A Travellerspoint blog

Tham Kong Lo

Cavetastic

sunny 33 °C

We’ve just had a relook at our travel plans and given the four day wait for our Myanmar visas we are now running very short on time before we need to be back in Bangkok. So, we have decided not to go to Northern Thailand. Instead we’ll stay a few extra days in laid-back Laos.

We decide to spend three days travelling south to Kong Lo, where we’ve heard rumors of an amazing cave only accessible by longboat. The bus journey is meant to be five hours long, but seven hours later and we are still going strong. The scenery changes from dusty fields into the most beautiful limestone mountains.
Baguette anyone? Breakfast at the bus station Laos style

Baguette anyone? Breakfast at the bus station Laos style

Breakfast baguette served in maths homework!

Breakfast baguette served in maths homework!


Beautiful view from the guesthouse

Beautiful view from the guesthouse

We wind our way up a couple of steep mountains, passing small villages and broken down lorries belching out smoke from their engines. Occasionally a group of ladies will get on the bus for a few miles to sell random meat on a stick and sticky rice cooked in bamboo. Every now and then we’ll stop in the middle of nowhere and a local jumps off the bus or a bag of baguettes / vegetables is passed out to a guy waiting on a motorcycle. I wonder what would happen if I asked National Express to stop at a layby on the M6 and hand a loaf of Hovis to a guy on a motorbike…

There is a serious amount of plastic strewn down all the major roads and villages. There is a very limited rubbish service in the main cities. Although most shops seem to collect the plastic and glass bottles and recycle paper there is a serious issue with anything else that is non-reusable or biodegradable. People are burning huge piles of plastic rubbish outside their homes and villages. I don’t want to think about what they’re breathing in.

We arrive in tiny village of Kong Lo, which is literally at the end of a brand new road. We walk the 1k to the cave entrance and Justin goes for a swim in the clear water at the entrance. The scenery is so beautiful. We check into a guesthouse and settle down to a traditional Laos game of Monopoly...which everyone knows is a complete game of luck!
Where's the cave????

Where's the cave????


Beautiful view from the cave

Beautiful view from the cave

The next morning we are up early and head back to the cave. We hire a longboat to take us the seven and half kilometres through the cave to the other side. The cave has been used for centuries, but a navigable route all the way through was only found in 1998. Our boatman takes us down to a boat that is half submerged and starts to bail out…things aren’t looked great and I start to tighten by substandard lifejacket. However, a new boat appears which looks relatively watertight and we head off.

As the cave entrance disappears we are plunged into absolute darkness apart from our two little torches and the head torches of our driver and spotter who sits on the front signalling when he spots a rock or another boat. The cave gets bigger and bigger and we start to enter massive caverns filled with stalagmites and stalactites (ten geography points for anyone who can remember which way round they go). It is a little surreal hurtling into the cool darkness whilst sitting cross-legged in the bottom of a wooden boat no wider than a rowing eight. The water is so clear you can see the eerie upside down reflection of the walls and ceiling.

We have to occasionally jump out and walk through the water to help the boat through some shallows. At the half way mark we jump out and our spotter takes us for a walk through the most amazing stalagmite and stalactite formations I’ve ever seen. The most amusing part was our spotter flicking a small switch set into the rock. The whole cavern lit up like a Christmas tree! The pictures don’t do it justice at all.

Heading into the cave...

Heading into the cave...


Christmas tree lighting...boom!

Christmas tree lighting...boom!


Light at the end of the tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel

After an hour and a half we literally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and emerged into a beautiful forested area. Evidently there was a shop to buy Beer Laos and Coca Cola. We have a chat with a guy who is cycling from Phnom Phen in Cambodia to Changi Rai in Thailand – good effort! Justin also manages to find what must be the only other Tottenham Hotspur supporter in the whole of Asia and on the day of the Tottenham / Arsenal derby. He spends the next half hour talking Tottenham. Luckily we couldn't find a TV to watch it or Justin would have sat through a 5-2 defeat.

