A Travellerspoint blog

The sun is onto me...

Southern Thailand!

sunny 36 °C

It has been too long since my last entry. So here goes...

The last 10 days have been incredible and exhausting all at once! I will need to break it up into parts:

Chapter 1: The journey

I left off last time with us in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Well, we stayed there over a week and booked a flight from Bangkok to Phuket (southern Thailand) so bought $12 bus tickets to travel from Siem Reap to Bangkok via mini bus. Everywhere you read this journey takes 6-7 hours... They are lying. Not that the trip was difficult, it was just extremely long. Try 11-12 hours door to door. After many random stops and being shuffled from large bus to mini bus, we ended up at the border. Easy enough. No issues leaving Cambodia and entering Thailand, just some confusion as to "where is our bus driver?" and "most people seem to be going this way...". But in South East Asia, no matter how confusing or disorganized overland travel seems to be, you tend to reach your destination regardless. Whew! So we make it to our hostel in Bangkok, wake up early the next AM and catch a flight to Phuket, then a ferry to Ko Phi Phi, a really popular island in southern Thailand.

We finally reached our hostel on Ko Phi Phi and realized our transportation within 36 hours consisted of:
-One large bus
-Two minibuses
-One pick up truck style tuk-tuk
-Two regular tuk-tuks
-The Bangkok Skytrain
-Airplane to Phuket
-Taxi to the wharf
-Ferry ride to Ko Phi Phi

We needed a drink.

Chapter 2: The foreign invasion

Ok so apparently it's low season in southern Thailand. I never would have known being on Ko Phi Phi. It was riddled and packed with backpackers! And garbage... Lots of garbage. Such a turn off even though the beach is gorgeous... There is nothing more disgusting than going for a swim and coming up with a chocolate bar wrapper floating next to you! That being said... This island attracts those who want to party. Hard. It's basically the same set up on one of the beaches as a full moon party. Lots of fun for one night but you are not indulging in any sort of Thai culture. Derek did a refresher course for his Padi diving and loved it! He got to go to the next island over where they filmed "The Beach" but he said it was super touristy too... Boo!

Meanwhile, I did some shopping around town, took some photos and read at a cafe! Not bad. A few other good points to make about this place is they have delicious fruit shakes and great restaurants (we loved one called "Garlic").

Some stranger things include the nightly tradition at a reggae bar of foreigners taking to the boxing ring to slug it out for an infamous "bucket" (pint of alcohol + mix in a sand pail). We also saw a local woman with a monkey as a pet... It even had different outfits on everyday. Hm. There were also several tourists with injured limbs... Feet... Arms... People on crutches, bandaged up, and limping! Is it too much partying? Hitting the coral reef while swimming?

Chapter 3: The jungle bug

So from there we jumped on a ferry after 3 nights and headed to Krabi where we met up with our friend Jen, who's from California and doing a similar trip to us! We met her in Vietnam over a month ago and love meeting up with her. We got to East Beach on Railay Bay (it's the much less attractive beach out of them all in this area) and walked 5 minutes across to West Beach where we happened to see Jen waiting for her laundry! She was staying on the beach called 'Tonsai' which is only accessible by taking a long boat or hiking one of two ways: a hefty 15-20 minute climb at the end of West Beach (starting with a climb up about 15 feet of rock) or around back which takes about one hour. We opted for the shorter climb and were sweating like crazy at the end of it. Jen's a climber so it was no skin off her back but we were struggling!

Tonsai beach is much less populated by tourists than the other beaches just because of how you get there - it takes effort. But is so worth it! It's a very popular area for rock climbers as the formations are unbelievable. The second day we were there, the 3 of us hiked over to the West Beach, over to the East Beach and then to an AMAZING beach called Pangnan (will need to check the spelling on that one). It was pristine. We had such a fun day and swam, took pictures, and then things took a bit of a funny turn when we waded through the water to some caves to check them out. On our way out (Super Dave moment to come), I was watching my feet apparently TOO closely and smashed my head against a rock. Really hard. I called for Derek who was up ahead and was able to sit down without blacking out. Jen and Derek came back to find me in tears and trying to keep my composure. After some investigation, Derek found a cut on my head (not very big but was bleeding) and I was dizzy and seeing double at times. Ugh. Just my luck. Anyway, I was fine after a few minutes and headed back to the beach where we went to grab lunch and I finally convinced the other 2 to attempt the hike to the Lagoon about an hour away while I rested on the beach and hoped I didn't have a concussion (don't worry mom - we went to a first aid station to clean up the cut before this! haha ).

