A Travellerspoint blog

December 2009

The Itchy and Scratchy Show!

Righty Ho,

Well this is day three in Sihanoukville and so far we have managed to do as little as possible, so hopefully this blog wont be too long and then with all best intentions, we'll try and update you all on New Years Eve and then once we get back to Phnom Penh so a bit of housekeeping, but lets go through how our last couple of days have panned out and how karma has got its vengeance once again after gloating how amazing everything was a couple of days ago.

Turns out there are a lot of mosquitoes here, or sand-flies, or potentially even fire ants out on some vindictive mission to take over the world, or just generally unleash their full five star pain. And now I know that some people use fancy numbers with lots of zeroes on the end in order to emphasize their point (for example I would choose to say that I have over 300 bites on myself currently), but being as pedantic as I am, I know for a fact that as i was rubbing tiger balm into my skin an hour ago, the real total was 314 and I think that sounds far more painful than 300 any day. So, turning back our clock to a couple of days ago (yes time travel will be required for yet another blog) we were off to have coconuts and watch the sunset on the beach with a perfect view.

This all started off fairly well and we found a nice place right down the other end of the beach for dinner only very slightly off put but the fact the woman who was running the restaurant had one of those electric fly torture contraptions that look just like a tennis racquet, and inflict no less pain when you come into high speed contact with it (i would know). Now back home these things would be used to chase a singular fly around the room by some person hell bent on killing this one little guy. Here the story is slightly different, she would simply wave the racquet around the hammock she was lying in and the thing zapped about 56 (note the use of non-zero numbers) times in one swoop with an equal number of insects dropping to the ground. All in all over the hour or so we were there, probably close to 1112 insects perished on that evening, and wouldn't be returning for dinner the next night. Now we weren't phased by this, not one bit as we strolled back to our bungalow in the sand admiring how quiet everything was.

The next morning was rather a different story as it turned out not only were these little critters not affected by the insect repellent (DEET) (and yes I know I've told you all this before but this is a separate occasion from the last blog - so i'm not completely loosing my mind) but they actually seemed to feed off of it which took my total amount of current bites up to the whopping 312 that we were talking about earlier in the piece, and making me finally decide that I was going to need something to take away that itch after a night sleeping in a hot, humid bed that was full of sand and ants that made their pilgrimage to the other side of the room.

Right, so now I've covered just how many insect bites I am covered in (why its just us two I'm not sure, but even the locals are looking as us a bit weird as if we have caught some sort of new strain of ant flu (now how cool would that be) and almost hesitant to serve us. Now its on to the other small bit of news we have which would be the red scooter that's staring us in the face at the moment. This is our newest temporary addition to the family and will be with us for the next couple of days, allowing us to get from our beach to town and back again relatively cheaply and to any other places we want to go.

Now in booking one of these little guys, you surrender your passport which you get back on its safe return, and just generally hope that leaving a motorcycle outside your bungalow is safe enough (otherwise its a small 2,000USD fee to replace it, as insurance hasn't quite got this far across the pacific yet) so after paying our $6 per day and heading off, we soon realised that we had been doing a steady 0/kph for quite a while now, and also that according to our odometer we had traveled less than a kilometre. Now anywhere in the west this would almost certainly be a cause for concern (especially given that we had been given one helmet to share between us - we figured that if we ever needed it in a crash we would simply split it haha....) but here in Cambodia this is simply the norm and we continued on our merry way. In all honesty though, it would be a death-wish to exceed 30kph on Cambodian roads, so it's pretty safe we figure!

Then there's the small issue of the road with the giant potholes, and you soon have even more respect for those motorbike taxi drivers with how they navigate over them (you can probably tell we have been rather unsuccessful with that so far) but apart from that its all been a rather pleasant relationship thus far.

So that's pretty much been the latest new bits in our journey, we headed down to the local movie place this morning and got a private lounge for $4 which was rather cool to watch movies in, and then this afternoon has resulted in us applying tiger-balm and lazing around (man that stuff heats up!) and thus we are back in the same internet cafe licking our wounds (not actually, tiger-balm knows how to cause discomfort around the eyes, and if anyone EVER suggests using it for sunburn, they deserve a public execution).
Anywho will catch up again in another couple of days!

Ciao, and long live the little red scooter!

