A Travellerspoint blog

Hanoi, 10 years on

sunny 34 °C
View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

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We took a sleeper bus to Hanoi. There weren't any robberies like the last sleeper bus. It was fairly smooth. We got dropped of in the edge of Hanoi at 3:30 am. It seemed to be a different Hanoi than I knew but probably because I never went out at 3:30am in 1999. We took a taxi (which didn't exists back in 1999) to Hoan Kiem lake and sat there until dawn next to a KFC (also a new addition). As the sun rose many Vietnamese young and old started walking around the lake for exercise. We then went in search of a hotel to get some sleep and a shower. The hotel near us suggested by our guidebooks was full until 3pm so we followed a guy to Hanoi Opera Hotel II. They offered us $10 for a room and the room was good with a/c, 2 double beds and a decent bathroom. After a long nap we headed out into the hot and humid streets of Hanoi. We took a taxi (the company was: touristaxi) to DHL to pick up my card. The taxi driver then charged us twice the meter rate (initially it was 3 times but we protested) [FYI: trusted taxis: MAiLinh, Taxi CP and Hanoi Taxis]. We then walked to Hoa Le prison, often referred to as the Hanoi Hilton, where John McCain was a POW in the Vietnamese/American War. We spent a while in there, I was happy as my expired UCAS card managed to get me a student discount. We then needed a cold drink and some water. We headed to my old home Hanoi Towers where we had a cold and icy drink at the bar and went to the supermarket for some water.

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We then wandered around the lake and headed to Hanoi Backpackers Hostel to book a trip to Halong Bay. We also decided to book a hotel near there for the next day and for after the trip as it was in a better area. We then got back to our hotel to be told our room was needed and we have been moved to a smaller room and they have moved all our stuff. They had done a bad job of moving the stuff by mixing Rob and my belongings and shampoo had not been moved carefully so it leaked. We asked if they would charge less. they said no. So we left.

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We headed to the hotel we booked, Hanoi Lucky Hotel III. Unfortunately they were full but they took us to Hanoi Lucky II their partner located 50m away. It was more luxurious and more expensive but we stayed there. We had a lush sleep apart from a power cut which killed the a/c for a few hours.

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The next day we headed out early-ish to the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum. We literally were the last people in before it closed. We then headed to the temple of Literature and a nearby bookshop. We then got a cyclo to the ho hi min museum. He said we didn't have to pay as long as if we came out within the next hour and he was still there we had to use him to get back into town. The museum was really well laid out and designed. We then went out another exit and went back to the hotel.

We then got ready for Halong Bay.

Posted by Yeebles 16:50 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Sapa Motorbike

sunny
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As Martin, the American with a local wife suggested I took a motorbike ride towards the silver waterfall and down the mountain. It was an amazing trip. I felt so free on the motorbike (which was driven by a Vietnamese guy) and the views were amazing. We went to a town at the bottom of the hill. Here are pictures.

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Posted by Yeebles 16:36 Archived in Vietnam Tagged motorcycle Comments (1)

Halong Bay

storm 27 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

At eight on Thursday morning we set off onn a three and a half hour bus ride from Hanoi to Haiphong to start our Halong bay tour. Although parts of the road are fairly smooth, there are lots of bridges over streams and rice fields, which seemingly no-one could be bothered to join to the rest of the road properly. This left lots of little one or two inch steps for the bus to slam the brakes on and bump over.

We made to Halong Bay at around lunch time and taken aboard our boat to have lunch and relax while we cruised out to the islands in the bay. We anchored at about 15.30 and had time to jump off the boat and swim in the bath tub hot water before we went kayaking. We were taken into a cave and left our kayaks to explore. After leaving the cave we kayaked back for our night onboard the junk boat. That night with a typhoon warning our boat was forced to move an anchor in a sheltered cove.

Overnight there was some heavy rain but the typhoon did not really come and it was safe for us to move to the beach where we would spend the day. The weather was overcast but there was little rain so it was nice to have some cool weather. That afternoon I went out Kayaking again and went round the island in a kayak that turned out to be a bit too small for me. About ten minutes after I had started my feet had gone numb and by the end of an hour of kayaking I was numb from just above the knee down. This meant when I got back, to other's amusement, I fell out of the kayak and couldn't stand up for a few minutes.

That night there was heavy rain and thunder storms which at one point left me comlpetely drenched after only walking 30m outside,it was lucky I was in swimming shorts. the next morning the weather had calmed and the sun had returned for our journey back to Hanoi which started with a ride on the world's most dodgy dingy to get the boat which couldn't reach the island because of the low tides.

After a boat ride and a bus we made it back to Hanoi at about 5.00 on Saturday evening. Overall, Halong Bay was amazing but it was busy with a lot of boats and quite a lot of litter.

