Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vietnam: Love is in the air

After the epic plane ride from Vancouver to Singapore (13hrs to Hong Kong + 4hrs to Singapore), I was ready for another trip. After only four days in Singapore, I was to see two of my best friends from grade 5 and 8, Chelsea and Alex. This was the longest Jenn and I have been separated. I was excited and scared. Super excited to see Chels and Alex, who I had not seen for almost a year because they left in October 2009 to travel on a 1-year-plane ticket. I was scared to leave Jenn all alone.

I saw Alex and Chels leave Vancouver in October and after being apart for over ten months I got used to not seeing them; however, being with them 24-hours a day for ten days, I didn’t get sick of them, nor wanted to part from them. I started to miss them the second I left them in Bangkok, Thailand.

I flew from Singapore to Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam. After getting totally ripped off by a cab (that did not looked like a cab, also in Vietnam, never pay over 10 dollars USD for a cab ride), I surprised Chels and Alex in the lobby of our hostel. They couldn’t see me coming, so when I came up to them they had no idea it was even me!

After many hugs, smiles and laughs, we dropped off my stuff and got something to eat. I kept having a surreal feeling, because I couldn’t believe that I was seeing Chels and Alex... and was in VIETNAM! We spent the next day organizing the next couple of days and walking around Ha Noi. We caught up a lot. Talked and talked! I could barely pay attention to where I was because I was enjoying catching up with them so much! I had not seen them in almost a year! Before they left I was used to seeing them almost weekly! We went to see the water puppets in the afternoon. It was a great show! It was full of culture and stories about the river that bred life into that area. There was just one problem; the water in show didn’t help the fact that I had to pee so badly!

The next day we hopped onto a very nice bus in the rain to go to Ha Long Bay! We booked an overnight boat tour to take us around Ha Long Bay. The land… water... scape in Ha Long Bay is amazing. I call it the “thumbs up” mountains, because they look like thumbs sticking up out of the water. It reminds me of the landscape my Dad and I saw on a river boat tour in Guilin, China. We first went to a cave that was a hospital during the Vietnam War. It was beautiful inside. There were lots of structures that looked like things: Buddha, frogs, figures (or a penis). They had concreted the ceiling which I had never seen before in a cave, I forgot to ask my guide when that had happened to see if was for tourists or the war. After the cave we did a twenty minute kayak ride. Alex and Chels were both not thrilled with it, so I stayed in the kayak while they each took a turn. It was beautiful getting up close and personal with some rocks and locals that were around. There was lots of boat traffic around want it was scary (just like all the traffic in Ha Noi). After the kayaks we headed back to our big boat for a swim and to jump off the top of the boat! That was awesome!

After Ha Long Bay we headed north to Sa Pa in the mountains. We were in Sa Pa for two nights. It took a ten hour train (worst beds ever) and an hour mini bus ride up the mountain to get there from Ha Noi. Once there, you realize that you are out of the city. It is still busy, but not even close to what Ha Noi was like. The next day we got onto (I, nervously) scooters, because these three village ladies were taking us to their village in the hills just south of Sa Pa. We trekked up a hill to get to one of their houses. We ate lunch together and they showed us their home. They had a TV and one light bulb! Their stove was a hole in the ground near their bed, and their kitchen had no appliances in it. There were somethings made of concrete and that was about it. It was an amazing experience.

After such an amazing experience, I was pumped up on life! So pumped I decided to order us the “special hot pot” for dinner. I was feeling edgy and wanted to celebrate with what I thought was going to be seafood hotpot and SHRIMP spring rolls. We get the hot pot and the spring rolls. The hot pot is full of offal. There was liver, intestines, and fat pieces. There was absolutely no seafood. Alex was so disgusted she had to discard every last piece of liver. Then the SHRIMP rolls were actually SHIRM rolls (yeah for dyslexia?) which was fried egg wrapped around carrots and onions. Those were pretty good, but not what we thought they were going to be. At the end of the meal Alex was laughing so hard she was crying. Alex is still laughing about this entire situation still.

The next day, we took a mini bus to train, train to Ha Noi, train again to Hué, then finally bus from Hué to Hoi An. This was one (plus a bit) day of travelling. Hoi An was really neat. We didn’t do much there except get clothes. Hoi An is famous for custom clothing. Every store is called a “cloth shop” where they custom make the clothes you want. Just give them your measurements, and a picture of what you want and they will have it made when you want it. I suggest staying at least two nights if you want to get clothing made because they need a solid amount of time to make it all. Vietnam is a “last-minute” kind of place enough as it is, and if you want them to do a good job of it, then give them as much time as you can so they can do a good job. There were also some dishes that are specific to Hoi An. There is a noodle soup, that has croutons, deep fried wontons that has a pineapple salsa on top (my favourite), white roses that are like dim sum with pork and there was this wrap thing that was really good, it was like a salad roll back home! On our one day there, we went to see My Son, which is a place of ruins. It was made by the Cham people of Vietnam, and then their structures were used as shelters during the Vietnam War. It was a cool site to see, but when you go there, make sure you booked a tour guide; you won’t get any information if you don’t. It was a beautiful place, and rich in history.