We head back and spend a lovely afternoon swimming in the pool at the front of the cave, sunbathing and helping some of the local children practice their English. I try to learn a little Laos but I have the distinct impression from the hysterical giggling that I may have been taught a good array of Laos swear words. The children are all obsessed with my book and at one point I find myself surrounded by about seven children pushing to have a closer look and taking it in turns to flick through the pages (books are in short supply across Laos).

We head back to Vientiane early next morning before catching another bus (woop!) to Vang Vieng.

Posted by Lynne Woolley 09:12 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

Vientiane

New Country. New NGO's!

sunny 36 °C

We landed in Vientiane after a short 1 hour flight from Hanoi. The city is quiet as cities go. The shops and guesthouses owners let you look at their wares in peace. The food is great with a strong French influence in the forms of cafes and croissants. There is nice French charm in places. Happy days.

New country: Laos! Or Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos (PDR Laos), because that’s the sort of name you give communist countries! 6.5 million people. Land locked. Most people live near the Mekong and its tributaries. Like most remaining communist countries they have given up on state fixed prices and let the market do its thing. Unlike Vietnam and Chine, Laos has little industry and organized agriculture. Last year the governments budget was 90% (yes, 90%!!!) foreign aid. So it’s poor and selling its natural resources fast to China and Vietnam….. another land for NGO’s.

We spent the first day doing what we do best. Eating and wandering. It’s a universal observation that people like to congregate next to a water front and the Laos are no different. We spent a fun few hours wandering along the Mekongs promenade, looking at the night market and watching the world go by. We had a fantastic Indian meal and hit the sack.

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Mekong promenade.

We hired bikes on our second day and pedaled out to the Burmese embassy and after an (slightly disappointingly) easy process. We left our passports with one of the worlds most oppressive regimes with a receipt to pick them up in 3 days. We hadn’t planned on staying in Vientiane so long but as places go for an enforced pit stop, you could do worse.

On our way back to town we stopped at COPE. This incredible organization is an active physio/orthotics/counseling clinic for disabled people. The full story about unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos is a long and tragic story. See more at the bottom.

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COPE visitors centre

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Cluster bomb bombies.

The afternoon was spent doing some travel planning and purchasing flights from Bangkok to Burma and back as well as KL to Borneo. Our travel plan is coming together. After all the traveling and walking over the last few days it was an early night and a lie in.

Day 3 in Vientiane and we spent the morning trundling around some beautiful Wats and trying to plan the onward trip in Laos. It was becoming apparent that the temperature was going nuclear at midday tipping over 35. Time to run away to the shade. I found an outdoor 25m swimming pool which was heaven in the Laos heat and set about doing some laps. Feeling very good about myself we set out for a restaurant recommended by a local expat- Amphone. We had some delicious traditional Laos food including grilled chicken with spices, a beef curry, Grilled fish with lemongrass and dill served with a chili sauce and sticky rice, oh and the every present Laos beer. Laos beer is excellent and is defiantly the best beer we’ve had in SE Asia (and I promise I have tried most of them in each country).

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Wat sisket. Thousands of buddhas line the inner walls.

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Evening meal at Amphone.

Our last day in Vientiane was spent on the bikes again. In the morning we visited the countries most famous Wat with a piece of Buddha breastbone under it!!!! We then hit the market for a torch (See next blog!) and then set off for another café for disadvantaged children. I worked out our responsible travelling score at 12 last night. It keeps the wife happy and me in karma. In the afternoon we pedaled out to the Burmese embassy again and were rewarded with our passports avec visa. C’est formidable!

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Pha That Luang- the national emblem.

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Burmese visa!

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Evening meal and Beer Lao

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Road side BBQ

Next stop Khong Lor cave!

COPE:
Cambodia is blighted by landmines. Vietnam is still feeling the effects of Agent Orange. Laos is devastated by unexploded ordnances. UXO. The story and statistics are scary. Laos was declared a neutral country at the Geneva peace accord in 1954 and as such neither the US or Vietnamese could cross its borders.