Posted by robbiet239 02:22 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hanoi

sunny 34 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

After an overnight bus from Sapa we arrived in Hanoi at four in the morning so we took a taxi to Hoan Kiem Lake to sit and wait for dawn, What we did see whilst we sat there was hundreds of local people coming out early to do their exercises around the edge of the lake. Finally dawn came and we managedto find a seemingly reasonable hotel with a room at 7.00 in the morning. After a nap in our hotel room we went out to explore the city.

We visited the infamous Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) prison and a nice bar in the adjoining Hanoi Towers where Alex used to live. We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the city, booked the Honoi Backpackers Halong Bay tour and a hotel for our other nights in Hanoi. We then made our way back to our Hotel in the Old Quater to find that they had moved all of our stuff to another much smaller hotel room. Although they hadn't taken anything they successfully managed to cover all my stuff in shampoo and still wanted to charge us the same price. That made us decide to move and find a room in a hotel where we staying for the rest of our time in Hanoi. Unfortunately they still had our laundry so we were forced to pay for part of the room that we had 'used' whilst spending the day walking around Hanoi.

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Hoan Kiem lake

The next day we set of early to get to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum before it shut at 10.30. Luckily we had our laundry back as I needed my trousers to get in! It was an interesting place with incredibly cold air-con. We spent the rest of the day in that area visiting the Ho Chi Minh museum and the Temple of Literature as well as finding a large English language book shop.

The next day we were off to Halong Bay.

Posted by robbiet239 02:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Fansipan

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After coming back from our hill tribe trek and spending the day in Sapa I decided it would be a good idea to leave Alex and go for a two day trek up Fansipan, Vietnam's highest mountain at 3143m above sea level. On Sunday morning I then set off with one other guy who had just arrived from Hanoi that morning. After a two hour walk through the forest, where our guide had to stop us from stepping on a poisonous snake, we reached lunch. There we met two other people on their way down who assured us it would get harder. It did!

Even though after lunch we only walked for about two and a half hours after lunch, for most of the way there was no path so we were constantly having to use our hands to pull ourselves up the steep slope. However, wereached our overnight camp at 15.30 with the weather still looking good. That evening we spent most of our time in our uncomfortable bamboo beds, tired from the days walking.

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Fan Si Pan the roof of Indochina

The next morning we had two hours of the steepest and hardest section yet to reach the top. After the first hundred yards I knew it was going to be a long day but I reached the top about ten in the morning. Although there was a great view just below the top, typically just as I got to the top and sent a text that it was sunny the cloud moved in.

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Me at the summit

Now all that was left was to get down to the bottom to catch the bus at 17.30 and find the now phoneless Alex. I made it just at 17.27 and found Alex and we caught the fortunately late bus to Hanoi.

Posted by robbiet239 21:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged foot Comments (0)

Sapa Trek

sunny 26 °C
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2 days ago Rob, Pip and I went on a 2 day trek of some of the villages aranged by Sapa Pathfinder Travel. A man called Nam met us at our hotel and took our bags to be stored at their office. We then were told we would be delayed by half an hour. We eventually headed of as it started to Rain. The trek was easy going in that it was downhill. The main problem was that it was very muddy and slippery which meant some of the less experienced trekers fell behind. However, the local minority people, who were able to walk in their flip flops with no problem helped us along the way, by pointing out less slipery routes and providing support (although I nearly dragged one down a hill as she held onto my hand as I began to slip). We eventually got to where we would have lunch. My trousers had mud marks up to the knees. For lunch we were given a plate with bread, tomato, cucumber and boiled eggs. We made sandwiches.

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After lunch the trek was dissappointingly short and we got to the "homestay" (mopt really a homestay just a building which local people lived in but had space for tourists) at 3:00. After a quick laze about the three of us went out to wqalk some more, hopefully to the river at the bottom of the valley.

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We walked through the village as instructed and came across as what appeared to be a path. Well it was very muddy. We slipped and even if we weren't wearing flip flops we would have. The local kids found this hilarious and so did we. On reflection that path was probably an irrigation stream, however, at the time we still retained that it was a path.

We walked back a bit and found a path that lead to a farmhouse and the rice fields. We decided that we could walk along the rice field walls to get to the path. Rob went to get trainers and Pip and I gave up on shoes altogether. The rice fields walls were narrow and slippery. I fell into the rice many times. Once I fell backwards downa largeish drop. It provided much amusement to all and in fairness was funny for me. Very muddy we evtually found our way back to the main track through the village although we had to wade knee deep in mud. When we got back the guide was unimpressed. We had showers, got bored and went down the correct path to the river and climbed on the rocks in the middle of the rapids.

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We then went to have dinner which was very good and also had some of our guides home brewed Happy Water (Rice Wine served in used plastic bottles). We then played dice and card games with some Danish people who were on our trek.

