Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 52!

My suit!

Halong Bay

Fishing Boats we had breakfast on

View from room in Sapa

Bags loaded on bus to Halong Bay

Alright team! I've let another 2 weeks slip by since my last email. I blame shotty internet and an unwillingness to write e-mails on my phone.

I left off the last e-mail having just finished up my motorbike trip in Hoi An where I bought a lovely new suit! Photo attached.We left Hoi An and headed to Hue which is the old imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue was pretty interesting. We opted not to do a hotel tour because at 16$ they seemed expensive however his was probably a mistake because between paying for transport and site entrence fee's we probably payed almost that much and didn't get to see as much. In Hue it was really hot in the morning and we went to see the Citadel at the center of the city. It was nice, I thought it was funny that there was a modern tennis court in the center. Apparently one of the emperors enjoyed sports and played tennis. I would have preffered if they had left the old tennis court rather than this new 2008 version. Unfortunately a lot of the citadel was ruined from Bombing during the war (not too sure which one...). We left there and went to see a temple where the emporors are burried. Looking through the book it didn't tell us where they were so we chose the most appealing one based on description. Well turns out it was also the furthest (At 15km temples ranged from 2-15km).

Having completed all that we wanted in Hue we decided to leave a day early in order to get to Hanoi earlier so that we could get a good trip to Halong Bay before Colin left. We opted not to do the Demilitarized zone since we saw bomb craters, beat up bridges and tanks agent orange debris while on the bike trip. If there was anything else we would see in the DMZ I don't want to know.

Unfortunately being a national holiday there were no busses or trains to Hanoi so we ended up flying. It was only about 20$ more expensive than the train but much more comfortable. In Hanoi we went to the Hao Lo prison which was a french colonial prison used against vietnamese revolutionaries. Having just read the book Papillion which is about a frenchmen imprisoned at a colonial prison in south america it was interested to see the similarities between the two. Again it was another example of how the vietnamese have been abused by foreigners. We followed that up by going to see the Ho Chi Minh Museum which was less inspiring. Unfortunately we didn't know that you had to go see the man himself Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) early in the morning because its closed the rest of the day. The next morning we departed for Halong Bay.

We weren't really sure what we were getting into. Again the tours were expensive. 100$ for two nights so we opted to do it on our own. We made sure to book a bus that would get us the whole way there without knowing that it was a tour bus. So we managed to do the touristy route through the bay at a fraction of the price. SCORE! Halong Bay was beautiful. We saw some pretty impressive caves and then were dropped off on Cat Ba island. I've attached a photo of the islands in the bay. Out of this world! The once on Cat Ba one of Colin and I's funniest experiences happened. We went out drinking (Halong Bay also had 5000 Dong beers, or 25 cents) so we were a few drinks in and the table next to us had about 10-12 Vietnamese getting loaded.They kept coming over to Cheers us and eventually even refilled our glasses. At this point Colin and I were 5 beers in each and decided to join their table for a bit. Well they payed for all the beer but over the next hour was fighting not to throw up. I estimate we had in the range of 15-20 beers (they are smaller glasses, probably 250-300ml rather than the usual 355 to a can). Somewhere during that hour we were convinced to go fishing with them the next morning. Our understanding was that they were visiting the island on a fishing trip. So at 6:55 AM the next morning one of the guys Mr Nam knocks on our hotel room door. I wasn't feeling too great to say the least. I tried to explain to him that I was too hung over to go fishing so I kept saying "No Fishing" which he would then reply with a smile "No fishing!" Colin then infered that we were being invited to breakfast instead of fishing so we followed him and he leads us to the dock. I wisper to Colin that we are in fact headed towards a boat, so I repeat to Mr Nam for the 50th time "No Fishing" and he agreed no fishing but we get on the boat nonetheless. This is where the miscomunication took place. They were not on a fishing trip, they were fisherman inviting us to their boat for breakfast. So we went into the bay and had rice and fish with them. It was pretty good despite the hangover. We stayed on the boat for 3 hours while it poured rain outside so all in all it was a great way to kill the morning. The funny part was they were be chatting away in Vietnamese and then all of a sudden yell out NO FISHING! and all start laughing at me. I've included a photo of the boats. They did not live up to your typical reputation of fisherman. They were all very nice and polite and not crude at all (with the exception of an old man who showed Colin Vietnamese porn on his cell phone. We don't really know why he did that).

