Senaste inläggen

Av Magnus Ekstrand - Fredag 23 juni 04:40

So we arrived to early. The train stopped in Lao Cai which is a village close to Sapa. I was a bit curious on how we would actually get to Sapa from here but it didn't take long until we had a ride for 50 000VND(which is nothing). Directly after being let of by the buss about 4-5 women came surrounding us, asking our origin and how long we'd be staying an so on. The insisted on taking us on trekking tours and when I asked the price and then said that we'd time to think they followed us around a while longer. Only when I'd said no in every polite way my imagination could come up with did they relent. And instead started asking if we would not buy some of their wares instead. This being our first encounter with these women ment that I still had patience to say no yet another 4-5 times.


The hotel allowed us to check in early and also set us up for a trekking tour. I figured we rather trust the hotel than the first person we met in town. The tour was amazing. The nature of Sapa is exquisite and I also found very little littering. For the day we were joined by Lisa and Jackie from Australia as well as Emilie from France. Our tourguide Cu was very polite and had plenty of information. More than that we were also joined by "minority women" from the villages we travelled thru. They didn't do much except some sparce conversation and help us down when the road was too slippery. In each respective village they did however expect you to buy a "minor thing" from them and the prices they started at was laughable. I found however that some of the wares was really nice and if you did some hagglnig you could get a semi decent price. However I am not to fond of these kind of practise, it seemed like a convinient way for these people to knock some money of the tourist. Also whenever this happen Cu happened to disappear for the duration the harassment took place. It was a well set up tourist trap. But even the armies of small children trying to sell their bracelet(each child you had to say no to at least 2 times) and the women(which you had to say no to at least 5 times or straight out ignore) could not ruin the day.


After walking for about 14 km a bus from the hotel picked us up and drove us back to town. We ended up walking the streets with Emilie and had dinner before she left for her night bus to Hanoi. After this we spent most time at our room. Martin had gotten a cold and I was also a bit low on energy so just relaxing for awhile was really needed.

 

View of the valley of Sapa before we started our walk.  

Ricefields in different levels.  

Water buffalo was around in plenty. Seemed friendly enough tho.  

Our fellowship of the day. Here we are followed by the Hmong women.  

Closer view on the ricefields.  

The path was sometimes very slippery, and sometimes also very steep. Made sure to tread lightly and carefully.  

Our guide for the day, Cu.  

Local river that we ended up following for a time.  

Lisa(left) and Jackie(right) with Hmong gifts in their hair.  

Martin, Emilie and me.  

Whereever I go i think I will never end stopping to watch chickens, puppies and other young animals. They are just too cute.  

More of the valley of Sapa.      

Mountains in the background made for some nice views.      

River grew bigger the further we went.     

Back in Sapa itself, exploring the minor streets and watching people go about their everyday life. There was alot of construction(more than usual) going on. Almost every quarter had a building being built.


So tomorrow we will go to see two waterfalls; love and silver waterfall. If the weather is good we will also go to the highest mountain in Vietnam - Fansipan.

ANNONS
Av Magnus Ekstrand - Torsdag 22 juni 15:27

We woke up, fortunantly without any sign of cockroaches in our cabin and had a below average breakfast. After this we had some leisure time before the crew dropped us at a pearl museum. It feautured some monitors, a guided tour about pearls and oysters. But to keep it real I learned more from the elderly singaporian man. He told me that the technique used in articifial breating of the pearls had been developed in Japan and then later on imported to other countries such as Vietnam. It used a crafted pearl that was done from inner fragments of the oyster itself. This was made round and then implanted into the oyster's ovarium to grow larger and into a pearl. Of course the museum also feautured a shop where one might buy pearls or jewelery inlaid with pearls. The prices were outrageous.


