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Friday, 4 May 2012

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

Been another hectic couple of days as the tour draws to an end :-(

After flying from Denang to Ho Chi Minh city on Thursday we got a bus to our hotel which is just on the outskirts of district 1 of HCMC.

Before dinner we went to the War Remnants museum were we saw original army artillery such as guns and bullets as well as helicopters and fighting boats. Inside the museum were also a lot of photos taken during the Vietnam war when the Americans were here. As horrific as the photos were it certainly was an eye-opening experience to see things from the Vietnamese side. I must admit, I was very naive to the sheet scale of this war. Some of the facts I read had quite an impact.

We went out for dinner to a restaurant called " Temple Bar". Having been told this was a grill style restaurant I was getting pretty excited at the thought of having a full meal...little did I know the experience of this restaurant included grilling live shrimp at our table. It was a great restaurant and the atmosphere was fantastic as we were on the roof, but honestly- I didn't enjoy the grilling of live fish. I know it's the culture here, and I can accept that they don't have the same respect for animals that the west does, but nevertheless I couldn't watch the shrimp burn to death and then be eaten. But still, it was a great night with the whole group going out apart from Udo and Sue who wanted a well deserved quiet night in.

The next day, so this would be...Friday, we took a bus to the Mekong Delta area near the Cambodia border. On route however we stopped at some war tunnels used by the locals during the Vietnam War with the USA. Here we witnessed the harsh, cramped living conditions people faced underground when attacks were in full force. It was another eye-opening experience. After boarding a small boat in the Mekong Delta we went to a coconut island, then got a horse and cart to a bee farm and then got on some rowing boats and casually cruised along the Mekong Delta (see picture!). That was lush and so relaxing. We then went to our homestay where the rooms were very basic and miniature wildlife such as cockroaches and geckos were quite apparent. After sleeping the night I learned that both Stacey and Nicola had rats in their rooms! Glad I knew this AFTER I slept! However in the morning I was offered to hold a python, so of course to build up my manly points I did...see picture!!

So today is Saturday...our penultimate day and last night tonight. Currently we're driving back to HCMC where I plan to eat like a king at 1 of the 3 KFCs I have already seen for lunch! Then tonight we are all going out to party and drink and dance!!

The tour ends tomorrow and myself, Sarah, Nicola, Ellie and Maria are all leaving for the airport together around 3pm as our flights are all similar times in the evening.

The last week or do has been incredibly hectic, but my god have I enjoyed it. I do wish I could have written more detail in blogs and replied to everyone's messages a bit quicker but as I'm sure everyone understands- I'm living in the moment. And don't worry- I have about 1200 photos for you ALL to see!!

So I'm going to leave you now while I go get ready to get my drink on in HCMC!!

Will most likely blog tomorrow in an emotional rant about how I don't want to leave to come home etc etc so this isn't goodbye...yet!!

Ciao ciao!


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Hey big spender...

Arrived in Hoi An all fine and safe. The hotel isn’t as great as the previous but I still have my own room so I can’t complain. Air conditioning may actually be saving my life right now – the temperature is averaging 36*C and the humidity is very high…all in all; a lot of sweat (nice, I know)!

We have a couple of days of free time in Hoi An which is lush as there is a lot to do in the city. This is the place to get clothes tailored so of course my account is taking a battering as the theme tune "hey big spender" plays as I walk down the street. I’ve had 2 pairs of shorts made, a shirt (had to press the ‘R’ key quite hard there to make sure I spelt the correct word!) and 2 pairs of shoes. I’ve also been pampered (Happy Birthday to me) with a facial and a MANicure…yes, manly!

Highlight of today though is renting a motorbike and driving to the beach. I’ve never ridden a motorbike before so where better to learn than in Vietnam where health and safety consists of “just be very careful”…easy :-/ I started off a bit nervous but after a couple of minutes I got the hang of it…basically you never stop and you beep a lot. I also learned that on-coming traffic is a usual occurrence here so if I wasn’t dehydrated enough from the sweat, the several moments where I wet myself certainly didn’t help at all either! So like I said – I drove to the beach…I didn’t stop…I couldn’t stop…they didn’t tell me where the break was! So I can report that the beach looks beautiful as I cruised past it at 40kmh (this doesn’t sound fast, but when your helmet is made of fabric; it certainly feels fast!) but we do plan to go as a group tomorrow (Wednesday) and do some sunbathing.

We actually have a swimming pool at this hotel so I did do some sunbathing earlier by there and I may even go for a swim tomorrow as well.

