Archive for November, 2012

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So apparently it’s a shit idea to turn up to a foreign country at 3am with no local currency or hostel booked. Thankfully we managed to tail some people from our coach who had their game together a little more and found a room for the night.

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The north of Laos, Luang Prabang, is an awesome place. It reminded me of another of my favourite places, Pai, in the north of Thailand. There are some fab hippy bars lit up by candles with tree stump chairs. I recommend Utopia for a spot of day time yoga and night time drinking. Much like the north of Vietnam, there was a night time curfew here of 11pm where all bars need to legally shut. But also like Vietnam there are places you can carry on with the party. We were shovelled into tuktuks like sardines and carted off to the local “bowling alley”, an excuse to get sloshed under the illusion of a nice family night out at the alleys.

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I SAW BEARS. It was a bit sad to see them in captivity (and also a bit of a shock as I thought we were just visiting a waterfall… They were some side attraction.) It was actually a Save the Bears campaign, but i think it was more of a Save the Lao con artists by buying a tshirt.

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The waterfalls were amazing. There were different layers, you walk up this path to the main waterfall, have a splash around (and a cheeky “nature” photo) before working your way down.

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The next level had a rope swing which I gracefully face planted off from, then went back to my Cheerleading roots at the bottom and final part of the waterfall. What a lovely day out.

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We had to take a minibus from LP down to Vang Vieng, home of Tubing and the Blue Lagoon. This is me trying to chill my chocolate milk with the bus’s air conditioning. (It worked.) It was a bit hectic as they overbooked the minibus (not uncommon) so some poor sod had to lie down in the aisle. I had a seat of sorts but I was quite literally cheek to cheek with Louise. Face AND bum.

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Trip was worth it. Vang Vieng has some beautiful views. A couple of the restaurants, however, made me feel like I was putting them out by giving the business. They were a bit like people’s homes. Maybe we were accidentally wandering into people’s houses? That’d piss me off too.
“YOU THINK THIS RESTAURANT?”
“Why yes, I’ll have a green curry please.”

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The tubing was, as they say, ‘cray cray’. It’s completely changed now as all the bars either side of the river have been shut/burnt down due to a few accidental deaths.. You can still hire a tube (rubber ring) and buy some alcohol from the local off licence to sip as you drift down the river looking at amazing mountain scenery. We chose these Happy Hamster cups as our chalices of choice. Occasionally I’d get caught in a current and drift off into some spiky bushes on the river bank, but a nice guy had found part of a tree trunk and used if first as a rescue utensil, then a gondola stick(?) to get us going in the right direction. Later he began swinging it around his head and claiming he was a helicopter.

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Tubing done, the next day we hired some motorbikes and headed to the Blue Lagoon. It was very pretty and definitely worth a visit. There’s a little swing hanging off a big tree into the water, and yet another rope swing. There is also a cave but its small, dangerous, claustrophobic and I was not a fan.

The Irish Bar is the place to drink in VV and staying in a hostel on that road (Jonnys is a good one) is probably a wise choice to minimise the distance required to crawl home. Once again there is a curfew but everybody grabs a few beers and heads to the bridge round the corner to continue intellectual conversations and hydration rituals. Ahem.

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Our final travelling experience took us down to Laos’ 4000 islands. (Sounds impressive, but they count small shrubberies lodged between the few pieces of land as ‘islands’.) We chose to stay on the smaller of the two main islands, Don Det. It was quite underdeveloped and it was nice to experience a real piece of Lao culture.

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We stayed in hippy bungalows with your standard hammock outside on the porch (natch). This was the view from the bathroom. Being watched by a field of cows whilst showering is quite the experience.

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We hired some bicycles and took a very scenic route down to the side of the island owned by someone we befriended at a campfire party. Here we saw rapid waterfalls (the largest in South East Asia) too dangerous to enter, and found our way to a secluded beach.

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Night time saw the end of our Asian adventure. We finished it off with a tasty cake… A bucket, and some campfire singing. (I then went home, slipped all over the bathroom floor and bruised pretty much every limb at least a little bit. But only ’cause the floor was wet obvs.)

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Well, we’ve come a long way since we left the UK at the beginning of September, but here we are now, all settled in Sydney. It’s been an amazing adventure and I urge everyone to be spontaneous, quit their jobs and run away like us! Not if you have children though. No running away then.

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That’s it for this blog. Hasta pronto! Xxx

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Halloween in Hanoi

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Well, I finally did it. I went for the chop and colour. You likey? ….we were halloween shopping and trying on wigs. I think I look like an alluring lesbian so there.

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Oh my Buddha i’ve found a new love. Banana on jammy bread. We checked into a pretty nice place where we can stay and eat our buffet breakfast overlooking Hanoi.