Posted by carl.adams 01:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Christmas at Lucky Burger and Coconut Sunsets

So before we set off on another wild adventure, Ive decided to dedicate this blog to all those people back in NZ, generally acting like beached whales and having ham and pavlova on Christmas day. We will hunt you down, and are expecting our portion on the 4th of feb, no matter how moldy, rotten or bad it smells. Or Else.
And with today's threat out of the way, lets continue on with how our Christmas panned out and first impressions of Sihanoukville, Cambodia's beach resort town. We left off late on Christmas eve, when Santa was still hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock, somewhat doom and gloomy about what our Christmas day was going to involve exactly.

Anyway, so we woke up on Christmas morning and generally decided today was going to be one of our less productive days, choosing to instead of getting out and about and generally enjoying Christmas, sulk in the hotel room watching Mythbusters blow things up (hows that for a mega guilt trip?) But the calls back home to all the family somewhat committed us to actually making something of the day and so we headed out into the city once again to find something semi-Christmassy. Now here is probably a good time to point out exactly how Christmas is celebrated in Cambodia. In many ways its a lot like New Zealand with music belting out from any speaker that worked, and the idea of Christmas trees covered in tinsel wasn't lost on anyone, with most shops having at least one small tree at least hiding in the corner next to Buddha (who probably wasn't entirely sure what this supposedly buddhist country was doing, but he seemed to let this one slide). After putting in a reasonable amount of effort looking for a 'real' Christmas meal, it was decided upon that we weren't going to find anything under the $70 mark, which in NZ might be ok, but over here where most meals cost between 3-4, even Santa would have a hard time justifying that to the accountants. And so we settled on a place called 'Lucky Burger', which would be the local equivalent of just about any fast food place in New Zealand (it had pizza, burgers, fried chicken, and sandwiches so they were pretty much sorted with regards to flooding the market). And so, we sat down to our Christmas luncheon, with the only thing really coming close to christmas being one of those awesome deep fried apple pies that you find at Mc Donalds in New Zealand....then it was to making more calls to home, packing up our bits to head to Sihanoukville the next day, and then just generally sulking about Christmas back home (note the continued guilt trip). Next we had to decided on dinner, and not wanting to repeat the price tag of the night before at a certain indian place, it was decided that a local Vietnamese place would do the job, and with our waiter who had an overbite that made him look like a distant camel relative, we signed off from Christmas day and prepared for our bus trip down to Sihanoukville the next day.

Once again, somewhat predictably it was up at 6am for our minibus to pick us up at 7am (this point was emphasized specifically to us when we bought the last two tickets on the bus a few days prior). By 7:20 we were starting to get a bit worried about the whole experience given that our bus left the middle of town at 7:45 and we were still get to see any sign of our minibus. 5 phone calls later, and after being hung up on 4 times (think we scared them with speaking english) it was concluded that the minibus was on its way to pick us up sometime in the near future. It all worked out in the end however, and we arrived down in Sihanoukville 5 hours later for what would be a rather odd experience.

Down here is somewhat expat territory (similar to how Bali is now basically an Australian state) and so the moment we got off the bus, not only did we have 40 tuk tuk, moto and taxi drivers but we now had another 20 expats throwing various flyers at us for different hostels and nightclubs, and after a considerable amount of haggling we decided that we would be catching motorbikes with our now 20kg backpacks around 20km out of town to an isolated little beach called Otheros. Now when we say isolated we mean that completely literally unlike NZ where we gloat about how isolated areas like Piha and Waiheke are, this place was pretty much 8km west of the middle of nowhere, then down a dirt path, turn left at the anorexic cows, and head down another track for 5km and that's where this beach called Otheros lies.

We eventually found a nice little bungalow that was 5m from the water and on some pretty decent sand with hammocks, with the only problem being that there was only power after 4pm when the generator was switched on, and even then you got the rather impossible choice of whether you wanted to use the fan, or the light (the 12V battery outside wasn't capable of much more than that....not that it mattered come nightfall anyway, the main generator for the area broke down which meant what was a nice isolated middle of nowhere place, was now a nice, dark middle of nowhere place with mosquitoes that have actually developed a taste for DEET (industrial grade insect repellent).

