My second video of dancing with some amazing people and having so much fun
A video of me dancing in various countries.
Our travels around the globe
My second video of dancing with some amazing people and having so much fun
A video of me dancing in various countries.
Getting better all the time
15.05.2017 28 °C
Bai tu Long Bay
At 7:45 a luxury van picked us up from our hotel and we joined four others for a three and a half hour journey to Halong Bay.
Our ship mates are a young couple from Colorado and a couple perhaps early 50s from Lyon France. The French couple do not speak a great deal of English but as the journey progressed they got more confident.
We wonder, is this our ship?
Our junk is the Indochina Prince 2 and has four cabins, but one will be vacant. Duc, who is known as "handsome duc" is around 30 something and is a fantastic host with a wonderful sense of humour.
Our cabins are very tight quarters but we have a lovely sun deck and outdoor as well as indoor dining room to spend most of our time aboard.
We see a lot of big ships go by with 50 or more passengers and are glad we choose this small one. We all seem to get along very well and are laid back and enjoying the outdoors.
The view is spectacular with karst mountains jutting out of the water as we cruise slowly from the harbour.
The sceanery is getting more and more beautiful
A five course lunch is served, incredible what can be prepared in a tiny kitchen. Full and happy we lounged on the sun deck for an hour until we reached our point of anchor in a sheltered bay. Double kayaks were brought out and we set off to paddle around a couple of islands. No instruction to speak of. The French couple had never been in a kayak I don't think but no one seemed concerned.
We are the only group in kayaks here and it is great. A few other larger boats are coming in to anchor for the night as well and perhaps they will kayak later but for now we have the waters to ourselves
There was a ban on kayaking last month. One day the government said " no more kayaking in Halong bay" and that was that. Too many boats, too many kayaks and no instruction or safety measures in place. It seems anyone can put a boat in the water and take passengers
The ban was just lifted a couple of days ago so we are lucky. There are supposed to be stricter rules now.
Ha long bay is apparently very busy with hundreds of boats. We chose the longer trip to Bali Tu Long because it was quieter, cleaner and less traffic and pollution.
Duck took us into a little bay where we sat and drifted while he told us about the monkeys and pythons on this little island and how they swim from place to place. Poachers come to grab them when they are swimming to sell to china for meat. The government is trying to stop it and there are rangers in the area to keep an eye on things. Duc says that it is because the tourists don't like to see that kind of thing, not that the Vietnamese think here is anything wrong with it. Vietnamese don't have a big animal rights concern. The last of the rhino was killed a few years ago, just for the horn, and elephants are still killed for the ivory.
We see large birds in tiny cages everywhere, watching as other birds get to fly free while they are a prisoner their entire lives behind bars in the small space. It is good luck for the Vietnamese. Not for the bird. .
Dogs are chained up as well, and most look cute but are nasty. In the city dogs are loved as pets more than the country. We hear thy eat them as well.
But I digress
Back to kayaking. Paddling back to the boat the young American couple went to pass their camera to Duc and leaned a bit too far out and over they went.
There are no hatch covers so the kayak filled with water quickly and it was difficult for them to get back in.
We see the kayaking is sinking so Jane Andy paddle quickly back to the boat to get help. Somehow the ranger found out and sent over a small junk to pick up the swimmers and tow the kayak back to our boat.
After a rest we are treated to a seven course dinner on deck, white tablecloths sprinkled with little red flowers and candlelight. Far too much food! They are catering to my vegetarian needs and I find out that Duc is a vegan which is very unusual for Vietnam. Because the people were starving for years under communist rule and rarely had meat to eat, it is now considered that you are poor if you don't eat meat.
He talked to us about communist rule and what life was like not that long ago and how far they have come in a short time. But is is every many woman and child for themselves. There is no government pension or healthcare here.
All the cars are new new use it has only been the past seven years that they have really been introduced here. A car is the same price as a lot of houses.
The homes here are all very tall and narrow because land is expensive so they build up. Duc lives with his wife and two children, his parents and grandparents all in the same house and that is normal
Bed was at 9PM and we slept like logs.
The boat was so still last night. At one point ( well maybe a few times actually) I woke to use the bathroom and looked out the porthole to see the water was like a mirror.
Jane and I were first up on on the deck at 7AM to have our coffee and enjoy the morning.
At 8AM the boat sets off and we are served our breakfast on deck . The itinerary will be changed slightly and we will kayak first to avoid the crowds
I hear a commotion in the kitchen and see a very large white duck quacking and fluffing. Hmmmm
Is this dinner? I ask Duc and he assures me no.
Kayaking was again very peaceful and we were the only ones in the water. At one point we went into a small cave and were told how the fishermen get rainwater from the hanging rock formations
Duc gave us a lot of information about how the " boat people" live here in this part of Vietnam. They fish and trade and basically have no need for money. If one family is lucky with fishing one day they will share with everyone else, there is no jealousy. Some will catch fresh fish or seafood and trade the big freighters for fuel, or the cruise ships for water rice and vegetables. If they do make any money they put it away for their children for when they need to have their own boat to live on and raise a family. The children do not go to school and live their entire lives on the boats , only seeking shelter in caves when there is a storm or typhoon.
It is a a simple life, no tv, newspapers or internet. They are happy
We kayaked to a sandy beach and went for a swim. The water is a great temperature and very salty. The crew has come ashore in the tender and set up our table and chairs complete with white tablecloths and we are served an 8 course lunch. Most of the food was prepared on a barbecue
I enjoyed many courses or different types of vegetables, far too much food.
