A Travellerspoint blog

Last Stop in Vietnam

Kevin and I agree that Hoi An will be one of the big highlights of our trip.

When we first started researching this trip (and even during the course of our travels over the last three weeks) we were told that this was possibly the best part of Vietnam. It really is. It is really hard to paint a perfect picture of Hoi An. While it definitely is part of Southeast Asia, it has this incredibly unique energy. It is basically a small beach town with a slight cosmopolitan feel. For those of you from California, it is like a slightly less affluent version of Carmel with a bunch of places to get clothing and shoes hand made for literally no money.

Without exaggerating, there are tailor and shoe shops every few feet. (Plus some really cool silk lantern shops as well). Basically you can walk into any of these shops, look at some pictures, pick out what you want, pick the fabric, the length, the stitch the buttons the yarn etc. and they make it for you within 24 hours. We did not believe it until we experienced it ourselves...yes BOTH of us experienced it ;-) We essentially spent the week travelling between two tailor shops. The first was a small family owned business. It was run by two very sweet Vietnamese ladies. I had most of my clothing made here. Kevin had a few pieces made but most of his new clothing was made at one of the upper end shops (Yaly) (Kevin was a super duper shopper...He had a very cool black suit made and some pretty awesome coats and shirts; Michelle purchased two very beautiful coats for the cool San Francisco weather) I will not go into the gory details of all the fittings and fabric selections but suffice it to say the experience was fruitful and exhausting all at the same time. It makes you wonder where we go wrong in the U.S. that it costs us $300 dollars and 8 weeks before we get anything we like. (oh and I did forget to mention we got 6 pairs of shoes made as well...again when I say made, we chose the design, chose the fabric, chose the stitch it was freaking crazy).

All this shopping began after a long day of driving on a motorbike to Marble Mountain (this crazy granite mountain that is basically full of caves and marble Buddhas carved into the mountain) and sitting on the beach under a straw umbrella on a chaise lounge.

Okay so as you can tell the shopping has clearly excited us but I think being at the beach and spending almost seven days has helped as well. We stayed in a hotel outside of town for the first two nights and then moved closer into town until we head out today.

A few more thoughts on Hoi An. Because we did spend so much time in this particular town, we had the opportunity to really explore and settle down for a bit. We found a very cute place for lunch that we visited everyday as well as a small Indian Restaurant that we had dinner at about 3 out of the 7 nights we were there. The food was very yummy and we definitely ate well the other nights as well. Kevin has made it his mission to figure out how to prepare some of these dishes that we really enjoyed. Beyond eating, Kevin became an expert motorbike rider. We went out together to Marble Mountain and Kevin went out by himself for a day. This skill should come in very handy when we head into Laos the 21st. (He met some pretty amazing characters on the road that we can share later (or in the next blog post). We did get to spend time at the beach and pool reading our books and relaxing.

So what is next.

Laos: We leave at 6 am tomorrow morning and head to southern Laos. Our journey to our final destination (the 4000 islands) will take a couple travel days but then we are planning to chill there for about a week or so. The travellers we have met seem to say that this is the perfect place to chill. We can sit in a Hammock, read our books, ride some bikes through the rice paddie fields and see where our journey takes us. From what we've heard there is only electricity there for three hours a night from a generator.

On a personal note: I am having a great time in Asia but I am also realizing how very much I miss my family (large coffee in the morning and Diet Sprite) in the states (oh did I mention clean bathrooms as well). It has been a great experience to get out of my comfort zone and experience some new things...it really does feel like my spirit is being cleansed. It has been a trip to meet so many different types of people. From the Vietnamese to the other European and Australian travellers, the people we have met so far are just fascinating.

Please please comment and check the Flickr site as well. Kevin and I have (or will be) posting some pictures from our adventures.

We ran out of space on our Flickr site, but our wonderful friend Invisiman (aka Mikey), hooked us up on his account.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/organize/
Click on the tab Sets and Collections and select the "set" that is titled Michelle and Kevin Trip to SE Asia. Let us know if you have any problems accessing these...

Not sure how much computer time we'll be able to have in the remote areas we'll be traveling to next.

Until next time...

Posted by charley08 04:56 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (5)

Harrassed and Tired, but Satisfied

Ha Long Bay & Sapa

sunny 35 °C

Hey guys. Just arrived back in Hanoi and we are completely exhausted. We have had an exciting ride these past five days. Where do I start...

