A Travellerspoint blog

December 2009

The Mekong Delta

A Very Strange Tour Indeed...


So we got on another bus... from HCMC and headed for Cambodia via the Mekong Delta enjoying some weird and wonderful stops along the way. It was almost as if the people running the tour were just making it up as they went along.

Tea tasting, snake holding, 15 minutes on a pushbike, a floating market we didn't stop at and some dodgy singing followed by a crocodile farm and a 7 hour boat ride to the Cambodian border...

Our first stop was at a coconut candy factory we had to get to on a boat, a bit of a scary boat really considering the weather. Coconut candy or caramel is amazing stuff, I totally love it and even bought a big bag of it the second time I went to Thailand to take with me to australia but it fell into my mouth while in Hong Kong and didn't even make the runway. Anyway, the women making it were like machines, in fact I don't think you could have gotten a machine to work as fast as they were, esp the ones wrapping the sweets seperatly in paper, it was astounding. I took some video it was so unbelievable. After that we got back onto the boat for a short while and taken to a tropical fruit farm where we were given 5 different fruits then told in which order we were to eat them in always starting with dragon fruit and ending with bananas with pineapple, melon and things that look like a cross between a lychee and an eyeball inbetween, we also got some local tea to drink then hurried off to the next 'must see' which was the same tea but drank with honey and lemon. This was where they got the python out for anyone to hold then the guy that gave us it disappeared leaving us with the snake. A family then rocked up and started singing, I have to say the music was great but the singing was terrible. We were then whipped away and put on 2 smaller boats for a ride up the canal. That's all it was, a canal with trees on either side, up the canal, down the canal and off the boat again onto the big boat for all of us - bizarre. We were supposed to be getting on very small rowing boats after that and taken up another canal but the weather turned nasty and we had to stay on the big boat and pray we didn't overturn in the Mekong River never to be seen again, it was a bit scary.
Lunchtime hurrah!! it had been ordered for us and cooked about 3 days ago then heated up using warm dog breath but first, you could get on an old bike and have a cycle round for 15 mins in the muck. I went for a walk instead and came across two young girls who tried to sell me a manky bit of honeycomb which looked like it had maggots wiggling about in it. Try it they said, eh no thanks, only 1 dollar they said, eh no thanks, but I need money to go to school, and to eat, eh eat the honey then and by the looks of your mate, no one's starving round here... lunch wasn't too bad really. We were then hearded off to the boat again and sailed passed a funny looking building which after asking our guide about it were told it was built by a mad man so that people would notice him. Seemed to have worked. Back onto the bus and dropped off at a hotel. Alex and I were spending our first night with a local family on the Mekong River itself so when a bloke and his mate turned up on two motorbikes we were told to go with them and come back to the hotel for 6am the next day. We were taken down dark alleys, across bridges, down windy roads and far far away from civilisation. I kept looking back to make sure Alex was behind me. Finally we got to the house. It was really big and right on the river. The family were very nice and thankfully spoke a bit of english. We saw loads of fireflies which was brilliant, they all sit around one tree, I can't remember the type of tree. Dinner was a very tasty elephant fish in 'make your own' fresh spring rolls, it was lush. You get your rice paper and put some rice noodles on it then lettuce, cucumber, cabbage and some of the fish then roll it up and dip it in fish sauce with lemon and chilli - lush. In the morning we were taken to a watermelon field. I can't tell you much more than that cos when we got there, our host said 'watermelons' and pointed then pointing into the distance said 'rice field' then we were escorted back to the house, got our stuff together and got taken by motorbike back to the hotel where we were herded to the riverside with the rest of the tour group and put on a boat to see the floating market. It was a proper market, not like the one in Bangkok but we didn't stop, we just sailed through it then turned round and went back through it then off to a wee house to see how rice roodles are made. The woman there gave me a sweet potato to eat and her husband gave me a starfruit from the tree in the garden which I gave to a wee girl nearby more cos it wasn't quite ripe and I didn't want to chuck it, than out of sheer niceness. Is that even a real word?
Back to the hotel again for lunch in the place next door. Some people had snake, others had deep fried rat, Alex and I went for fruit and yogurt. Some of the group went back to Saigon while the rest of us got back on the bus and taken to the next hotel via a crocodile farm of course. It was pretty cool, loads of crocs in there which were taken to different places for food and handbags mostly. Apparently it tastes like fish but has the texture of chicken. I haven't tried it yet. Onto the hotel which was ok and street food for dinner which was lush. We got up super early again and put onto another boat with a woman and we said goodbye to our tour guide who went back to Saigon with more of the group. The woman made us stop at a fish farm which was really just a house over water with a hole in the veranda which if you threw pellets into the fish came up to feed, not very exciting. The boat we were on was tiny, had no loo and if you didn't get on and sit on opposite sides of the boat in turn then it felt like it was going to capsize, I personally hated it. We then went to a floating village and taken to a house where you could buy things. There was a wee boy there playing with twi irons, not plugged in thankfully but he seemed to be enjoying it. Last cance for the loo and we had to get back on the teenie wee boat for 3 hours to the border with cambodia. The woman who took our passports got off the boat and zoomed off on a motorbike saying she'd meet up with us later. It's amazing who you trust with your passport after a while. Thankfully she kept her word and met us at the border bit where we waited for an hour before being put on another boat (a bigger one) which was loud and smelly but sold drinks and pringles and transported us to Cambodia. It only took about 5 hours... Cabin fever had almost set in when we finally came ashore.

