Good bye Vietnam, Hello Laos!

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Standing in front of the Mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh lays 

Our last days in Vietnam were definitely grey. The skies were completely overcast and you couldn’t see across the river as it was completely covered in fog. It sure made us want to leave Vietnam and experience some sun again. The other day we woke up early so that we could see the dead body of Ho Chi Minh. We got to the mausoleum and had to go through some rigorous searches in order to get through. They took away our cameras and water, and kept asking if we had knives. I’m not quite sure what we could do with a knife as the dude is already dead!  Then we had to walk single file, NO talking, and NO hands in pockets around a massive square building. It was like we were in boot camp. Finally we get to the steps of the mausoleum and the guards are decked out in fancy white garb, but with poor little rain boots. Something was amiss. They kept telling us ‘shhhhhhhh’ and because they had guns the size of King Kong we complied. I actually smuggled in my camera thinking I would snap a pic of Dead Man Minh, but clearly you don’t mess with these guys! When we got to the body we were not allowed to stop. Keep walking…keep up the pace. This little man with his spindly fingers lay there looking as if he was asleep. His body is literally about 35 years old dead and his hair is perfectly coiffed. Apparently every year they send him to Russia to get groomed and embalmed yet again. As well, this dudes dying wish was to be cremated. hmmmmmmmm. Half the country loves him and half hate him. Obviously the haters won out.

 

After dinner  (and after it turned dark outside) my roomie Helen and I decided to walk back to the hotel from the main shops. In retrospect this was probably a mistake. We thought we knew the way, but obviously every street looks exactly the same and with no signs in English we just couldn’t read where we were going.  As we walked on a dark road this man on a motorbike pulled up to us and grabbed me. With his arm around me he wanted to know if we would like a ride on his bike. UMMMMMM NO! Then he proceeded to ask if we would like some ‘good drug’. UMMMMMM NO. He told me that he likes me and wants us to come with him. OHHHH SHITTTTTTTT. He was very persistent and was not taking no for an answer. Helen was ready to give up her purse, but I kept talking to him with hopes to diffuse the situation. Finally I told  him to have a good night and he eventually left.  We certainly thanked our lucky stars that we got out of this situation unscathed.
Vietnam’s roads are CRAZY. This country left us lessons how you cross streets.  Literally hundreds of bikes, motorbikes and cars fly by at a blink of an eye, and the only way to make it across is to step on the road and go. At the beginning there were plenty of yelps and screams, but by the end of our time here we really learned to take a breath and just walk. The secret to not getting killed  is to not stop or run… just walk at a steady pace and they will go around you. It is quite an art and I have successfully mastered it.

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All Nammed out we got on a plane and within 1 hour was in the capital of Laos. Sun shining and people smiling again, this feels just perfect. Vientiane is a beautiful little city that is dotted with temples at almost every corner. People are friendly and last night I was happy to walk alone and feel completely safe. The country itself is poor, but the people are much better off than those in Cambodia. Everyone has enough to eat and a home. It is a slow paced country but so far I am utterly impressed.425791_10151370597475434_1820059907_n

Heading North

This post was originally from February 13, 2012

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I’ve been MIA (missing in action) the last few days but have traveled a vast amount of kilometers!  We have gone from the stifling heat to much colder temperatures. Bye bye tan!
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We spent a night in Hue. This used to be the capital of Vietnam before the war. We hopped on the back of a motor bike (with our own personal driver) He took us to all the major sights in the city – the old Imperial palace, the Emperors Tomb, an old stadium where they used to fight tigers with elephants.

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We also went to this  little village where I got my palm read by this tiny lady with no teeth. I basically couldn’t understand a word she said but she told me that my husband to be is 29 right now!! Looks like I like em young!  It was super fun to ride on the back of the bike with the wind whipping past. Dodging in and out of traffic was a bit heart stopping but made it all that much more exhilarating.

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The next day we took a grueling 15 hour train ride further north to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is one of the wonders of the world. It is absolutely stunning with limestone mountains jutting out from the ocean.

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I am sporting my Vietnamese tailored goods…a new coat and boots! (the boots fell apart as soon as I got home)

We sailed around all afternoon enjoying the view. The only downer was the fact that the weather was total shit. Thankfully I have my tailor made coat and boots to keep me warm. At one mountain we were able to get out of the boat and climb into the rock. Here we entered caves which were absolutely stunning inside. It made for a crazy day and one that I will look back later with awe.

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Our time in Vietnam is almost over. we just arrived to the capital Hanoi today and tomorrow will visit the dead body of Ho Chi Minh himself. Morbid but definitely something I want to see. This country is a stark contrast from Cambodia. The massive amounts of people is chaotic. It is clearly communist, with flags sporting the hammer and sickle on every second building. Computer surfing and Facebook is banned. And to be honest the people here don’t have bright cheery smiles like they did in Cambodia. Life is fast paced here and the Chinese influence is definitely apparent. Learning the language is impossible as there are approx 8 different meanings in a word just depending on your intonation.

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Wednesday we leave the chaos as well as the frat boys and head over to Laos. I am very much looking forward to that country. (And also secretly excited to get rid of the loud boys who love themselves a little tooooo much) – notice i call them boys and not men.
Until next time…

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The Cutest town in Vietnam

This post was originally from February 10, 2012

Hello!

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The other day we hopped on the sleeper train and spent the night rattling through the country side. When we arrived at about noon we were in the cutest town in Vietnam thus far. It is called Hoi An. The town itself is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is gorgeous!! Lanterns are hanging from all the trees. Birds in bird cages hanging from almost every door. Friendly faces smiling at you. And a river with typical Asian looking wooden boats floating by. It is completely picturesque and my favorite place here in Vietnam so far. 431303_10151367507615434_2128911087_n

We were taken to this alley yesterday afternoon for an all you can eat lunch. It was definitely sketchville to look at, but the food was amazing. They kept bringing us more and more and it was all for a whopping $4. After lunch we explored the town which is known for its tailor made clothes. I told myself I wouldn’t cave…but I did. I got a really nice winter coat made as well as a pair of boots. I have yet to see the boots so cross my fingers they will look good. I am even getting my name on them. hahaha…that is no joke!
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Walking the town at night was even more wonderful. The lanterns lit up the streets and reflected off the river. And to top it off there was a full moon that just made everything seem so serene!  It is like walking around a dream world. I can’t believe that I am here.
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This morning we woke up bright and early and rented a bicycle to tour around the countryside. It was a 2.5 hour ride around farms, and rice fields. It was absolutely gorgeous. Did you know that when lemongrass is picked it smells EXACTLY like lemons? With my accident prone past I am quite impressed that I didn’t bail while riding the bike. Some of the ruts where treacherous and maneuvering around buffalo, cows, chickens, other motorbikes was a real treat. We also stopped off at a school and little 5 year old children sang for us. We brought them toiletries from our hotel and they were quite excited to receive gifts.  It was quite fun.

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The only real mishap of the day…I think I cut off a man riding his bike – but the clincher is that he only had one eye! Good one Heather! Eventually we got on a boat (with our bikes) which took us down the river and back to the town. It is all quite surreal.

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Another interesting but sad sight…picture this…music blaring and in the first truck is a man dressed as Tarzan with a MASSIVE snake wrapped around him. Yes, I had to do a double take to see what this was. Then another truck right behind this one has a black bear dressed in a tutu standing on the top of the truck. Triple  take. Is this for real?  Yes it is! It all happened too quickly for me to snap a pic…

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Tomorrow we are off to the next destination. I couldn’t tell you where…but north we go. You can tell the temperature is getting cooler, boo hoo.
Until next time…

Bliss and More Dong

This post was originally from February 7, 2012

So the train ride from Ho Chi Minh was not so bad at all!!  I had visions of what we took in India and this was by far exceeding any of my expectations. For one,  I was with three others from my group. The compartment was fully enclosed with a door and a lock! There were sheets that were clean and a proper light. I was happy. Even the toilet was not bad. The morning was beautiful as the mist was rising into the hills and we watched the locals tend to their rice fields. It was so peaceful and I could have sat there for hours watching the country side.421622_10151367463160434_1413425415_n
We arrived to the city of Nha Trang which is right on the beach. (Again my happy place).  I spent yesterday soaking up the sun and diving in the ocean when it got too hot…which ended up being about every 20 minutes. Loves it! Ohhhh, but the morning a few of us thought we would venture into the market as we heard it was good. We get there and it was like Dollarama had exploded. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because most Dollarama items come from China/Taiwan/Vietnam. But this was Crap Mecca. The further we got in, the more crap we saw and eventually it turned into smelly fish and chicken stalls. At this point I knew I would be far happier on the beach…but how the hell do you get out of this place? The three of us were trapped in a labyrinth of smelly fish and plastic goods. To top it off – whipping past us as we clutched our bags were motor scooters. (The other night one of my friends had her purse cut off her shoulder as she was walking on the sidewalk while the motorbike flew by-thankfully all the thief got were some tampons!!). The heat intensified the smell and I felt completely trapped. Eventually after walking for quite some time and laughing over what we had got ourselves into we found a proper street. This became a waiting game to see when a taxi would even drive in the vicinity.  After about an hour one eventually came by and we were brought back to sanity.