So apart from eating lots of REALLY western food over the past 2 days including Weetbix this morning and lazing around in the sand there's not all that much to do in Otheros, and in fact we had to come back into the main part of town just to be able to write this blog! (no internet in our beach at all) But there is a possibility of hiring a couple of kayaks tomorrow and going and seeing a couple of the nearby islands, and the expats down here are really awesome, people who have that sorta persona that there actually is nothing bigger than the beach they live on and their life revolves around the sand and the surf....very cool people regardless, where we also learnt a few things about owning a business down here including how to pay tax for everything (yes there are some things you cant escape) but when you own a business down here its set at a rate of $10 per month payable in cash whenever the police guy turns up, and the fact you can only own land if your a local, AND you have worked for the government (nice little self preservation act the govt has going for them).

Anywho wont hog the the computers for any more,
Off to drink another whole coconut on the beach (take that all you Takapuna people :P),

C :)

Posted by carl.adams 20:55 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Mugged by a Coke Addict and Oh My Good Ganesh!

Well now that we are all back into real time and up to full speed with the blog, hopefully this means that when you guys ask questions on facebook we kinda remember what actually happened haha! (As a sidepoint tho we promise south east asia really isnt as fast paced as we make it sound, there is still plenty of time for strolling aimlessly along roadsides being harassed about this and that and all these different tourist site you apparently need to go to!
Because of this we may as well go through phrases your likely to hear in a few of the different locations we have travelled to so far.

Luang Prabang, Laos:
Mr Tuk Tuk: Tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk, tuk tuk waterfall? (they will also alternate with the word caves, just for good measure.)

Hanoi, Vietnam:
Mrs Scary Local Food Lady: Booooiy, you want eat? (roughly translates to: you want to gamble with your life with some chicken i found defrosting on the roadside this morning?)

Hoi An, Vietnam:
Emma (look back to the Vietnam blog if you need an example of who this is): Sir, you need suit, you want look, no buy, just come in and emma will look after you (notice the use of talking about oneself in third person. If your looking for a trait map of her, think of a rather interesting combination of over the top gay designer, mixed with creepy cat lady that likes to throw things.)

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam:
Scary, would-be-biker-if-my-scooter-did-over-30kph guy: Moto moto moto moto moto, Sir, you want motorbike? (to describe these bikes would require someone with a far more sound of bikes than myself, but just imagine the state of them after spending a lifetime in japan, then being shipped to a first world country for another life, then sent to vietnam, then some bright spark decideing that a kerosene blend didnt seem to make them spontaneously combust so must be good for it.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
Khmer Mr Tuk Tuk: Tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk, you want killing fields? you want genocide museaum, killling fiielllds!!!!!! (yes aparently these are the only two tourist attractions worthy of being shouted to tourists hmmmmm.....)

So anyway, on with the show, and i believe we were up to the bus ride to phnom penh (not to worry, we had sufficient nightmares reminicent of our bus to luang prabang to reconsider, consider, send back, send forth, then buried under a tree for six months before finally deciding we were going to give the whole cheap bus experience another go.) Well, as with all our city changings we awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6am, attempted to close the zippers once again (if you are ever planning on going overseas, just invest in a kathmandu bag, they are quite possibly the best investment you'll ever make...it is impossible to destroy the zips...so far.) Headed down to the ABC Bakery which also by chance sells New Zealand Natural Icecream (but not L & P, i asked almost everyone who worked in the store, thats 7 DIFFERENT people and they all had no idea what I was on grrr), got a few last minute supplies and jumped on the bus.

At this point there really was no words for just how amazing the bus was, we got free bottled mineral water, seats which both recline, and return to an upright position, and most importantly air con that worked! ahh this was the life, and I was more than happy to spend the next half day travelling to Phnom Penh (for those of you planning a trip this way, we used Kumho Samco Buslines). Not long before arriving at the border, our passports were taken for some unknown reason, and then asked for 25 USD to sort out the visas for us which were already firmly glued in... oh well had to fit in one last scam before we left the country. Went through customs at the border and got shot between the eyes with a laser...not really sure of the purpose there but looked like the customs guy was having fun.
Then it was back on the bus and rumbling our way towards our new home to the sound of Aqua, Backstreet Boys, and other one hit wonders from the 90's (yes singing along was involved much to the dislike of the others on the bus (a few australians joined in as well...somewhat ashamedly haha). Once we arrived and the tuk tuks were ready, full of fuel and ready to go, managed to get one to take us round a few places for $3 which ended up being pretty darned good, and we found a good place for $8 a night with private bathroom, twin beds and a window! (you'll notice the lack of a closing bathroom door once again, but that would just be being picky) It was on the third floor of a place with no lift (well get to regret that over the next few days about why we didnt settle for essentially an identical room on the first floor...once again we'll blame that stroke of genius on the heat) .

