Friday, January 15, 2010
After our experience in Saigon, we caught a sleeper train to Hoi An, a little town where they have HEAPS of tailors and old buildings from the 1800s. The sleeper train was an experience in itself. We were the only foreigners on the whole train and were in a cabin with a Vietnamese lady and her obnoxious son who didn't speak English, but were pretty happy to use the cabin as a rubbish bin. Seventeen hours later we gratefully arrived at a pretty swish hotel in Hoi An where Ash and I went crazy getting some outfits made at the tailors. I'm pleased to say I controlled myself and only bought 2 winter jackets and a work skirt. I've heard it's about -2 degrees in Japan at the moment so they might come in handy. However, I am desperately running out of room in my backpack. I think a post pack home is in order. The tailors are crazy - there's hundreds of them and you can go and pick a style out of a magazine, get measured up in the morning and by that afternoon they will have your clothes ready for a second fitting. We got a glimpse into the factories where they have people working around the clock - crazy. I also was riding on the back of the tailor's motorbike at one point and we were crashed into by another motorbike. Luckily he wasn't going very fast. We went out one night in Hoi An, but it was pretty quiet. We did have a shot of Cobra Blood though, which was... interesting.
Now getting out of Hoi An was a very hard task, and our dreams of cutting across Laos to Chiang Mai were hindered by Visa requirements, time constraints and expensive flights. So we flew up to Hanoi, but we weren't too keen to spend very long in another big city, so we booked a tour to Halong Bay. We went on a cruise in a junk boat, which was beautiful. But no one told us how cold it would be on the bay. And it was very cloudy, so you can't see as far as you want to, but it was still beautiful, with limestone cliffs jutting out of the water to massive heights. We stopped at a cave which was huge and very beautiful, then went kayaking around. That night, after dinner, we discovered the karaoke machine in the dining room. After the tour guide started us off with his asian-accented version of "Unchained Melody", we were a bit reluctant to have a go. But some subtle persuasion from a bottle of $6 vodka bought from a lady in a rowboat (one of about 5 who were hovering around our boat and competing with each other for sales) off the side of the boat, no one could get us off it. We met 3 aussie girls on the boat who were hilarious and we were singing so late into the night that even the bar tender was begging us to stop so he could go to bed.
Waking up on a boat in the middle of the bay surrounded by cliffs and calm water for miles is quite an experience. The next day we went across to Cat Ba Island, a cute little island in the middle of the bay. I went on a trek to the highest peak there for a breathtaking view, even though we had to practically go rock climbing to get there. We stayed in a hotel on Cat Ba island and had a few hours to kill, so we took the advice of the owner and decided to hire 2 motorbikes to ride down the coast. So the owner gave Ash a crash course in how to ride it, while I got too confident and took a crash course of my own. Within seconds of getting on the bike, I had attempted a u-turn and crashed straight into a pole. I was as shattered as the front mudguard, mainly because my dreams of riding along a coastal road a la Top Gear had been ruined. Luckily I escaped with only a few bruises on my legs, massive though they were. After that, needless to say, he was reluctant to hire the bikes to us and I had to pay 90US dollars to get it repaired, which was not very awesome at all.
From Hanoi we flew into Bangkok, where we are at the moment. We were pretty relieved to be out of Vietnam, even though we did have some good times, I think that Thailand is superior to Vietnam in so many ways. The people are generally nicer, the food ever so much more flavoursome and the people slightly less inclined to rip you off. I'm beginning to detest taxi drivers in general, as they drive like crazy men, overcharge you and rarely know where they're going. It is a terrible thing to hop in a car and be at the mercy of someone else for 20 knuckle-whitening minutes.
In Bangkok we treated ourself to a 4 star hotel (which was still only $25 each) with a pool and buffet breakfast etc. It was heaven after some of the filth we had been staying in and we recuperated so that we were ready to start shopping! The shopping in Bangkok is ridiculously cheap and the clothes are so cute, I am trying to control myself (post pack, post pack...) but who needs to when you can buy cute little dresses and skirts for $6-$13. I am in heaven. My bank account is rapidly depleting though, so I'm sort of counting on getting work in Japan.
So tomorrow we've booked a tour to the River Kwai and Ash is going to ride the heck out of a big elephant, as she's been wanting to do it the whole trip. We're also going to do the Floating Markets and probably some more shopping :)
5 Days until I fly to Tokyo, about 330 days until I see you all again.
Love Megan xo