Friday, 30 September 2011

Last blog from Vietnam

I'm on a public computer in Saigon airport and I fly shortly and I still have a banh mi in my bag to consume before I get on the plane, so this is going to be a short post, maybe I shall post again to update you all on the ridiculous further adventures of Ellen and Violet, but most likely I will not, so this will be my last post about my adventures in Vietman.

Leaving Tra Vinh was much harder than I had originally anticipated, I met some really fantastic people and got to spend some quality time with one of my favourite people, and basically I was just starting to settle into life in the Mekong Delta. I can't even begin to explain how welcome everyone at TVU made me feel, from Violet, to her friends, to the interns, to the staff and even the students, but I have to admit that it made this little stoic British kid have emotions.

Last night Violet threw me one of the most adorable leaving parties I have ever had, we had fantastical pan-Asian food and friends and beer and cocktails garnished with star fruit. The staff came by to check up on one of the Canadian interns who was feeling pretty unwell and stayed to eat some food, and chat for a while. Just as they were leaving, two of Violet's students arrived. They brought me the most beautiful cake I can ever remember having been given in my life and an adorable hand-stitched purse and a little basket of fake flowers.

I was about a whisker away from incontrolable, insonsolable sobbing. It was kidn of the most amazing thing that has ever happened, and pretty much indicative of my entire time in the Mekong Delta. I'm actually getting a little misty standing here in Saigon International thinking about it.

Right now, more than anything, I want to stay in Vietnam. Failing that, I am going to come back to visit again. I feel like my Vietnam adventures aren't over.

Monday, 26 September 2011

What the ...

This week has been one of those weeks where I have to periodically pinch myself to check I'm not dreaming. I have; cycled to a market with a Violet on the back of my bike, eaten at a pagoda, bycicled to a ferry, played with small children, worked through my entire repetoire of camp games, gone to a bingo hall where lady boys sing the numbers at you, climbed onto a roof while fairly inibriated on lime-flavoured rum and miranda soda, climbed onto a roof while even more enibriated on rice vodka and coke, sung jingle bells at a karaoke bar, also Sweet Caroline and Hotel California, had dinner at a random student's house, biked all the way to said random student's house with a Violet on the back in 700 degree heat, picked fruit out of trees in someone's back yard using a fruit picker, found presentation topics for half a class of students who spoke little/no english, been told I am beautiful more times than is healthy for my ego, sustained more bruises and cuts than is possible to count, eaten at least 8000 different noodle dishes, regularly sung and/or danced with scant regard to my dignity in front of various groups of students, added coffee with condensed milk to my list of main food groups, taken mainly showers so cold they made my toes curl and then finally one warm shower which made me happier than is normal, been force fed wine by a student's father, taught people how to do the macarena, the hand jive, the Las Ketchup dance and the box step, eaten fruits I don't even know the name of, some of which dipped in salt and chilli flakes, danced around Violet's flat with Violet in our underwear because it's too hot for clothes, scandalised Tra Vinh with shorts that barely cover my knee caps, worn pants and a sweater in the blistering heat for modesty's sake, been greeted/stared at/touched purely because I am white,

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Adventures into domesticity

Lets face it, I would make a terrible house wife. But this is the role I have fallen into in Tra Vinh.  Violet hasto go to work sometimes, and leaves me to pootle in her flat while she is gone. Then I feel bad, so I do things like tidy. Violet gets back from class at around 5 and I do not have supper on the table, but she puts  up with me anyway. I have become a kept woman.

In keeping with this domestic theme, yesterday it became clear from the lines of ants marching around the flat that something had to be done about the floor. So we broke out the scrubbing brush and dish cloth and got our cinderella on. Now the floor is pristine, the ants have been banished and life is shiney.

Other than the more domestic adventures I have been having real Experiences. For example the other day one of Violet's friends who is an ex-monk took us for lunch at the Pagoda where he used to live. It was kind of the most insane, most fantastic thing that has happened in Vietnam.

