Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cat Ong Beach Resort

As part of the trip we got to spend a night on a private island in beach bungalows. The other option is in a hotel on Cat Ba Island, the largest. I was very glad to not be there and be in this peaceful tiny place with only 11 people and with phenomenal food! Listened to the waves all night. They have a crazy dog that loves rocks! Once you threw it for her you were hounded to play more. Met some a great Australian couple on this trip.

Floating Villages

There are people that live on floating villages in Ha Long Bay. Only 1 of the 3000 islands is inhabited, the rest live in these villages. These may be the source of most of the garbage as they don't get a regular garbage service.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Another Unesco Heritage site. Amazing geographical formations, which no one really seems to know how. The pictures don't nearly do it justice. Unfortunately the water is quite polluted with plastic bags and garbage. Got to do some kayaking which was great. There are tons of boats on Halong Bay and luckily I went with a boat that is able to avoid the crowds. So there were only 7 of us kayaking. I have talked with others you said they were surrounded by hundreds of people.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Finally I have arrived at Hanoi. The great trek northward is over. Two overnight buses and 4 cities in 3 days! I really like Hanoi, it is a city and doesn't appear as touristy as the cities I have been in previously. Seems a little more 'real'. I met up with John and Eliza here for some bia hoi (street draft beer, only about 30 cents) and some great food. I might meet up with them in Laos as well. Just a bunch of wandering around and taking in the sights.

Hue, Vietnam

Like Na Tram, I was just in Hue only a couple of hours during a bus transfer. I visited the forbidden city in the imperial palace. Much of it was destroyed by US bombs during the Vietnam war. They are slowly working on trying to rebuild it. You can really see the Chinese influence. I didn't get the best feel for Hue, I didn't really like it but I was only there such a short time. I have met a bunch of people that seem to love it there.

China Beach

Pretty beautiful beach. The water was much cooler than in the south which was nice. I just visited for two hours or so. Had my obligatory swim in the S. China Sea. The weather wasn't beautiful but still nice enough to lay around and read a book.

My Son Ruins

We passed a bunch of school children getting out of school on the way to My Son. They can either go to morning school or afternoon school to allow enough time to help with the family business. At My Son we hiked out a bit and it really felt like we were in the middle of the jungle. Amazing! Including butterflies, and misc. bugs that we saw, there were tons of tunnel spiders around the ruins. Amazing webs.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a World Heritage Unesco site, an old french colony. Many people go to Hoi An to have clothes made. The town was alright, I was expecting a bit more, but the food was amazing! I met an Australian guy who told me about some ruins close by. We took some motorbikes through the rice patties to get there. Definitely not as impressive as Angkor but great to get out in the middle of nowhere for a while. Hoi An is also at the southern edge of China beach which runs up to Danang. There are loads of resorts being built along the beach, it's amazing.

Na Tram, Vietnam

I have been very surprised how developed and 'luxurious' Vietnam is (compared to Cambodia). Na Tram had a Miami Beach resort town feeling. I only had a couple of hours there waiting for a bus transfer but saw the beach and some of the town and went to the Mud Baths. I went in the communal bath and you sit in a tub of mud for about a half hour, then there is a mineral shower, then a hot bath, then you go to the pool which was at 38 degrees C. Crazy hot! It was pretty fun and ended up joining a group of guys who were vacationing from work. I think they worked on a boat from what I understood, which would have been fitting. Pretty funny guys and a bit perverted too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dalat, the Central Highlands

So away from the hot sweaty beaches and into the highlands, where it is cool and you aren't sweating buckets. An amazing drive up into Dalat, mountainous jungles and winding roads. I took a motorbike tour of the country side. This area used to be a bunch of hillside villages but they grow coffee here and since the price of coffee has sky rocketed, everyone is wealthy and has villages. We saw a waterfall, silk worm factory, and some agricultural sights.
This is also the southern part of the Hoh Chi Minh trail, so a bit of war history here. It is also home of the 'Crazy House', a house that looks like it is out of Alice and Wonderland. Pretty cool, but my photos don't really capture it that well.

Mui Ne, Vietnam

Left the hectic city and went off with Cherylle to the sleepy fishing beach side village of Mui Ne. Nice to relax and slow down for a day or two. The place was beautiful and had some awesome sand dunes nearby. Cherylle had meant a Hungarian guy named Georgie (?) who had been in Mui Ne for awhile learning to kite surf. He had a motorbike and took us around the sites. Funny story, we didn't want to pay the parking fee at the sand dunes so we parked outside the gate and walked in. When we went back at dusk, the bike's fuel tank had been drained and the bike wouldn't start. Knowing it was the parking guy, we got some help of some young Vietnamese guys who ran the food shacks at the dunes to teach us how to drain a tank. We "gained entry" into the parking guy's shack and got some fuel and replaced a helmet that was missing as well. The young guys helped us put our fuel system back together. All in all, pretty fun and educational!

And now Vietnam

Going to have a quick trip through Vietnam. Only one night here in Saigon and then try to spend more time in places where I think I should. I met a British lady on the bus who has been teaching English in a village in Cambodia on the bus. We had similar quick trip plans. We went to the War memorial museum. Pretty depressing as you can imagine. It was shocking how bad the Americans were in that war, massacres, raping, etc. On a brighter side, a man having breakfast in the morning. And the post office, with a portrait of Ho Chi Menh in the background.

Still haven't left Phnom Penh

So I am having some trouble leaving Cambodia. I really like it. Nice and laid back. So here are a couple more photos. Some of the old French colonial houses that were abandoned. Some dried fish that I thought actually looked quite beautiful. Finally, the family whose outdoor food stall I ate, really delicious!

Phnom Penh, Royal Palace

The royal palace in Cambodia. I have to admit not as phenomenal as The royal palace in Thailand but pretty cool. A nice place to relax in the gardens. The royal family still lives on the grounds and uses these areas for official ceremonies.
There were some people playing some traditional Cambodian music. The brass drum style drums are really cool.