The others had skewers of grilled prawns. Then chicken, pork, fish, rice, salad, squid and finally watermelon.
Duc tells us how as a child the government would not allow any foreign ,especially American, tv in Vietnam. They could have Animal planet however and they thought that North Americans, anyone with white skin especially, were incredibly stupid. For example,they would watch as a woman would find a snake or alligator in her back yard and scream and run away. He was taught as a child that if he found any animal to scream and everyone would come running to kill it for dinner. And then the lady would,even pay someone to take it away and set it free! How stupid is that ?
They would have bets as kids if people would eat the animals or not.
Back on the boat for a rest while we travel slowly for a few hours to a small island that indochina junk owns and has set up a beach area with kayaks. This is used by those on the one night cruise. It is very busy with lots of big boats and so many people. We are at the end of the day and see most leaving as we arrive.
I heard the duck quacking loudly and see him leaving on a small boat? My friend, where are you going? I ask if he is being given to fishermen in exchange for seafood. I am assured he is go to stay with the men on this island as he will have more room than on the boat. I will never know.
We are here to walk up some stairs into a cave and that goes across the little island. This is where the fishermen come to escape storms
When Indochina junk bought the island the fisherman were very upset ,(naturally) , but after s bit they all worked it out and now they are allowed to go there in a storm and the company also gives them water and rice every week as a trade off.
Dinner tonight was another 7 courses and this time the chef, who looks about 12, came out do do a cooking demonstration of drunken prawns and presented amazing vegetable carvings from pumpkins and radish.
The last one was of our ship, sails made of thin carrots. Duc came back with tiny little carrot kayaks to put beside it. Then he put one on its side and said " this one tip over " which brought great laughter
I can hardly keep my eyes open again at 9PM so it's off the bed early
Fishing village and Ninh Binh
After breakfast we arrived at a small floating fishing village and went "ashore" . These people used to live on the small fishing boats but now have this little village of floating houses. When the parents go out fishing the children can stay behind and go to school. They only go for three years and with great objection from the parents. They never went to school and are doing just fine.
But the kids learn basic English, math and writing here. For them however is is mostly about socializing and it is hard for the volunteer teachers to keep any order.
The company we are with have started a initiative to help cleanup the garbage in the bay. They pay the people to pick up floating plastic etc and then every couple a weeks a barge comes and pays them by the kilo for garbage. What a great system. The tour company also helps with the school and some income from the tourists help.
These women were ready to take us around the bay for s little tour. At the end we tip her 50,000 dong per couple ($2.50)
We learned more about life on the water and fishing. For shopping the supermarket comes to you, twice a day in case you need anything
Our last stop was a pearl factory where they showed us how they make cultured pearls. Some from Vietnam , some from Tahiti, south seas which were huge. Of course they had a gift store attached to buy pearl earrings and necklaces, but none of us were interested.
As we made our way back to the boat the skies opened and it rained hard. Torrential for the rest of the morning. After a light lunch we arrived back at the harbour and made our way to a waiting room. The other four were heading backwards to Hanoi and Jane and I arranged for our tour to collect us here at the harbour.
We said our goodbyes and got into a small Toyota with our driver and tour guide, a young woman from Sapa named Ngoc.
The rain was relentless for out boring five hour drive to ninh binh. There are many large modern cities on the way and they seem very prosperous . Some of the roads are under a great deal of water already. I feel badly for the motorcyclists.
We slept part way and were glad to finally arrive at 5PM.
We are in a home stay in Yen Mo village and it is very modern and nice. We are hoping the rain lets up for tomorrow
Ethnic travel is who we booked with and they have their name monogrammed on everything possible. A bit of overkill.
There are nine young people here from France Germany and Austria. We are all helping to prepare dinner making spring rolls, some veggie and some pork.
Our dinner once again is many courses and far too much food. We shared some stories and had great conversation.
Another early night
This morning I watch as a small toddler runs to his dad carrying a huge sharp cleaver. When we reaches his dad he runs his finger across the sharp end to make sure its sharp enough before handing it to his dad. Such a difference in how children here are raised from home
The rain has stopped and we had a dry day. Yeah! The young French couple joined us on a hike around rice paddies which was very beautiful. Finally I saw rice almost ready for harvest and can see how it is done. It looks like wheat. In two weeks the fields will be bright yellow and then brown when it is ready. Most family's cut by hand but some have some machinery.
I have a waterfall pouring off my forehead again. It is so hot and humid and I just can't seem to take the heat anymore for some reason. It was wonderful when a breeze came up and the clouds came in.
At the end of the hike we arrive at a river and women row us for about an hour and a half at a leisurely pace ( for us, we are not doing anything) they row with thier feet. We go through two caves and at the end the big guns come out. They have a bag of goods to sell. Talk about a captive audience. They didn't look they were going to move until we bought. It was crappy Chinese stuff too, not even hand made Vietnamese goods. I finally bought one little purse she wanted a fortune for, but I had paid 50,000 for it before so,that is all I gave her. Then she is after Jane, who stood firm with her no. I need to be more like Jane. I am so weak
The French couple were in thier boat getting harassed as well. It was really uncomfortable and kind of ruined it for us a bit. Finally I just said very firmly " we go now!!!" And we did
I think she was trying to put the boat through the cave to bump Jane's head on the rocks hanging down cos she didn't buy
Now it is lunch time at another home stay and we are joined by two more French young people. They are doing a day trip from Hanoi
Now it is time to bike and eight mountain bikes are brought out. They are all men's bikes and somehow I ended up with a huge one that was not great. Jane switched with me for the last half hour which was great. She said it was a crappybike so I was happy that it was not just my imagination.