Talking of food, I have been massively upsetting my stomach by exposing it to all sorts of magical and mysterious food types, I must ask Violet to write down all the different things I have eaten, because I have trouble with the Vietnamese, but I've had crepes with shrimp in, soup with vaguely meaty things in, fish, rice, many many noodles, various things wrapped in rice paper and so on. However, the cherry on the odd foods cake came yesterday when Violet's students took us out for dinner. They ordered what looked like regular duck eggs, but turned out to be tiny perfectly formed ducks, and then watched as we tried to eat them, Violet is amazing and pretty much finished hers, I'm ashamed to say I failed spectacularly and did not eat any. But in my defence it had a beak.

Previous to the disasterous duck egg incident, we played games with Violet's students at the square pond with water in which I was told about with much gusto before I came. It's kind of hard to remember that the students are the same age as me, because they love to play duck duck goose and sing songs to eachother. It is kind of adorable.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I only went and made it!

I got all the way to Tra Vinh y'all. It's crazy. Everything is very very yellow. Everyone stares at me because I am white, and I do not have appropriate clothing so am very naked by Tra Vinh standards. I have been wearing my jens and a sweater. I am writing this on my favourite giant purple dell. Although it has a new battery so it's a little less exciting than during finals last semester.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

So before I came I decided I should ventue out into Saigon, in order to play it safe I decided to go to the Fine Art Museum. This turned out to be a Good Move. It's in a a really beautiful old 20th Century colonial style building, and it has some really interesting communist type arts in.

On my way back to my Guest House, I decided I would require a phrase book if I was going to make it in the bus.

Then I decided I should buy some gifts, since I have been well brought up like that. This proved difficult. What does one bring to a friend who is living in the middle of nowhere when one goes to stay with them for a week? I found a mini-mart style shop and tried to find some suitible gifts. I started with coffee, and added a filter just in case. I figured I might wat to cook dinner sometime, so I added two pot noodles to the pile. I thought wine, but it was kinda expensive, then I thought rice wine, but I remember last time I drank rice wine much too well, finally I settled on rice vodka. Also a tin of Spam.

I got the taped together Xe Om to the station, this wasn't really the plan, but he was lurking outsie the door, so I didn't have much choice. We made it to to the station fairly safely, from where I was hustled into a minivan which was to be my bus to Tra Vinh. I had to sit in the front because I didn't fit in the back. My neighbour chainsmoked all the way to Tra Vinh. He also had a little plastic bag so he could continue to spit despite the fact he was in the bus. He was very nice though, and kept trying to offer me his dog meat sandwich. I declined.

I used my new phrasebook to look up "is this the bus to Tra Vinh" which I used regularly, and also "I do not speak Vietnamese". This just prompted my companions in the bus to just yell at me louder.

Soon enough I made it to Tra Vinh, from he bus station I got another Xe Om to Violet's eye-ache inducingly yellow university. Since I have been here I have been taken to eat all kinds of exciting foods while seated on teeny tiny plastic chairs. Also, we have been on an adventure around the rice fields, and crossed the least stable bridge I have seen since Nepal. I have also met some of Violet's lovely Tra Vinh friends, and also sat in on an English class on Danger and Daring, or something along these lines, in any case we played Truth or Dare, and I got to learn dancing.

Other than watching Mr Bean, Eat, Pray, Love, Game of Thrones and way too much MTVAsia, screaming in Violet's face in the night, and zooming around Tra Vinh on the back of a scooter, this is all I have done since I last blogged. So I'm going to have a nap, and wait for Violet to get off work.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

And thus the misadventures begin.

It all started well. I woke up late this morning, showered, ate a couple of teeny weeny bananas for breakfast, read some, and then I decided it was time to face the world and attempt to buy a bus ticket. And so I sallied forth, blithely unaware of the misadventures which would befall me.

I should have aborted my mission when I was informed that the guy who works in the hostel who speaks some form of English was away for the day and wouldn't be back until 5, but I was confident in my ability to get a bus ticket so I pressed on. The lady who had been left in charge did not speak English, so I tried my handy dandy piece of paper that my tour guide had given me, sadly she could either not read, or had trouble with the hand writing. But I was undeterred, I have not been playing charades every Christmas for nothing. Charades for "I need to go to the bus station so I can buy a ticket to get to Tra Vinh on Wednesday, and then I need to come back" is not the easiest one but I won out.

I should have given up when my potential Xe Om driver showed up dressed only in boxer shorts, but I waited for him to put on a shirt, then I saw his vehicle, it was held together with tape, I really should have given up at this point, but I was filled with blind optimism following my successful game of charades, and I had an unfounded good feeling about the day, so I set off regardless.

