Friday, 29 May 2009

A HUGE update as I am so far behind!

Hello All

Its been a while since I last updated so I am going to have to keep this one short otherwise I'd be writing an essay! I did try to update a few times in the past but the computer crashed so I lost all that I wrote!

Dalat to Hoi An via Nah Trang:

The bus from Dalat to Nah Trang was absolutely amazing right through the Central Highlands, the views were just like the Alps less the snow, plus a whole load of trees completelty covering the mountains. The road is IDEAL for a nice fast car or a motorbike, very new and wide sweeping corners!

After arriving in Nah Trang about midday we went straight to Sinh Cafe to book our tickets that night to Hoi An. After that Gilles and I decided to rent a moto and explore the local area. Unfortunately we ended up with a complete hump of junk... a Chinese moto. The gears did not work too well when changing and the steering was to be desired! Anyhow we ended up driving about 40 klicks to Bo Ho water falls, much nicer than those at Dalat, not as touristy a good little trek up through the river valley. They were also ideal for swimming in, although there was an absolutely massive spider on the rocks next to the water!

THe night bus to Nah Trang was alright, not the best seats in the world and they were not exactely designed for westiners, none the less they were more comfortable than a sitting bus. [think semi reclined seats like smaller beds]

Next up Hoi An - an altogether beautiful city. Its a world heritage sight meaning that all of the old buildings have to be retained in their current state and any rennovations have to be done to the exact standards of the old. Though walking around for the day was very nice we did fry as it was the hottest day so far! For the afternoon we decided to rent cycles and head to the beach. That evening was Gilles birthday so we headed out to a nice restaurant and he ended up treating all of us to a meal and some Vietnamese wine [not as bad as you would think, like a french red]

The next day we rented cycles once more and took a ferry to Cat Kim island (an eyte really in the middle of the river. The island was quite nice, no tourists but bloody hot again! It seems to be an island wholly dedicated to the production of reed mats, which was interesting. This time it was Tom's birthday so again we headed out to a nice restaurant and had a few beers, although this time we had to pay!

That evening we also decided to rent moto's as we though it would be a good idea to head out to some ruins called My Son before our afternoon bus to Hue. We got up at 4:45 and left at about 5:15, so so early! It was only meant to take us about an hour to get there but we took a wrong turning and ended up going the long way round taking more like 1:45 mins! What was really cool was that we were the first tourists up there apart from a smattering of the local artists getting up early to paint. The ruins were quite an amazing sight, to think that there were built nearly 1000 years ago!

Hue - Dong Hoi - Hanoi

That afternoon we took the bus to Hue and I soon realised why the company we went with was the cheapest in town, not the best ride a little hot and sticky as the AC was not too effective!

We only ended up staying one day in Hue as there is only one real sight and that is the old Citadel. We ended up walking around it for about 4 hours! Very interesting, asian architecture is quite amazing, how on earth did they build what they did when they did!

The next afternoon we got our first train in Vietnam to Dong Hoi! Very interesting; we decided to go for the hard seats as it was the cheapest and its how all the locals travel. When you see documentaries like Michale Palin in India, just think about those trains and you have the perfect picture in your head! I had one guy sleeping on the floor under the seat by my legs!

Dong Hoi was okay not the nicest town but not the worst. We were only using it really as a gateway to Vinh Moc tunnels and Phong Nha cave (oldest in Asia, and some brits recently unearthed another larger cave which might be the largest in the world!). The first day we spent going to the beach and trying to sort out a taxi to both the cave and the tunnels, however whenever we asked someone they said it was only possible to see one of the sights and that if you wanted to see both you'd have to spend two days (which we could not do). I rather regrettably had to chose between the tunnels and the cave. I went for the cave as it was another world heritage sight.

That evening we ended up in the street bar across from the hotel and ended up having a whail of time! Gilles, Tom and I ended up drink far too much with some local lads who paid for it all. They even drove us on their motos for a late night Pho Bo (beef soup). Excellent evening that I'll never forget. One of the lads was also a taxi driver who took us to the caves the next day for a good price.

