Vietnam

Pho 2000

A few days ago in Saigon. This is the best place for Pho. Clinton ate here when he was president, and there's about 4 giant photos of him on the walls proving it. It's right next to Ben Tanh market so it's easy to find.

back in VN!

Well after like 13 hours catcing buses, we are in saigon, not for long though as we are about to catch another bus to nha trang! i must say it is great to be back in VN the people here are just so lovely, we even had a vietnamese guy buy us dinner before we were even in the country.
When i get to nha trang i'll take some time to update but for now the bus calls... :(

new gallery

If you look to your right (*edit 2017 - Copied to the gallery directly to this post.), you'll see a new link to a gallery of photos from the trip. We're going to dump a heck-load of images here, so have a look.

- Paul

Untitled!

I've been too uninspied to post. Being home is nice and cosy, but that's about the only plus involved. I told myself, well i'll pick up where I left off. But I quickly realised that I wasn't doing anything. I had nothing to pick up. Why did I come home again? Oh, I remember, my Visa expired and I had to go to work on Monday. I need a hobby.

Here is a photo. I am still in the process of retrieving them all from my infected iPod, so it will be a while before our photo page is up and running.

Anyway photo. This was at the PLAN kindergarten. I assure you all the other children were much happier to be there. I think this little tacker had just woken up. I tried to ask her permission to take the photo, but she didn't blink, so I had a good minute or two to line this one up. Colour adjustment was done very skillfully by Claire. Go Claire!

back in time

Yes, so we've been back home now for almost a week. But that doesn't mean the blog is dead. Remembering that I shot over 15 hours of video, I've been going through it slowly looking for stuff to upload. Here are the first nuggets of goodness.

I can't believe I used up almost half a tape before we even got to Vietnam. Here's part of our flight from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City.


And here... from tape 7 or 8. Fun at a truck stop.

Also, I'll be heading back over to Vietnam about the same time next year - but with about 10 relatives. We're going to be the same giant group of tourists that gave us the shits this time. Looking forward to it.

- Paul,
Melbourne

Home Again

Why didn't anyone tell me that i'm going to be totally out of sync with my life?

Coming home has been a bit of a shock for me, I have gone from having a routine of no routine to 'Damn what is my routine, what should i be doing with myself'?

Vietnam has been an amazing experience, I have definatly been bitten by the travel bug and i don't want a cure, I am going to start saving asap to get my ass back there and hopefully to travel the rest of S E Asia. I have heard Laos is an amazing place and of course all about the parties in Thailand (I will be careful not to get a real 'Thailand Tattoo') If anyone has any advice of S E A or anywhere else to travel let me know! I would like to get one of those around the world tickets that have a years validity and have a stop almost everywhere.

Here are some random pics of our trip

farewell

So...
it will be goodbye Vietnam, i am feeling quite sad.
It has been very easy to be in this country, everything is so simple, yet the difference in culture is enough to make it a slight challenge. The change in weather from Viet to Aus will be hard i think, i will have to crank up my portable heater and try and simulate intense humidity to make the transition a little easier.
Right now we are in our little cheap internet cafe, which had been the best internet connection we have had the whole trip and only costs us 2,500 dong per hour (around 15 cents) which is much better than 15,000 dong in cat ba (BAH!!) that wouldn't even open hotmail without a struggle.
It just so happens only a few days before we leave we found the best grocery store, we found chocolate milk, sunnyboys, fruit juice. we stashed a heap of sunnyboys and froghurt in our hotel freezer for snacks! There has been nothing i have missed here in vietnam, the place has everything, i can't wait to return!
Our flight home is at 7:10 pm, we fly to Hong Kong first then to Melbourne, i hope the food is good and there are some good in-flight movies.
well i can't think of anything else to write now but i'm sure i will have a heap to say when i get home.

goodbye
Claire
-Hanoi

Home James

This will be our last post from overseas. Unless we get upgraded to business class and find ourselves with some air-borne internet. I am very tentatively charging my tainted iPod. If no-one touches it and no-one speaks to it, I think the computer I am on will remain safe. I carry no guilt about stuffing up the computer at our hotel, but this place is fantastic (2.5 thousand an hour) with top speed and friendly customer service, so I don't want to stuff them about.