Next stop Phnom Pehn

Posted by blondesock 02:55 Comments (1)

Vietnam Part III

Saigon HCMC


I tried to fit it all into 2 parts but it would have needed a pot of tea and whole packet of biscuits for you to get through it instead of maybe just the one cup and a jaffa cake or two.

So, yet another long bus trip, this time with a woman on board puking her ring almost all the way and another wee local girl sleeping with her head almost in my lap bless her. She woke up at one stage and apologised looking embarrassed then fell alseep again and resumed her position. The noise from the sick woman was like comedy vomitting, really loud and projectile into a plastic bag. I felt very sorry for the people sitting near her, thankfully Alex and I were at the back of the bus but you could still hear it. I had to take my earphone from Alex (we were sharing my ipod) and plug in with both cos I couldn't stand the noise, it's making me feel ill just thinking about it. The Irish lads were, unfortunately for them, sat directly opposite the puke-a-thon woman bless them.
Right so we got to Saigon in one piece. Norah Jones once said that there were 10 million bicycles in Beijing, well there's about 10 million motorbikes in Saigon, it's mental. We found a place to stay which was like the spareroom in someones house but very nice indeed then went out for some noodles. Did you know that the stock for noodle soup has star anise in it which apparently contains the tamiflu properties that help cure swine flu? well it's true. I wonder if there's been less cases in SE Asia than anywhere else in the world cos they eat it all the time. We went out after the soup and bumped into the irish lads, Robbie and Paul and went out for some drinks. We ended up in a night club called Apocolapse Now which was cheese central but good fun. At the end of the night they play 'The End' by The Doors which if you've seen the film Apocolapse Now, you'll know why. After that we went to another bar which served draft beer for 50p with free popcorn and a free neck and shoulder massage on the side. Random I know but lovely after a night on the dance floor not that I was doing any break dancing on my neck and shoulders. Said cheerio to the lads who were leaving the night after and promptly got robbed. When we got to the guesthouse road the lads asked if we wanted chummed down to the door cos the street looked dogey, nah we said, it'll be fine. We got to the gate to find it had been padlocked shut (well, it was 4:30am) but still, they could have said. Anyway Alex tried to climb over the wall to the door while I tried to use our door key to open the lock. There was a bloke hanging around trying to 'help' I told him to go away but he wouldn't. Looking back I know exactly what he was after but at the time we were distracted, I put my wallet which was in my hand into Alex's bag which was round my neck and as I bent down to try the lock again he grabbed my wallet and ran. Alex flung her flip flops to the wind, pushed me out the way and ran after him, I ran after her shouting all sorts of abuse (at the bloke, not Alex) but he knew the rabbit warren streets too well and was gone in a flash. I hope he spent my money on good things the short assed, dark haired, well practised at running in flip flops, light fingered, chain smoking little git. We spent the next day in and out of the police station doing my statement so I could get a report for the insurance company, what a waste of time, I was stupidly honest with said insurance company which meant it wasn't worth me claiming doh!! One good thing came out of it tho, we found a donut shop across for the station with donut costumes lying around upstairs begging to be put on so we did and had a local girl take photos of us, no one else in the shop even batted an eyelid... The police were so relaxed, even more so than the policia local in La Linea. While I was re-writing my statement there was actually a man dressed as a policeman lying sleeping on the bunker behind the bloke dealing with me who was either playing snake or sending text messages on his mobile probably to the woman at the front desk who translated my statement on our 2nd visit and giggling at texts coming in on her phone. In the end it took 3 men and 1 woman to take, translate and give me a copy of my statement over 3 visits and almost a full day. What a palava.
