Myles Harrington

Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Sleep Deprived Sightseeing In Saigon

In Vietnam on October 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

We left Saigon after a rather lazy, boozey and tourist sight filled few days. Saigon’s Reunification Palace was a tad boring but well preserved, exactly as it was when it was stormed by the liberation troops in 1975, as you might expect the carpet looks a bit dated. We endured the extremely bias 40-minute war documentary video in the military command basement and got photos of the cabinet rooms and a cheeky one of me in the president’s war room chair.

 

The boss

 

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon’s official name) is excellent and it gives a shocking insight to the Vietnam War, albeit still very bias, but it’s as you’d expect considering the atrocities of the unprovoked war. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of visits to Saigon’s legendary nightclub; Apocalypse Now. The first time we visited we’d had a few too many Long island Ice Teas to notice the sleazy nature of the clientele. It was basically a meat market, the buyers being fat, ageing Western men and the prime cuts being Vietnam’s finest looking teenagers. It’s a shame this goes on, but I suppose it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. We also had our last two nights indulging in Vietnam’s best bargain purchase; bia hoi. I’ll miss that cheap stuff.

 

This poor bloke has been locked up since the summer of '75

 

The last few days have been spent on a tour around the Mekong delta, on which to fit in all the activities each day, we’ve had to wake up before 6am. I never thought I’d be doing that on my nine months off work. We visited the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi, a rice paper and wine factory, a handicapped handicrafts factory, a coconut candy and whisky factory, a honey factory, a rice noodle factory, two fruit farms and a fish farm. We’ve been on more separate boat rides than I can remember and cycled around a village, as well as visited four separate towns, Mytho, Ben Tre, Cantho and Chau Doc, we also spent one night at a local family’s house. It’s no wonder we want to go straight to bed when we reach Phnom Penh.

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Two Motorbike Rides and a Holiday

In Vietnam on October 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm
We’ve just returned from a bike ride into the country to see some beautiful waterfalls. That may sound like an idyllic way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and it was until the rain hit. Then it turned out a similar way to how my scooter trip in Goa went, with me drenched and shivering, looking like a bloke who’s gone swimming in the mid-winter Atlantic with his clothes on.

Sorry, I meant we rented elephants not motorbikes

The ride to the Elephant Falls was amazing, stunning scenery along a good condition (for Asia) mountain hugging road for 30km and then through some small villages. The walk down to the bottom of the falls wasn’t quite so relaxing. Shubes was cleverly wearing her prettiest frock and slippery sandals that were obviously ideal for trekking down wet rocks and along a path where the handrail disintegrated about a quarter of a century ago. She returned up the hill barefooted and muddy handed. It was great fun though and the view from the bottom was well worth the treacherous effort.

The stunning Elephant Falls near Dalat

A similar thing happened to us last time we got out a motorbike, five days ago in Hoi An. Except that time it decided to piss it down on the way to the attraction. We vistied the ancient Hindu temple site of Mi Son, again it was a fun bike ride, this time through a couple of small towns and along the coast road and we arrived looking like we’d been sprayed with a pressure washer. Mi Son itself was okay, but I think it could be better preserved, because a lot of the temples had crumbled and the shrubs tended to be winning the 1000 year war against the masonry.

One of Mi Son's crumbling temples

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.