My Lonely Planet book has certainly served us well here in Vietnam. It was pretty much new when I left Australia, but now we have to carry it around in a plastic bag for fear of losing pages. Last night it slept in a puddle of water (we got caught in a killer storm by the way. Everything flooded!) and this morning the entire cover peeled off. I'll post a photo of it when I get home.

I almost managed to rid myself of dong just in time to leave the country, but I realised I would like to eat some lunch today (and maybe buy some more awesome stuff!) So i've risked another ATM transaction.

We are really sick and tired of being ripped off by everyone we meet, so this morning at coffee time we compared the prices on the english menu to those on the vietnamese one. There were many differences but the only one that applied to us was 1000 dong between the bottle of coka. So we worked out the bill oursleves and handed them 26,ooo instead of 27,000. It's only ten cents, but my god we have to uphold our principles. The cafe guy didn't try very hard to get his extra 1000 dong. It's stupid but these rip-offs happen everywhere and for a lot more money too. I think every taxi in this city has two settings on their metres. Local and Foriegn. I think this may even be implemented by the taxi companies.

Anyway I'm kind of stuck for words. I'm going to be depressed for another four years back in Australia, so no one talk to me. Until I travel again. It was four years between Nepal and Vietnam, but hopefully the next trip will come sooner and I can stop my whining.

Sad sad sad. I'm going to whip up a second blog, with bundles of my Vietnam photography on it. This will be accessable from the top of Notes from Vietnam so everyone check it out. Sad.

Did I mention that our four week's of spending in Vietnam - that's food, accommodation, clothes, gifts and knick knacks - has yet to exceed the cost of our plane ticket!? I guess we'll conclude this blog from back in Australia . . . so keep watching.

Sad,
Bec,
Hanoi.

sorry about the swears

I promise I won't swear anymore.
We're flying back today. This is your official reminder to pick us up from the airport at 10am. If you are not there when we walk out the gate, then NO PRESENTS FOR ANYONE!
I kind of went spend-crazy in the last day or two. I mean, I still only spent about $150, but it's a lot. I still have about 350,000 VND to get rid of before we fly out. It's gonna be a struggle, but I think I'll be able to rid myself of it. We're heading over to a propaganda art gallery to get something later on today. Really, I haven't bought much of anything while I've been here. My pack is about as full as it was when we left. We've lost a few things though: my hat, my sunglasses, Bec's travel pillow... so it all evens out.
When in Hanoi be sure to look for the Bodha Cafe near DVD lane (the name we gave to the street with all the DVD shops)... um, sorry I can't give you less vague directions but I can't remember the proper name of the street. The food is good there, the service is much better than most other places (you actually get service in other words), and you can use their internet for free while you wait for your food. They have a dumb waiter (it's like 3 or 4 stories high) thats constantly going up and down with food. Nicely furnished, great atmosphere, you'll be able to find a quiet corner somewhere no matter what. Neat hang out... I think we'll head back over there one more time before we leave.

- Paul,
Hanoi

thrifty traveller, happy traveller

Cheap internet is not neccessarily CHEAP internet, I guess. I mean, we are upstairs in a cramped corner of the cafe; the roof too low for us to stand. It's hot, and I'm sweating and I'm really worried about being electrocuted (ed: Bec is more worried about falling through the floor), but at least it works.