The next day we went on a tour to the Cao Lie temple and the cuchi tunnels which were really cool, the temple however was a bit weird. The religion is a mixture of buddism, christianity, catholic and a couple of others. They have a symbol of an eye and a man with a beard, it's in my photos if you want a better idea although I think I'll have to upload them... anyway, we watched a service which was all a bit medival, I like medival. All the chanting and stuff, men and women dressed in robes, kneeling on the floor, dragons and stuff on the walls, it was pretty amazing. They even had a live band? is that the right word? they were playing traditional instruments. It was all a bit bizarre but I suppose they sort of have the right idea, praise all, upset no one... After that and some lunch we went to the cuchi tunnels where the Vietnamese hid from the bombs and stuff during the wars, it was truely amazing. How they fitted into the wee tunnels is beyond me, I know the Vietnamese are smaller than us western folk and probably more so when the wars were going on but still. We watched a video first which was very anti american calling them 'the devil americans' and such like, very interesting. They made some of the tunnels bigger so western visitors could walk through them, they were still really small tho and I didn't get very far at all, bit scary. I did however get into a hole in the ground. You had to hold the lid above your head with arms straight then lower your body in so that the lid went on and you disappeared. The only thing was, I couldn't get out again. I tried but something made a loud popping sort of cracking sound in my chest and I wonder if I did a rib, still not sure. I couldn't use my arms to push myself up if you know what I mean for about 2 or so weeks. I'm fine now tho. and at the time I managed to fire 5 rounds off an M60 Machine Gun which was pure dead brilliant so it was, very loud but the earphones were something you'd get with your personal cassette player in the 80's and therefore not much cope but we got to keep a bullet and stuff, it was great. I thought more people would have wanted to do it but they didn't. We got back eventually doing about 85 km in 3 hours, went to the market for noodles and beef then to an ice cream shop called 'Fannys' for a sorbet. A very popular chain in Vietnam.
If you go to Saigon, don't bother going into the Reunification Palace unless you're really interested in that sort of thing, it was booooring. All there was to see really was velour curtains and upholstery, old retro phones and lots and lots of tables and chairs, proper yawn-a-rama. The outside of the building and the gardens were lovely tho. After that we went to the War Museum, again very anti american blaming them for the war and the disease and deformities of the people of Vietnam now due to gases they used etc, some of the photos are very disturbing.
Exercise is big in HCMC, people are out in the parks walking, jogging, bending, dancing, doing aerobics and playing this game with a shuttlecock. It's not like a shuttlecock you'd play batminton with (which is also very popular) it's more a long tube like thing, how they do it I just don't know, it's like keepy uppy and hacky sack mixed together but you play in 2's or more, if you hit it back 4 times in a row you have to hit it next time with your foot behind you throwing yourself on the floor, it's amazing to watch.
The next day we went to the post office to send off a parcel each full of presents and souvineers then we walked for miles and miles via the Jade Pagoda which was lovely and very old and housed terripins and turtles who i thought were vegitarian but are actually into cannibalism, a few of them were ripping into another dead ones head and legs, it was pretty gruesome to watch but I still took a photo. We went to a shop and ate 3 different naughty donut things which I personally think I should have gotten for free cos when I went to pay for mine the bit next to the till gave me an electric shock!! the guy behind the till was just about to say 'don't touch that' as I put my hand on it and got zapped. I said 'hello like? that was sore, shouldn't you have a sign up??' he laughed and said it doesn't happen all the time so I stood there looking at him for a while thinking any miniute now he's going to say sorry but alas no. It had been raining a lot that day, I don't know if that might have had something to do with it. Before we got to the electric donut shop (thinking of it now, prob a sign that I shouldn't be eating them) we had been stuck under a pagoda in the park with a vietnamese soap opera crew and some other people cos it was raining so hard. We actually stood there singing songs about rain for 2 hours. Not one person joined in with us, I dont know why. A massive bolt of lightening hit a lamp post fairly near us giving out a really loud BOOOOOM sound and lighting up the park, it was mad I tell you, never seen anything like that before.
Before I go, I'd just like to tell you about the many weird and wonderful things people carry on their scooters, I'd like to see anyone manage it let alone get away with it in Gibraltar... I've seen a bike with about 50 bags of water with a goldfish in each one, another with a fridge freezer, one with a man holding a dining table, loads with as many kids as you can fit on ranging in age and size and of course some carrying live animals like chickens or ducks - lots of them hanging off the bike all over the place. It's fab to see and I even found a book at the airport in Bangkok that was full of photos of these bikes - great stuff.

