Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last Stop Saigon!

With another early morning arrival from the sleeper bus, we had a look around the local hotels in Pham Ngu Lao- a local hangout of the backpackers and the travelers. Down another 'budget alley' we soon found our hotel the Ngoc Linh. For $15 a night we get big room, hot water, satellite TV, free breakfast, free really can live it up for a little in Vietnam! After a short sleeper bus catch up we decided to head out into the big city! Having read our trusty lonely planet guide book we decided to make a start on the walking tour around the bustling busy busy city!!!

On day 2 we completed the rest of the walking tour by going to all the major attractions such as the War Remnants museum, Reunification Palace and HCMC History Museum and Ben Tanh market. The War Remnants Museum is a must see, it's a heart wrenching museum currently showing a exhibition of war photographs from a number of countries including Sri Lanka. The rest of the museum also contains photographs from the Vietnam war, some of which are truly harrowing and make you question humanity, some of the things the Americans did to the innocent Vietnamese and their country is simply disgusting.

As a day of relaxation and in order to allow Geth to release the child trapped within went to a water park one day - fantastic fun!
We also booked ourselves on a day trip to the Mekong Delta and (despite our apprehensions due to previous day trip experiences) found ourselves on a highly enjoyable and relaxed tour! We took a minibus - yes we in a reasonable sized group for once! - to the Mekong Delta and then hopped onto a boat to the floating market, from there we then went a coconut candy factory and rice paper factory. After this we went to an island for lunch and a bike ride before heading back to the mainland and the bus. A very pleasant experience indeed!
We also took a half day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, felt a little bit like sheep on this one but crawling through tunnels was great fun! We were a little gutted we didn't get to fire the guns on offer but the bullets were simply extortionately priced for our limited budget!

After a week exploring in Saigon we were then getting ready to jet off to our fifth country in as many months...Malaysia!

My apologies once again for the lack of photographs but yet again the computer won't upload for us...we will hold an exceptionally long and arduous slide show upon our return to which all family and friends will be made to attend and bored to death...jokes!

Much love to everyone back at home
Susy and the Ginger One x

Mudbaths and Booze Boats!

Nah Trang!

We arrived early hours off another sleeper bus in Nah Trang, the coastal town just south of the Vietnamese centre. Know by travels for it's beaches and laid back attitude, giving you a chance to sip cocktails by the sea! We soon found accommodation down 'budget alley' But we had to wait for people to check out before we actually got into our room! we were right next to the sea front in perfect view of the Hollywood style VINPEARL sign over the sea from us. Vinpearl is an island which the Vietnamese have decided to turn into an amusement park/show/man made beach..... not really our scene! We slept off our bus hangover!

Having made our way to Nah Trang for one reason only, go visit the islands. we booked ourselves onto a boat trip at Mama Linh boat tours. Known for their party tours with some drinking and dancing but also to get a good look at the islands for only a few dollars. (since we've been in Vietnam it all works in dollars, going to be strange to get back to good old sterling!) The tour also include a floating bar which we thought could be a lot of fun, all the pictures of past boat trips looked great. We arrived on our bus to find that we were the only white westerners......

Having taken the bus we soon picked up a few other 'whites' and soon arrived at a very busy dock! our boat was already filling up and it even included a very strange Swiss guy.... we'll talk more about him later! We were heavily outnumbered by Vietnamese children and families, not really the boat trip we'd booked! and soon we were at Black Island, headed into the sea for some snorkeling! it wasn't Thailand but the waters were clear if a little busy with bodies off our boat. we soon found a good spot and watched the world beneath! got a look at a yellow box fish which was cool! i even manged some high diving off the boat! getting off the boat did cost us a fair bit unfortunately!

our lunch was served on the boat at a different location just around the corner from Black Island. it was good food if not a little strange.... our Vietnamese friends got to eat upstairs on their own, they had an awful amount of booze by the time they came downstairs! As food was cleared we were told there would be a show! Brought out by one of the crew was maybe the best musical instrument ever made, a drum kit made entirely from old bottles, or plastic barrels! the band treated us to to some Vietnamese songs before the real party began! first up was our strange Swiss bloke, a little pissed by now! he sang some song, and he was followed by a wealth of nationalities including English, French, danish, Chinese, Korean but no Welsh! sorry guys but i lied and said i was English to stop the embarrassment of having to stand up and sing!

we were allowed to go swimming and the rolled out the floating bar.... a man on a tyre in the sea holding a crate of Vietnam mulleberry red wine... rancid. the western people had to share one rubber ring and even our now steaming swiss friend decided to make an appearance, swimming up through the ring..... hysterics soon followed. he didn't quite know why? our sanity was saved as we got chatting to some of the guys on the tour especially a Aussie/New Zelander couple and a lovely chap called Raphael! We regaled other with Vietnam stories! we stopped at a 'beach' and paid to get off the boat once again! no idea as to why as the beach was about 20m long with stones and murky water, and about 150 tourist! no more money!