So with one head injury down, I knew this was just the beginning for me. Unfortunately, I inherited a few of the 'accident prone' genes from my mother. I just accept it and do not let it get me down. Unless I pass out... then I can't really help it can I?

Jen left the next day so Derek and I were on our own and decided to rent a kayak to paddle around the coast. It was an amazing day... the sky was blue, the temperature outside was about 35C and the water was probably 25C. Heaven! We ended the day at 3pm when we realized the tide had gone out at Tonsai... leaving us to a very painful and awkward walk into shore due to the rocks that were exposed. But then, headed back to our cabin and checked out a reggae bar that evening where we lounged in bamboo huts above the ground sipping on fruity drinks. We watched a fire show, met some other foreigners, played ping pong... then it happened... I felt a sharp pain on the back of my left arm... in a bit of panic, I reached around to feel a hard bug... I tried to pull it off but couldn't! So had to 'rip' it from my skin. EW. I threw it on the ground without looking at it... then more panic set in... what was this bug? I was only comforted by an English guy who said "Oh, it's probably hookworm, a lot of people have been getting it in the jungle...". I did not need to hear that! But knew it wasn't hookworm... So back to the room we went where upon observation, Derek found this bug had 2 pinchers that left 2 bites beside each other... EEK! He cleaned it up, I took some Benedryl and proceeded to brief Derek for the next 1/2 hour on what to do if I did not wake up the next morning. I was telling him while laughing a bit but was also half serious... I had no idea what bit me! We saw the bug outside the next day... a green, metallic, hard shell (1/2 cm long) with 2 black pinchers about the same length as the body. But no success as of yet figuring out what it was... google has failed us...

Chapter 4: Living the 'more comfortable' life... for a couple nights

After some deliberation, Derek and I decided we were feeling pretty burnt out after 2 months of backpacking on a budget, so made the trek over to the West Beach and checked into a $45/night resort (which would be the equivalent to $150/night hotel) for the next 2 nights. We were in our own cabin, the resort was on the beach with a really nice pool, we got Thai massages and just hung out! So nice!

So yesterday, we left from Krabi and grabbed a ferry to Phuket and then a bus to a hostel near the airport. This morning we woke up at 4:00am and caught our flight to where we are right now - Kuta, Bali, Indonesia!

That's it for now, internet is much faster/cheaper/more accessible here so will be able to write more often.

It's hard to believe we have 1 month left...

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 05:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Elephants and temples and cafes, oh my!

Our week in Siem Reap.

semi-overcast 32 °C

Siem Reap! Wow. What a place. We spent 7 nights there and loved every minute - actually were only supposed to stay for 6 nights but felt like we needed some more time to truly appreciate this amazing city.

We stayed at a hostel called 'Rosy Guesthouse' and it has been, to date, the best hostel I've ever stayed at. For $8.00/night each we got our own room with a bathroom, tv, fridge, A/C, and fan. It was like we were staying at a nice hotel. They had free internet, a DVD library free for guests to use, a book exchange and amazing food! People came from other hostels to eat there. The cook, 'G', is originally from France and moved here 5 months ago after spending a week here and loving it. I can absolutely see why.

The second day we were there, we bought a 3 day pass for the temples ($40 each) and hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us from temple to temple inside the park. It reminded me of how on PEI you pay to get into the national parks and can go anywhere you want, same idea as with the temples. So, I have no idea how many temples we saw, but I could guess around 15? It is a lot of temples. I'm not complaining at all, but by the end of the first day, we were pretty 'templed out'. We did have a random encounter with several monkeys though which scared Derek almost to death. We had pulled over to the side of the road while our driver had to do something and all of a sudden we hear a thump on the tuk-tuk roof... who is peeking over? About 4-5 monkeys who then proceed to jump into the tuk-tuk and terrify Derek. It was hilarious. They didn't bother us, were just playing around with each other! I'm sure my friend Steve remembers his close encounter with a more aggressive monkey in Ubud, Indonesia when he almost had his hand chewed off, it briefly brought back that moment! Haha!

