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Well our walk the other day, to get some feeling back in our legs, lead us to Happy Happy Happy Tours on Bui Vien St in Saigon where we bought ourselves a ticket home. Our lack of finances meant we had to cut our trip short.. we never did get the hang of the whole bargaining thing! We got a ridiculously cheap flight from our friends at happy tours and three hours later we were on our flight!

We flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok then after a three hour stopover in Bangkok we grabbed our flight to Sydney. This was not as sudden as it all sounds but for the sake of surprising my mother we hadnt mentioned it to anyone or updated livejournal as honestly as we might have. Barry picked us up from the airport yesterday morning and we strolled into the house and onto the deck where my mother was sitting making her jewellery. She didnt have her glasses on so it took a while for her to recognise me. She sat there for a few seconds squinting and trying to place my blur in her memory but eventually she got there!

We have been back for about 24 hours now and it’s nice to be home. At the moment our plan is a bit sketchy but for those who don’t already know Luke and I will be settling in Sydney. We will be back in Melbourne for a couple of weeks around Australia Day (I believe there is a Summit party being planned – contact Shelly) so we will catch up with everyone there before coming back up to Sydney to find work and a place to live. At the moment we are residing in Barrys driveway in the nicest caravan you will ever see. We are completely self contained, although we have barely set foot in there except to sleep.. there is so much news to catch up on here!

We will be seeing everyone soon!!

xx

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January 9, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Yesterday we spent 25 hours on a bus!!!! What we thought was going to be a 20 hour trip turned into 25 after numerous food/cigarette/toiletbreak stops… But we have arrived safely (thanks, in part i’m sure, to the incense sticks stuck to the front of the bus as an offering to Buddha).

No more news.. we will spend today walking some feeling back into our legs

January 7, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dalat to Hoi An : The Easy Rider Way

What an adventure! I dont even know where to start, we have seen and done so much in the past few days that it is all a wonderful blur!

Loc and Tin Tin were just magnificent, they really made the trip for us and we are going to miss them heaps! Loc was an amazing man who could make us laugh hysterically with his childish toilet humour and horrify us with war stories all in the same sentence. And Tin Tin was like an old Italian momma (except with a french accent) he would pile our bowls high with food at every meal exclaiming “Eat Eat!!”. They did everything in their power to make us comfortable, Tin Tin especially who is possibly the most gentlemanly and considerate man I have ever met. We had quite a time trying to figure out what they were saying sometimes but their broken English was hard to resist.. “Please take care your health!” or “If we are lucky to be sunny tomorrow then to be sure you will see many beautiful things!”.. we were really sorry to say goodbye to them yesterday and if we ever come back to Vietnam we are definently going back to Dalat to enlist them on another great adventure!

We were a little concerned about the logistics of travelling by motorbike over long distances with such a huge amount of luggage but Loc and Tin Tin didnt even blink an eye when they saw the size of our packs! They wrapped them up in giant plastic bags to keep them dry and then strapped them to the back of the bikes with long cords of rubber. Those packs wouldn’t have moved in a hurricane! At the end of each day when we took them upstairs to shower and change our stuff looked as though it had been vacuum sealed inside!

The trip was fantastic, without a doubt one of the best things we have done since we left home. Travelling by motorbike is such a wonderful way to see the country and having local guides made it so much better. The only not so great thing was the pain.. after a little while on the bikes our butts would be numb and our back and legs would be aching like crazy! It didnt get any better as the days went on either, if anything it got worse and it would take a shorter amount of time before we would be hurting.. motorbike riding sure takes practise! The guys were used to the complaint though and would stop the bikes every half an hour or so and drive off into the distance leaving us to walk some feeling back into our butts. Those walks were fantastic! We would walk through tiny villages, past rice paddies or coffee crops, through the mountainside.. and what a sight we must have been to those driving passed! Two tourists walking along in the middle of nowhere with no obvious means of transportation in sight.. people would fly passed on motorbikes and both the driver and the passenger/s would be staring back at us, peering over their shoulders until we were out of sight, we were so afraid that we were going to cause an accident that way! The villagers would wave and smile and look confused. The best part though was the kids, over the last five days we have waved to countless kids.. thousands of them at least! They would shout out to us and chase after our motorbikes, they would stand in doorways blowing kisses and waving, and no matter what somehow they would recognise us.. at times it was freezing so we would be bundled up in jackets and long trousers, we would be wearing helmets and have scarves wrapped around our noses and mouths to keep from freezing our lips off. At times all that was showing were our eyes and our hands but somehow they would see us and wave and giggle and shout and run.. it was amazing!

