Good Morning Vietnam!

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
1
22
30
Trip End Mar 01, 2010


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, January 4, 2010

Chapter 1: Jungle food and other fishy business

Our intrepid explorers spent the first night in Chau Doc, Vietnam much the same as the last in Cambodia: Duncan stayed in the hotel room and Nadine went out for a tour. Duncan probably would have joined her but he had made the mistake of looking up the drugs he had been given by the Chinese doctor in Cambodia and discovered a number of side effects that he ought to look out for.

Anyhoo, Nadine had a nice trip down the river to look at the boat people of Vietnam. This involved a boat trip, an exciting trip over a rickety bridge (see photo) and a visit to a floating house where the inhabitants farm fish underneath floating houses. There's a great video of Pete feeding the fish in one such house but YouTube is playing up and so this isn’t online yet. Now it's working - http://www.youtube.com/user/duncancoleshill#p/u/0/L-MpKxmUK4E

The duo met up later that evening and was just heading out to grab some food when they bumped into the rest of their group who were clambering onto cyclos. "Well we might as well join them I suppose" suggested Duncan who had recovered from his spell of hypochondria and so the pair jumped onto their own cyclos and directed them after the group who were by this time a little way down the road.

The restaurant where they were headed didn’t in fact want to let any of the group in when they arrived. The explanation as to why was long and involved but basically this particular restaurant served 'jungle food’ such as insects and other unsavoury snacks and the owners were sick of tourists turning up and making funny faces at the locals devouring the odd grub or two. “Fair enough I suppose. I wouldn’t want anyone laughing at me whilst I ate my fish and chips.” Duncan thought to himself.



Chapter 2: YOU WOULDN’T KNOW YOU WEREN’T THERE MAN

As per usual, Duncan hadn’t read the schedule of where they were off to next on their tour and so was surprised the next morning when the group jumped into a bus to go and visit the Cu Chi tunnels near Hoi Chi Minh City (from hereon called HCMC) aka Saigon. This is a small part of the underground network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam war.

One of the first things to see in the museum was a rather disturbing collection of man traps – these were entitled alarming things like: ‘clipping armpit trap’, ‘rolling trap’, ‘door trap’ and basically were evil looking spikes concealed in various different ways. Nadine discovered a little way into the tour that one of the Americans in the group had in fact been stationed in Vietnam during the war. He looked remarkably calm around this particular exhibit but unsurprisingly declined the offer of going through the tunnels.

Duncan and Nadine however are young enough to have escaped enlistment in any of the major wars and so clambered eagerly into the tunnels (it should be noted that these had been considerably enlarged from their original size to accommodate giant foreigners).

After emerging into daylight at the end of the tunnels, Duncan and Nadine wandered over to manhandle some sandals made of car tyres. When they spotted the baby sandal versions they both got a bit excited and decided to send some back to Daryl and Lisa’s new baby Fletcher. Duncan handed over the cash and they disappeared off for some more tunnel fun. As Duncan was about to jump into the tunnel he was disturbed by his esteemed wife trying to get his attention. She was standing with Scottish Laura and the Vietnamese chap who had sold them the miniature sandals. This fellow was gesticulating wildly at Duncan and waving around money. It took a while for them to figure out what was going on but it eventually transpired that Duncan had managed to hand over 500,000 Dong for the 20,000 Dong sandals thinking he was giving the man 50,000. Lucky these Vietnamese people are so honest, that’s almost 20 which he’d foolishly handed thinking it was 2 – that equates to about 20 dinners (or beers) out here!








 Chapter 3: You must take the A-Train


After an afternoon of some more excitement in HCMC such as a visit to the War Remnants Museum and nearly getting run over a million times by one of the trillion mopeds, the group headed North on an overnight train towards some well deserved beach time in Nha Trang Beach. The duo prepared with several cans of chilled Saigon (beer) and pot noodles for a good night’s sleep.  Rather annoyingly they had to share their cabin with that damn Scotsman and his endless babble about Rangers (or was it Celtic?) but managed to overcome the disappointment by sharing a few friendly cans with him and his lovely wife Laawrra. The various members on the tour group ran around excitedly, shared all sorts of ominous looking foods (and a drink or two) and constantly popped their heads into each other’s cabins to ensure no-one on the entire train would go to sleep before them. Nadine eventually suggested they could perhaps try to get some sleep as it was somehow 2am already and so they did.

