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Vietnam

I survived Nam!

Hanoi/Halong Bay

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Hot weather and cheap beer is the perfect storm of procrastination!

But enough is enough! Time to see the sights, enjoy the culture and experience that which is the descending dragon (aka, Halong Bay).
large_halong_bay_234.jpg
The name comes from a story of the mother dragon. You see the gods sent down a family of dragons to help defend from invaders. As they descended the mother dragon spat out pearls which landed in Halong Bay thus creating the limestone islets. These islets devastated the enemy fleet, winning the war the mother dragon did not want to return to the heavens leaving such beauty like Halong Bay and descided to stay.

All the way travelling north in Vietnam I would hear stories of the famed backpackers booze cruise. There would be lots of nudity, lots of drinking and people running amok. We decided that we actually wanted to see the bay and not have it as a drunken blur so we opted for the more expensive but chilled out version. We booked with the hostel under pressure of time, which was probably not the best descision as we paid alot more than some we spoke with. It pays to shop around a bit, you see there are travel agency shops all throughout Vietnam tourist areas and you can get some really good deals. I guess it's a risk also though of not knowing what your getting.

The morning of the trip I had got perhaps 2 hours sleep due to the evil lure of free beer and a barbie for easter at the hostel. It was a mad rush for the bus that was turning up out front and I had thought I lost my wallet and held up the bus running around franticly. Anyhow it ended up my wallet was in the bag I had brought down at the start...but I did'nt tell anyone, so Shhhh ;p I try to get sleep slinking to a corner.
Now with every tour in Vietnam there is an obligitory stop off at a souvenir shop masked as a toilet break. (Toilets are marked as W.C., I'm not quite sure why) I take this time to play my Mekong bamboo flute for Mallory to ease her hangover :) Sooo we get to the port and await to go on the boat, now your probably expecting a traditional wood boat with the asian sails n stuff yeah? This is what you get.. halong_bay_014.jpg It seems that there are two stories of why two months ago it became compulsory to have a white boat. First story is that there were accidents and a white boat helps it be visible in the dark. second is that some head honcho travelled in Greece and saw all the nice white boats and decided that it would be a good look over here to increase the beauty of the bay. Our fellow shipmates consisted of three Australian couples, a Russian family and French family. Ended up being fun with lots of laughs and a little midnight karaoke (scored a 98!), kayaked and swam (even though the water is grosse :/ ) Here are some of the pictures I got, the place was fairly misty which seems to be the norm. The photo's that you see on the postcards with clear sunny days happen maybe 3 days of the year haha
halong_bay_061.jpghalong_bay_036.jpghalong_bay_067.jpghalong_bay_071.jpghalong_bay_076.jpghalong_bay_064.jpghalong_bay_171.jpghalong_bay_239.jpghalong_bay_254.jpghalong_bay_187.jpghalong_bay_191.jpg Now you would think you'd be safe from hawkers in an area like this on your own boat....but no, there are these little rowed boats all over selling booze and foodhalong_bay_125.jpghalong_bay_113.jpg They also live on the water on makeshift floating homeshalong_bay_119.jpghalong_bay_129.jpghalong_bay_127.jpghalong bay 096

halong bay 096

halong_bay_056.jpg I believe that the guide said there is 15,000 people who live there...or 1,500...

I went and saw Ho Chi Minh the other day, it took about an hour in line which I would say was a kilometre long. They have him embalmbed on display. This is serious business, there was no talking, laughing, your hands straight ..not in pockets, hats off, sunnies off and these guys have guns with bayonetes so you listen. Girls get knocked back for inapropriate attire. Well it was worth it, he is looking pretty good. I was just waiting for him to do the "rarrrr!" movement....didn't happen :(

So 2 more days left untill 4 days of water fighting in Laos!!

Ive been boasting of gearing up with an improvised arsenal of bamboo weaponry, I should start drawing up plans... so ciao for now!

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 01:06 Archived in Vietnam Tagged boat vietnam bay dragon hanoi halong ho_chi_minh halong_bay Comments (0)

Vietnam continued

Mekonging, Tunneling, Shooting, and Drinking.

Hi again!