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One of the “things to do” out here is take a 2 night, 3 day boat trip around Halong bay. We spent half our life trekking round travel agents in the sweltering heat until we found a great deal.

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We were lucky enough to be upgraded to a seaview room with a balcony off the back of the boat with the most awesome view. Nunicorn was suitably impressed.

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We spent one night on the boat and one on Monkey Island where I befriended a crosseyed cat everybody had cruelly ostracised. Whilst on the island there was also an incident where I thought I was kayaking to a baby monkeys rescue but it almost turned into an attack. I had oars. They did not.

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I also found some really cool coral.

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The next day I decided to forgo trekking miles up a mountain to instead sit by a hidden away lake. Very zen. We made our way back on the third day around the Ha Long bay islets.

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Well, halloween arrived and we realised the only preparation we had done was to buy a bottle of vodka. We went to a corner shop for party hats (the girls went as creepy clowns) and ribbon (i think I was a dead doll?) And clubbed together our makeup to produce this last minute attempt:

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I actually made a small child cry, so win? Naaaah I felt bad. But also pleased with my fancy dress attempt.

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We found a local family-run restaurant which sold the BEST noodles for the equivalent of less than a pound. The beer was even cheaper. We became fast friends. Grandad would give us some of his apple chunks after dinner and mom would pop round with the free iced tea. They posted my artistic note on Facebook which made me feel a little bit special.

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I’ve been so good with my money, honestly. Then I found an ALDO in VIETNAM!! Girls you will most likely appreciate this more than the boys. These shoes were about 90 quid cheaper than the website price so I accidentally on purpose bought them. Probably didn’t think it through too well considering I now have to lug them around in my already-overflowing backpack.

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We made friends with the Vietnamese dude who worked at Aldo who took us for coffee and breakfast. Three on a scooter! Yes it’s as scary as it sounds but absolutely normal out here. You regularly see motorbikes with entire families piled on, usually with a toddler standing at the front! Our next, and last new destination, is Laos. Best known for its lagoons, caves… And tubing. Here we go!

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Halo Hoi An

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Still in Vietnam! Bus ride was pretty horrendous as per. It’s a, sleeper coach, you get a crap bed and, if you’re lucky, a blanket that smells of wee. Apart from being jammed between a window and Louise’s arse for the entire journey, we had the added bonus of a Vietnamese man try to CRAWL INTO OUR BEDS WITH US. Nothing untoward, he was just trying to rob us. I think that makes it slightly more acceptable? Anyway, we scared him off (as much as two little blonde western girls possibly can).

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We stayed near the Old Quarters, a place less affected by tourism, giving you a real feel for the culture. The Japanese Bridge is located here and is worth a little visit.

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There are some pretty good shops and bars around. Also spas and tailor shops.

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The girls decided to spend 2 hours (!) getting their nails done and having a massage but I had other ideas. I mainly spent my time eating street vendor food and narrowly avoiding being mown down by motorcycles. You’re probably bored of hearing about our drinking escapades. Here’s another. We managed to find a Why Not bar! You would have thought we’d learnt our lesson the first time. As we were trying to find our first watering hole we were coaxed down an alley way by a creepy wrinkly Vietnamese version of Pocahontas. We thought she might be taking us to her house for a drink but turns out she was our North Star leading us to buckets of identifiable alcohol and dancing on pool tables.

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We managed to catch the tail end of the full moon Lantern Festival. All the lights are turned off in the old quarters and people buy little paper lanterns.

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You’re meant to make a wish before sailing your lucky lantern down the river. (We also sent down the poor Vietnamese lady’s wicker tray before realising we were meant to take our lanterns off and put them directly into the river.. But we soon recovered it.)

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The next day we decided to rent bicycles and head down to the beach. Amazing!

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You could borrow these little coconut boats for free and have a paddle around in the sea which is quite nice.

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Hoi An is known for its tailor shops where you can get anything made. The girls got some dresses/jackets/boots made while I sung with some children and took pictures of an ugly dog.

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Hanoi is our next destination! Bus journey #45236 here I come.

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Why Not?

I’ll tell you why not, because it’s bloody lethal. Those of you who have visited Nha Trang (or Hoi An for that matter) will be familiar with Why Not bar. They lure you in with promises (fulfilled) of free drinks and you leave bedraggled and slightly less dignified.

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We were going to stay in HCMC for a while longer but as soon as we bid farewell to some of our traveller friends who were moving on, we booked an extremely last minute sleeper train to Nha Trang.

