Tam Coc

Trip Start Nov 02, 2005
Trip End Apr 30, 2006

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Good morning Vietnam!

We hope you are all OK, we've seen the snowy pictures and it looks cold...brrr.

Time for our latest update. First of all, thanks for all your messages and emails, keep them coming. (We hope you've managed to work out how to use the site).

Since our last mail we have been really busy. Started in Hanoi with a trip to the hospital as Darren's back got worse, but with some tablets and plenty of rest it seems to be slowly getting better. Hanoi is a nice capital city, packed with shops, good restaurants and sight seeing to keep the thousands of visiting tourists happy. The streets are full of motorbikes and you do really need eyes everywhere so as not to get run over. Our days here were spent eating and strolling around the old quarters.

A three hour bus journey took us to Halong Bay where we went on a two day boat trip, great apart from the annoying American couple in our group; Mrs Dominator and Mr Gimp... Halong Bay is a Unesco World Heritage Site (more of these to follow...) and it is very picturesque. We spent the days chilling on the sundeck whilst cruising past some of the 3000 limestone rocks and islets that make up this archipelago. (Think Krabi and Phi-Phi for those of you that have been to Thailand). Cooled off with a dip in to the South China Sea before a stunning sunset, seafood dinner and a calm night on board.

12 hours on a luxury sleeper train (30 US$ return) took us to north Vietnam and the former French Hill Station of Sapa, only 30 km from the Chinese border. The main reason for visiting Sapa is the numerous hill tribes of indigenous people who are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Vietnam. These minority groups live in very basic conditions in villages scattered along the Fansipan valley. They still follow a traditional way of life, including Darren's favorite, as many wives as you want.

We did a 15 km trek to a couple of the these villages, which we enjoyed apart from the slippery mud, thick fog and persistent rain... Saw lots of colourful tribal people like the Black H'mongs and the Red Dzao. Back in Sapa, a visit to the market unveiled the local delicacy of dog (sorry Molly, Sam, Scoot and all our other canine friends) which they eat at the end of the lunar month to bring them good luck. Not so lucky for the dog...

Back in Hanoi, a daytrip out to Tam Coc and the Cuc Phuong National Park saw us being rowed around by a little old lady through beautiful scenery and three caves. The amazing thing was that she was rowing with her feet (see video)! In the afternoon we took a trip to the Endangered Monkey Sanctuary where we saw ginger gibbons that looked like our friend Howie swinging through the trees.

So far, we have found it really easy travelling around Vietnam. The quality of everything (e.g accommodation, trains, buses) is of a very high standard although some things are relatively expensive. The streets are very clean and not many beggars about, although this would be preferable to the large tour groups that keep appearing everywhere, spoiling the peace.

Bird flu mania has hit Vietnam big time and nowhere serves chicken, some places not even eggs. Every day we read in the paper how the government is killing tens of thousands of poultry, but as soon as you visit the countryside you realize that there is no way they would be able to contain a major out break as there are chickens and ducks everywhere.

We will slowly be working our way south towards Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) which is about 2000 km from where, if we manage to escape the underground tunnels and not catch the chicken disease, you will get our next update. Until then, keep the messages coming and put another jumper on.
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