Week 8-9 blog entry, beach,4 nights (1/bus)

Trip Start Oct 01, 2007
Trip End May 30, 2008

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, November 29, 2007

It`s hectic, it`s hot, it`s chaos... it`s ASIA!!! Yessss, we`re finally in the crazy and dirty part of the continent, the one I was waiting for. Leaving behind the cold (around zero degrees) weather in South Korea, we arrived in Hanoi about a week ago. Now we`re lounging on the beaches, getting our bodies tanned and enjoying cheap food & drinks!!

As I mentioned, our first stop was the vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Wow, what a change to the previous almost two months. As soon as we got there, we could feel it, it`s just so different. There are soooooo many motorcycles in this country, it`s unbelievable! The first couple of times, until you get used to it, trying to cross a road is hazardous! They tell you not to run, but to walk slowly and keep eye-contact with the drivers, but at first it`s still quite hard to do. The next different thing is, that from the moment you get here, people are trying to rip you off (`All hotels are full but ours...`, `Yeah, I can take you to that hotel, sure`, leaving us at some other random hotel, etc.). It`s really a shame, because you start to suspect that everyone is just trying to make some money off you, although there are some really nice people here. Anyway, because of the traffic and the fact that everything moves so fast, Hanoi was quite a shock to me at first. There`s not really a place to just sit and relax, besides on the terraces of restaurants. And man, everything`s so fucking cheap here. I mean, you can easily sleep and eat nicely for 10 euros a person per day. Add five more euros and you can get smashed in the evening... A 50cl bottle of beer costs about 50 cents, a bacardi-cola about one euro. A dish at a (tourist) restaurant about a euro as well, and yesterday we had pizza in a italian-swiss restaurant, which cost less than three euros, and we thought we`s spent too much money...

So, we stayed in Hanoi two nights, since there wasn`t too much else to see. On the third day we took a 3day/2night-tour to and around Halong Bay. They took us on a three-hour busride to the sea, where we boarded a wooden boat to cruise around. We went to see a cave, which was better and more impressive than the one in South Korea, but unfortunately it was lit with green, yellow, red and blue lights, so that wasn`t too real. Later we went kayaking for an hour, that was cool. I was sitting in the back and had to do most of the work, since Nora decided it was much nicer to look at the scenery than to paddle... We had dinner and also slept on the boat, which was anchored in the middle of some bay. The next day we got dropped of at Cat Ba Island and went on a short hike through the national park. We ended up on top of a small hill, and to make it exciting we had to climb a rusty tower to the very top. The scenery from there was... how can I put it... green, lots of jungle. We noticed that we`re pretty much out of shape, but at least not as bad as others. The night we stayed at a hotel on the island and in between we got to enjoy an hour or two at a deserted beach. Well, it was deserted before the three tourist boats arrived, but anyway... As an animal lover I was quite excited about the wild monkeys there (check `em out on the video), but again, some tourist had to go too close and bother them, so that they started attacking the people and the nice moments were over. Unfortunately I have to say that the water quality in Halong Bay is quite bad, maybe because of the recent typhoons, but also because people just dump all their shit into the water. Ok, the food they throw away on the boats is probably disposable, but there are also lots of cans, bottles and plastic bags floating around, not to mention all the toxics released by all the motorized boats. Someone mentioned, that when they visited the bay seven years ago the water was clear, so we can just imagine how it`s gonna look like in another 7-10 years.

The evening we got back from Halong Bay to took a sleeping bus to our next destination, Hue. It was more comfortable than expected, but we still had a hard time getting some sleep on the bumpy roads and the busdrivers constant use of the horn. We arrived in Hue quite beaten, at about 8 in the morning, and were assailed right away by numerous touts, trying to get us to chose their respective hotels. We gave in to one of them, mostly because we were still dazed from the busride. I think the best strategy is just to walk 200-300m away from the pack, then to consult your Lonely Planet in peace. This at least worked here in Nha Trang. So, there wasn`t much to do in Hue, coz all the river trips run from 8am to 4pm and we wanted to continue down the coast the next day at 1pm. We just walked around town, got something to eat and relaxed at the river for a while. I got reminded that it`s not a good idea to walk around too long in my Jesus-sandals, having to cure some blisters now after our walk.

New day, new busride... This time, the bus wasn`t anymore the one mentioned in the brochures, of course. There wasn`t any toilet nomore, and the suspension must have been quite much older too. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a fast three hour ride to Hoi An, from where we were to continue through the night towards Nha Trang. As usual, I was the first one in the office in Hoi An, to confirm our seats on the night bus. No problem, got accepted. So we`re sitting in the bus, 10-15 minutes before it`s supposed to leave, and the driver comes over to tell us we`d have to move to the back, coz others had reserved the particular seats we were in. Yeah right, the back of the bus resembled more a chicken pen than anything else. Ok, we had it all to ourselves and could stretch out the width of the bus, but there weren`t any seatbelts and bottles, shoes and other stuff tumbling down from the upper level also threatened our well-being. Anyway, besides having to hold back a urgent sense of having to pee for most of the trip, it was quite comfortable back there. Nevertheless, next time we`d rather have some proper seats. I have to check later, if I`ve got a photo of our chicken pen.

Allright, we`re in Nha Trang now, alive and ,after a night of sound sleep, ready for action. Hmm, I think we`ll just go to the beach, no action. Yesterday afternoon we already spent a couple of hours on the sand and tumbling around the waves, it was beautiful. There aren`t too many tourists here, I guess the season hasn`t quite started yet. Maybe that`s why we get hassled every five minutes by some vendors, trying to make us buy food, postcards, sunglasses and such. Well, that`s probably just part of the game, but I just remember the beaches in Costa Rica, where nobody was bothering you all day. Nha Trang supposedly is quite a party place as well. There are numerous bars, lounges and restaurants here, passing our their flyers on the beach and in the streets. Happy Hour runs from 9am til 12am (read: 0900-2400), you can imagine what this means... Cuba Libres for breakfast, you guessed right. Oh yeah, speaking of which, I got pissed almost every evening here in Vietnam. I don`t know if it`s the warm weather or the prices, but I feel like drinking all the time... Anyway, I think we`re gonna go back to our hotel now, changing into our swim suits and then we`ll hit the beach, yeah!!

Enjoy yourselves and take care!

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