When I wrote last, Michelle and I just arrived from a trip up to Ha Long Bay. That trip was quite nice. We were sick of Hanoi with all the honking and craziness and needed to get away. The trip consisted of 2 nights and 3 days. Our first night we slept on the boat with 10 other people. Oddly enough including us there were 6 Americans. Odd since we've only seen or at least talked to a handful of Americans. That first day we explored some caves and went for a swim. The swim was short lived since I got a pretty nasty sting from a jellyfish. It hurt like hell and blistered from my neck down to my chest. Thankfully the pain went away several hours later.

The next day we explored more of the bay from the boat and were dropped off at a large island that was full of tourists. We had lunch and then set off to another island called Monkey Island. It's a "national park" where supposedly monkeys live. I put national park in quotes since there was trash all over the place and very dirty. Nothing like national parks in the states. A few of us decided to go on a hike that pointed us up a mountain to find the monkeys. As soon as the hike started, Michelle was not having it. It began with a large climb up a cliff of rocks that you use a rope to get up. I pushed on, but soon regreted my decision. After the first initial climb, the group ran into sharp jagged granite rock as far as the eye can see. It was insane!!! After 15 min of walking on this, I turned back. I was really scared and could have hurt myself badly or died. I'm glad Michelle didn't go. One of the guys that was part of our group was a middle aged man that worked for the World Bank. His job is environmentally based with regard to carbon footprints and preservation. He had a lot of bad things to say about the way the government set up the hike/park. Totally messed up. Don't worry, we have lots of pictures and video of everything. The crazy thing of it all was once we were back on the beach, 15 min later the monkeys came to us and walked on the beach. A little too convenient I say...

We then arrived back to Hanoi the following day in the afternoon. After only four hours back, we hit the train up to Sapa. It was an overnight train with very nice amenities. Us foreigners spend the money to have better accommodations. We arrived in Sapa at 5am and took a taxi bus to town. As soon as we got out of the taxi, we were bombarded by people wanting us to stay at their hotel. After looking at a couple of places we settled on a place with an amazing view of the mountains.

One of the things I have noticed is that the Vietnamese people are in your face and it can be insane and annoying. Once you see past this, most are nice. One guy on our Halong Bay boat was one of the most travelled people I have ever met. He said that the people here are the worst he's encountered.

So...back to Sapa. Michelle and I decided on just going to explore the scene and decided not to shower or nap. We hired a couple of tour guides and went on a 7 hour hike. All around the town are tribe people that live in the mountains and make it their job to harass the shit out of you and ask you to buy things. They make clothes and work in the rice fields that cover the area. These people are relentless. On the hike, about 7 of them walked with us and were so helpful and sweet. Once we stopped for lunch, these same sweet, helpful people swarmed at us like a bunch of wasps asking us to buy stuff. I've never seen anything like it. Our guides couldn't even help. We bought a few things, but that wasn't enough. We finally got rid of them and picked up on their routine. For the rest of our hike, other villagers came up to us and said "NO" very forcefully. You feel badly acting that way, but it's the only way to get rid of them.

Along the hike there were definitely hairy moments, but Michelle kicked ass. She faced her fears and rocked. The tribe people helped Michelle along the way, made little animals with the foliage around among other things.That night we met a really nice Dutch couple in the room next door, had a beer and talked about our stories. We'll have to tell you more stories about the people we have met later. One thing they did tell us was about their motorbike adventures. We figured why not try something completely different and very far from our comfort zone. After 10 min, I caught on quick. Learned how to shift and just go. It was amazing, freeing and wild all at the same time. Now that we know how to ride the bike, we can do it in other cities. It's the only way to get away from the people and tours.

While we were riding we ran into multiple people from our boat trip at Ha Long Bay. Totally cool! Sapa was amazing. Once you got away from the town, the views were cleansing and somewhat emotional. All the hills around you are full of rice patty fields. These people live in primitive conditions, with rudimentary ways of getting electricity, their irrigation systems, but the engineering of how they farm is something to marvel at. But get this, they have satellite TV. What's that all about? Dad can't get GPS in Hawaii, but these people have satellite dishes. Oh and everyones cell phones here work EVERYWHERE!