It seemed like they had literally only just closed their eyes when they could hear a loud knocking on the door (which they ignored), followed by the door being torn wide open by a slightly frantic looking Sharim shouting “Wake up!!” in an attempt to wake and get his whole troop off the train in time for the 4am arrival into Danang.  After a transfer on a private bus they finally arrived at the final destination, Nha Trang.  Here they spent a happy couple of days eating (most notably a delicious local BBQ, see pictures), drinking (the usual) and sleeping (mainly on the beach).



Chapter 4: Hoi An

Having caught up on some desperately needed sleep the whole group looked a lot happier when they boarded the next overnight train heading up further North – that’s until they caught sight of the sheets and general state of this particular train. After some confusion with the tickets Duncan finally managed to locate the correct cabin to find two locals sitting happily in the top bunks and Nadine hovering somewhere in the middle of the tiny cabin, suspiciously eyeing the crumpled sheets on what she refusing to  believe was meant to be her bed for the night. She gave the bed one of her most contemptuous looks (aimed at the sheets) and growled in Duncan’s direction “That’s human hair remnants on those sheets, I’m NOT sleeping here, no way!”.  In the meantime Duncan had pushed his equally ominous looking bedding to one side and was contentedly listening to his iPod, oblivious of his wife’s distress. 

After quite some time Nadine managed to get all of her bedding bar the pillow case replaced with fresh ones and finally settled down for a truly awful night’s sleep. This was partly due to the aforementioned human hair remnants haunting her in her dreams, partly to the aircon temperature being set at four degrees below fridge and partly due to the occasional cockroach scuttling noisily around the floor.

The train arrived, bright and early, at 4am into Hoi An.  Miraculously, they had survived the train journey, they couldn’t fathom how, but they had.  Yet another bus deposited the somewhat disgruntled looking troop in front of their hotel at 6am where they could either wait for check in at 11am or go and explore the fish market at sunrise. “Will there be food?” Duncan asked Sharim, trying to weigh up his options. “Yes, and the fish market is really worth a look.” Sharim responded enthusiastically as ever.  And so off they traipsed in search of the market.

“That’s an odd sounding horn.” Nadine said, looking quizzically at a moped turning around the corner in front of them.  “That’s because it’s a duck not a horn, quack, quack!” Duncan exclaimed, pointing at one of the twenty or so ducks that were tied, upside down, to the handle bars of the moped.  “Aaaah, I thought that perhaps I was still asleep”.

The fish market was indeed quite a sight with Duncan running around all the Vietnamese fishermen and women doing their fishy business: “The LUMIX TZ7 is really being used to its full potential, look at these pictures!” he exclaimed, taking yet another boring shot that would probably be deleted later that day by Nadine.

They left Hoi An a few market tours, five coats, ten silk ties, one red dress for the upcoming wedding, a couple of cocktail dresses, two shirts and various souvenirs later, content in the knowledge that they had done their bit to keep the global economy going. In Vietnam at least.



 Chapter 5: Hue


Hue’s fairly similar to the rest of Vietnam actually but with a larger number of people putting excessive loads on bikes and motorbikes (see pictures). The first night in Hue, the entire group went for dinner at Mr Cu’s restaurant – as well as being a restauranteer, Mr Cu is also a keen photographer and had his wares on display all around the room. Duncan was so taken with one photograph of some young ladies in Vietnamese traditional dress that he purchased a print for the princely sum of $1.

“You want their numbers?” chuckled Mr Cu with a wink as he handed over the photograph. “I think they might be a bit young for me” replied Duncan. “No, no this photo was taken five years ago so they would be 18 now” Mr Cu persisted. Can’t fault his arithmetic I suppose but the telephone numbers were graciously declined on this occasion.

Ian the Australian was also very excited by Mr Cu’s photographic skills and returned later that evening to sit for hours with Mr Cu and purchase the lion’s share of his back catalogue as well as some photos Mr Cu had taken that very afternoon!

The next morning a motorbike tour was planned and the group came out of the front entrance of the hotel to a dozen fellows on motorbikes, each awaiting their tourist cargo for the day.

