More pictures from Vietnam

We’ve posted more pictures from Vietnam. They aren’t in perfect order –
we’ve tried to put comments on most of them. There are only a few from Saigon as we are still here. We’ll post more later in the trip.

Hope you enjoy them!

Pictures from Hue:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Hue

Pictures from Hoi An:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=HoiAn

Pictures from My Son:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=MySon

Some pictures from Saigon.

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=saigon

Transportation in Vietnam:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=transportation

Ho Chi Minh City (also know as Saigon)

On the 29th, Ger, Rog, and I took a bus from Hoi An to Danang and then a flight from Danang to Saigon. We had the option of either taking a 24 hour train to Saigon or a 1 hour flight.  Seeing the price difference was only $11.00, we obviously decided to fly.

After checking in to our hotel with difficulty (apparently they did not have our reservations…) we went for a nice Pho (soup) and relaxed. The hotel, An An Hotel, is nice. The three of us are sharing a room.  The hotel is fairly new and the rooms are great.
That night, we met up with Fiona and Dave from England, whom we met in Halong Bay. We went for supper and drinks. The five of us and had a lot of fun. I had a Vietnamese fondue, it was really good. We are going to meet up again with Fi and Dave in Cambodia in January.

Rog and I spent the next day exploring Saigon on foot. It was fun. Once again, the traffic is crazy!! We went to visit the presidential palace (called the Reunification Palace) and also the War Remnants Museum. The latter was quite disturbing with many pictures from the war and the terrible effects of Agent Orange and Napalm on the civilian population. That night Ger, Rog and I went for supper to a very nice restaurant called Lemongrass. We shared a bunch a dishes, it was delicious. Then I came back to the hotel (I have had a cold the past couple days) and worked on the pictures. Rog and Ger went out on the town.

And today is New Years eve! No firm plans yet but one of the streets close to our hotel is closed for a big party so we might hang out there…

Tomorrow, January 1st, we flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia to go visit the ruins at Angkor Wat. On the 5th, we flight to Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia for 2 nights, and then bus to Singapore for 3 nights and then we flight from Singapor to Bangkok to catch our flight home.  Time sure does go by quick when you are having fun!
Till next time…

Hoi An

On the 24th, we took the bus from Hue to Hoi An and stopped at China Beach on the way. We checked in at the Greenfield Hotel and Gerald was already there. He took a flight from Bangkok to Hanoi the night before and one from Hanoi to Danang that morning so that we could spend Christmas together.
We stayed in Hoi An 5 days, until the 29th. We wanted to find a place where we could enjoy and relax for a few days without moving every second day. We needed a Christmas Holiday :-), and Hoi An was a great place for that.
Hoi An is an old town which used to be a very busy commercial port in its time (from the 17th to the 19th century). It is very charming, with old architecture and the waterfront. It is also know for its tailors and we took advantage of that :-).

On the 24th, we walked around town and took in the sites. It was really funny, there were little kids dressed up in Santa outfits! They had free drinks by the pool at our hotel and some traditional music and dancing. Emma from New Zealand (we met her during our tour in Hue – remember ?), was staying at the same hotel with her boyfriend Carl. We enjoyed the show together and then planned to meet up with them later for drinks. For Christmas eve meal, Ger, Rog, and I went to a very nice Vietnamese restaurant called “Le Cafe des Amis”. It is a set menu: you just choose between meat, seafood and vegetarian and they keep bringing you dishes. It was awesome. We then went for drink at the Tam Tam Cafe and met up with Emma and Carl and a few other people from our hotel: Claire and Susan from Ireland, and Sally from Australia. We had many great cocktails, chatted, and then danced (or more so created our own dance floor). That night a few of the girls thought we should all take a cooking class the next day, so we signed up.

The cooking course started with a visit to the market with Chef Thi to buy our ingredients for the supper we would make later on. Not everyone made it there, but for those who did, we really loved it, it was a lot of fun. Chef Thi is a very nice guy and a great cook. So, for Christmas supper, we all met up at Tam Tam Cafe at 5:30 and started learning how to make great Vietnamese food. We made spring rolls, crispy fried shrimps, fish soup, and fish cooked in banana leaves. It was all wonderful and we had so much fun!

On the 26th, we decided it was time to start shopping. The Italian couple we met in Halong Bay, Sissi and Matteo, had recommended a tailor so we went and checked it out with Emma and Carl. The ladies were very nice and the quality seemed really good, so we decided to all get a bunch of clothes tailor made. We ended up being in the store for over 4 hours. Between deciding on what to get made, in what style, with which fabric… Then there is the measurement, and most importantly the bargaining, which is Roger’s knack. He spent a very long time going over the price of every piece. It was very funny and entertaining as both parties where quite theatrical and dramatic :-). We were pretty exhausted after that so we went for some 3000 dong (20 cents) beer and spring rolls.