Right then, next stop the Mekong Delta and a very strange tour indeed...

Posted by blondesock 21:16 Comments (0)

Vietnam Part II

Haylong Bay, Hoi An, Mue Ne

hello again Ok, so it looks like this might be a 3 parter again, I can't stop waffling as you know and it's a wonderful country to waffle about so here's part II...

So, Halong Bay. What a wonderful place. It has to be said it can be done cheaper than the 133USD we each paid but it was soooo worth it. Spoilt to within an inch of our lives, pure bliss, esp the second night. If you're planning on doing Halong Bay, which I think you must do if you're in the north of Vietnam, definately do at least 2 nights, 1 night just isn't enough. So, we drove for about 5 hours from Hanoi with an ozzy chick and an ozzy family who were really nice. There had been a typhoon a few days previous which ended in the death of 5 people in the Bay after a boat overturned but thankfully all that bad weather had gone and everything was calm and sunny. We got onto the luxury junk boat and waited for a few other people to come and join us then sailed off through the bay. I can't tell you how fabulous Haylong Bay is and give it justice, it's just amazing. Don't think my photos quite capture it. During the first day we went to a big cave, like St Michaels in Gibraltar but waaaaay bigger and had no seats or stage for beauty pagents like Miss Gibraltar who actually won Miss World?? how mad and brilliant is that? It was an interesting cave and had the usual naughty looking staligmites and tights but there was a constant stream of tourists inside it like ants when you see them crawling up walls and along the ground or in my case all over my bed, up my legs and everywhere, I hate ants. After that we sailed to Tip Top Island which isn't where they make the creamy topping for a fruit salad but where you can see a wicked sunset and swim in the kinda dirty water cos of all of the boats but still really nice. One of the guys got his flip flops nicked tho which wasn't so good. Some of us climbed up the hill to the top and took some cheesy but fun 'holding the sun' photos then back onto the boat for dinner. It was a bit odd, like a chip each on a plate then a wee crab each then something else, by the time they stopped bringing out food we were full but it felt like we hadn't eaten anything which was fine cos at night all these women on rowing boats filled with beer, wine, pringles, biscuits and anything else you might need while on the boat float up to the side shouting 'buy something' 'we have many things' it was such a novelty although in the dead of night when you really want a chocco pie, they're no where to be seen.
The next day was really amusing, wel, for me and the other 2 who were staying a second night anyway. We had breakfast at about 7:30am I think it was, then the people that were leaving, which was everyone except me Alex and Jess the ozzy girl were told lunch was at 10:30am before being turfed off the boat. Alex, Jess and I all got onto another boat. After breakfast the people that were leaving went kayaking while the rest of us got on a boat and followed them which was odd. We said cheerio to them and sailed off on our even more luxurious boat, just the 3 of us. I even had a jaquzzi bath in my room!! Not that I could use it cos the water wasn't that hot but still... Lunch was amazing, so much food and these chilled big pear things that tasted like heaven, so juicy and cold. We then went off to a floating village and kayaked through a bat cave, I was well scared to begin with and was given the only life jacket with a whistle on it by the captain after being overheard talking about what a rubbish swimmer I am but I was fine, really enjoyed if after I got going and having Jess the life guard on the same kayak as me helped... the cave was unbelievable, the water was so still the reflection of the staligtites above looked like you could put your hand in the water and touch them like they were in the water and not above it - amazing and of course the odd bat squeaked and flew about. Dinner, cards, wine, vodka and a chat to the staff over some live stone snails which actually tasted quite good and off to bed. We had to check out so they gave us breakfast at 8:30 and lunch at 10:30!! crazy stuff. We didn't think we'd manage to eat everything and when lunch came out it didn't look like much and we had the bare face to moanabout it then he brought out a massive fish and rice and stirfry beef OMG there was masses. Having only had a big breakfast 2 hours earlier we didn;'t think we'd be able to finish but somehow we managed to scoff the lot. After packing our things we lounged about on the deck till we got back to the port. Waved goodbye to the captain and headed back to Hanoi on a bus for 5 hours. I was sat next to a very odd austrian man who was listening to the cheesiest drivel ever, very loud indeed bless him. Got back to the drift, repacked our bags and off to the train station again - next stop Hoi An