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Today was bliss. This morning we went straight to the beach and as soon as we got there we were offered a Vietnamese massage. Okay- twist my arm.!!!  So while listening to the waves crash in I got a full body massage. Bliss. Later I sipped on coconut water straight from the coconut. Bliss. Watched many overweight Russians flaunt their robust figures. Not so bliss. Also watched old, wrinkly men lay next to their young Asian girls…not so bliss. So many sights to see at the beach!644065_10151216235089122_1234080204_n

This afternoon it was off the the mud baths. Bliss with a capital B!!!!!! Hidden among the jungle hills is this place where you go for mud baths. First you shower off, then step into a massive bath full of greenish mud. It feels so smooth and kind of smells like tea tree oil. We had good laughs while pouring mud over each others heads. When we got too cold we got out of the bath and soaked in the sun until it dried onto our skin. Once we looked like we were cracking we showered off by walking through different kinds of showers and water sprays that pummeled our bodies from all angles. Then it was time to dip into the hot mineral bath. So bloody amazing. After getting tired of that (who could be?)we moved on into huge pools that were more like a Jacuzzi. It was so relaxing. Now you really couldn’t expect it to get better than this but it did!  To top it off it ended with a 45 minute full body Vietnamese massage. (yes, I had two today). At one point, my masseuse was standing on top of me and there was a bar attached to the ceiling that she could hang on to. Oh my god, my body was buzzing. It was absolutely amazing.
So the day was bliss and of course full of dong.

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Oh yah, I forgot to mention that when we got to Ho Chi Minh we lost four girls from our tour group. Team Ikea (two Swedes) as well as two Aussies left, but in replace of them were 6 Aussie guys. They had this air of immature boys at a frat party. Alas, no wedding bells for Heather. For the most part they are tolerable, but one guy really loves himself and and at any chance he gets he tries to get as much attention as possible. Of course I try to put him in his place whenever I get the chance.
Tonight it is the second of 3 sleeper trains. Apparently the first is the best (which it was amazing in my books), the second not as good because they don’t clean from the first leg of people sleeping in it. This means we get in and the sheets will be dirty with hair and garbage left. And the third…that might be more like India as it will be in Thailand at some point. It is all an experience and just makes for the adventure that much more memorable!

I got myself some major DONG!

This post is originally from February 5, 2012

In the last few days there have been quite a few miles driven. From Sihanoukville we had to drive across the border into Vietnam. It was a brutally hot day (I should not complain) but with a 50lb pack on my back, walking in the smoking heat with no shade and then waiting for the border men to stamp my passport was slightly on the brutal side. We drove further into Vietnam and stopped in a tiny town of Chau Doc. Surprise, surprise…I felt incredibly sick yet again so I spent that night in the hotel getting my beauty sleep among other things. It definitely was not much of beauty as the sickness followed me. Cambodia graced me with health…but it all turned to shit at the border. Literally!! On the way to Ho Chi Minh I literally had to clamp my but cheeks for 6 full hours. It was man’s greatest feat and one that I hope that I shall never have to relive.421592_10151367415210434_2004071896_n
Today we spent a full day in Ho Chi Minh, or as it used to be called Saigon. A few of us did our own thing and wandered around the city. We went to the war museum which was just as frightful as Cambodia’s Killing Fields. It is unbelievable what the ‘agent orange’ has done to people here. Literally we have seen disfigured people walking around, with limbs in all directions, or growths the size of a soccer ball…this is all due to the American’s pouring poison off the planes during the Vietnam War. It is heart breaking.

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The War Museum had conjoined twins that did not make it to birth set in formaldehyde. A result of Agent Orange.