Hoi An as a place is very tourist orientated – everyone wants to sell you something but everyone is very polite so you don’t feel overly hassled. There’s plenty of places to buy some nice bracelets and other forms of jewelry so I may also need to invest in a third bag for everything I’m bringing back with me!

Currently in reception typing up this blog as the WIFI doesn’t reach my room all the time. The photo-count currently stands at around 500 on my phone and another 300 on my camera – makes for a nice evening’s entertainment when I get back :-D

The rest of my group are doing a cooking lesson at the moment…funnily enough learning to cook authentic, exotic, local food didn’t appeal to me so I skipped the class and chilled in the evening heat…having changed my t-shirt for the fourth time today! However not to fear – happy hour is still in place when they get back as well as the free karaoke…so a good night lays ahead!

I hear it’s very wet in the UK? I hope everyone is safe and sound and dry? Just a quick thank you again for everyone sending me messages. It’s really nice to hear from everyone and catch up on how you’re all doing! Please keep them coming. Replying is becoming more difficult now that I’m in a group but nevertheless, please keep them coming.

Going to sign off now. Need to work out how to post this without a mouse as it seems to have stopped working all of a sudden?!

Ciao each and all.

Muchos Love.



Sunday, 29 April 2012

Riding on the Highway

Not much to update for this blog entry. Last night we were on the over night train from Hanoi to Hué- in total about 15 hours. Our cabins had 2 bunk beds in and they were actually quite nice. Can't say I've ever slept on a train before (apart from the other sleeper trains on this trip) and so my cabin consisted of the self named "Team Oreo" which is Sarah, Stacey, Nicola and myself.

After arriving in Hué about 11am we drop our bags of at the appropriately named "Smile Hotel" and then we headed straight out on a motorbike tour of the area....oh yes, we were most definitely cruising down the highway!

Riding on the back of a motorbike was actually on my life to-do list so this was a lovely surprise. We went all around the city and visited the tomb of the last King of Vietnam as well as the oldest bridge. We also had a vegetarian lunch at a nunnery...can't say that was top of my enjoyment list though :-/

We got back to the hotel about 5ish and I checked in to my (stunning) room - see picture - and am now having a quiet night in. We've done a lot of moving about recently which I do love, but sometimes you just need a night to yourself to chill and re-pack everything, especially as I have no clean clothes left.

Tomorrow (Monday) we head to Hoi An and we stay there for 3 nights so that will be nice to feel like we have a base. The weather is set to be 35/36*C in Hoi An which I am particularly enjoying as Hoi An has some beautiful beaches which I think we are planning on cycling to on Wednesday for the whole day to catch a tan.

Soooo yeah. Those have been my most recent movements. Having an early night tonight as we have an early start. Our bus to Hoi An leaves about midday I think and before then we have a cyclo tour of the citadel!

So for now enjoy these photos...mainly of me :-) and I shall catch you all up very soon from the beach (if it has wifi of course?!).

Kiss kiss


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Perfect Day

So it's been a while since I last blogged and so so much has happened. I think maybe too much has happened for one blog entry so I'll try and be brief in each experience.

The last I noted I think we were in Sapa and about to head off to our homestay in the hills. This was incredible. We lived with the locals in the the depths of the glorious mountains for a night. To get to our particular house we had to trek along narrow paths, cliff edges, rickety bridges for six hours in 37*C heat- standard! But it was completely worth it. Take a look at the photos at just how beautiful Sapa is!!

After our night stay we got another night train from Lao Cai back to Hanoi where team Oreo (Nicola, Sarah, Stacey and myself made a music video for "don't stop believing" then fell asleep. Woke up and OH, HELLO BIRTHDAY!!

4am wake up on my birthday (Friday) and we get off the train about 4.30am and catch a bus back to our central hotel in Hanoi to re-pack for a trip to Halong Bay. The previous day Sarah and Nicola bought me a massage for my birthday and then today Stacey gave me a beautiful little figurine! Everyone sang happy birthday to me on the bus to Halong Bay- it was magical. When we got to Halong Bay we boarded out junk boat (see pictures) chose our cabins and then went straight of to Kayak in the bay's waters. Kayaking between the islands was just breath taking. Everywhere was a photo opportunity. We paddled into a remote area through a cave and everyone sang happy birthday again to me...something that was quite special.

After kayaking we watched the sunset on the bay then started drinking an dancing on board. The group bought me a bottle of Vodka as another preset and our tour leader also bought a bottle of vodka to celebrate- I drank a lot.