Some kids werent so brave though, there were times when we had stopped, at minority villages or in small towns where the kids were so scared of us! They would hide behind their mothers legs or run away if we tried to approach them. Even the promise of candy wouldnt coax them out! Mostly though they made us feel as though we were celebrities, shouting hello and giggling when we waved or said hello back. In one small town a little girl came running down the bridge to meet us shouting and shouting as she ran when she finally met us she grabbed hold of my hand and wouldnt let go, we talked for a bit (her in Vietnamese and us in English, none of us could understand a word but it was quite a friendly conversation none the less) then she ran off down the bridge toward her house dragging me along behind her (Look what I found!!) one of her friends came and met us, another little girl so skinny and small, and she grabbed hold of lukes hand and wouldnt let go. It was a long time before we could say goodbye to them!

Another time we were walking along the road in what we thought was an unpopulated area when all of a sudden these kids started appearing from behind the trees. First one, then five, then ten.. all walking towards us with huge smiles on their faces.. it was almost children of the corn like (except they were smiling).. They had been working in the forest with their families cows. They knew a little english.. “hello.. what is your name?” and “my name is…” we stood with them for a while but they were cautious of us and by the time we had introduced ourselves to each child and we had used up all their english vocabulary they were losing interest so we continued on our way.

We visited many minority villages along the way, but not like the ones in Thailand who are used to a busload of tourists trapsing through their houses each day, these guys were not used to seeing westerners at all and some were cautious but mainly they were incredibly generous and amazingly happy. In one village a family invited us into their home. We sat at a table in the middle of the bamboo hut.. the walls and roof decorated with the skulls of various animals they had hunted in the forest and we shared our cigarettes with the leader of the family, a 100 year old woman who didnt speak a word of english but was happy to answer questions through Loc. She was wrinkled and had watery little eyes the way old people do but she was amazingly strong and if I had had to guess her age I would have said 70 or so! The hut was only tiny but slept twelve people over five generations. In the corner sat an old – unsociable – man smoking a bong and avoiding eye contact. Their were children being held by grandmothers and mothers and their were tiny little puppies roaming around in the dust at our feet (probably dinner but best not think about it).

In another village we were welcomed into the ‘meeting house’ a huge room on stilts with a massive thatched roof. Inside the room were four village men. They asked us to sit down and they chatted with Tin Tin about us. While we were there they gave us some rice wine and cigarettes and offered us food. It was incredible, these are some of the poorest people in the world and they were offering US food! We accepted the cigarettes and a little bit of the wine but the snails, caught by the men earlier that day in the river by their village, was just too much to stomach so early in the morning so we declined! It was amazing to sit there with them, they were so friendly and so happy! They told Luke he was very handsome (he gets that alot) and Tin Tin explained that it was meant as a compliment to me and not to Luke. He explained that in the village the woman is the boss of everything and the fact that I had such a handsome boyfriend showed that I must be a very powerful woman (LOL!).. Loc explained to us that when someone in the community does something wrong then the village elders will have a meeting there and decide how the accused should pay. They pay their fine in livestock and then the whole community will have a party and eat whatever the person had to pay. Such a great criminal system!!!

In another community Loc showed us a coffin carved from the trunk of a tree (almost like an koori canoe) he explained that when a person dies they are put into the coffin and then they will have a big procession into the jungle where the coffin is carried to the top of a tree and tied there in the branches. The person is left there to be eaten by the wildlife as a way of saying thank you for all the wildlife they hunt for food during their lives. (not something you want to come across during a leisurely jungle walk!)

Every meal during our five days was magnificent! Huge feasts piled in the middle of the table for us all to share (with Tin Tin in the background saying Eat Eat and filling our bowl again each time we took a mouthful!!) They took us to the best local restaurants and ordered huge tasty meals for us from waiters and waitresses who looked so surprised to see us there! Mountains of spring rolls, pork cooked a hundred different ways, fish in ginger sauces, fresh seafood, steaming soups, chicken from the famous chicken rice shop, the freshest, tastiest vegetables you will ever eat, fresh noodle soup cooked right at our table. One night we even ate in an illegal hole in the wall restaurant which served porcupine and wild deer and wild boar, we ordered plates of the stuff, bought raw to our table and cooked over a little hotplate in front of our eyes. porcupine is surprisingly delicious!

