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Little Miss Saigon..

Xin chao!
Croeso i bloggio!! I'm sure that's right!!? Hehe...Well, I hope you all enjoy following my musings here during my time in Vietnam, and beyond. Grrreat to be here, and am feeling a little queer to be honest, but that'll pass!

Cam on & tam biet xxx

Diary Entries

Thursday, 07 June 2007

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam


Following the birthday to end all birthdays I spent the next day having a leisurely tour of the countryside around Dalat on the back on one of the Gecko boys' humongous motorbike (his name escapes me, there were so many!) Getting on and off it proved painful but all worth it to wind the way out of the 'city' and out to the villages of the Minority People, as they are known. We saw so much! Coffee plantations, silk worm farms, silk factories, mushroom farms, Elephant Waterfall, a beautiful new pagoda, the mahoosive happy, white buddha, basket weaving...and also had a lovely lunch overlooking a peaceful and luscious Mulberry tree and coffee plantation. Lovely jubbly! Oh yes, and we went to see lots of greenhouses full of all sorts of wonderful blooms of all shapes, sizes and colours. A lovely day filled with lovely people. The Minority People, as the Daltians called them (i'm sure they have a 'real' name that they call themselves) were really accommodating and quick to correct my Vietnamese with the alternatives in their own dialect. As with the tribes up North in Sapa the people in such places less touched by tourism and close to the borders with other countries seem to consider themselves to be their own people, and unfortunately in some cases aren't treated very well by ignorant 'locals'. The languages and dress are different and the vibe a lot more was rather sad to see in places that along with the business that the growing tourism brings to these places comes a disillusion amongst the younger inhabitants that school isn't worthwhile and ripping tourists off is. But I suppose if no one is willing to aid this situation living hand to mouth for today will continue, sadly....anyway, I shall leave that little ponderment there, for now.

The next day I headed down to Mui Ne on the bus ( now I was pretty much back to Saigon, from which I had come...but the beaches are so beautiful I was merely prolonging the opportunities to laze about/swim/tan etc ;)). Two days were spent sitting in the sunshine on the very quiet beach - tres different from the moisey lot in Nha Trang -, watching a triathlon (poor boogers running the full length of the shoreline in the blazing heat - madness!!), eating seafood, drinking Larue, seeing the lovely sandunes and generally chilling out before my epic 29 hour train journey up to Hanoi. Yes, was self-induced due to my roundabout way of travelling about the glorious country of Nam but those were some memorable hours i tell you....

I arrived by jeep, after some slight offroading, to the train station about 45 minutes away from Mui Ne in the back of beyond. Being the only non-local there was a tad unerving, but I befriended an older couple as the gentleman wanted to practice his English and coincidently his wife, who spoke no English, was in the same 6 bed cabin as me. As you can imagine, being the only non-local in the cabin proved to be great entertainment for the whole carriage, there was much gawping as we all sat on the bottom bunks gesticulating and speaking in broken English/French and Vietnamese. The lovely lady kept me fed with some fruit which was rather like a cross between a potato and an cooking apple that you dipped in a chilli and salt powder. It was rather delicious and I offered up sweet popcorn rice cakes for dessert. One thing that I wasn't informed about was the pre-ordering of the evening meal when booking the ticket - however I managed to find some left over rice and veg in the Buffet Car (hmmm, sounds alot more posh than it was to be honest). After this I hit the hay for a rickity,disturbed sleep and woke up to find 4 new faces in the cabin...a lot of toing and froing in the night! After a brekkie of instant noodles I settled down to chops away with the new arrivals and played a game of 'guess my age practice my English/Vietnamese' which was full of giggles and no doubt a lot of misunderstanding. Lunchtime came and I made my way again to the Buffet Car where I met a lovely couple, from England and Ireland, who were on route home from living in Oz for a number of years. With the help of a Vietnamese Singaporian named Nam the beers started flowing and we all enjoyed a few hours of sociable banter before a quick nap and a bleary eyed exit from the train when we at last arrivedin Hanoi feeling pretty grubby and disorientated. The 3 of us were cornered by a hotel worker who we followed to find accommodation for the night (it wasn't until later that this 'scam' by various hotels of making a name through one well run hotel only to spawn a number of other hotels of the same name to form a 'chain', which ultimately take you for a ride in one way or another, became apparent to me...ho hum, live and learn!!).

And so the Hanoi Experience began....

Wednesday, 06 June 2007

Location: Vietnam

Chao lovelies...

Greetings from Hanoi! Well, it's the school holidays here so i'm surrounded by a cafe full of crazy local younguns playing their online gets them rather excited so am bracing myself for some flying elbows and thrown keyboards...