The biking was on a variety of paths and roads, some good, some not so good but the sceanery was wonderful through rice paddies farms and small towns. We went much longer than planned and then she asked if anyone wanted to climb 600 stairs up a mountain to see the view. It was already 3:30pm so there was no way I had the energy. Jane and I stayed back with the guide and walked around the park a bit and waited for 45 minutes while the French couple did it.
Riding through the small towns and farms we find that everyone says hi, waves and smiles at us. They are all so friendly and welcoming here.
The ride back was on the highway for the most part but very little car traffic which was nice.
The car ride back to,the home stay we see a motorbike and the fellow has a big blue plastic bag. It fell off into the road and huge red fish fell out and was still alive and flopping all over the highway. I hope the fellow was able to catch it again.
It was 6 PM by the time we got back and only time for a shower before dinner.
I am sitting in our room now at 9:30pm but can't go to sleep even though I am bagged. Across the ally is a wedding. Kareoke on stop , full blast, and really really bad. We were told it would finish at 10PM so we are hopeful as we have another full day tomorrow.
A four hour drive though the country side from Ninh binh to Mai Chau was so picturesque with the rice paddies turning yellow and ready for harvest. The further we went the more the rice turned yellow. We saw women in the fields chopping it down and harvesting the rice. We stopped to take pictures and waved, they smiled and waved back. Everyone we met had a big smile and said hello to us today, they are so friendly and happy.
On the side of the road we see people selling goats for sale. Cooked ones. They are complete in every way except the fur and are kneeling down and looking quite peaceful. The things vegetarians are made from
The rice is harvested and then dried on the pavement as it is hot and makes it a faster process. Cars and trucks just drive around it. In some areas there was miles of rice drying on the side of the road. Each family has their own plot or plots and harvests for their own family use, not to sell. They are also growing corn, peanuts and pumpkins.
We stopped to look at this sugar cane and Ngoc bought some for us to try. I had tried before but this was a little different. You chew it and get the sweet juice out, like gum, and then spit out the sugar cane.
This guy is bringing home the bacon
It was starting to sprinkle as we arrived in Mai Chau and the sky was getting darker. We stopped at a homestay for lunch and the rain started pouring down. Within 10 minutes the road was under a foot of water and flooding. We were eating in the garage , covered outdoor area of the home and the water was running through the room onto the road. Very loud thunder overhead as well.
We had planned on hiking up the mountain to get to our home stay, but I guess that is out. Wow.
We had to move so hunkered down in the living room until the rain subsided . We decided just to head to the home stay as it will be too muddy and slippery to climb the mountain.
Before long the roads are almost dry, you would hardly know it rained. We passed a farm area and Ngoc asked if we want to walk for an hour and a half which we did. We walked down small paths past little farms and rice paddies. The water buffalo would stop and stare at us, and sniff. We smell differently because we wear lotions and deodorant. Then they would run away afraid. Maybe my deodorant ran out, I was pretty sweaty.
Every turn the scenery was better and better. It is so beautiful out here and the green fields are glowing because of all the rain. Women are cutting the rice and putting them in baskets on their backs.
I watched as one woman was picking huge English cucumbers from her garden. She saw me and came up and gave me one, and tried to give jane one as well, but one was enough. So nice.
Ngoc picked some berries and asked us to taste them. Then she stuck out her tongue and started to laugh, we all had bright blue tongues. She is quite the joker. It was blue only temporarily of course
This bridge was very scary for me. It was about 30 feet up and no handrails and parts of the bottom was missing. But I did it.
What a wonderful walk. Our driver picked us up and we had a 10 minute drive to the home stay.
It is a stilted house of a family of the white Thai minority. It looks quite new, Jane and I have our own room and we share two bathrooms with the guide and driver. We are facing a beautiful rice paddie field and there are lots of young children playing in the yard because it is the only one that has a big flat area to play.
Later we sat on the floor and had dinner with the husband and wife who own the home. Our last few meals have been non fried food at our request which is very much appreciated. They had some of their own peanuts which were delicious.
After dinner I showed Ngoc a couple of pictures on my iPad which the wife found very interesting. She does not speak any English so Ngoc
had to translate for us.
She brought out her embroidery to show us which is lovely and a pair of prescription sunglasses that someone gave her to see better for her embroidering. We all looked at them and they were terrible. She reached over and took my readers and her face lit up
" I can see!"
She was now embroidering like a maniac. Unfortunately they are my good glasses and I have already broken two other pair on this trip so can't part with them.
Jane ran upstairs and found her second pair, we are going home in a day anyhow, but unfortunately they have a crack in the frame. She explained to glue that part. She was so happy and appreciative
I found another pair that I brought I can give her tomorrow too,
What a great day.
Day 21. Our last day in Vietnam
At 7AM I went down to relax in the hammock and just absorb the beautiful scenery. I watch men and women drive the cattle up the hill through the jungle. It is so peaceful here.
The day was spent doing another hike though the countryside and then a bike ride for a couple of hours.
After lunch in a family home we make our way back to Hanoi. The driving is slow so it takes four hours to go 200 K
At 4:30 PM we arrived back to the Hanoi Guest House and say our goodbyes to our driver and Ngoc.
