Sunday, November 13, 2011

And sooo, the end is neaaaar... Sihanoukville.

So we've finally caught up! All blogs up to date, bags packed, last game of gin rummy played (and won by me...) and so we're ready to leave. Here anyway.

The last 16 days of our holiday have been spent here, in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. And it has been very pleasant indeed. Sihanoukville itself seems to be a town made of a few reasonably close beaches, with hotels, restaurants and  bars crowding round the seafront, all fairly busy. The main beach especially is, and that's where we stayed for the first few nights with our old pal Jonboy.

After leaving Mui Ne it was hard to imagine anywhere where we'd be as happy. Or anywhere that would have a beach as nice, seafood as nice etc. But time says you've got to keep moving on and we did. We arrived at night after 12 hours, so the first impression is never something to rely on completely, but easy enough we found a hotel to dump the bags and get changed.

The hotel was right on the beach and we payed $15 a night for all 3 of us, so $5 a night, for a raised bungalow. It had a view through low trees of the beach which started at the front of reception. So far, so good!

We went out for a bite to eat, and were happily surprised when we found all the restaurants offered BBQs for $3 a person, meat, chips, garlic bread and a salad! 35p a beer aint too bad either... We liked Sihanoukville from the off. We spent the first night drinking, smoking and playing pool (which seems to be a theme of our holiday...) And then, luckily! We bumped into our friend, the Doctor!
So the remainder of the night was spent laid out on our balcony, chilling and hanging around with him and ended magnificently with a good old fashion kotch. We were up til 6, just talking and listening to music. Kels went to bed at 4, which was clearly the sensible option, as by this time Jon and I couldnt see. But we struggled through another 2 hours, and climbed into bed jsut as the sun was coming up and the room was getting hot.

After a few hours of sweaty-betty sleep, we dragged ourselves up, jumped in a Tuk-Tuk and headed to a beach, just outside town, called Otres Beach. This beach was superb. White sand as far as you can see, a few beach bars along the coast and water so clear you could see the bottom at least 10 metres around you. We laid there all day just relaxing and eating fresh seafood.

Then we decided that we should massively go out. It was meant to be one of Jon's last nights and we didnt want to waste anytime. We started at a restaurant, i dont know which, and followed from there to a bar called JJ's. It's jsut an average little bar here, but apparently one of the only ones on the beach not to sell food, so there's more room for dancing. Now, when we went out on that night we were dressed in our best clothes, not thinking there would be UV paint everywhere (i know, you think we'd learn that in Asia there's UV paint everywhere). And after a couple of hours drinking and dancing in JJs our cloths were ruined. Now we were well on the way to being drunk, and we started playing with the little local kids and ended with Jon and I jousting with little kids on our back. Dont worry, they loved it!

We headed then into Utopia, which is the biggest club thing here in Sihanoukville, which isnt saying much. We did shots, were drinking heavily and playing pool, (as always!) with the game of the night being Kelsey vs. Prostitute, where the hooker started well and then Kels turned up the heat and saw her off. But all's well that ends well, Jon got a free night with her!

I'm so joking!

Kels and I left around about 4:30 and we thought Jon wouldnt be too late, but when i woke up at 9ish he wasnt there. Being the proactive person i am, i dragged myself onto the deck to wait. By 10 he hadnt come back and Kels was still asleep so i went out for a coffee, and to check my emails, and when i got back around 11 there he was in his bed. He'd been playing pool and drinking for the whole time! Good man! But it does show you that he's a bad influence...

The next day we decided that as last night was a big one, we'd just go back to Otres Beach, then come back to the hotel, look for a nice local meal, Jon would book his bus and we'd go to a little cinema in town.
We got to the beach again, and were walking along when we had the idea to stay on this beach instead of going back to town everyday. A lot of the places had little signs saying "room" so we decided to take a look.
The first one we looked at sold it for us completely.

It was the upstairs of a place called 'I Don't Know Bar'. When you first walked in to the room you knew it was basic, it had a double bed, standing fan, and the old fabric squares  like you used to have in primary school for the floors. But we didnt mind one bit. Along with that, the room had two massive sheet iron windows, which had clearly just been cut out of a wall, but when they were open it was like having one wall as a window, and out of that window was the beach. Just sitting 15 foot below us. It also had a little table and 2 chairs, but we nicked another table so it was set up. We also were getting the whole room for $4 a night, for both of us. that's 120 pennies each for a night. we booked for the whole next week.

When Jon came back from booking his bus, he told us that instead of going tomorrow night, he was actually going to leave the day after (wehay!) so he was going to stay on Otres Beach too, and ended up in the same place as us.