Yes, yeeees....i knooow. I'm pretty cack at regularly updating this but what can i say!? Just having far too much fun! :)

Now let's seeee, where did I leave things...Oh aye, I had a couple more days of sunning it up in Nha Trang and eventually got myself round to the gallery of a local black and white photographer, Long Thanh, whos work was amazing!! Spent a lovey hour wandering around his small exhibition area feeling rather inspired by his images of day to day Vietnamese life. I had a brief chat with the man himself as he was developing some of his photos too...a really lovely guy! Some of his work has been published in Harper's Bazaar and such like publications but his work warrants much more attention, for sure. I'm sure I can get him into my lectures somewhere :)

By this time Reuthe had made her way to Nha Trang from her week away working at a rural medical clinic and we headed off to Dalat up in the Central Highlands to celebrate my birthday! Yippee! Yhere's only so much lieing on the beach, eating and drinking a girl can take and i didn't want the day to just merge in with the rest, of course. The trip up from the coast into the mountains was beautiful, such lush greenery, bustling paddy fields, clean cool air and stomach flipping mountain drops...yet another face of the Vietnam that was/is astounding me at every turn. The first day in Dalat city Gabby and I did a little tour of the town by bike stopping off at the 'Crazy House' which wasn't so crazy disappointingly just a little weird hotel type place made by a strange architect. The 'Valley of Love' which was a beautiful big gardens away from the town with breathetaking views and cool breezes. Up hill and down dale proved difficult on a motorbike that would get stuck in 1st and 2nd gear but a day in the sunshine mooching about was thoroughly enjoyed.

...continued in bright and breezy Pembrokeshire...sitting for endless hours in stuffy crazy internet cafes just wasn't happening i'm afraid! and so back to the tale telling...

My birthday!! THE BEST DAY EVEERRR :) Canyoning was so much fun! I couldn't however walk properly for several days afterwards, but totally worth it! On arrival at Groovy Geckos early morning the three cheerful faces that met mysel, Reuthe, Gabby and German dude Ben were that of lovely,and somewhat crazy natives Hi, Nam and Tung...however at first glanes they really didn't look capable of holding any of us safely in our harnesses during the days activites! Yet they were insanely strong, thank goodness! Upon reaching the canyon that we were to spend the day in we had a rather leisurely walk alongside fellow sightseers, however it wasn't long before the beaten trail turned to narrow paths over roots and rocks and down steep inclines, which could only be tackled tarezen style swinging from branches at times. We arrived a little scratched at out first rockface where we all had a few practice decents before hitting the big boy further along. This was successfully completed, with a sllight hairy moment when Reuth who is pretty scared of heights ended up hanging upside down off the top of the cliff....yiiikes!!! Composure was soon regained with Tung talking her through a safe recovery *shudder*. Being the first one to descend this mammoth 17m (I think, it could have been more...felt like it!) rock we were all left with the jitters with the prospect of ending up in the same position! Well...I bravely went next, had to keep the eXtreme dream alive, innit! No worries :) PHEW!

The path to our biggest and bestest challenge of the day consisted of another little absail into the river before lunch, some sliding down little falls and rocks on our bums and more monkeying along the banks...and the BEAST that awaited us at the end of our wanderings and giggles was...well take a look at the photos!!!? It was quite possibly one the most lovely and fab things i've ever done, and has given me a big lust for doing more of the same. Although the not being able to walk without excrutiating pain for the next 2 days wasn't pleasant. The force of the water hitting you legs as you absail down the middle of a huuuge waterfall was insane, water in gob, up nose, in eyes...feet slipping, sound of the roaring falls in your ears! Great stuff! Even when I had a slip and fell face first into the rocks bashing my knees, the sense of acheievement once I was back on my feet steadily again was cracking. The most stomach churning moment was pushing off the rocks and jumping the last few metres down into the churning pool of dark water at the just felt like I was falling for that split second too long! Big grins all round though after that...and a little 'light' entertainment was had at the end where we all hurled oursleves off a rock along the way to end the day...oh the screams!! After much fun and with wobbly legs we all tackled the short but rather steep trek back up the hill to the van. All in great spirits the party back at Groovy Geckos didn't take long to get going. I was extremely chuffed with my cake and flowers and went rather red when they all started wailing a rather drunken rendition of 'Happy Birthday to You'. Rice wine is some ace stuff - they really should sell it over here!! Doesn't half make you giggle and your head spin...the makings of as a right merry gathering! After this we all went our seperate ways for food and I hit the hay pretty early with aa tired body, spinning head and big grin on my face....*siiiggghh* Wicked :)

to be continued....

x x x

Friday, 18 May 2007

Location: Hoi An, Vietnam

Belated well wishes to you all!