Then it was out into the city on foot, and we had a look around the area we were staying in and the first thing we noticed was how everything had changed since the last time we came here. (maybe it was just a case of seeing the city in a different light / from a different perspective) Things firstly seemed to be a lot more developed, and a clear attempt at building a real first world city was emerging. Like most developing cities in Asia, they all seemed to take their inspiration from the west being Las Vegas, and giant mega buildings like Nagaworld (we dont really have a western equivilent so you get to look that up for homework) and many more similar ones under construction. As far as cities go, this seems to be one which is really putting in the effort to become world class. But of course there is a downside to all this. The cheapest meal we have had so far is a $3 McDonalds immitation, with restaurants starting at around $4-6 for a decent meal and working their way up to a whopping $10 for my indian meal tonight (knew it was going to be expensive when I had to order rice seperately...and then specify which of the twelve types I wanted......oops.)

After getting our bearings we decided it was time for one of those laid back strolls along the riverfront, where we decided to take a break with a can of coke and some icecream, and just generally soak up the awesomeness that is being in Cambodia. As is fairly usual you get a few beggers coming up asking for money or food or both, and normally a generic no will send them on their merry way to the next tourist, but theres always one thats a tad more persistant.

This one guy seemed to take our bulk standard no fairly well but then just sort of stood their with his eyes kind of glazed over spotting an unprotected can of coke. Now why this can was unprotected is very simple. I had icecream, and there was no way on earth that anything was going to seperate me from my first icecream in weeks on a night thats over 30 degrees. Nothing. This may be why he just decided to pick the can up and then continue to look at us. At this point none of the three of us were quite sure who was most suprised, this guy with the fact he was now in posession of an ice cold coke...or us, still mid-swallow with icecream that this guy was holding my can. Nothing really changed from this point, and he sort of left when the fact that we were staring, saying such things as "dude, you cant be serious" - not quite sure how that would be understood in khmer, but no certainly wasnt getting across with him.

After feeling rather dumbstruck we made our way back the hotel to marinate overnight in our sweat (no air con here sadly), and the next day played out fairly plainly. Few things to note about changes in the past 14 months.:
Traffic lights now seem to be everywhere, and they are those cool, timed ones that give you a countdown until it turns green. Nothing cooler than having your tuk tuk rev next to 5 others in those final three seconds before you speed off at 15 kph as these poor bikes are now having to haul over 600kgs including the weight of the trailer, with no modifications to them except for a hinge on the back hooking you up! So all in all its been a fairly peaceful reintroduction to Cambodian culture, the people are still as friendly as always (though they do seem a little more westernised with bargaining, no longer is the case you pay 50% of what their starting price is and often the best you haggle for is a few cents, but that could all come down to a change in economics over the past year).

Thats actually probably the high points of the past couple of days, everything else has been more a case of trying to understand 3D maps and negotiating with tuk tuk drivers about a $4 charge to go to the shopping mall on the other side of town (we paid up...) but i guess thats mainly coz of our location essentially in the bottom right corner tucked behind nagaworld and the phnom penh post office.

Will update you all on our christmas tomorrow night!

Thats all folks!
(insert looney tunes theme song)

C :)

Posted by carl.adams 06:19 Comments (0)

Bed Bugs in Brothels - Part Two

So we left off with me getting all rather sleepy and headed off to bed, promising to come back today and finish off catching up on the tales of Vietnam, and more specifically Ho Chi Minh (Saigon - ill use both of them here), and the weird and wacky underworld that is district 6. (I'll try my best not to disappoint). Now in order to 'get you in the mood' for Saigon, I was taught in primary school that an important writing technique is to 'set the scene' as they say, so ill try my hand at this now.

Now if we cast our eyes back to the last episode where i was talking about the size of Hanoi, and just how massive in size that was (I used the repetition of the word 'really' to emphasize that point) Saigon was bigger, about 5x bigger in fact than the former city and in keeping with mathematical theorem, we figured it was only normal to be 5x more terrified about coming to this city, especially with the whole ordeal that was Hanoi, and the fact that the entire country was coming down from one of their biggest upsets emotionally with regards to them losing a soccer game to Malaysia (think NZ after losing to France) - all in all, we knew we were going to be dealing with a particularly cheerful bunch - especially with everyone having a theory about how the game had been corrupt, and that their team 'threw' the game..aah just like home....