It was all going quite well until I got to the bus station, the Xe Om guy was singing to me, and the sun was shining, life was rosy. When I got to the station it all started to go drastically down hill. First of all it became patently obvious that no one spoke English, second of all everyone was shouting at me. It was a little a lot terrifying. So I decided to call Violet for a pep talk and advice. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I was carrying out the conversation entirely in English, my Xe Om driver decided that the person on the other end of the phone was clearly a Vietnamese individual who would be able to explain the crazy white girl who he had driven half way across town. So clearly the only thing to do was to take my phone and start talking to poor old Violet. Sadly, when she did not live up to his expectations he started shouting at her too.

After some more careful charades, I managed to ascertain that the bus to Tra Vinh on Wednesday leaves at 6am, and that I would not be able to buy a ticket until the day itself.

Thankful that the ordeal was over, I climbed back on the Xe Om ready to be taken home. The bike had other ideas, a large part fell off, and I fell of with it. Most of the bus station laughed at me. I got back up, and the driver picked up the portion that had fallen off and drove me to the repair shop. Thus my charades for "if you decide to take 150lbs of white girl on your motorbike and it breaks, this white girl is not going to pay for the damages" started. I'm not sure he really understood, but he got the picture.

I wound up paying 150,000 Vietnamese dong, which is about $7 or a fiver or so, for the whole horrible venture. The driver promised to take me to the station on Wednesday morning. I am going to try to figure out how to get a taxi.

All alone again...

And then there was one. Last night was the last with the whole group we went for dinner and then went out for some drinks, although we lost most of the group quite quickly. Today the mexicans left first thing in the morning and the rest of the girls at about 5 and I have been in my new hostel room since, and am about to set out in search of dinner and am considering an early night. It's very strange to be by myself having been around the others every waking hour, and most of the sleeping ones too, but not altogether unpleasant so far.

It's strange to think I'll be staying here until Wednesday; it's the longest I've been in one place since I left England. I have made my way from Hanoi to Saigon using every single mode of transport imaginable; car, bus, train, plane. I have been in a horse and cart, a dozen different kinds of boat, on a bike, a peddaled carriage, a motorbike. Literally everything. It has taken us 15 days, and I have seen and learnt so much. It has been amazing.

Honestly my plan for the next couple of days is to sleep, eat and write postcards. Although I do hope to make it to the women's museum eventually, and perhaps excursion to the botanical gardens if I have time and the weather is ok.

My only other mission is to go to the bus station to buy my ticket. Sadly the bus station seems to be on the other side of the known universe; it's not even on my map, the guy in my hostel has promised one of his friends with a motorbike will take me there, but I have a horrible feeling I'm about to get swindled, but there's nothing for it, since I do actually want to get to Tra Vinh eventually, and I guess the first trip will be a good fact finding mission for when I have to go back with my entire bag.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mekong Delta - Take 1

I have just spent 24 hours in the Mekong Delta, a brief taster or the week I will spend in Tra Vinh with Violet, starting on Wednesday. On this short trip I believe I consumed every single incarnation of coconut under the sun. My mother would have been horrified (she hates coconut). We had coconut candy, fish in coconut sauce, coconut water, dried coconut, fresh coconut, coconut wine. The only thing missing was the Malibu. We also stayed in a coconut plantation, swung in hammocks in the shade of coconut palms, tried to shimmy up coconut trees, were rowed around in coconut wood boats, walked by piles and piles of coconuts, took pictures of growing coconuts, cycled around coconut farms, watched coconut shells float by us in the river and narrowly avoided getting hit on the head by falling coconuts. In short, my first impression of the area around Violet's new home is coconutty.

In other news, I am preparing to leave the safety of the group tour and make forages into solo tourism. I feel mighty intrepid and adventurous and independent. Also a teeny tiny bit petrified. I have already booked a hostel for me to stay in for the next couple of days before I start my trip down to Tra Vinh, although I have to admit that I chickened out of the slightly cheaper shared dorm in favour of my own room. It only made a couple of dollars difference per night and I'm a wimp. I will be in Saigon until Wednesday and then I'm catching a local bus to Tra Vinh, because I'm adventurous like that, and also because there is no tourist bus because, despite the Lonely Planet's enthusiasm, no one wants to go to Tra Vinh. My tour guide is going to help me buy the ticket, because my Vietnamese hasn't really progressed beyond, hello, thank you, cheers, I am very tired and counting to three. And in all honesty no one seems to understand me when I say these things. And that's all folks!