On new years day we visited what was going to be (according to Tin Tin) a very romantic spot with beautiful views but when we arrived it was swarming with hundreds of Vietnamese tourists having parties in the grass. They were using New Years day as an excuse (any will do). Tin Tin cleared a spot for us so that he could take a photo without anyone else in it – so it would at least look romantic even if it wasnt! All the vietnamese got so excited and they all wanted to be in a photo with us as well (as a souvenir, they said but of what I am not so sure!).. We stood and a group of men surrounded us and we got a photo (it is one of my favourite photos of the trip actually). In the meantime a vietnamese man was filming us on our video camera and calling out for us to wave at him and so many people were coming up to poor Tin Tin asking him to pass on messages to us and asking (for the six billionth time) where we were from. The view was, as promised, amazing but every time I tried to take a photo some person or other would start waving into my camera so I didnt get any good ones. On the way back to our bikes a group of men sitting in a circle around a massive picnic called us over, it took about five minutes to establish that they didnt speak english and we didnt speak vietnamese (the probably was that we said hello in Vietnamese which confused them and they said we dont speak english in english, which confused us) they offered us some of their food and some of their wine but sadly we had to head on our way.. such fun though!

We had good weather most days, on day four when we were way way up in the mountains it rained a bit which was an interesting experience from the back of a motorbike! We rugged up in ponchos and braved the rain but it was extremely uncomfortable, cold and stinging and very very wet! The views were incredible though! Loc and Tin Tin kept apologising and saying how pretty it is usually and how the rain was ruining it but we were already speechless at the beauty of it all! We would ride though the mountains and see a waterfall carved into the side of the mountain a full hour before we got there. It would be glinting at us so high up, hiding among the trees and then we would get there and it would be massive and loud, crashing over giant boulders.. just amazing! And because we were so high up the mountains around us were all misty and beautiful and incredibly serene.

We rode along the Ho Chi Minh trail.. which is mostly just a bitumen road now except for the parts that previously went around the mountainous bits that they have now dynamited up so that the road can cut straight through. For those untouched bits of the trail we would get out and walk through the mud and the trees. It was really eerie. Especially with Loc there being our commentator. He would tell us stories about how each side would trick the other, how they would modify weapons stolen from the other side, he would show us places in the mountains where soldiers would sleep (hollows dug under huge granite boulders, half submerged in water) he told us of men he had killed and those he had seen killed, men who had been killed for stupid reasons (one, afraid of snakes had slept in a hammock instead of in the ground and had been attacked while he slept) he told us (quietly but not ashamedly) about the nightmares he has that wake him up in a sweat even now and about how hard he tries to forget about the past so he can look after his family (his wife who is dying and his two children). He told us about failed attacks made by the americans, he showed us chatley hill, an american air base that had been attacked by the north vietnamese one night, previously jungle area, now barren, like a bald head sticking up among the many mountains. The americans had doused it with Agent Orange one night after the attack, killing not only the North Vietnamese but also many Americans. He took us to many battle sights and told us the stories of each battle and he took us to visit a local lady who collects unexploded bombs from the jungle and uses a saw or a hammer and chisel (!!!!) to open the bomb and get the gunpowder out (I am so surprised that she hasnt blown herself up!) she sells the bomb casing to the factories in town who melt it down to make all sorts of things and she sells the gun powder to another factory to make.. well that bit is obvious I guess. He took us to meet another local lady who scours the jungle for old american dog tags to sell to the tourists for a dollar a piece. Loc was very disturbed by this and was very relieved when we assured him that we didnt want to buy any dogtags. What a horrible souvenir!!

We visited beautiful teak churches, orphanages, war memorials, coffee plantations, pepper plantations, rubber and cashew farms, pottery workshops, rice paper mills, countless minority villages, a pineapple farm, bamboo basket weavers and so much more. We drove along roads with more livestock than traffic, dodging cows and ducks, chickens and geese, cats, dogs, turkeys and goats, even water buffalo! We saw hundreds of dirty little barefoot children with the clearest eyes and the happiest smiles, we saw old women with no teeth smiling and waving and we saw old men frowning. We drank countless cups of the sweetest strongest coffee in all the world and laughed at a million stupid Loc jokes. My butt hurt from bike riding and my face hurt from smiling so much but it truly was the greatest adventure! There is so much more to tell, so many amazing moments, but I think that is enough for now, I am sure you can feel yourselves growing old as you sit there reading!

Rest assured you will all hear about it whenever we get home, no doubt both Luke and I will be raving about it for years to come!

xx

January 4, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

safe in Hoi An

Just a quick update to say happy new year and let everyone know that we have arrived safe and sound in Hoi An. What a fantastically wonderful adventure we have had!! We will update properly soon but right now we are going to rest our aching butts and do some relaxing!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

xx

January 3, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Easy Riders

Today was an incredible day! So incredible that we have packed away those bus tickets I was telling you about yesterday and adopted ourselves some easy riders instead!

