Explore via e-mail...

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

Supertramp
xxx

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.

Supertramp
xxx

Monday, 23 April 2012

All aboard the Night Train

'suuup!!

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.

Embrace.

Supertramp
xxx

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.

Explore!

xxx

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Changes

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...

Supertramp
xxx

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!

Love.

Supertramp.
xxx

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Now put your hands up

Jet lag is becoming a bit of a bitch at the moment. I'm finding myself waking up about 2am and not being able to get back to sleep. I've heard it's harder when you go east as opposed to going west and comparing this trip to Alaska, i definitely agree. So feeling like a hamster being awake between 2am and 5am I managed to read more of my book. Eventually I fell asleep and woke up to an email saying my last creative writing assignment had been marked- 83% booom!

Following on from that high I researched a bit more about how close to the Thai border I was. Eventually I just got in a taxi and off we went. So everyone who's been to Thailand, put your hands up- oh, Dan...no hand up?

Before going to Thailand though I thought I'd sample some of the local cuisine...Ice Cream flavoured Oreos seem to be popular so I thought i'd push myself and try something new. I didn't like them. Meals are becoming sparse but I'm feeling alright.

The weather in Laos is brilliant! Pure sunshine and about 35*C. When I was on the plane yesterday I thought the pilot said it was 14*C, so I put my jumper on in preparation...what a knob I was! I did wonder why everyone was looking at me strange in the terminal?! I also thought my taxi driver said my hostel was only 6km from the airport, turned out to be 60km (good thing I didn't say I'll walk!) so I'm having some language difficulties but that's not stopping me from having an amazing time!

I've met a couple of group travellers- a lot like I'll be joining on Sunday and they're all really nice and welcoming me into their conversations. I'm very excited about meeting my group- just hope they aren't losers like my group in Africa...yeah I'm talking to you Mel and Sarah and everyone else reading this!! :-p

Having been dropped off at the Loas/Thai border my taxi man (who speaks no English) says "wait". Originally I thought he meant I was to wait but no no, he meant he'll wait while I sort out visa stuff...awkward 5mins while we look at each other blankly!

I pass through Laos exit border easily and get on a local bus to cross the 'Friendship' bridge into Thailand. Local bus. I'm so glad I flew to Laos and didn't get a bus! (see picture)

Having arrived at the Thai border, I get my passport stamped (YES!!) and grab a taxi to Mi Chai. I have a diet coke, and then ask the taxi driver to take me back to Laos. It was probably the shortest time I've ever spent in a country including my booze cruise trips to France with Dad!

Anyway, the bus back to the Laos border only took Thai Bach so I had to get some money out. Having no clue what the exchange rate was or what the value is of the Thai currency I withdrew from an ATM the lowest amount possible- 500 bacht. The bus ticket was 15bacht. GREAT! Anyone going to Thailand and want some currency?!

Back in my room now. Need to drink some water. It's very hot, which I love but I don't think I'm drinking enough.

Will check in again a bit later, but for now perhaps enjoy some photos of my travels today...

Peace.

xxx

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Say a little prayer for me...

So according to google maps, going from A to B is 4 minutes - I take 69 minutes. The streets of Han Oi are a nightmare! I'll try and upload a video!

After having severe difficulty with translation at the hotel (location B), I'm not sure if I've booked an extra night on Friday as wanted, or if I've completely cancelled my whole reservation for Saturday and Sunday entirely...we'll find out on Friday I suppose?

My taxi driver to the airport was on his phone the whole time- nice to know that they take safety as seriously as we do but it did give me a chance to have a (very) quiet sing a long to Kelly Clarkson on the radio! Oohhhhh yeeeaahhh I'm cool! I also saw my first wildlife today- just casually at the side of the road- a couple of buffalo. Africa's second deadliest animal just strutting around...but you know, standard in Vietnam!

The flight from Vietnam to Laos on Laos airlines was absolutely fine, despite the lady sitting next to me saying a prayer (out loud I may add) as we take off. Always brimming with confidence the local folk here!!

Anyway, I'm now in a place that I can't remember the name of in Laos...begins with V I think? And as I put my shoes on the rack (it's that kind of hostel :-/) I hear a "so where you from buddy?" coming my way. As I reply "London good sir" he replies "no shit? I'm from Stratford!" Now...my UK geography isn't brilliant but I'm sure Stratford isn't close enough to London for this guy to get up and hug me?! Nevertheless I felt happy this man was happy to find another Brit. He invited me out for dinner but tonight, I declined as I'm rather tired.

Now in my room, blogging away watching BBC News...ahhhh, home.

Right, that's all for now!

Ciao

xxx

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

First Entry in Asia.

So this marks the first post on my 'tour' of the East. I started writing a diary but thought it silly when I could write more in an e-version.

Currently I'm sat in reception of the Indochina Gold hotel which I booked while waiting at Hong Kong international airport. The beauty of wifi hey?

The hotel is nice, the people are incredibly friendly and the food is...edible. The bed however was very solid and not the most comfortable, but who cares? I didn't come here for comfort.

Today I'm flying to Laos. I originally planned to get a bus but having read some horrific reviews I decided to fly. As much as I love coaches, the timings would also have been too tight as I need to be back in Hanoi by Saturday. So now I can fly today (Wednesday), have 2 days in Laos and then fly back on Friday evening. I may also see if I can sneak into Thailand as I'll be right on the border...another stamp in the passport and another country to add to my list (up yours Dan!).

The flight from Heathrow to Hong Kong was a pleasant flight. Out of 11 hours, I pretty much slept for 8. I watched and cried my eyes out to 50/50 (fast becoming my favourite movie) and also watched some Big Bang Theory and New Girl.

The flight from Hong Kong to Ha Noi was a completely different story though. This flight was potentially the worst flight I've had, and I've flown quite a lot. While we sat on the plane at Hong Kong the rain lashed down. My first clue of a dodgy flight was probably when the pilot said "I think the airport are about to give a red lightening signal which forbids any activity on the runway, so I want to get away before they do that"...and we did...resulting in me SEEING the lightening outside my window while flying! The flight was silent. The turbulence was redick and I was actually very nervous. Having said all that, I don't feel so worried about flying "Laos Airlines" later!

So yeah, that pretty much sums up my movements the last 24 hours or so.

My first impressions of Vietnam is that it is beautiful. You can see that everyone tries very hard at everything they do. The country itself is very developing in the sense that there is building work everywhere, but you just feel that they are 40 years behind everyone else. There's motorbikes and pedestrians galore and the taxi drivers are probably the best (yet worst) drivers in the world!

I haven't really researched Laos very much as I wasn't planning on staying for more than an hour before I got here, but hopefully they'll have wifi and I'll blog from there.

I have my phone with me, but I took the sim card out and left it at home with the hope that I could just use my phone for its camera and music. Turns out wifi works with no Sim which I'm quite happy about to be honest. I think this first week will be quite lonely as I'm travelling on my own, but when I join my group on Sunday I don't think I'll feel quite as lonely.

So if you're reading this, please email me, Facebook me, send smoke signals- just to keep me company!

I'll try and upload a few photos along the way as well as I'm blogging from my phone. Not really had a chance to take many photos just yet but perhaps enjoy these for now...

Ciao for now,

Simon

Photos:
1) my first Vietnamese meal.
2) my bed- massive (8ft wide) but solid.
3) hong kong stamp!
4) my taxi driver...being so very safe; on his phone.