After this we yet again had some leisure time before arriving to the harbor where we had set out yesterday. We waited some for the buss to arrive and then drove for four hours to Hanoi. In Hanoi we went to our previous hotel and had a shower and left our bags behind. I also made sure to ask about what kind of messages I had started recieving from the phone company where my internet had been set up. As I guessed it had to do with me and Martin using too much data and therefor the speed had been limited. I ended up asking if they could help me buy more data and the doorboy(doorman?) was assigned this glorious task. As he spoke english only one-three words at a time communication was limited while we waited at the somewhat busy telecom company. When it finaly was our turn he spoke for about 1-2 minutes before taking my phone and wiggling the messages I recieved at the saleswoman. I then got a chart where I guessed I could choose to buy data for different prices and I pointed at what would set me up for more than what we could possible spend in a week(since it was cheap and all). Further discussion was had between the saleswoman and my dear doorsman, he then proceeded to take a amount that was 1/3 of the price that I pointed at and then paid the woman. Me being lost already since the start didn't really bother protesting, but I was not too sure of what had actually been purschued... Back at the hotel I found out that he acutally had found a better deal and set me up for a lower price. Yay I guess. But why am I writing of this? Because sitting around waiting at a Telecom company with a guy dressed in his very fine working clothes while listning to conversation I could not understand at all was a very strange experiance. The kind of random one that only happens when you tread on a path where you don't really know what to expect. And it was super fun.


After that I joined up with Martin, we found a Café and had some coffe before taking a taxi to the trainstation where we took the night train to Sapa. The cabin we had paid for was really nice and the beds large enough for me to lay straight and wide enough to be comfortable. The toilett was also fully working and had a generous suply of toilet paper. We went to sleep and I am happy to say that there were no cockroaches at the train and that I slept the entire ride.

 

Ha long bay early in the morning.    

Part of the pearl museum  

Guy inserting the articifial pearls into oysters  

Cut up oyster which reavealed a pearl inside  

The waters where the oysters where kept. It can take from 4-8 years to grow a single pearl.      

Back in Hanoi again. I realized too late that I really hadn't taken too many pictures today. But then again, there was not too much action at all...


Tomorrow we will enjoy the mountain village of Sapa

ANNONS
Av Magnus Ekstrand - Onsdag 21 juni 16:35

We had a really nice american breakfast before leaving for Halong bay. A bus picked us up outside the hotel. Yet again we wre the only westernes. However we did befriend an eldery couple from Singapore that spoke excellent english. Sadly, yet again, their name fell out of my mind over the days. They however did not forget ours and spoke it freqvently which I noticed that it makes for a much better impression. We spoke of many things, similarities and differences between our contries, work and leisure time and I felt a certain fondness for the retired couple who still treated each other as they where out at their honeymoon. He also happen to be a former engineer which may have sparked some similarity to my own dad.


The tour itself was maybe semi interesting. They took us to see caverns, kayaking and swiming. Halong bay however made it worth it. The nature was serene while still powerful. The area seemed to be a archipelago with small mountains instead of islands. I was amazed to find little bird life around, we saw some crows and eagles but no other birds. Maybe the wrong season? Also this was one of the first time in Vietnam where I truly relaxed. The boat had a uppr floor with sunchairs where you could lounge just watching the passing scenery. I eased down and did nothing for as long as I could before I was joined by the eldery man from singapore, his wife soon followed and we lay speaking about all and nothing watching the sky grow ever darked. At night the air con in the room was started and we retired semi early to realax. Or so we thought, the room proved to have several more inhabitants than just us. Normaly I am not to squemish, but sharing about 2.5 squaremeters with cockroaches the size of of my little finger(I have large hands) was not plesant. I killed four of them before finally easing down to sleep. There might also have been some "girly" screams while killing the first two. Of course we told our guide, who didn't really seem to understand what the "big" fuss was about. He also tried to grab one of the larger ones with his fingers as if it was a disobedient dog. I contented myself ofs watting away at the creatures using one of the plastic shoes that belonged to the boat, staying as far away as I could while still killing them. Needlesly said it took me 15 minutes after turning the lights out to finally go to sleep...



 

Breakfast!  

Our bus, on our way to Halong bay, guide spoke some of the history of both Hanoi and Halong bay. Seems it is named dragons bay and that there is a legend day dragons decended to help man against an invading force. When the war was won they did not wish to return to heaven, but would rather stay among the beautiful islands.  

As with many tours this one stopped at a shop where you could buy statues and art at outrageous prices. But there was no attempt to force you into buying so I guess it was more ok than it could've been.  

Some of the statues.    

Closeing up on Halong bay.    

At the boat, more information from out guide before departing.  

what the tourboats looks like. Some seemed equipped for overnight stay with rooms, others just had viewing platforms.  

Some pictures from Halong bay.  