Hoi An like other places on the east coast of Vietnam had been hit heavy with the typhoon. You could see the water mark which in some places was over 5 foot high, it must have been horrific to be there when it was all going on which I know some travellers that I met were. Debri and mud all over the place but they'd tidied it up well and seemed to take it all in their stride. The train journey there however was horrendous. We went hard bed in a cabin with 4 members of a vietnamese family. The father could hardly breath but when he did it was loud and heavy like he was going into labour but that wasn't the worst of it. In Vietnam you have to be up and about by 5:30am even though the train doesn't stop till 1pm... then once you've sucessfully woken up everyone around you, you go back to sleep. They got the food on first while talking really loud, opened the carraige door so we could here the local radio blaring out some kind of torchurous music that was so loud it was unbearable and if that wasn't bad enough, I was in the middle bunk and the woman below kept standing up and tucking me in with her big long jaggy finger nails digging into my back cos my duvet was hanging over a bit, while the father coughed up a lung and the granny gave out a big sigh every 10 mins. I was not thanked by my travel buddy for taking the cheaper option. Hoi An is definately influenced by french arcitechture and food, you can get a baguette any time of the day haha. The buildings are beautiful and the colours are fabulous. The old town was particularly great and we spent most of our time there. The only thing I didn't like about Hoi An was the constant stream of women wanting you to buy something, on and on at you grabbing at your arm which I personally hate to the point of be willing to hip toss them onto the ground and put them in some kind of UFC strangle grip. I do not want a manicure, I do not want a pedicure and I definately do not want you going anywhere near my eyebrows, arms, legs or bikini line with a thread in the middle of the market place. You couldn't go through the market without fending them off then being talked about when you said no. I have to agree with other travellers when they say the people in the south of Vietnam are a lot nicer than the ones in the north. Anyhoo we went to the old town and had some clothes made. I got a japanese silk dress and a cotton skirt made for about 20USD which is great although I did have some trouble with the neckline of the dress. I also got some boots made for next to nothing. I did another cookery course in Hoi An with Alex. We didn't do much of the cooking really but it was good fun and the food tasted amazing esp the won ton salsa and the stuffed fish. I almost bought a grater cos it was well cool and made out of an old can but thought better of it. We went shopping for souvineers and I was looking at scarves. Each shop we went into I was asked if I wanted to try it on... try a scarf on... No sorry, it doesn't quite fit me, do you have anything a bit longer..? made me giggle Next stop Mui Ne..

