Monday, 19 May 2008

Nha Trang

Yet another bus through Vietnam, this time to the coastal town of Nha Trang. I met a couple of Irish girls on the bus, and upon arriving the next day at silly-o'clock, we found a hotel, aptly named Good Hotel, that was in fact very good! Here, we got a huge room on the top floor (four flights of stairs..), with a TV, three double beds, air-conditioner, fans, en-suite, fridge and a balcony, for £5. That's £5 for the whole room, so £1.33 each! Oh, and that included a nice view of the beach with bright blue skies and sun beaming down all day. Can't go far wrong there!

We found food, including a strange outdoor restaurant that just existed on a large patio next to the road; we couldn't see any building that it was near to, yet food appeared regardless. The food was good (veggie burger and chips for about a pound), the weather better, and straight after we trundled into the sea for some much-needed splashing around. From Nha Trang, there's an island opposite with 'Vinpearl' in big white letters emblazoned on the side of it, as well as a cable cable connecting the two in the distance. So of course, we wanted to take the cable car and did so! It cost us 50p each to get a few miles up the road on the back of three motorbike taxis (since there were three of us), from there we took the cable car and found out that for our £8, we also get access to a amusement and water park! Fantastic. We spent a good three hours there, in this deserted place with no more than ten other people there, and had a great time. It's not too big to get lost in, but big enough not to have tried everything. Some of the water slides were too high for my tastes, I did manage to take on three of them, but then it got a little silly, as if people could fall off the sides due to how fast they were coming down! Of course, the two girls went up and did the tallest one, much to my dismay. But it made for a good video on my camera, one which I'll get online as soon as I can.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

A Message For Home

My blog is usually reserved for my travels, but what must be my oldest reader turned 86 yesterday (10th May). So cheers to Granddad Eddie! Being away from home means sending cards isn't simple, as in Singapore and Malaysia I couldn't find any birthday ones to send home, so I hope this makes up for it in someway. Congratulations, and here's to another.

Love Adam.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

A Short Trip To Hoi An And Beyond

Having had a day in Hue, I got on the 8am bus to Hoi An and relaxed for the journey ahead. Thankfully, it wasn't a long one, it involved one stop (on a beach, finally!) to dip my feet in the water and take in the sun a bit. The weather was sweltering, in a good way, and had me grinning ear-to-ear with how much of an improvement it was on Hanoi. When I arrived in Hoi An, it was very much the same, heat shooting down from the sky, blue oceans above, and a long walk to find accommodation for the night, when we really should have taken the hotel we were dropped off at by the bus. Such is my reluctance and stubbornness that I refuse to go to the first place I find or one that I feel the driver or bus organiser may earn commission from.

Upon finding a hotel an hour later, exploration was on the cards! It's a vaguely quiet town, with lots of tailors for any clothes you may want (completely custom-made and fitted, of course) and plenty of restaurants should you feel the need to eat at a different place every meal, as I do. I mean, what's the point in visiting the same place again and again when you could be trying food from many different places? Unless that one place is very good or very cheap.

Myself and Emma met up with this girl Katie (from the US) she met in Hue in a bar, played a few games of pool and generally relaxed for the rest of the day until getting food over-looking the main square, where at night, it turns into a Vietnamese music platform for people to show their talents. It was just the right side of warm and couldn't have finished the day off any better.

I found out the next day that there's a beach nearby and should cost no more than 15,000 Dong to get there, in the region of 50p. But, if you're white, you get a different price - this involves you having to barter down closer to the local price - so I did that, coupled with some walking away when the motorbike taxi guys wouldn't budge from 30,000 Dong. After doing this with two of the bikers, one said 'okay okay! 15,000 is fine, let's go!' at last, and off we went. This was my first time on the back of a bike that isn't my father's - which I've only been on twice myself - and had me worrying slightly, due to the sheer quantity of potholes littering the road. Thankfully, I reached the beach unscathed, and can fully endorse the motorbike taxis as a cheap way to get from A to B. I didn't get into the sea, because I only had my normal clothes on me, but the beach itself was nice, although strange when you look at the people around you, as the Vietnamese don't bother with getting swimming trunks, shorts or anything like that, they go into the sea fully clothed. Much of this is to do with their skin colour, as unlike the west, where it's favourable and more attractive to look tanned, many Asian countries have the belief that looking as white as possible is more attractive, so you look more like a white person. This extends to suntan lotion, which you must be careful about due to some brands putting whitening in them, much like toothpaste! So instead of regulating the sun, you'll end up blocking it out and becoming whiter by the second!