Sundeck.  

 

To get around easier they also had a smaller boat to go in to the islands.

This is how you started the boat, just push the jumpercables together, no key needed...

The "suprise cave", our first stop for the day.

View outside the cave.

Real pretty sights, was told that this is the largest cave in Halong bay.

Second stop, 30 minutes of kayaking. On the other side there was supposed to be monkeys, saw none however :(


Third stop  Ti-Top island, named after a russian who was close to Ho Chi Minh. Also apparently it is aid to be 1968 islands in halong bay because this is the year Ho Chi Minh passed away(?) - so that people may remember him.

The beach at Ti-Topsland

View from the top, beautiful!

Dinner. Very short cooking class on how to make springrolls...

Nighttime view of the boats in Halong bay, add some frequent flashes of lighting and you have what we spent 1 hour watching. Was really relaxing and gratifying sights.


So tomorrow we go to an oyster fram before returning to Hanoi. Then in the eveing we will take a nighttrain to Sapa, a northren mountainvillage. It is said to be cooler up there!

Av Magnus Ekstrand - Onsdag 21 juni 15:29

We left early in the morning to catch our flight at 08:15. We dared to take a random taxi(from a company with good reputation) just outside the hotel. Turned out to be a nice guy and we arrived to the airport safely. I really should've taken a picture of it as it was no larger than a medium sized conviniance store in Sweden. It feautured only two gates and only one flight in the morning so we felt no need to be worried about sitting at the right gate/boarding the right plane. I slept most of the flight, but was still tired when we arrived at Hanoi.


The driver from the hotel picked us up and we drove for about 35 minutes before arriving at the hotel. About 40 minutes later we had checked in early and had been given a deluxe suite instead of a regular room. We did however get some mixup between Twin room and a Double room and as such it seemed that me and Martin was to share bed. We don't really mind, but it is always fun to wonder what the staff might've been thinking about us. After this, we set out to explore a minor lake inside Hanoi as this seemed to require a minimum of energy. To be honest both of us was reaaaally tired. On the way to the lake we saw a MC driver and his passanger speed by at a insane speed(80-90km/h inside the streets of Hanoi). 2 minutes down the road he'd been stopped by the police. I then did something which was maybe stupid, and most surely uneccessary. I tried to sneak a photo. This earned me some stern shouting from a police I hadn't seen and earned me a scolding from Martin, which I deserved. I probably got off easy and could've ended up with a fine or some trouble we didn't really care for. This did however spark an unexpected turn of the day with me trying to figure out exactly how corrupt the vietnamese police was. I also ended up reading about frequent scams in Vietnam and found out that the peddler taxi(surprise, surprise) had a really bad reputation and was to be avoided. There also seemed to be several scams specific to the hanoi region. One that I almost had been exposed to: While I was walking a guy started shouting and brought my attention to my shoes. Since he was very insistent I stopped to see what he ment. He then procceded to kneel down and try to spray sometime inside my shoes. Luckiely I was quick enough to pull away. It seems they either attach glue or a detergant that ruins the seams of the shoe and then offer to either fix the shoe or to get rid of the glue. While doing this all types of merchants will supply you with "the things needed" to fix the shoe for a not totally extravagant, but still pricey sums.


This and said event with the police had both me and Martin on edge. Hanoi also didn't feel as trustworthy as other cities we had been in. We couldn't really say why but that was the way it was. We therefore spent most of the afternoon at the hotel, reading and relaxing. In the night however we did a food tour which was really amazing. It brought us to many smalltime places where we could try the local food and beer. It also made so that we met John from america which was doing his first days in Vietnam. Very nice fellow. Nice enought that we ended up going out for drinks later on in the evening until late.


But more than the foodtour there was also heavy rain. The kind of rain we never get in Sweden - the skyfall one which floods streets and drenched anything that even goes outside for a couple of minutes. It lasted during the entire foodtour, only letting up when we returned to the hotel. I enjoyed it immensly as rain is by far my favourite weather. It makes me feel alive in ways that are hard to describe. The joy of walking the flooded streets, not caring that my sandals got wet. Feeling the slow chill of the everlasting flow of water against of my rainclothes really reset and turned my mood for the better.