We then made our way back into town, for the cinema, as it was Jon's last night. The cinema was like renting someones front room. Big comfy seats, table, mini fridge and a 52" TV with a selection of films. Bang tidy! We watched The Other Guys and Rise of Planet of the Apes. During which Kelsey saw the first 10 minutes of The Other Guys and the last 2 mins of Planet of the Apes. Typical! We ended up paying $3 a person for the night!

The next day was a sad one. We had to say goodbye, finally, to Jon.
We'd been together now for 19 days from Hoi An all the way to Mui Ne, Saigon and finally Sihanoukville. We were told that whilst travelling you would meet a few people on the same route as you who you'll probably see time and time again in different places. We just got lucky that it was a hero like Jon Forbes.

The remainder of our time here in Sihanoukville, has been one long, very happy, very chilled out holiday, with a few stand out bits to mention.

For a started Gin Rummy. We cant get enough.
It's a game i've always known how to play, as it's one of the only card games our family knows, and also Mum and Dad told me about when they were younger travelling through Europe they used to sit for hours and play Gin, and Kels and I took up that tradition happily!

Kels had just learnt at first so naturally it was a white wash... But now, with at least 30 hours of Gin in the last week and a half, it's an even game. Every now and again she'll put anything she wants down and just smile, to be reminded that 3,6,8, isnt a run. We've had a few brilliant nights with a bottle of red wine, 2 packs of Oreos and Adele's new album (dont judge us, she's an angel) and a 1001 game of Gin. It will probably be how i remember Sihanoukville. The sound of the beach through our window, playing gin by candle light and eating far too many Oreos.

One day that has to be counted though was the day we spent fishing. We booked a day (10-5) fishing trip from a bar owner named Joe (who coincidentally has the cutest Cambodian, english speaking 4 & 8 year olds in the world) for $13. Despite the name, Joe is a very friendly Cambodian rasta.

When the boat picked us up we didnt think much of it. It was clearly an older boat than some of the others, but it's fine! If Joe was happy to risk his life then so were we. The 3 of us waded out to the boat, chucked our bag in and just after i'd climbed up (with Kels going first) Joe shoved the metal steps onto the boat and waved us off. Good start.

He'd left us in the hands of what can only be described as an adolescent Mowgli from the jungle book, in not only speedos but a t-shirt now too.

But who were we to despair? This guys probably very experienced and not just Joe's 'free today' nephew. Hopefully.

Mowgli (who's real name is Ravi) pulled on the started cords and two engines spluttered into life. Now when i use the word 'engines' it's loosely. The two engines looked like one was from a lawnmower, and the other had been left here by the French back in nineteen hundred and ancient. They were connected to a piece of scaffolding, which in turn was joined to the inside of a washing machine in the way of a propellor. When it started up it sounded like someone had turned on a pneumatic drill and just let it run wild down the street.

Now our shoddy little boat happened to nicely coincide with the choppiest day in Sihanoukville yet. And it felt inevitable when both engined died in the middle of the sea, with waves crashing all around us. No worries! The captain will know a little trick! Nope. He pulled the starter cord for about 15 minutes, then gave up. We were just beginning to worry, and the look on Kels' face was priceless, but then as he decided to give it one more go, one coughed itself awake and carried us to Bamboo island where he was going to fix the engine and set up some fishing line! We hoped.

We stopped on the island for about an hour, bit of a snorkel, bit of Adele, the usual. And when Mowgli called us back, we jumped on the boat, started up our 1/2 engine and puttered out into the sea again. On closer inspection it turned out that the engine was being held together by Mowgli and a bit of fishing line!
Whatever works i suppose...

He then unveiled our fishing gear, which turned out to be 2 x 2 litre plastic bottles, wrapped in fishing line, with a couple of nuts and bolts as weights and a hunk of squid to attract the fishies. Well turns out they loved it.

We were pulling all sorts of fish up out of the water! After 30 mins, we'd caught about 8 fish. We sat there and every 10/15 mins we'd pull up another! Catch of the day goes to Kelsey, for pulling up the biggest of the bunch, a whopping 30cm ruler big!

After a few hours fishing, we headed back in to shore, still praying for the engines to last. We tried to go back to the place where Joe had dropped us off but the waves were too big and with much arm waving we were directed to go round the bay and pull in up the river... We did this, but now being a good 10 mins drive from where we started. Then as we're trudging up the sandy hill to the road (me with a bucket full of fish) we see Joe and a tiny little moped. We look at each other like you've got to be kidding me. Kels clambers on, Joe's driving, im hanging on for dear life, with my bucket of fish, going up a steep hill, all the while Joe (the pot-head) is wetting himself laughing at me riding side-saddle with the fish on my lap, "Just like a market wife Tom! Hahahaha!" Thanks Joe.