Tonight we will catch the over night train to Na Trang..ahhhhh the beach. I hope that the sleeper train is a step up from India’s over night train experience.
Oh and about getting some dong. That is the local currency…20 000 dong for one dollar. I got myself some major DONG!

Do you want to join me on another adventure?

418452_10151367185795434_1867833814_nThis post was originally from January 24, 2012

Hi there Everyone,
It is that time again… I decided to get my ass out of here Canada during our winter rather than waiting til things turned to bloom. I might not have the full holidays banked or the money saved…but lets worry about that later. Life is too short!
This time I am headed to Southeast Asia. I fly into Thailand, travel throughout Cambodia, then into Vietnam up through Laos and back through Thailand.  I actually had this trip planned at the end of my Australia trip (over ten years ago),  but due to lack of funds (or no funds at all) I had to skip Asia and come straight home. I will be traveling by almost every mode of transportation…trains, planes, automobiles, boats, tuk tuks, elephants perhaps…but I will DEFINITELY not be sporting the camel this time. I think I have had my fare share of camel for this life time! I am incredibly excited for this adventure. I am traveling alone, but will meet up with the same Adventure Group (G Adventures) that I did in Morocco and India. I am sure I will meet a ton of amazing people.
Anyway, just wanted to give a shout out before I left and until next time I will see you on the other side of the world!

Taleeho!

The G Adventures Tour that I took –Indochina Discovery

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Lao

Our last days in Vietnam were definitely grey. The skies were completely overcast and you couldn’t see across the river as it was completely covered in fog. It sure made us want to leave Vietnam and experience some sun again. The other day we woke up early so that we could see the dead body of Ho Chi Minh. We got to the mausoleum and had to go through some rigorous searches in order to get through. They took away our cameras and water, and kept asking if we had knives. I’m not quite sure what we could do with a knife as the dude is already dead!  Then we had to walk single file, NO talking, and NO hands in pockets around a massive square building. It was like we were in boot camp. Finally we get to the steps of the mausoleum and the guards are decked out in fancy white garb, but with poor little rain boots. Something was amiss. They kept telling us ‘shhhhhhhh’ and because they had guns the size of King Kong we complied. I actually smuggled in my camera thinking I would snap a pic of Dead Man Minh, but clearly you don’t mess with these guys! When we got to the body we were not allowed to stop. Keep walking…keep up the pace. This little man with his spindly fingers lay there looking as if he was asleep. His body is literally about 35 years old dead and his hair is perfectly coiffed. Apparently every year they send him to Russia to get groomed and embalmed yet again. As well, this dudes dying wish was to be cremated. hmmmmmmmm. Half the country loves him and half hate him. Obviously the haters won out.428162_10151370587620434_1797304436_n
After dinner and dark my roomie Helen and I decided to walk back to the hotel from the main shops. In retrospect this was probably a mistake. We thought we knew the way, but obviously every street looks exactly the same and with no signs in English we just couldn’t read where we were going.  As we walked on a dark road this man on a motorbike pulled up to us and grabbed me. With his arm around me he wanted to know if we would like a ride on his bike. UMMMMMM NO! Then he proceeded to ask if we would like some ‘good drug’. UMMMMMM NO. He told me that he likes me and wants us to come with him. OHHHH SHITTTTTTTT. He was very persistent and was not taking no for an answer. Helen was ready to give up her purse, but I kept talking to him with hopes to diffuse the situation. Finally I told  him to have a good night and he eventually left.  We certainly thanked our lucky stars that we got out of this situation unscathed.
Vietnam’s roads are CRAZY. This country left us lessons how you cross streets.  Literally hundreds of bikes, motorbikes and cars fly by and the only way to make it across is to step on the road and go. At the beginning there were plenty of yelps and screams, but by the end of our time here we really learned to take a breath and just go. The secret to not getting killed  is to not stop or run… just walk at a steady pace and they will go around you. It is quite an art and I have successfully mastered it.421085_10151370574030434_1482648981_n
All Nammed out we got on a plane and within 1 hour was in the capital of Laos. Sun shining and people smiling again, this feels just perfect. Vientiane is a beautiful little city that is dotted with temples at almost every corner. People are friendly and last night I was happy to walk alone and feel completely safe. The country itself is poor, but the people are much better off than those in Cambodia. Everyone has enough to eat and a home. It is a slow paced country but so far I am utterly impressed.

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Today we take a 6 hour journey and I look forward to what lays ahead.