I'm actually now in Nha Trang slighty south of Hoi An on the coast, and I did try to update when I was in Hoi An (promise!) but as I was coming to the end of a wonderfully amusing and detailed account of my time there the power in the hotel cut out!!

Where to start...again...Hoi An!! The South of France meets Nam really :) Was a really beautiful and tranquil little town on a river, a few kilometres from a fantastic beach (there were more but I just saw the one!) with fantastic restaurants, where grilled fish cooked in banana leaf with garlic and lemon and things was a speciality, great bars, pretty shops and rambling houses and alley ways....siiigggghhh...just heaven after two months of Saigon and Cambodia!

I arrived by plane from Saigon on the 3rd May, and with Miles Davis playing as I alighted the vibe was set. After a long taxi ride into Hoi An from Danang airport the driver recommended a nice, new hotel, 'Long Life' for me, so I decided that i'd check in and then set about finding Bec and Jamie after I'd refreshed myself. I was welcomed with big smiles and a really fantastic hotel, the room was fab, and not TOO expensive, and after a quick chat with the lovely lass on reception about my plans in Hoi An I was joyfully informed " Your friends stay here!" Sorted!! :) After a good catch up with the guys and a sleep we headed into the centre for some dinner. With the sun setting and the brightly coloured lanterns that adorn the restuarants and shops on the river side lighting the streets and reflecting on the still water it was a truly lovely introduction to this magical place!

The rest of the week was spent wandering around the town soaking up the atmosphere, drinking tea and reading on the riverside, spending nights in Tam Tam bar where the beer was cheap and the music pretty grand (not Vietmanese Kareoke or cheesey pop for a change) and the locals and fellow travellers friendly and full of stories and giggles. Hoi An is famous for it's tailors so I felt it would be rude to not get a couple if things made. One lovely dress and top later I am a very happy bunny...oh, how i could have spent days and numerous $$ in those places. I spent a few afternoons topping up the tan at the beach with the guys and two Israelis that we met in Tam Tams. The best way to get around the town was by bicycle and the 5 km rides to the beach were very enjoyable...although the day that the gears on my bike decided to pack up was rather amusing - the Vietnamese guys at the bar where I parked up thought it was hilarious to watch me trying to work a bike in 1st gear...i pretty much just free wheeled home with my fingers crossed holding my breathe, that day!!

As Bec and Jamie are working for a while volunteering in a Centre for Street Children I decided after a week to move on on my tod...there was talk of heading off on a trek with some Canadians, but one of the girls got ill and nowt came of it. So I have now come down to Nha Trang with one of the Israeli guys, Gabby. We got here last Friday after a 12 hour bus journey and met up with two of his friend here who work in a rather lovely and decidely lively bar on the beach called the Sailing Club Resort (the same owners as the one i stayed in in Mui Ne). The weekend was spent relaxing on the beach, pool and at the various fabulous bars and eateries around the place. Really is a hard life, eh!!? Headed off out to Vin Pearl Island on Wendesday (the Vietnamese Oakwood!) and played computer games and Air Hockey all evening after being thrown upside down on one of the fair groud rides that I really don't think came up to any half decent health and safety standards to be honest!! I thought I was going to fall out as I hung upside down and tried not to hurl! The 'Water and Light' show was rather interesting though....alot of strobes and arcing spurts of water followed by some minor gas explosions - awesome!!?

So yes!! I'm here, i'm relaxing, working on my tan and talking alot of crap to fellow travellers (sooo...whaddya think of Saigon? Where are you from? How long have you been away for?? Isn't the beer great!! It's so cheap..!? Only so many times in a day you can spout this stuff without needing to head to the beach to lie down for a bit) :)

It's rather late now and I have a bit of a head cold so i'm going to hit the hay I think!!

I shall update a bit more animatedly least you all know that i'm OK now (as if you were worried!!) The little earthquake didn't hit here so now worries :)

Lots and lots of sleepy love and hugs to you all x x x

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Recent Messages

From Neil Raygun
Sounds like you're having the best time. Hoi An sounds amazing. Keep us up to date with your exploits!
Response: Cheers Neil :)
Final and somewhat lengthy update on the toooo x
From Anto
Hiya Chicken!
Finally got time to check out your blog (been up to my eyes in college work the past few weeks)! I love your accounts of things all the little details about what music is playing etc. are great. A writer in the making methinks!

It sounds like you're having an amazing time and the photographs are all so beautiful, it makes me want to pack my backpack and come join ya!

I hope you're well and having fun.