We saw Angkor Wat the last day and if I did it again, would see it on the first day as you're just exhausted by then! We did take a day between each sight-seeing tour of the temples which G recommended. Such a great idea. We got a chance to see several Asian elephants en route to some of the temples. I think most people know I love elephants, but when I got close to that trunk... swinging around with purpose, I was terrified he was going to smack me! I couldn't even touch him. On our temple trek (and also everywhere else in the city), we came across tons of children (any age, mostly between 8-14 years?) who were selling things like postcards, bracelets, etc. who would come up to you and ask "Where are you from?" and you would say "Canada" and they would go into a speech like this:

"Oh! Canada? Capital city is Ottawa, big cities are: Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary... You speak French and English but only some people speak French. Your prime minister is Stephen Harper. There are 30 million people who live there." I swear, North American kids have nothing on these ones... so smart! And their English is excellent. Plus these kids actually have to work... will explain that in the next paragraph.

There are tons of markets in South East Asia, we went to a night market in Siem Reap and went a little crazy (well... presents for people back home, not just for me!). There are 'fish spas' everywhere in SE Asia and basically it's a tub filled with water and these fish which eat the dead skin off your feet when you sit on the edge. Jaclyn and I did this in Malaysia last time we were here and it's definitely a hilarious tourist novelty. We saw a sign in the market that read "Please feed our hungry fish your dead skin" which is absolutely literal. Feed the fish your dead skin. Not a great mental picture.

On our 'days off' (such a tough life... haha) we usually woke up, strolled down the river to Pub Street and had lunch (they have amazing restaurants there as well - every type of food you can imagine) and then went to our favorite cafe called 'The Blue Pumpkin' which had amazing baked goods, homemade ice cream, coffees, teas, etc. so we would sit on the big white couches for the afternoon with our snack, play scrabble on the IPod and do crosswords (yes, we are getting old). Then we would head back the hostel for a few hours, watch a movie, then head back to Pub Street for dinner. I tell you, I'm not taking these stress-free days for granted. I know a new reality will set in once I go back to Canada and I'm holding onto these days for dear life! If only dietitians could get paid to travel the world and test out different foods... sigh... So while we were hanging out one day at a restaurant, a 14 year old boy came up to us, wanted to sell us postcards and asked where we were from (see script above) and then we started asking him questions about himself. Turns out, Cambodian children go to school Monday - Saturday from 6:00am - 12:00pm and then work in the afternoon to raise money in order to pay the $30/month to attend the English school. So his parents are both farmers in the country and after school he rides his bicycle into the city to work from 12:00pm-6:00pm selling postcards, then bikes home for dinner. Sunday is his "day off" where he spends it helping his parents on the farm and doing homework. We ended up asking him to have lunch with us and then gave him $10 towards his school fees. He was such a nice boy... wanted to grow up to be an astronaut and had high hopes of university. It's interesting the different perspective the kids here have towards education versus the Western world... it makes you realize, that in general, we are UNBELIEVABLY spoiled... and on the greedy side... Many (definitely not all of us, just generally speaking) people strive for a big bank account, nice car, big house... (the American dream?) it's never enough. We have too many choices and are never completely happy or satisfied with our own situation. I realize there are many problems in developing countries but they seem to have one thing right - the focus on family and happiness through a non-tangible means. Technology does not clutter the minds of people here like it does at home... it's just a nice change!

Last night we decided to go to a local Khmer BBQ restaurant which was a huge outdoor spot with plastic chairs and about 10 people at each table (even if you didn't know them). It had fresh grilled whole fish, stir fried veggies, kebabs, shrimp, squid, rice, etc. and was delicious! The only thing... when we sat down, I was attacked by crickets. For real. They were jumping at my hair (probably though it was a nest, something my sister and I are cursed with... dark hair = conceivable cozy shelter for insects), going down my shirt, on my face... ugh. At least they don't bite! They stopped bothering me when I got my food but then moved to Derek so we tried to shovel the rest of it pretty quickly and left. We seemed to be the only ones flailing around frantically... the locals thought it was funny for some reason... wonder why...