I haven't blogged properly for a while now, the girls have really been picking up the slack for me. Really, I've run out of things to say about the country. For a while I was having a really shit time. Many local people out to make money off us have left me somewhat jaded. I can't count the times I've been lied to, ripped off, or just been left with the feeling that something is a bit dodgy. The place we are staying at is a little off. The room is okay, but they tried to charge us $25 a night for it. It's not even as nice as Sa Pa, and that was $12 with breakfast. Anyway, just a warning that when you come to Vietnam you WILL BE RIPPED OFF. This is not a maybe, this is a definate fact that you will be ripped off, more than once, every single day you are here. It's just the way it is. If you are not Vietnamese, if you do not speak Vietnamese, if you are not familiar with how things work you will end up paying more, getting less and then being looked at funny. That said, the people here are very friendly. Not five minutes ago we were sat on the steps of a makeshift stall run by the friendliest 'little person' named Phu. He is the first Vietnamese dwarf I've met. He wanted to know if there were little people in Australia. He was amazed to hear that little people are able to hold proper jobs, and even marry tall people. He wants to come to Australia and do some fishing. Of course Claire traded email addresses with him.

But money, I think, is the one thing that sours the experience here--as anywhere I suppose. There are so many people that just see us as walking money-sacks. And it's not just the people on the street scraping to make a living either, the official train ticket prices are stamped as either Vietnamese or Foreigner. If you are foreigner, you can pay up to twice as much. Of course, there are the swindlers that try to get a commission on top of that by spouting their horseshit stories about the boat or whatever being sold out and that they can call the captain and maybe you can sit in the front with him. Whatever. It's all lies. Taxi drivers trying to charge you up to twice what a ride will be worth, maybe pretending the meter doesn't work. NEVER ride in a taxi that doesn't have a meter. If the driver says it isn't working, then GET OUT. Maybe it will miraculously start working again. Also, try to at least look like you are paying attention to where you are going. A good technique is to get a map of the area and follow the streets as you pass them. This way it is more difficult for the driver to take you on the scenic route. If you are sleepy, you WILL PAY MORE. And yes, even using these techniques you will pay more if you don't speak Vietnamese, or if you have white skin. They only do this because they can get away with it, so the best thing is to prepare yourself and never give away more money than you are comfortable with. Don't let people rush you in a decision. If they want your money, they'll wait for it. Believe me. They want it.

We were going to post a photo of the internet cafe we are at right now, but we just noticed that there are no CD drives in the computers. Maybe once we get back to the Hotel we can use theirs for a few minutes, just to upload.

Here it is 2,500 VND for an hour, the hotel... not so cheap. Closer to a dollar.

Then, of course, there are the homeless people, the people that haven't eaten in days, the children trying to sell post-cards and cigarette lighters. You'll end up feeling like a total son of a bitch at least a few times during your trip. This cannot be avoided unless you buy something from every single peddler you see. This would end up costing us as much as our plane ticket on a trip this long. So I don't buy anything. I don't give away anything. Often, I don't even acknowledge them. If I did, I'd have to give it to everyone.

It's just something you have to deal with. You'll either feel like shit about it, or you won't.

- Paul,
Hanoi

Sick as an iPod

Goddamned Cat Ba Island has ruined my life. I think i'm going to coin a new word in its honour. Cat Ba: Disaster. Usage: What a Cat Ba! This whole thing has been nothing but a bloody Cat Ba. Anyway, my moaning is almost over, I just have to break the news that Yakumoto has contracted a virus. It happened at that piece of crap place with the overpriced dial up. I don't know how a computer that crap could even support a virus. Suddenly my iPod is riddled with applications disguising themselves as Folders. They double up every folder, put the new one of the same name inside the original and give it a folder icon. But you double click on it and all of a sudden the computer you're on has the same applications all over everything. It also disable's the computer's ability to view hidden files. You can't do it via the tools menu anymore. Maybe some round about course of commands might help but what the hell do i know about computers anyway!? It doesn't seem very malicious, but. I have already infected the computer at the hotel we're staying at (they deserve it - bunch-o-sleazes) and its hard drive hasn't been wiped and nothing's crashing. I don't know what the hell it does. For a brief moment we accidentally glimpsed an MS DOS Batch file called Ghost - subtle - and Paul deleted it and it's accompanying 'folder' but i think they're back on there already.

