Bangkok, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
Trip Start Feb 02, 2009
47Trip End Dec 24, 2009
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The final leg of my Vietnam adventure began with a boat trip around the stunning Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a world heritage site that features thousands of tiny islands and limestone mountains. It really is quite special. Ben and I jumped aboard the mighty vessel that was to house us for a couple of days along with thirty other souls from Hanoi Backpackers. See photo of significantly mighty vessel for confirmation of such. The schedule was simple; sunbathe, eat, sunbathe, kayak, sunbathe, eat, drink, sleep, eat, sunbathe, eat, go home. The sunbathing and eating are pretty self explanatory but the kayaking was something else. The plan was to kayak to some nearby caves and we were split into boy-girl teams to make this happen. The thinking was the men could provide the power and the ladies the direction. This is both sexist and completely false logic. The nearby caves were quite a way away and my partner Izzie (a very nice girl from Notting Hill so it goes) and I had a kayak that simply would not go straight
We managed to make the best of a bad situation though and had a few laughs and, hand blisters aside; it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon jaunt. After our meal the evening shindig started off in predicable fashion. I organized a game of ‘21’ to get things going (it’s getting a little tiresome now isn’t it?) and, as always, it went down a storm. We had eight or so of us from a variety of nations and backgrounds in our group and the game brought us together. I like to think it brought our nations together a little as well. However a couple of guys suggested some rule changes that were, frankly, not in the best interests of the game, the group or fun. I won’t lie to you, I had to be firm with some people and in no uncertain terms make it clear we would not be using “foreign languages” to count with, as was one suggestion. Unfortunately my firmness with the way that ‘21’ should be played was seen, incorrectly, as being overly strict and I was dubbed the “Rule Nazi”. Far from being any sort of Nazi I was, in fact, being the savior of fun. As we all know, without rules there can be no fun. I think they all saw it my way by the end
The next day after our lunch another group (who'd been on an island for the night) joined our boat for the trip back to shore. As they filed on have a guess who was holding court amongst a group of ladies. I’ll give you a clue; he was regaling them with the time, last week, when he took some valium on his overnight bus trip and woke up unable to move his body. For over an hour. You guessed it, it was NMB. It’s getting a little tiresome now isn’t it? We caught up and he gave me an update on last time’s Bear in a Tutu story. He has heard that the bear now rides around a motorbike Ring of Death. The ones that completely encircle the stage and create a, sort of, ring of death. Now this is unsubstantiated and as such I cannot report this as fact. Something NMB would do well to learn from. However, it is a truly delicious thought. Words cannot describe the thrill created by a tutu wearing bear on a motorbike in a Ring of Death. I told Izzie about this and she and her friend are travelling to Nha Trang next week and promise to take photographs on Monkey Island and send them to me. I am very excited at the prospect
After the Halong Bay trip we decided to keep moving and got a bus from Hanoi, north to Sapa. We named the bus the Vomet Comet as the locals really can't handle windey roads. Sapa is a truly stunning mountain village where the hill tribes gather and sell their wares. Unfortunately for Ben and me the weather was really poor whilst we were visiting and instead of the glorious views over the rice fields and hills we got mist. And lots of it. So we returned after a day to Hanoi and enough time to get our things together before he returned to England and I went on to the Thai Islands. I’ll be honest, we spent a lot of time eating KFC and watching television in our Air Conditioned room. Not traveling as the backpacker elite would have it done but necessary after we’d done so much traveling in such a short time in Vietnam. At least that's what we told ourselves. One of the things we noticed about the TV on offer was the number of adverts on Star World. Star World shows countless episodes of Friends and The Simpson’s back to back and insists on putting adverts on every five minutes or so. Occasionally even more frequently. But that isn’t altogether the annoying thing. The annoying thing is the adverts are exclusively for Star World and reasons why you should watch it. Not one advert for an actual, buyable product. This got tremendously frustrating and, as an homage to my friends at Star World, I have provided an advert of my own opposite. That's all i'm going to say, just watch it.
With our extra time in Hanoi we got to meet up with my step-sister Sally who's teaching out there. She took us to a cool bar and a very nice Vietnamese restaurant. It was a real change to speak to someone who not only knows the language and culture really well but can completely undestand your (occasional) frustrations at the place and the wonderful bits too
As well as the TV and sightseeing I also had time to get my hair cut. You may have heard the phrase ‘street corner barber’ but this fellow literally cuts hair on the street. He sat me down in a chair on the pavement and asked me what i wanted. I say he asked me, he couldn't speak any English (he had a fellow stood next to him to negotiate the price) but i pointed to a guy selling vegetables next to us who had short-ish hair. Probably owing to my haggling him down to half price he was quite brutal and ignored my request
So, it's the end of an era. Ben and I have been travelling together for ten weeks or so and we've had some giggles, seen four different countries and eaten a LOT of KFC but all good things must come to an end. So he's currently sat watching Wimbledon in London with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits and i'm currently in Bangkok waiting for my coach to take me to Ko Tao for a four day diving course and then on to the infamous Full Moon Party. Good grief, it's going to be interesting for sure...
Lots of love,