What started off as a bit of a hairy day, ended in us cooking the fish over a fire on the beach, Joe and Sandy (his wife) cooking us chips and garlic bread, and us playing with their kids all evening. Lovely day.

The one low-light of Sihanoukville has to be the market. Kelsey didnt mind it, i threw up in my mouth. We'd planned to get a Tuk-Tuk into town, get to the market, go to the post office, post Hannah's present (to get there in time for her birthday) and eat at a place in town more. We walked into this dark, dismal corrogated iron warehouse, type thing. And as you got more and more into the inside, the worse and worse the smell got. Combine fish guts with rotten meat, times by old vegetables and mix in someone dying in the corner under a pile of old bananas and you're coming close to how bad it smelt. Thing like that dont normally get to me, but i tell you what, it was rank. Kels was dawdling ahead, taken in by  the whole thing, and there was me dry-heaving behind her, running for the exit for a fag!
And even after we'd left the market for the post office, it was shut. We looked up the prices and it wouldve cost us $40 to send it to San Fran, and as money's running a bit low (6 days to go!) we couldnt justify 10 nights accomodation. So all Hannah got was a "sorry" skype call for her birthday! Sorry H!

But one day out of 16 aint so bad...

All in all, Sihanoukville has been the place i've liked most. The people are friendly, the accomodation and food are amazing, and on a more personal level, Kels and I loved it because here's where we spent the most time feeling like we were alone on holiday together. We've obviously been together the whole trip, but when you're staying at Hostels and Hotels or going to bars everynight, you invariably socialise with a lot of people, and even though we've had a wicked time everywhere, here is the most we've relaxed together.

With 6 days until we're back in England, and a bus coming for us in two hours, Sihanoukville has been amazing. The travelling bit of travelling can sometimes be a bit knackering, or tedious, but 16 days in the sun, with fresh seafood and a good game of Gin Rummy can make you feel more relaxed than you have any right to be. Or thats how it has been for us at least...

Siem Riep here we come!

Saigon- as quickly as possible to Sihanoukville

On the road again, I cant wait to be on the road again.

Yah right, painful leaving Mui ne, where you can get the nicest fresh seafood while overlooking the sea for cheap, you can rent a motorbike for the day hassle free, the omelets, the beach, the massive waves and the kites. Oh well, here we go.

The bus was painless, took a few hours and we were in the heart of a massive city going through tiny streets, near canals and Motorbikes, go figure.

We got dropped off next to a park and set off on a walk to find a cheap place to stay, this man led us down some very narrow alleyways, big enough for one motorbike to squeeze through where all the accommodation seemed to be. It was like a mini tini town filled with guesthouses.
We settled on a cheap 4$ a night room and shared with Jonboy and Olivia- who we met in Mui Ne. I think we were the only ones in this guesthouse and the man that ran it had very very small arms.

We walked around for the day, mainly only to book a bus out of the city as soon as we can. We also booked our bus to Cambodia and our tour the next morning to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

We ate, showered refueled and headed for a walk in the local park outside of our guesthouse town. It must have been fitness night because we sat amused for a good hour or so watching the aerobics class. It was brilliant, and everyone did it- pretty soon the whole park was just overfilled with aerobic doing people. We sat for a while before calling it a night and retired to watch Charlies Angels on tv. What a night.ủ_Chi_tunnels

Our journey the next morning began at 8am where are bus was taking us to the Cu Chi tunnels. Our guide talked our ear off on the 3 hour drive before making our first stop at what troubled us a little bit.

Our guide was telling us about Agent orange, a chemical that  during the Vietnam War, the United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 US gallons  of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, and where he was taking us was somewhere we can see the effects of this chemical as people are still today being poisoned.

The guide said the people affected get paid by the government to work, making art and we walked through watching as they made the most beautiful pieces.

We boarded the bus and headed another hour with the guide in our ear.

The Cu Chi tunnels were very interesting, and we were all ears when our guide was telling us of Vietnamese traps, mostly spikes hidden underground underneath trap doors, and spiked that you rolled through if you stepped on the wrong area, even spikes to come down on you if you open the door. We seen the whole layout of the tunnels, miles of tunnel dug with a small hand shovel and something resembling a  dust pan. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerillas as hiding spots during combat with the Americans.

We got a chance to walk through bits of the tunnel which proved just how small and harsh these living conditions must be. It truly is an amazing thing. Doors in the ground you cant see, spikes, the lot.

One wicked thing- We shot a Carbine gun at the Cu Chi tunnels, they have a shooting range. You can shoot an AK 47 , and an M1 Garand but these are significantly more expensive so we took the Carbine. 10 bullets each, loud noise. Great feeling.