This morning we said goodbye to the hostel workers and caught a bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok for $12.00. We read it would take 7 hours and I can tell you, it does not take 7 hours. It took 12 hours. Whoever wrote that must have used a much fancier means of transport. Obviously not us though! So we left at 8am, got to the border at Poipet and had to go through the border to leave Cambodia, then walked without any direction and somehow found the Thailand border office. Pretty easy stuff! No issues at all. Except when we flew into Thailand on our way to SE Asia, we had a 30 day entry visa so expected that this time... unfortunately, we only have 15 days in Thailand this part of the trip because we crossed over land vs. flying in. We were planning on spending 3 weeks in Southern Thailand but will have to deal with 2 weeks which is fine! Can't complain, just threw us off a bit! Also, you can't enter Thailand more than 3 times in one year - this being our second entrance, therefore we need to save our last entrance for when we fly from Indonesia back to Bangkok to come home (I would not be happy if we couldn't get home in August!).

Anyway, we're in Bangkok right now and are leaving in the morning to catch a flight to Phuket, Thailand (in the south) and have decided we're going to stick to the west coast islands instead of taking in Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, and Ko Tao. We can't make a full/half moon party this time around and hear the beaches on the west coast are much nicer. Two weeks there it is!

Nothing too exciting this time around but wanted to update everyone!

Until next time,

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 07:10 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

The Human Condition.

The dark side of history.

overcast 30 °C

Like I said previously, we were in Phnom Penh. This account is quite graphic, I apologize if it's too much but it's exactly as it is... which is the reality of what the Cambodian people struggle through to heal from this tragedy.

It's difficult to believe that 3-4 million people were murdered in this country just 36 years ago. The first million were murdered during President Nixon's bombings of Cambodian sanctuaries in 1965 until 1970 (areas for rest, training and supplies during the Vietnamese war) but it's documented that a significant percentage of bombings didn't have targets and ended in the killing of many Cambodians.

We took a 6 hour bus from Saigon and spent 3 nights here. The first day we were here, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison... it was a very sad day for us. The Killing Fields were horrifying yet upon first glance appeared to be a peaceful area of lush gardens and walking trails. This was an obvious elusion as we started walking through the fields... seeing the cases with fragments of bones from the murdered Cambodian people, the cases with the clothes found in the mass graves... we saw a toddler's shorts in one of the cases which was incredibly hard to take. We walked around to see these pits, about 130 of them, all mass graves with corpses ranging from 100-450 people who were brutally murdered between 1975 and 1978 by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge movement. The history is unbelievable... literally... unbelievable. The Killing Tree - another aspect of this that just seems unimaginable. This was the spot where babies were smashed against trees and thrown in the mass graves... The tree that housed a horn to drown out the sounds of the moans and screams from the victims as they were murdered or buried alive. Then we come to the massive monument that was erected to honor those murdered. There were 17 tiers of bones, skulls, clothing that just seemed to go on forever. The history of this genocide is difficult to read about but we felt so important to see as it's part of human reality, just as is every other ethnic/cultural cleansing in history like The Holocaust .

After the Killing Fields, we went to the S-21 prison (a former high school prior to the Khmer Rouge leadership). This was even more graphic and terrifying than we expected... room after room of torture chambers... wire beds with ankle locks and pictures on the walls of how victims were found when the Khmer Rouge surrendered... brutalized, starving and killed by a man's ideal of agrarian socialism in order to 'restart civilization'. We went to another building where there was room after room of pictures of all the victims (the Khmer Rouge documented everything carefully and photographed every person who entered the prison). Old and young adults, children, babies, teenagers - in summary, all ages - had been ''arrested'' and ultimately tortured and murdered within the 3.5 years. The human experimentation chambers aka torture chambers were dark, gloomy, with chains still on the floors where victims were held captive. Outside of the building was covered with barb wire so victims could not escape to commit suicide...