But regardless, we packed up ourselves from our nice hotel, knowing that the chances of having a room anywhere in the near future with a closing bathroom door, or an opening window in the near future was rather unlikely...and headed off to the airport. Once we arrived in Ho Chi Minh we were actually genuinely surprised about how fancy everything was, there were no big taxi touts, just a line of taxi's waiting patiently and bright LED Billboards for as far as the eye could see, and that was our first impression of the city. Now one of the mates we met in Hanoi actually happens to live down in Saigon (you'll get used to me switching in and out I promise), but he was down at the beach so couldn't come and help us find a hotel (the beach is a 3 hour drive from the city) but, he told us to simply get in a taxi, head for district 6 and he'd come and find us later on. Simple enough, we were whisked off down the street in air conditioned comfort, getting ourselves reintroduced to vietnamese road rules with the masses of scooters back out in force and before long, we arrived at an area known as district six.

So this area, is basically one you would find in any background view of blood diamond, or slumdog millionaire (one of those views that sort of speeds over the slums, giving you split second looks of poor people, then continuing with the story.) But fortunately for us, there were four high-ish rises with the word hotel emblazoned on them and after choosing the one that looked the most fancy from the outside (it had a picture of mickey mouse on the door and the words 'happy new year' written besides so we figured we were in good hands.) We were sort of ushered inside by two very young looking women in bright red 'outfits', complete with santa hats all trying to act very seductively but not really pulling anything off, into an elevator, and headed up a few floors to check in. Without really thinking too much at this point (it was 30+ degrees outside and we had just flown from a city of 10,000 to a city of 8,000,000) we were shown a room that had both a closing bathroom door AND windows, AND just for a new feature at this point a balcony too. Needless to say that our hearts were won over by this, we sorted out check in where we were asked the, now famous question of 'how long' to which the response '√° few days' probably more than startled the poor young guy but we agreed on a price and took the bags to room 404. Now for those asians in the audience, your probably already feeling a bit uneasy with the presence of the number 4 in the room number not once, but twice (asians have this comical thing about the number 4, sorta like our thing with the number 13 but for asians, 4 is the sorta number that'd punch you in the guts and steal your lunch money just for the fun of it). Call it an omen...but i hadn't actually realised that until now haha.

It was at this point we began to notice a few little things about our room. Firstly there were a few 'ínteresting' stains in different places, there wasn't, out of all 7 paintings on the wall, one female in any of them wearing clothes (we failed to notice this before). And all just to add to the awkwardness of the room was a picture of Mary holding Jesus, looking at us, sitting above the TV. With this, we decided to sing out about our little problem down at reception, where we soon realised we had already spoken to the only guy who could speak any words of english bar "You want girl"?... this was becoming one of those "oops" moments but we retreated back to the room, finding the whole thing rather comical that we were now staying in a brothel and knowing that eventually everyone back home would find out. so we headed back to the lift, into our room, and decided we needed to get some air for a bit and spotted a market on the map we thought would be a good idea to check out (we figured we really couldn't go wrong from here), gathered up a few bits in the room and back into the elevator.

Now one would assume that to get out of the building you press the level "G" in the lift, but that only took us face to face with two rather unpleasant security guards who weren't too keen on us leaving the lift (in the two seconds we spent on whatever that level was, i pressed the 'door close' button on the lift about 12 times, but eventually we found a way out of the building, past a row of girls eying us up (to be fair we were the only guys under about 60, and weighing less than 90kgs so I did feel slightly sorry for them). We then began what became an arduous 2 hour trek to a small supermarket, zig-zagging through streets in and out of traffic (footpaths haven't quite been invented here yet). We even entered one building that saw us being greeted with one guy yelling "STOP" and then 10 of his closest boys in blue pointing tazers at us before realising we were just two white boys with a map, and clearly out of our depth!
But, we eventually made it to a supermarket (the market we were looking for didn't exist apparently), stocked up on a bit of food and caught a taxi back (our eyes were starting to blur and those headaches you get from essentially stuffing your face in scooter exhaust fumes get to you rather quickly, without any particularly pleasant side effects.
A few hours later, with our headaches now replaced with a sugar high, we were picked up on motorbikes and taken out to hit the town which proved to actually be a lot of fun (they all found it rather hilarious where we were staying, apparently district six is like saying ''go to Auckland' to a taxi driver...and we were bound to end up where we were, rather than the rich part on the other side (ahh the joys of being young and single). But we had some local food, sitting on stools that 3 year old's would think are small ( I wouldn't even use one as a foot stool it was that small) and then we retreated back to the hotel ready to check out in the morning.