What a stress reliever, our guide showed us the kitchen, which yes is underground and the chimney runs to outside but the smoke fileters in to many different chambers on the way out making the smoke stay on thr ground and not rise in the air to show where they are, they fed as tapiocka and we are on our way back to our town of guesthouses.

Someone we met in Hanoi gave us drink vouchers for 50% off at a certain pub, so we went for a beer, cheersing to leaving tomorrow- we ate in a nice hotel and called in early as we knew tomorrow we were headed for a beach.

We woke up, our bus at 7am left promptly on time and the day is so far so good. We are off to Cambodia now, good thing as Jons visa is expiring tomorrow.

I slept the whole 9 hour journey it was- the border was absolutley painless thankfully as we heard there can be alot of corruption.

I thought our journey was going very well untill I look over and see Jon drenched and trying to hold the curtains over his head, turns out, his journey has been alot more painful then mine and had water leaking on him the whole ride. Shit.

Mui Ne

So here we are, maybe the last day of blogging we get before we are home so ready to read alot?

We are going to Siem Riep tonight on the night bus, but I guess we still have alot to tell you about how we got here.

We said goodbye to the Irish girls heading straight to Saigon and hopped on our bus the hell outa Nha trang headed for what we hear a very lovely place.
The bus only took a few hours, and when we get there, easily found accommodation as the bus drops you right outside on the one road full of guesthouses. I guess alot of Mui ne is all one long road anyway running along the coast and through the main town.

Our hostel was on the beach, we were sharing a room with Fiona and Darragh while Sam, Michael John and Jai shared the family room and Sophie and John in the dorms. We have now been together since Hue.
 We dropped our bags and went to explore. As we stepped out onto the beach I was mesmerized at the amount of kites in the sky over the sea. Mui ne is a very well known area for kite surfing and some people were amazing.

We went next door to a highly recommended (lonely planet) seafood restaurant and had an absolute feast which cost us about 10$ for scallops, red snapper, barracuda and other wonderful sea things.

We went out to a bar far down the road called Pogo- played some more suckers at pool, won money and retired early.

We rented motorbikes the next day to get to the red sand dunes, so we ventured off around 10 and drove 50 ft down the road to play mini golf first. There were overall 10 of us, the loser has to have a shot.Poor Jai.

We jumped back on our bikes, Jai seemed to be struggling a bit as he had already run his bike in the back of Jon's and as we stopped for dinner managed to run over Fiona's toe when he got off the bike and tried to push it while the engine was running, Doesn't work very well when you have to turn the handle to give it gas, the bike went straight into Fiona and dropped on the ground just as the man who rented them to us drove by. Woops. Fiona was fine but Jai's wallet was alot lighter when he returned the bike after an hour and had to pay 1 million dong for damages, although Tom did save the day and brought the price down 1million dong. He jumped on the back of one of ours and we drove straight. Straight along the coast for ages, past the old fishing village where there one million and one fishing boats, straight through the town, round the round about left at the lights, stay to the right and all of a sudden swarmed by kids crowding your motorbike trying to see you a thin little piece of plastic with a string?

The dunes to the left, the kids in front we parked our bikes, paid 50cents for a thin piece of plastic and wondered on up the hill, all the kids followed. This kept everyone busy for ages, playing tag (its really quite difficult to run in sand isn't it). picking them up and twirling them and they carrying our slide to the top of a big hill and telling you the best way to sit to go down fast. Well, sliding down that hill was slower than molasses but still a great day. At the end we bought a coke for some of the kids and drove the same lovely way back. We stopped at the view of the fishing village, admired the boats, took photos and tried making conversation with who seemed to be the loveliest person of all lovely peoples a man with no teeth.

We lost everyone at this point and we had the bikes for another hour so we went past our guesthouse, yes straight again before rounding a corner and seeing the most beautiful sunset. I also bought a green puff ball from a man who was selling, one flavour coconut and the green one I got chicken. It was a very strange thing to eat and the closest thing to chicken it came was in the middle was a quails egg.

So that aside, we went to eat along the sea side at one of the many seafood restaurant's lining the streets. I had the best fried red snapper which has now been appointed my favourite fish.

We went to Pogo once again that night, moved on down the road and walked the 40 minutes it took to get back home. We spent the night on the beach playing word disassociation and the animal game- fun with 10 people and the assistance of the dr.

The next day we had breakfast (we ate breakfast there everyday which always was an omelet, very cheap) and lazed on the beach- we went to Pogo that night and got very drunk for the next day our friends are leaving us for Saigon and Tom Jon and Kelsey are going to stay. We drank the largest sand buckets we have seen yet, and Tom and Jon were playing pool for money while drinking Terminators- which is a glass full of seven different shots and topped up with pineapple. I think this threw off their game a bit. Jon won in the end.