The cave I must admit was very impressive, I have never seen anything so big in my life it look about 20 minutes in a boat just to reach the back of the cave! Again I cant really describe it, just massive full of features, look it up on the internet Phong Nha Cave.

After finishing at the cave we headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and head to the bus pickup point before we headed to Hanoi. It was at this point that it became very apparent that it was easy enought o see both the caves and the tunnels if you got up early enough, so i am a bit gutted that i did not see the tunnels, it just means that I am going to have to come back to Vietnam again to see them!

On that point this is one of my pet hates about Vietnam, everyone seems to be onyl interested in helping you our if there is the thought of some money at the end of it!

Nearly done!

The night bus to Hanoi was really lucky as it was mostly empty so we ended up getting two beds each across the back of the bus making for a good nights sleep!
best night bus so far, not full so ended up having two beds on the back.

and finally:

Hanoi and Halong Bay

We arrived in Hanoi at about 5:30 in the morning and headed straight for the hotel which seemed to get good reviews, it was not even open yet! we had to get the night guard to let us in.

We pretty much dropped our bags off had showers gave our washing in and headed out to the city to walk around. Hanoi is a really nice city, lots of character to it, loads of old French colonial buildings about. We also spent this day sorting out our Laos visas and trying to find a company to visit Halong Bay with, which in itself took half of the day up! In the end we went with our hotel which was a good idea.

Our first evening in Hanoi we went to some the of most infamous bars in town. Bia Hoi Ha Noi! A local brew produced daily shipped to the local bars and sold for a measly sum of 30p per glass! Makes for a good evening!

The next morning we got up pretty early and headed to Halong Bay....AMAZING! We got there had lunch on the boat whilst we headed out to the bay of some 1969 limestone karst islands. Its one of the most beaultiful places that I have evere seen. Unfortunately it is one, if not the biggest tourist attraction in Vietnam, but still worth the crowds to go an sail around. In the afternoon we stopped off next to a floating village donned some life vests and were let loose in some kayaks to paddle around the bay for 40 minutes or so. This was really cool going right up to sheer cliffs into semi submerged caves and through floating villages! The evening we anchored up and started jumping off the boat for a bit of a swim. Today we sailed back to Halong City to get the bus back to Hanoi and here I am 1519 words later siging off to go to sleep.

Boy that was a marathon essay. Hopefully I'll not have too much of these!

Tomorrow were going to see Ho Chi Minh in the morning and then take a night bus to Sapa.

Adios will update once in Laos I suspect in about 3days time.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Mui Ne and Dalat on the Moto!

Morning All

Just a very quick update from Dalat before I get my bus to Nah Trang, its 6:50 in the morning at the moment.

One thing that you realise about Vietnam is that everyone gets up very early. At 5:00 am this morning there was some loud music playing in the street outside our window!

My Breakfast has just arrived; I'll update this once I am finished!

Finished breakfast now!

I don’t think that I am going to have time to update this one properly, I'll have to wait until later today when I am in Nah Trang or tomorrow when I arrive in Hoi An.

Finally I am getting the chance to update this bit properly, this time from Hoi An; a lovely city.

Our first day at Mui Ne we rented two moto's between the four of us for 90'000 dong each ($5 per moto!). That evening Giles and I drove the motos to the 'Red' dunes to watch the sun set, it was nice but these particular sand dunes are too commercialized as they are just out of town and were full of Vietnamese tourists.

The next day we got up at about 4:45 to go and watch the sun rise which was nice as there were not too many people at the dunes at this time in the morning. One of the best things about getting up at this time is that is nice and cool! After watching the sun rise we made our way to the white dunes (30km away + much better). I really like renting moto's as you can just stop at any point and take a photo, have a coffee at a local bar or anything!

The white sand dunes are quite something, as you walked in to the middle of them there was nothing to say that I was not in the middle of a desert! At this point it was about 10 in the morning and it was already getting unbearably hot. So we decided to make our way back to Mue Ne to walk up the 'Fairy Stream', which was alright but a little dirty. This kid decided to follow us and then tried to ask for money as a guide. Guide for what! There is only one way to walk in a river! I suppose that, that is one of my main gripes about Viet Nam; it seems that everyone including the children are out to make some money out of you in some way or another.