So to continue, I thought after drinking out on the town for the first three nights I should go and do something. First I decided to check out the Cu Chi tunnels from the Vietnam war plus I found out you can shoot some automatic weapons :) large_Vietnam_Wa..els_066.jpg

So we were picked up by SlimJim who was a crack up. He was named SlimJim because he eats like a bird but drinks like a fish he told us. He had so many sayings of Australia where he had learnt alot of our slang from. It took a while to get there but when there SlimJim took us through the jungle paths showing us traps that the VC used, explaining that they were not that effective except for pyschological warfare. Vietnam_Wa..els_013.jpg The tunnels that were used are incredibly small, here is a picture Vietnam_Wa..els_040.jpg Here is an original trench used in the war Vietnam_Wa..els_043.jpg Can you see something suspicious here? Vietnam_Wa..els_023.jpg How about now? Vietnam_Wa..els_021.jpg
Why is it that as soon as you hold a gun you become a poseing douche? ...I mean RAMBO!Vietnam_Wa..els_070.jpg
Into the tunnel I head...Vietnam_Wa..els_077.jpg and ever deeper Vietnam_Wa..els_082.jpg So Marc my mate from the netherlands was the one with me, we convinced a girl that was worried about doing it to come in and it'd be ok...which made it all the more difficult to make the descision to ditch her on the first exit :p The tunnel was really short and well I'm tall and it's much the same for the rest of it I was sure, so me and Marc jump out giggling because we have decided to come back in at the last exit to make it look like we did it. We run out and then run back in, it's pitch black entering in but with the noise we are making we hear a "Is that you guys?" from down the tunnel (I'm impressed with her speed). We enter in giggling and I get stuck with my backpack for a moment causing a jam, with the poor girl at the end haha Vietnam_Wa..els_093.jpg Well in the end we exited with the applaude of our tour group, it seems that they all left and didn't finish. So in the end the only person who really did do the whole length was the girl who didn't want to do it in the first place! Haha

After this we were rewarded with some thing like potato, I tried my food photography Vietnam_Wa..els_108.jpgVietnam_Wa..els_106.jpg at the end we were taken to watch a video. It was pretty funny, made in the time of the war it was very much propoganda. Reffering to the U.S. as demons and such and how this guy or that girl won the award for killing americans etc.. here's us watching it Vietnam_Wa..els_110.jpg Here are some pics from the drive back Vietnam_Wa..els_134.jpgVietnam_Wa..els_124.jpgVietnam_Wa..els_129.jpgVietnam_Wa..els_160.jpgVietnam_Wa..els_163.jpg

The next trip was the Mekong Delta. I really felt that even though I had heard mixed reviews I needed to do this, I convinced Mallory with this ideal also. The bus trip was going to be three hours or so with an early start. I would love to say that I slept these hours but I seem never to be able to sleep other than in a bed...I get close but never asleep. It is VERY annoying.

We opted for the day trip which meant that we would not be able to see the big floating market, only the "other" one. I was a bit upset with this as I had really wanted to see the teaming market like in the pictures etc. Here is some pictures of the market which really is just a few boats that had food on them going up and down the river... I did see some bartering and exchanges so I guess technically they can call it a market...maybe. Mekong_Delta_001.jpgMekong_Delta_029.jpgMekong_Delta_030.jpgMekong_Delta_036.jpgMekong_Delta_037.jpgMekong_Delta_050.jpgMekong_Delta_060.jpgMekong Delta 100

Mekong Delta 100


I'm not sure if this is her wardrobe or they are for sale...Mekong_Delta_053.jpg The river is quite busy though, people are in and out all over the shore Mekong_Delta_088.jpgMekong_Delta_016.jpg
After a time we reach our first stop which is the coconut place, they make all kinds of things out of it but mostly a coconut candy. There is also gift shops at every stop trying to sell you crap. They also have a home distillery for some reason so we all get a shot (It's harsh). The next stop is the honey place, they have two big boa's and give us honey tea then try to get us to buy some. Here is the bee's they bring out.. Mekong_Delta_128.jpg.