However the North Vietnamese used Laos as a means to get arms and people to the south (the Ho Chi Minh Trail) and the US saw the region as a communist threat. The US therefore bombed the country. And did they bomb. It is the most bombed country per capita in the world. The US flew 584,000 missions and dropped more bombs than the entire of WWII on the country. This cost $6.5 billion dollars. An estimated 280,000,000 cluster bombs were dropped alone. These release hundreds on little bombs (bombies) in the air covering a huge area. They were designed to kill and maim infantry formations but were adapted to also send out trip wires. About a third don’t explode leaving an estimated 80 million UXO in the former of tiny bombies in the country side. Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world and so can’t afford to clear these up, or offer the medical support when people are injured. The soaring scrap metal trade in China means more and more Laos are buying cheap $10 metal detectors from Vietnam and going hunting. This has predictably devastating consequences for the young adults and children who partake in this. COPE offers support and orthotics for any disabled person, which because of the above includes mostly UXO victims.

Check out the official US state review of Laos. It mentions UXO in one line near the end as part of a list of things they give aid for. I particularly like the line that “relationships remained cool until 1982”. I wonder why?

War is horrific in every way but what is often swept under the carpet is the after effects. Cluster bombs are still being used despite an international agreement to stop their use (yes, the US are amongst the usual perpetrators). They were used in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan leaving vast area of agricultural land unusable when the troops withdrew.

How many people are aware of the effects of the depleted uranium tank shells used by the US in Faulluja in Iraq? 11x the normal rate of birth defects.

It always amazes me that the US and UK were willing to spend 256 million dollars a day on illegal wars but struggle to stump up the cash for the problems they create, and giving all the contracts to Hallibuton doesn’t count.

I could go on. But I better not. Rant over.

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COPE T-shirt

Posted by Justin Woolley 18:30 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

Sa pa

Pea soup tastic

all seasons in one day 4 °C

I grip the chair in front tighter and strain to get a glimpse of the road ahead. We've only been on the bus for ten minutes and I already feel sick. We're winding our way up to Sa pa on a bus packed to the rafters with tourists, with no way out (literally as our bags are piled up in the stairwell and emergency exit). Justin is perched on a fold down seat that is seriously sagging under his weight. His ipod is on full volume with 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' blasting out. I mouth a few lines from the chorus over and he hastily turns it down.

The road ahead is pure fog and on one side is a sheer drop into a steep valley. The driver, either through skill or pure luck (I'm inclined to go for the latter), manages to drive at pace with only a few meters of visibility whilst avoiding buffalos, landslides, cars on the wrong side of the road, cars on the right side of the road (whilst we're on the wrong side of the road), small children etc etc. His mobile phone starts to ring...please please don't answer.

Sa pa is a little market town in the northwestern hills of Vietnam. It sits on the side of a hill overlooking a beautiful valley where every available nook on every steep slope has been turned into a rice terrace - quite a feat of human engineering. It is stunningly beautiful even today when the whole area is completely shrouded in mist. As we gain altitude we start to see local hill-tribe women, men and children wandering up the roads towards the fields and Sa pa. They're dressed in beautiful colourful clothing and silver coloured jewellery. I have tried to find a decent website to explain more about the ethnic minorities that live in this area. You can go on the e-tour of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: www.vme.org.vn if you are interested.
Traditional clothing

Traditional clothing

More traditional clothing

More traditional clothing

We arrive at our hotel for some breakfast before our walking guide Jay arrives. She is about half Justin's height and dressed in traditional H'mong clothing and a pair of bright purple wellies. 'You going to be okay in those?' she asks pointing at my £100 hiking boots. 'Sure'. She raises an eyebrow before tutting at Justin's trainers. My dad always told me to do what the locals do so I'm not sure why I'm so keen to completely ignore the advise on hiring a pair of wellies...possibly because I've carried my hiking boots for over four weeks and I haven't worn them yet.