We arrived at our last destination which was a aquarium on another island, but along with most of the other westerners we stayed on the boat, not wanting to waste any more cash! we made our way back to shore and with some new friends decided to meet up for dinner! this was a short taxi ride outside town, a restaurant where you cook your own food on grills! we were all top chefs if i do say so myself!

having finally found a decent gym i decided to spend some of the morning there until myself Susy Dan and Ange headed off to a mud bath. Nah trang didn't really have much to offer on the old beach front so other activities were greatly snapped up! these mud baths were impressive. Mud bath was so odd, and it took ages to clean it all off! luckily one of the showers was like a fire hose!! we followed this with an all angle hot shower, and hot hot herbal bath. We got the chance to swim after our long day soaking. imagine a swimming pool full of bath hot water! swimming was just to hard!

the day before we tried to book a train to Saigon, having found all were booked for 3 days to come we had to fall back on the sleeper bus again!!! our worst enemy of the trip so far! but this time we had a plan! we wanted a few drinks to get that little bit sleepy! Thankfully for the 3rd time Dan and Ange decide to join us for the drinks! good support! but we met at 5pm thinking our bus was at 6.... soon realized it was at 8! 2 drinks became 4! and after no booze for months this took its toll!

Bus was by far the easiest journey.... funny!

next stop Saigon/Ho Chi Min City!

Love lots xx

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tin Tin and Snowy in Vietnam!

After our adventure in Hue we moved onto another old town called Hoi An. This town is situted in the old South Vietnam. Having heard great things from my parents we decided to extend our stay here to three nights! We were not to be dissapointed!

We decided to book a train for the first time on our tour of asia, it was our first journey but not through lack of trying, they are so cheap that we can't seem to book tickets most of the time! We took the train from Hue to Danang and it was gorgeous view after gorgeous view. Anyway back to Hoi An, having arrived and looked for accomodation, having arrived on the verge of a Vietnamese holiday we had trouble finding a room at first! And struggled with our bags out of the main town to finally settle in the only place we could find, a little out of town but it offered free bikes! An offer we couldn't refuse! It even had a pool!!!

Beautiful Hoi AN!

After some much needed recovery time we set out to explore the nearby town of Hoi An on our trusty steeds.... these bikes were just plain shit. Looked about 25 years old but despite her previous 2 wheeler mishaps Susy soon fell in love with hers. She's a little bit odd. Having only the late afternoon to look around, that's pretty much all we did. All our plans were for the next day!

Susy and her "bike"

See the vietnamses lady in the background... don't they look alike!

After an early wake up we decided to hop back on our "bikes" and set off on a day of adventure! On our tour of Hoi An we were set to buy an old town ticket and see all the sights but having realised early on that it was just possible to have a look for free we took the slightly cheaper option. First stop was one of Hoi An's museums. Small place with some amazing relics!

Susy in front of a 11th century electric fan..... (it was desperately hot ok!)

Cannon and Ball!

We then headed off to look for the Japanese Bridge and after some miscalculations we ended up at Hoi An Old Town Heratige Centre type place where it was possible to see a wide range of old working techinques, including silk spinning and pottery.

Silk Spinning!

They did the pottery a little differently to most but it sure was a good way! One older lady was shaping the clay whilst another would turn the clay table with her foot!

We then left our "bikes" behind and headed through the old towns art galleries. these streets were so colourful and full of sellers. and finally we found ourelves at the japanese bridge!

For all you history buffs (or that's just me), it was built by the japanese settlers in Hoi An. As the fable goes, a large monster (whose head lay in China, body in Vietnam and tail in Japan) would move about and everytime he did he would cause a flood or an earthquake.... for this reason they built the bridge on where his weakest point would be and therefore killed him. The Vietnamese took pity on this and built him a museum inside the bridge. Another cool fact was that they biult the bridge to be earthquake proof..... who knows?

Me in front of the bridge!!

