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The journey continues.. this began on as se asia tour from 2011.....

Vietnam

VIETNAM | Sunday, 6 March 2011 | Views [864]

well well i know i should not let so much time go inbetween posts, but we have been quite busy. since i last wrote, we went to Koh Tao (another island in Thailand), Bangkok and we are now more than half way up Vietnam before going to Singapore next week.

I will highlight the important stuff. and hope to post another round of pictures this week.

I left off before the Thai wedding party that night, and boy was it crazy. Koh Phangan is just a nutty island and we defintely had a blast, but we were ready to leave and meet some normal people again. and by normal I mean people that have not been in lsd for the past 10+ years of their lives. I am not one to judge and say who is 'normal' and who is not, but there is a strange thing going on on that island. The night of the wedding party (14/2) was very crazy, lots of music and partying, we went to bed at about 3pm and the music was still blaring ( we were right by the front of the property and near the dj station) until about 4am. Then it started up again at 8am, so I was up. Went down to the beach to Skype and there was still a handful, maybe 8 or 10, people still partying. We had some brekky, packed our things and left at 12 that day, still music going and people partying. Possibly the longest party I have ever attended.

Arrived in Koh Tao via Ferry on the 15th and got settled into our place had some dinner and went out that night to a bar/club on the beach called Lotus Bar. Good times, met a bunch of very nice people and there was a fire show as well. Lots of fire shows on the beach in Thailand, good entertainment. The following day we spent at the beach and exploring Koh Tao. A very very small island and very narrow streets. We walked to the top of this mountain (40 minute walk) and saw the most gorgeous view. There was a resort up there that we pretended like just belonged there and some steps down to the water and there was a bunch of Asians snorkeling. Funny sight in itself, they're mostly afraid of water, let alone fish. Saw some islands in the distance and just an amazing view. Met some Candians that were also there exploring, atleast we weren't the only ones. Had an amazing lunch on the way back and we were exhausted. Went out again that night because that is pretty much the only thing to do in Koh Tao. Our friend Chris we were traveling in Koh Phangan and again in Koh Tao went scuba diving that day so we had dinner with some people he met on the boat that day, very nice English boys. Good laughs good company, went out again to see more fire shows and drink buckets on the beach. 17/2 Thursday, we left Koh Tao via Ferry and took an over night bus to Bangkok. Oh what an adventure that was. We knew we were in for a treat for an overnight bus to begin with, but wow.

The bus was filling up quickly and we are not one to push our way through, I was more worried about leaving my bag in a pile next to the bus making sure it would make it on there, then getting a proper seat, now I learned my lesson for next time. The seats were full and we were pushed into the 'vip' section in the front bottom level of the bus. There were four proper seats and a u-shaped couch type thing w a table in the middle, for cards or whatever. And a very large TV, which happened to be behind my head (my headrest, fun). Then as the bus departed, they put on G.I. Joe, the worst movie ever, and since some wanted to watch I had to lean down so people could see. Sarah and I were squished into a corner at this point with a Chilean man next to her and a couple with a pregnant lady on my other side. I wish I had some photo documentation, but then again I had recalling that experience. Arriving to Bangkok at 4am the next morning, thankfully we had a hostel booked. They let us check in at 6am so that was nice so we went right to sleep for a few hours to refuel for our day of shopping in Bangkok. Waking up was frightening, by far the dirtiest grosset hostel thus far, but we won't go into detail. Let's just say it's a good thing I don't mind an extremely hard bed, and the bathroom door didn't open all the way because the bathroom sink was in the way and the shower consisted of a shower head on the wall just above the toilet, next to the wall full of soot and poo (not literally) coming down the wall.

Had a good day in Bangkok shopping and exploring around, avoiding our room none the less. Just to stop by and drop off some goodies. The only good memorable thing I got was a beautiful leather bag for $30 hand-made, that I wore a few days later and it completely ruined my white shirt from the supposed fake dyed leather strap it was made out of. I have since sent that home hoping mum can doctor it up for me (hi mum!).

The next morning (saturday 19/2) we had some more shopping in Bangkok and went to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam at 4pm. I love flying so I was really looking forward to a clean quick flight, rather than a gross bus cramped and crowded. Arrving to HCMC or Saigon was super overwhelming and there are 9 million people and 6 million motorbikes. We got a taxi to our hotel from the airport and could not believe the crazy drivers/traffic that we were experiencing. Just indescribable. On Sunday we met Sarah's friend, Damian and he showed us around Saigon for a few hours waiting for Carly to arrive from Australia (Sarah's friend from Uni). We were exhausted trying to battle traffic that day we went back to meet Carly at the hotel and rest until meeting Damian and his friend, Nick for dinner.