Duncan cleverly chose an exceptionally short motorbike driver and was able to peer straight over the top of the fellow’s helmet. This of course was key for the many crazed photographs and videos he was planning to take en route.

The motorbike tour was a highlight of the trip, they travelled down country lanes (dirt tracks), through villages with waving locals, over narrow bridges (see photo – Nadine not amused) and along rivers. There was a lunch stop at a nunnery where they also ran an extensive orphanage. The food was excellent and the kids were all very entertaining, Duncan had to return one that Nadine had smuggled into her pannier.



Chapter 6: Halong Bay

Halong Bay is famous because of the many rock formations jutting out of the sea in this natural harbour. Not much to say about it really but there are a few photos to see…

The group did have an entire boat for forty people to themselves which was rather nice.

Chapter  7: Hanoi

After another bus journey and overnight in a hotel everyone was up again at 8am for a walking tour of Hanoi. A taxi pulled up outside the hotel and the guide motioned everyone to get in.

“Why are we getting into a taxi when it’s a walking tour?” complained Nadine loudly. However everyone else was busy figuring out how to fit 8 people into a Vectra and so she was largely ignored. Ten minutes later they all clambered out in front of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum.

“You pay taxi driver” instructed the guide and so Duncan and a few of the other guys handed over the cash and joined the queue of people eager to see the embalmed body of a dead communist. This is out of sequence in the tour but a note should be added here to say that this was now a separate tour from the last and so the Scots, Brits, Kiwi, Ozzie girls and Latvian / Romanians had left to be replaced by four new Australians!

After some confused queuing (nobody can queue like the Brits) the group were eventually allowed through a metal detector and had to fall into step two by two behind a smart guard with a machine gun who guided them across the pedestrianised area in front of the mausoleum. This was worth a photo of course but the Lumix had been temporarily confiscated as the guards had correctly guessed that Duncan was going to try and take a photo of Ho Chi Minh.

“Hands out of pockets” barked the guard at Duncan as he walked towards the mausoleum entrance. “Take hat off” he shouted at another group member. They made it into the inner chamber intact however and were herded hurriedly around a cool, dim room where six heavily armed guards in full military regalia stood at each side of what looked like a huge four poster bed but with a red downlight illuminating the chilled and embalmed body of the former communist dictator, Ho Chi Minh. Incidentally, HCM’s will specifically asked that his body be cremated but the Vietnamese used some artistic licence and built a huge mausoleum over six years then paraded tourists in front of his body for the 9 months of the year when the body isn’t in Russia for maintenance. Close enough I guess.

After the retrieval of all the photographic equipment the group regrouped and aimed for the next attraction, the Ho Chi Minh museum.

 “That’s an interesting statue of Ho Chi Minh” observed Duncan as they got through the front door and stood underneath a huge bronze cast. “Looks just like Nelson Mandela”. It did indeed look a lot like Nelson Mandela although James, one of the new Australians, saw more of Winnie than Nelson.

Although the pair had few expectations, nothing could have prepared them for the interesting, for lack of a better word, collection of what appeared to be mostly interpretive art that was the Ho Chi Minh museum. For example, the photo included on the blog of giant pieces of fruit symbolises, and I quote: “The symbols of nature in its beauty contrasted with the image of industrial plants in this hall represent Uncle Ho’s expectation that young people shoulder the responsibility for the protection and preservation of peace and the environment, and prevention of destructive and aggressive wars”. Hmm.

The War Remnants Museum visited earlier in HCMC is definitely  worth a visit as the war is pretty well completely documented in photos from the press of the time and also includes various tanks and planes etc that the Americans left behind. Duncan also found a bright red piano whilst wandering around near the museum which was a bonus.

The next day a new part of the trip called Roam Laos began with a, now customary, 6am start. The remainder of the group was yet again replaced with three very entertaining Ozzies with whom Duncan and Nadine would spend the next few days before heading back to Amsterdam via London for some Chinese/Dutch wedding festivities. More to follow soon…

Latest addition!!! Seem to have got youtube working so here's how mopeds drive in Vietnam....
http://www.youtube.com/user/duncancoleshill#p/u/0/88do2QRuGZw
 
Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: