17 November, 2012

Vietnam - Hanoi Day 1

After breakfast, we planned for the days activities - but we also enjoyed a bit of a sleep-in! Today, we were to visit the Hanoi Hilton' (Hanoi Gaol), The Women’s Museum and the Vietnam Air Force Museum.

We mapped out our way to the Gaol first, and the gaol itself, was quite an insight. Some of it had remained, whilst what once was a probable 'exercise yard had since been built upon. The drawings of it complete, looked as though a good two thirds had gone! But once inside, the conditions that the prisoners had to endure, really were quite horrific. There was also a small section where the American Pilots had photos of a preparing Christmas dinner and presents giving.

'Hanoi Hilton'Original LayoutWomen InsurgentsMale PrisionersCell BlockSolitaryAmerican Pilots Preparing Christmas DinnerAmerican Pilots Decorating Christmas Tree

We left the gaol, and nearby there was a 'Fanny's' ice-creamery. Here we had a relax, a cool down (not that it was particularly hot) for a short time. I had an ice-cream that had three flavours and a mixed berry yoghurt with some cream and chocolate scrapings, whilst J had a banana Sundae, and M had a whirligig (mixture of flavours).

We then headed down towards the Museum for Women, which was showcasing the Vietnamese Women. The museum seemed to be a little lacking, but it does show what the women did; particularly through the war. It was this part that I found the most interest, not so much the fashion etc... They also had an exhibition of the women of the minority people in and around Sapa.

Womens MuseumJewelleryBlack ClothingTraditional DressesWomen of War

After this, we then grabbed a taxi, and headed over to the Air Force Museum, which had both an internal display, as well as a far more interesting external exhibition! Alas, if only some of these aircraft could still fly, or at the very least, be in a better condition! the highlight was an enormous helicopter to the rear, it was huge and as you can see with J standing in front of it, he looks tiny! It was well worth the visit down!

B-52 WreckageLarge Helicopter with JJet StabaliserWreckageHelicopter used to ferry 'Uncle Ho' around

Both the taxi trips to the museum and then back to our hotel, were (as is all driving experiences in Vietnam) interesting, with a hand on the wheel, and the other on the horn! We darted from one side of the road to the other to try and get a better run. Once back at the hotel, a quick rest and then out on the town to have dinner at a nearby burger place (by this stage, over local foods) and then a small walk about town. We even did ‘cyclo’ ride around the lake!

'M' Cyclo'J' CycloPagoda Bridge

Hoo roo for now...


3 years on...

Today, 17th November, was L's due date for the twins. today, had they have been delivered on the due date, the twins would be three! I am currently in Vietnam, and away from leave a flower or two at L's grave... Instead, I shall try and find a single flower (each) and carry them with me tomorrow...

TWINS 1042009TWIN 1 1042009

I will do some 'catch-up' blogs tomorrow night...

Hoo roo for now...


16 November, 2012

Vietnam - Ha Long Bay (2 day post)

The train trip from Sapa to Hanoi was over, THANK GOD!!! The train was HOT, uncomfortable and down right disgusting... But hey, we survived!! It was now time to find our way out to Ha Long Bay for a Junk cruise... This part of the trip, I think, I was MOST looking forward to! Our driver arrived at the hotel, but as we didn't know, he didn't know us either, so we both missed each other by accident! But, the hotel guys introduced us to each other and we loaded our bags, and the 3 hour drive had commenced (and me in the shotgun seat)! At first, not even out of the first street, I didn't know if I should be happy or scared!

About 90 minutes into the trip, we stopped into a 'service center' type place, selling everything from marble statues to long stitch silk artworks. Here we grabbed a drink, some snacks, and I also swapped shotgun! Along the way, J took a short video of a near miss, but we had an even closer one where we were on the other side of the road, overtaking that was WAY TO CLOSE! Vietnam has no road rules I am sure now! Another 60 minutes down, and we were pulling into the Ha Long Bay Marina area.

Upon arrival, our bags left with a porter, we were assigned our junk, and a small tender took us out to it. We also had to put on 'Life Vests' (Personal Floatation Devices)! We had to go upstairs where we were welcomed aboard with welcome drinks, a small briefing (what was happening rather than a safety briefing) before heading to see our cabins. The cabins were actually not too bad space wise, although more on that later... We quickly unpacked, got out clothes that needed to be washed, and tended to that, before getting ready for the afternoon tour. By this stage, we had already sailed a fair distance, and had just dropped anchor. The tour this afternoon was through a local fishing village, that actually live on the bay itself!


When we got back to the junk, J had stayed behind as it was his turn to be a little unwell, we did a quick look at photos, before getting ready for dinner. There was a large French tour group, c. 24 people, a honeymoon couple and another 3some onboard, and an aged English couple! We also felt a little 'underdressed' for dinner, but who cares, we're on holiday!!

Dinner was delicious, we all had the Australian Steak, as opposed to the fish. It was a five course meal, and was mostly, very nice indeed! After dinner, we did some 'squid fishing' (dangling hook with lure) all to no avail...


The following morning, we woke to grey skies, no rain, and a coolish morning, which was pleasant. However, when J went into M's cabin, there was a very distinct smell of gas! This only compounded other issues that had been in the room!! The shower door would not close, so water went everywhere, and the drain would not drain, so water WAS everywhere! The a/c turned itself off overnight, and the extra wall fan did not work either!! And, to top it all off, the cabin had NO Life Vests (PFD's) either, so not a very safe cabin to have been in at all!! Needless to say, we reported it to the Cruise Manager! There was only a light breakfast being served, a slightly more substantial brunch was to be served later... After breakfast, we headed towards the 'Surprise Cave', and the tender was to take us across to it. We were told that there was 600 odd steps along the way, in three parts, up to, inside and the way down. The walk through the cave, was fantastic, lots to see, and was well worth it!


We were soon back on the junk, and heading back towards the marina and the drive back to Hanoi. The drive back though, was a quicker affair, and much smoother... Forgetting the fact that along the way, it was often quicker and easier to simply drive on the opposite side, in excess of the speed limit... And then we took a turn off, that seemed to go into the 'who knows where' area, a small concrete (single car width just about) road along a ridge, but thankfully he did this, as in no time at all, we were pulling into our hotel... It was nice to see we were 'home'!

We took a moment or two to freshen up, and then headed out for dinner and a walk up the street markets, and that was extreme with cars, bikes and people moving every which way other than the way we wanted to go!! but, I got a bargain, a new belt... Starting price was 450,000VND, but, with bargaining and more bargaining, I walked away with it for 260,000VND (he wasn't at all happy with my bargaining style...)

Hoo roo for now...


14 November, 2012

Vietnam Sapa (Day 2)

Day two in Sapa, started out to be a much clearer day, some light fog/mist in the valley below, but a nice day, until... Well, lets just say I started to feel ill... After a visit, or two, to the bathroom, we headed down fro breakfast where all I had was some toast, and a small peach juice. I was feeling ok, but just as we were about to leave, I felt a little light headed, which passed quickly, but I HAD to get to the bathroom where I brought up breakfast!!!

Anyway, as I had felt better, and not wanting to miss out on the minority tribe people down in the valley, we met our guide and jumped into the bus for the drive down into the never never!

At one of the 'lookouts' along the way, my stomach started to twist and turn, but I pushed on until we hit the valley floor, where all I wanted to do was to stay in the bus and sleep; which I did! J and M took my camera into the village, which looked pretty good!


When they returned, it was time now to drive UP to Sapa, and through to another minority tribe people. Along the way, I dozed in and out of sleep, and felt a little better when we arrived! We walked along a road, but about 2/3 along the way, I could walk no more, and whilst I rested, J & M pushed on with the guide. I stayed and rested on a log.

Whilst there, a group leaving with local women carrying their wears in back pack, and all seemed to be having a good time. Next thing I knew, 3 young boys (maybe 5) came up from the track we walked along. Two of them came towards me from the front whilst the other (I noticed) went behind me. Luckily I knew my wallet (in my front pocket) was safe, and whilst I was chatting with the two, I felt a small hand on my wallet! I gave a very stern 'NO' to him, and he giggled it off... I grabbed some photos of them, but when I went to take the attempted 'pick-pocketers' photo, he waved his hands and didn't want it taken at all!. I was showing the two in-front the photos, again I felt a small hand tapping my wallet, and I snapped back a 'NO', and gestured them to leave...


We eventually walked back to the bus, where we drove back up to Sapa (and the dodgy hotel) for a rest, before dinner (I did not eat) and the train back to Hanoi.

However, the drive down the mountain was in very thick fog, we saw an accident of a car into a gutter, and arrived to a hectic scene inat the station. We quickly found our carriage and got settled in!

The overnight train however, was a complete disaster! It was hot, so hot in fact that my bed was drenched, M moved down from her bunk at the top to the floor, and we ended up having the cabin door open, the window pop as well, simply draw out the heat! It didn't work...

A small bit of confusion regarding location of pick-up, guide or no guide, but it was all sorted out quick enough, and we eventually got to a hotel to shower and have breakfast prior to the drive out to Halong Bay. But that is for another post...

Hoo roo for now...