The sun came out and we spent the afternoon nursing out hangover on the beach. There was distinctly a white person section which was kinda funny.

The next day we did a kayak trip which was interesting. They took us out a km and just left us there. We had no idea where to go or when to get there. I yelled to them as they were leaving and they pointed at their watch and put up 2 fingers and pointed at an island. I assumed that meant we had to get to the island in 2 hours... hopefully. We left Cat Ba island for Hanoi that afternoon and the next morning finally managed to see Ho Chi Minh! The line was HUGE! well over a km. I'm guessing this was because of the holiday. We were fairly far back in the line which got cut off behind us probably 200 people back. Well funny thing happened. In Vietnam to move forward in a line you need to pass people. So before we knew it we were at the back of the line with 50 other white people. The spectacle of seeing Ho Chi Minh was more entertaining than the actual site itself since you only walk through the Mausoleum for 30 seconds while you see him through glass from 20 feel away.

Colin left that afternoon and I for the first time was on my own. I had a train booked to Sapa and having had success with Colin without the Tour decided to do Sapa on my own as well. You take a train overnight and are picked up and driven the hour to Sapa. The drive was spectacular. You see photos of the rice fields climbing up the mountain but you really can't appreciate it without seeing them. They are huge! The first day I rented a motorbike from the hotel (I've attached the view from my hotel room, it was steep at 6$) and spent 3 hours just cruising down the roads and taking photos. If anyone is going, I would suggest the south road. Northwest didn't have much to see and East is the way you come. I didn't know this road exhisted until later in my trip which was too bad but it was the most spectacular. All of the hotels offered the same tour for 15$ and I met a local who was willing to give me the same tour 1 on 1 for 7. I was pleased with my barganing skills so the next morning I embarked on a day treck. I immediately felt guilty for being so cheap. She spent 3$ on food for lunch and was only making 4 dollars on the whole day.

The trek was great. we passed through the mountains and she explaned to me the farming as well as how they make clothes out of hemp brining me to a huge marajuana field and she strips off the leaves, hands them to me and shows me who they make string out of the stalk of the plant. We got to her house were she made me a big lunch. More than I could eat. While she was cooking since there wasn't much for me to do I got a little bored. She noticed this and suggested I take a nap. I wasn't really tired but figured this was less awkward than sitting in the room watching her cook. I lay down and sure enough 5 minutes later was out cold. I woke up an hour later because her kids were throwing sticks and stuff at my beard. My beard is a hit in Vietnam. I can only imagine it will get better since its only halfway now. That being said. My beard hasn't been a hit all over. It did make a small child cry when I waved at her, but this did make her dad laugh a lot.

After lunch my guide (Ma) brought me to the road and said I could walk or motorbike. Since I hate taking rides off the lazy motorbike drivers I opted to walk. She said it was a 2.5 hour walk along the beautiful valley and relatively flat. Off I went. every 5 minutes a guy would drive by saying. Hello... Motobike? and I just kept walking. Turns out it wasn't flat. The signs on the way said 10% uphill. For 9km. it was like walking up to the top of Seymore. I was tired. Got back to the hotel in desparate need of a shower and food. The last day in sapa I just relaxed and saw the town and took the train back to Hanoi overnight.

Which brings me to yesterday. Chris Newlove (friend from montreal) is also in Hanoi coming from Laos and we went out last night. Much to my surprise there were also 4 other McGill friends all in different stages of leaving Hanoi, some for Canada, others heading South. Unfortnuately none headed to Laos. We went out, had another big night of drinking and that brings me to today. Sitting in the rain waiting for my flight to Laos!

Anyways. Congrats if you made it this long. Sorry for the length.

1 comment:

Facundo said...

Keep up the updates! haha, just kidding... (but I am following every single post on your trip, looks fantastic!)

Here things are well, today is Canada day and I am here at work since I went for a 6 day kayaking trip to the Broken Islands last weekend. It was great! ate fish and crabs until I could eat no more, kayaked 20m away from 3 gray whales about 40ft long, saw bears, deer, neat stuff.

In a couple of hours I am heading to Seattle, ON MY BIKE. I have not been swimming or running much but doing 20+ hours a week on the bike, yes, 600-700km/wk. 3 weeks ago Mt baker and back: 200km, 2 weeks ago Squamish and back: 170km, today Seattle: 180km and back Sunday for another 180. Want to do some cycling races this year.

Anyways, hope you are well my friend. Keep up the 25c beers, you cant beat that here hehe