OK folks, I'm really really sorry!!! Yes I have had sporadic access to the net, but Mary, you try typin one of my "essays" on an iPod!!!! Anyway, we have been trying to cram alot in to SE Asia so have been to busy experiencin and not enough writing. However, bowing to peer pressure (and not at all sleepy at 1.15am) I am back with a vengeance. Make sure to read both 'Nam inserts (staying true to my essay-stylie) and def get the video!
Ha Noi- Great intro to Asia. Bustling to the point of scariness! Motorbikes galore and coming and going in all directions. Dandered thru Market stalls we practised our haggling technique - badly. But soon we learned the 'walking away' method which usually gave us the price we wanted!
Speaking of deals, our fab place was the Bia Hoi joints near our hotel - little places where you sat on child-sized plastic stools drinking beer for 15p! Great to sit there watching the locals go about their business. The fact we were served (and paid, and got the right change) by a girl no more than 5yr old made our week! As she was the cutest thing ever I asked her for a pic of her pulling our pints, alas, like a true lady she declined, running away shyly. But I did get a picture - she drew us a nice Prince and Princess in between customers - and I thought we would escape the Royal wedding!!!!
We also went to see HO Chi Mhin's remains, strange but a must do (een if the rumour is true re M Tussauds is makin a packet) and an old prison the French used to house and torture Communist actinides. Very interesting.
Next stop Halong Bay and the first 'you must go to...' advice we had (from Steve and Emma) and more than slightly influenced by the boys at Top Gear.
Scenrery was stunning even if the weather wasn't. We visited a cave made into an army base and hospital during 'the War'. We met a bunch of Safas who were great. Me and Kim led the drinking and the Karaoke - the hangovers were shared.
Hoi An - Tailors, tailors, tailors!
I got afew made-to-measure suits of great quality and low price. Kim got a nice silk sack for potatoes. At least thats what it looked like. Promptly Kim used her new skills and made feelings respectfully known. Sack was dumped.
Another town another beach - but we didn't see much due to weather, much like Hoi An. We did do a boat trip - the most surreal experience ever. I foolishly wore my Ireland top which, again, people were asking me for! But, ID'd as Irish, they automatically tried to peddle me beer - at 9.30am! Anyway, after seein a few islands, an aquarium and lunch we lazed on loungers. Tho not sunny it was still too hot. The return trip was a belter - the 'crew' pulled out a home-made drum kit recoiled from pots and pans, a lead guitarist, a bass player and a mic - so was the Mui Ne boy band (Westlife need not fear).
While not sounding bad the bass player looked forlornly into the distance, prob sayin 'how did my life end up like this?' After their set came karaoke. One by one people were called up for a blast of a famous song from their country. The Chinese and Koreans were mad for it. The 56yr old Aussie did his best with 'A land down under' but couldn't fathom how HIS life came to this. Being from such a small island many miles away I was sure we were safe. We were not.
Saving the best till last I was dragged up to lead The Fields of Athenry (even Kim was giving it the hands in the air, and the additional lines! - Go'an ya gud 'ting!)
We met one of the guys for Indian later. When we explained Kim got burnt from the ten mins of bleak sunshine he asked had she a problem with Garlic too!?! Brilliant. I LMAO. That night led to drinking games and a hangover that almost caused Kims' head to fall off. We met an Irish couple we, and you, would not have heard the last of. We were picking up bad habits of the Asian tourist so left Nha Trang.
Dalat - Oh for some normality!
After beachi-ness with bad weather we hit the hills for some hiking! We visited a waterfall that made us realise just how massively lucky we were in South America (the sights in Asia were not even playin the same game nevermind in the same league). We went to 'love valley' which was beautiful, apart from the cheese-tastic horrible cartoon statues and replica animals like tigers, eagles and giraffes! What place they had I will never know, but safe to say the locals love that and their tat, and have a long way to go to cater for other tourists.
That said, we did hike up he second tallest mountain in Vietnam. Unfortunatley the summit, like most places, was littered with plastic bags and rubbish. The view was cool tho. But, like everything else we have experienced here, it is all overshadowed by the people and their culture.
Our guide, 'Paul', was from a hill tribe close to where the Americans stationed a radio post. They would come to his village and give out candy and music for good will. His dad, a cook at the American base, was given an 8-track andots of music. So Paul entertained us with the repertoire of what he grew up with - the Beatles were his favourite. But our favourite, ladies and gentlemen, is one the Mathews' and all who attended the wedding should know very well. I will say no more, but the Mathews' have gone global!!! See the video section.