Next they take us to be rowed on a small boat down to where we will have lunch, (Here they are waiting for us) Mekong_Delta_173.jpg they lady that ends up rowing us makes sighing sounds all they way there ever increasing the closer we get to our drop off point (We were told we can tip them before getting in and I assume they know this), I somehow get fooled and tip. Suprise, suprise there is a lady selling soft drink and beer...I spy a flute and ask how much expecting some stupid price but it's only a dollar. Much to the disapointment of those around me I now have a Mekong Delta bamboo flute! :) So we head off to have lunch then a boat trip back and another bus back to the hostel. Her are some other pics from the trip... check out the load of grain this boats taking Mekong_Delta_166.jpgMekong_Delta_164.jpgMekong_Delta_171.jpgMekong_Delta_139.jpg The petrol station Mekong_Delta_135.jpgMekong_Delta_124.jpgMekong_Delta_113.jpgMekong_Delta_163.jpgMekong_Delta_147.jpg I bought some top gun sunnies! Mekong_Delta_191.jpgMekong_Delta_132.jpgMekong_Delta_121.jpg It's like they all have cable?! Mekong_Delta_070.jpg

So Ive booked my ticket for Loas, staying in Hanoi. Tomorrow I'm gonna try and see Ho Chi Minh himself, it's supposed to be crazy like...wish me luck!

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 07:56 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam tunnel mekong chi gun guns delta chu shooting mekong_delta Comments (0)

Gooood Morning Viiieeettnnnaammm!

Ho Chi Minh City, the land of a thousand motorbikes!......every square metre...

Well the taxi ride to the hostel was a good start to the learning curve which is south east Asian traffic. On numerous occasions I turned thinking to see a mess of bikes from the taxi just going where he pleased. He beeped his horn of course warning that he would be coming, you see the horn is a second language here! I managed to get a picture from the car as we crossed a major roundabout, a picture is worth a thousand words...large_Ho_chi_min..y_1_023.jpg

So I'm dropped off on the side of the street to a kid and told to go with him, he casually strolls across the torrent of motorbikes. Not wanting to lose him I follow jumping this way and that causeing more havoc than I wish to avoid. Once across he enters a small alleyway and that voice chirps in for a quick "You have no idea who this kid is". As quick as it comes it goes away, the alleys are not barren but bustling with shops and homes with kids playing hopscotch. People laze about in doorways watching as you pass, scooters beep you from behind weaving between people. I try to take it all in going ever deeper, finally reaching the hostel I check in and start the five floor climb with my backpack :( Everything checks out with the dorm plus a balcony overlooking the alley is a bonus. Ho_chi_min..y_1_055.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_051.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_052.jpg The view. Ho_chi_min..y_1_046.jpg

Soon introductions are made and we are all out drinking that night.

Where I stayed was district 1, which is the tourist district. I had not seen so many tourists for a long time and had a kind of culture shock on that aspect which was strange. The district is full of bars, hostels and hawkers trying to sell you there wares. To give you an idea of what was on offer you had smokes (50c a pack! Even people that don't smoke are smoking), sunglasses of all brands (Same same but different!), a little marijuana and an assortment of random crap. Here is a picture of one, the stall behind was my local mango smoothie maker...that was untill I saw that the lady right behind her sold the same thing cheaper...I'm talking about 2 steps to the right saves me a quarter of the price....anyhow here is it is..Ho_chi_min..y_1_347.jpg and to show you how close the cheaper place is, it's that sign to the right Ho_chi_min..y_1_061.jpg

I got given a small map to use and all the local sights pointed out, the places all seemed fairly close so I thought I'd do a circuit. The circuit involved the war muesum, reunification building, Tham Market and Notre Dame!(Bet you did'nt see that one coming). First I went to see the war muesum thinking that it would be quite interesting/educational, that I should learn a bit about the places I'm going to see.
Expecting the politics of the Vietnam war and timelines and such I was taken a bit off guard by what we got. You see the original name of the muesum I found out was the "war crimes muesum". Basically once you enter you get barraged with horrible stories of torture, massacres and really REALLY disturbing photo's. Here are some photo's of the torture stuff, I must say I was quite suprised by what Americans did to the North Vietnamese...these photo's really do not show half of what was done, truly horrible stuff. Ho_chi_min..y_1_110.jpglarge_Ho_chi_min..y_1_111.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_108.jpg
This picture just looked good because, well because..Ho_chi_min..y_1_115.jpg
After going through the torture area you head into the everybody protested against the war level showing old propaganda posters from nations such as Russia supporting the North Vietnamese, here are a couple of pictures. Oh, there was also a band playing that seemed like they were unfortunately deformed by what I presume to be agent orange, I could not help but donate and to be honest were not to bad. Ho_chi_min..y_1_121.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_119.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_120.jpg They were perhaps my favorite part. So anyhow the next floor was the warcrimes part I think, it depicted events when U.S. troops massacred villages and such. The finger firmly pointed at John Kerry a senator in the U.S. who was in charge of troops that did horrible things, he ended up publicly admitting to his crimes.
The next floor was about agent orange and the generations it has affected. Shocking pictures of deformed people was the majority of it, though I was a bit disturbed by the liquid preserved fetuses deformed in birth. So that was it for me! I was dragging my heels by that stage, certain I could not take the next two floors, I left.