The shower was very welcome and after an amazing East Indian dinner we are packing up and gettin ready for our 5AM transfer to the airport to come home
Vietnam was beautiful and very interesting but the people here really made this trip, they are so genuinely friendly and happy to see you.
03.05.2017 - 09.05.2017 31 °C
Vietnam airlines was on time and we arrived in Hanoi at 2pm. We were met by our pre arranged transfer to our hotel.
It was quite a long drive to the Hanoi guesthouse on MaMay street in old town. We are on a narrow tree lined street and it is quite lovely. Our room is very large and clean. The first room we were shown did not have a window so we were moved to one that did have a small one. Not sure why we needed one really, we aren't going to open it or anything, it just seems weird not to have one.
The women were still cleaning our room and had some roses, one of which goes into a bowl in the room as decoration. Jane made a comment about leaving the roses for us as a joke, and they came back with 4 long stem roses in a jar of water for us. We find that the staff at all the hotels and restaurants are all so great.
Later on Jane went out for a street food tour which she said was okay but incredibly hot. I wandered around old town and made my way to the lake negotiating the traffic. We found that waiting for someone else to cross the road and then just walking beside them works best. At one time I hooked up with a mom and stroller. Just don't stop. It screws everyone up if you get all nervous and cautious
I needed to replace my camera battery charger and luckily found a camera shop and mission was accomplished for $10
I am so hot and thirsty I stopped at a small coffee shop for a cold drink and also ordered a salad which was delicious. A young couple beside me was heading for HoiAn so I told them about our hotel and gave them some tips. They had just come from nin binh so gave me some information and showed pictures of their trip which was great.
On the way back I stopped to buy another small suitcase for all my purchases. At the hotel I packed it up and the side of the suitcase ripped open. This morning when I packed up one of the new north face back packs the zippers broke off. So note to self. Don't buy knock offs, they are just cheap crap.
I went back to the luggage shop to exchange the suitcase and could not remember where I bought it. Of course I never got a receipt so could not check the address
Finally I found it. It was the opposite direction from the hotel. I changed to a different kind of bag , for more money of course, and fit everything inside. It just needs to survive the plane trip home.
I will leave it here at the hotel in Hanoi as we are back a forth between trips and I don't need dress shoes and silk jackets anytime soon
Day 10, Thursday , May 4 th
Our breakfast was lovely with fresh fruit and you could order something hot. Jane chose bacon and eggs and I decided upon French toast. I got eight pieces of white bread lightly egged and fried. Eight pieces! I didn't eat it all
A couple from Sydney Australia was sitting beside us and they come to Vietnam a lot so had great advice to share with us. He suggested we visit the woman's museum in Hanoi.
Jane wanted to find some prescription glasses so we set off walking in the direction of the street that had many optometrists on it. It seems streets specialize in goods for sale. One has all luggage, another food and this one glasses.
A cyclo driver saw us looking at our map and asked us where we were going and suggested he take us. We said we wanted to walk for a bit but perhaps later. We stopped a while later to check the map again and find that he is slowly following behind us. He came up again and said he would take us for free to the glasses stores so we hopped in. We knew we were going to hire him at some point anyhow as he spoke English.
We each found a pair of frames and then had Tran, our driver, take us to the woman's museum. It could not have been easy for him to cycle the two of us all the way there. We stopped at the lake for some pictures, he offered to take some shots of us, and then at another high end optometrist shop in the French quarter and I found a very nice pair of frames. It seems every time Jane wants to buy something I am the one who ends up spending the money!!!
Tran offered to come back for us in two hours after visiting the woman's museum which we agreed on. The museum was fantastic. Five floors, all small areas but packed with information.
Clothing and fashion from various tribes, marriage rituals and farming technique. But my favourite floor was how women were involved it the resistance army at various times through out history. Brave heroic woman had a huge part in the various wars. The American war was really interesting which surprised me. I now want to read up more on the war from the Vietnamese point of view.
Tran was there as arranged and we travelled back on the opposite side of the lake stopping at the red bridge for photos. You can rent costumes to have your picture taken on the bridge in them. We did not do that.
Am amazing lunch was enjoyed at Blue butterfly which was a couple of doors down from our hotel. Fine dining that seemed so decadent. Jane enjoyed spring rolls and two beer while I had an eggplant ginger dish and coconut water drink all for $14 USD for both. They also have a cooking school there as well. The food so far has been great
Our bus collected us from the hotel just before 7AM. It was too early for breakfast so the hotel packed us some food. Two pieces of white bread, jam and a banana
The bus negotiated these narrow little streets with no problem. We transferred to a bigger 28 seat luxury bus, the sapa express, and started our 5 1/2 hour journey north.
It was a very comfortable ride and the scenery got more and more pastoral with various shades of greens and yellow terracing on the large hills. The road to Sapa is new and in great condiction, but as we got closer it became more narrow and winding. Many switchbacks with large trucks busses and motorcycles coming towards us. Our driver would pass on blind corners and we decided to just not look. There are no guardrails and the drop off is miles to the bottom.
But we made it. As we pulled into the main square area we see women dressed in the ethnic dress and selling some of their handiwork. One spies Jane from out side the bus and does not take her eyes off her. She has found her lady! When we disembarked they she was waiting for Jane.
Hello, where are you from?
What is your name?
You are my friend? You buy from me.
"Not now, thank you"
How long you Stay in Sapa? Maybe later?
