Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Vietnam by Bus!

What a long strange trip it's been! Sorry about my last blog, I know the last half of it got cut off, but for some reason, I can't check it and see where I left off. I know that I was in Dalat when I last wrote, so I'll continue on from there...

So, I think I wrote this already, but you can get an Open Bus Tour ticket which takes you from the south to the north (Saigon to Hanoi) for only $22, and you can stop all along the way and spend as much time as you'd like in each place. After Dalat, we stopped in a bustling little beach town called Na Trang.

Natrang is a trip. There are tons of hotels right on the beach (a perfect sring-break situation, and it almost feels like it!) The crazy part about Natrang is the beach beggers, or should I say "merchants". You'd think it would be great having people come right to your beach towel and offer you everything from beer to sunglasses to fresh fruit to hair removal, but I'll tell ya, it got old QUICK! As soon as you set foot on the sand, you are nearly bombarded with touters. They will literally come back to your towel 3 or 4 times until you either be very stern with them and say leave me alone, or cave and buy something. The water there however was beautiful, and again, the seafood was great. The waves were incredibly strong. One Vietnamese girl got sucked out to see and died there the day we arrived, so needless to say, we were very careful. Lily and I met a couple of guys (who were really fun, but turned out to be kinda sleezy asking if we thought "Happy Endings" were okay) and we went out and danced the night away at a really neat beach bar and dance club. Lily says I did the worm, but I conveniently don't remember ( I never do!)

The next morning, we thought it would be a good idea to do a little boat tour to the 4 islands of Natrang. For me it was a blast, but Lils had a bit more to drink than I, and was feeling pretty sickies the whole day. The water was a bit rough, and not very condusive to hangover status! The tour was fun though, we went snorkeling around some pretty mankie reefs, swimming, had some red wine at the floating bar (which was basically a guy in an innertube handing out free wine and pineapple) and stopped at a beach for a dose of dry land which helped sober us up a bit. They had some really dodgy parasailing, and two tourists got stuck in a tree during their sand-landing, we saw the whole thing happen. Everyone was okay.

We ended our trip and hopped on the "sitting bus" (not to be confused with the sleeping bus) on the first of December for an overnight trip up the coast to Hoi An. The bus played really bad Vietnamese Christmas music complete with red, green and yellow flashing lightbulbs until 4am. Luckily, Lily had a valium that came in handy and allowed us to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.

We arrived, and after a heated search for the best hotel deal, checked in. We headed to the market to check out the highly sought after tailors who will make anything and everything you want perfectly coutured to you exact size. I had a lovely jacket and pair of jeans (that fit amazing!) and Lily had 2 suits and jeans made. These people are incredible. They whipped up our clothes in the same day, and we went back for second fittings to make sure they were exactly what we wanted. We also visited the beach there and had quite a nice swim, and and even better dinner on the river. Hoi An has a lot of very interesting arcitecture, with a mixture of Chinese, European and Vietnamese buidings. I got some great photos. They also do a lot of wood carving there. If you had a shopping problem, you'd be in big trouble here too! Lily and I had a hard time restraining ourselves!

From Hoi An, we hopeed back on the open bus tour up to Hue for a quick lunch stop before our overnight sitting bus to Hanoi. I met back up with a really cool girl named Ingrid from Spain! I had met her in Cambodia, and wanted to travel on with her, but we were going in different directions. We had a great connection, so I was bummed to not travel with her, and equally as excited to meet back up with her on the bus! She has been with Lily and I for the past couple of days, and she is just a doll. I have been practicing my Spanish for my next trip which I'm thinking will defintely be to South America!

Anyways, after the quick lunch stop (where we also re-acquaineted with the Sweedish girls) , we parted ways with Ingrid and the Sweeds as they were using a different travel agency than us. We chose the cheaper option with the 11 hour overnight sitting bus....BIG mistake.

The cute little Vietnamese girl that was curled up like a cat on the seat behind us turned out to be not so cute when she starting vomiting violently into her hands and onto Lily's seat. She continued to vomit all night long into a plastic bag. When we realized that she was quite sick and sweating profusely, we decided we'd fare better setting up a bed in the aisle between the seats on the floor and sleeping there, which worked out a bit better. We also met some really nice Argentinian guys who offered us their seats half way through the night, and we took them up on it.

Once we arrived frusterated and worn in Hanoi, we met back up with the girls, and the Argentinian boys! Ingrid, Lily, Hanna and I all got on the same tour to Halong bay which was simply phenomenal. We did 2 nights and 3 days on the boat visiting the 4000 limestone jutting islands of Halong which are simply breathtaking. We made some friends on the boat that we shared meals and conversations with, did a trek in the Cat BAh National Park, stayed a night on Cat Bah Island, and this morning, we kayaked at 7am, and jumped off the top of the boat after breakfast. It was such a great time. Only $40 for the trip with everything included! Not bad, huh?

We are staying a night in Hanoi with the crew of Spainiards, South Americans and Sweeds. Tomorrow we part ways, and Lily and I go onto Laos which we are quite excited about. I anxiously await the calm demeanor of the Lao people after being hassled like crazy in Vietnam. 'Nam has been great, but I'm ready to move on.

...And we go!