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I’ve developed a naughty habit where I play my “5 guess gam e”. 5 guesses as to the country i’m from, or you buy me a drink. I haven’t lost so far.. As usual my night ended in buying noodles from the local shop. I utilised (broke into) the hostel’s kitchen to use the hot water and felt something tickly on my toes.. CUCARACHA! The same little cockroach sneakily followed me into the tiniest elevator in the world BUt.. I didn’t notice until the doors had already shut. So we spent the next five floors running away from each other in a square meter of lift.

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The morning after we had a trip booked to the local mud baths and swimming pools. We had to call up and postpone for an hour due to unforeseen headaches but made it there eventually.

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On our bus journey to the baths we had to make an emergency stop for one girl to do a little sick on the side of the road. This girl and her mate ended up becoming fast friends with Lou and I.

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The mud baths themselves were like little swimming pools filled with a muddy liquid apparently packed with revitalising minerals. I felt a bit like a big dirty elephant but it was lots of fun.

After the mud bath we were sprayed down and hopped into the “cold” pool (which was as warm as a heated pool) and followed up with the hot pool which was BLOODY HOT.

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And finally, a little sit-down behind an even littler waterfall.

We decided then that we should book a day boat tour with Alicia and Laura, our two new kiwi friends, then we all made it back to our hotels without being sick on the road side, which is nice.

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Mha Mha Ling was the the name of our small-but-efficient boat. Our Vietnamese tour guide was what made a budget trip into a rollicking good laugh. (Does anybody say that anymore?)

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He revealed his name was Jack (unlikely) and claimed me as his ‘Rose’, making me teeter precariously on the very tip of the boat. Wet my pants.

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Firstly we were treated to a delicious seafood spread followed by a terrifying leap off the roof of our boat (when I lost my anklet to the ocean, boo 😦 ) for some snorkelling action. We saw jelly fish as big as your head, screamed like big burly men, and clambered straight back onto the boat.

Next up we were pretty excited to hear we were about to have a drink at a floating bar! Now, it’s not that he lied as such, but having a 70 year old Vietnamese man half dressed with a squadron of rubber rings and a bottle of vodka wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. Still, bloody good fun.

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After donning a coconut bra (natch) our tour guide proceeded to serenade us in various languages, my favourite one being the Vietnamese one which goes a little something like this: “Vietnaaaam, VietNAAAM!” (and repeat for 3 minutes) whilst his “band” (70 year old on a drum kit made entirely out of buckets and a strategically placed bit of metal) accompanied him.

I later joined in with a bit of Oasis and a boogie up on stage.

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Another place to stop in if you’re ever in the area is the Sailing Club. It isn’t cheap but they sell a banging white chocolate/passion fruit cheesecake!

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Tomorrow the Kiwis, Lou and I are headed to Hoi An, further up north. Hasta pronto!

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I was especially looking forward to Saigon (or “Ho Chi Minh City”) as two of my oldest friends and sisters, Karen and Rosie (i mean they are sisters.. Not mine.. Yes) are currently living and working there.

We celebrated our arrival with vodka.

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That is a single measure and costs the equivalent of 50p. Live here forever? Anyway, this was the result:

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Theres a better one involving less clothes and sleeping on a toilet seat but this isn’t that kind of blog.

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I spilt noodles all over my bed but I definitely wasn’t drunk Dad.

All in all, a successful night.

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Personally I loved Ho Chi Minh and, had we more time, would loved to have stayed. (Although our bath tub was perhaps a little cramped.)

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We purchased a “chicken” which deceivingly is not in fact poultry, but a sort of shuttle hacky sack toy. The idea is to kick it as high as you can into the air and your partner(s) kick it back. There were tonnes of people in the square putting us to shame. We soon gathered a small group (love how social it was there!) Of kids and adults alike. I think I actually managed to kick the chickenshuttlesack two times but I was in flip flops so it hurt okay. I was still better than the four year olds.

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As we were leaving the square we were ambushed by people offering free hugs. I obliged.

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Yoghurt space is worth a visit (or 5). It’s Asia’s equivalent of London’s “Snog”.

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It’s a place where you choose your frozen yoghurt flavour, (blueberry and passion fruit 4 lyf) and add many, many delicious toppings.

We visited a coffee shop which was far too expensive for us but which offered free glasses of iced water. Much to Jordan’s embarassment, Louise and I attempted to take full advantage by tipping it into our empty water bottles (and the floor, mainly) every time the nice asian lady refilled our glasses.
Whstevs. Free water is a commodity out here.

There was a slight incident where I decided I really needed a sausage for my pot noodle but after many vodkas was outraged at the price. The long and short of this story is; you can’t put a sausage down your top in K Mart and get away with it. (Until next time..)

That’s about the long and short of our brief stint in HCMC!

Oh and once Rosie and Karen invited us to their house with promises of a bubbly jaccuzi but we couldnt turn it on so we all sat awkwardly round a cold bath of water instead.

The End!

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