They never forget you. She finds us every time we come into the main square area over the next few days
Our bus driver said that our hotel, Sapa House Hotel, is just up the stairs. 3 minutes walking
We have our main rolling suitcases and really don't feel like dragging them up the stairs, which by the way are lined with women selling goods on both sides.
A taxi was parked near the bus and we asked him to drive us.
" it's just up the stairs"
Our ladies told him that we have these suitcases and need a cab, so he said okay. 30,000 dong ( 1.60). Oh yea.
It was not just up the stairs but up a big hill and around the corner too. Sapa is on the mountain, so everything is up or down a major hill. It was $1.60 well spent!
Our rooms is quite big and very nice. We have swans and hearts made from our towels on our bed
After a rest we walked into town and had a bite to eat and tried to figure out what we are going to do for the next couple of days
Sapa is not a pretty town, to me, there is a great deal of construction going on, lots of huge hotels coming in which wil change everything I am sure.
We had arranged , we thought, a trek to a couple of villages through the hills but apparently it wasn't going to happen. A discussion back and forth and all of a sudden we do have a trek and the car is here. Ok
The trek was led by a young Black H'mong woman of 29 years old. She had never been to school but taught herself English from the tourists which was amazing. Girls marry at around 14 or 15 in the villages and start having children at around 17. They don't have as many as they did before because there is not as much land to pass on anymore. Girls will live with the boys family's who are given land from the family. Girls don't get any land on their own
Women are grandmas before the age of 40
We were joined by a man of perhaps mid 50 years from Stuttgart Germany, a young woman from Frankfurt and another from Switzerland. We had a great time together and all got along very well.
The trek involved getting into a van and driving for maybe20 minutes, getting dropped off at the side of the road and then hiking through the mountains through small villages and rice paddies.
A half dozen black H'mong women were sitting at the side of the road and we realize that they are going to accompany us to their village in the hope we will buy from them when we get there.
Well naturally they stuck closely to Jane and I as we looked like women who will buy.
I threw my back out yesterday, doing nothing, and today it is really bad. But two of the women took me by the hand and helped me up and down the hills. I had my entourage. One of the woman was my age and had a baby, her grand daughter on her back, and she is helping me. Demoralizing
The hike is described as flat with a few small up and down.
Steep hills. Going down was harder with my back the way it was, but I did it.
The scenery is breathtaking. All of the farming is done by hand, no machinery . The rows are perfect. There is lots of corn growing but it is not in neat rows, just covering hills etc. Most of the corn is animal food.
There are a number of other groups trekking with other guides, all young people, we were definitely the oldest. Yeah us!
We stopped for lunch and the women , my entourage, were leaving us here, did we want to buy something? Well we bought lots of little purses that we don't need but had to buy from them. They were all so very sweet.
Some more trekking and we were shown how they make the indigo dye, do batik fabrics a lot of which are made from hemp, and grind rice into flour. This water trough fills with water and then when it is full it dumps out and the post smashes int the rice to make flour.
The tour took 6 hours and was not what we thought we booked, we did something different but that was okay, we still really enjoyed it.
This ladybug was the size of a quarter and brilliant red.
We said our goodbyes to everyone and had a rest in the room before venturing out to the main square for dinner. I found a cab driver who spoke English and arranged for him to pick us up at 7AM tomorrow to go to a market out of town.
Dinner was great and on the way home we came upon a performance on the main stage with traditional dancing and singing.
These little girls were dressed up and dancing in the audience and we so precious and attracting quite an audience
A woman came and took her picture with Jane. A man came and sat very closely to me and had his wife and six year old daughter on his phone on FaceTime. He asked if I would talk to his daughter and wave etc.
It seems funny that we are taking pictures of them and they are taking pictures of us
Day 13, Sunday
Bac ha market
Ouch my thighs are yelling at me. good morning Vietnam!!!!
Our driver was here right on time and we started off on our two and a half hour journey to the mountain area where the Sunday market takes place. Very narrow winding roads with lots of busses trucks and motorcycles all taking over each other on blind hairpin corners. A few close calls were seen today.
All the vechicles are newer, great shape with no dents or scrapes. I am not sure where the old cars go, and you must have to fix any fender benders right away. It's nice That there are no trucks spewing black diesel smoke
We finally arrived in the small town and he let us off at a hotel on the Main Street and said we would meet again around two hours from now.
After a short walk we find ourselves in a busy market area with goods of every description. Locals come to barter and trade thier various produce, livestock, cooking utensils, and fabrics. The women of the Flower Hmong group are in very colourful and ornate dress and are both buying and selling goods. We arranged a cab at a fair expense in order to miss the throngs of tourists who come by tour bus. It seems it was a slow day because even when we were prepared to leave there were very few tourists and we would have been fine taking the tour after all.
We wandered about taking pictures, bought some fresh pineapple, some street food, sticky rice coloured purple by cooking it with a leaf, and then rolled into a ball and deep fried then covered with sesame seeds. We tried another purple rice dish too but the deep,fried food is quite greasy, you can't eat too much of it.
I bought a wall hanging and a bag. There we so many beautiful and colourful things, but I am already way over my limit.
It was time to meet our driver so we walked to where we thought we should go. We were all turned around and got lost. Arggg
It is getting hot out and we were not happy about having to turn around and retrace our steps. Where the heck did we start off?
We were completely stumped so asked a fellow if he could phone our cab driver for us. He did and spoke to him for a bit, then hung up and says " he says just go back to where he dropped you off"
Well yes captain obvious. We don't know where that is!!!
