Myles Harrington

Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Our Day With The Tran Family

In Vietnam on September 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Hue was our next stop over on the long coast road down to Saigon. We attacked the trip in one long haul from Sapa with an overnight bus to Hanoi, arriving at 4.30am and then an ongoing 10am train to Hue, arriving at 2.30am the following day. A total of 30 hours travelling.

The Vegas bus

As always with these long trips there are highs and lows. A 5am roadside beer in Hanoi was a particular highlight that starved off the imminent tiredness and the 16 hour train journey where we shared cigarettes and the Top Gear Vietnam episode with the conductors was a great memory.

Timer shot for the 5am beers in Hanoi, 12 hour bus ride done and not even half way to Hue

Because we wanted to save as much money as possible we went third class on the train in the wooden hard seat section. Sitting there it’s as if they’re trying to punish you for being cheap, the seats are constructed with slatted boards with a bolt upright back. So we chose to sleep on the dusty floor instead, which was comfortable until we woke up with necks feeling like we’d been in a severe head on collision.

Ready for a rough ride

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The Tour Must Go On

In Vietnam on September 20, 2010 at 10:20 am

After two days on my own in Hanoi, Shubes returned to Asia from her recent jaunt to Oz and Fiji. In total I had a very enjoyable four days in Vietnam’s capital but was itching to discover some of the other gems of the North. We realised we have quite a long time to cover the traditional tourist trail down the 16000km of coast to Saigon so we could visit a few places off the route. If the Top Gear lads can do it in eight days I’m sure we can do it justice in three weeks.

Chatting to other backpackers around town they all highly recommended the hill station town of Sapa and the UNESCO heritage site of Halong Bay. Lonely Planet said it was cheaper to do both of these with a package tour so we shopped around and got a three-day two night tour arranged for Halong Bay. At only $45 US it seemed very reasonable for an all-inclusive deal and hit our budget accordingly. Since I’ve been away I’ve only done one overnight tour and that was quite relaxing so I was looking forward to the cruise. The trip had a packed itinerary including kayaking, a cave visit, sleeping on a traditional junk boat and trekking in a national park on Cat Ba island.

The boat restricted fruit sellers of Halong Bay

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Vietnam Has The Nicest Thieves

In Vietnam on September 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm
Fellow travellers had warned me that the Vietnamese were different to a lot of other nationalities in South East Asia. I’d been told they were all out to make a quick dong, were rude and uninviting. I was prepared for the worst but what I’ve found so far is completely the opposite. Of course I still have a long time for them to piss me off, rip me off and leave bleeding in an alley but let’s not think about that for now.
My first rip off in Vietnam was an honest one. I stumbled out of Noi Bai airport in Hanoi after only managing a couple of hours sleep in the preceding 24 hours. The Lonely Planet didn’t mention how you should get to the city from the airport, or even how far it is. Why is it that they spend so long  finding the best burrito in every town but miss out the vital travelling information? Anyway, I decided that a shared minibus was the best, or only viable option and for the proposed $2 fee it was probably worth going for. Considering they won the war I don’t know why they are obsessed with the Yankee dollar. I ended up paying very slightly more than $2 because I paid in dong. The two old local blokes sitting next to me handed over 30,000 while I paid 40k. I asked the man dealing with the dough “Why do they pay 30 when I pay 40?” He replied in the way the Vietnamese have learned how to think when dealing with tourists, “They’re different, foreigners pay $2”. That’s just the way it is here. If you’re a visitor you’re going to pay more and you just have to accept it and at least he was an honest rip off merchant.

On My 24th Birthday I Had Pink Eye and Went to a Gay Club

In Thailand on September 11, 2010 at 9:20 pm

By the time it was September the 7th we’d already discovered that Chiang Mai would be a great place to spend a birthday. After three days in Thailand’s ancient capital, our group; Holly (Claire’s cousin who we’d picked up in Bangkok before Laos), Claire, Taylor (A good time American girl we’d picked up in Luang Prabang) and I were pretty pleased with the place. Mainly due to two nights at the amazing Reggae Bar with their live in-house  ska band and our hungover day trip to ride elephants, raft down a river and visit a butterfly farm.

Tay, Hols and the Elephant Man

And so it was my 24th birthday, now in my mid teens but vitally to the vain, still closer to 20 than 30. I found myself in the fortunate birthday situation of having a whole empty day ahead, being on holiday and with a girl who wanted to treat me. What a fantastic combination for a great day. The only problem was the illness that had plagued our whole group since Luang Prabang. The infamous Laos pink eye. Rumours around the tubing circuit are that one in every two people get pink eye within four days of their dip in the Nam Song. In our group it was one in one, all one at a time. At first it was Claire who we royally ripped the piss out of for catching, then Holly, myself and even Taylor and a guy we briefly met called Ryan were infected. My case was so bad it’s even worse than the example on Wikipedia and I made many women scream from the sight of me.

I hate people who wear glasses indoors

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Living Life Laos Style

In Laos on September 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

For once I think I actually love the French. After suffering for months with the over sweet bread of Asia it was such a nice treat to get to Laos and their beautiful baguettes. The legacy that the French left behind when they left 60 years ago. A love for good bread and Laughing Cow cheese.

A traditional Lao sandwich stall and a tiny barbers shop

We skipped the capital Vientiane as I’d heard it’s nothing special. There were some nice old buildings as we drove through but the real pretty (and party) places are further north.

Vang Vieng was the first stop off, as it is for most young Westerners. In fact there were probably more farang in town than locals. It’s the ultimate backpacker lay about paradise; cheap baguettes, traditional European home cooked meals and loads of restaurants playing Friends. The canned laughter follows you down the street as it blares out of the widescreens. The one where they go to Barbados will forever remind me of Laos. I don’t know the Lao initially ever thought everyone just wants to watch Friends all of the time. It’s bizarre. Play films and I’ll go to your bar instead!

Yay! just what I wanted in the middle of Laos. Friends series 3!

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