Then we took a bus to Ne Trang. Ne Trang was cool, very tourist-ty. We hung out at the beach and tried to have a BDO/BNO (Big Day Out/Big Night Out). It didn’t work out so well. We were too tired from the nights before, but we did go to a restaurant, that was one of those places where you can barbeque your food and it was amazing! Best meat I had in all of Vietnam. It was supposedly own by a Canadian too ;)

The next day we took the bus to Mui Ne. Mui Ne was hands down my favourite place and I thought it was the most beautiful place in Vietnam. It was a beach town, but much calmer than Ne Trang. It was the first place where I saw Hammocks, I never got to sit in one, but I was super tempted to buy one. There are beautiful sand dunes in Mui Ne. We saw the white sand dunes, which are supposed to be the biggest ones. They look like the sand dunes from the Sahara Desert. It was awesome. We actually met up with a guy we talked to in Ha Noi. He was the one that convinced us of visiting Mui Ne. We rented two scooters for the four of us and headed to the white sand dunes. It is a beautiful landscape of white sand dunes with the water in the far background. I definitely suggest to NOT rent the magic carpets from kids, it is kind of a rip off since you have to be super light in order to get any sort of speed going down the sand dune hills.

That night we had probably the biggest BNO we had all trip. Well, the girls had a pretty big one in Bangkok later (the Ping-pong show), but still it was big for me. We had some pre-drink drinks which involved quite a few card games. Then we headed to a nearby club. It was pretty dead when we got there and the dance floor was empty. After trying our hand at getting the party started, unsuccessful we went to the bar for some drinks. Then the breakers came out to play. They were great, doing their tricks and moves, it was awesome. Then they pulled Chels and Alex on stage and the party got going. It was a great night! It was weird to see the Vietnamese straight breakers grind with each other. I think being from North America, where bro-mance is only high fives and “wrestling”, the bro-mance in Vietnam (and probably the rest of the world) is much more physical than what I am used to, in North America. It was different and weird to me, but I still think it was cool that bro-mance exists.

The next day we got onto a bus (our last bus) to Ho Chi Min City, also called Saigon. We were in Saigon for a couple hours before we had to catch our flight to Bangkok. But it was a very eventful two hours. Alex forgot her suits on the bus and went on an adventure with the nicest man in Vietnam to find them. He drove her around and used his cell to try and locate this bus that had her suits on it. Chels and I were sitting at a coffee shop and it was a huge surprise when she came back with a smile on her face and suits in her hands. Hilarious. That was the second time she forgot those darn suits on a bus.

Our flight to Bangkok was so short, well it felt short. Alex and I had an amazing conversation, so the flight felt super short.

In Bangkok, we stayed in this really nice hostel. We had our own bathroom with super awesome air conditioning. On the first day Chels was going to get hair extensions and since Chels has been to Bangkok before Alex and I wanted to go see the floating markets. We did this HUGE run around with taxis and tuk-tuks, eventually figuring out that the markets are only open till noon (it was just about noon when we figured it out) and they are an hour and a half outside of town. And we also found out that this super big and awesome market is only open on the weekend (it was Monday). It was a disappointing morning to say the least. Then we headed back to the hostel to figure out what we wanted to do next and we forgot that we didn’t have our room key. So we went to meet up with Chels. Her hair extensions were looking great. We did this whole back and forth thing for awhile (back and forth to see Chels) and then finally she was done. That night Chels and Alex went to see a Ping-pong show. I thought that a ping-pong show was a table tennis match. They informed me that I was wrong and went without me. I felt uncomfortable and didn’t feel right about seeing things rammed up vaginas like ping-pong balls, razor blades or see darts shoot out of them. They had a good night and I passed out peacefully that night and barely heard them come in the door. The next day we went shopping at MBK mall. It was awesome there! You could barter and make deals and they have cameras that are super cheap! I want Jenn and I to buy the camera we want there because we might be able to get it for super cheap. But we would have to make our way to Bangkok to get it and it wouldn’t have a warranty. So we might end up getting it in Singapore. Then we went to meet up with Alex and Chels’ friend they met in Laos. We hung out at his pool on the roof and in his VERY disgusting apartment. Then we headed out for a BNO at... a street... known for partying... but I cannot think of the name of the street... hmmm... well we went there and had pad thai for the first time! It was good, not my favourite pad thai but good nonetheless. We partied for awhile and met more of Alex and Chels’ friends (one of them a girl, I think has/had a crush on Alex, oola-la)! Then we had some delicious pancakes, which are like roti prata with sweet toppings on them and called it a night.

The next morning was the sad good-bye. We all hung out for about half an hour saying how much we were going to miss each other and then I had to head out to the airport. The second I left, it felt weird not being with them. I started to miss them that quickly. I still miss them now. They are off gallivanting in Europe now and I am so happy for them. I love them so much and seeing them is probably going to be one of the highlights of this year. They inspired me to travel more, break out of my shell and grow. I love them so much (all of this love stuff is why I titled my post “Love is in the air”).

And that concludes my ten day trip to Vietnam!

Best wishes and until next time!

Pictures will be posted in a few days.

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