The food on the beach-front at the many shack-like restaurants was decent, and I think it was here that I decided to become vegetarian, if only because some of the meat can seem a little dubious, but also to stop my belly getting any bigger than it already is. Their premium for having food on the beach wasn't too high, and certainly was appreciated where the town of Hoi An was about 5km back the other way.

Later on, I headed back, showered off and booked myself a night-bus for Nha Trang, despite my deep contempt for them due to the lack of sleep I have to endure on them.

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Rest Of Vietnam

Having stayed in Hanoi for prehaps longer than I should have done, I woke up and found that everyone I'd be talking to and going around with had left for tours to Sapa and buses down to other places in Vietnam, so wandering around, I booked a bus for the next day to Hue, a nice twelve hour sleeper bus which arrived the day after in the morning. These don't cost too much, you can browse the tour offices and get them for roughly $10 - $15 for a twelve to fifteen hour bus (depending on the driver/bus), with 'beds' on the bus. These 'beds' (as I'm sure I've mentioned in a previous post) aren't particularly comfortable, I can barely sleep on them and usually don't for most of the trip because I sleep on my right hand side, manouvering in the tight space you have isn't easy unless you're happy to sleep on your back.

The rest of my day (and the following one before my bus journey) in Hanoi was taken up with eating and walking the streets with my new found American travel partner, Danny, I'm not sure I could have taken much more of his company because everything in the world was a CIA or MI:5 conspiracy, from JFK to the 7/7 bombings, to the price of oil across the world. Plus he's a psychic and has websites he visits that tell the future. I have a hard time believing in the idea of any form of god so this tested my tongue somewhat, attempting to hold it back under his stories of training his psychic abilities under the watchful gaze of an Indian American in the wilderness. Fair enough to him, I guess, it at least sounds fun.

The next day in the evening, I got on the bus, dashed to the back and took up residence on the bottom bunks where five were lined up, meaning I could make use of more than one bed, whereas the rest of them in the aisles you could only sleep in one bed (because there's a metre-gap between them), these are all bunched together and made for a better resting spot. A German guy joined me and discussed a band we're both fans of (Oceansize), and found we may have gone to the same gig a few years ago, despite the band being tiny, a small world indeed! Arriving in Hue, the heat blistering upon us, it took quite a while to find a place to stay, and looking around as we tried to find one, it was clear there's not too much to do there aside from the Reunification Palace, a huge ground with temples and various museum-type pieces to see – half decimated from American bombing though, adding to the history of the place.

I headed for the palace later on after showering and napping, took a while to walk around and attempted a jog because exercise in Asia just isn't possible, whether it's because of the heat or because the only place to run is on busy roads with pollution filling your lungs. After seeing my fair share of temples in the palace (pictures below), I started to head back an saw something slithering across the floor quickly.. my first wild snake! Too quick, it was – it darted fast into the drain and out of sight.. leaving me a little bewildered and surprised there was no one else around to see it. After that, I bumped into a girl I met on the bus from Essex, which is always handy when you're on your own with not much else planned – we headed back to the area where the accommodation is built-up in, and found a bar recommended to me by the Danish girls in Hanoi. This concludes Hue, we stayed there from early afternoon for many hours until midnight, eating food (including banana pancakes with chocolate, which considering the frequency of that 'dish' in Vietnam, must be something of a national food!) and drinking beer. Certainly not a bad way to spend a sun-soaked day in a vaguely quiet town with friendly company. Thanks to the inspiration of Emma from Essex, we both booked a bus for the next day to the next main town on the route, Hoi An. Thankfully the journey was a five or six hour affair starting at 8am, rather than a bus twice that length that I'd get no sleep on.