Friday, August 04, 2006

Keeping it short

I'll keep this short because our bus is about to come and take us to Hanoi. In Hoi an we made some friends who we've been travelling and hanging out with. We had a blast in Hoi An and we just finished hanging out in Hue. It would have been nice to spend more time here, but we're having a good time with our new friends so we'll go with them up to Hanoi. We figure we'll either spend more time in the north, or go back down to Ho Chi Minh City at the end of the trip and check out the Meakong Delta.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Nha Trang Day 2

The next day in Nha Trang was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. We woke up quite early, around 3:45 in the morning, to go look for sunrise photos on the beach. Unfortunately the sun was hid behind the cloud. We continued walking along the beach and came across an area of town that was quite poor. It was the size of Airdrie, and it was all shanties. Quite sad. We didn't want our morning to be a complete waste so we took some photos of boats and houses from the beach and headed back.

While we were walking back they we thought about doing some more sight seeing, as we still had a few hours there. We walked to all the sights this time. The first one on our list the Long Thanh gallery. Long Thanh is a resident of Nha Trang and a world famous photographer. We were quite impressed with his photos, and Kheang looked into buying one, but it was too expensive. It was 42USD just to ship the print alone. We did get quite inspired though.

Our second stop was the Long Son Pagoda and the Giant Seated Buddha. Both were quite beautiful. The downside of going to these places is that they're swarming with people who are trying to get every penny out of you. Whether it be kids looking to give you a tour, or people pretending to be monks trying to sell you insence to burn at the altar.

We weren't going to see anything else after that but it looked like it would rain so we hid in the Nha Trang Cathedral. A beautiful church where we sat for a while and were approached by Anna (who would later tell us that her name was really Kim Loan). She wanted a chance to practice her English. People here see an advantage of knowing a few words of English, and if they can't sell you their goods, they seem quite eager to run a few sentences by you. Usually it goes something like "Hi, where are you from?" followed by "When did you arrive?" and "Where are you going?" Normally that would have been the end of the conversation, but I pulled out the English to Vietnamese dictionary and had a long conversation with Anna. It was pretty slow going, but we managed to have a semi-intelligent conversation. She asked for my email and I didn't see any harm in that. Should be interesting.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nha Trang Day 1

The bus ride to Nha Trang was a long one! Buses aren't the most comfortable way of transportation for taller people. Though I'm not the tallest person in North America, I do tend to tower over most people here, who the buses are for. We caught the bus at 8:00 pm and arrived in Nha Trang at 6:00 am. With the cramped space, the honking and the bumps I was very happy to get about three hours of sleep.

The bus dropped us off infront of a mini-hotel and being quite tired we decided to check into their pricing. It was a little overpriced, but being tired we didn't give it too much thought. We even got free coffee with ice to help us make up our mind. But agreeing to a room turned out to be easier than actually getting one. More on that another time.

While at the hotel we were looking at what nearby sites we could visit and how to go about. We decided to check out a tour offered by a place called TM Brother. We were to see Monkey Island, Baho waterfalls, the Cham towers and Doclech beach.

Monkey Island was fun, and like the name suggests, full of monkeys.

At Baho falls we met up with some people who looked Vietnamese, but didn't seem to speak Vietnamese. We guessed they were from a hill tribe. We hiked with them to the falls and tried to communicate using hand signals, it was quite fun. While hiking I came across a snake, quite close to my leg. I didn't think it was poisonous and it wasn't doing anything but resting, so I took some pictures of it. When the hill tribes people passed it they tried to kill it at first, then they put it in a bottle and tried to tell us with hand gestures that they were going to make snake wine out of it, which was to make them strong.

Cham towers was a very beautiful. It's a ruins site that overlooks Nha Trang. When we finished taking pictures of the ruins, we spent some time looking out over the city. There we met a girl named "Vee" who was trying to learn English. She claimed she was 18 but she looked much younger than that. She also claimed she spoke five languages, all that she learned from toursits. If she could speak those five as well as she spoke English, it's quite impressive. She told us that every day she comes to this site to speak with foreigners in order to learn other languages and become a tour guide someday.

The best thing about these sites we saw was that we went to them on scooters. We were going to rent them and ride them ourselves, but instead rode on the back. Our drivers, Dee and Dang, were very friendly and excellent drivers. We rode through some nasty weather, at times it felt like we were swimming rather than riding. Dang was quite curious about Canada and said it was on his list to visit. I gave him a Calgary Outdoor Club card and invited him out to hike, should he ever come.

When we got back to our hotel we were to go out for some food, but Kheang passed out and I was out on the streets on my own. I looked for Vietnamese subs and tried to bargain for a good price. I walked around trying to get one for 18 cents (USD) rather than the 30 cents that they usually sell them to the tourists for. I was successful! It was a very good 18 cent sub!

Ho Chi Minh Day 2

Shortly after my last post I joined Kheang at a cafe next door where we planned out what we were going to do with the remainder of our time in HCMC. We had about six or seven hours before the bus we booked would come to take us to Nha Trang.

We looked through the lonely planet guide and decided to do a walking tour of all the closest sites. Both of us are avid hiker and thought that the required seven hours to complete the walking tour would be more like four for us. I can't recall all the names of the places that we went to, but some were quite interesting. The best was the Jade pagoda. It was located in a real shanty kind of neighborhood and a number of times on the way there we thought maybe we were lost and looked at the map to reaffirm our route. We got to it just as it started to pour and sheltered under it's roof. Being in the pagoda as it was raining quite hard, with the smell of incense and out of the ordinary architecture, it was quite a pleasant feeling. Aside from the pagoda, another worthy mention was the history museum, which had a number of artifacts dating back to the cave man days. While trying to get into the museum, we accidentally purchased tickets to the HCMC zoo. It was quite funny, a zoo is really not something we wanted to see in Vietnam. Both are located with in the same gates so when we asked for tickets, they gave us the wrong ones. We decided to take advantage of the zoo passes and spent some time checking out the Asian elephants.

After our tour we went to the Cyclo bar where we spent the rest of our time in HCMC. There we met Non, a friend of my friend from Calgary, and her mom, Lam (I could be off on that one). They were quite friendly and tried to teach us some Vietnamese but it didn't go too well. Luckily they spoke English quite well and we had a fun night just chatting away, eating and having drinks.