He pointed us in the right direction, we hope, and took off. We realize that we are in the area of the livestock market so took a few minutes to see all the chickens and water buffalo for sale.
After walking a bit we came to a crossroads! Which way!? We asked a fellow if we could borrow his phone to call our driver as we are lost again. We show him his card and he says " I know him, he is my brother from differnt family"
He says, "no he is right over there"
No, he told us to meet him at the hotel.
Sure enough there he is. This guy was in fact his uncle. What are the chances?
We made our way back to Sapa, dozing off on the way but the crazy roads made it a bit s a challange. The sceanery is beautiful with the bright green hills of terraced farm land.
The market was not quite what we expected but nice to see some other ethnic tribes.
Day 14, Monday may 8
Our trek was to Ma Tra and Ta Phin, two villages outside of Sapa. We were supposed to start at the hotel and upon closer reading figured we would be walking through the town of Sapa for the first 40 minutes. Not my idea of fun, dusty dirty busy streets walking on broken pavement and dodging motorbikes,
No. We will pay extra for a cab to take us to the trail head. Our guide is a 25 year old young woman , black H'mong and very sweet but does not have a great command of English. It was quite painful at times getting our questions answered and trying to start a conversation with her.
We had a completely different idea of what we were going to be doing. We started off on a concrete road that was " only used by motorbikes". (but did have cars and trucks as well )
Never ask someone who lives on a mountain side if the trail is flat or hilly. It is all subject to your own reference point. The other day was " small up and down hills "
Straight up a mountain side and then back down again
Today was flat. No hills. Ha!
It was pretty hilly walk for a flat hike. But to them this is flat. It was hot, 30 degrees but 97./. Humidity. There was a great breeze most of the time however, sometimes blowing our umbrellas inside out
A couple of other trekkers were in small groups. One Australian couple in their fifties passed us going the other way and he said
" what were we thinking?"
It did get better however. Our attitude changed, this is what it is, and the scenery got better We saw many people out working the land. Rice is only planted once s year and they stock pile it to last until the following year. They are planting a different kind of artichoke, not to eat, but to boil the leaves for heart medication.
Potatoes, corn, beans, and cabbage are all being tended. Some families are working with hand pushed rototillers and others are using water buffalo. Most are tilling by hand, baby's on backs
The first rest stop we were supposed to have lunch but we weren't hungry yet so kept going. Every time we stop we seize up so want to keep moving
When we reached the main area of Ta Phin the local Red Dau women were there to greet us, handicrafts in hand. We sat down to eat and were surrounded by grandmas with babies on their backs and mostly older women. The younger ones were probably working the fields
A decision was made this morning not to bring our wallets only a couple of Dong. We tried to explain this but they weren't buying it.
I said I would look after lunch, so they hung out with us for an hour or more. One of the woman spoke great English, which she learned from the tourists. She was a hoot.
I only had 70,000 dong but bought a very small zippered bag that is quite different from the others. Jane bought a small bag too.
I then asked her to dance with me, which was lost in translation, apparently this tribe does not dance. I gave a demonstration and two of them joined me and we had a hoot.
Our car came to bring us back to the hotel where the manager graciously gave us a room to shower in, brought us coffee and water while we waited for our bus to the train station. Hospitality here is exceptional. They just can't do enough for you.
Our transfer came at 5 to take us to the train station one hour away. We had to wait for four tardy people but were on our way at 530PM Our driver is a psycho maniac. The worse driver ever and sadistic as well. He would try to run motorbikes or pedestrians off the road and then laugh. He passed anyone in his path, hairpin corners were not an issue to consider. We had a few close calls with large trucks and busses almost hitting us, and we were on the cliff side of the road.
We are glad to be Alive! Longest one hour drive of our lives. It pays to sit in the back where you can't see anything,
Dinner before the train and then we board the ' Orient Express' which has seen better days but still very comfortable. Our private cabin had two twin beds and despite the dramatic rocking and rolling of the train all night we were able to,get some sleep. Arriving into Hanoi at 4:30AM the city is already alive and has been awake for quite a while by the looks of things.
Food sellers and markets are in full swing already.
A taxi deposited us to our Hanoi Guest House and we entered a dark quite lobby at 5AM. Two young men were sleeping on a mat on the floor in front of the reception desk. Waking from a very deep sleep one gives me our key and we head upstairs to grab s couple more hours of welcome sleep.
We had arranged at free walking tour with a student through the website. Ten emails later !!! And our guide Thanh met us in the lobby at 10AM. She was a very sweet 21 year old Econmics student in her third year of university. We discussed what to do and decided to hop into a van and go to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Her English was great and walking around she gave us so much history and information about Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. He was so revered by his people.
Unfortotunatly however, when he died in his late seventies, his wish was to be cremated and his ashes divided so as to be spread over the south, the north and the middle of Vietnam.
The government instead decided to instead embalm him and have his body on display in a glass case for his people to see him forever. I dont think he would be happy.
The park and grounds where his house was closed at 11AM so the guards were rushing us to get in there. His palace was built by the Chinese and was very grand, however he decided to live simlply, as his people where struggling, and had a very small and modest home built close by that he lived in.
There was a museum as well but we decided not to go there. Instead we walked to the Temple Of Literature Which was a school built in the year 1070
It is a temple of Confucius and built when Vietnam was under Chinese rule. It was quite beautiful.
A kindergarten class was having a graduation ceremony to first grade and outside a girls school was also having pictures taken for thier graduation ceremony.