Jai also bet on a game of pool, which came to a sad loss and Jai having to walk the 3km stretch in nothing but his pants. Very interesting.

We went back with everyone to say our goodbyes to Fiona, Darragh, Sophie, Bergen catch the bus to Saigon. Michael and John were supposed to be on the bus as well, but tickets got mixed up and the bus was full. So Jonboy, Tom and I had 2 overnight guests in our new two bed room across the way, not on the beach which was more expensive. I think we paid 3 dollars a night for the room which seemed honest as we had to change rooms once because we were paying extra for air con (oh yes, luxuries) and it wasn't working- so we were upgraded. That day we said goodbye to John and Michael.

And then there were 3. In a room with 3 double beds, a fan, air con and a bigger tv. Our tv exploded one night when we were watching it, we all made mad dashes for outside and the ?bathroom?.(Jon) I went running for the man who was sitting having a beer and a smoke with somelady's in very short shorts and shirts who came to our room.

Apparently after the tv was on fire- Jon ran to get water before thinking that through and Tom picked it up before the fire went out. The man brought us a big screen tv after that.

We went for what I would say quite a romantic meal on a top floor veranda overlooking the streets, with a free welcome drink, a whole bottle of red (Which we have found they always serve chilled.) and the best spring rolls ever we agreed. Full, sleepy and red wine drunk we (well the boys) watched movies while I fell asleep.

To rent a motorbike in Vietnam, its strange- there was a group of men with motorbikes parked outside our hostel who gave them to us, no questions asked, no passport or deposit required, pay at the end and drive off with the bike. Brilliant- we got 2 out and at 5pm attempted to make it to the white sand dunes for sunset- which we hear are much further but in the same direction as the red *(everything is straight right) so we past and carried on- It got dark and we were quite far away from the actual dunes so we pulled over with a wide open sea to our right and our left what looked like white sand to the boys- but looked like a construction site to me.

Now them being all cool and laid back just decide they want to go and climb this hill- oh yea great- leaving worrying ol me cursing my way up behind them. We get to the top only to find a massive quarry or pit and seeing alot of people walking off shift. It was an interesting place- I thought someone was going to come and arrest us but the boys very cooly assured me it was fine- but I still rushed them. Muaahha- It was dark now so we drove slowly back to town for a game of pool.

We stayed for a few more days before we booked our bus to Sai gon. We are already dreading leaving a beach for a city but the Cu Chi tunnels await.

Hue- Mui Ne, One of our favourites thanks to the wicked people we have met.

I guess we all have to leave sometime eh?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nha Trang- Vietnam

Oh Nha Trang, what a good time you were. We arrived early morning on the overnight bus from Hoi an to the same usual asking if you want a tuk tuk and having brochures thrown in your face the second you get off the bus. We already booked our hostel so before debating on wether to take a motorbike taxi for 20 000 dong a person we decided better to walk. (We heard its not that big.) Turns out after walking in the wrong direction we took a taxi with a metre. Alot of people will try and convince you to pay big money and wont turn the meter on making the journey double the price. So we get in, went one street in the taxi and realized our hostel is about a 3 minute walk from the bus station and the taxi ahead of us paid 100 000 dong and we paid 12000 dong. Rip off. For them.

We arrived at our hostel, took advantage of some skype time and by 10am we were all floating on a boat heading to 3 differnt islands. Turns out you have to pay for the boat, and then pay to get on the island so we did 2/3. We went snorkeling, played beach football before jumping off the side of the boat and having shots of wine while floating. Luxury. After lunch our boat had a little band and they made us do Karaoke. ( not necessarily my idea of fun with a voice like mine on a little tiny boat full of people, but hay)

Our hostel allocated everyone a free shot from the bar out front and on the flyer a free drink for girls, or boys that dress up like girls. So... hehe being in a group of 10 girls and 10 guys we gave each one a dress, some earings, makeup and Tom blonde HAIR EXTENSIONS. Oh yes, I will be posting photos of them soon. And went out front to claim our free drinks. Now I would say this paid off very well for them and they seemed to get more than 1 free drink. We played pool at the red apple while drinking very strong buckets before moving on down the street.

Tom was on fire, he played Jai for money and won before a complete stranger came upto me and asked me where my friend was that was playing for money. The most intense game of pool, a large amount of money was on this and Tom was 5 balls ahead (still dressed as a lady) before missing the black ball a good 8 times before Jon had to have a quick word and he sunk quite a hard shot. He won 750,000 dong that night.