Walking back into the hotel we noticed the "one star' rating on the door which we found rather amusing (well skip the trip back to the room so that people under the age of 15 can continue to read this haha) and feel asleep to some rather ambient' noise along with Vietnamese karaoke and in particular one guy who seemed to think that the drunker he got, the better he could sing, and thus the louder he needed to sing...grrr.

IN the morning we began to check out, with them finding all kinds of excuses to keep us there, from not speaking any english again, to the offer of free girls to be send to our room, to the possibility that they had lost our passports, needless to say that we became somewhat less than friendly for the first time on the trip so far, but we eventually got out, in a taxi and off to the backpacker part of Hanoi and saw the first white people in the past 24 hours. (We knew we couldn't be in the right part of town because no-one was trying to sell us things, and kids were saying hello! like we were the first white people they had seen in years). After finding a new place we ventured out again to do a few things like check in with the only NZ embassy we would get to see for our trip (none of the other countries we are going to have one), and to buy our bus tickets to Phnom Penh on the next day. After a rather long time in a few taxis, not finding anyone who could really speak english at the NZ embassy (the consular general was out), and realising that the international buses didn't in fact leave from the other side of town (those who can appreciate the size of Saigon will get the idea of just how much that taxi cost to get there and realise we were SO in the wrong place) but that they left from a place less than 2 mins walk from our new hotel. Awesome.
We decided to take refuge at the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, it had only been open for less that a week, was fully of security and were now well and trully with the Vietnamese A-list'ers (full of their REAL Gucci, LV and so on bags and clothes etc...and of course prices to match...the whole meal for us was close to a million dong (ouch!)...but so worth it given the change in atmosphere in the past 24 hours.
So that really takes us up till Cambodia which ill start to talk a bit about tomorrow, but seeing as everyone wanted the gossip from the Viet, figured id best get that out the way first

John Reap Plrea
C :)

Posted by carl.adams 03:43 Comments (1)

Bed Bugs in Brothels, and "Your Safe With Us"

Well hello there!

So now before you go and get all accusatory of my general lack of updating this thingy magigy, now is probably a good idea to let you know about this amazing new thing the Vietnamese government has decided to implement. So basically, they have decided that there is a new need to curb all of this 'free radical' thinking that is sending shock-waves around Vietnam and the world and so have decided to block a few websites including access to travellerspoint (where I write the blog, and facebook). So anyway we decided that especially since we were going to be on the move so much in Vietnam, and breaking the law wasn't exactly on my to do list (we'll get to where that bit changes later on i promise) we decided to postpone the Vietnam part of the blog until we got to Cambodia...and so after 8 hours sitting on a bus through some of Cambodia's best roads (for a similar road in New Zealand, look up Meremere dirt track club).

Guessing the best place to start would be where we left you all last time, on tenterhooks about our upcoming flight with Lao Aviation and taking bets about how likely it was we would actually arrive in Hanoi) Well, we set off from our friendly guesthouse, leaving a few little momento's behind like a sheep sort toy etc (they had a few babies in the household that worked as the perfect alarm clock for morning alms at 6am), jumped in a 2 person tuk tuk (motorbike with 2 seats coming out the side rather than from behind) and hurtled out to the airport at a great rate of knots. (for those pondering the 2nd part of the title, its the motto/tagline for Lao Aviation. . and doesnt instill nearly as much faith as they would have liked)

So we rocked up at LP airport a killer 3 hours beforehand and figured we would try our luck at getting on the earlier flight, no luck there but we would soon find out that this was in fact a blessing in disguised as that flight would be delayed around 8 hours, and as is the way in Lao we found out purely by chance...not a single infomation board in the whole airport! But everything all went fine, got on the plane and off we set to Hanoi. Now for those of you who havent been to Hanoi, its big, really, really big. And there is at least 3 times as many scooters as there are people in the city (dont ask me how that works, im still working on that too..) Couple this with being in a developing nation and all in all you have yourself set for quite possibly the last night of your life (that may be being a tad dramatic, but its for dramatic effect and thus i'm forgiven). So that's what we were set for, giant dirty city full of scooters, noise, and scams. And we weren't disappointed.