A cab was called and we went to a resteruant by the lake that we had seen, and ordered 3 iced Cafe mochas which cost 300,000 or $16 which was outrageous but nice to have a relaxing moment by the lake. From there we walked back to our hotel and said goodbye to Thang. We were going to take her to lunch but she needed to go. Jane and I went back to Blue Butterfly for another delicious eggplant dish and some coconut water.
Later in the evening we wandered down the street to Red Bean resteraunt which was highly rated on trip advisor. We walked into what looked like a very fancy high end establishment, and were met by some young well dressed waiters. There were a few other people eating, dressed very well, but otherwise the place was not very busy.
They showed us to a booth at the back with high backs,
"You will be comfortable here "
Hiding us away at the back because we are not dressed well. The waiter came and talked to us for a bit and we thought he said
"And this is very expensive here "
But we realize he actually said " It is a great experience here"
Jane ordered a lycée martini and I a Triopical Breeze drink before dinner. Another young couple from California were seated in the booth next to us, and made comments about feeling like the mafia, being hidden away at the back out of sight.
We spent the next couple of hours having great conversation and laughing all night. I love meeting people when we travel, it makes it so interesting.
Well tomorrow morning we will be picked up at 7:45AM and start our two night cruise aboard a junk on Halong Bay.
I will post again in a week.
02.05.2017 34 °C
Day 4. Saigon to Hoi An
Our flight to Da Nang on Vietnam airlines was on time and only took an hour and a half. We arranged a pick up from our hotel for only $15 USD and ina half hour we were at our home for the next five nights, Nova Villa Hotel on the River. Our room is pleasant clean and the staff are wonderful.
After a rest in the room we wandered off down the road to visit the night market which had hundreds of stalls with a variety of goods for sale. It is all so tempting.
We saw this young couple getting some wedding pictures taken.
There are many lights and lanterns everywhere, it is so beautiful. We love Hoi An. It is a unesco heritage site with many old buildings and bridges. The ancient city, which is where we are staying, is very small and easily walkable. The skies opened so we ducked into a resteraunt for some dinner and by the time we were finished it stopped raining. The temperature is quite comfortable but it is very muggy
One shop was selling NorthFace items so jane bought a gortex jacket and i bought a day pack. The prices are insanley cheap.
Banana pancakes were enjoyed from this street seller
Day 5. Our hotel provided a wonderful breakfast with many choices. We chose fruit with yogurt and a pineapple pancake. The coffee was not that grest but then he brought us some condensed milk to put in it. It was like the macciatos I had in Ethiopia. Yummy
The day was spent walking around the old town popping into temples and stores. I wanted to get a jacket made so we went to BEBEs which is highly recommeded on trip advisor. I chose an electric blue silk blend and also a silk and cotten blend for a dress. I go back for my fitting tomorrow.
I also found a place to make me some custom made shoes which i will retun tomorrow for as well
The shopping is amazing. There are lots of young people here, university students on summer break. We met three young men from Toronto who are just starting thier careers and getting a few suits shirts and shoes made here The prices are so much better for the good quality fit and fabrics.
It was so crowded tonight, there were hundreds of tour busses and thousands of people here. It is not only the weekend but also a holiday, labor day, so the next couple of days will be insane apparently.
April 30, Saturday
Today was sunny and the best day in the forcast. We woke early and after breakfast rented a couple of bikes to go to the beach. The woman at the reception desk sugested we go to a different beach and gave us the instructions
Traffic here is much lighter than Saigon, but still kinda crazy. Its a dance. You just move with the traffic, dont stop just weave on and out.
Motorbikes, bicycles, trucks, busses, cars and people with wheelbarrows all going every which direction. We ended up on the highway in the heat and it was a litle scary.
The beach was much further away than we thought it was but we made it in one piece which was a miracle
After we parked the bikes we rented two loung chairs and a palapa for 100,000 dong, or $5.30. It is around 9AM and really hot out. The. vendors on the beach are covered head to toe and even have sweatshirts on. We enjoyed some fresh mango from this vendor
Jane and i walked up and down the beach to get some sun and exercise at the same time.
We didnt go swimming as there was quite a rip tide. I meant to get a picture of the lifeguard sitting in his chair right beside the "no swimming" sign.
There are a lot of these round fishing boats on the beach, the men are done for the day bit we did see one still out puling in his nets.
At noon we decided we had better start to head back. The road is much busier now and it is stinking hot out. We are not looking forward to this ride !
I see a van taxi pull up and suggest to Jane that we see if he can take us and the bikes back. He can ( of course). We are so relieved
He did not speak english and we tried to tell him where our hotel was but we didnt have a card with us and he did not know where it was. We drove around a while. He was not happy.
Finally we suggest we google it on his phone, he called the hotel and got directions. Then jane remembered she had a map and showed it to him
He did not hide the fact that he was more thn annoyed with us
We had to have him drop us at the hotel because we didnt have any money with us.
We stashed the bikes and headed straight for the pool which was pure heaven . The people at reception thought it was quite funny that we left on the bikes and came back in a cab
Jane is a bit red but i am burnt quite badly. I look like a canadian flag, all red and white.
We only walked down the beach for less than an hour first thing when we got there and then sat under the palapas.
We rode into the old town but ended up locking our bikes up after a bit as it was just too busy. So many busses full of day trippers, big vietnamese groups here for the holiday. I had an appointment for a fitting of my clothes so we walked to BeBes to be there by 3
My jacket is great but needs a few adjustments. Not wild about the dress but they will adjust a few things and hopefuly tomorrow i will be happier.
