Friday, October 15, 2010

Mekong Delta Homestay

Hi all,
I'm writing from Hanoi after an overnight sleeper train so apologies if this doesn't make too much sense as I feel a bit delerious.

Day 3-4 in Vietnam was a homestay on the Mekong Delta river. We took a bus to the port in the small town of Cai Be and boarded a boat to our homestay. Along the way we stopped at a couple of family-run businesses which included rice paper, popcorn and rice wine. At each stop they have an array of souvenirs and local produce which they are hoping you will buy as a sort of payment for intruding on their day-to-day life but nothing has interested me so far - I'm not really all that keen on souvenirs.
On our way to our homestay the rain set in and luckily our boat had cover otherwise all of our stuff would have got soaked. It was a nice trip anyway.
We arrived at our homestay and realised it was more like a camp type set up - not the real deal. We each had a room with a double bed, mosquito net and relatively clean toilets although none of us decided to shower there. Our tour leader Minh took us to the only place in the small village who served cold beer and we knocked back a few. Pat was even invited to shot some rice wine that a couple of local guys were drinking. The custom is that you drink half the shot glass and then eat something after that. Pat was rather unimpressed with his hardly-ripe banana...We returned back to the homestay and sat down for dinner and a few (for some a few too many) Saigon Lagers. We actually drunk that 'bar' dry! It was a good night where everyone got to know each other better. It was a pretty good sleep and in the morning Pat and I got up early and walked over to the local market. There were all types of produce there - fresh fish, ducks, herbs, meat plus the everyday living essentials. My fondest memory of that market was a young lady with two ducks in a plastic shopping bag hopping on her scooter ready for the journey home. I half felt sorry for the ducks - they were actually leaning on her leg as she drove off unbeknowns to them that soon there existence would be no more and someone would be enjoying them for lunch or dinner. On our way back to base at Saigon we stopped at a few more places. The most exciting was to stop at a garden and meet a 93 year old lady who was just adorable. She even invited us to a drink of snake wine - something that our leader said was very rare as it was extremely expensive. Many Vietnamese people drink snake wine as they believe it is good for your health, particularly your back. I wasn't too keen on drinking it but also didn't want to offend the lady so worked myself up and down it went. It wasn't as bad as the rice wine we'd had the night before! On our boat ride back we also saw the floating market village at Cai Be where people are selling anything and everyghing.
Pics coming soon! More posts coming soon!
Over and Out XOXO

Monday, October 11, 2010

Farewell Saigon

Hi all, thought I'd do a quick post in our last couple of hours in Saigon (update ... I'm completing this post over a week after we have left)

On Saturday we were just basically finding our surroundings until we were to meet up with the group at 6pm. What better way to do it than trying to find the cheapest beer or bia as it is known in Vietnam. The first place we decided to try was the Alez Boo bar which was a reccomendation in the Lonely planet book. Here the local beer was the equivalent of about $2 a bottle. Across the road I spotted a sign where it was maybe $1.50 so we decided to go there. That place seemed a little sketchy though. A seedy Australian guy was introducing himself as Mark and basically propositioning women to come back to his hotel. In the end we wound up at a little joint where they were advertising 5000 dong beer - less than 30 cents! We met up with, and had a great time with two guys from Argentina and a guy from Holland. His aim for the next 12 months was to travel throughout Asia livng on a shoestring budget and drinking beer - not a bad life I reckon! There was also a few Australians there having a great time with the locals and we chatted to them for a bit. The great time we had here resulted in us being a little bit late for the first group meeting - maybe not the best impression - late and a little bit tipsy. There is six people in our group. A couple, Rebecca and Tyler from Perth, Kate from Adelaide and Holly and Danielle from Melbourne (originally from NZ). The group decided to go to dinner together on recommendation from our tour leader - Mr Minh. During the dinner a lady came around selling roses which were about 50c - I made sure Pat didn't buy one cos really, what am I going to do with a rose in a hotel room? The girl was very persisent and after about 10 minutes she finally got the idea that we would not be buying it. She used lines like 'don't you love her?' and 'you cheap Charlie' and in the end called him an ugly dinosaur (WTF???). It was actually quite amusing.

On day 2 of our tour we made a 70km journey (which took a little under 2 hours) to the Cu Chi tunnels. These tunnels were amazingly thought out and constructed by the VC people to plan attacks and hide from the enemy. We actually got to crawl though some of the tunnels - quite small that Pat actually had to crawl but I could manage to walk (crouched down though). It was extremely hot in there and sweat was dripping off me when we got out. The network of tunnels apparently spans about 250km - I can in no way imagine travelling even 1km but I guess it desperate situations you do whatever is required. At the tunnels location you are given the opportunity also to shoot a range of guns and bullets. You can hear the shots over the whole tourist area and every time a shot went off I jumped. Pat and I decided to share shooting an AK47. I've never shot a gun before so was surprised by how loud it was (even with ear plugs in) and how powerful it is to shoot a gun. That was an awesome experience. I have bought a little replica bullet lighter keyring thing - not sure if it will get through immigration but we will try at least! Early afternoon we returned to HCMC and went to an Aussie themed sports bar to catch the last half of the NRL grand final.On the way to the Blue Gecko bar where we watched the footy I spotted a line of shops I wanted to visit so we thought we had our bearings and set off on foot to find these shops. We somehow managed to get a little confused and got slightly lost but were guided by the park which was opposite our hotel. That park has free-to-use fitness equipment so we had a go mixing with the locals. We had an early night that night. Our final day in Saigon was spent bargaining hard at the Ben Tahn market - I picked up a diamond rolex and Pat got some clothes. It is not something I'd like to spend my life doing - it's hard work just to buy a t-shirt! The other thing that I was finding hard was that in Vietnam I am not considered small. One of the ladies at the market yelled out 'hello miss, we have your size ... XL' I was MORTIFIED!!!

Hope everyone is well! I miss opping!

Over and Out XOXO

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I love you in Ho Chi Min City

Hey all, I'm writing from Allez Boo, a funky little bar in Ho Chi Min City. An 'I love you' cocktail is awaiting me at the bar so this will be short and sweet.

We finally arrived here about 3pm Australian time after leaving home at 6pm the night before so we both are quite buggered. We have already met one girl in our group - Holly from Melbourne and we meet the rest of the group tonight.

Holy shit, the traffic is crazy!!!!!!!!!!!! Crossing the road in Vietnam is listed as one of Lonely Planet's top 10 things to do in Vietnam and I'm proud to say we've done it quite well so far. Off to the Vietnam war tunnels tomorrow amongst other things.

Best go off for cocktail hour. Don't be too jealous!
Over and Out XOXO