We left Sapa that night after the ride and took the taxi to the town with the train station. This is where we got fucked in the ass. Our tickets were sold to someone else. After about an hour haggling and dealing with everything, another travel agent got us some tickets on the super posh train. We had to pay an additional $120 US to get on. We will get a refund of $60 for our tickets, but too little to late. The stress and anxiety wore me out. We finally got in this morning at 5, took a taxi to the hotel we've been using as a home base here in Hanoi and take a bus down to a town called Hue tonight at 6pm, then to a town called Hoi An a day later. From what we've heard from people along the way, Hoi An is a place to relax. Jeff mentioned the same thing before we left. We need to just chill. The beaches are close to Hoi An which is nice. The funny thing is that the beach close by is China Beach. The one the US GI's went to. I always heard of that beach. We'll see. After Hoi An we head west to Laos.

Oh...the food has been really nice. We've had the opportunity to have some western food because the Vietnamese cater to the tourists.

We miss and love you. So many more stories to tell when we see/talk to you. Check out our Flickr page since we just uploaded some new pictures

Kevin & Michelle

p.s. You lean how to live dirty here. The conditions of Vietnam are wild. Amazing in it's own right, but not the health standards of the states.

Oh and Mikey...Set us up on your Flickr account.

Posted by charley08 04:36 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Lets Put Some Pictures behind the Words

Stop Asking ;-)

Hi all
If you want to see some of the photos that we have taken during our trip you can click on the link below.

Just so you all know there are a bunch of storage limits on both the blog and the flikr account we have set up (we are also too cheap at this point to upgrade our accounts, any donors are much appreciated. We take dong) We will do our best to update our photos but we would rather spend the time enjoying asia and sharing all these with you when we get back.

so here is the link and we will write another entry when we post new photos...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28298094@N04/?saved=1

Posted by charley08 05:04 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (4)

3 Days in Hanoi

We are Schvetzed (Sweating for those of you who are not Jews)

sunny 34 °C

It is safe to say that Hanoi is easily one of the most humid place we have ever been. We are constantly sweating. Beyond the weather, the city and its energy are amazing. If we had to define Hanoi it would be motorbike city. Not only are they everywhere, but there are no traffic laws or stop signs. It is almost like a dance the way the motorbikes, the taxis, the rickshaws and the few cars move through the streets. There is not gridlock traffic and we have yet to see one accident.

What has been going on the last few days. Our first day we spent touring the city. We just walked and explored. It was an exhausting day and we were lost about 95% of the time but it was helpful just to get a sense of the city. Each street is named for the products sold in that particular area. So there is one street where all the silk shops might be and another where all the art galleries will be located.

Yesterday, we spent the morning at the temple of literature which is this beautiful ancient temple honoring Confuscius. Following that we went to have some lunch and found our first and most likely only grocery store that seemed to cater more towards the western influence...From there we headed off to the Hanoi Hilton. We will have to tell you about this place when we get home but suffice it to say that the pictures on the walls of the prison make it seem as though the American pilots that were held there were staying in a resort as opposed to a prison...(ex. there are pictures on the wall of the americans decorating their cells for christmas...)

We did a little bit of art shopping yesterday and discovered that we could get artwork reproduced here for minimal cost. So we have bought 3 paintings and some awesome asian inspired cards that we will frame and put on our walls in our new apartment.

Today was a little bit more mellow. We went and visited Ho Chi Minh's dead body (Yes, his truly preserved dead body). The area in Hanoi that honors Ho Chi Minh is absolutely stunning. It is lush, peaceful and might be the only area in Hanoi where you cannot hear the honking horns of the motorbikes. There are guards scattered throughout the complex...no bags, cameras, talking or arm crossing is permitted when you enter the mausolem. We chilled the rest of the day and prepared for the next leg of our journey.

Tomorrow, Sunday July 6, we will be leaving for a 3 day tour of Halong Bay. We leave the hotel at 8 am, take a 3 hour bus ride to Halong Bay and board a boat to tour the water (there should be time to swim, kayak and chill the f out). We spend the night on the boat and take a trek the following day. We stay an additional night in a hotel and head back to Hanoi the following day. We are in Hanoi for 5 hours and then take an overnight train to Sapa. Beyond that we are not exactly sure what we will be doing. What we do know is that we will come back to Hanoi and then head south in Vietnam and then into Laos.

Posted by charley08 04:02 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

We're on Our Way

Hello all. We leave for the next leg of our trip in less than 12 hours. Although we wrote in our blog yesterday of our adventure up to PDX, we wanted to write a final goodbye. Michelle and I had a wonderful time visiting friends and exploring the city. We want to thank Annie for opening up her home, hosting the get together with friends and watching The Lord (aka Oliver). It's off to SE Asia. Ciao...Michelle and Kevin

Posted by charley08 18:44 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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