My ten point plan for the future is to go home, back up my entire computer, plug in my iPod and burn nothing but photo files to dvd, wipe my iPod, wipe my computer, reinstall everything, replace all my files, return all my music to iPod land, and send a letter bomb to Cat Ba Island.

Our visit to Bich yesterday went awkwardlessly enough. It was great to see that all that advertising from PLAN led to something solid. Bich was very quiet and didn't know what to say. We gave her two scarves that Paul's grandmother made (one for Bich's mum) and a Vietnamese translation of Jane Eyre (it was that or Harry Potter the third) and a bunch-o-stationary, books, pens etc, even though she just finished school and has only one exam left. Her mum was really cool and somehow reminded me of my mum (don't go thinking you're cool now). She gave us a bunch of bananas as a gift and a huge bag of peanuts. Unsalted. They gave us the bananas after we told them that in Australia there's a banana drought and they cost $14 a kilo. Everyone just about fell over and now they think Australia is completely fruitless (haha). They showed us this massive bunch, about two kilos, and said it cost them 9000 dong. That's 75 cents. We're gonna smuggle a truck-load home and pay off the customs officials in bananas.

About three doors down from our hotel there's this incredibly short vietnamese man who sells water and drinks and fruit. He has a little table and a bunch of plastic chairs (you get this set-up about every ten feet on every street in Vietnam). His name is Phu and he's been teaching himself English from an exercise book and conversations with foreigners. He speaks really well and is really interested in how we live in Australia. He was blown away when Claire said she drives a car everywhere and understood better when Paul and I said we don't drive at all. But we insisted on explaining that we are the only people we know who don't drive a car. He didn't quite get it.

We left Paul alone for one hour today and when we met up with him again we found over 50 DVDs on his person. I felt bad for the poor pirate that had to sit there with him in front of the tv and prove the quality of every disc. At around a dollar fifty each, he spent about as much as he would have on two DVDs at home. So the only thing I can say is PIRACY FUNDS TERRORISM!!! Sigh. Piracy funds the nice lady with the remote control and that's about it.

Tomorrow we see the pickled corpse of Uncie Ho and then some Temple of Literature. Then we shop. I bought a fish today whose name is Loi. They wanted $40 for him, but I got him for $15. I was the good luck morning customer and I refused to pay the good luck morning price. They caved when I said i can't afford to bargain. Same thing happened to Claire. A guy was asking 800,000 for this zillion year old antique magic pot thing brought to us from whatever dynasty via a radical time machine doova and she said she only had 300,000 to spend. Half an hour later when she had almost made it to the door he wrapped the thing up and sold it to her to her for 300. Why bargain when you can plead student.

Anyhoo, I'm gonna schedaddle. The Devil's Advocate is on HBO tonight! No only joking. We missed it because Claire insisted on eating dinner. Joking again.

alrighty,
Bec,
Hanoi.

PS: ARGH my poor iPod and my vulnerable collection of priceless photography! What will i dooooooooo?!?!? (*#IUFHPIUWTY_BR($365-9WTEUIFHAP9R865-Q93!!! (the virus says hi)

shop till we drop

Hey there peeps!

Right now we are in a fantastic restaurant in Hanoi with free internet and an amazing decor, kinda chinese style, loads of polished wood and mood lighting.
We are having a great time shopping in hanoi, it has worked out quite well travelling from the south to the north as the shopping is much better here. Yesterday We visited Bich in her village, it was fantastic. She was a little shy, though it was great to see the facilites plan has given to the community, i really appreciate Ian and Dee (Pauls grandparents) for their generosity as i have now seen first hand how important a their assistance is to the community. The village have now got a kindergarten, schools, community health centre, and healthy drinking water. Plan also supply the sponsor children and families with animals to raise like chickens, cows and buffalo. Visiting the Kindergarten was great, the kids were a bit confused at the start but opened up and had a great time. They loved our digtal cameras, they were totally amazed at the sight of themselves on the screen.

Anyway i had best be off as i don't want to overdo the free internet. you'll hear more from Bec and Paul.

Claire
-Hanoi