Loc and Tin Tin picked us up this morning from our hotel and biked us around not only Dalat but the surrounding area for the day. Mr Loc – my driver – is a wrinkled little shrimp of a man with an incredible smile that makes his eyes go all squinty and a laugh like a little kid. He is old, I dont know how old but old in a balding, wrinkled, arthritic kind of way. He is lovely though! Tin Tin is much younger (and much taller) than Loc and is charming and funny and thoughtful and really hard to listen to because his accent is half french and half vietnamese.. very confusing!!

The bikes were great! Not at all like the little 100cc bikes that everyone around here drives but ACTUAL bikes! Its amazing how much safer I felt on a bike with a proper sized seat! The helmet also helped (although I look ridiculous it eases my mind no end!) Both Loc and Tin Tin were excellent drivers, taking it slow and being really careful (very unusual to see here!) I felt really safe – which I wasnt expecting!

Our first stop for the day was the ‘Crazy House’ right here in Dalat. The building is 15 years old and was designed by the presidents daughter, who is an architect.. it is just an incredible place! Like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz rolled into one. The place isnt finished yet but we are certainly coming back to see it when it is done. Each room is designed differently, some small and cave-like, others huge and spacious. the walls have been built up with concrete in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes and designs and there are crazy staircases all over the place leading to different levels and different rooms. Each room is themed.. in one there is a giant Kangaroo (looking kind of evil with red lightglobes for eyes)! The windows are all crazy shapes and there are strangely hidden fireplaces in each room. Its so difficult to describe but we took heaps of photos so maybe you will get the idea. We walked around for about an hour but we didnt see it all.. there was so many details we didnt notice on the first or second look! Each of the rooms has a bed (with stategically placed mirrors which was a bit odd) and can be rented out for a night if you want to stay which we will do next time I think. The place was great.. so much fun!

Our next stop was to visit the ‘Crazy Monk’ (no relation to crazy house!) who is a bit of a local celebrity. He looks after one of the pagodas here (he is the only monk in residence) and has a reputation for being a bit loopy. He paints pictures and sells them to tourists who come and visit him. He is currently saving for a world tour and plans on visiting all the people who buy his paintings! According to the lonely planet he has painted more than 100000 individual paintings and has them hanging all over the temple! We were looking forward to meeting him and were wanting to buy one of his works so that we could become part of his world tour but when we arrived he lived up to his ‘crazy monk’ status. The temple was all closed up, all the wooden doors closed and locked.. which is unusual.. we wandered around outside making a lot of noise hoping to get someones attention. The crazy monk finally came out (or poked his head out at least) and said that he was too busy and we should come back later!!! Some Monk! We suspect that the crazy monk may have been having a little fun with a lady friend inside.. when he answered the door he was wearing a long coat.. flasher style! We went back out to our drivers who laughed about how strange the crazy monk was (the easy riders have a bit of reputation for not liking the crazy monk.. who they call the business monk because he makes so much money selling all his paintings and isnt really much of a monk at all)

After our not so successful crazy monk visit we left the town area and headed out the country.. we stopped by the side of the road at one point and chatted (or at least loc and tin tin did) to some workers there, they showed us how they cut the granite rocks off the boulders on the mountains and then chisel them all down to the same size to sell for making bridges and stuff.. such hard work! no machinery at all just a chisel, a hammer and a crowbar. When I exclaimed how much work it was he looked a little confused and asked how we make granite at home. I said I didnt know but I suspected we probably bought it from Vietnam.. he thought that was great!

We visited a whole bunch of private farms owned by friends of the guys. A silk worm farm, a coffee plantation, a rice wine distillery in some old mans basement, a bamboo weaving family, a mushroom farm, and the silk factory where they remove the silk from the cocoons and weave scarves (factory isnt quite the right word.. more like a rusty bunch of noisy machines and a lot of hard working girls).

For lunch they took us to a little vietnamese restaurant run by a friend of theirs where there was no english on the menu (in fact there was no menu!) and we sat on plastic chairs around a plastic table. They ordered a meal for us that can only be described as a feast! Delicious fresh vegetables from the area, salted fried fish, pork, a chicken dish, a tofu dish, curried prawns and a massive bowl of soup (all with rice of course).. it was – BY FAR – the best meal we have eaten since we left home.. absolutely delicious.. its incredible the difference in the food when you have locals ordering for you! We ate and ate and chatted and ate and chatted and then finished the meal with some green tea and a cigarette (which we ashed on the floor!! It is the vietnamese way according to Tin Tin.. I felt so bad!!)