We'd been in a few different bars, along the one road, but now it was time to move on, there was one more place we were going to go, right down the street we had the whole group together. Tom and a few boys walking ahead, Fiona- her boyfriend Darragh and I walking in the middle and a few others in the group behind. So Darragh says hes going to wee and we kept walking. We were about half way between bars when 3 motorbikes pulled along side Fiona and I and then in front blocking our path and 3 people came up behind us- one of them grabbing Fiona from behind and shaking her saying ''you so beautiful lady'' and me frantically trying to push them away while 2 others went through her pockets. They let go and I grabbed Fiona and ran straight to the bar, thinking how odd because Darragh should have caught us up by now, I explained to Tom what happened and 3 of the boys ran back to find him. Everyone now was in a little panic but we stayed in a group and all walked back to the first bar together to find Darragh had just had a knife pulled on him in. But being a sound guy, headbutted the feller, punched another and ran away.

Now before coming here we heard stories from travellers saying that if you go through Nha Trang without getting anythign stolen you are considered quite lucky. They have a massive problem with prostitues on the beaches and streets who are the ones known to rob you. Anbd apparently it's one of the only towns left in Vietnam, mainly controlled by Mafia type people.

But we had a few drinks, took the same necessary percautions as always (pac safe under the clothes blah blah) but they got her camera. Could have been worse but Oh her camera.

3 guys drove back up to us outside our hotel and waved us over, so Darragh and I went to see what they wanted, well he stormed over, and i was just trying to calm him down as much as i could, because as you can imagine by now, he was fired up!

They pulled out their camera, and started saying that they wanted a reward for being the good guys. I asked him where he got it, and why he was returning it, knowing full well that this guy isnt going to go out of his way to get a foreigners camera back. And if he was so nice, he'd would've given it over for free.
So after asking Darragh if that was their camera, i got it from him and chucked it to Darragh. The guy then started to say about his reward and i replied, OK lets wait for the police then you'll get it. To which he promptly started his banged up old bike and did one.

All that being said, we still had one of the best nights of our holiday in Nha Trang, all of us blokes dressed as women was priceless. We all had women's names, mine being Tina, and if you called one of the other draggers by their man name, you had to do a shot. We got hammered, and best of all for Kels and I we still went home with more money than we came out with! Happy days!

I will say one thing i learnt in Nha Trang. Jon Forbes is a bad influence, one minute he's going to bed, and the next it's 6 in the morning, i cant see, speak and am struggling to breathe but still playing pool and doing shots.
Steer clear of this man, because even though he's a legend, he'll rub off on you, and you'll be very drunk. As most of you know i lead a quiet life in England, but he ruined that. Him AND Michael Jorgensen. Michael just loves life far too much, it's infectious, and Jon is constantly on a mission to get me battered. Very unfair.

We'd intended to go to Dalat for trekking etc, through what we'd heard word-of-mouth. However reading it over in Jon's Lonely Planet, it said it's highlight was "A Long walk round a man-made lake", we decided to swerve it and go straight to Mui Ne. A coastal town, quite small, meant to be beautiful.
But then again, it was in Jon's book and as you now all know, he's on a mission.

Next stop Mui Ne! (well not really, next stop right now is Angkor Wat, but as it's known, we're a bit behind)


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hue -> Hoi An... Shotgun being Ewan Macgregor.

Alright lovelies!

Seems like ages since i pulled my sorry behind off the beach and bothered to do this... but seeing as it's not as blue in the sky as usual, i dont begrudge it (i can see one little cloud atm, and even that looks so small, like someone's cigarette smoke), much.

We're backtracking, so forgive me the minor details in some parts, and the exaggeration in others. What we did was so awesome that there are bound to be a few embellishments along the way.


We arrives in Hue after a pretty effortless journey, we got on a bus, watched Planet Earth in Dutch, ate a sleeping pill and crashed the whole way. We got into Hue at around 7AM, just in time for the free breakfast (MORE ROLLS! FREE!) If i'm honest, towards the end, i dont think Kelsey appreciated the rolls for breakfast, rolls for lunch thing quite as much as i did. But i've discovered that a full belly tastes better than not. She can have her omelettes, im happy just being stuffed. 

After putting our bags down in another shared dorm, we went out to see Hue.

There's not too much to do in Hue. We wandered over the imitation San Fran bridge, into the old town. Not all people know, but we - the world learned experienced travllers - know is the first place to look for old things. And for some reason, travellers in general love looking at old things.

So as was the story of most towns on our travels, we headed for the standard combination of 'how big is it' combined with 'how old is it'. Turns out Hue Citadel was massive, i mean hooge, and very old. Score.
We wandered around there, marvelling at the little ponds and old vases. And chatted until we thought we'd seen the majority of it. 
After wandering back to Hue Backpackers Hostel, we went for a spot to eat and a game of pool, with our new pal Sam. Who'd gotten on the previous night bus with us from Hanoi.