Anyhow after seeing all of the sites in the morning we headed back to our hotels for a little siesta to get out of the midday sun. The late afternoon was spent in the sea and sleeping on the beach.

The next morning we got the bus to Dalat, which was the worst one that I have been on so far! We were in a minibus designed for the Vietnamese, 5 people across the back... we did NOT fit. The road was diabolical full of holes!

Dalat was a nice enough city, not the best but still good. One of the best things about it was that it was high up in the mountains which meant that the weather was nice and cool. You could sleep in a room without a fan and for the first time I had top use a blanket!

Again we rented a moto in Dalat so that we could head out to Lang Biang Mountain to trek up to a peak of 2169m. The views from the top over the central highlands were really good, could see for miles! The climb up was a pain though, really steep in places necessitating the use of all four limbs. The afternoon we headed back to Dalat before heading out to Dantala Falls, quite impressive but a little touristy. We got stuck there as I experienced my first proper monsoonal downpour. I have NEVER seen so much rain, got absolutely soaked!

The next morning we headed for Hoi An via Nah Trang!

bye for now.


Saturday, 16 May 2009

Can Tho Night, Saigon, Mui Ne

Hello All Again,

Update from Mui Ne now, which is a nice beach location really hot, nice sand, nice beach sand dunes.

The last night of Can Tho was absolutely amazing! I went out with this French guy called Giles, who we have been traveling with for the last few days (I suspect we'll be traveling together for the next few weeks). We went to Bar 79 in Saigon, tiny joint off some side street, sat down had a few beers then these two old Vietnamese Guys came and sat down next to us, so we got talking for a while which was really cool. Some of the people out here are so friendly especially if you go to the bars that are not for the tourists and for the locals. After sitting with these two Vietnamese guys for a couple of hours Giles and I started to get up and leave, after to old boys had left, a whole table of 20 something’s invited us to sit down with them and eat. They also bought us a beer and decided it would be the perfect occasion to buy a bottle of rice wine and feed us copious amounts. Not the best this I must admit before getting a bus at 8 am the next morning!

Saigon was our next port of call, a pretty cool city, unbelievably busy! We stayed right in the centre of town in the main backpacker area. I did all of the touristy things that there are to do, visited the independence palace (where the southern Viet Govt was run from and is still occasionally used today), went to the rich district, very nice. I also went to the US war crimes museum, which quite possibly the best museum that I have been to in a very long time. I found it fascinating, horrifying, deeply moving and extremely educational all at the same time. It’s just interesting to get the view from the other side. Unfortunately I do not have photos of Saigon and the damn battery ran out on both my camera and my phone!

The first night in Saigon we went to meet on of toms friends in a really nice bar, bloody expensive though! The second we decided to opt for one of the local cheap bars. It seems that there are so many more travelers out here that I have met in Kampot, Ha Tien, Can Tho, Saigon and now Mui Ne!

Arrived in Mui Ne this afternoon, straight to the beach and in the sea for a good couple of hours. Rented a moto this afternoon and drove to some massive sand dunes just outside of the town to watch dusk. We're all getting up at 4:45 tomorrow to watch the sun rise over at the dunes, and on that note I had better be getting to bed to get some much needed rest.



Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Can Tho and the Floating Markets

Hello all from Can Tho this time,

Boy was the bus from Ha Tien to Can Tho an interesting one! The drivers over here are nuts, they overtake on blind bends, with cars coming the other way playing chicken and talegate like you would not belive. It took about five hours to get here and it was not exactly comfortable, no AC just four 40!

Can Tho itself is a nice enough city of about 1 million people they all seem friendly enough, plus its a hell of a lot cleaner than anywhere else that we have been.

Oh before I get onto Can Tho I forgot to let you lot know about Hon Chong. When we got to Ha Tien we managed to find a travel agent that had only been open for a day or two so we managed to get some good deals out of them. Between the three of us we had a chauffeur in a nice new 4x4 drive us around for the day to all of the local attractions for the measly sum of 10 - 11 dollars! We drove to some of the local pagodas inside karst caves, the local beach, and what they call the little Ha Long Bay of the south [not at all], it was all very nice but a little crowded though as it is currently the Vietnamese holiday high season! You would not believe how many people were in the caves, all of them stopping before Bhudda and praying!