  

Our flight to Hanoi  

The smog was slighty worse here  

The local lake that we visited.   
Pavements are as clouded by scooters as usual, streets as busy as any other cities.  

Local temple we didn't visit because we were feeling low and also there was an enterance fee.   

Art in our hotel room. The bed was also laid with roses, litteraly...  

Going out on the foodtour.  

First stop where we had egg coffe,.  

Was really delicious, even if the chairs was about 2-3dm in height....

Second stop, local bar! Draft beer directly from the "barrel"   

Rain, rain and rain! :D  

Us at the local bar, yet again not so big chairs.  

Streets flooded kinda quickly.  

Mashed banana thingy that surrounded something that tasted meatballs.  

Duck egg oumelette, kinda tasty(?)    

Eel and noodles   

Picture from the cleanliness of some of the streets in Hanoi... People just throws their trash outside...

The first of the bars we visited, loud music, louder singing from the patrons.   

As many places in Hanoi, at happy hour they serve buy one get two for free. Also happen to include their "bucket drink". I didn't have one, just seeing John and Martin drink theirs was enough.  

After this we went to a place where they also "served" laughing gas. It is used as anastetic in emergency departments and at maternity wards when giving birth. Here in Vietnam it was just another way to enjoy the night. I didn't have any but instead sat around observing it's effect on ´people who was also (slightly-majorly) intoxicated. It seemed to be harmless enough, but what really amazed me was that people smoked at the same time as they inhaled from the baloons(which was how they served the gas). If i remember correctly the gas is also expolisive...(?)  

Seems that Obama visited the district awhile ago and dined at a local resturant, since then many resturants have clamed to be the one favoured by the american president.


Tomorrow we leave for Halong Bay!

Av Magnus Ekstrand - Tisdag 20 juni 14:43

So yesterday and today's input will have to wait. Right now me and Martin are out in the middle of Ha Long islands. Also, yet again, we are surrounded by a really pretty thunderstorm. We seem to be perfectly safe from it as it is far away enough that you can't hear the actual sound. The boats laying at anchor around us also make for a really scenic view and I will just be enjoying laying around drinking in the serenity and awesome power of nature. Hopefully I'll write tomorrow! 

Av Magnus Ekstrand - Måndag 19 juni 11:16

We had breakfast with Bi and Tau. Went to the easytiger hostel to try and find Edward and Chloe that we previously had agreed to meet. We had however just said 8-9 am and no specific localtion. Needless to say we didn't have an easy time finding them. This ment we headed for the Phong Nam caves by ourselves. This was also a problem as you have to rent a boat to get there. The price is set for each boat, the main idea is that you should arrange to share it with as many as you can. Me and Martin had little succes doing that since almost everyone at the ticket office was Vietnamese. That is until Bi drove by. I guess he saved us some money by arranging for us to go with a younger couple and a pair of friends. When Bi spoke to the boatguide however it seemed that the tour would take two hours longer than we though, meaning that we probably couldn't also see the dark cave(Hang Tối). But we figured that two caves are better than none and set of to see the wet cave(Ke Bang?) with a 40 minute boat tour. The cave itself was very big and we started out exploring it by boat. Since the cavern festival was being held the place was cramped but you still could see most of it without people getting in the way(being long has its advantages). Next we went up a short walk to the stairs that led to the dry cave(Tien Son). It had our entire group huffing, but sooner or later we reached the top and Tien Son, which was however not all to impressive. After this we, reluctantly went down all said stairs again. We did however get treated to sugar crane water by Hon(the guy with the blue shirt) at one of the station. This guesture was kinda out of the blue but it didn't feel too akward. Going back to where we started by boat we realized we acutally had made good time and when meeting up with Bi and Tau we had a quick lunch and left for the dark cave. We made in time to be admitted to a slightly different way to visit caverens: An adventure park. First off we had a fairly long wait, gearing up with zipline gear, helmet and safety west. Then we waited 25 minutes-ish to go on the zipline. Having ziplined across the area you found yourself 20 m away from the cave. The twist was that you had to swim to the enterance, it was kinda fun. However we yet again spent some time to allow our entire "group" to arrive before we actually went into the dark cave. And that was it was. Entierly dark. You only had your light on your helmet to see by, it was super fun! Or would've been if my light had worked as it should - this ment I spent much time walking close to others(which you had to do anyway) in order not to fall or get cut(really sharp stones in places!). In the end it was a really nice experiance anyway. The tour ended with a mudbath inside the depths of the cavern and on the way out you could rinse yourself before exiting the cave. After this you kayaked your way to the exit area where you could go for some bathing, more ziplining or what they grandly named "obstacle course". We swam some and did the zipline before noting that we already probably spent too much time and that Bi and Tau was waiting. The ride to our hotel in Dong Hoi was probably the most uncomfortable ride. I guess doing all three caves in a day was a strech of what time really allowed. But we arrived safe enough and was glad to spend an evening doing little at the hotel.