We got a night bus from Hoi An which was totally bizarre. I've been on a night bus before but never one with beds so I didn't really know what to expect. I've seen pictures but not of the bus we went on. I headed for the top back section by the window of the futuristic spaceship they called a bus and Alex got the next seat where the gap is if you know what I mean... Anyway it was basically a fake leather seat in lie down mode, a wee slippy pillow and a blanket that god knows how many people had used before me. Alex had to keep her seat belt on cos if she didn't she'd have flown to the front of the bus during a sharp break or at least onto the people below. There were people sitting in the aisle below us so if you had to go to the loo you had to walk over them, very strange indeed. It was hard to sleep for a few reasons including the bed thing being for little people so you couldn't move around, just lie on your back with your feet inside the back of the seat in front. The TV was blaring a local show worse than anything I've seen on GBC, people were hacking back pleghm and of course the snoring and the perpetual beeping of the horn. Why oh why did I forget to charge my ipod?? Just as I got comfy we stopped for food. One guy on the bus bought a load of dried fish which is a quality snack apparently. Anyway he was so chuffed with his purchase that he held it aloft like He-Man would his sword then brought it back down and gave the packet a big kiss... We got to Na Trang and waited about an hour for another bus to take us to Mui Ne. I went on the hunt for some breakfast and brought back some rice pancake things layered up with garlic and spring onions in oil with a side of orange chilli sauce, it was lush!! Onto Mui Ne on another sleeper bus even though it was now morning. 5 hours, 1 stop, a banana and a bunch of grapes later we were settled into our lovely hotel with pool and beach access for much cheapness. Mui Me has lots of sand dunes so we hired a scooter and went to see the red ones first then the white ones. We went looking for Red Canyon but couldn't find it. The dunes were really cool. We spoke to some kids that were trying to get us to surf down the dunes on a bit of plastic. I let one of them take some photos with my camera but started to get nervous when she started edging away slowly backwards so I nabbed it back off her. She took some good photos tho. That night we had a traditional hot pot for dinner, it was nothing like Betty's from corrie not that I've had one of those, it was a sea food one although you could get meat if you wanted. You get given a pot of hot steaming and spicy stock and a plate of raw fish, prawns, scallops, crab meat and noodles and a big pile of veg then cook it yourself in the stock over a hot plate or coals, it was lush!! Next day we had the morning to do something so we got on our trusty steed and ventured out to find the salt plains. After about an hour and nothing but loads of traffic we stopped for petrol. I went off to the loo and left Alex it to it, came back and theres loads of folk round our bike and a small boy with what looked liked like his arm trapped under our seat. It wasn't till I got to everyone that Alex confessed that she'd somehow managed to lock the keys inside the seat... doh!! lucky enough, the wee boy was skinny enough to grab the keys and pull them out and off we went, gave the bike back, had a swim and hopped on the bus to Saigon waking up an Irish lad laid on the floor at the back of the bus. Gave him a banana and he went back to sit with his mate. Next stop Saigon - HCMC

Posted by blondesock 17:23 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam Part I

Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay

all seasons in one day 34 °C

Gooooood Morning Vieeeetnaaam!!

I just had to get that in hehe

Well, I've never been on a propeller plane before and to be honest, I'd rather keep it that way. It feels every single wee gust of wind - scary mary. My tummy flipped a couple of times, my sister Lorna would surely have hated it. I was sat next to a man called Bob who was from somewhere in Australia. He was really funny and had recently retired, sold his business and in his own words 'racked off' I didn't think Ozzy's actually said stuff like that outside of Ramsay Street...

I had some mixed reports about Vietnam before I went there so wasn't sure what it was going to be like. Apart from getting food poisoning on my first night and a few weeks later having my wallet liberated, I thought the country was fantastic. I motorbiked round the mountains of sapa and had lunch with local tribes, lay on a luxury junk boat in Haylong Bay, marveled at the markets and dodged traffic in Hanoi, had a dress made in Hoi An, played in the sand dunes of Mui Ne, fell in love with Saigon, got trapped in a wee hole, fired an M60 machine gun, got robbed, dressed up as a donut and stayed by the Mekong river with a local family. Lots of fun was had and I loved it.