The rules for the prison were still standing in the courtyard and they stated (they are in French, Khmer and English so the translations aren't perfect):

1. You must answer accordingly to my questions - don't turn them away.
2. Don't try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Don't be a fool for you are a chap who dared to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don't tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don't make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don't follow all of the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric charge.

At the time, about 1/4 of the entire population were killed by Pol Pot's regime. The photos around the prison of torture and brutality make any person question their own life. It's these moments in history that force us to question our own path and what it means. In summary, our visit to this city has creating a lot of discussion between Derek and myself. I will take this with me forever and it will influence the way we both live our lives, as has this whole experience of world-wide travel.

I hope this will be my only morbid entry... we're in Siem Reap for a week (and loving it here!) to experience the temples including Angkor Wat so I'm sure will find some peace here - I can see why everyone wants to stay as long as possible!

Love and miss you all!

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 05:11 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Just a small town girl.

Vietnam and into Cambodia.

overcast 34 °C

Next stop - Siem Reap! But to catch up until this point...

So we left Hue and headed to Hoi An. Hue was great but the sights are so far apart we didn't have the energy to try to see anymore 'toms' (as the locals pronounce 'tombs') so we stuck around our hostel most of the time. Had a disgusting encounter when entering our room on the last night, what did we find on my bag? A massive, 2 inch long cockroach. Yes. That was just the beginning of our insect spottings on this trip. Apparently, Derek does not enjoy killing these bugs either... they are really big and make a huge 'crunch'. EW!

We made it to Hoi An after a 4 hour bus ride to get picked up by our hostel (something everyone should get in the habit of doing - if you book your hostel in advance, email them and ask if you can get a pickup at the bus stop/airport/train station - cheaper than getting a taxi/tuk-tuk/moto). We stayed at a hostel called Nhi Trung and it was awesome. I would definitely stay there again... breakfast included, room with A/C, fan, balcony, our own bathroom. Plus it was right in the middle of the old part of Hoi An so extremely convenient for us!

Now, Hoi An is very popular for one particular thing... custom made clothing. Let's just say we cleaned up. Derek and I both bought entire new wardrobes... I bought several dresses, boots, work shoes, sandals, a purse, 3 pairs pants, and 2 fall/spring jackets. Here's the kicker - YOU pick out the design, material, basically anything to do with the clothes and the tailors make it based on your measurements. We felt pretty bad about spending so much money but in reality it's nothing compared to what we would've spent on the same things in Canada. Plus, we hardly spent any money the 3 years leading up to this, so why not?

We bummed around Hoi An for 6 days - hitting up the amazing beach which was a 20 minute bike ride away (cost $1.00 to rent a bike for the whole day) and checking out the old parts of the city by the river. We have realize quite quickly that we prefer smaller towns to big cities. I guess coming from Charlottetown you learn to appreciate the character and charm of the east coast and swimming in the salt water sure reminded us of where our hearts belong! It doesn't mean that we want to come back any sooner or are homesick but it just makes us realize how lucky we are to have grown up in a place like PEI (or anywhere on the east coast). It's just a totally different culture and way of life and I love it.

One thing we saw a lot of on the streets at night were cockroaches... brought back memories to Hue and our encounter in the room. Ew. They flit around so quickly, you almost don't want to wear sandals in case they touch you in any way (Shudder). Unfortunately we were also present for a bad accident between a motorbike and a girl on a bicycle one evening right outside our hostel... we were on the internet and heard a huge crash, ran outside to this poor girl who was convulsing on the pavement... we started yelling for someone to call for help so a local man called and minutes later a taxi rolls up... and a man picks the girl up from the pavement (to our horror) and puts her in the back of the cab... we tried to get them to leave her until an ambulance came but they said no it's ok... ah! Frustrating! I sure wish I had one of my trusty nursing friends with me. Jaclyn and MC would've been all over that scene (as I've seen them in action many times before!).

