantee she would be getting a knock on the door from child services, especially if they saw all the kids and her lining up and squatting next to the bus because the use of the toilet cost 20 cents. This isn’t even the worst, wait for it.
When we were hopping on the bus she told her kids to hold our hand and pretend that Kirby and I had two children, what the fuck??!
Apparently she hadn’t bought tickets for the kids because an adult can travel with 1 child for free if the child shares the bed. So here we were standing on the bus waiting to get to our bunk with a German woman’s ‘babies’ hanging onto us and her begging that we take one of her children each. Obviously we politely said ‘hell no’ and left her to the bus drivers mercy, or lack thereof. After a heated yelling match between her and the driver she had to pay an extra $20 for the kids to get a bed (our 8 open tickets from Saigon to Hanoi cost a combined $38). Who was she kidding though? Of course there wasn’t going to magically be two beds that weren’t occupied, especially when people are sleeping on the floor. So as predicted 5 minutes later two guys hopped on and politely kicked the kids out of their bed and she was left with 3 kids lying on top of her minus $20, and you can imagine what shenanigans went on when three kids are stuck in 1 bunk for 13 hours.
Suffice to say the bus ride was hellish and I wanted to scratch the word ‘sleeping’ from off the side of the bus when we finally made it to Hoi An.

On a lighter note, Hoi An is beautiful and I’m really glad we weren’t disappointed because I was ready to throttle the life out of the next street rooster that cock-a-doodle-doed.

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^^ Hoi An street

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^^ All the buildings in the old district are heritage listed

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^^ An old junk, nestled in the river that runs through the heart of Hoi An

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^^ Hanging out on the bridge

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^^ Playing with the camera

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^^ Looking across the river

When we hopped off the bus we wandered around for a while looking for an affordable guesthouse to stay at. That is when we met a nice lady who kindly guided us to a good cheap hotel ($10 a night) in the middle of the market/old district, where all the attractions are. Little did we know that she owned a tailor store that made custom suits, and her helping us was to ensure our custom later that day. Neither of us wanted anything made so that put us in a bit of a bind. We tried to avoid her but she hunted us down on the street and when we told her we didn’t want to buy anything from her she got fairly angry at us and was unreasonably rude, what she didn’t know was how rough our night had been and Kirby was most definitely not ready to take any shit, and with a selection of uncompromising words and matching body language Kirby put the woman back in her place, something she probably wasn’t used to after always dealing with timid travellers out of their comfort zones.

After a fairly eventful previous evening and day we were ready for some relaxing and thankfully Hoi An is the town famous for its 2.5 cent beers, yeah you read correct, two and a half cents for a beer! Not many bars in Australia give you change for 5 cents haha :).

Tomorrow we are off to My Son, the remains of an ancient Cham civilisation.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 08:10 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus vietnam hoi_an hoian sleeping_bus crazy_lady Comments (3)

Nha Trang

sunny 35 °C

Nha Trang offered us a place to relax and unwind. It sounds weird, unwinding on a holiday? Doesn’t really make sense to me either but there is something about constantly doing tours and sight-seeing that is tiring. We definitely needed a ‘veg-out’ session and what better place than on the beach lounging around sipping cocktails by the pool.

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Literally all we have done for 4 days is sit around drinking and chilling out. The first day in Nha Trang we found a really nice beach front bar called Louisiane Brewhouse with a pool and luxurious mattress clad lounge chairs on the sand. We just sat around drinking $4 cocktails until we were hungry and then we feasted and then we drank more cocktails and the cycle continues. At night we would head up to a few bars/night clubs and enjoy the atmosphere.

In Nha Trang we also discovered the $5 vodka. We were initially drinking $4 cocktails until we realised that you can buy a 700ml bottle of 40% vodka for $5!!! So that kept us occupied for a while :)

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On the third day we decided we should do something so we headed off to the Thap Ba mud baths and hot springs. Pretty cool, it involved more sitting and relaxing…

That night at one of the bars we met a cool guy; I’m almost certain his name was Killy, but I could be wrong, anyway we just played Jenga and hung out with the coconut, apple, and mint shisha.

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^^ Keeping up with times
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^^ Feasting on Pho Bo
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So now it’s the fourth day and we are recharged and ready to get back to the tourist trail. We booked a sleeping bus to Hoi An. Fingers crossed Hoi An will offer you a more exciting blog as we get back on track.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 23:13 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach vietnam shisha nha_trang Comments (1)

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