Well, Im about halfway through my Vietnam trip and I've made my way up two thirds of the country, having alternatively a blast and some serious annoyances along the way.
Im currently in Hoi An, home off all the tailors so what ever you want made this is the place to have it done.Ive only been here for 12 hours and I am already having a pair of jeans and 2 shirts made. Its quite funny, the sales girl was probably my age, and she was as bad as haggling as I am so it was a long, protracted, but rather amusing process of getting her down to a low price. She got the better end of the deal i think, but it was good to have a novice to practise my haggling on, the older ones I just cave into. At least this one we could laugh at each other. Although, who knows what the finished result may be! Gonna need a jacket made too, its bloody freezing here and apparently Hanoi is even worse. February isnt a very good time to visit here I dont think what with Tet and crap weather.
Ive spent the last god knows how long in Nha Trang, a beach resort south of here. A funny place, its got a terrible reputation for theft and trouble of various sorts but I enjoyed myself and nothing happened to me. I met some Brits and some Swedes on the 6 hour bus journey there from Moi Ne . Appearances can be so decieving because they looked rather scary but who were all really nice. Again, its all about the people you meet that makes a trip i think. We actually ended up sharing a hotel room on the first night because there was none available, we didnt even get beds, just sofas at the top of this hotel that took pity on our pathetic state. It wasnt even a room but a sort of play/breakroom area. There was no door either, it was so random. It was a bloody funny experience though, and this is what this trip seems to have been from start through to hopefully finish.
Nha Trang is a city but a chilled out one on the ocean, so I did a bit of snorkelling around some islands, went on a boat trip and just generally vegged out and got rid of my cold. Theres a big expat community there so i met some really decent people and had a good time. The only downside were the hotel owners who (with the exception of the people who let us stay at their place the first night) seem to have a chip on their shoulders constantly, perhaps somethign to do with the fact that they dont have any bedrooms, but sleep on mats on the floor in the reception of their hotels, and since they wont give guests keys, they have to be up and down letting people in and out all night. Anyway, you have to bargain with them constantly, and quite often they will change the room rate on you. They keep your passport ast the front desk and wont give it back til you pay their bill. I hadnt had it happen to me but I was made to promise to stay at my terrible hotel for 4 nights, (a promise I promptly broke)and lots of people I met had had their room rate inflated to 3 times the price. Ouch. However, for one dishonest thief theres some serious diamonds here. I met a marvellous group of Vietnamese people who ran a travel agency, I ended up spending half an afternoon with them, they were so friendly and just liked a natter, me in my appalling Vietnamese and they in broken English. They didnt try to sell me anything and invited me to eat with them and everything, so that was really nice. They let me stow all my stuff at their office when I was leaving and use their bathroom to change and shower and stuff, they were reaslly kind.
I left Nha Trang yesterday at 6pm and got an overnight bus that got me in here at 8am. WOW, is all I can say. It was a regular bus with bunks 3 across on 2 levels, with seats that reclined all the way back. Except on the back row, where there were five squashed together with no separation, just a long line of mats. Oh, they didnt recline very far either. Well, according to sods law my seat assignment was the one smack bang in the middle. The driver wouldnt let me change and I was getting quite concerned, imagining that I was gonna be stuck next to some sweaty letch or something, and at the very end of the bus in the pitch black over the course of 14 hours, any dodgy situation could happen, I mean god knows Ive been groped enough on busy trains. These 4 MASSIVE russian dudes came on, really nasty and fat and sweaty, no shirts, (I mean who wants to see that!?!?) heavy breathers, the works. My heart just sank, but THANKFULLY they got the even worse lower back berth and I was spared them. I ended up having an Australian family join me who were really really nice, and it wasnt actually too uncomfortable (sleeping pills help a lot). I woke up in the morning spooning the mother which was quite awkward, but hey ho, what can you do? I reckon if there was a group of friends together it would be a right laugh. It was another experience to remember.
Im finally in a decent hotel for the grand total of 10 bucks a night, but this one has hot water and a swimming pool and free internet, horray!
Theres several things to do here besides have clothes made, theres a UNESCO world heritage site that I am going to check out tomorrow and several pagodas. Im going to work my way up to Hanoi in a couple of days, which is where I end my trip. I dont really feel like I have seen much of the real Vietnam, but I think thats a got a lot to do with travelling on my own. It can be quite an intimidating country to visit, everyone everyone everyone wants a piece of your wallet, and its hassle hassle hassle every step you take. It gets utterly exhausting to constantly be swatting off touts and sellers and beggars and when you do it alone, theres no buffer zone of another person to help you ignore the constant calls for "My shop, My taxi, my bike, my food, my stall, my services" etc. So quite often I dont venture too far off the beaten track, unless im with other people, which is sometimes a shame. As a single western female im a target for every rip off around. Everyone says Vietnam is cheap but its actually not, not if you are fresh off the boat and cant haggle like a pro. Its definitely more expensive than Thailand for most things with the exception of food. Its a very odd country, in some ways its so Western (no squat toilets here, the lights work with the use of a key, the motorbikes are 4 stroke so dont cause pollution, its very clean, mostly) and in other ways its so so different from anywhere I have ever been. I like that though, I like knowing that I got here before it became too sanitzed and touristy. Its definitely a blast if you dont take it too seriously and have a LOT of patience!