Next, we left on a flight for Saigon (saved us from an 18 hour bus ride) but not before packing up all of our clothes and sending them air mail to dad's house on PEI. Cannot wait to see the things we bought when we get back! Our flight was great and when we got to Saigon, our hostel picked us up to take us into the city. Now this city is HUGE. It has about 5.5 million people and I'm sure it would take a couple hours to drive across the city itself. My friend Maria had told me she loved this city so we wanted to give it a chance, but after being in Hanoi and not enjoying it, we were skeptical. Turns out, Maria was right, we were only there for one night but it's completely different than Hanoi. The organization of the city is organized really well, there are parks everywhere, monuments, and yes - crazy traffic but it's orderly. Hanoi was a whole other story. When we come back to Vietnam we will definitely spend more time there.

So we are now in Phnom Penh. I feel this experience deserves its own journal entry so will write about it soon...

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 01:10 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

It's all part of the experience...

Vietnam-ing it!

sunny 35 °C

Sapa.

Wow. That little word doesn't even describe the spectacular place it really is. In the Lao Cai province in Northwestern Vietnam, this town of 130,000 people is reached from Hanoi by a 12 hour (overnight) train and a one hour bus ride through the mountains to this little piece of heaven. The French colonized this town in the late 1800's so as you drive through the town, the remnants of French influence remain in the architecture style and some of the restaurants which advertise French foods. It's a very unique mix of European and Vietnamese cultures which works very well together!

The town itself is the gateway to many tribal villages amongst the mountains and thousands of rice terraces. Derek and I decided to do a 3 day trek into the mountains and stay with a local family one night and then back to Sapa for a hostel stay the second night. Little did we know what was ahead... day one constituted of us meeting our trekking 'guides' which were women originally from the villages in the mountains. For a group of 10 foreigners, we had about 7-8 guides... they were all dressed in beautiful tribal outfits which we found out later they only wear when doing treks (like wearing a uniform to work). So with little information about what is expected, we are basically only told to wear sneakers - and thank god for that. We pack a night bag and start walking down the road... then the road turns into the side of a mountain... and then we quickly realize this trek is not a leisurely walk on roads to local villages but a serious and challenging hike through the Hoang Lien Son mountains (which are the eastern section of the Himalayas). Four hours later the first day, we have covered 6-7 kms of ground and had muddy clothes and bruises to prove it! It was hilarious, I was struggling on this hike and the guides that came along with us helped us along the trek... of course I would get the 25 year old woman carrying a baby on her back while holding an umbrella. What a sight... I've got both hands free with a tiny backpack on and can hardly hold my own and here she comes in sandals and is holding me up? Wow. I'm a little pathetic. It just goes to show you how easy our lives are compared to so many others in the world... I'm complaining and she's just bounding along, doesn't even phase her. I've got to grow a pair.

We reached a local family's home where we stayed the first night, had a refreshing swim in a local river and went back for the evening. The family cooked meals for us (rice, tofu dishes, water buffalo, lots of veggies) and then presented the group with 3 water bottles of 'happy water' or rice vodka. Many shots later, we were rejuvenated from the extremely long day. We were so lucky with the group of people we were with - US, Holland, Australia, Turkey, Austria, England - and everyone was all within the same age group.

Later that night we all went to bed with our mosquito netting around us and woke up to a heavy down pouring of rain. But that sure does not stop the people in the villages from working, they were out in the rain working the rice terraces. One thing for certain - the Vietnamese are hard workers! After breakfast, we started on the next leg of our trek which was even more difficult than the day before and thankfully a shorter trip. It was like we were trekking in parts of the mountains no one has been before... add water and you get a slippery mess of foreigners who are definitely not used to this! After another 3-4 hours, we had hiked about 4 kms to another village, had lunch and were pounced on by local artisans to buy everything from hats and belts to purses. From there, we hiked to the main road and a minibus picked us up to take us back to Sapa where we stayed at a hostel that night. Not going to lie, I felt like my legs were going to fall off and was extremely relieved to see that minibus pulling up!

