Thursday, 22 March 2012


We have fallen really far behind on our blogging but have been busy enjoying vietnam, can you blame us ? To catch up I'll try to provide a brief summary of what we have gotten up to.


The weather was unexpectedly cold but we had an incredible home, that was of French colonial design, with 12 foot high ceilings and collumns in the room. We had a few lazy days of wandering the city and enjoyed a lot of pho. There is a fast food joint called pho24 and it is delicious some of the best soup I have ever tasted. Pho Bo is Addicting. Meg, Ryland and I went to a local joint where a lovely couple a dutch baker and his Vietnamese wife gave us the low down on what's what and what to order so we ended up sharing some tasty dishes. We went to the war museum where they glorified war Heros.

Cat Ba:
We booked a boat to Catba island in Ha Long Bay. We planned on staying two nights. We expected the boat to be direct but it ahahhaha we ended up on a tour boat but we weren't allowed to sit inside because people that where on the boat where staying overnight so they sat inside and we sat up stairs on the deck in the freezing cold. The scenery was beautiful, we stopped to go in a cave that was really impressive! Ryland had a major cold/ fever so stayed in bed. We stayed in a little harbor town and it was really rainy like prince rupert. I explored the town it was really tiny but nice to walk around in but there wasn't much to do because the weather was so bad.

Ninh binh:
We arrived around 10pm on this dreary looking street everything was closed up, it was raining and there was no taxis anywhere. The only thing open was a sketchy hotel but we had already booked a guest house that was outside of town so we had an interesting time trying to explain to the receptionist that we needed a mode of transportation. Ninh binh was excellent for a real cultural experience. We went trekking at phuong national park. It was really wet and slippery so it was more challenging but a lot of fun. We then went to a primate rescue center that was attached to the park; there was a 140 primates that the centre rescues. We walked into town and there was a huge soccer stadium that was falling apart. The town was empty you barley saw people when you where out, it was if we where walking through constantinople. We came across a restaurant that was busy and stopped in for some soup. Immediately everyone put down what they were eating and just stared at us. This one lady yelled at us for coming in, and everyone watched us eat, foreigners were not welcome.

We took a sleeper bus from Ninh binh and I had to sleep beside a Russian family and the man kept rolling over and sleeping on me. There was no
Bathroom on this bus ( this is typical no
Bathroom for 12 hours) our driver had no intention of stopping but we got a
Flat tire around 2am thank you!!! We all got to relieve ourselves on the side of the road ( I am not above popping a squat in public; when you have to go, you have to go. I spent the rest of the night trying to keep the Russians out of Canadian territory. We had a short stay in hue just one night. We celebrated the half way mark with food sampling around the world. We met a group of men in there sixties from south Africa that were on an 18 day cycling trip, they had a lot of advice for travelling and a bundle of laughs.

Hoi An:
We needed to be spoiled a bit, so we stayed in slightly nicer accommodations. Our first night we went to the mermaid for dinner, it is the first restaurant to open in hoi an in 1991. The woman who opened the restaurant needed a way to support her family, she now owns 4 restaurants in total. All of which are very tasty. Ryland tried his first hot pot soup. We went to cargo for desert and shared a chocolate mouse cake- was AMAZING, a taste sensation if you will. It cost 2$. The next day we went to the spa and both had massages and pedicures for 40$ grand total. It was well worth it. In the afternoon we rented bikes and stopped at a deli, picked up some meat and a baguette and headed to the beach for the afternoon. Before you get to the beach there is a parking lot for your bicycle and it costs 50 cents. It's actually brilliant, you get a ticket and then you do not have to worry about someone stealing your bike. We spent the next three days riding bikes to the beach and eating. Hoi an is a quant town that has all colonial buildings with cobble streets. It's beautiful with a large river running through it and the street lights are all lanterns.