Mind yourself xxxxxx
Response: Thank you lovely :)
Great to here from you!! Hope the work is easing off a bit now - best of luck with it all! Will get on last update from Nam ASAP...better make it a goodun! Will be in Aber in a week or so - hope you're freeeee!!
Take it easy x x x
From Torabella
Alright beaut?! All sounds like a grand adventure. And asking everyone exactly the same questions sounds very familiar. Maybe next time you should start with "Which do you prefer, black or green olives?".
3 days until I jet off. Getting rather excited, now I have all my interviews etc. out the way. Sod the job hunt, I want a sun tan! You'll have to keep yours topped up until I come back so we can compare.
Big love.
Response: Alreeeet!
I think I will have to think of some more original starter Qs...Spots of Stripes? Cheese or Meat? Ant or Dec? Only got a few days so lets go crazzzyy., innit!
Looking forward to reading your accounts of Italia :)
And aye, gotta keep this bad boy of a suntan going...and get rid of the white bits - ooo er!? Grandiosa amoreee *ahem*
x x x x
From Ami
Happy birthday for tomorrow! It might be today where you are I'm not really sure but have a good one anyway, enjoy the cake, see you soon!xx
Response: Ta!! :D
Hope yours was a blast!! Have had a crazy day canyoning - will post update and pics soooon

much love x x x
From Ami
Oh my God you are so cultured. Photos look very cool! Not long til our birthdays. Woo hoo! Hope they're going to throw you a party.x
Response: Eh up chicken- it's your birthday tomorrrooowww - wooop!!! Penblwydd Hapus!
Well, the last few weeks have been beaches and beer and sun and laziness so am cutting back a bit on the cultured stuff - haha...can't do TOO much now...not sure about a party, but i'm getting a cake, i think :D
Big love see you soon! xx
From Marky
The pics are brillyunt hun - keep 'em coming. Cambodia sounds ever-so-slightly crazy (can see why you enjoyed it so much ;P).

May Ball countdown here this week - very busy. Have just bought new clobber - god knows how im going to afford the move!!

Speak soon, love love.x x x x
Response: Cheers m'dears!
Check out ya new threads - look forward to seeing the pics :)
Take care...hope all is grand! xx
From Mamma
Just to say I think the photos of your journey through Cambodia are `cracking`
Response: Crackin' is iiiiiit?!
Thanks Mam :)

Hope you're looking after yourself x x x
From Torabella
Jealous. Not talking to you anymore. Hmph.
Response: Lol- why not?? Is it coz of the heffalump...??

Dunno what you're on about little Miss 'Oh i'm just off to mince about Tuscany, dahhhling' you don't have to dodge piles of rotting waste there, eh?!

*inhales the pungent fumes* mmm... ;)
From Woodentops
Hello Sunshine,
What fantastic photographs.
One could think that you won't "top" those but I'm sure you will..............Fantasmic...
:) :) :) :) xxxxxxxxx
Response: Ta!
I'm sure I will...plenty more to come! :)
Hope the election malarky went well - big love to the folks back hoooome xxx
From The Don (Some say)
Hello my child,
Peace be with you and all you meet. Let the sunrise shine on you and enrich you each and every day. May your travels be fruitful and interesting and your sleep be sound........... xxx :)
Response: Lord - you ain't 'alf taking the 'don' thing on!!? ;) hahaha...after 14 hours today of temple seeing in the blazing heat, and a well deserved beer and traditional feast upon my return I shall indeed be sleeping well tonight. Ciao Ciao
From Wooden Hill
Hello There,
Now that you're on your travels again, don't you think it's time for some updates. Tsk, Tsk, ............ xx
Response: Satisfied...?! ;) x
From Ami
Hip hop dancing? Can't wait to see that. You is sooo cool. Glad you're having fun. I'm still very jealous! Love the hat in the photos btw. xxx
Response: Haha...thanks ;) You knows i iz cool!
Hope all is well in the diff! x x x
From Marky
Great pics hun, looks amazing.