After a spot of food on the river front, we called it a day and relaxed back at the hotel, knowing what we had planned for the next day. During our day out we booked ourselves into a sunrise

tour to an ancient champa relic ground. We decided on the sunrise tour to miss the crowds but it came at a 4.30am wake up call cost!! The Champa Relic Ground was called My Son (pronoced me sun). Having woken and arrived so early we were blessed with an empty(ish) veiwing of the relics. Built between the 5th and 12th Century the champa people rulled Vietnam for over 1000 years and they were very fond of reproduction and the art of sex. Goes some way to explain the next picture! yes that is supose to be a penis........

We positivly sped back from My Son, unbeknown to us the driver had to pick another group up and we arrived back at 9am, strange thinking we had already done a days sightseeing. Back to bed!! After a cat nap we were back out into Hoi An old town and got a little old lady to take us on an hour boat trip up and down the river, so peaceful and easy going. Even though we did stop a few time for her to pick up garbage?!?

Susy and our little lady!

We finished up with Hoi An and headed overnight on another sleeper bus to Nha Trang, a beach side resort town, just a way of breaking up a very long journey to Saigon!

Love lots Gethin and Susy xxx

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Having studied History throughout school and University, Vietnam and the 'Vietnamese war' has always intrigued me! Having spent our first week in the North of Vietnam (old communist regime) we had only experienced Old Vietnamese life, on our trip to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) we encountered something new. Another early start set us up for a 13 hour round trip from Hue (ancient capital of Vietnam) to our destination slap bang in the middle of Vietnam. Along Highway 1A

For a little bit of history, after the French had left Vietnam in 1954 they decided alongside Ho Chi Min at the Geneva conference to split the country temporally along the Ben Hai river, allowing the Vietnamese people to decide whether they wanted to live in the north or the south. The south canceled the following elections, and during the Vietnam War the DMZ became the site of some of the most famous televised battles of all time.

We began our tour travelling to Dong Ha for breakfast, this would not be the only time we visited Dong Ha...... after food we started on our way to the monument which was built in honour of the North Vietnamese armies who lost their lives, in an ambush on the TET holiday. a swift ambush attack which diverted the Americans away from the TET offensive, the turning point of the war. In the middle of the Statue is a lady fighter! over 20% of the Vietcong army were ladies! It was really big! Back on the bus (3 hours already....) to cross the Ben Hai River, for all those paying attenition in my first lecture (see above) this is what separated the north and south. There were sets of loudspeakers on both sides of the river used during the war to shout abuse at each other. Childish.

Vinh Moc Tunnels was next on the long trip! but this was well worth it! The tunnels were used by the North Vietnamese to shelter themselves from the American bombing Campaign. There were three levels 10m deep, 18m deep and 23m deep. included in this was a medical room, in which 14 babies were born during the War, family rooms, and a conference room which doubled as a school..... it was truly amazing to be down in the tunnels. They even opened up onto a beach!

But unfortunately it was time to get back on the bus! our next stop was Dong Ha! again! this time it was for lunch, off Highway 1A and onto Highway 9! We didn't bargain for our next 2 hour trip! Firstly we went to see the Rockpile, a very tall Rockpile which the Americans used as a look out point over the DMZ, we got about 2 km away and then had a look...... you guessed it a pile of rocks. I really looked forward to our next destination. Ho Chi Min trail! after some more time on the bus we arrived at a new Highway. The Ho Chi Min highway..... well the trail isn't there anymore because the built a big new road on top. again we looked from a far and left........ gutted. Getting a little fed up with looking at roads now!!!!!

Our last attraction was the Khe San Combat Base, this site included old war helicopters, Guns, Clothing and mortar bombs.... i had a read through the sign in book, and it was moving to see old war veterans writing about re visiting this was site. (500 Americans and 10,000 North Vietnamese died on this battle field). A fitting end to our trip! then back to Dong Ha!!!!!AGAIN! for a drop off then back to Hue! 13 Hours later!

Having finished with the Ancient Capital of Hue, we set course for Hoi An! Luckily this time we took the train, quite a spectacular experience with some incredible views of the coastline, I'm sure in a few year Vietnam will get the reputation of becoming a stunning beach holiday! Having heard good things about Hoi An, this was one town we looked forward to exploring!

Gethin and Susy


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pictures! sorry about the wait!!!!

first lot, war cemetary!
Trip To Bridge Over The River Kwai!

It takes far far longer than we expected to download so we shall try again with more soon (sorry Jock!!)

Gooooood Morning Vietnam!!!