We set off into the mist with a group of five tourists and an entourage of ten H'mong women (and one sleeping baby!). They all bustle around us laughing and chatting away. It is lovely to walk along and listen to them sharing stories. The majority can ask a few questions in English and we learn a little local dialect to help us along. Jay speaks fluent H'mong, Vietnamese, English and bits of French - all self taught (she didn't go to school so has never learnt to write, but all her children will go to school until they are 16).
Giant walking into the mist

Giant walking into the mist

Our entourage!

Our entourage!

Walking through the mist

Walking through the mist

One of the ladies is called Mea. She has taught herself English over the last four years by talking to tourists. We chat about being 28 and H'mong and being 28 and British. Mea married at 18 and has three children. She met her husband at a local market (a few people called it the love market because lots of young people go their to meet up and find a boyfriend / girlfriend). Mea works seven days a week - most days on the treks or in Sa pa selling embroided blankets and bags she has made by hand. Many of the pieces take up to a week to make (not including the time it takes to grow and die the fabric indigo). She also manages a small farm around her house whilst her husband works on the slopes. She has never been outside of Sa pa, but would love to go to Hanoi one day on the overnight train. She thinks the idea of taking a six month holiday on the other side of the world is very wierd and keeps patting me on the arm and tummy (I find out the next day that they all thought I was pregnant...really need to lay of those french cakes)!

We head off the main road and down into the steep valley and rice paddy. The rice paddies are empty at this time of year and very soggy. It becomes blatantly obvious within the first few minutes why everyone wears wellies...they're cheap, you can wash swathes of mud off easily and they have giant grips for the deep sticky mud. All the ladies find it highly amusing to watch us slip and slide down the slopes, whilst they leap down without a care in the world, pointing out buffalo chocolate (poo) with much glee. My favourite moment is watching two 50 year old H'mong ladies taking Justin by the elbows and literally pulling him along a slope. I'm not sure what would have happened if his 90kg weight had fallen on top of them though. It isn't long before I provide the amusement for the rest of the trip as I first fall over, then slide about seven meters down hill, try to stand up and fall over again. I'm left with a giant streak of mud down my skirt and leggings, which we all have a good laugh about. No broken bones and everyone is relieved someone else fell over first.

I thought my boots were muddy...

I thought my boots were muddy...


Now they are muddy!!!

Now they are muddy!!!


Having a break with some of our Guides for the day

Having a break with some of our Guides for the day


We stop for some lunch and it is time for our lovely guides to head back to their village two hours trek away. We're surrounded by women waving embroided bags, cushions and blankets at us. I point at Justin - 'He has all the money.' They all surround Justin who looks a little bewildered. He cheekily puts in a ludicrously low offer to his guide for a bag to see what happens and they all start shouting at him and pretending to hit and poke him whilst laughing and chatting away. We buy some bags and bracelets, but we don't have anywhere near enough money and I make a pinky promise with Mea to buy some cushions and bracelets when we are back in Sa pa. We watch a couple of the other tourists practically shouting at the ladies until they had got the price down to a dollar or two. Even in some cases haggling over less than a dollar.

We wander up to our homestay in the afternoon. By now it is starting to get dark and cold. Our homestay has no heating so we spend the night huddled around a fire for the evening watching the TV (possibly the longest opening ceremony to a sports competition I have ever seen, literally 45 minutes of thanking every single person on the committee of committees).