So, so jealous!

big love x x x
Response: It was :)
Right! Next set of lessons for the day...Take t'easy :)xxx
From Wooden Hill Corporat
Thank You, Thank You,
What a wonderful account of your weekend and such good photos. We can hear the insects "singing" and feel the warmth of the misty air in the morning. xxxxxxxx
Response: :)

Glad you liked it - will post up more pics later on if i have time. Lots more to com, but that'll keep ya happy for a while eh?! ;) Glad to know it made sense - weariness ain't making for poetic thought at ze moment!
Lots of love xxx
From "The Simpsons"
Hi Kath! Luv your blog! Sorry to hear you have been poorly but you seem to be having an amazing time out there, those kids are lucky to have such a lovely teacher! =D Everybody sends their love speak to you soon xxx
Response: Thank you :)
Lots of love to you all - i hope that all is well.
x x x
From Torabella
Stop making me laugh in a packed computer room! I look like a crazy lady!
All sounds very cool, I wanna come riding on a tiger's esophagus! You get to do the coolest things.
Well guess what I'm doing today? Yup, lying on the beach...again...
Response: hehe - i keep giggling at yours too - have shown your pics to soume of my housemates an' all! :)
Enjoy the beach!! I feel so pastey... Have fun x x x
From Dad
Sitting on a grumpy tiger's oesophagus who has bad breath.................... !
Where have I been all my life ?
PS Good strong hard hat / helmet !!! xxxxxxxxxx
Response: haha - glad ya like that...came up with it while amidst the craziness...good time to ponder this place when you're cruising about on th back of a bike!! xx
From Torabella
Loving the photos. The beach looks like Hawaii, just alot calmer (is so busy here, blumin' tourists, get everywhere!).
Buddhism thing sounds very cool, but please don't come back with a shaved head and all dressed in orange! It's not an easy colour to pull off.
Response: lol
Nahhh... now if it was a beautiful kacki green i'd be well up for it!! Haha...
Looking forward to seeing the pics of Hawaii!


*shakes her grass skirt*

x x x x x x
From Dad
Your photographs are really really good. You have got an eye for some good shots. Remember to open your eyes next time though !!!! :)
You are clearly getting on great with your house mates. Lovely photos.
Lots more please !! :)
Didn't someone once say that a picture speaks a thousand words. In that case, even though it's your first photo update, I'm deafened !!!!!!
Response: I have a few more to organise and post up today at somepoint... glad you like them :)
x x x
From Torabella
Blumin' heck I've missed alot, whilst I've been off in my old little whirlwind. Hope your feeling better after your excursion to the hospital. Must have been an experience! Big squishy, and rather sandy, hug for you.
Teaching sounds great. You know you wanna teach 'em rude words!
In LA now, Hollywood baby! Beautiful weather, off for a sit in the sun.
Big love to you.
Response: You have indeedy!! S'all goin' on! Ta for the hug, muchly appreciated. Enjoy LA!!! Wooooo!
Lots of love rightbackatchya xxx
From Marky
Hurrah! The teaching has finally begun! Great stuff.

I think your Pops is right - stick to the tried and tested eateries and don't eat anything that you think might be dodgy. Shellfish is always a risk though - there's even parts of Europe where they advise you avoid certain foods! Don't know where you'd be without your prawns though! Hahahaha...

Laughing lots at "Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes"!! What a you can't wait to sing to a room full of lil kiddiewinks!!

Thinking of you as always, all my love. x x x
Response: Yip yip - if it's busy and full of locals it's good to go! It's the quiet Western places which are yuck. Haha...haven't sung yet...will no doubt pull that out of my sleeve at some point soon though :)

Great to chat this morning..hope you're having a good day. Enjoy your weekend of chillage. Beaucoup d'amour mon petit chou fleur! ;)

From The whole of WALES
Response: Wooopity wooop woopp WOOOOPPPP!!

K.O here is 12.30 am...and we're heading out mid-arvo. Bleedin' irish party monsters!! ;)

x x x
From Dad
Lots of clean water, rest and clean food. Take it easy for a couple of days. You should be ok teaching but don´t stress yourself. I know what you have gone through and you need some time to get your strength back.
Stick to the tried and tested places to eat in future eh ! and everything´ll be fine. Nina is now in the stratosphere of our estimations. Thank goodness for Nina.
The weekend trip sounds great.
Keep smiling xxxxxx
Response: Advice taken :) Feeling better today. Teaching later on. Hope all is well xxx
From Mum and Dad
Hi Sunshine,
Just a quick message to wish you well with your teaching. Stay cool.
Response: Thank you :) Won't be in until tomorrow now. Will speak to you shortly anyho. Your e.mail - 'sphincter squeaks' had me howling - i'm sure these lot in here think i'm a nutter...Never mind eh!? Hahahaha :D xxx
From Marky

Knew we'd beat the frogs... ;)

Hope the beach was a perfect wind-down for you hun, you deserve it after the stress of the first couple of weeks.

Things will calm down im sure. Just be patient and if you have any probs give me a call. Speak to you soon. x x x
Response: Lol...Just aslong as we beat you next weeknend, innit!! It's gonna be a late one watching that but i'm WELL up for it ;) Glad to hear you had a grand weekend chicken - speak soon x x x