After lunch we visited the biggest waterfall I have EVER seen. It was spectacular! Its called the Elephant waterfall because there are massive volcanic rocks at the base of the waterfall which – from above – look like a family of elephants. We made ourway down to the base of the waterfall, scrambling over hundreds of massive rocks.. it was hard work but well worth it.. the view was incredible! Getting up was hard work though, I am in such bad shape! It is pitiful!

The guys have a book (well two actually) that I think I told you about yesterday where people write about how much fun they had with them.. there were heaps of entries about the trip from Dalat to Hoi An which takes five days.. we read through the entries and quickly decided that spending New Years with these guys in a village somewhere would be SO MUCH better than spending it with a bunch of westerners at Nha Trang and we agreed to do it that way instead. With our bus ticket we go from Dalat to Nha Trang (4 hours) then from Nha Trang to Hoi An (12 hours!!!) the whole trip is along the national highway and they stop once every three hours for a meal break but we dont get to SEE anything. Loc and Tin Tin are going to take us through the guts of the country and the trip will take 5 days in all. We are skipping Nha Trang entirely and we will just pick up the rest of our bus ticket once we are in Hoi An.. it is going to cost (much) more this way but both Luke and I are incredibly excited about it. Both the guys are excellent, I was actually really sad to say goodbye to them this afternoon, even though we are seeing them again tomorrow morning! And from the sounds of it we are going to be seeing some really incredible places!

Anyway, we signed a contract with them today (over vietnamese coffee and green tea in a cafe this afternoon) and we take off tomorrow morning at 8:30.. not sure if we will be anywhere near Internet while we are gone so dont panic if you dont hear from us.. if there is internet though I will jump on quickly each day just to let you (mum) know that we are ok!!!

I am so excited!!! well that is enough for today! Check out our photos!!

xx

December 29, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Saigon to Mui Ne Beach to Dalat

Well we are in Dalat.

Our Christmas lunch was spectacular, although we were a little unsteady on our feet after countless vodkas with lunch! Our afternoon was spent dozing in our room then for dinner we ordered pizza home delivery from a place called pepperonis because we were too lazy to leave our room. What an experience it was trying to order! The first girl I spoke with got frustrated and hung up and the second time I called I had to speak with two different people and repeat my order 13 times before the call was done.. to their credit though they got the order completely right which is more than I can say for delivery people in Australia most of the time!

On boxing day we got up super early to catch our bus to Mui Ne Beach. Our bus left at 7:45 and we arrived in Mui Ne at around 12:30. The bus dropped us off in front of a hotel and took off pretty quickly and because Mui Ne is so underdeveloped it was going to be a huge hassle to try and find another place to stay so we agreed to stay in a not very nice too expensive room (it was only $9 but we have stayed in better places for a lot less). Mui Ne Beach has no town centre as such.. basically the town runs along the beachfront so we were pretty limited in what we were able to do unless we wanted to walk the ten kilometres from one end to the other.

We found ourselves some lunch and spent half an hour trying to talk to the hotel staff about booking a tour for the next day. We managed to get ourselves booked in but it turned out the next day that they had booked us into the WRONG one! We woke up before the sun came up to jump aboard our jeep. It was painful getting up so early but the sunset was absolutely breathtaking so it was worth it. The tour that we had booked went for 5 hours, included breakfast and lunch and took us to all the natural sights around Mui Ne.. the tour we got booked on cost the same amount of money (which was strange) didnt include breakfast OR lunch, went only for 2 hours and didnt take us to half as many places (dodgy dodgy). We got to see the amazing sand dunes and the red rock cliffs and we visited the fishing village but then our driver tried to drop us back at the hotel. We were doing the tour with a french girl who had booked the same tour as us but at a different place but somehow we all ended up on the wrong one (seems like a bit of a scam to me) SO we attempted to find out what was going on. The hotel refused to accept any responsibility and got really angry at us for questioning them, our driver took us back to the tour company who also refused to accept any responsibility and wouldnt refund our money or take us on the rest of the tour. They did however agree to give us breakfast (but they had no eggs and no peanut butter lol)..

So by 8:30 am we had seen a sunrise, climbed the sand dunes, fought off some children, visited cliffs AND a fishing village, gotten into two arguements and eaten a ‘free’ breakfast.. when we got back to our hotel we were exhausted and we went to sleep! I think if it had just been luke and I we would have just given up after the first arguement but the french girl was looking for blood! she really wanted a fight and she wouldnt let us give up! so funny!

Anyway, the people at our hotel were really rude to us after that so we decided not to stay any longer. We had wanted to stay in Mui Ne for new years but after being there (even without the tour debarcle) we decided it wasnt really the place.. a great place to relax on the beach but it is mainly a fisherman town and for new years we are looking for something crazy! There are not going to be many times that we get to spend new years in Vietnam and we want to have some fun!