Once we landed we met up with a few chicks from germany and the netherlands and set off to try and find a hotel for the next couple of nights, and saw us weaving towards the general direction of a lake which promised to be backpacker salvation.

Found a place aptly called the bamboo hotel (for piece of mind it was neither made of bamboo, nor really a hotel, but did the job), checked in, went to find yet another room with no windows, and a bathroom door that wouldnt close (to date we have only had one with both of these qualities) and then attempted to venture out into the city. Now normally when you are heading down one of the main streets of a foreign city and you see a mass of 200,000 people chanting, revving motorbikes, with communist flags, and lighting fires you might think, especially in somewhere like Vietnam, you might want to head the other direction. Now call it jet-lag, tiredness, or just a side effect of the malaria pills but that idea didn't spring to mind at all at the time, but there was probably a reason we were the only white people in this crowd. So, hypothetically, what would you do, being a complete foreigner, and having not been in the country, let alone the city for more than 4 hours? Well, we started to lead a few of these chants. Turns out, chanting "Vietnam Chian Thien! (Vietnam are the Champions)" gets you alot of freinds very quickly, and we soon had our own crowd of 10,000 taking lead from us (now properly equipped with flags, bandana's and stickers). So we had our photo taken quite a few time by a guy sporting a lanyard with some vietnamese newpaper written all over it (so if you have seen us in any newpapers, let us know...we'd kinda like to find a copy haha!) and had probably over 100 photos with complete strangers being complete posers. All in all, we were starting to warm to the city. That was until, we tried to get to sleep at the hotel to the sound of literally non stop honking from these bite sized scooters blaring their way through the streets, but we survived, just, and woke up the next morning with a headache to match the experience from the night before.

The next day, to sum up the rather boring morning, we spent most of it trying to buy a sim card (2 hours of paperwork...ahhh Vietnamese efficiency) and getting completely lost around 1/10th of the city. In the afternoon, we met our vietnamese saviours (a guy and his freinds who also went to Rangitoto College) and they have us a whirlwind tour involving icecream, the first university in Vietnam, and taught the edible art of dehusking and eating sunflower seeds with iced lemon tea (the travel doctor would have a hernia reading this). Then it was off to try this sort of meat/noodle/breadcrumb kebab (the above were sort of minced together then skewered - i figure the travel doctor advising against all of this is still away having his hernia) and off to see the lowering off the flag at Ho Chi Minh's tomb (sorta like vietnams answer to the changing of the guards at buckingham palace, but with a distinctly socialist feel to the whole process.) Feeling all very awe inspired and patriotic about vietnam (oh a quick fun fact about Ho Chi here, he goes on holiday once a year to Russia to get re preserved (I guess itr must be rather like re pickling onions), and when we went we had just got back, so was all sparkling new again.

Afterwards it was milk tea, followed by cocktails at some ritsy restaurant overlooking a Ho Kiem Lake, and bid farewell to our rather brisk introduction to Hanoi...but at the same time , ready to leave the hustle and bustle for some down time in Hoi An (yes I know we hadnt been in a big city for more than 48 hours before needing to 'escape' from it all but meh im kiwi, and thats good enough excuse for anything haha!).

So the next morning, it was back in a taxi (another small scam here, but nothing particularly noteworthy) and off to the airport to ship ourselves down to Da Nang. Now in order to save a bit of time here we are just gonna summarise everything about the 4 days we spent here into a few key points:

1. Vietnam Airlines like to change flights....alot...so we left 2 days later than we were planning to.

2. Da Nang (and Hoi An ) have their own eco system basically which means that only in this city is it the rainy season from october to march (EVERYWHERE else in south east asia this is the dry season), and thus it rained like monsoon every single day.

3. Emma (she decided on this name herself) is quite probably the single most outrageous woman/suit fitter i have ever met "Dont worry darling, Emma will sort everything out for you" (yes she did refer to herself in 3rd person, which I though was rather cool)

4.Our hotel was AMAZING, like actually. $12 a night got you an air con'd room, pool and gym, and just the general uber-fanciness you would expect from a hotel.

SO, thats pretty much the main points from the first 5 days in Vietnam, im off to bed now and will cover Ho Chi Minh ***(shudder)**** tomorrow as thats going to require a whole blog in itself haha.

See you all then,

Thats all folks!

C

Posted by carl.adams 04:29 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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