After we returned from Hon Chong we got the bus at 04:45 to Can Tho...

I have already mentioned my first impressions of the city, so on to what I actually got up to. THe first day we pretty much walked around soaking it all in, down to the local market to get some fruit (which is amazing over here!) across to the river to some other markets. We also booked a river tour with our hostel for about $11 for a 8 hour cruise through all of the floating markets in the area, + the back water canals and rice paper factory. While walkig along the street we met this French Guy who asked for directions and about boat tours. In the end we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around with him. He also came on the boat tour with us today, which was really cool. It started with a slow meander down the Mekong, or one of its delta tributaries, to watch the sunset. After we frequented one floating market, ate some pineapple, and some fruits that I have never had before nor do I know the name of them, none the less they were lush. Rice factory next, rather interesting place, i never new they made noodles that way (photos will eventually follow). We then went to another market followed by a visit to a restaurant to have some coconut, jack fruit and a massage! Our guide that showed us around for the day was a complete nutter, he started a food fight in the middle of the market between some of the boats. We were all throwing food peel at each other in the end!

Any how I am going to have to cut this one short as I am quite hungry, and I need to start uploading some photos, which takes ages!

Adios for now.


Sunday, 10 May 2009

Vietnam At Last: The Mekong Delta!!

Hello All

This time from the Ha Tien in the Mekong Delta.

I've only been here for three hours and already Vietnam seems to be a pretty cool place!

I guess I'd better update you lot on my travels over the last few days.

After staying the night in Kampot we went on a tour of Bokor National Park with Keyman Tours. It involved a 6-7 hour jungle trek to the top on the mountain where there was an old abandoned French colonial settlement for the right and famous, and a trek back down the next day (but we managed to get a lift in the back of a lorry for 1 USD!!). It was quite possibly the wettest thing that I have ever done, I could not believe that I was able to sweat that much, every single piece of clothing that I was wearing was soaked through. Think about climing Snowdonia in thick rainforest and 30 degrees C heat! Not an easy task. It was a bit of a man challenge though to keep up with the local park rangers [which i did managed to do]. Tom and Nicole managed to see a Monkey, and the ranger apparently with them pointed out to a bear! All I saw was a snake and some huge ass spiders.

Once at the top of the hill it was really cool and misty, the whole top seemed to be shrouded in cloud for the whole day and for most of the evening too. The mountain is pretty much a plateau which the French built a village for the rich and diplomats in order to get out of the heat. All of the building are in poor order, except for the old hospital which they now use as a base for the NP and a guest house for trekkers. Words can't really describe what I saw, you'll have to wait for me to upload some photos. Think of a big hotel/ casino built in the 1920's by the french which is now empty, just a shell. There were school buildings, a post office, another hotel, some houses, government buildings and a church really quite surreal!

The next day we managed to persuade one of the workers up on the hill to give us a lift back down to the entrance of the park for a dollar, saving us a 32 km hike, not too bad aye!

The same afternoon we got a tuk tuk to Kep and then a boat to Koh Tonsey (Rabbit Island). The boat journey there and back was really interesting to say the least. We were in a pissy little fishing boat in 1-2m swell, i swore that we were going to capsize a couple of times! It was good to get to the Island just to sit in your stereotypical beach hut made from bamboo and bannana leaf in a hamock watching the world go by. I pretty much managed to read 90% of my book in one day!

I just have to add this bit, I've just had some old Vietnamese guy leaning over my shoulder for the last five minutes completely besotted with what I was typing! He was talking to be but I didn't really understand what he was saying.

Any how time to sign off and get some dinner!

Plan for the next few days is:

Ha Tien --> Hon Chong tomorrow
Hon Chong --> Can Tho

I dont know the rest yet!

Anyhow Adios!


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Bokor National Park + Kampot

Hello again

Now I'll give you all a longer update.

