The Holiday is over – Back @ Changi 15/12/08 0304hrs.


I was slack….or just having too good a time to post 🙂


Was in Hoi An when I left off. We went for a bike ride in the heavy rain – very interesting negotiating this and the insane traffic

– For the uninitiated, the traffic in Vietnam, and probably all of SE Asia, is like Mad Max. Zebra crossings are ignored, so you cross the street with your head down hoping that the traffic swerves around you, which it (fortunately) generally does. Traffic lights are merely a suggestion, more often than not the taxi drivers just honk their horn to alert other motorists that they are running the red light. Similarly, sides of the road are only loosely adhered to. It is a good thing that it is so crowded that the traffic cannot go at any great speed.

Anyway, I digress. We showered up after our rainy ride and went to a fabulous cooking class. Me and hubby were the only ones in the tour group that did this. The others missed out big time! Good to see hubby enthusiastic about cooking.

Hue (pronounced Hway)- The former imperial capital of Vietnam. We saw the citadel and learned that the emperor had many wives and up to hundreds of concubines. We had some indian for dinner just for a change.

Next day we went on a motorbike ride – the drivers had a much more sedate pace than in Chau Doc, or maybe I was a bit more relaxed this time. We saw pointy hats being made, incense sticks being rolled and had a beautiful lunch at a buddhist nunnery. The maker of the pointy hats was a woman who had a limb reduction defect (right forearm missing) from agent orange. There are many unfortunate victims of this dioxin in Vietnam, there were many gory pictures at the war remnants museum in Saigon.

Then off to catch the overnight train to Ha Noi.

One word of advice for future travellers – Don’t. We were on an organised tour so we had to but there is a plane from Da Nang to Ha Noi.

It was filthy, the toilets (and some of the train) reeked like stale piss, the rest of the train reeked of rotting fruit, people ignored no smoking signs ….ugh. I shudder just thinking about it.

Arrived in Hanoi at 0530 and freshened up at the hotel. I had a wander about while hubby had some sleep. Went to the fine arts museum – very interesting  to see the artwork from the wars, it was what I would describe as “sympathetic”; very few gory images, lots of beautiful trees and starry skies. It portrayed the soldiers as kind to the children.

Then had a wander about the old town with hubby. Some bastard tried to relieve me of my wallet! He was very pushy with presenting me postcards to buy, but I didn’t see the hand underneath the postcards trying to get into my bum-bag until I felt a tug…I found him out and he walked away. I should have chased him down the street yelling “thief, thief”. One to watch! And here I was thinking that Saigon was the dangerous city!

Next day – off to Ha Long bay. We took a Junk (the name for the boats that cruise the bay but can be quite a good descriptor of the standard of the electrical wiring). It was magical, I will add photos here when I get home. We went for a walk in a big cave with stalagmites and stalactites. I love caves, it is the science nerd and wannabe archaeologist in me. Then back onto the Junk where we docked and had a swim. The water was a bit chilly but my Hubby the Pom quite liked it. The boys jumped off the top of the boat into the water (about 5 metres) – crazy! We watched the sunset over the karsts – breathtaking and then watched night fall as we sat on the top deck of the boat. We slept on board and went back to shore the next morning.

Back to Ha Noi for a walk about to take it all in, then the farewell dinner last night for our tour group. We had a great franco-vietnamese meal and some very average karaoke afterwards. Yesterday I bought myself a big faux “north face”backpack with the little backpack attached. I will give the Vietnamese this – they are brilliant at ripping high end labels (and the odd tourist) off.

Today – more wandering about Ha Noi, trying to find a “Burn Notice” DVD – success – making last minute purchases and visiting the army museum (more anti-American sentiment). Then off to the Airport to catch the plane to singapore. There was a big group of 28 people in front of us in the check in queue which was tres annoying. We had to pay an exorbitant amount for excess baggage – the peril of budget airlines. Catching flight back to melb at 1020 hrs. I am writing this from the transit lounge – a cushy place where you can eat, nap for 3 hours, shower, use the internet and read international magazines all for the bargain price of SGD 58!!

Ok, some reflections on the Holiday:

What I gained:

  • Some wonderful memories
  • Education about the struggles in Indochina, both previous and continuing…
  • Inspiration from the cheerfulness, warmth and resilience of the people, particularly the Khmers.
  • A sparkle in my eyes
  • A great tan
  • Some great new clothes, jewellery and homewares and a good faux backpack
  • Probably an intestinal parasite of some description 🙂
  • Some new friends. The group was great! One person got up my nose a bit, a beautiful brazilian girl who struck me as a bit sulky and seemed to take it for granted that everyone fawned over her – jeez it’s tough being beautiful and being able to prance about on the boat with a killer bod, tan and very skimpy bikini…..OK am getting ahead of myself.
  • Some vietnamese cooking skills 

What I lost:

  • Nearly my wallet.
  • Money (I shudder to see my credit card bill – will be living on baked beans)
  • My morbid fear of motorcycles and going downstairs without holding on to the rails
  • Hopefully not my running fitness….

My weight I think has been reasonably stable – the crap diet (with wheat) has hopefully been offset by the friendly intestinal parasite. Even so, I’ll not weigh myself for a little while.

Back to work on Wednesday. I have tuesday to steel myself.

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