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Vietnam April 16 - May 10

 

Hello all, we have just arrived back in Bangkok after about 4 weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia. Today is May 16 and we are in an internet kiosk booking plans for Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. I will cover our trip to Vietnam on this blog entry. 

Vietnam, what can you say about Vietnam. We flew from Bangkok to Hanoi
on April 16, I had done an online visa application before hand. We arrived at the Hanoi airport with all the appropriate documentation in hand. There was a French tour group ahead of us and this seemed to cause massive confusion for the immigration people handling the visa applications. I figured this was the reason why they were very stern and unfriendly, well seems most of the people we met in Northern Vietnam were also unfriendly. We paid our 100 US visa fees (seemed outrageous) and was introduced to the taxi system. I liked their system as the prices were posted and we knew the cost upfront. 

The first thing that struck us as odd was how slow the taxi driver drove, after Thailand where you sat down, shutup and held on, this was a welcome change. We found out why they drive slowly, there are millions of motor bikes negotiating the same road space as the cars and trucks. It is an amazing sight to see, so random and crazy, but it works. I was blown away when watching these people cross the road through a solid stream of motor bikes and cars, they just walked slowly through it all and the traffic just went around them as if they were crossing a fast moving stream or river, quite amazing indead. The trick we found out was to not make any quick or random moves while crossing, the traffic will work it way around you. Terrifying at first but you get used to it. 

I had booked this hotel online and we were going to spoil ourselves with a top end hotel with swimming pool and full resort type facilities. We got to the front desk and they informed us that they had no lower priced rooms only a suite, as we had a BIG "S" tatooed on heads when we arrived in asia they took this as open opportunity to relieve us of some of our weight of dollars we had in our packs, gracious of them to be concerned of our bulging packs. Being tired and disoriented by the taxi ride the millions of motor bikes riding down the road and sidewalks we decided the upgrade was ok and took their gracious offer to lighten our financial burden. 

We went to our room and sure enough it was a grand room alright about 20 years ago in it's hay day and the about the same time it was cleaned as well. The room came with a comlementary fruit basket and chocolate bar. The chocolate bar was so old it was morphing white from some sort of fungi or mold. Thanks for the upgrade. We went downstairs for dinner after having a look around the neigbourhood and decided we definently booked a hotel in the wrong location. We might as well have had 2 heads, I thought they were going to fall off their bikes and scooters as they did exorcist type head turns to look at us. Very strange indeed. I mentioned this to our guide on a later trip to Halong bay and he said they quite likely they have never seen a foriegner before let alone a freak of nature such as myself. We saw mothers gather their children and hold them close and point at us as we walked by. Oh yah dinner, we tried to order some vegetarian dish and they didn't have that so we tried something else they didn't have that either, I finally ordered some roast chicken dish she recommended. It came and honestly, I couldn't chew it, they should have let that chicken cross the road a few more times, it was so tough. Joanne enjoyed here egg stuffed tomato, gooing with mayonaise. The beer was good though and cheap. 

We find another location and checked out this hellhole, they were gracious and offered us another day at $80 per night, we declined and got in the cab to the old quarter of Hanoi, we checked into to nice place with a computer in the room and helpful front desk staff, too helpful. 

We booked a trip to Sapa, it is in the north eastern portion of Vietnam, famous for it's terraced rice fields and ethic minority groups that tend them. I have to say this was the highlight of our trip (other than Steve or son met us here). 

The scenes are fantastic as are the people, "You Buy From Me ??" We did buy some really nice textiles and have since sent them home. It rained a lot and the pathways were very slippery but it was a fantastic trek to the home stay village. The villiage homestay was nice, they have electricity and satellite TV, so it looks like tourism has made an impact on this villiage. Most of the villiages that have homestays and tourists have electricty some that are near but don't have tourists just got electricity or still don't have it yet. 

They endured the hardest winter on record this winter and lost thousands of water buffalos, they beasts are a very important animal as it provides all the hard labour, transportation and meat for the villiage and families there. They government sent $1000 US for each buffalo lost, but the local officals somehow managed to lose (steal) the money that was to go to each family. Too bad really as their lives depend on these beasts of burden. 

Next we headed to Halong Bay, the potential world heritage site, what we found was a polluted over crowded tourist trap. Sorry but the smog from the coal fired burners, the garbage in the ocean and massive amout of boats all heading out of the harbour ruined our time there. I have heard others say that it was fantastic with no smog but we couldn't get clear views of the Karsts that they are famous for. 

Next we headed to Hue the Ancient City. It was very nice we explored the Ancient Citidal and generally just hung out for a couple of days before we headed to Hoi An. 

Hoi An was a nice place to hang out at for a week or so. We really just laid back and did the beach life thing. We checked into a nice hotel steps to the beach with a great pool. I rented a motor bike and did some exploring around the area. I found a $1000 US a night resort that was pretty nice, it would have done us ok until something better came along. We just enjoyed the little place we were in as we got to hangout with Steve till he had to go home on May 9th. We took him to Da Nang airport for his trip home. Adious Steve we missed you after that. 

We only stayed a few more days till we headed to Cambodia, Siem Reap....... we will post that asap. 

sorry for the lack of information and pictures but it really takes time and we are busy trying to plan the next leg. 

Cheers

 

 

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