Next was the reunification palace. This is where the war ended by a north Vietnamese tank breaking through the gates of the palace, I can't help but feel it ended like a computer game (command and conquer perhaps) where if get into the main base of the enemy you win. I was with some other people from the hostel coming here with me. I had high hopes for this place, thinking that it being a place of command there would be alot of interesting facts on the descision making in times of crisis such as the war buuutt no : / There was on the otherhand alot of rooms but I had no idea what they were for as there was no information signs. Here are some pictures of rooms...actually...check them out in the gallery if your keen. I'll not put them in just for the sake of it, but here is some outside pics Ho_chi_min..y_1_160.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_168.jpg (Oh by the way there is my travel bud at the moment, she's just in frame on the left, Mallory from Canada). For those that may go, take a free guide to walk you around which I heard makes it alot better. Once again I left after two levels but I thought that was all there was and waited for the others I had traveled here with, I waited for 40 minutes or so and still they did not come out so I assumed they had ditched me (Later I was to find out that it was me that ditched them, oops!) and moved on heading down the riverside to check out the rest of the city.

On the way, I go to the Notre Dame knock off and see what I'm missing in europe.. Ho_chi_min..y_1_138.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_126.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_125.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_129.jpg I'm not that impressed. The post office is opposite which is known for it's european architecture also..Ho_chi_min..y_1_238.jpg I go in to try and get some information on sending a package, this is how the conversation goes.

Me - Hi, I was wondering if you might have a slip/form to fill out to mail a package?"
Information Lady - *Blank stare*
Me - "Is this a real post office?"
Information Lady - "Yes"
Me - "Can I have a slip to fill for a package?"
Information Lady - "No"
Me - "So you don't send mail here?"
Information Lady - *Blank stare* "No"

This kind of service I must say is quite a common occurance in Vietnam. I don't think they have yet perfected the customer service experience, most of the time you feel like your putting them out in some way and they don't hide it.

Moving on I head to the riverside passing through the Tham Market (pretty sure that's right)..Ho_chi_min..y_1_145.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_148.jpg
Along the river I find people netting fish that stay in the shade of the water lillies that crowd the rivers edge. Ho_chi_min..y_1_241.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_250.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_265.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_245.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_258.jpg
Travelling around I take random pictures but it may give you a feel for the place Ho_chi_min..y_1_282.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_324.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_355.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_325.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_326.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_327.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_341.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_345.jpg
It's quite normal to see a chicken clucking about, even in the city Ho_chi_min..y_1_321.jpg and people napping (can you spot him?)Ho_chi_min..y_1_319.jpg or a relaxing dog Ho_chi_min..y_1_354.jpg or a penguin bin...don't ask me..Ho_chi_min..y_1_264.jpg

Oh, this is the alleyway for my hostel Ho_chi_min..y_1_361.jpg
Amongst all this there is an awesome building that looms above with a crazy looking helipad Ho_chi_min..y_1_272.jpgHo_chi_min..y_1_278.jpg

Ok, So there is more to tell but I'm gonna break it up a bit. The Mekong Delta and war tunnels to come, then to Mui Ne and Nha Trang. Currently I am in Han Noi deciding on whether I should get some pimped out silk robes made...I'm thinking red and black with gold dragons! Bringing sexy back! haha

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 07:36 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam saigon vietnamese chi ho minh ho_chi_minh Comments (0)

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