 

Phong Nam area where the wet and dry cave is located.

1 or 2 weeks of cavern festival meaning that the price to enter the caves was reduced by 20 and 30 %. This ment that alot of locals came around.   

The boats that takes you to and from the caves.    

Enterance to the wet cave.      

Had a hard time getting good pictures, but managed some            

After you went inside by boat you walked out on a arranged track to where the boat waited for you.      
Starting our walk up to the dry cave.


  

View from top of the stairs!

Enterance to the dry cave!    

And some more stairs!  

While this cave was nice it didn't really shine as much as the wet cave. However it is good enough to warrant a visit(if you can endure all the stairs)     

Sugar crane water!  

Banh Mi as quick lunch before taking off to the dark cave.  

On the road again  

Some of the views going to the dark cave, we got no pictures from the cave itself as I couldn't bring a camera along.    

Our hotel and reststop for the evening in Dong Hoi.


Tomorrow we leave early in the morning for Hanoi by plane, after a day there we leave for Hanlong Bay which is sure to be beautiful! :)

Av Magnus Ekstrand - Söndag 18 juni 16:25

So last night involved some decently nice and not so nice things that I didn't really bother to add on the other day. We met two new people, Cloe and Edward from the UK. Both nice enough that we spent about 30 minutes walking without direction in Khe Sahn while speaking of everything and nothing. Before that we had one of those annoying experiances. Martin and I had dinner with Bi and Tau, which both seemed decently drunk when we arrived(only this was a big sign for me). Next they insisted on getting us beer, which is nice, and proceeded to order things that we didn't really know what it was or if we really wanted it. Turned out to be a whole chicken surrounded by rice, the rice and chicken had been fried together(?) and made for a really nice taste. We also had a plate of cooked squid which we ate whole(poor creatures). It felt pretty brutal but tasted nice enough. Having a bad feeling about the dinners as a whole I spoke to BI. I told him that we really wanted to know the prices beforhand and also, if possible, any information on what we was gonna get for the price. This and that we couldn't finnish half of the things that had been ordered made him realize that he probably went a bit out of hand. In the end he ended up paying for the major part of the bill and he seemed genuinely about it.


But now for today. We left Keh Sahn and went along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The scenery was so far the best one we've had. I actually didn't mind that we didn't stop for lunch until 14:00. But then this was also all we did today. We went up to decent heights on the mountains(most 1600m over the seal), visisted "minority villages" and also bathed in local rivers and waterfalls before arriving at our desitation - the Phong Nam caves. So the area around the caves seems to have the same name as the collective name for the caves. There are three caves in total - water, dry and the dark cave. Each slightly different than the other one. But more on that tomorrow. In the small town we randomly met up with Elfie and Ninke who we went to the elephant waterfalls with. They was staying close by at a hostel which seemed to have a very extravagant reputation. It seemed that if you are a foregein backpacker and happen to visit the Phong Nam are you have to sleep at the Easytiger hostel. They invited us over to check out the bar and the music which ment we spent most of the night drinking and having a really good time. We also met up with Cloe and Edward at the bar and invited them over which made us a company of 6. Was very nice untill it became late enought that we felt like going back. It's not easy traveling on a tight schedule. You have little time for leisure and can't really cram too much extra into your programme. But for tomorrow it seems that we are doing all the three caves that are all to be very worthwhile! I will just upload pictures for now and add text later. As I said, at the moment it is a bit hard to find time for my blog.

 

First stop was a warmuseum outside Keh Sahn. It featured alot of remnants since the "american war" and the hasty retreat of the american forces. If you wanted to you could buy scavanged lighters, medals and common left behind of the U.S forces.