Mue Ni:
We took an over night bus to Na Trang, we got on the bus at 530. Spent the first hour heading north to danang we stopped to pick up cargo and locals so all our bags were moved into the bus to make room for this cargo. The bus driver locked bags in the bathroom and the rest laid in the aisles. Some people were unable to get out of there seats because they were covered in luggage. We both had top bunks which was great because the locals had to sit in the aisles and were sleeping over top of all the other bags. It looked uncomfortable for everyone. We arrived in Na Trang around 630am and caught a bus to MuE Ni at 7am arriving around 2pm. The first two nights we stayed out of town away from the main strip the beach wasn't as nice and there was a strange awkward silence, everyone kept asking us if we were staying at the guesthouse when we clearly where. At this point in the trip we realized that maybe the writers of lonely planet haven't actually been to any of these places and they just googled it. We went into town for dinner and had some amazing Indian food, Ganesh which is a chain. I ordered us lamb samosas, butter chicken, vegetable jalrazzi and some garlic nan bread. It was delicious! We went back two more times!! We walked back to our guesthouse it was 7 km and actually took a lot longer than expected so we had to stop to quench our thirst at POGO; I had the best gin and tonic. Next day we bikes 14 km to find ourselves a new place to stay that was in town. We ended up at a place called the small garden, we got a bungalow that was five steps away from the beach. The beach in town was beautiful fine sand and the water was packed with hundreds of
Kite surfers. We spent the next four days in the waves and reading our books. The waves were over rylands head and basically would spit you out. It was our favorite place in vietnam.

Saigon :

We ended up arriving in Saigon around 730 on march 15 and ran into meg and Aron with a huge group of people and all stayed in the same room; there was 9 of us. The first morning we went to Chi's cafe and found the most tasteful BLT with avocado. It was note worthy that's why I mention it. We went to the military market; this massive indoor market with so many rats( the size of cats). That afternoon we went to the war museum, it was "heavy" to say the least. Three floors containing galleries of photos of the ill treatement of soldiers and civilians. One gallery was dedicated to demonstrating the effects of agent orange it made my stomach turn. There was a mock prison that was rather disturbing and a list of torture techniques; such as the tiger cage which was a barb wire cage that was half the size of a deep freezer and held 5-7 men at a time. St Patrick's day we went to the cu chi tunnels. We order a 16 person bus for 8 of us and had a private tour guide. He taught us a ridiculous amount about Vietnam such as when you buy a car here you pay 200% tax. At the tunnels we all got to try fitting into
An opening the pictures of Ryland in the small space is hilarious (we can't post photos at the moment ) . We had the opportunity to crawl 100m within the tunnels but as our guide, frank the tank said they have been enlarged for KFC bodies. It was so hot and sweaty my legs were throbbing days afterwards. Rylands hips almost got stuck in the tunnels. The original tunnels have been closed for 40 years. I couldn't imagine living in one for 20 years let alone having a baby in one. I spent 8mins in one and that was enough for
Me. We were able to get into the spirt of st pattys day by watching a rugby match Ireland vs England . We also went to the reunification palace it was nothing to write home about it looks like the 70s inside and out. And that pretty much wraps up our trip to

Saturday, 3 March 2012

28 hours later: back in the USSR

Febuary 25-26 was spent travelling. Our flight to Hanoi was from bangkok. So we look a bus up that boarder, spent 3 hours in 45 degrees waiting To go through customs. Sat in the back of a pick up truck, took a mini bus, took a taxi and finally 12 hours later we were at the bangkok airport! Then the waiting game begins, I had a
Lovely nap on a bench in the airport and I am being sincere it was great I slept from 2am until 430 woke up and went through customs, security etc had breakfast around 530am loaded the plane at 630am and had an extra seat to myself. Arrived in Hanoi at 830am. While we where boarding the plane I noticed everyone was wearing winter jackets- are you kidding me it's southeast Asia, i checked the weather is 20 that's warm. Kid you not its freezing. Never go from 45c to 14c it is not fun I felt like I was in Canada even in my pants, sweater and jacket I was freezing!! While waiting around for our baggage, you may notice Karl Marx and Lenin skipping around holding hands. I'm pretty sure I've seen them skipping down the streets of Hanoi. No word of a lie communism is alive and well in Vietnam and we totally forgot.

