A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam- Hoi An

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Hoi An. A town that is so beautiful and historic that it is in itself a world heritage site. A town where it didn't require 5 layers of clothing and to be moving constantly to maintain an adequate body temperature. A town where you can buy sandwiches. A town where the main activity (besides learning) is......having clothes tailored!!!! Amazing, and this is exactly what we did. Tom opted for Mr Xe the tailor, who barely came up to his waist and was a little bit like Vietnam's answer to Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

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He produced some amazing shirts in 24 hours, although we suspect it was in fact the women scurrying around him that did the actual work and he took all the glory-typical. So Tom will be looking sharp in the fashion capital of Chippenham. Katie opted to have a couple (cough3cough) of dresses made, which were also splendid.

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Tom also had his first cut-throat shave at the local barber, which was a success (thankfully!). It was pretty nerve racking to watch- as part of the service they also shave your forehead and pummel your face with some kind of leather contraption-interesting. We also bumped into a Leicester city supporter. Small world.

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Full of culture and with slightly lighter wallets we decided that enough was enough and that we should return to the heat and we boarded our night bus for Mui Ne.

Posted by tomkat2010 07:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam- Halong Bay and Hue

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How do you know you are on the road? It might well be when you are on a junk boat floating in the South China sea listening to a Norwegian social worker playing "Streets of London" on the guitar.

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Halong Bay is a Unesco World Heritage site, and is made up of 3000 islands which are best viewed from the deck of a Junk Boat drinking Dalat (Vietnamese) wine. They are spectacular, the wine isn't. Despite the weather and har (arrrrr) we thoroughly enjoyed our trip and would totally recommend it to anyone! We were on board with a group from around the world (16 in total) of all shapes and sizes. We learnt a new card game from a Danish-Dutch couple- 500, awesome, although Tom seems to be a bit too good at it, I suspect he's played before. The company we booked with had promised us heating, and there was near mutiny when the heating wasn't turned on till 9:30pm. Some of the gap year passengers didn't seem to mind, with two of them opting to jump of the boat into the sea.We thought we'd save that till next time and warmer seas....

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On returning to Hanoi we had to get an overnight train south to Hue, which is pronounced with a sort of Q at the start. There were no bugs visible and we were luckily sharing our cabin with two Australian girls who were good banter, so apart from a bit of a rocky journey (thoughts that we'd been de-railed did come to mind) we made it in one piece.

Hue is famous for its Citadel and tombs of past emperors, so our time was spent learning a lot and enjoying the slight increase in temperature. The citadel is like a spectacular fort which you access through walking across a bridge which you share with around a million mopeds. Sadly, as Hue is on the old North/South border, the citadel took quite a hit during the war with most of it having been destroyed (where the 'Tet Offensive' took place). They are currently restoring as much of it as possible - and doing a very good job, though the spanking new tennis court is a touch out of place.

On the second day we opted for a dragon boat tour which took in all the major tombs and was on a boat shaped like a dragon (see what they did there?). The trip was great and was made eventful by a Hungarian man who had either stayed up all night drinking or was still drunk from the night before, he was highly amusing to watch. The tombs get increasingly elaborate and magnificent as they went on, like the emperors were trying to out-do one another. Our favourite tombs included sculptures, lakes and flowers. We might opt for a similar design.

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Moving south we had a couple of options, and due to finances and fear of death by cliff-motorcycle accident, we opted against the "Top Gear Experience" which takes you along the road which Jeremy Clarkson has ridden for the programme, and got the bus instead. Next stop: Hoi An.

Posted by tomkat2010 07:34 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam- Hanoi

Hanoi

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Vietnam

We have arrived in Vietnam, eager to find out if the rumors were true: they have proper bread here. It is true and a welcome change from rice and noodles for breakfast. Thank god from the French colonial rule!

We flew into Hanoi, the capital city, to find that the other rumor was true: it was really cold! Especially when you have arrived from Thailand. This was not helped by our hotel “fixing” the massive gap in our window by stuffing bin liners in the space.

On the way from the airport we saw some interesting luggage on the back of one of the motorbikes. It was a big pile of BBQd dogs, no doubt on there way to the specialist restaurants- staying away from that quarter! Instead we opted for some traditional Vietnamese in the form of a hot pot. A hotpot is when they bring you a pot of stock and a little cooker, you then put noodles, vegetables and fish in to cook in the broth, similar to a fondue without the cheese. It was delicious!

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We really enjoyed wondering the streets of Hanoi which has been decorated in anticipation of the forthcoming “Tet” or new year. It will be the year of the rabbit in a couple of weeks time. This seems fitting given some of the nocturnal habits of our fellow dorm residents, but less said about that the better.

Crossing the road was quite an experience, but having been to Delhi we were professionals and nodded patronizingly at the fresh untainted tourists as we confidently strode out in front of 25 on-coming mopeds, two cars and truck.

I think we are going to like Vietnam....