The next day, our main guide, Lee, took 5 of us on a 4 km trek (by road) to another nearby village called Cat Cat. It only took us about 2 hours to do and was easy in comparison to the days before. We got to see the locals weaving the things we had purchased and also all the water mills they had which worked with rain water and waterfalls to pound grain into flour. We got back from the hike and checked out some local food markets which had everything including exotic fruit, mini crabs, tongue (yes I have a disgusting picture of the entire tongue with surrounding mouth parts... ugh), pigs feet, blue chickens (no idea why they were blue), little birds fried on sticks, and I'm sure a lot more but at that point I was about to get sick. That evening we caught a bus back to the train station which turned out to be one of the worst bus rides of my life - and I'm pretty sure everyone in the bus. I get car sick but it's been a long time since I've ever felt like I was actually going to throw up out the window of a moving vehicle. Luckily, I kept it together but it felt like that hour would never end. We made it to the train, found our beds and roomed with a couple from Montreal who were on vacation after university had ended so that was great to meet up with some Canadians!

Back in Hanoi the next morning, our hostel (Bodega hostel) was amazing and gave us a really nice room for free for the day to shower and sleep before we caught the sleeper bus to Hue that night. We slept a little while, went out for lunch and back to get ready for the next part of this trip... we hadn't heard much about sleeper buses but I will encourage anyone doing the same thing - FLY! This was one of the most interesting/worst experiences I've had travelling yet. You walk onto this bus and there are three rows of bunk beds going from the front of the bus to the back. You find your little 'sleeper' unit which is open to everyone around you and try to hide your belongings in this tiny compartment at your feet while attempting to be comfortable. That isn't even the half of it! The driver was crazy and was weaving through traffic all night like he HAD to be in Hue 3 hours earlier, was honking the whole time (which everyone does here) and making random stops to pick up 20 crates of baby chicks... then it gets interesting... they obviously overbook the bus so the driver walks down both isles and puts out these mats which 5 people had to sleep on. So these tiny isles are full with people and I luckily got this grumpy woman on the right of me (I was in the middle bunk so had people on both sides) who would roll over and grip my arm or any other part should could while she was sleeping. Plus she snored and hawked/spit every now and then (which SO many people do here as well... inside, outside, on a bus, doesn't matter but it's gross). Needless to say, I did not sleep well. Derek struggled more than I did because his huge 6'0" frame did not fit in the tiny frame of the 'sleeper' bunks... Also, when you had to go to the bathroom, you literally had to climb through someone else's bunk to get there.

So we made it to Hue yesterday. Our hostel (Valentine Hostel) picked us up on motorbike and we have a great room. The staff is so friendly and literally hover over you when you are in reception - they really want to please you. It's really funny and a tad awkward at times but you get used to it. In restaurants so far in Laos and Vietnam, the waiters literally wait beside you until you are ready to order. Something us Westerners are not used to but you realize it's just part of the culture and you have to pretend they aren't there so you can actually concentrate. We haven't been doing much exploring here because we just finished up a pretty crazy/eventful few days and honestly, am not interested in seeing another memorial site/tomb/temple at this point. There are so many and all I hear is that Angkor Wat is the be all and end all of temples. I'm fine waiting until then!

Last night was so much fun - we went for dinner and then to a bar called 'Brown Eyes' which was obviously the place to be on a Saturday night. Many drinks later (and a few 'buckets') we were breaking out our moves on the dance floor, met some great people, and called several people including Tracy/Mark, mom, Adam, and my cousin Lindsay. I'm sure they really appreciated the calls. Good thing it was only noon for them! Haha.

Tomorrow morning we're heading to Hoi An for a few nights to check out the beach, city and most importantly, take advantage of the infamous service of having custom clothing made in a couple days for very cheap! Then we have decided to fly from there to HCMC (Saigon) and start the trip into Cambodia. We really like Vietnam but are itching to get to some more of the beaches and feel we've seen enough of the country to be happy leaving.

I'm off for now but found out how to access Facebook in Vietnam - if you are here, go to this website for access: www.f3.proxymice.com

Here's a link to Facebook pictures I put up recently from SE Asia! Hopefully the link works!

http://www.f3.proxymice.com/media/set/?set=a.10150270659560239.372983.704600238&l=df0600c453

Hope everyone is doing well at home! I miss all of you!

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 01:02 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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