SO, when we were in Saigon we bought an open bus ticket. Basically you choose your stops and then you can move between the towns whenever you like (as long as you book a day in advance) We have a ticket for saigon – mui ne beach – dalat – nha trang – halong – hue – hanoi (all for $22).. so we booked the next leg of our journey.. mui ne to dalat.. for this morning.

We got up early again. The bus was supposed to arrive at 7 but didnt get there until 8..apparently thai time works here as well! the first leg of the trip was on a minibus then about half way we stopped and changed into a coach for the rest of the trip. Now we are in Dalat (the flower town apparently) its really cold which is a strange feeling for us! We dont know if we will stay here for new years or move onto Nha Trang (the party town!) we will just have to wait and see.

On our way to this internet place today we were stopped by two members of the ‘easy rider’ group. We have heard so much about these guys, lonely planet absolutely raves about them and other travellers have been talking about them as well. Basically they are a group of guys who work as tour guides around the city.. they are famous for taking you off the beaten track and showing you crazy things around town that you would never see without them.. these guys have got cult status on the ‘travel circuit’. The problem is that I am terrified of motorbikes! We chatted with them and they pulled out their notebooks, filled with rave reviews from people they have shown around. Reviews all the way back to 1989!! We talked with them for a while and told them about the places we were interested in seeing and they mapped out a special itinerary for us. We ummed and ahhed but when we first got to Dalat we had a look at some of the group tours available and each of them involves a 2.3km trip in a cable car which luke has flat out refused to do (scaredy cat!) so after talking with the easy rider guys (loc and tintin) we agreed to let them take us around (sorry mum!! if its any consolation these guys have helmets for us and there will only be one of us per bike!) It does however mean another early morning! we meet them at 8am.. and I was so looking forward to a sleepin!!!

Oh well.. thats it for now! Not a very interesting post.. but its been a while since I updated so I thought I should write something!!!

I will write again soon to let you all know that we survived our easy rider trip!!

xx

December 28, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Gucci Glasses and a Rolex Watch

We are still in Saigon. We were planning on heading North after a couple of days but the comfort of a hot shower and a tv in our room has kept us here longer than planned. We have been eating pizza, drinking cappucinos and channel surfing for days.. what a novelty!

We did an organised tour of the city a couple of days ago which consisted of a visit to the ‘War Remnants Museum’ and the Unification Palace.. stupid us. After our experience in Phnom Penh we should have known to stay away! It was pretty tough, the photographs were much more graphic than the ones at S21 and taken by ‘photojournalists’. One in particular was pretty horrifying.. it was of an american soldier holding the remains of a vietnamese man. Remains is a good word because he wasnt all there. The soldier was holding the man by his hair, there was a head, and arm and skin trailing on the ground behind him. The soldier was smiling for the camera, holding the man like he’d won a trophy. Very disturbing. In another photo there were four soldiers squatting in a semicircle around the heads of three vietnamese men, their headless bodies lay in the background of the picture and each of the soldiers had one of their hands resting on the heads of the men – like hunters posing with their kill – again all four men were smiling for the camera.

There were countless photos like this, and stories of men killing women and children. There was even a story about a US Senator who had come to visit the troops and had hunted down a bunch of kids hiding in a sewer and killed all but one of them. There were also photos of people melted by Napalm, features clumped together like chewed gum. Children black and patchy, women scarred even 3 decades later. And then the deformities of the next generation. A man with an extra arm, one without legs and another with legs that didnt work, his upper body strong and muscled and his legs nothing but skin and bone.

We didn’t see it all, I moved onto the childrens paintings, rainbows and flowers, the peace paintings, then we sat outside in the shade and waited for everyone else to be done. I feel guilty. About not wanting to look, I just want to hide from it all, I have had enough of war and it seems so unfair that I should walk away and close my eyes to it when so many people had to see it and live it. And its hard to be so angry and not know who to be angry with. Surely not all the men sent out here did such horrible things? Surely not everyone enjoyed slaughtering people, when we ‘pay our respects’ to our soldiers are we respecting men who gave their lives for us or those who took the lives of others so horribly? Men who came against their will, or those who wanted to be involved?

I’m so angry and so sickened, and I want to believe so much that the world has changed but when I truly think about it, I dont think it has. We do, once again, have our troops in another country killing for something that has nothing to do with us…

The war remnants museum and the unification palace (where we watched a video in which a man was executed) were the first stops in our tour and the rest of the day wasnt so gruesome. We visited some temples and some markets, we visited china town, but its hard to be excited about these things with those images in your head.