War Remnants Museum

The first thing we did the first day we arrived in Saigon was a trip to the War Remnants Museum. Well, actually, this isn't strictly true, the very first thing we did was check into the hotel, which, by the way, is the fanciest of fancy hotels and has a gold and cream colour scheme, and then we went for lunch at the same place Clinton lunched when he came to visit Saigon. But after these things the very first thing we did was to visit the War Remnants Museum.

I am going to stop being jokey now, because this was a fairly serious and sombre event, and prompted the deepest conversations the group has had since starting the trip, also the first group tears. Thus I invite you, blog reader, into the world of serious blogging, here I will make a brief sojourn.

The museum is right in the centre of Saigon, and we had to pay to enter, and it was honestly one of the most chilling museums I have ever been to, it was right up there with the Red Cross Museum in Geneva. It focused mainly on the anti-war movement around the world, the war crimes committed against Vietnam during the war, and the continuing effects of Agent Orange.

This last was the most upsetting as there were pictures of young children and unborn babies with various birth defects becaus of the chemicals used by the American Army. It struck me that although I had learnt about the effects of Agent Orange during GCSE History, and I had seen many of the photographs before, I was more shocked by them than I had been in the past. I'm not sure whether it was due to being actually in the country where it had occured, or being older, or a combination of the two, but the horror of the Vietnam War hadn't really affected me in the same way before. What I also hadn't considered seriously before was the lingering effects of war on the Vietnamese people.

Over dinner the girls and I discussed how perhaps the reason why the Vietnam war didn't seem so real to us before was because in our own way, less seriously, less dramatically, less painfully, less physically, but still in a real way to us, we were ourselves the third generation affected by our own war. We discussed to what extent the war was talked about at home, and in what ways it had impacted the lives of our grand-parents, parents and by association us. It was really interesting to hear everyone's stories and to think about the potential links between us, and the third generation affected by Agent Orange. It makes me think though, to what extent will my children be affected by the ghosts of war, and how many generations will it take Vietnam to recover from the atrocities committed within its borders.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


I'm going to give you fair warning right now, this is going to be a post all about my feet. If you are uninterested in my feet, or share my dislike for feet in general, please feel free to disregard this post entirely.

And so onward to the post itself. My feet have been more than a little bit gross since my horrific frisbee accident this winter, however, just over a week in flip flops in Asia really hasn't helped the situation at all. In short I have 9 nails, two of which are pretty broken, the remaining nail I have nicknamed Mr Stumpy, because he is very very stumpy, although he is working very hard on growing and being healthy.

Today I decided enough was enough, and I sallied forth into Hoi An and got myself a pedicure. Now I am not normally in the habit of getting pedicures, in fact, I am not normally in the habit of letting people touch my feet with a barge pole, but today I made an exception.

To give the girl credit she did take my gross gross feet with exceptional grace, and she has fixed them up a treat. She has hidden Mr Stumpy away behind a fake nail, she has hidden the other nails away behind a generous coat of silver nail varnish, and she has generally cleaned my whole toe area. It's fantastic, from a distance it looks almost as though I have 10 healthy toe nails. This might be an experiment worth repeating.


You guys, I was just checking out my stats page, looking at who's reading me, because I have a healthy ego like that, and my loyal reader from Argentina has swung by again. Now I can figure out roughly who is reading me in Switzerland, Germany, France, and Holland, I know I know people in the US and UK, but dear Argeninian reader, who are you? I am so curious it's making me crazy. Please come forward and tell me who you are and I will give you a prize of your choosing. Perhaps even a postcard.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Rain rain go away

One thing I can say for Vietnam is that it sure does know how to rain. And it seems to know when to do so to be least convenient. Our sleeping under the stars in Halong Bay got rained off, as did the sunrise outing the following morning, rain struck again yesterday just in time for our cycle tour and BBQ on the sand dunes at sunset. Brilliant. I actually cannot remember the last time I was so thoroughly soaked. It was horrific. We ended up having the BBQ inside, and didn't see the sunset at all. Still the food was very nice even if we were a little damp at the time of eating it. And there was cheap beer, so you can hardly complain.