We show Jay a couple of pictures from our wedding and she tells us about her son's wedding. It is traditional for the husband's family to pay for the party and to give presents as the wife's family will in most cases lose a member of their household as the bride moves to live with her husband. As part of the presents they'd had to give the bride's family a 70kg pig, but apparently that has now gone up. It is probably more of a Justin sized pig, which we all find amusing! Jay also talked about giving birth to her four children - at home, with no pain killers and no-one to help and all in less than two hours! Justin asks her how she knew what to do. She gives him a wierd look and says 'I'm a women, I know'...oh and she was back trekking within a few weeks. Apparently childbirths a doddle!P

The whole way through the story Jay was working away on her embroidery or ringing home to make sure the buffalo had been brought in...in fact she didn't stop working the whole time we were with her. One very amazing women. We head to bed. It is freezing cold by this point and we pull on three very hefty blankets. We can't move at all but at least we are warm(ish). I distinctly hear Justin muttering something along the lines of 'whose idea was this'...
Warming up by the fire

Warming up by the fire

Maybe one more blanket

Maybe one more blanket

The next day we trekked back to Sa pa with Mea's daughter home from school for the weekend and along for the walk. I'm not sure where she had appeared from but it was a good two hour trek from her village to our homestay. We walked down through the valley and ironically just as we were boarding the bus the mist cleared and for the first time we saw the full valley filled with terraces. Mea was waiting outside the hotel when we got back and we had a chat and bought some beautiful cushions and bracelets before saying a very sad goodbye. I can't put into words what a wonderful couple of days this has been. It has been made all the more special because of the people we met and everything we have learnt along the way.
Mea, Jay and me

Mea, Jay and me

Beautiful terraces

Beautiful terraces

We board our bus. There was an excitable American lady who evidently hasn't travelled on a tourist bus (nowhere near as full as a local bus but pretty cramped in comparison to a personal car or tour car). 'Wow we are going to be cosy' she says. Justin looks around the bus 'We will be when the other ten people get on'. She laughs. That wasn't a joke. The other ten people get on and then a plastic chair for the eleventh person to sit on. We pass a sign on the road out 'Thank you for visiting Sa pa.'...and ominously in bold at the bottom 'GOOD LUCK'.

Posted by Lynne Woolley 00:07 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Halong Bay

Islands, bluudy founsands of them.

overcast 19 °C

Halong Bay. UNESCO No.4. Contrary to what clever types who did Geography and the like at Cambridge will have you believe Halong Bay was actually formed when a number of dragons crashed into the sea causing the disintegration of a massive island. This is obvious when you look at the bay.

Halong Bay makes the top 7 natural wonders of the world- Halong, PP cave river in Philippines, Igezanu waterfalls in Brazil/Arg, Jeju island in S Korea, Table top mountain, the Amazon river and Komodo island. Phew.

Much stress was spent when booking our trip to Halong bay. How many days? What class of boat? Who is reputable? It has 8 million visitors a year and 200 junks and 400 day boats plying its waters. Horror stories abound.

Our first choice, an outer island tour, was full for weeks in advance! However we really landed on our feet with Alova gold. After a quick omelette in a baguette purchased from the lady down the side ally, we were picked in the mini bus and were soon making our way to Halong.

There was the obligatory short stop at the tourist shop en-route that is unavoidable when booking any tour in SE Asia. This was a particularly massive and soulless place. It promised that its profits helped the poor street children who make many of the pieces on sale. The 8 rows of unhappy looking young women on stools embroidering pictures at the entrance were more depressing than uplifting. More depressing still was the massive business they were clearly doing with American and Chinese tourists. Big money flying around. Our holiday phrase of "same s$@t, different store" was replaced with, "same s$%t, biggest store".

We arrived in Halong Bay city and as if the streams of buses en-route didn’t enlighten one to the huge tourist nature of Halong, the massive shining jetty and hundreds of people certainly did. We made it to Alova gold and found a shiny new boat with great rooms. We were soon steaming out of the harbor with tempting glimpses of the limestone rock formations beckoning us in.

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The masses awaiting their UNESCO fix.

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The pancake trail. Our guide Man.

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On arrival we had a safety briefing and were instructed to test our life jackets. Mine was a bit tight below.

