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james_emma’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 25 Nov 2006

Location: Vietnam

MapWelcome to the next installment of our adventure...

We have had a fabulous week in Vietnam. We had a couple of days in Hanoi
which is possibly the noisiest bloody place ever. Unfortunately no one has taught the Vietnamese what to use their horns for, so they use them for
everything, i.e. "I'm passing you - beep"; "I'm behind you - beep"; "Hello
my friend - beep"; "I'm driving along - beep"; you get the gist anyway.
Wandering around the city which is quite beautiful, is not as peaceful as
one would hope for!

From Hanoi we ventured to Halong Bay for an overnight stay on a junk boat -this was pretty fun and we would recommend it to anyone. Halong Bay is a world heritage listed site - it consists of about 3000 islands which is
fairly spectacular. However on the day we were there you could only see
about 100m in front of you as there was a lot of smog - I renamed the place "Hapong Bay". We did some kayaking in the afternoon around the islands where all the fishing villages are. They are houseboat villages complete with kids and dogs, it was pretty interesting to have a look - we even got to go to the houseboat-school. We had a couple of frenchies, a kiwi and a couple from Sweden on the boat who were all pretty good value, so had a good night on board the boat with them. James had the misfortune of eating a bad cockel shell and was sick all night, so that was pleasant for him, but all back to normal now.

From Halong Bay we returned to Hanoi to hop a night train to Sapa which is
a village in the north of Vietnam and is very picturesque. This is a don't
miss for Vietnam. Thanks to Dan and Anna (in Singapore) who recommended the place and a guide named Sho we had the best time. Sho is a gorgeous girl of 20 who took us trekking along with 1 other Aussie, a german girl and a canadian girl. It is beautiful up there walking through the rice fields. We were followed by 2 little girls of 8 and 9 who made us garlands of flowers and horses made from reeds, among other things. They were absolutely gorgeous, but as we found out as soon as you get to their
village they say "Emma you buy from me..." We did a home stay in a village and had another 4 little girls follow us from the previous village to where we were staying. When we got to the house they insisted that I buy from them, so I bought a few little odds and ends. I told them it was James' birthday the next day and so they gave me some wrist bands for him (as he was snoozing!). Mee (one of the girls I bought from) then said "Hey Emma, can I have your email address?"... I love the fact that these hill tribe kids don't go to school but each have a hotmail or a yahoo account! So I now have myself a pen pal from Sapa.

The vietnamese women are extremely beautiful and as far as I can see they
are the ones doing all the work. I have a photo of about 10 women excavating a site for a house - by hand into the side of a hill, half of them with kids on their backs. It is only recently that girls have been allowed to go to school - Sho was never sent to school but the girls 13 and under usually have been for 4 years or so until they are 7-8 yrs old. If they want to go to high school they have to pay, so most of them end up leaving and working for the family sewing blankets, bags, etc...

It is good luck for a Vietnamese man to marry a tall woman as they can then carry them home when they're drunk... or so Sho tells us! Fathers still
select husbands for their daughters but in Vietnam women are actually allowed to say "no I don't like him...". They are often betrothed at 12-13 yrs and then married a couple of years later. Sho's sister was married to her cousin at 15... Sho says she has turned down every boy her father has presented. Anyway we had a good time and Sho and her friends taught us a
great version of "shithead" (the card game) and we also played spoons (or "chopsticks" actually!). It was lots of fun.

For James birthday we had most of the day trekking and then back to Sapa to hop a train to Hanoi - we met a couple from Perth who were really good
value and ended up hanging out in between two carriages (renamed "Switzerland") drinking beer with them to celebrate James' 29 years. Was very fun but we then arrived in Hanoi at 5am so we were a bit sore and sorry for ourselves.

A day in Hanoi and another train last night to Hue, we arrived about two hours ago. I must love you and leave you to go and explore the former political capital of Vietnam (1804-1945). Will let you know what it's like.

Look forward to hearing from you all soon.

Lots of love Em and James xx