Last night since we were damp and chilly, and one of the girls has a nasty coldy thing, we decided to have a night in, and watch some Vietnamese TV. Which, can I point out, is brilliant! We watched Miss Universe with annoying Vietnamese commentary and the some male catwalk show, some cartoons and Chinese MTV, snuggled up in bed with cookies and water and all the viroids. It was a good evening.

Many, many shopping adventures have happened in Hoi An, and I can safely say I have spent too much money, and have probably been swindled more than once, but I did get some clothes specially tailored for me, while the tailor laughed at my thigh bruise, and I bought some very inexpensive t-shirts advertising beer. We've also been at the standard tourist shopping, and I have a couple of souveniers already and am collecting a some bits and bobs for myself, although I'm saving the big shop for when I get to Saigon towards the end of my trip.

The hotel we are staying at has a pool and a beauty parlour and we are very much taking advantage of this because it is at least 800 thousand degrees out and very muggy and we are all dying hot sweaty deaths, it is far too hot to move during the day, but luckily everything seems to stay open until late at night, so it's not too much of a problem.


Every single place we have been to so far, I have shown up and been all, this is my favourite so far, Sapa with it's amazing rice terraces, and inordinately friendly peole, Halong Bay with it's beautiful coastal waters, Hue, with it's history and hilarious night life. But Hoi An is something else. Granted it had an unfair advantage in that we got here on the night of the autumn full moon festival, when there were hoards of adorable children running around dressed up and carrying lanterns. When the river was full not only of beautiful old boats, but hundreds of floating candles in coloured paper shells. When the air was filled with incense, and smoke, and music, and laughter. When every single branch of every single tree was hung with brightly coloured lanterns. When everyone was out on the streets having a good time. I know I'm delving into the murkey world of written cliche, but Hoi An is one giant oriental cliché, and I love it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

What up Hue.

We spent just over 24 hours in Hue, making it one of the most ram packed days of the trip. We got off our 13(!) hour sleeper train not so very refreshed, and went straight for breakfast before hopping onto the back of a pack of Xe Om (the Vietnamese name for motorbike taxis) and speeding off on our adventures around Hue.

It is worth pointing out before I go further the adventures I had actually getting on the Xe Om in the first place. I have managed to acquire one of my many inconvenient injuries, sustained in un-dramatic ways, this time a freak swimming accident resulted in a bruise approximately the size and a shape if the short end of a brick on the inside of my thigh. Which wouldn't really be an issue if it hadn't been for the fact that I had to get on a motorbike. However, I was a woman with a plan; I had seen Violet ride Xe Om side saddle in Hanoi, and figured this would be the perfect way to get around the bruise issue. All I needed to do was convince my driver of the genius of my idea He didn't seem convinced at first but I figured it was because he hadn't understood the term bruise, so I showed him. This seemed to do the trick, although it may have been because he was so shocked at seeing a woman's inner thigh that he didn't really know what to do. And so we set on our merry way.

While gladding about on our motorbikes I made the world's fattest stick of incense, visited an orphanage, watched a conical hat being made and other such typical touristy type activities, however the best by far was the agricultural museum where I made friends with the oldest lady I have ever met. She was tiny, dressed entirely in purple and had about two teeth, she was also brilliant. Her job seemed to be to demonstrate all the farming equipment in the museum, which she did with much gusto and sound effects. She took a shining to me when she was showing is how to plough a field for rice, while demonstrating the buffalo whip she decided that the whole thing would be more realistic if she whipped something that more closely resembled a buffalo. Apparently I was that something.

After this I was included in all her demonstrations, including how to water a rice field, how to catch a fish in a rice field, and finally how to chew erica beans (in case you're wondering the correct answer to this last one is don't if you can possibly avoid it.) then she figured out we had matching green Vietnamese bangles, mine being a gift from Violet on my first day, and this cemented our friendship for ever in her mind. She even had me sit next to her on her tiny tiny wicker sofa, which by rights shouldn't have been large enough to hold a baby.