The next 2 nights / 3 days were spent eating, cooking classes (bit lame- here is spring roll paper, here is the stuff to go in side- roll), relaxing, seeing caves, visiting floating fishing villages, visiting a pearl farm, drinking passion fruit margaritas and chatting to people. The best bit was kayaking around the limestone karsts and getting through small caves to hidden lagoons.

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Relaxing on the "sun" deck.

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View from top of limestone caste. Lynne posing.

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Islands through the mist.

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Local on the water.

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Squid fishing. A very exciting near miss after 2 hours!

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The "surprising cave", most surprising were the number of penguin bins in it.

Next stop the night train to Sa pa and the hill tribes up near the Chinese border.

Posted by Justin Woolley 04:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

There are four million motorbikes in Hanoi (Day 26 and 27)

overcast 19 °C

It is 1am. I’m lying on the top bunk of my sleeper train being rocked gently (occasionally violently) from side to side whilst being blasted by a freezing cold air-con machine. I try to read a few pages of ‘The Tin Drum’ in the hope it will make me fall asleep, it normally works a treat but not tonight. I had no problem sleeping on the first overnight train or the second train from Danang to Hue (where I should have been enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery but instead kept falling asleep because my seat was stuck in the horizontal position). I guess I was worried about not waking up when we got to Hanoi. I needn't have worried because our door was ripped open by a guard who shouted at us and flicked the lights on and off. Welcome to Hanoi…

It’s 5am but the taxis are already waiting – so keen they’ve even parked on the station platform. We can’t check into our hotel for another five hours so we wander out and try to find our way across the city. The roads are blissfully quiet and for the first time since we arrived in Vietnam I confidently step out into the road, where I narrowly miss being mowed down by the only moped on the road – no lights, packed with four people and some dead chickens hanging off the back.

We sit down at a street stall (yes the stalls are open at 5:30am - I'm sure Vietnamese women work 24 hours a day) and point at miscellaneous bits of meat. The stall owner starts making little spring rolls out of freshly cooked rice noodle sheets. They are very tasty or maybe I’m just really hungry. We go back the next morning and order an omelette, which arrives complete with coriander in a french baguette. By this point some of the cafes have opened so we stock up on Vietnamese coffee and cake, whilst making the most of the free wifi to work out how we get from Vietnam to Laos. Option 1) One hour flight, Option 2) 24 hour bus journey...hmmm it’s a tough decision.
Omelette in a baguette...with coriander.

Omelette in a baguette...with coriander.

We book our trip to Ha long Bay and a homestay in North Vietnam before heading back to the hotel to collapse for a few hours. Our room is so cold - a freezing 20oC. If this was the U.K. I’d be swanning around in shorts and a t-shirt moaning about the heatwave, but it is Asia so I’m lying in bed fully clothed refusing to let go of the massive duvet. Justin is hungry (again) and wants some lunch.

We head over to Koto, which is a training café. The trainees are really lovely and the food is seriously good - Justin has Bun Bo (beef and pig knuckle with noodles) and I have beef and noodles. We wander across the road to the Temple of Literature. I'm sure on any other day we'd have found the info on how learning developed over hundreds of years interesting and insightful. Unfortunately, in a state of tiredness we wander aimlessly around before starting to do impressions of the animal statues. We admit defeat and wander back for an early night.
Yummy food at KOTO

Yummy food at KOTO

My lunch - beef, noodles, fried shallots and peanuts with vegetable soup

My lunch - beef, noodles, fried shallots and peanuts with vegetable soup


impression]Feeling exhausted...Justin goes for a lion impression

Feeling exhausted...Justin goes for a lion impression

Inside the Temple of Literature...set up as a university, the King used to ask the students exam questions and then rank them according to how much he liked their answer.

Inside the Temple of Literature...set up as a university, the King used to ask the students exam questions and then rank them according to how much he liked their answer.

Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature

The next day we head to the wonderful Museum of Ethnology , which tries to summarise the myriad of ethnic traditions and cultures within Vietnam. We try to work out some of the areas we’ll visit when we head up to the north, which is easier said than done. In the grounds of the museum they’ve reconstructed various houses, including a very impressive communal house.
Pictures of just some of the diverse peoples of Vietnam

Pictures of just some of the diverse peoples of Vietnam

A small selection of the traditional costumes on show at the Museum

A small selection of the traditional costumes on show at the Museum

Seven time gold medal rowing boat (takes 52 rowers!!!)

Seven time gold medal rowing boat (takes 52 rowers!!!)


Something that makes Justin look small

Something that makes Justin look small

We decide to avoid the taxi's waiting outside and jump on a bus back to town…literally as the bus doesn’t stop. We watch as people try to jump on and off the bus at each stop to varying degrees of success. A couple of people get stuck in the closing doors until our bus driver can be persuaded (reluctantly and with a glare) to slow down and reopen the doors. Justin chats away to a maths teacher keen to practice his English and point out various sites like Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, whilst I make an attempt at some Vietnamese with a local student. I end up asking questions in English, which she replies to in Vietnamese. I have no idea what she is saying, but she is so excited and enthusiastic I keep nodding and smiling until she jumps off…probably to go and tell her friends she just met someone from England who agreed with everything she said!

I also spend half an hour reading an economist students diary, which was a wierd experience as it was quite personal and sad. She asks me to make grammatical corrections and I try to explain wierd English phrases and terms. She loves the UK - literally. She has over 150 different pictures of the Union Jack on her phone and her ambition is to work for HSBC in London. She has no idea what 'communism' means, but knows all about Britain's coalition government. She reads the BBC website everyday and asks about whether we have ever been to the Salford Quays! I hunt out my 'I love Salford' t-shirt, a Secret Santa present from my Salford colleagues, and give it to her as a good luck present for her accountancy exams. I hope any Salford colleagues reading this don't mind - it made a Vietnamese student very happy!

The afternoon is spent planning the next two months of our journey and eating food. I'm reading my new favourite website: . I finally work out what some of the food I've been eating is, although in some cases I wish I hadn't read. Justin points out a lovely description of pho broth: 'various animal ligament, soft-tendon, bone, tripe, muscle and fat brisket'...yummy! I order the Cha Ca (traditional Hanoi dish of bbq white fish, dill, fresh herbs and noodles), which is great.

I don't really know what to say about Hanoi. It is not the mega metropolis of a city I thought it was going to be. It feels small...although I'm sure it's not. The old dilapidated French shuttered buildings and Vietnamese ladies slaving away on the hot stoves and carrying anything and everything on the traditional wooden scales go hand in hand with the young and excitable Vietnamese complete with designer handbags, expensive cars and ipads. My overriding memory will be of a young couple pulling up to a street stall in their brand new Bentley and settling down on a tiny plastic seat to enjoy a 10p glass of tea and a 30p bowl of pho...surreal to say the least!

Quote of Hanoi:
Enthusiastic Lynne: ‘I’d really like to go and see some traditional dancing’
Overtired and grumpy Justin: ‘I’ll tell you what I think of traditional dancing….bleurghhhh!’
Sarcastic Lynne: ‘How about a water puppet show?’

Blonde moment of Hanoi:
Justin: ‘What are you doing?’
Lynne: ‘ Sorting out my bag’ (otherwise known as trying to find the emergency $100’s I’ve hidden so well I can’t even find it myself)
Ten minutes later – Justin: ‘What are you doing – are you looking for something?’
Slightly panicked Lynne: ‘No, I’m sorting out my bag’ (someone’s evidently been in my bag, found my secret stash and stolen it)
Ten minutes later – Justin: ‘Have you forgotten where you put your emergency money?’
Seriously panicked Lynne: ‘No’ (Damn!)
Justin: ‘You’ve forgotten where you put the emergency money, haven’t you?’
Lynne: ‘No!’
Ten minutes later – relieved Lynne ‘ Found it’ (much eye rolling from Justin)

Posted by Lynne Woolley 03:52 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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