The next day we did some shopping Luke bought himself a *Rolex* watch (for only $27 – what a bargain!) and I got my eyes retested.. something that should have been done a long time ago! My right eye is in much worse shape than the other so I am lopsided now with one lense thicker than the other. My glasses are Gucci apparently (aren’t we trendy?!?) and I am still getting used to them. I feel a little seasick most of the time but its getting better.

Yesterday we went on a tour of the Mekong Delta. It wasnt the best day for it, it was raining on and off most of the day but it was still alot of fun. We went to Can Tho by bus and caught a boat for our cruise of the Mekong. We visited four different islands, went to a coconut candy factory (although factory isn’t really the right word, it was really just a wooden hut with four women making candy) where we tasted (and bought) some delicious treats, we tasted banana, honey and rice wine (all of which tasted foul and ranged from 20% – 40% alcohol) the rest of our group got photos taken with a python.. but we had already done this in Thailand and besides our snake was much bigger!!! We watched some old men playing traditional music with some great instruments and listened to some beautiful Vietnamese girls sing traditional songs (although their rendition of ‘if your happy and you know it’ in Vietnamese kind of ruined the traditional feeling). We boated through little canals in a row boat wearing plastic raincoats and pointy hats and we tasted all kinds of weird and wonderful traditional fruits (none of which I liked!). We ate fresh honey from tiny little bees and drank honey and lemon tea (which reminded me of my mum!). All in all it was a nice day, nothing too strenuous which was good.

We were planning on going to the Chu Chi Tunnels but have decided to give it a miss – no more war related visits for us! At 2pm today we are meeting Mr Nga, an old cyclo driver, who is going to take us around town this afternoon. He is a lovely (and persistent) man so that should be fun. Tomorrow we visit the water park (lets hope it doesnt rain) and for Christmas we have booked a table at a restaurant near our guesthouse that is serving roast turkey (among other things) for lunch.

We are buying an open bus ticket for the rest of our journey that will take us North through various towns. We are planning on leaving Boxing day for Mui Ne Beach for a week of sand sledding on the sand dunes and maybe some windsurfing.. Hopefully we will be able to find a nice little (or not so little) beach party to celebrate New Years Eve..

Have to run.. our cyclo driver will be waiting!

xx

December 22, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Good Morning Vietnam

Well, I don’t have much to report. We are alive and well in Vietnam. The trip here wasnt too painful. The usual walking and queues involved with an overland border crossing but nothing too strenuous. We changed buses at the border and caught a boat over the Mekhong in Cambodia but all in all quite a stress free trip.

So far Vietnam is great. We have a room right in the heart of backpackerville so there is lots to do and see. We have some plans for tours over the next couple of days. A Mekhong Delta day trip and a tour of the city.. possibly the Chi Chi tunnels and a visit to one of the local water parks for a day of slipping and sliding. Today though we are just getting used to a new country.

So far the kid/begger situation is looking good. Much better than Cambodia anyway. We have had a couple of offers for kids to shine our shoes but since we are wearing sandals we get out of that one pretty easily!

Merry Almost Christmas to Luke’s family who are celebrating Christmas today instead of the 25th!!!

Will update again soon!

PS: there are more cambodia pictures online!

December 16, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Snorkelling, Seafood and Cambodian Transvestites

We have spent much longer in Sihanoukville than we had planned.. we will have been here ten nights after tonight!!! I can hardly believe it. I am figuring that the first four days don’t count though since we were rained out…

The weather cleared up for our snorkelling trip which was great. It was a perfect day. We got picked up from our guesthouse at 8am by a man on a motorbike.. just one man, just one bike.. The trip was only a block and a half so we could have walked it but it seemed a little rude to tell the man to leave so we climbed on the bike. Me in the middle and Luke on the back.. It actually wasnt as uncomfortable as it looks which was handy but even so I was glad when we got off.. My uncovered knees were terrified of falling off and getting all scraped.

We had breakfast at the travel agent/guesthouse/restaurant and then wandered down to the beach to climb aboard our boat. There were 11 other tourists on the cruise, four Cambodian men to be our guides/captains/cooks and three Cambodian children.. all boys. We boated for about an hour before docking beside a small island for our first snorkelling stop. I was expecting to pull up on the beach and go out from there but instead we just had to jump off the boat with our gear and swim around. I decided not to go (such a party pooper) but Luke went in for a little while, he wasn’t very impressed though which made me feel better about not getting in.