We stopped for a great late lunch or early dinner and the off to see about my shoes. Unfortunately they are not able to do them as my feet are too wide and the forms are already set or something. Very disapointing and she felt really bad for me.
The walk back had us popping into stores and buying a few articles of clothing. Tops for $13 made of a silk cotten blend in bright colors.
Now we are running really low on cash so the shop keeper told us to go to the ATM inside a tailor shop. Dangerous
I noticed that they also made shoes so i ordered a pair of custom made shoes again and hopefully i have better luck here. I come back tomorrow for my fitting.
We stoped at another beautiful temple on the way home. A lot of young children say "hello" to us. One young 10 year old bravely came up and started a conversation. He was practising his english and he parents were proudly standing behind with big smiles. We find that a few parents bring thier young , shy, children up to try to get them to tslk to us. They are all dressed in thier Sunday best clothes too.
Another dip in the pool to cool off before turning in for an early night
Its seem to always be happy hour on Vietnam. Beer is cheaper than water.
Hot hot hot
At 8AM it was already sweltering. We walked into old town with our umbrellas up which helped.
Jane wanted to have a jumpsuit made so we went back to Yalys. She did not find any material that she liked but I did. I ordered two blouses, one in a beautiful blue silk and another white one. Yikes!
Selfies. Everyone is a wana be model. All these young girls posing and getting pictures taken in front of nothing interesting. And selfie sticks everywhere. They must have thousands of pictures of themselves
Lots of people selling things on the streets. Women come up to us with thread and want to pluck our facial hair right here in the street.
We see lots of women carrying goods on poles and this one let us try it out. It weighed a ton. We bought some fruit from her.
Down the road we popped into another tailor, ( there are tailor shops every few feet) and she found the fabric she liked and will have a fitting tomorrow.
I went off to Bebes and had my second fitting. Jacket. is good , dress still needs some work but getting there.
We walked back and went straight for the pool to cool down. I slept for a bit and then back into town for my shoe fitting.
I love them! Finally a pair of cute shoes that are comfy. Blue swede ones. I ordered another pair of black leather. I am so happy.
After a late lunch or early dinner we went to a cultural show that had singing music and dancing. It was only 45 minutes and a bit hokey.
After we decided to take a boat trip around the town and it was okay
People sell paper boats with candles to bring you good luck and you put them in the water to float around. They look beautiful when there are quite a number in the water
We are just melting. The sun has set bet the humidity is very high. Jane wanted to pick something up at the night market so we walked through there but the crowds of people where overwhelming. She got what she wanted and we went home to cool off in our room.
I am not sure how it can be hotter but it is. My sunburn is subsiding which is great. We walked into town around 9AM and poked around some shops and alleyways. When you arrive in hoi an you need to buy a ticket to visit ancient town but it is good for the entire time you are here and only costs $5.00
This gives you entrance to 5 places to visit and we had two left so we chose an old Japanese house.
This woman was selling fans and let me take her photo. I just love her.
I went for my fitting at BeBes and am happy. They will send to the hotel for me.
I went for my fitting at the other place, Yally, and my second pair of shoes are ready. They are both a bit too long so they will fix them. My two blouses need a bit of a adjustment and i will come back again for final fitting at 4PM
We went back to the room and had an ice cold beer and some amazing spanish peanuts that are sold on the street. Perfect lunch for a sweltering hot day. Had a wonderful rest in the air-conditioned room until 3.
Another fitting for me, all is good, A few adjustments on my shoes and blouses and they will deliver to my hotel for me to night. In the fitting room the woman looked at me and i had a waterfall of sweat coming off my forehead. She loooked horified, thinking it would ruin the blouse, but then i guess she remembered it was my blouse after all .
A old house was on the way to dinner and we went in and looked around. It showed the water levels of the flooding that happens here on a semi regular basis. In 1964 the water was over 10feet inside the house. December 2016 it was 5 feet. It is amazing these wooden buildings are still standing.
Janes's jumpsuit was not ready yet so we walked to dinner at a place recommeded called Morning Glory. Amazing! Street food in a resteraunt. It was super crowded and hot but the best food so far.
We had to get to a water puppet show that was recommened and it looked far on the map,but we were assured it was close by,
"10 minute walking"
We asked a pedi cab driver how much to take us and he said 200,000 each (11$). We walked away thinking it was too much. 15minutes into our walk we are dying and dont seem to be getting any closer. Everyone says it is a differnt direction. That 200,000 seems like a good deal right about now.
After 10 more minutes we hail a cab and arrive late for the performance which is already in progress.
We watched for around 1/2 hour until it was over. It was cute. Not worth all that effort to get there Though.
Trying to hail a cab back was a challange but finally one stopped. It was our guy who took us with our bikes from the beach. He looked at us and laughed and kind of went " oh no, not you two broads again!" At least we had a card with the address this time.
He took us close to where we had to be , the streets are pedestrian and bikes only, and Jane had her fitting. It needed a few more tweeks and will be sent to the hotel in an hour.
On our walk back to our hotel we see so many bride and grooms getting photos done, as we did all day. This is a very popular place for photos.
A swim int the pool was welcomed but we needed to put some ice in it, it wasnt cold enough. The air conditioned room was fantastic.
We did some packing for our flight to Hanoi in the early morning. It was hard to get my suitcase closed but i did it.