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The next day was a hard trek with regards to how slippery the paths were and muddy. A major problem for me was the large strides I took to get to less muddy areas. It wasn't a physical problem, but the strain on the material of my trousers mean this tiny hole eventually got so big that I had to change into shorts. We got to this really cool water fall where we hung out at for a while. Then we treked back down the valley and back up the other side where we had noodle soup then were bussed back to Sapa.

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Today, Rob had booked a 2 day trek up Fansipan. Pip and I were meant to go to Bac Ha market. Pip managed to get a bus (I think) but as it took me ages to sort out accomodation I missed the bus. Instead I walked to Cat Cat Village. It was Ok but very touristy esspecially at the waterfall. I took a random detour and met some local kids who I gave some sweets. I then got to the road and got a ride on a motorbike back to Sapa.

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In Sapa, I met this American guy from Arizona who had a minority wife. At first he seemed a little strange but very friendly. He told me about how tour companies rip you off and don't give any to the locals. He also pointed out the Vietnamese (i.e. not local minority people) selling made in China stuff as local stuff in the market. He told me about how him and his wife by material either secondhand or new from the local people and make crafts which he sells in the farmers markets in Arizona. He was very interesting and recomended many things. I was invited to have a basic lunch with them which they cooked in a rice cooker in their hotel rented out room. It was nice, esspecially as all resturaunts in Sapa are over-priced. He then suggested places for me to go tomorrow.

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Tonight me and some other Europeans he was talking to are meeting for drinks. Tomorrow evening Rob and I are off to Hanoi by bus.

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Posted by Yeebles 14:23 Archived in Vietnam Tagged foot Comments (1)

Sapa Home Stay Trek

rain 25 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

After spending a day looking around Sapa town we found a two day home stay trek starting on Friday. On Friday morning we met up with our group of eight people and guide and we managed to make it at least 1km out of Sapa before it started to rain. We then walked down from the road and visited Lao Chai and Ta Van villages of the Dzay minority. We the continued to our home stay in the village of Giang Ta Chai. However, it had clearly become very commercialized with so many tourists in Sapa as there were about fifteen tourists in the same concrete building. As we arrived at 15.00 we decided to head out with Pip another person from our group to try and walk down to the river. However, we had clearly taken a wrong turn as once we ended up walking on the very narrow ledges in between the steps of the paddy fields. Alex fell off at least four times, it was a shame no one was videoing, and was covered in mud. Eventually as I was in trainers I jumped a stream and searched for a path. However, we just ended up wading up a bog up to our shins in mud to make it back to the road.

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Alex and Pip after the bog

Even though it wasn't a particularly authentic home stay we still had good food and a fairly comfortable bed. In the morning after breakfast we headed out for what was promised to be the much harder day of our trek and it was. With steep slippery muddy dirt tracks everyone was sliding all over the place, only not falling over much because of the help of the local women trying to sell us local handicrafts who had followed us all the way from Sapa. After visiting two more villages and a waterfall we made it back to the road for our bus back to Sapa.

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Posted by robbiet239 02:55 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

From Kunming to Sapa

overcast 25 °C
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On Wednesday evening we caught a taxi to the bus station and eventually with a few hand signals found are bus that was headed from Kunming to Hekou on the Chinese border. When we got on we found the beds were very spacious being at least as wide as me and as long as from my feet to my chest. However, we still managed to get some sleep which was good as it stopped us from needing to look out the window and see how alarmingly fast our driver was going. To add to this at four in the morning some Americans discovered that someone had stolen there bag which they had cleverly left under their bed containing a laptop and Ipod. They called the police who surprisingly turned up and searched the bus finding the bag without the laptop under my bed, which look a bit dodgy. However, a couple of people from the back had recently got off and had clearly taken the bag. Finally we made it to Hekou at 8.00 on Thursday morning.

We then went to go through immigration and after a full bag search at the Chinese end we crossed the bridge over the Red River to the Vietnam end which was a complete mess of Swine Flu forms and immigration. After they had not looked at and stamped our half finished forms we made it into Lao Cai. We then found a minibus to take us to Sapa which then preceded to drive around town for half an hour looking for more passengers before going up to Sapa.

Posted by robbiet239 02:37 Archived in China Tagged bus Comments (0)

Out of China and into Vietnam

sunny
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This post has less pictures as I already have pictures of Kunming and nothing has changed. Also, it wasn't safe to take the camera out on the sleeper bus.

