A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam - the final chapter

Hoi An to Saigon (via Nha Trang)

sunny 35 °C
View RTW 2008 on jezems's travel map.

Jez and I kept our word and managed to survive Hoi An without getting anything made - however, we discovered if you weren't buying stuff, Hoi An is a pretty boring place and we had a couple of days to kill! It was very touristy but had some great restaurants so we spent our time taste testing the local cuisine - Jez got addicted to Cau Luc, a broth, noodle and beef dish and is now suffering withdrawal symptons :) I liked the wontons and the 4 - 9 Happy Hours that were great for our budget. We also discovered a great french inspired bakery house and often avoided the midday sun by spending our afternoons eating chocolate cakes and drinking latte's. Nonetheless, we were happy to leave Hoi An and embark on our final leg of our trip - Nha Trang and Saigon.
We left Hoi An at 10 am and caught a 6 hr train to Nha Trang - which was a killer! Having successfully avoided the bathroom on my last train trip, I thought I could survive, apparantly not :( Imagine trying to squat, make sure your pants don't touch the floor (unknown liquid was excreating from the toilet plumbing, while one hand clutches the armrest which is unusually moist so you can balance, as the train rocks onward and your otherhand tries to cover your noise as the smell of the cubicle makes you want to dry wrench! I had to do this twice! That said, the staff on the train do their best to keep the train clean and at every stop sweep the floors and collect garbage from all the passengers. The staff were also quite helpful and very friendly - I think Jez and I were a novelty for our fellow passengers as tourists don't often use the trains, everytime a passenger walked past our cabin they would look in and smile. One lady tried to start a conversation but as she spoke little English and I no vietnamese we kinda just sat in silence smiling at each other until she abruptly got up and walked out of our cabin.
When we arrived in Nha Trang I couldn't help but rush to our hotel, to take a long relaxing shower before hitting the sack.
Next morning, we hit the beach and caught a boat out to an island for some relaxation and pampering - I got a massage and had a manicure as well as getting my eyebrows waxed with cotton! Yes, you heard correctly, I'm not sure if its some local technique or if its common in Asia but you get some cotton thread and make three loops, then twist it really quickly so that it catches the hair and plucks it out - it wasn't very painful, but very effective! We spent the rest of the day lying on the beach and catching up on some rays. Tonight, we head to Saigon - another train trip :( we depart at 9pm and arrive in Saigon at 4.30am - its going to be a killer............................................

Posted by jezems 03:35 Archived in Vietnam Tagged postcards

Japan - revisited

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Although it would be fun to leave the bath house experience hanging out there, untold, I think I should quickly fill in the detail. It seems a long time ago now but it was only last week I was standing out side the bath house door in my special pjs wondering if I was meant to get undressed or not before going in and how do I go about pretending I know what I’m doing? It had been over thirty six hours since I had last showered, so was in need of a wash.

I had briefly read a lonely planet about the edict while still in Australia I felt I had the basic concept under control, you bathe on a stool with a shower head and a bucket of water making sure to remove all of the soap before getting in the hot tub. So with this valuable knowledge I dropped the daks and went in. Once in two other blokes in there hardly took any notice and I went about my business. When I was about to get in the hot tub one of the blokes grunted and pointed at the sauna, this wasn’t in the guide book! I obliged and went in and sat down in the steam and to my relief was not followed in by the grunting man. I stayed in as long as I could stand and then exited to rinse before the hot tub. By now the grunting man had left and I was free to relax after a long day of sight seeing. Once I’d had enough I jumped out to rinse off before heading out to get changed for dinner.

However, as I sat down the friendly bloke who helped me work out what I was meant to be doing in the locker room earlier arrived and walked over and started to scrub my back, with soap again (obviously he thought I had just sat down or was really dirty EH) not wanting to be rude I said thanks and then washed off the soap ready to leave. As I stood up ready to go he grunted and pointed to the hot tub and so in I went, again! By this stage I was so hot I must have looked like a tomato. In broken English I was told to open the door and stand in the cold air blowing past the 9th floor balcony next to the bath house. As I stood there the friendly Japanese bloke kept waving me to go out on the balcony, being a modest Aussie I did so with a towel wrapped around my waist so as not to scare the peak hour traffic driving by below. The traffic didn’t worry him, he joined me out there in all his glory and started waving to the passing traffic! Being very diplomatic and not wishing to cause an incident I lost my modesty and also waved to the traffic driving below. Then quickly got out of there before being arrested and deported…

The remainder of our trip to Japan involved taking the Yamanote line around to Shinjuku, Shibuya, Uneo and Tokyo checking out parks, shopping centre and tourist sights. We made it to Roppongi and ate rammen and visited the Tsukiji fish markets on the last day where there was tuna taller than Emily being carved up.