We did more karaoke- somehow we sang pretty much the whole "Adele Live at the Royal Albert Hall" playlist, as well as "End of Time" (Beyonce) and "Stronger" (Kelly Clarkson!)

After sufficient drinking and dancing I rang mum (in a very drunken state) and then laid on top deck watching the night sky of Halong Bay. All in all, a very magical and special 25th Birthday indeed! I genuinely cannot recall a time I have been this happy!

Currently now on our bus back to Hanoi for the final time where we grab all our belongings and get another 13hour night train to Hué. Following that we go to Hoi An for a couple of nights and then we fly to Ho Chi Minh and also the Mekong Delta.

Feels bizarre that we still have over a week to go. I feel like I've been away forever but I am seriously loving life right now. I'm surrounded by great people, beautiful scenery, incredible once in a lifetime experiences and weather to die for. I don't want to come home. I love my friends and family and of course Tobi, but I want to travel forever. I feel free.

Signing off for now. Need to re-pack everything and check how much money I have- spending a lot!!

Hope you enjoy the photos!!

Appreciate your surroundings.


Monday, 23 April 2012

All aboard the Night Train


Wow, what a few days. It's very hectic and we're always moving around which I am LOVING. My group are amazing and made some really nice friends already.

So to try and catch up (as it's been a few days) on Sunday night I stayed in the same hotel in Hanoi (my presidential suit) and during the day we did a cyclo ride of the city. Now if you don't know what a cyclo ride is; think being cycled around on a rickshaw, down the M25, with a thousand bikes per second whizzing past you and on top of that a Vietnamese man shouting "so wherea youa froma?!". It was an experience to say the least!!

On Monday day time we explored Hanoi some more then headed to the train station to catch an over night sleeper train from Hanoi to Lai Chau. The train was brilliant- it was 10 hours leaving at 9pm and I managed to sleep for a couple of hours after having much laughs with Nicola, Sarah and Stacey - my bunk buddies. We talked, we laughed (a lot) and we sang- a great trip all round!!

We got off the train about 5.30am (ouch!) and then got a bus to Sapa. Sapa is truly beautiful!! I knew the views would be stunning, but no photos can do it justice. I did get some nice ones of the scenery as well as some of the local people but nothing will really be able to truly define what we saw.

We had a really nice walk around a local village in the 36*C heat- yeah, it's hot, then after that we came back to our hotel. Somehow I managed to wangle my own room again, complete with balcony and jacuzzi bath!

Now chilling in the games room with a beautiful bottle of iced cold water, feeling the breeze sweep through my hair and waiting for Stacey for our game of pool...how's all your Tuesday mornings going?

Also, word has got out about my birthday being on Friday...mainly because I told everyone so I big party is being planned on our private boat as we sail around the thousands of islands in Halong Bay!! Life is pretty sweet at the moment I gotta admit!

So it's goodbye for now, I'll blog again in a few days when I get a chance. Coming up we stay in a Vietnamese home tomorrow night, followed by a sleeper train the follows night and then sleeping on our Junk Boat under the stars on Friday night.

Ciao for now.



Sunday, 22 April 2012

Get The Party Started!

Today I met my group.
I got given a list of names last night so I already knew that it was going to be 11 girls, and me. But it turns out there are 2 other guys. In total we have 15. 2 married couples, the rest women, and of course me.

Nationalities range from New Zealand to Russia to Portugal to South Africa and there are also a couple of girls from Reading...one of which has a few friends in Knaphill and Chobham- SMALL FRICKING WORLD!!

Everyone is so nice and I'm really excited about the next few weeks. I've already become good friends with the two English girls (Sarah and Nicola) as well as the South African (also Sarah) and the New Zealand (Stacey). We all had dinner together as a big group to get the party started and everyone is really friendly and welcoming to one another.

After dinner we went to a water puppet show which was actually quite funny- slightly lacking in quality but humorous nonetheless and after that we hit the hustle and bustle of the night markets. (I'm not looking to buy anything in particular but it was nice to be in such a rammed environment and experiencing the local culture if bargaining)

Tomorrow evening we get a night train up to the mountains in Sapa where we stay in a hotel for a night and then also it's out first (of a couple) of nights in a Vietnamese home. I'm not sure what signal will be like in Sapa, so may not blog for a few days, but I'll be sure to catch you all up when I get back ok a few days.

Take care for now people.