On Monday, 21/2 we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels with our group in a car with a driver, and surprise they added a personal tour guide for us, whom guilted us into tipping him later in the day. We stopped at a warehouse building on the way called Handicapped Handicrafts and watched handicapped young adults make the most amazing artwork our of mother of pearl and egg shells. So meticulous and tedious work, just amazing stuff they were making. Unfortunately, I am carrying my life on my back so was unable to purchase a large vase to bring home (sorry mum). The Cu Chi tunnels was an incredible place. Lots of history on the war and the tour guide we were given was in the war fighting for the American side, just a man full of personal stories. Will post pictures. We were able to go into the tunnels that are 270 km and maybe 3 feet high? We had to crouch down to get through, very hot and sticky, but good to experience it.

On Tuesday, 22/2 we took a day trip to the Mekong Delta, a river city with floating markets, a rice factory where they made just about anything with rice, rice paper, etc. The next day Wednesday, 23/2 we went to Mui Ne, a beach town just a few hours north, nice to get away from the crazy city life. A very very quiet quaint beach town with nothing really around. We got off the bus in a random spot walked across the road, and found a room for us 3 (Carly, Sarah and, I) for $4 each a night. Not a bad deal so we stayed and it was a nice homestay with very welcoming people. We booked a trip to see the sand dunes the next day.

24/2, Thursday we woke up had a delicious lunch and had a $4 pedicure at the spa down the road. We went on our sand dune trip that afternoon,first stop at a fishing village, and then a place called Fairy creek with crazy red rock cliffs/sand/red watery river through the middle. My description doesn't do this place justice, I will just have to show you in some pictures. Then we went on to 3 different sand dunes, and went sand boarding (yay, check that off my list of things to do in life). Red, yellow, and white sand dunes. Have never seen anything like it, felt like we were in the desert at one point. Very windy and painful on our legs, but all in all a beautiful magical place with incredible scenery. Stayed at the last dune spot to watch the sunset and headed back to town. We realized when we got back we had orange faces outlining from our sunglasses as it stuck to the sunscreen, pretty funny.

Friday, 25/2 we went to the beach (the world championship for windsurfing competition had begun this day we found out, ironic) and hung out. I rented a bike in the morning and drove around town for a bit. All the town was just on one street parallel to the beach. Had a massage for $9 full body massage and met the girls for lunch at our favorite lunch spot. Met a lovely girl at lunch and we met for dinner that night at this very popular and very cheap seafood place on the water, amazing stuff. Grilled fish with lemon grass and chili, my newest favorite dish. Then went to a birthday party that night, at a bar that just opened a few days earlier some frenchies bought the place and had a big party that night, dont think everything was sorted out since the power kept failing, but a good night meeting people from all over, even upped my American count that night, but turned out to be annoying Americans, go figure :) So far, met 7 Americans in a month. Few and far between.

The next morning we took a bus to Nha Trang, another beach town/more cityish a few hours north. We were exhausted, got into our hostel, went for dinner, checked out the night markets, got lost and went to bed early for a Saturday in a party town (10pm). Sunday morning (27/2) I went for a walk to the beach to go exploring and check out our new surroundings, got a little burnt saw some crazy stuff along the way. In the arvo I went to the mud bath and had a nice peaceful day exploring the city. Mud bath, another first, was interesting. You first get there and take a mineral shower, then soak in cold muddy water for 20 minutes, then shower again. Then go through this car wash like stream of jets, and then sit in this piping hot water for 20 minutes (it was already hot out I couldn't take the heat). Then they have a 'waterfall' very tiny and i probably wouldnt even consider it a proper waterfall, and a heated pool. Just a nice day of water in various forms for $5. Had a nice motorbike ride back to town, the cheapest way I later found out. Went out that night for cheap/free drinks for ladies around town, met 2 more Americans, but very nice this time along with bunch of other people, but had a fairly calm night to get ready for our 'booze cruise' the following day.

Side note: I feel like I just keep writing about drinking, but we have been staying in a hotel volunterring at a special school and having all of our meals with nuns this week, so I don't feel so bad.

Okay monday the 28th of February, the legendary booze cruise. We have heard from all kinds of people in our travels thus far about this infamous booze cruise. Let's just say our boat was filled with 70% vietnamese or asians of some sort, and about 10 westeners. Not the booziest cruise I imagined, but definitely a good time. We went to four different islands, an aquarium (worst aquarium ever, after we left we would have rather donated to get the massive fish out of their tanks, then do another touristy trap attraction), snorkeling, and a delicious lunch. Then at the end we had 'happy hour' in the water and there was a floating bar with free alcohol (couldn't even begin to tell you what was in this lethal concoction, let's just say I didn't care because I was not about to recreate it myself). Met two nice girls from San Francisco on the boat and by this time my dorm room was filled with a new group of English people on a volunteer teaching trip together. So the girls came over and we had some drinks before going out that night. Had delicious sushi we discovered at the night markets and then went out to a place called 'Why Not Bar.' A good night overall, saw my roommates as well and had some street food at 2am on the way home, yum!