We had planned to stay there for an hour but everyone was back in the boat after 15 minutes so we continued on our way. It was another hour before our next stop, I was sitting at the front of the boat in the sun with a small cambodian child on either side leaning up against me.. I am surprised that I dont have kid shaped tan lines. The didnt speak english so they didnt talk to me they just lay there using me as a pillow as they chattered away to each other. Luke spent the hour talking to one of the guides but mostly the man wanted to talk about how bad he thought his english was. Luke said many times that it was good and he could understand but I am not so sure!!!

At the next island we docked up on the beach. The island consisted of a restaurant and about five thatch bungalows. We all pulled up lounge chairs and spent the next four hours lounging around in the shade and swimming in the sea. It was lovely and relaxing. I hadnt quite realised how exhausting the kids at the beach are until I spent an afternoon relaxing without them! We had some lunch (bbq barramundi on fresh french rolls) and Luke played volleyball while I chatted with some girls about our travels so far.

At about three we all climbed back on the boat and headed off to our next island but by now we were all pretty sleepy from lying around in the sun and eating too much and we all just sat around dozing. Neither Luke or I got out this time for the snorkelling and the guys who did were pretty disappointed with the ‘coral’. We got back to Sihanoukville around 4:30 and made our way to a cafe for some post tour drinks with the girls we had met on the island Sinead and … oh I forget the other girls name!!! damn!!! We sat with them for a couple of hours and had a couple of drinks and chatted until they had to leave to meet some people. Luke and I found ourselves a restaurant with chairs on the sand and we ordered a BBQ seafood plate each. It was DELICIOUS but by the end of our meal we had a cat, four children and an amputee begging for food. The cat was first in line and had gotten quite a bit from me before the kids arrived (which I felt kind of bad about lol) for the kids I divided up my remaining fish into four not so equal parts (there was one kid who was so skinny you could see each knob in his spine so he got more) then, by the time the amputee arrived we only had salad left so he got that. We bought two bottles of water when we left, one to give to the kids and one to take home but in the confusion we forgot our bottle. Hopefully someone got use out of it!

The next day we went to the other side of the beach than where we have been hanging out, hoping to get away from the kids who know us well (I figured it would be easier to say no if the kids didnt know us) in the end it wasnt easier and we bought, two bags of fruit, a fruit shake one bracelet, a leg hair removal torture thing and a one dollar lobster from an older lady with a gold tooth and a great smile. (this is much better than average!) We were doing ok and quite enjoying sitting on the beach until one of the kids who knows us came and saw that I was getting my leg hair removal torture thing from someone else. Well, that didnt go down well at all (incidently I had told her she could do it) I told her that I had tried to find her (that was a lie) and when I couldnt I let this lady do it. She was pretty upset and when I wouldnt by anything else from her she got really mean!!!! Eventually she left but she must have gone back to her end of the beach and snitched on us to the other kids because before long hayley and one of the other girls came up (hayley was crying) and told me off for buying things from the other kids when I said I would buy fruit from them. AAAAHHHHHHHHH

I felt really bad about it all and tried to make amends by feeding all the kids in sight with mangoes bought from a smiley lady who carried them on her head.. but (of course) once we got started on feeding everyone kids started coming from all over the place and we couldnt afford to feed EVERYONE so then we were in the bad books again!!!! In total since we arrived we have bought nine bracelets, two necklaces, eight cotton shrimp, two fruit shakes, two bags of fruit, one painful leg hair removal, two sarongs and nine mangoes.. (not to mention various food items we have handed over to the kids while we are eating) and STILL they are not happy… I GIVE UP!!!

We traded our kids for two Cambodian transvestites who were still trying to get us to buy things but who were much more fun and didnt cry when we said no.. all they wanted was for us to say they were pretty and go dancing with them.. besides, they called me sexy girl which always makes me happy! We were supposed to meet up with them later in the night to go clubbing with them but after our day at the beach I was emotionally exhausted and couldnt face the world so we stood them up (see? we really ARE horrible people!)

Since that day we havent been to the beach until well after sunset when all the kids are in bed. I just can’t face it anymore!! But once the sun goes down we usually sneak out for some cocktails and seafood feasts before sneaking back along the beach to come home.. its really quite ridiculous!

Tomorrow we are heading back to Phnom Penh for a couple of days then onto Saigon! Before Saigon though I am going to practise my saying no technique in the mirror, apparently it isnt working very well and it needs some work!!!

December 11, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well still no end to the rain in sight.. or the overcast weather anyway..

Not to worry, we are having fun anyway, drinking $2 cocktails at the restaurants along the beach and eating all sorts of delicious things.. though funnily enough, not much seafood.. we might have to rectify that tonight.

Tomorrow we are heading out on a boat cruise to the islands where we will do some snorkelling.. I am looking forward to it.. lets just hope there are sunny skies!

December 7, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment