Sunday, October 5, 2008

'Nam parts 4 through 6

Continuing on the previous post:

Part 4: Hue

The trip from Hanoi to Hue was interesting.
Our overnight sleeper bus looked rather dissimilar to the photos we were shown when we booked our ticket. No problem though, that's to be expected.
We located some decent sized bedchair thingies and settled in for some sleep.
Sleep, however, was not on the agenda. Not for a while anyways. Being at the rear of the bus we spent a lot of time in mid air. Almost like we were on a space station. Except on space stations, you probably don't get to hear crazy Vietnamese folk-disco. Or some bad rap courtesy of 50 Dong or someone. Or old school Vietrance covers of Haddaway's "What is Love (Baby don't hurt me), which sounded more like this: "Wha is ruv? Beby don herr me, don herr me.. nomo."

Anyways, little sleep was had and we were awoken at 4am as the bus driver decided this was a reasonable time to start replaying the night before's music at several thousand decibels.

Ah, the joys of transport. Funny times.

Hue is a nice old town. Kind of quiet, but enough to do to keep you busy for a day or so. We drank more cheap beer, checked out the Imperial city which whilst interesting, was in a state of disrepair. It was pretty heavily bombed during the American war and there's bullet marks in some of the walls. Oh and a giant phoenix and dragon made by some collaboration between Vietnamese and Australian artists. They were shit. The 'phoenix' looked like a chicken.

We found some more cheap beers, ate some food and retreated to our hotel before heading off for Hoi An the next day.

Part 5: Hoi An and My Son

Heading further south, we docked bus at Hoi An. Finding ourselves a decent hotel, we headed down to the riverfront for dinner, shuffling past tailors and peddlers of all manner of junk beckoning us into their shops.
Dinner was tasty and our plates were cleared by Mr Trung (See part 6) before we headed a couple of doors down for super cheap ice cold beers. (This beer thing is turning into a habit, it would seem. I blame India for robbing of us alcohol for an entire month.)

The next day we hired ourselves a motorbike and, following a hand scrawled map from the motorbike rental guy, we motored off to the My Son ruins, about 50kms out of Hoi An.
The drive was nice, the weather was good and we successfully avoided dying, which was a real possibility considering that most people drive wherever there's space, rather than on a specific side of the road. Makes for interesting times.
The ruins were pretty cool. Not as breathtaking as I'd anticipated, but it was worth the trip.
That night, again, cheap beers, more food and a looming storm painting the sky a murky pink.

Part 6: Mr Trung

Mr Trung introduced himself to us in the restaurant we visited on Friday night. He took tours of his village which is a fishing and pottery town a few k's out of Hoi An. We decided to take a trip with him and it was well worth it. He showed us round the town, introduced us to some locals (including a house full of two year olds) and gave us a pretty good insight into the lifestyle of normal Vietnamese people. We also had a go at making our own pots at a pottery factory. Our 'pots' were saved from complete destruction by the guiding hands, a la 'Ghost' of the master
potter lady.
I'm pretty sure they just mushed up our creations after we left so the clay could be put to GOOD use.

We also went fishing. Bamboo pole and a couple of metres of line is enough to catch, well, a shitload of fish apparently. Granted they weren't so much fish as fish-shaped amoeba.
They were pretty tiny, but it was good fun.
Mr Trung then took us to his house where his wife made us a super tasty meal. We then biked back into town, checked out of our hotel and are now waiting for the overnight bus to Nha Trang.

Hoping for some good weather so we can get some beach time in.
Should probably burn some incense or something to appease the weather gods. Might just have some cheap beers and dinner instead.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vietnam. Parts One through Three

Part One- Hanoi
We landed around midnight in Hanoi after a nice flight with possibly the most amazing sunset I've ever seen. We were forced into an 'Airport Bus, yes yes! This one airport bus!'
It wasn't the airport bus and they refused to drop us at the hotel we wanted to stay at and instead dropped us in front of a hotel they get paud commission at. It was pouring rain and we were hungry an tired, so we ended up using the hotel as it was relatively cheap anyways.

The next day we did some sightseeing around Hanoi; lakes, temples yada yada yada. We also booked a trop to the Perfume Pagoda.

Part Two- Perfume Pagoda
An hour's bus ride from Hanoi, we arrived at a small river dock. It was raining heavily and my budget poncho was proving its budgetness by tearing to shreds and getting me all soaked in typhoon rains. Hooray.
At the dock, we were taken to a small tin boat, where 4 of us crouched on tiny wooden pews whilst a tiny, ancient Vietnamese woman rowed us up the river for about an hour and a half. My concerns at the time invovled her suffering cardiac arrest and our resulting sinking.
After a really peacuful and amazing, albeit soggy hour and a half, we arrived at a tin shack which was the port at the pagoda. We walked on makeshift board walks (ie. A plank of wood) across the muddy banks, past hawkers selling loads of junky shit and turtles and up towards the pagoda.
After eating lunch we caught an overpriced cable car to the pagoda, which was in a big cave. Was kind of cool, but not really all that exciting. Underwhelming is the correct word I think.
By the time we caught the boat back, the weather had cleared up and we were graced with sunshine and blue skies.
Arrived back at hotel and organised our trip to Ha Long Bay

Part Three- Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a big archipelago in Northern Vietnam, filled with limestone karsts and all kinds of caves and grottos and such. Most of which have been heavily touristified (New word!). We were on a big old junk that took us to check out a cave and a grotto which were realy quite impressive although the multicoloured neon lighting made them look more like karaoke-brothel-rave-caves rather than natural wonders.

We spent a night on the junk (That's not slang for getting drunk, we slept on the boat), then visited Cat Ba island the next day. It was nice- We trekked up a mountain, mistakenly taking the 'adventurous route' which was made all the more difficult by our choice of footwear: thongs. The short spells of rockclimbing and trudging through mud probably did't make it any easier either.
We made it to the top of the mountain though, which was great- Nice views over the island.

Spent a night on Cat Ba island, drank loads of cheap bia hoi (Draught beer) and were forced out of bed at 6.30 the next morning to 'get back before the typhoon comes'

We got some wind and rain, but nothing typhoonish.

Now we're back in Hanoi, heading off for Hue tomorrow.

More installments in this series to come...