It is now our sixth day in Vietnam and as with (almost!) everywhere else we've visited we love it here! We started of with a few days in Hanoi, staying in the Old Quarter. Whilst we were there we went to see the famous water puppet show, a very different experience but very enjoyable! As we made our way outside the theatre to continue our exploration we realised it was absolutely pouring down with rain so we decided to hop in a taxi back to our hotel. Having read our trusty lonely planet guide we were aware that a lot of taxi drivers rigged their meters for tourists and knew how much it should cost to get back. No sooner had we gone 100m in the taxi we realised we were in one of these delightful scam cabs! Instead of driving us straight up the road to our place he started to drive round in circles as the meter rocketed, we then asked him to stop and told him we were not going to pay more than the going rate for taking us nowhere - he was NOT happy! After giving him the money Geth got out but my door was locked so as I started to climb across to get out the other side I felt a very sharp and painful slap against my thigh - the bastard had hit me!!! And he was NOT going to get away with it! I rained down a torrent of abuse on him and by the look on his face (and Gethin's!) I think it did the trick! We ran the rest of the way back to our hotel!

We also went to visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum - not quite what you'd expect and not nearly as informative as I'd hoped! We also tried to go to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum but it closes at 11am so we'd missed it. Not one to be deterred we got up the next day ready and rearing to go and see a dead man's body only to find that that day they decided to close early so once again we missed it!!! So instead we went souvenir shopping to lift our spirits!

After Hanoi we booked ourselves on a tour to go down to Ninh Binh. We went to the old capital of Hoa Lu to visit the last two remaining temples where the Vietnamese worship the Emperors of the Dinh and Le dynasties. After lunch we then made our way to Tam Coc to go on a wonderful boat ride around the area. It is said to be 'Halong Bay on rice paddies' and the area is absolutely stunning and would be extremely peaceful if weren't such a tourist trap! With huge jagged rock formations soaring skyward out of the lushest of green paddy fields, travelling through caves and all done on a tin boat paddled by a Vietnamese lady called An! It was brilliant!

A tip for those who get tired when rowing long

distances - just use your feet!!!

We then stayed the night in Ninh Binh instead of heading back with the rest of our tour group. The next day we went on a trek through Cuc Phuong National Park where we visited the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre. We were incredibly relieved to see that the people working and doing research here were truly doing a good deed. The monkeys are rescued from dealers or those keeping them as as illegal pets, many of whom are endangered, are bred here in an attempt to stop them from becoming extinct due to poaching for meat, medicines or pets to people who don't have a clue. As a result of poaching still being rife in Vietnam they cannot release back into the wild yet and so instead they have set up semi-wild areas in the nearby park safe from harms way! They were cute as! We then trekked on to a 1000 year old tree and back again through thousands upon thousands of butterflies!!


Two monkeys!!

We are now in Hue. We took the sleeper bus down last night - in essence a dorm on wheels with sort of real beds which were a little too short for Geth! We were also mildly misguided with regards to the toilet facilities, it was a squat toilet. These are challenging enough for the western female tourist when stationary but add to that a moving, bumping, braking bus and only having one hand free as the other holds the door shut because the lock is broken and it becomes an entire new mission - needless to say I only went once during the 10 hour journey! On the upside we're staying a very good value for money minihotel and have booked ourselves on a tour to the Demilitarised Zone tomorrow - 6am start...

Love to everyone, especially Iago, Mabon, Cassie and Ellie!!!
Susy x x x and Gethin Smart x x x x x x x x x

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pat Pong = Ping Pong

It's now our last real day in Bangkok! and i must say just a little bit sad! it's been such an amazing place to stay. Can't say we've done much except sun it up and have some good nights out, but that's what Thailand is for! Anybody who has traveled to Thailand will know where I'm coming from with that statement.

Having said that, on Friday we decided to do something slightly cultural! we booked ourselves into a day trip to go see a province just north west of Bangkok. Our trip included going to see; Allied war cemetery, river Kwai museum, the bridge over the river Kwai, travel over the bridge of death on a train, elephant riding, waterfall and finally tiger temple! our only problem was the 7am start - considering Bangkok does not sleep until 2am!

Having little or no sleep we headed out on our trip, we got onto our very quiet and very small minibus and drove 2 hours to our first stop The Allied War Cemetery. Buried here were the POW's that built the bridge or died trying.... for any one who doesn't know the story, you should look it up. Having only one day to see all the sights we we're quickly moved on by our guide to go and see our second stop, A 'Museum'. Granted it was built overlooking the river Kwai. But this was not a museum!! We then walked over the River Kwai bridge alongside some of the other members of our group.