In the evening we took part in the most ridiculously touristy activity in which I have ever indulged. We dressed up as members of the royal court in Hue from around the turn of the century, and ate a special royal banquet while being serenaded by special royal music. In case you were wondering about the ridiculousness of this; there were hats, one of them had a pom pom on.

We finished the most absurd day in the history of absurd days in a club called Brown Eyes, which promised on the fliers to be "strongly in bed". In fact, I spent the evening listening to classic pop, watching the rugby, drinking something called a "leg opener" while being force fed various free shots which were a dubious green colour, surrounded by Dutch bunting.

It is days like this, among other things which make me really love my life. Until next time loyal blog readers!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sea adventures and other fun

I spent the last couple of days in Halong Bay, drifting on a very nice wooden boat among some beautiful scenery, in my bikini, getting my tan on. This is how life should be. We also ate a heinous amount of sea food and rice and, strangely, bacon and eggs, went kayaking and jumped into jellyfish infested waters. We saw a beautiful cave, and attempted to sleep under the stars. Unfortunately Vietnam weather was having none of this nonscence and sent us inside with a flea in our ears and rain water in our pillows. It was lovely and calm and so so pretty and I loved it. Every single thing I see in Vietnam is my favourite so far and Halong bay was no exception.

Oh and iboughtsomereallexpensivepearlearings, but don't tell anyone ok?

Same same but different

(I haven't updated in a couple of days on account of a lack of internets, but now I am in Hue using my rather fabulous room-mate's iPad to go on the internet. I'm hoping to write a number of short posts to convey to you what I've been up to overthe last couple of days. )

The title of this post comes from a phrase my host in Sapa used to compare rice wine and water, I'm assuming that it's used to denote two things as radicallydifferent as you can get because from experience, I can tell you that 18 glasses of water before a hike up a valleys probably a good idea, however, 18 glasses of rice wine is almost definitely not. Before y'all start judging me I'd like to point out that my host kept pouring me glasses while I was occupied with my food or talking to someone and then when I tried to refuse to drink it she told me I was making her sad, and really who was I to argue. In short she used most unfair sneak tactics to get me to drink and this resulted all three girls in my group attempting what was probably the least attractive belly dancing the world has ever seen. I believe there is video documentation somewhere but it's probably best if this never sees the light of day.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Overnight Train

To get to Sapa, we took the overnight train from Hanoi. This was pretty much a novel experience for me, although I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off, but for this first time I enjoyed the feeling of the tiny cabins, the wooden beds and swaying carriages. I was lucky enough that my talent for sleeping came through for me on the train, the bed was pretty comfortable, the air conditioning high, and I found the rocking and rattling of the train fairly soothing. However despite this, the sleeping wasn't hugely restful, so I was still pretty tired by the time we got off the train.

Last of the Hanoi Adventures.

Just before we left Hanoi, we went to see the Water puppet show, which was a pretty amazing show of music, beautiful puppets, including a huge golden dragon, tiny golden fish, water buffalo, children climbing trees, and even at one stage what I thought might have been amazing dancing hats, although I may have been wrong. There was also a flaming hoop which some of the puppets jumped through, some of the puppets held candles, flames, and sparked jets, or spat, flicked, or swirled the water. I'm not doing a great job of describing the show, and sadly I wasn't able to take very many good pictures, as my inability to take pictures of small things, moving things, and far away things combined spectacularly, but it was a beautiful show, and there was some amazing live Vietnamese music too. Sadly the theatre hadn't really been designed with the taller customer in mind and so my knees were pretty squished, but really as the only draw back, this seemed pretty minor. 

Right before dinner we all decided to have coffee together at City View Cafe, which is so named because it is on the top floor of a huge building next to the lake, giving it both gorgeous views over Hanoi, but also out over the lake and to the temple in the lake and the turtle tower. I had my second ever Vietnamese iced coffee, and we took ridiculously touristy pictures of us posing in front of the lake. We had dinner is a converted traditional town house, which was really lovely, although I'm sure traditionally probably un-airconditioned. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

So many adventures

Yesterday Violet took me out for adventures in Hanoi, we saw the temple of literature, and a really lovely old church and wandered round just being in Hanoi for a bit. We had lunch with Violet's friends and also stopped for iced coffee in a little place and watched the world go by. It was amazing to have such a peaceful day in such a busy city.