Emily excited about cherry blossums!

Posted by jezems 07:07 Archived in Japan

Good Morning Vietnam Part II

Farewell to Hue - Hello to Hoi An

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Well its with a heavy heart I say farewell to Hue - the town where Uncle Ho grew up and went to secondary school! Its been an interesting couple of days, I've had my first experience on a motorbike - my butt is still smarting and had my fortune read by a war widow. Supposedly I'll be married next year and have three children 2 boys and a girl - hmmmmm not sure whether to believe her as afterwards I found out she had told all the women on our tour group the same thing even one who is in her late fifties :)



We also had an amazing lunch at a nunnery in the country side- completely vegetarian with imitation pork sausage and french fries - yes, even I had to take a double take to make sure it really was french fries - I think they were McCain's

........................we finished our lunch with a quick snooze, the nuns brought out mats and pillows for us to lie on, the laminate was quite hard but it was better than hanging out in the courtyard in the full blare of the sun!


One thing that strikes both Jez and I is the complete destruction suffered by this country not just during the american/vietnam war but also by the french yet the people are so gracious and have no ill will towards these countries. You can still see the effects of bombs dropped by the americans and met people with disabilities incurred during the war - for us its something in the distant pass but for these people there are daily reminders - yet they choose to focus on how to work towards improving their country and the lives of their countrywomen/men. Definately inspirational for me on the importance of moving forward and forgiving past grievances.
Tomorrow, we leave at the crack of dawn for Hoi An - yet,another city that has been recognised by UNESCO - it seems that everywhere we go in Vietnam UNESCO has recognised something and made it a "world cultural" item. Hoi An is an old port city that is well known for its tailors, however, I think Jez and I will resist getting anything made............................


Posted by jezems 03:32 Archived in Vietnam Tagged postcards

Good Morning Vietnam

Hanoi to Hue - Xin chao

View RTW 2008 on jezems's travel map.

Well, we have now arrived safely in Vietnam after three full days in Japan - we narrowly averted missing our plane due to currency difficulties, supposedly foreign cards other than Citibank are not accepted and if you want to withdraw cash you need to go to a post office not a bank (more of a story here is that we were only 100 yen short of the cost of the train ticket to the airport, which is less than the cost of a bottle of water and i was keen to beg but emily thought we should get it out from a bank. Probaly the safer option. Without this hicup we would have survived 3 days in japan on $300 including accommodation- JM). Anyway, we got our Yen and made like mad dogs to the airport to catch our flight - if you want to hear about Jez' bath house experiences you'll need to email him to hear about it further as its too risque for gmail :)

YUMMMMMM Whale Bugger

We arrived Monday night to a hot and humid Hanoi that at 11 pm was still bustling with activity. We arrived at our hotel totally exhahusted to find that our reservation had gone missing - supposedly the hotel was fully booked and we were not able to stay at the hotel. We were advised that they had a room available for the night but not for the next couple of days and we would have to hand over our passports???. Alarm bells were ringing so we agreed to hand over our passports - supposedly for official reasons but would come back in the next 20 mins to pick them up. Jez and I headed to our rooms to discuss our accomodation options for tomorrow and to give the clerk some time to fill out the official paperwork- Jez and I were annoyed as we had fully paid for our accomodation online and knew if we left there was no way we'd get our money back. 20 minutes later Jez headed downstairs to retrieve our passports - the clerk had shut up shop and gone home. We had an uneasy sleep but the next morning a new clerk was on call she had our passports and accomodation reservation and all was right with the world.

We headed out to explore the town before our tour started on the Thursday - we visited the 'Hanoi Hilton'- made famous for housing prisioners of war during the American war- and John McCain's flight suit and we visited the Ho Chi Minh museum and caught a show - vietnamese water puppetry. It was suprisingly entertaining even without being able to follow the dialogue!


So far we have tried to taste local delicacies such as Hanoi Pancake, Egg Coffee and Pork with Orange sauce but have drawn the line at dog - for those pet lovers out there - dogs are sometimes raised for consumption. We saw two being roasted, they are pretty wild and caged and fattened up until its time to meet the guillotine!


Our tour began on the Thursday and we are now in Hue - having caught the train from Hanoi. It was very basic (read Emily did not go to the bathroom) but we got there in one piece. Jez improvised with a sort of personal alarm lock for the door as we were both freaked out by stories of robbery on the overnight train - men dress up in uniforms (trying to look official) grab your bag as if to put it into the train or take it off for you but then either run off with your bag or hold it to ransom for a hefty fee.


Today we are visiting the Citadel and tomorrow we will be doing a tour of the surronding areas on motorbike - the prefered mode of travel in Vietnam. Hope you are all doing well.

Em and Jez

Posted by jezems 23:57 Archived in Vietnam

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