We walked up and down the street working out which happy hours coincided with which, and after a certain amount of beers, we went back to the hostel, who's very own happy hour was just beginning.
This still didnt prepare me to meet the cracking geordie lads we did that night, who would later become our mates for a good couple of weeks.
I might point out that after about 2 hours of talking to them, kels and I were both a bit gutted as we thought we were meeting Ant and Dec.

We all went together to the bar with the pool table, and in the space of about 30 mins, Michael and John had persuaded us to ride a motorbike from Hue to Hoi An the following day, as they were doing it and it looked fun.

This for me was the perfect moment of a plan coming together.

Kels and i had wanted to ride a bike down Vietnam, but didnt like the look of it from Hanoi, so this would give us a chance to scratch that particular itch, whilst keeping the worried parents at bay. As we had a guide.

Later that night we went back to hostel, (another happy hour - spirits and shots this time)

And made friends with a whole bunch of Irish girls, and played drinking games until the sun came up. Brilliant.

Ohh, actually, wait. I've gotta drive a bike for the first real time tomorrow. Let's see how that goes. At least Kelsey wasnt as battered as me... Oops, yeah she was. This is gonna be fun.

The Most Epic Journey Of Journeys, Journied.

We awoke from our 3 hours hibernation, as bears with very sore heads.

We went down stairs and someone shouted 20 mins until bikers leave! We were ''like ahhhhhhhhhhh man' grabbed a roll and a coffee, packed our bags, and smoked 12 cigarettes in a row.

Now to those of you that have ridden bikes before you'll know what i mean when i say, there is no room for a hangover on a motorbike. We started a bit shakey (that dehydrated who could blame us) but after a while really settled in to the whole driving malarky. It was class. Pure brilliance.

In our group, there was John and Michael, who you will absolutely hear more about later in the blog, Hanoi Sam, a big bunch of irish girls, who the only reason im not writing their names down is that i dont want to offend them by spelling names like Groinaie, Groanyer.
But all in all there was 14 who started. After an hour, there was 11. After an hour and a half, there was 8, and by the time we reached Da Nang, there was 6. But im jumping.

Although this sounds like a pikey budget horror film, it was actually because we split from the guide, he stopped when the first bike broke down, we'd heard it was one road to Hoi An, and decided - maybe not too wisely mind you - to go it alone! And we had so much fun

The hightlight for me was without a doubt, a stretch of road called the High Mountain Pass. And dear lord, was it spectacular. It started as a gentle incline up a mountain road, and after an hour of the deserted winding road, it started to get chilly. We stopped and took a few photos, and looked up and saw the road leading on further, into a whole cloud of mist.

The next hour, up to the summit and down the other side at 30 mph, was one of the coolest things i've ever done. We were puttering along and out of the mist would come a little truck, bursting with pigs, or a bunch of teenager Vietnamese kids on their bikes, whooping as the overtook you. It was incredible. We stopped at the top as we were changing drivers, and peered over the top of the world, to see a gorgeous coastline, stretching as far as you can see.

When we got to the top, the remainder of the group all stopped to take some group photos, and it was obvious that a couple of girls were seriously struggling, so being the gentleman i am (and the fact that it was now Kelsey's turn to drive and i wasnt done enjoying it!) i offered to drive one of them on the back of their bike, and kels took the other on ours.

But i didnt think the next 3 hours would be so crazy.

We arrived at Da Nang (a big industrial sort of town) at rush hour. And i still stand by the comment that weaving through the traffic then, is the coolest videogame i've ever played. It felt surreal, and after 3 hours of driving well in our comfortzones, and got to point of exhillerating. We were in Da Nang for about 2 hours, being lost a little and also trying not to get hit by the 1000 bike hoard, that we found ourself a part of.

The next 2 hours were plain sailing and revelling in the survival of Da Nang, we hammered it down the road towards Hoi An.

Now the arrival in Hoi An was very odd. The whole group got massively seperated but somehow, all turned up within 30 mins of each other! We'd checked out a place called Sunflower hotel, and once we arrived, we chucked our bags down and went for a beer. Much needed, much deserved.

That night i fell in love with Michael and John, but also met a complete class act, the Welsh demon that is Jon Forbes. The guy is a pure legend, and getting to know him that night was one of the highlights of my holiday. The big group together rampaged through this little town from bar to bar, and all the while everyone was having a great time dancing, drinking, and in mine and Jon's case, playing a little pool. Well a lot of pool. We took on everyone we could meet and have to say did very well. But more inportantly we got battered. So drunk that we ended up all back in mine and Kelsey's room, with a couple of cheap bottles of Vodka, prowling round the pitchblack hotel looking for the hotel's free Oreos in other unlcoked rooms. All in all it was a brilliant way to end a superb day.