After our final less busy night in Dali, we woke up nice and early to return to the urban monstrosity of Kunming. When our bus came Cheri's, a fellow traveller, seat was wet as the AC had leaked on it. Merrick, our guide, then decided to change cussions with an unoccupied sea. Everyone thought this was a good idea, well everyone except the bus driver. The bus driver came on and immediatley shouted at Merrick, and said the damp cussion had not been attached properly so Merrick took the cussion of and put it back on whilst the driver shouted. The fight was in Mandarin but here is what I discovered was the case:
"If you break the cussion you'll have to buy a new one" "If I want I can buy a whole new coach"
also, the bus driver threatened to get Merric killed (along the lines of I will make sure you don't get home and you will dissappear in Kunming). [Merrick 1, locals 0]

Anyways the maniac bus driver drove ridiculously fast to Kunming. When we got there Rob and I chilled until Merrick took us to probably the best meal so far. It was a great local feast and very innexpensive. We then went to a bar where we all had more bing de bing de bing de Dali pijiu (cold cold cold Dali beer). After one beer we decided we'd go back to the hotel as beers were cheaper and larger bottles. At the bar, the staff tried to charge us for the room they had sat us in as well as the drinks. Merrick told them they can't add charges without telling us before. [Merrick 2, Locals 0]

We then got back to the hotel, Merrick, who doesn't drink then bid us farewell [and the match finishes 2-0]. We had one more beer, decided to call it a night and we exchanged emails. It had been a great trip and we had done it with some great people.

Rob and I got up early, so that we could grab a quick hotel breakfast, check out and go to the Stone Forest. We said bye to anyone in the lobby off to the airport then caught a taxi to the bus station where we caught a 1:30 bus to the Stone Forest.

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It was awash with tourists but only withing the 500m of the entrance. Rob and I wandered around the unique stone maze of caves and narrow gaps in the intense heat. We got lost a few times but after 2 hours amanaged to make our way to the bus station.

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The Bus back to Kunming was severly delayed as there had been a bad accident on the expressway. This would put pressure on the time between getting back and out 7:30 sleeper bus to Heke qat the China-Vietmam border. We got back with an hour to spare. grabbed a quick bowl of noodles and desperatley tried to get a taxi in the rain.

The sleeper bus was interesting and definitley not built for any body but short people. However it was fairly comfortable minus the weird slope-y, narrow beds. It was strange outsidfe as there was lightning but no rain or thunder. A major incident happened on the bus. An american trio of a father and his two sons realized in the late hours that their bag was missing which contained a laptop, passports, medication and an iPod. In the end the bus stopped and the police came on to search the bus. Foolishly they had left the bag on the floor under their bed rather than on the luggage holder at the end of the bed.

Luckily (or not so luckily) they found the bag under some beds which had been curiously vacated at an earlier toilet stop, unfortunatley the laptop was missing. The bus then headed to Heke. When we got to Heke, we joined forces with a girl who was also travelling to Sapa. At leaving the Chinese side everyone had their bag searched but me (they only asked to see any books I had), probably because they saw me as one of them being half Chinese. We then crossed the bridge in no mans land to Vietnam. The Vietnamese side was more complicated but we eventually made it out to Lao Cai. We then got 2 million dong each out the ATM and got a 40000 dong bus to Sapa from Lao Cai. The bus wandered around town to try and fill itself up but then headed to Sapa.

In Sapa we looked for a decent price hotel and the three of us are now staying at Queen's Hotel. We then wandered the streets after a shower. We went to have lunch. Pip had supposedly the best cheeseburger in Sapa which initially was a slice of cheese in a roll but then turned into a meaty monstrosity.

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She followed us for 2 hours to get a 50000 dong ($1-$2 sale)

We wandered the market with small children harassing us to buy handycrafts. After a full hour of conversation I bought a weird noise making device from this persistent 13 year old.

Tomorrow we go on a trek of Sapa's villages

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Posted by Yeebles 18:24 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Zhongdian and Dali

rain 20 °C
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After having made it out of the landslides of Tiger Leaping Gorge we then had a six hour bus ride cross country to Zhongdian. When we made it to Zhongdain on Friday the weather was cold and wet and at an altitude of 3300m the lack of oxygen was definitely noticeable when walking around. The next day with the weather still damp we decided to go to the Tibetan monastery just outside the town. After trying to find the right bus to go around the back way and dodge the 85CNY charge we eventually ended up driving past the main security gate and as we didn't look particularly local got booted off the bus to the main security gate. The monastery was interesting seeing all the monks chanting but there was also a lot of building work going on.

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That afternoon we went back into the town and wandered around the old town. After trying to spin a very heavy prayer wheel on Turtle Hill with views across the old town we heard some military music and having gone to look at where it was coming from we saw a group of children in full local costume playing in a marching band.

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The next morning we boarded our bus for what, with the main road closed for maintainance, was another eight hour bus ride to Dali. On Monday we then decided to head up to the mountain above Dali for views all across the city and nearby lake. However, with the low cloud much of the time we couldn't see the city but the views were still spectacular as we went for a 22km walk along the side of the mountain.

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Today we caught the bus back to Kunming and tomorrow night we leave our Intrepid group and take the sleeper bus to Vietnam.

Posted by robbiet239 02:11 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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