South East Asia: A New Chapter

Trip Start Sep 02, 2009
Trip End Oct 30, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It was finally time for us to leave China, after one month and two weeks (including Hong Kong), and it was also the first flight of our trip. We were excited and a bit relieved to know that our flight would only take a few hours instead of the usual long haul sleeper train, but it also felt a bit like we were cheating.

The morning didn't really get off to a smooth start. We decided to leave the packing and changing of currency for the morning as we were planning on getting up early. Unfortunately, our alarm didn't go off. We woke up late and packed as fast as we could. Thankfully we managed to do it all in time to catch the bus to the airport. Phew!

The rest of the journey went like clockwork. We checked our baggage in, spent the last few dollars we had on junk food (Coconut M&M's, Toblarone White, a soy bar and some Mentos Chews... Yum!) anticipating that we wouldn't be eating for a while, and boarded the plane. We had eaten everything before the plane even took off. When we had been in the air about 10 minutes the air hostess came with her trolley... and, to our surprise, our lunch. Beef or fish. I told her I didn't eat meat and she said 'Oh. So...beef or fish?' I ordered the fish and gave it to Dave. Needless to say, Dave felt sick for the rest of the journey.

There was a taxi arranged by our hotel waiting for us in Hanoi. The journey from the airport was long but fascinating. A completely different world (apart from the motorbikes of course!).

We were confident entering Vietnam as we figured that a month in China would have prepared us for anything!... Then we got to Hanoi. It had the craziness China, but all crammed into a much smaller space: turbo China! The roads seemed to have the same volume of traffic, only instead of being spread over 8 lanes they were crammed into only one! We soon learned that our road crossing technique also needed some revising. The 'don't look and they wont hit you', and the 'just keep walking/adopt a child' method wouldn't work here! This was a 'step by step' job. The cars and motorbikes will try not to hit you... but wont try very hard! The slower you cross, the more time they have to devise a path in which to narrowly miss you. It's how the locals do it. We had to learn that very quickly as pavements are used more for motorbike parking and to hold the overspill for shops than they are for walking on.

When we got to the hotel we were greeted by an extremely friendly and enthusiastic man who gave us a very warm welcome. He told to us have a shower and get some food, then we could arrange payment when we were rested... we didn't end up paying until a few days later. This has been the attitude of most Vietnamese people we have met so far: Utterly lovely, welcoming and have a great sense of humor. Even the hawkers are charming!

Once we had had a shower we ventured out for some food. It was great to be back in a place which sells street food. We sat at a road side cafe, on tiny plastic chairs with a pint sized table on the curb and relaxed as we watched the chaos. We loved it!

Vietnamese food is phenomenal! The most delicious we've had so far by a long shot! So full of herbs and spices. It's hard to describe but when you taste it it just blows you away.

The next morning Dave went to the gym.

Basically, I looked for cheap gyms on the internet but they all seemed to be in hotels. The only one near by which wasn't in a hotel only had a description and no pictures... I decided to go there. I arrived at a dark, dank looking motorbike garage. At the back I could see the dark, dank gym. It was fully equipped... only it looked like a bomb had exploded in it. All the equipment was rusted and old. A far cry from Roko! I was the only one there apart from a fat guy watching TV. Needless to say, despite this I had a really good work out!

And then to the lake. At the lake was were approached by a "student" selling guide books. We needed a Vietnam guide book so we had a look at the selefane wrapped Lonely Planet Guide he had. He asked for '15 quids mate! You my first customer, very lucky! 15 quids to you!'. He was very funny and charming, but an obvious con man. We told him we would pay 200,000 VND (about 7 pounds) and that was all. He told us 'No way! This is good book! 15 quids! I am student...' We said no and tried to hand the book back. He kept suggesting various prices but we kept saying no. Eventually, as we went to walk away, he said (quite angrily!) 'okay 200,000, but this price too low!'. We paid the money (even as we were handing him the cash he was asking for more) and sat by the lake to have a read of it. When we opened the book we saw that something wasn't quite right... it was a photocopy! Thank goodness we hadn't paid what he'd asked! As we've gone through it we've noticed that there are even sections that have been photocopied twice! But it's a good photocopy so our money wasn't wasted.

After a walk around the lake we went to what I was most excited about seeing in Hanoi: The water puppet theatre! We have no idea what the story was but it was fantastic! Very surreal! The traditional folk band and singers were amazing to watch and listen to and the puppets had real character. We really enjoyed ourselves (despite Dave's discomfort because of the tiny chairs we had to sit in for an hour. I, on the other hand, fit in them perfectly so was very comfortable).

The rest of our time was spent walking around (aka getting lost) and saying 'no thank' you every two seconds as people tried to sell us things. One lady wearing a traditional hat and carrying a plank over her shoulder with a basket of fruit on each end stopped and put her hat and plank on me and said, 'take photo!'. So we did! I thought it was great... until she put 3 bananas in my hand and asked us for 150000 VND (about 3 quid). We told her that was way too expensive and she got very angry. We tried to negotiate a price but she kept saying 'PHOTO PHOTO!!!' We tried to walk away but she wouldn't let me give the bananas back. In the end we ended up paying about 1 pound for them. It was more than we would have like to have paid but this woman wasn't backing down! Anyway, we learned our lesson!

The next day we were due to go on a 3 day tour of Ha Long Bay and we were really looking forward to it. I'll let Dave tell you about it...

Love! xx
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gina and david on

hi amy and dave, just sat and read your entries taken a few hours but a good excuse to sit down, sounds absolutely wonderful and your photo s are incredible where will you be spending your birthday and christmas. Take care of yourselves. Look forward to the next entry.

yellowbrickroad on

Hi Gina and Dave!

Thanks for your comment! Glad you enjoyed the blog so far. We will be in Thailand for my birthday and Christmas (flying to Bangkok the day after tomorrow). Not sure what we'll do for Christmas but I'm dure there'll be something fun going on.

Love! xx

Andy on

Very good account again, phots also very good.


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