I arrived in Hanoi and stayed in a hostel called The Drift, it has to be the best hostel I've ever stayed in. It's 7USD a night for a clean and comfy bed with a duvet and fluffy pillow. The place has a cafe at the bottom, a TV and free internet room, a bar on the roof and a pool room. I spent the first night puking my ring and what didn't come up went down fairly rapidly. My finger is very firmly pointed at the fajita I ate, down with western muck!! When I finally got out nearly 2 days later, I'd met a girl from South Africa who showed me around Hanoi and begged me to follow her all over the country hahaha we did some touristy things in Hanoi like going to the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum but we couldn't go in cos Ho Chi Min was in Russia having some preservation treatment done. The poor bloke wanted cremated but they wouldn't let him so he's been preserved and lives in a glass box like snow white did. I hardly expect Ho Chi Min to be waiting for his prince though... The museum attached to it was ace. Very interesting and a bit odd all at the same time. The large fruit caught my attention and is one of the things I remember the most. What they had to do with the museum I'm not sure, I wasn't really paying much attention to the history as usual. Outside the main building we saw men in uniform marching, there were army, police and what looked like riot police being rather half hearted in marching along mostly staring at us while we took some sneaky pics. After a bit we were moved on while they listened to what I can only assume was the national anthem. They were then subjected to a shouty man going on about something, which could have been the times for the weekend bingo for all I know. We then went onto the museum or temple of literature. I was expecting lots of books and was surprised to find lots of sculptures of big turtles. It was a very beautiful place. We had a drink in a rooftop cafe and decided I would go to Sapa. On the way back to the hostel I noticed a man sat outside a noodle shop squeezing blood from the still twitching neck of a pigeon, it was minging. One night before I met Alex she ate snake which doesn't sound too bad but she had to watch it being slit open while still alive then drink the blood and bile of the snake which she said was a bit sticky before it was taken away and made into snake omelette, snake soup and snake fried rice. Did you know a snakes heart beats for 15 mins outside of its body? well it does and it was also eaten by a bloke at her table while it was still beating, apparently it's like natural viagra... The traffic in Hanoi is mental as well, if you dare to cross the road which of course you have to sometimes you have to just commit to your route or panic and get run over, it's crazy. You just have to keep walking as usually the motorbikes will avoid you but if you stop or hesitate everyone gets confused and thats when it becomes dangerous.
If it weren't for my new mate Alex, I'd have ended up on a tour but as it was we hired motorbikes and discovered Sapa for ourselves saving over a million dong (local currency) in the process. It was an amazing place!! The journey to Sapa was interesting, I booked a hard bed for the 11 hour train journey which sounds horrible but was actually fine. After a bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodles) the best dish in the whole wide world next to sushi, I headed off for the train. Like I said I had a hard bed, it was in a cabin with 5 other people. I slept really well and arrived in Sapa wishing I'd packed my jeans and glad I had my jumper, it was slightly cold to say the least and very very wet. We had to cross the tracks again but I'm used to that now, it wasn't the first or last time I did that. Our best investment for the trip was a set of slightly too short on the arms and legs extra large waterproofs and a pair of wellies. The kind of wellies that fit either foot... I also bought some woolie socks and woolie gloves which were actually a mistake cos they soak up rain like a sponge but kept me warm for a wee while.
So many people spit in Vietnam, men, women and children. They'd all been saving up their phlegm on the train cos the minute they got off it was all hacking and spitting and quite frankly making me boke which i'm sure LeeAnne is while reading this if she's not passed out from the snake bit. I've never seen the like in my life, its like something from an old western film or the sidelines of a baseball match, proper bogging, I hate it but I suppose they hate or don't understand stuff about us like blowing your nose or using loo roll... Anyway, I met Alex off her train which was half an hour after mine and we searched for a bike to rent, failing at this we hopped on a bus to Sapa itself and got settled into our new guesthouse. They managed to sort out 2 scooters for us and off we went exploring. We got to Cat Cat village and took a walk along the rice fields which were stunning. Saw some locals and a waterfall but it was all a bit touristy and put on which was a shame so went went off to really explore, off the beaten track. Alex gave a woman a lift on the back of her bike to her village (the woman's, not Alex's) after we'd met some cute kids in a village with real