Back in 'nam

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
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Trip End Nov 18, 2007


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, August 25, 2007

Decided to stay an extra day in Bangkok but the train was fully booked to Ko Samui so have another day to kill. Getting night bus instead now in 5 hours. Sadly that does mean missing the Scotland match :( Anyway, back in 'nam...

The 24hr bus to Hanoi was harmless (the hardened road tripper am I). "Greeted" by many peering faces knocking on the window of the bus and mouthing 'motorbike' or 'taxi', I had my first experience of what marred Hanoi for me. The second we stepped out the bus we had a taxi driver clasped to each wrist and several more infront. This aggressive touting was rife in Hanoi. They'd holler from the other side of the street and deliberately block your path. On one occassion I pulled a guy off his parked motorbike because he just wouldn't let go of me.

Now, why Hanoi was so good: chaos! Motorbikes outnumber cars 20+ to 1 so crossing the road is a nightmare if you don't know how. Food is served on every single corner: a temporary stall is set up and with it plastic stools and tables. At 30p a meal and bloody good food at that I found myself here a lot with a nice cold Hanoi beer watching the street go by. Lakes were dotted around the city and were a nice break from the squeeze of the old town. It was a nice size as well (4 million).

One day I got a motorbike taxi out to Le Mat in search of snake meat. What an experience. Welcomed by the restaurants four fingered owner (a cobra had had one of them) he showed me into the back and to the cage. He stirred them up with a stick to which he got a lot of angry hisses in return. The door was left ajar and one slithered out sending me and my driver jumping for cover. Quite scary.

Once one of the common cobras (stressing it wasn't endangered) and after some tough and long haggling (65 USD down to 30) we went upstairs to the restaurant. Taking it out the bag he hit its head off the floor to stun it. He then took a knife down the length of its body and pulled the main artery and the heart away from the body. Cutting above the heart it pumped all the blood into a glass of vodka and continued to pump when completely removed from the body. The guest of honour (me) was then to eat it. Feeling it beat against the roof of my mouth I swallowed it whole and downed the blood. I could taste the iron but other than that it wasn't like anything familiar to me. Snake soup and grilled snake followed. They tasted strange and foriegn, like I guess snake would taste but I dont really know how to explain it.

Afterwards we took a trip to the dog meat restaurants. Trays of dog paws ready for frying lay beside doggy torso. This was a bit too freaky though and I decided not to. That I didn't get a photo was probably a good thing.

From Hanoi I went out to Halong Bay. Sadly photos will have to wait as my mp3 player isn't compatible here but it has to be one of the most stunning natural landscapes on earth. Thousands of limestone islands rise sheerly from the clear and calm turqouise water. The best part of the 3 day trip was kayaking. Low tide granted us entry through an archway low enough to touch the roof of and wide as a car. It opened up to a lagoon the size of a large stadium surrounded all sides by cliff and jungle, the sound of cicada's and the paddle all that could be heard. A swim was too tempting to turn down.

After a day at Cuc Phuong national park I got a 29hr train to Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City). I shared a cabin with two research scientists who could speak some English. At every station a brief history was described on the loud speaker in Vietnamese and then in English. Coming into Saigon the description was followed by what I thought to be a 'silly' song - some sort of keyboard instrumental from the 70s (so I thought). Regretfully I voiced my opinion, the girls politely smiled back only to then start singing along. The lyrics translated must have been along the lines of 'We love Ho Chi Minh, we love Ho Chi Minh city'. Knowing that I had just insulted a national song about the country's hero I wanted the ground to swallow me up.

Saigon was wicked: modern, huge, plenty of sights and the people were a lot more friendly. Had some cool nights out as well. After a night in a rather posh club (a plate of exotic and elaborately cut up fruits was complementary upon arrival) I was invited for karaoke (nothing dodgey I assure you). I sat in slight amazement at the amount of passion they muster for singing karaoke to just 3 other people (this was after embaressing myself with some crappy 80s tune).

Sadly I decided not to see the Cu Chi tunnels (the ones the Vietcong used during the war) and go to the Mekong Delta instead which was a disappointing tourist trail and nothing in comparison to Halong or Cuc Phuong. Coconut candy still warm from the pan was heavenly though.

Best thing about travelling on your tod is meeting more travelers and meeting more locals on nights out. Bad thing about not traveling on the truck is having your friends with you. Maybe I just need to learn to strike a better balance.

From Saigon I hopped on a bus and met the truck 2 hours later at the Cambodian border...
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Comments

grantrough
grantrough on

Hey man
Lol, I can just imagine you chucking a guy off his motorbike, that would have been hillarious! Oh, & the snake? whats with the vodka blood? that not rank?! & the insult of the song, I would probably have done the same thing! I start uni tomorrow! scary stuff. I'll let you know how it goes.

mum-n-dad
mum-n-dad on

A-poke-of-chips-now?
Well if the snake and the dog (for) food are your Apocalypse Now guess you're gagging for a good old poke of chips...and chiwawa (?),husky, poodle...what about that little yapper next door! Looking forward to the photos as I guess Vietnam is one of the lesser tourist traps down SE Asia way. M&D

bigsis.sarah
bigsis.sarah on

Feeling quite queasy...
The beating...the beating! Oh dear god. Think I'll stick to my beloved scones with cream & jam!

Strange (& very boring, no doubt) observation - your writing has improved as you've gone along!

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