Yes we forgot to talk about the money, we are multimillionaire here, that’s great :-). One canadian dollar give you about 14 000 Vietnamese dong. So we have bills of 500 000, 200 000 etc. It can be confusing at times, but you sure feel rich!

The next few days were pretty much as follows, hang out in the town, go shopping, go for fittings, go for supper with Ger, Emma, and Carl, and then meet everyone and also other new people at the Tam Tam Cafe. Go home while Ger stays to play pool until the wee hours of the morning. We also went to the beach one which was very nice.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot, on the 28th, we got up at 5:00 am to go visit the ruins at My Son which used to be a Cham Empire. You can rent a driver to bring you there early before all the tourist arrive. Emma, Carl, Ger, Rog, and I all went. Seeing that not of us are morning people, the ride there and back was pretty quiet… However, the ride in itself was very interesting. Early in the morning, we saw all the school kids in their uniforms riding their bikes to school. It was really worth visiting early in the morning as it was very quiet and we had the opportunity to visit the ruins in peace.  We enjoyed our visit to My Son.
Now back to the clothes, we really went to town… suits, shirts, dresses, etc. We had a lot of fun going for fittings and rebargaining as we ordered more clothes.

By the way, since we have been getting complains about the lack of posts :-), the internet connection was already very poor in Hoi An, and then we had no connection on the 26th and the barely on the 27th because of the earthquake in Taiwan which damaged the internet cables. Plus we ARE on holidays you know ;-).

Anyways, we had a wonderful time in Hoi An. We loved wandering in the market and through the streets, bargaining and getting clothes made just for us, and hanging out with Ger and everyone else.  It really was a nice city that gave us an opportunity to stay in the same place for 5 days while still doing many things and meeting many nice people.

Hue (Central Vietnam)

Hue used to be the capital for a while and was where the Emperors from the Nguyen dynasty used to live. It has an old Citadelle with the Emperor’s palaces as well as their burial grounds. Unfortunately the Citadelle was mostly destroyed by bombing from the different wars.

On Dec. 22nd, after our 11 hours train ride from Hanoi to Hue, we had a very relaxing day in Hue. We checked in to our hotel and really liked the room. It was big with a private balcony with a nice view and even a computer with free internet in the room! It was very nice. We went for Pho (beef soup), walked around town and relaxed in the room. We took the opportunity to write a few blog entries and upload some of our pictures.

The next day was not so relaxing… We had booked a day tour to go visit all the sites. Our guide was pretty hard core and we did lots during the day. When we would get off the minivan, the guide would tell us, not jokingly, ” You have 30 min. Never, ever be 5 min. late, otherwise you walk to the next stop!”. It was an interesting experience, but we did see lots of beautiful sites and met some nice people. We met Emma from New Zealand. Her boyfriend was not there because he was crook (we learned that it meant sick…). That night was went to a nice restaurant called Y Thao Garden. The presentation was amazing and the food very good. You will be able to see some of the the way the food was presented in our photo gallery.  We met a very nice swiss couple and after supper, visited the beautiful house of the restaurant owners together.

The next morning, we took the bus at 8:00 for Hoi An.

Merry Christmas!

We wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  We hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and are spending a wonderful time with their family and friends.

Things are great with us.  We are in a city called Hoi An in central Vietnam.  We met up with our friend Gerald and spent a wonderful Christmas with him.

Wishing you all the best over the holiday season!

More Pictures

We’ve also posted some pictures from Chiang Mai and Vietnam.  Thanks to Marjorie for all the great comments associated with the pictures.

Pictures from Chaing Mai can be found here:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=ChiangMai

Pictures from Hanoi can be found here:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Hanoi

Pictures from Halong Bay:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=HalongBay

Hope you enjoy looking at them as much as we enjoyed taking them!

Transportation in Vietnam

Well, here we are in Vietnam.   We have been here for about 6 days.  In that time, we have visited Hanoi and Halong Bay.  We posted seperate entries on our 3 days in Halong Bay and our 3 days in Hanoi that can be found below.

Via our blog, in addition to describing our travels, we will interlace the occasional post of some of our thoughts about the coutries we’ve visited.  On this post, we would like to discuss transportation in Vietnam. This post will be a bit longer than the rest. 

Before we get into the subject, we wanted to say that we REALLY love Vietnam.  It is difficult to describe in words (and to show in pictures).   Vietnam is quite different from Thailand in many ways but mainly in the sense that it isn’t as developed making it even more interesting to visit. 

Now, onto the subject of transportation in Vietnam.