Posted by tomkat2010 06:56 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Bangkok

Dumped on a deserted Ko San Road at 4am, we've made it to Bangkok. Some hard bargaining and 40 minuted later, we had miraculously navigated the taxi driver to within spitting distance of Evan and Susan's house. Evan and Susan are friends who recently moved to Bangkok and who now have a lovely place in the suburbs (or Sub Soi) east of the city centre. It was great to see a familiar face appear round the corner. The only things more overjoyed by our arrival than us were the neighbouhood dogs who saluted us vocally (at five in the morning).

Next day we hit the largest outdoor market in Bangkok, a huge place with some 200+ boutique stalls. We stocked up on a few new garments for the journey ahead. Dinner with Evan and Susan at a lovely restaurant next to one of the local lakes. Sticking to the theme of the previous day, our Monday destination was the largest indoor mall in Bangkok, however our means of transport getting there will probably be the abiding memory, the Bangkok river bus. This is a largish boat with simple wooden benches that charges up and down the river - blink and you'll miss your stop. Each side of the boat is lined with Tarpaulin that is lowered for people to throw themselves in at every stop before being speedily raised to prevent splatterage from the non-to-clean river water. With so many boats ploughing up and down, you get a bumpy bum-numbing ride.

A different restaurant in the evening. Evan and Susan eat out pretty much every night. There cooker hasn't seen much action since they moved in, but eating in restaurants is almost a cheaper option that buying in food. To prove this point, we dropped into the local supermarket after dinner. I was alarmed that you can buy Stilton in a Bangkok supermarket as I have a bet with Katie that you won't be able to find it in Australia. I feel I may be losing a bottle of wine. Anyway, as I was perusing the cold meats section I got a tap on the shoulder and turned around to find a Thai man who said "Tom?" "from Leicester?". A full on drop-your-bacon-sandwich-in-astonishment moment. About 7 million people live in Bangkok of which I know none. Turns out this guy was my old friend Bun who I worked with at Mobius Restaurant in Leicester for a year after Uni. I had taken him to see Leicester City (we won 1-0). Apparently he now own a restaurant just round the corner and had nipped in for a few ingredients when he recognised me. Incredible. We'll be heading for a meal there on our return to Bangkok.

We left Bangkok much as we arrived, horribly early in the morning. Evan kindly booked us a taxi to the airport and saw us off (Thanks for a fantastic stay). Seamless transition through Bangkok airport where I was delighted to find a dedicated branch of the Leicester City club shop and on to Hanoi, Vietnam.

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Posted by tomkat2010 04:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Southern Thailand

Beaches, beaches and more beaches: Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi islands and Ao Nang.

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A hop, a skip, one boat, a mini-bus and a jump and we landed on Ko Lanta. The mini-bus journey was “interesting”, the driver was clearly making the most of having been on the main land and as such was depositing goodies throughout the island as he took us towards the southern point; at one point he disappeared entirely on a motorbike returning after ten minutes- ah Thailand!

On the first night there was thunderstorm which was pretty cool. Ko Lanta was one of the most touristy and developed islands we’d stayed on, and we were glad that we had opted to stay away from the resorts on the south-west coast. It was quieter on this part of the island, apart from the singing ice cream man whose song went something like this “ ice cream good for me, ice cream good for you too. Buy ten get one free”. You have to hand it to him, it worked.

After two nights we decided to head for one of the main events: Ko Phi Phi islands, home to “The Beach” beach and probably about a million tourists. We had dithered about whether we were going to take the plunge and go, given we expected it to be busy and it was decided that we couldn’t miss it.

The Ko Phi Phi islands are made up of two main islands: Don and Leh. One is the national park (Leh) and one is where all the tourists are based (Don). Thankfully Leh has been saved to the extent that you can only visit for the day-though billions go every year. The coral was also damaged by the tsunami.

When we landed, we knew it was going to be expensive so we decided that if we were going to do it, we should do it right and booked ourselves into a pretty swanky hotel for the night. It was LOVELY and totally made up for the smelly dorm we had to stay in the next night (Ying and Yang of travel!). The sea and the sand were incredible and even on the developed island the snorkelling was great- sights included Shark point so as you can imagine, Katie did not take a dip there.

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We hired our own long-boat and tour guide (Kai, who says if you go there in October it is good weather and very quiet-hint for anyone interested) and headed to the National Park where we swam in a lagoon, did some awesome snorkelling and went to visit the actual beach where the film was made. Spectacular day out!

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Although the islands were lovely, after two nights we had enough of all the people, most of whom were getting tatoos, and decided to head north to area of Krabi on the mainland. Krabi is also famous for its beaches and limestone rock formations rising out of the sea. We visited Railay beach which is one most postcards of thai beaches and enjoyed the local street food in Ao nang, our base for Krabi. We also had thai massage which is basically someone assaulting you for an hour- we were definitely two inches taller afterwards, which was ideal as our next activity was a cramped night bus to Bangkok!

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Posted by tomkat2010 04:57 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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