In the evening I met my tour group, and they seem like a really solid group of girls, although we're still waiting on the two Mexicans. Our tour leader is really nice and very eager, so I think we'll get along well.

Last night a couple of friends from the group and I met up with Violet and her friends and we did clubbing in Hanoi, take two. We dicided to go out a little earlier to avoid being closed down after two songs, but apparently it wasn't meant to be, and after having been kicked out of a bunch of clubs and bars, we wound up in a place called Dracula playing Jenga while drinking beer called La Rue, like real adults.

This morning we went adventured out in the (light) rain and visited the bank and I purchased for myself a sim card for my phone, the best thing about this is that the provider is called Tomato. I think this is brilliant. Then since the rain had stopped we decided to go visit the one pillar pagoda. The no rain situation lasted about three photographs and then the heavens opened. I have literally never seen anything quite like the amount of rain that was falling, the benches we were sitting on were covered in about 10 minutes.

The hotel staff were very concerned about how wet we were when we got back, but it was definitely worth it for the laughs and I think I managed to take some nice pictures, but I'll keep you updated.

This afternoon we're off to the Water Puppet show, which is a special Hanoi thing I believe, I'm not really sure what it involves, but everyone has been raving so I'm looking forward to it, and then we climb aboard the overnight train to Sapa, for the trecking portion of our adventures.

So many adventures, so little time!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I have arrived!

I actually arrived a couple oof hours ago, but since it is 4am and I am absurdly awake thamks to a bad case of the jet lags, and since I have already done some laundry, tidied my room and repacked my things, I figured now would be a good time to update y'all, particularly since my adventures into vietnamese telly have shown that vietnamese telly isn't all that great at 4am, although i can tell you Liverpool is beating Bolton 3-0.
So my flights were safe and relatively uneventful, although sadly the presence of more babies than I have ever seen in one place before somewhat hampered my napping effort,which meant that by the time I got to vietnam I was very hungry and very tired and I somehow got caught by the oldest trick in the book and wound up paying through the nose for my taxi into Hanoi. But the important thing is that I got to my hotel safely, although I can't speak for the safety of my fellow road users since my driver seemed particularly crazy even by vietnamese standards.
Once checked in it wasn't long before el Violet located me and after we had snacked on the free bananas in my room, we ventured out into Hanoi for somthing more substantial. Violet is actually a God-send since she is very good at crossing roads, finding places to eat, conversing in Vietnamese with waters and the like, and generally being an excellent host. The upshot of which is that I had a lovely dinner, wandered round Hanoi, and had several drinks without getting lost or having to order anything for myself.
Yesterday it was some kind of national holiday and when we went to see one of the lakes in Hanoi, which I currently can't remember the name of , we found a whole bunch of concerts including a Vietnamese opera singer and some trained monkeys. You know, as you do. We went out for drinks with some of Violet's friends, including some oddly sweet Vietnamese beer, which we drank sitting on plastic stools in the middle of the street. We also went to a more convential bar, and then to a night club where we danced to all of two songs before it got shut down by the police, this marked both my first party which has been shut down by anyone, and also my first contact wit the communist police.
Following this excitement Violet and I climbed onto one of the motorcycle taxis which seem pretty ubiquitus and I felt very legitimate, particularly as Violet haggled with the driver in very efficient sounding Vietnamese, although consiering my grasp of the vietnamese language which is s close to none as to be negligible, you probably shouldn't trust my judgemnt. I got to bed before 12.30, and had a remarkably refreshing 2 hour nap. All of which brings us back, full circle, to the situation where I am awake at 4am with nothing to do, but I think I'll try the sleeping thing agan now and see how I get on...
p.s. sorry about any typos; I blame the kindle thing, and the lack of sleep thing...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ready to rock and roll

My insurance is sorted. My doctor has signed to say I can go. My liver is in tippy tip top condition. I have currency. I have addresses and phone numbers for when I get there. I have EVERYTHING I could ever need in any conceivable situation while away in Vietnam, because I am a scout with a penchant for overpacking. All my bags are packed (well, my big bag and my day bag, which is all my bags.) At this point it would be fair to point out to my loyal readers, that I actually will be adding things to my bag until the second I leave for the airport; I have a serious packing neurosis. But all in all I think I am ready to go. 27 hours until lift off!