Saturday, 21 April 2012


It seems bizarre that at night, the weather changes so dramatically. Almost like Hanoi has a secret persona that only comes out in the dark time. Having had beautiful sunshine and glorious heat all day yesterday (I'm having to remind myself constantly what day I'm in) the night brought storms with rain, thunder and lightning. It wasn't a massive storm by any means, not like a tropical downpour we used to get in Sri Lanka, but still, it felt like someone upstairs was venting their anger.

But when I walked the streets this morning, not s spot of wet anywhere. If you were a heavy sleeper you wouldn't have known (at all) what occurred last night...and it makes me wonder if this happens every night? Tonight, we shall see.

So today is Saturday, the time 3pm. Tomorrow I join a group of other travellers and we head as a group all over Vietnam. I'm really looking forward to meeting new people- a statement I wouldn't have said 5 years ago. Of course I'm nervous, who wouldn't be?! That overwhelming fear that no one will like me and I'll be all alone for another 2 weeks...lol, I'm sure it will be fine!! *crosses fingers and prays!*.

Today was pretty much just a "make sure I've got everything sorted" day. Checked and double checked my money. Thought I lost my passport but then remembered the reception has it. Also thought I lost my debit card but then found it. It annoys me that I'm not as relaxed as I used to be. Psychology will probably say that I have more barriers up having been hurt by close people last year. Shop owners here smile as you walk past, and instantly I put my hands in my pocket to make sure I have everything. Taxi drivers ask if I want a lift and I automatically assume they'll rip me off. I don't think it's that kind of culture here. I genuinely think they just want to help. I may be being naive and stupid, but I miss that care-free attitude. I have a lot to hate about a couple of people, but this change in attitude makes me hate them more.

Aaaaannnddd flush that negativity away. I'm in a beautiful country, about to have an adventure of a lifetime. I am very fortunate. I never forget that. Especially when I get to watch Tom and Jerry in this beautiful country!

Most likely have a quiet night tonight. Spend some time in the bar and try and work out who will be in my group.

Today's word- Forgive.
And here are today's photos...


P.s I think reading "The Help" is starting to have an effect on me. The book is based in Mississippi and its written in that southern twang accent, so now if something happens I find myself saying "oh Lordy" a lot. Jesus not gon' like that!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Summer Summer Summer-time.

Hot. Bloody hot as my Nanna would say! But I'm so happy- I've missed the summertime. Weather forecast from iPhone said 37*C but my hotel man said "forty-hoo, forty-hoo! Very hot hot" which I can only imagine means 42*C. Now I know my experience with people telling me numbers in Laos isn't brilliant (pilot telling me 14*C and taxi man telling me 6km) but i'm pretty sure it is over 40*C.

Woke up about 10am as per normal having FINALLY got to sleep at 3am. Packed all my things up and went downstairs. Confirmed my taxi to the airport and then decided to go for a walk...cause you know, what else do you do in 40*C heat?! The worst part of it is though is that I made such a big deal about how I'm fine with the heat to the hotel man that pride then gets in the way when I want to turn back after 12meters! I was thinking of making an excuse like "oh I forgot my..." but that's the thing, my contents are so basic that I couldn't have forgotten anything?! So I walk, and I melt, and I walk, and I melt. (very good for losing weight!) Eventually I find a bar and have the most appreciated glass of coke light ever imaginable!!

Ride to the airport was uneventful, the airport was standard, I bought a pen for 5,000kip and read more of my book- nothing interesting here except oh, my pen is blue. (Thrilling)

The plane itself however, oh my bajeebas!! See picture. If it were any smaller I'd have expected to be handed a parachute and some guy called "Rick" claiming to be my tandem partner! Thankfully though I had a seatbelt (unlike the skydiving plane) and everything was fine.

Landed at 4pm in Hanoi- perfect timing for rush hour traffic in 'downtown'. If I thought the streets were crazy before, holy crap are they crazy during rush hour! There's motorbikes (scooters really) absolutely ev-er-y-wh-er-e!! I took a video which I don't know how to upload from my phone, but believe me- it was crazy! I just kept my head down and prayed we didn't hit anything or anyone.

The room I have in my hotel...well, I didn't mean to book royalty but that's certainly what I got! My room has a doorbell!! It also has a lounge and lush double bed. I have a television and computer to myself as well as a balcony looking over the quiet streets of Ha Noi, lol jk, it's crazy outside!! So much beeping.

Sorry to make you read so much today! But here are today's photos for your enjoyment!