It also feautured a minor museum which(in my opinion) mostly served to glorify the vietnamnese, heroic, valiant, viginalt, brave, succesful, victorious(you get the idea) struggle while labeling the americans as feeble, weak and powerless. Example of this above. Sure there was also alot of facts to this museum, but you'd have read in between the lines to get an objective view.

 

Now there will be alot of nature. Most of them are taken on the west and east Ho Chi Minh trail, we went through a mountainpass called Deo Sa Mu which was very scenic.          

Dogs, cows, buffalo, people and wares laid out in the sun was a frequent occurance on the road. Bi drove maserfully and showed no real wear of yesterdays drinking.      

     

One of the rivers coming down from the mountain.  

Me doing 1-2-3 jump in said river.

       


The end, so tomorrow we'll do caves!

Av Magnus Ekstrand - Fredag 16 juni 13:00

So today we started out getting collected from our hotel in Hue by Bi and Taú. They took us for a ride along the landscape around Hue and we also started our journey to Dong Hoi. However the distance from Hue to Dong Hoi is only 4 hours if you go the quickest way. Needless to say this is not how you spend scenic 3 day tour as a tourist. We drove by the city Dong Há at least 3 times and went about driving parallel passes to the same destination. We also visited several hiostorical and beautiful sights. Bi drove me and Taú drove Martin. I didn't really like Bi at the start. He had very specific ideas on how he wanted to go about things. He also neglected to tell us the prices before offering us any service that was not included in what we already paid for. These fees where however, very minimal and whatever he suggested was worth the cost. But it'd be nice to know before and not after.


We did however have some awesome syngergy when riding the bike. Be would warn me 5-10 seconds before a sign or sight would show up and then procced to slow down just enough for me to have a shot with the camara. That along with him looking out for us mostly made up for the earlier annoyance. After riding until 16:00 we rode for Keh Sahn where we checked in to our(included in the price) two star hotel for the night.

 

Getting picked up by Bi and Taú       

First stop, Long Hung church, really amazing history. Took a picture of the sign so you may read the whole story.     

Memorial place from the war, not sure of the name. Be didn't mention it.  

Groups took turns to procced onto the memorial altar that was in the centre of the area.  

Around was several monuments which spoke alot about the war, but this time we found no sign's to expain each and everyone as a singular piece.  

And the penguin tears, I noted at noon that Hotch's left eye was damages. Made my mood a bit worse, but I guess I'll be able to fix him up. Just have to figure out how.

 

Random Ho Chi Minh statue in Dong Ha.  

Buffalo roaming "free" on the ricefields.  

Be had us take alot of poses, both with bikes and by ourselves by a local beach.  

This was my favourite, one-two-three JUMP, just slightly out of sync :D  

Boats close by the beach we posed at  

Was treated this as pre-lunch snack. Risepaper with shrimp, tasted... wierd but good? Was wrapped in bamboo leaf and super hot!  

Some pictures taken while riding(today we make for 70-100 km/h), and yes I rode behind - photographing like the crazy tourist I am.    

Things the shows up not to seldom when you get to the smaller local towns. They use the road to sundry their wares.  

Yet more tunnels, these were however bombshelters and not made for fighting. Was promised that they'd be bigger than the Cu Chi tunnels.  

Sun us almost at zenit!  

Guide also showed us these flowers which folds its' leaves together. "Shy flower", very cute thing.  

The bombs that were dropped. If you divided the weight of the bombs used/person living in the area each indivudual was bombed by 7 000 kg worth of bombs. And yet they survived...  

The tunnels themselves, about 1.6 m in height, better than Cu Chi but still small...    

Each family had an alcove roughtly 2 square meters, this was all the space they had to live, sleep and eat in.  

Meeting hall where weddings, gatherings, stories, songs and events was held.    

And off we go again. We acutally passed where the boarder of south and north had previously been.

 

Where the colour of the bridge changes, that's the official mark for south/north.   

Also visited a cementary dedicated to the Viet Cong, corpses was gathered after the war and taken here so relatives and friends may easier find them.  

Views got better during the day      

Stayed at a local waterfall and I had a bath. I was however not the first one to try the waters as four or five locals already was in when I got there.  

Tried to patch him up at the hotel but I simply don't have the tools for it. Also I don't want to damage him any more than what damage there already is.

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