We then headed off to a Train station to board the train over the death railway. Was as it's name suggests. Most of the track was from it's original wooden beams put down during the second world war, quite a beautiful journey! Having finish our ride and sat down for a very large thai meal we were ready for the second half of the day and the best. We headed out to an elephant riding camp. We climbed a small wooden structure to be greeted by an elephant! 18 year old female from Burma (the elephant!) and her 16 year old Thai Guide! Getting on top of an elephant was a brilliant experience and we headed out on a little trek, our guide had been with his elephant since he was only 11 and their teamwork was amazing! She would lift him up to her head from her trunk, or put out her leg for him to get down! We got some amazing pictures, and had a unforgettable experience, we even got to feed her a basket full of bananas!

We next headed to a waterfall, which in fact was a Thai amusement's park, well it looked like that anyway?!? unfortunately we got there in dry season, so I can only expect the place to look even more magnificent with some prior rain! Our next stop was the Tiger Temple! Having heard a few rumors as too why the predators at this temple were able to be on such a close proximity to humans, i gad my worries; including drugging, a way of life, being too hot and my favorite Monk Power! We began at Tiger Canyon!!! sounds dramatic right! as you can see from the pictures we managed to get really up close and personal with the tigers. Some of them were huge and really quite playful! I know that I wont be able to be so close to a creature as magnificent as this again! that is unless Ponty zoo opens up?? The tiger temple was really living up to all expectations! We headed over to the tiger cubs next, and they gave me the answers to my questions as to why these creatures were so docile! The cubs were full of life and well up for a fight, had a little scuffle with one! Makes me pretty scared to think of meeting one of these guys in the wild! These little guys were amazing, some even got told off for getting to rowdy! Got to get one of those for myself! After such a brilliant ending to our day tour we headed back to bangkok for some well earned rest.

The tigers made it all worthwhile!

Last night we finally ventured onto Patpong Street, esentially the red light district of Bangkok and Thailand. In the day we spent our time in MBK, it's pretty much a big shopping arcade looking for presents. Heading out on the bus to Patpong with our new American companion Maddie we were full of excitement, me more than them I guess! Arriving onto Patpong was strange to say the least. We first walked past the Thai boy stretch, we'll come to that later.... Patpong red light district also has a night market, a good cover for anyone who doesn't want too look like a right perv! We came across loads of guys trying to sell us shows. and loads of men trying ti act as if they were there for the market!! DIRTY!


Here are some ideas. Sorry if I offend anyone; (they all came with pictures)
  • woman opens bottle
  • women blows a whistle
  • women smokes a cigarette
  • woman eats banana
  • woman writes a letter... Sorry!
  • woman plays ping pong! as you can tell this one is a little more popular than most!
We headed for our first bar, not much going on and we didn't last long. Next bar which turned out not to be a ping pong bar, but just a brothel with drinks.... and after I ordered the only drink we made a quick exit! Again a little disappointed with our next adventure, only dancing! After some deliberation we finally decided on WILD CAT! sounds good right??

Having been tempted in by the very cheap prices and good oppertuntiy to see a live show we couldn't wait! drinks were 100 baht or 1.50p (there are no pound signs on these computers) again we had one each, after some confusion we got brought 5! Anyway as they say the show must go on, and good god it did! Our first act showed us how to keep a bunch of flowers hidden. our second act played some ping pong, which landed at me feet and brushed Maddies leg. ewwwwww.... next act opened a bottle of soda water! Susy got a good splashing.... i'm really sorry i'm going into so much detail! and finally we saw her blow a whistle and you know the magic trick where they reveal lots and lots of cloth from their hand..... you know the rest.

Now for the fun part, having felt we'd seen enough we thought about leaving and wanting to pay our 300 baht/3.80p bill...... we were handed a bill for 3,600 baht/58 pounds!!!! from two very stern women! claiming that we had drinks costing 900 baht, watching the show cost 2,100 baht and buying drink for the ladies on stage 600 baht!!!!! To say I was a little pissed off is an understatement!!!! claiming all these prices were made clear to us as we arrived. Luckily we knew about scams in this area and I refused to pay, I handed over 300 baht for drinks and left to a tirade of abuse! FUCK YOU!! Charming!

What a night! Could it get any better! We'll we went down to the Thai boy street, made me very scared, sorry Simon! and after a look inside a club I made a very quick exit!!! That's where my Pat pong experience ended. Won't be forgetting that one too soon!

Anyway after this enormous blog, we're now in Vietnam. Flew over today from Bangkok to Hanoi! check this space again soon!

Geth!! xx