people living real lives not wanting you to buy anything. The kids were class, really excited about having their photos taken and looking at them after, it was sooo cool. On day 2 we went to the local market for breakfast and got chatting to a couple of local woman over chick embryos and and tofu which were all set out on the table with a few other unappetising bits and bobs. I had chicken noodle soup or 'Pho Ga' and we went off for a wander round the other part of the market where they had bowls of live frogs, dead chickens with their feet in the air, bits of cow and pig and unfortunately a pile of BBQ'd puppy. I bought what I thought was sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf for later but was actually a raw sausage you have to steam yourself. I must have gone wrong somewhere when I asked 'is that rice?' and being answered 'yes' I think they just don't want to lose face by saying they don't understand.. anyhoo, as it was I didn't need it cos we got asked into this womans house for lunch after dumping the bikes by the side of the road and walking up a stoney mucky road. Her daughter was outside and spoke to us while her mother whose name was 'Cool' prob not spelled that way tho came down and asked us to come in. The house was very basic indeed. After being talked into buying a handmade wallet and wall hanging we were asked to stay for lunch. Noodles and rice with hot water, she just kept filling up our bowls and her own then her mates and their kids turned up and Alex asked if the kids were going to eat to which Cool said, 'yeah, maybe later' Her eldest daughter had a horn sticking out of her forehead, it looked really odd. She took it off, put a bit of hot ember from the fire inside the horn and stuck it back on her forehead!! How mad is that?? still not sure what it was all about but we saw a few people wth round burn marks on their face. We left there after taking a few photos and receiving a gift of a silver bracelet from the family and headed back to the bikes and onto another village. When we got there we were instantly set upon by a group of local woman who took us up a hill to a big waterfall forever saying 'careful, be careful' I thought Alex was going to push them off into the water. Then they took us into a room and sat us down with our backs to the wall and crowded round all chattering at once about buying something. 'buy something from me' 'buy something from me' it was pure torchure so we said all our money was in the bikes and headed back. All they wanted was money and I know they're poor and all but you just can't buy something from everyone so we gave them some money to share for taking us to the waterfall which they moaned about cos it wasn't enough then gave two of them a lift back to their own villages.
The last day in Sapa was great, even the sun came out to play and we peeled off our waterproofs hurrah!! We went to the Fransipan waterfall then on to a totally different province. There had been a few rock falls and landslides with the rain so the road was a bit blocked in parts. At one stage we had to wait for a digger to move rocks so we could get passed. A bloke pulled up next to Alex and hacked and spat all over the place before squeezing a few plukes on his face - yuck! Once we got off again the views were breath taking. We went to the market again for lunch when we got back then to the yellow fields for some photos before heading to the market. OMG it was pure madness. I expressed a bit of interest in a blanket this woman had then out of no where all these women came crowding round me opening blankets up left, right and centre "what about this one?' 'buy one from me' I tried to move away but they followed me so made a dash for the guesthouse but they followed us like a scene from a zombie movie and three of them even hung about outside the guesthouse waiting, I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd have started pawing at the window but they didn't. Eventually there was only one lady left till I went outside and they started coming out of the woodwork again. The short story is I got a blanket eventually.
We packed up and left getting on a bus that drove all over Sapa beeping it's horn looking for other passengers, we eventually trundled down the windy hill to Lao Cai and had some noodle soup and played many games of shit head till 7:30pm when we were to pick up our train tickets back to Hanoi. Of course come 7:30, no one knew where our train tickets were!! Alex and I went all over the place then as I looked after the bags she ran around again till someone gave her two tickets just in time. We'd booked hard beds in a 6 berth cabin like I'd had before but found we'd been given tickets for a 4 berth fancy pants cabin with free water, a soft bed and a wee table with a lamp on it. Much to the dismay of the honeymooning couple on the bottom bunks who actually checked our tickets to make sure we were right.
Got back to Hanoi safe and sound then the 2 of us with our wee rucksacks got on the same motorbike driven by a woman who talked to herself and headed back to The Drift.

Next Stop Halong Bay.... to be cont..

Posted by blondesock 17:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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