Siem reap continued

We spent one more day "templing"! We hiked to Kbal Spean waterfalls, it was Suppose to take 45 min, we did it in 20. The waterfall was nice but since it was dry season there wasn't much of a flow but you could see under the water various carvings in the rocks. After the waterfall we went to banteay sery temple, it was suppose to be the best preserved temple it was very tiny and packed with tourists. An in and out kind of temple. Next was the landmine museum, I believe it was featured in the January addition of national geographic- that's how I knew about it. The owner of the museum at the age of five was forced to defuse landmines of the enemy (the USA ). Now he works for the UN and still is working to make Cambodia land mine free. This museum supports children, it an orphanage lash school for children that have been affected by landmines. My description doesn't do it any justice but it was fascinating and supports a good cause. We then completed the gran circuit.

The next thing on the list was to head to the artisan d'angkor where we had a free tour of a silk farm. Which was awesome! The worms in Cambodia are yellow unlike the Chinese silk worms that are white. The worm only eats malberry leaves. They feed in leaves for24 days and then get yellow and fat. Once they are yellow like make a cacoon which only takes 5 days. The workers kill 80% of the cacoons leaving the 20% for breeding. I could go on and on about the process but I'll skip ahead. The silk spinners are trained for six months and then pick a pattern that they will make for the rest of their career. It takes four days to make a two meter scarf.

Our last day we hit the museums. First was the war museum we arrived and an ex-soldier was our tour guide. He lost his family when he was 12 to landmines; his father collected the mines for their metal and basically one exploded killing his parents and two sisters. At 14 he enrolled in the Vietnam army in order to feed himself. When he was 17 a claymore landmine blew his arm off. All the good doctors had been killed so they had to saw the limb off without pain killers or anticeptic however they did use some coconut water- I'm not sure how beneficial the use of coconut water is. Every four years when the bone grew he would have to have it sawed off again. Kuan is now 34 and he is very happy his bone has stopped growing. I am telling you this story not only to illustrate the horrors of war but to demonstrate how powerful the impact of this museums story is. Around the museum there are shelves of guns that where used, originally left over from the Russians. You were able to pick them up and to imagine a child holding these heavy guns is disturbing to say the least. Kuan explained the beginning of Vietnam war and Cambodian civil war light hearted with a simple smile and a laugh; for a refresher to your memory this is what he told us; president Nixon wanted to make a base in Cambodia the king said no because he's friends with the viet kong but the PM said yes thus began civil war. President Nixon wanted to find the king but he went into hiding so Nixon bombed the ho chi mon trail but still he could not find the king. The king was hiding under ground with the kong. So Nixon grew very angry and used napel spray the red killing spray but still no
Luck. Humourous- I think not. Also at the museum there had been a mass grave with over 30 bodies, and so no one goes to the museum at night because of the ghosts. Also in some of the tanks the Khmer rouge would lock tank crews and generals in so they wouldn't escape and in one case they founda tank with human remains. We walked through a land mine field, it's a lot more tricky than it looks, we both go
To try stepping on land mines. We made a donation, the donation goes to supporting fifty families. We left shocked and overwhelmed. Then headed to the national museum which is more of a money grab, very repetitive and not worth it. You can easily learn anything from that museum in an Angkor wat information book sold at the temples for 1$.

Our last night there we ended uP playing trivia with an older gentlemen from Hawaii, a pro tennis player and a couple from somewhere. That was our team and we tied for first against six other teams. All proceeds went to a local charity. Ryland got a hair cut for 2$ and said it was the best haircut he has ever had. We had some amazing Indian food- we ha to sit outside with a bus driver and a tour guide because the restaurant was packed with about 50 people travelling from India so you know the food was good!!! We tried to post photos but have had some technical difficultly as the card reader we purchased reformatted our memory card and made it useless. I am not having the best of luck with technology this trip.