After leaving Bangkok we got a bus from the eastern bus station to the border for 2.60 quid, a five hour bus journey, bloody cheap! This was our first border crossing, an interesting one, from which I learnt alot! You soon realize that being in a country such as Cambodia no one will do anything for free! This guy just grabbed my passport and started filling in the forms for me to hand into the officials, i thought he worked for the border team, no the cheeky bugger wanted me to pay him for filling out my forms! Basically we told them to piss off and just walked to our taxi and drove off. The taxi is another story, taxi's everywhere over hear take you to a hotel of their choice where they get commission for dropping you off. In the end you just have to say no and walk off! We didn't stay in Koh Kong for long as we arrived by night and it did not seem to be that good of a place. After that we got a bus to Sihanouk Ville for 9 bucks.

Sihanouk Ville was even worse, the place was a complete dump. The beach was filth and the area just seemed to be full of bars for the tourists, of which there seem to be hardly any in this country! The beach was full of rubbish and effluent from the bars seems to be pumped straight out onto the beach/ sea! We had to go here though to get our Vietnamese Visas as this is meant to be the best place to get them. The visa is quite expensive at $40 but it took 20 minutes to process!

After Sihanouk Ville we got a share taxi from just outside the local market to Kampot, a much nicer town, for around $6. Kampot seem to be a nice place, a little run down if I'm honest but full of really old French colonial buildings. Yesterday afternoon we chartered a boat to take us up to Techou rapids, about a 1 1/2 hour boat. There were some amazing views across the valley, loads of riverside fishing villages, your stereotypical stilt houses with reed roofs! The rapids were a bit of a disappointment as we found out only once we were up there that the government have decided to build a dam up river just around the corner effectively slowing the flow so much that the rapids seemed to be just a trickle of water!

This afternoon we got a tuk tuk to a buhddist temple that was built in the middle of a cave. The local village kids took us round the caves and deep into them crawling through some rather small gaps to get back out, only by torch light for about 12p, they were happy though!

Tomorrow were trekking through the jungle with a a local guide to Bokor National Park which is meant to be really nice, it takes two days and you sleep up there in the old rangers station!

After this I think that we're off to Kep and Koh Tonsay Island then we head for the Vietnamese border at Hat Chien (only opened recently to johnny foreigners) through the Mekong Delta to Saigon.

I'll hopefully be able to update once I am in Vietnam.

Adios for now.

Hope all is going well at home.


Update 2: Bangkok to Kampot

Hello All Again,

Just another update from Kampot this time. Travelled from BKK to Koh Kong stayed one night there and got the bus to Sihanoukville, which we did not like too much as it was a complete dump, the town was a tip really dirty. so we decided to go to Kampot which is much nicer. Its an old french colonial town, with some nice architecture and mountain backdrop. Off to Kep to see the beach possibly today and up to bokor mountain for a night which should be very cool.

any how this was only a v short update, longer one to follow, hopefully tonight when i can get my archos working.

adios jared

Saturday, 2 May 2009

First Update from BANGKOK!!!!

Hello All

This is my first update from Bangkok, and boy is it interesting!

There is so much to tell I have seen loads and its soo bloody cheap.

First day in BKK was really interesting, damn taxi man tried to pull one over on us. He kept flicking this switch by his steering wheel making the charge shoot up to about 600 baht (12 quid). I just got out and started bartering with him. Managed to get him down though.

Our hostel is pretty cool, we're right on the river front (skanky ass river!), to get to the hostel you have to walk down these really small side streets, slum!

Yesterday we started talking to this Thai student on the street who told us where the really cool places to go were, he then flagged down a couple of tuk tuks for us, who droves us around the city for a good couple of hours to all of these temples and Buddhas which are normally closed but were open due to a Buddha holiday, all for the measly sum of 50 pence!!

Food from the street vendors is also brilliant, you can eat a really nice chicken noodle soup for around 60p or pad thai (fried egg noodles) for 50p.

Today I went to the royal palace which was rather stunning, gold every where!

Off to Koh Sanh Road tonight for some beer and more cheap food. Off to the eastern bus station to get a bus to Trat and then on to Koh Kong, just over the border in Cambodia.

I'll try to update later in the week probably will not be until i get to Phnom Penh in about 6 days.

Hope all is well back home with you lot.

Adios Jared

P.S. i will endeavor to update some photos soon.