The rest of Hoi An passed in a blur. We stayed for 2 nights at the sunflower, and during this time, was the rugby world cup semis, so our own Welshman was very excited about that (who knows why, they got beaten by the French), we played pool, talked sports, drunk too much. And by the end of Hoi An, what started as a group of 14 or so decent individuals, became the group that would stick together for next week and a half, and have the best time.

Roll on Nha Trang!


So, we are in Hanoi *(not really, to be honest we are in Cambdoia and about a month late and really rubbish at blogging- but we are trying).

So Hanoi, what a city- we were thrown into a world wind of a city that took me one hour to cross the street, the amount of motorbikes coming at you is incredible, I cant explain how many there were and how they all got on so breezly, its a sea.

We are exhausted but its the early morning, we got the day started by taking advantage of the Free breakfast which included stale buns, butter and a coffee( We also took Free buns upto our room for lunch with us everyday- I'd be happy to never see one again) which was an absolute treat and booked ourselves onto a city walking tour which took us around the old Quarter and showed us the best local places to eat and all the markets.
The first thing our guide told us was to never run across the street- just walk across slowly and the motorbikes will go around you.- Fair enough but easier said than done when 10000000000 motos are flying past you, the only thing you hear is horns.
In the end you don't even look really (How bizarre) and just walk and hope for the best.

We did a lot of lazing, hanging out on the 5th floor of our hostel which had a pool table, books and movies and men with guitars that made for great sing songs until the wee hours of the night.

Now remember us toying with the notion of buying motorbikes and going all through Vietnam, well we walked and walked and walked and walked one day through the rain to find the shop that was recommended to us- with no map and no ideas of where we were going we stumbled upon the nicest man who made us jump on his motorbike and took us straight there. We left with no bikes after carefully debating on how the hell we were going to drive in Hanoi, let alone out of it.

Our last day we booked ourselves in for a one day Halong bay tour. We were recommended to do the 1 night 2 days through our hostel but its 80 dollars which is a little over our budget so for 15 dollars we climbed aboard a lovely boat, opened our cheeky bottle of rice fermented vodka and sat floored at some of the views of Halong bay.

The tour also took us to a large cave where Tom and I were so drunk and having a debated conversation about what our lives are coming to we missed the whole thing. It was dark though.

We stayed much longer than we intended but we loved it. We are catching a night bus down to Hue tomorrow.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oh what a Journey part 2

After we crossed the boarder we were so releived to be in Vietnam and got back on our bus who drove us 5 minutes up the way to drop us in a minivan which will take us to Dong Ha- now we have already given them our ticket and they wont give it back so we just figured it was all sorted. There was Tom and I and 6 locals who all insisted we all squished in the front, we got to Dong Ha and had to for out another 15 dollars the bastards ( always always keep a reciept, which we have done upto this point, go figure the one time)
Where two men on motorbikes took us and our giant bags down the road where we had to pay another 15 dollars each to get a local bus ( you can pay 15 dollars and get a luxurious bus) but our options at the time were limited and jumped on a packed bus- Tom and I the only foreigners and we were celebrities. People always wanted to talk to us but our conversations were vague through our phrase books and we just smile and laugh when they do. They could be saying anything but it was a really good time. We got picked up at 11 am and the bus was to take 12 hours to Hanoi city. Well low and behold we wake up at 2am, the ONLY people on the bus except for a Vietnamese couple, all the lights turned out and in the middle of a deserted street, which turned out to be 40 km outside of Hanoi city. It was completely pitch black- our flashlight battery was running out so we had to turn it on every 30 seconds to point to words in our phrase book to figure out where the hell we were.

We were shitting ourselves. We were panicking and both very worried. We put our faith in this couple who somehow after 3 hours of pointing at words in the phrasebook she said 2 hours and a bus will come, so we waited and about 4am the OLDEST bus I have ever seen pulls up and all of a sudden there are a load of people, stuffing there motorbikes on the bus and coming on with very large baskets- After  pondering what they were for a second, as they seemed to be jiggling very strangely the people with the baskets began to hang raw beef all around our heads and everywhere on the bus, soon the bus was packed with Tom and I squished between a motorbike, pounds of raw meat and people looking at us curiosly. A lady got on the bus and handed me a bag of her raw plucked headless chickens. This was a wonderful bus ride.

What was a scary experience was also the best of our lives.

We took a taxi to Hanoi backpackers hostel (thankgoodness for you Jack for giving us the card with the map) and checked in at 5am.