Tuesday March 1st, we had our last few hours just killing time in Nha Trang before catching another overnight bus, to Hoi An, a town known for it's custom tailor shops. We of course were dreading the overnight bus horror again, especially Carly since it would be her first, and she knew what happened with us before. It turned out to be the nicest bus ever, although i'm sure nicer buses exist, we felt like kings. It was a sleeper bus, and we stopped 2 hours into the trip for the bathroom (since the one on board was broken) and some pho (first pho experience, vietnamese noodle dish they eat for mostly breakfast). Got back on the bus and realized there was a longer sleeping bed across from me I noticed and got to stretch out finally and had the best sleep ever. Next thing I knew I was getting woken up by the driver saying 'Last stop, Hoi An.' What a relief, we made it in one piece. Arrived in front of a hotel, that was crazy looking and the guy told us we could have a room for $5 each a night. After having a look and hardly caring at that point, we knew it was cheap and we wouldn't be in town long, they had a restaurant and a pool, good enough. We got settled in and went to a tailor shop that had been recommended to us. Dangerous. Had some really really nice stuff made, a custom made bathing suit and dresses we got to design ourselves, the pattern, the fabric, then they measure you and bam we went back at night for our first fitting. The shop owners sister also had a shoe shop where I got a nice pair of leather sandals custom made (only $18!) and the girls got heels. Just a very fun experience all in all. We left the next day, but went back for a few fittings and they kept fixing it till it was perfect.

Thursday 3/3 we came to Da Nang to meet the nuns at the convent and get settled into our new town for the week. Carly had organized for us to volunteer at a special school for the week working with disabled children with a range of handicaps. Cerebal Palsy, hearing impairment, mental disorders, and autism. The nuns gave us a tour of the orphanage and then took us to the new school where we have been working at. The new school only opened in October and is beautiful. We later heard from another American volunteer that this is the nicest facilities you are likely to find anywhere in Vietnam and it was funded/donated from people all over, mostly Germans, Australians, and Americans.

We got settled into our hotel and went back to meet the nuns for dinner that night, about 12 of them and us 3. Very lovely people, only 2 speak English, but they are the sweetest nuns ever. I cannot say I have ever had dinner at the table with 12 nuns, but my the food was amazing as was the company. We went back on Friday for breakfast and a tour of the new school and to begin our first day of volunteering. We played with the children and helped them do their exercises. They are all full of life and so happy most of the time, no matter what their disability. Had lunch, went home for a siesta (the entire school takes 2 hours off from 12-2 to sleep) and came back in the afternoon for some more play time. Then went back for dinner.

Saturday 5/3 we had a free day, since the nuns go to the countryside (and unfortuantely we were unable to join them on their motorbikes) and volunteer with the children who are less fortunate and cannot afford to come to the new school. We had to make a trip back to Hoi An and pick up the rest of our clothes, and did a bit of shopping (which I didn't need to), but had a good time, good food (since we can't find much of that around where we're staying now) and booked our trip up to Hanoi for later this week. Sent a package home with some goodies, only 3 months till it arrives, haha.

Then made our way back to Da Nang to get some rest and get ready for our day today (Sunday 6/3). We met Sister Catherine at the convent in the city and she showed us that babies in the orphanage before attending an English Catholic mass. Was good to go to church again, but was surpringsly pretty similar to one you'd see at home was most surprised it was in English. Then she took us to a place on the corner to get some amazing vietnamese food for lunch ($2) and then took a nice walk along the river. We made our way back to the hotel to hang out for the day and will be meeting the nuns at the new school for dinner in about an hour. They are so lovely, I never thought I would find myself in Central Vietnam having all my meals with nuns this week, but this is a wonderful place. We have 3 more days of volunteering and leaving Wedneday. Carly is leaving us to go back to Australia on Wednesday, and Sarah and I are going back to Hoi An, we just can't get enough of that place. No, but we have to go back there to catch a 20 hour bus ride to Hanoi on Thursday. Hanoi is where we will take a 3 day boat cruise on Halong Bay before flying to Singapore on the 16th to stay with Maggie! Very excited to see her yet again. We will spend a few days in Singapore and leaving on the 19th to fly to Vientianne, Laos to spend the next 5 weeks traveling through Laos and Cambodia.

Then we will go back to Ao Nang, Thailand to get our scuba certification :) Cannot wait. Lots to look foward to. I guess I may just share that I have decided to come home following a visit from a friend in Thailand. Many reasons, but mostly due to finances and will be nice to be home for the summer again before planning to go to South Korea in August to start teaching public school. There have been many plans up in the air, but between Taiwan and S. Korea I have decided on Korea due to the benefits that they offer and the most positive things I have heard. All plans are still up in the air, but my ticket is officially booked home (thanks Mum!) for may 16th :)

Lots to look forward to and am still having the best time of my life. Could not think of a better time in my life to have taken this adventure of a lifetime. Few more new countries to explore so should be a crazy busy few months ahead before heading home again. Still in Vietnam and completely blocked from facebook for the past few weeks, so figured I should somehow let the world know I am still alive and loving life.

Love and miss you all. xoxo

Tags: hoi an, home, mui ne, nha trang, saigon, sand boarding, sand dunes, thailand, vietnam, volunteering

 

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