Seeing how people get around is so interesting.  We figure that at least 85% of the people either travel by moped or bicycle.  And it really is something to see.  Imagine watching a light change at an intersection and you see 200 mopeds and only 6 cars go by.

Because the main modes of transportation are bicycles and mopeds, they transporte everything on them. And we really do see people loading EVERYTHING onto the mopeds and bikes.  It is really impressive to see how much stuff they can pack onto them.  The following is a very short list of some of the things we’ve seen on either a moped of bike:

  • All kinds of furniture loaded to the front of a cyclo (which is a 3 wheeled bike)
  • 3 dead pigs tied to the back of a moped
  • Live geese in cages on the back of mopeds
  • So much pottery tied to the moped that you can’t see the driver (making the moped at least 5 times wider)
  • Many, many other things 

And this is a very small list.  Imagine back home if we didn’t have (or use) trucks to transport anything.  And then imagine all the stuff that you would see loaded onto a moped!  It is really impressive to see.

On the same moped, you often see 3 or 4 people.  You see families (Mom, Dad and 2 children) riding on the same moped.  And these mopeds are not any larger than those in North America.  As well, most of the people also don’t wear helmets (probably only 5% of the people wear them).

The traffic laws in Vietnam are very, very relaxed.  People don’t pay attention to red lights and there no stop signs in the cities.  The best way to describe traffic at an intersection would be to imagine two schools of fish coming together – they don’t collide – they go around each other.  And that is how it traffic is here!  The mopeds and vehicles are all interlaced and go around each other. 

When you do see vehicles, they honestly spend as much time on the oncoming traffic lane than in their own lane. 

The amazing thing is that all this chaos works.  On the highways, people drive at most 60 km/h and either move over or slow down when coming head on towards another vehicle.  In the cities, the mopeds are all over the place.  None of them ever stay in their own lane.  They turn when they can and however they can.  They are also constantly running red lights.   Sitting at any city intersection in Vietnam can entertain you for hours!

And EVERYBODY honks ALL THE TIME!  They use their horn to let other people know that they are there.  However, we are not sure how effective it is because everyone honks.  So, to us, it would seem that all their honking cancel each other’s out.

Well, that is enough on the driving.  It is a longer post but really, it is quite something to see.  We will try getting some good photos to show everyone how the driving is here in Vietnam.  But as we said at the beginning of the post, it is hard to describe and properly get in a photo.

 

Hanoi – part 1

Hi Everyone!

Our friend Kevin asked us the other day what was our favorite part of our trip so far and we did not know what to say. We thought about it and concured. The drives from the airport into the cities is probably one of our favourite things. We both sit there in silence with our eyes wide open just taking it in. The drive into Hanoi was great. The architecture is really neat. The houses are very narrow and tall with a flair of French colonial style. The traffic is crazy, cars, mopeds, bicycles everywhere. Everyone is honking all the time, it’s pretty chaotic!

We arrived in Hanoi and checked in to our hotel. Oh yes, I almost forgot, in the plane we were reading in Lonely Planet about the scams. Taxis that pick you up from the airport often bring you to a different hotel than the one you told them. They stop and two guys welcome you, grab your bags and the taxi pulls away before you realize it is not your hotel. The taxis get a commission from the hotel. Well, it happened to us. The cab stopped, two guys with huge smiles open the doors on each side and said welcome to your hotel. Thankfully we were aware and we had the address with us, so we did not move from the taxi and told him to bring us to our hotel. The Golden Sun hotel was great we really enjoyed it. It is right by the Old Quarter and just beside Hoan Kiem Lake, which is very nice.

The next day, we took a cyclo to the Temple of Literature, which is the first university in Vietnam (1076!). The sons of mandarins were educated there, it had a list of all the men who receveid a doctorate since 1442. The cyclo ride was an adventure in itself! We then went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. Before the visit we went for lunch at a VERY local stop. It felt like we were coming from a different planet. There was not menu and no one spoke English so we just pointed to our neighbours and said same… it turned out to be a hot pot with snails. It was quite testy.

The museum was very interesting, so much to learn… Later that afternoon we walked around Hoan  Kiem Lake. Legend has it that in the mid-15ths, a giant golden turtle appeared on the surface of the lake and took emperor Le Loi’s sword and returned it to the Gods. We looked for the turtle’s descendants, which have been sighted, but no luck… That evening we went for supper in the old quarter at a restaurant called little Hanoi and met a nice couple. We left for Halong Bay the next morning. 

Hello from Vietnam

Hi!

We are now in Hanoi in Vietnam. Only been here one day but love it already. We are leaving tomorrow morning for a cruise in Halong Bay for 3 days and therefore will probably not be online.

Well, we better catch some sleep because we have to get up early tomorrow morning.

More on Vietnam very soon!