A Travellerspoint blog

South East Asia: Cambodia!

South East Asia December 2012 – January 2013

sunny

Friday, 4th January

Day one in Siem Reap, and we started off with a long sleep and a leisurely breakfast. There is something about Cambodia that makes you want to take in all the beauty without rushing, but unfortunately we were limited to a few days in this country and we had better make the most of it. And so, we ventured the street, looking out for a tuk-tuk driver. We met a friendly local man named Lucky and he became our driver for our whole time in Siem Reap. Now all we needed to do was get ourselves a pass for the Angkor Wat Archeological Sights. Seen as we weren't going to be in Cambodia for very long, but still wanted to make the most of the temples, we opted for the three day pass. And I can tell you already: best money ever spent!

We wanted to keep the more impressive and better known temples until the end of our journey, so that we would appreciate the beauty of the lesser known ones without comparison to their famed siblings. Lucky devised a special route for us and off we went! * exciting *

DSC_1130.jpg

Not that the names will mean much to you, but we visited Prah Khan temple, Neak Pean temple, Ta Som temple, Eastern Mebon temple and ended with the Prah Prerup temple. Every single one of them was different and stunning in its own accord. Some were small, some were large, some were well kept, others were in ruins, some had trees growing through them, some were bare, etc. It was a feast to the eyes. And of course, everywhere we went, vendors were coming towards us to sell us their goods.

I will never forget meeting a group of gorgeous little five year old girls trying to sell us ten postcards for $1. We had just bought a few packs and really did not need any more, but they kept coming up with the cutest ways to get us to give in. “Lady, 10 postcards for only one dollar. That is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... for one dollar!” and when that did not work, they went on with “Or: un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix... for one dollar!” No? “Or: ein, zwei, drei, vier, funf,...” and on they went, counting until ten in numerous different languages. My severely neglected multi-lingual ears were buzzing with joy and I would have given anything to spend my day with these little gems. Anyway, they soon realised we weren't going to buy any more items from them, so they walked away. One little girl however, had one more trick up her sleeve for me. She invited me to crouch down on the dusty ground and asked me to play “tic tac toe” (naughts and crosses) with her. Beguiled by her little charming multilingual ways, I sat down to play with her. She made the first move, I made the second, and just before making a winning move, she shouted out “I win, you buy!”. Oh, the cheek! I was just quick enough to block her off and we have laughed about it ever since.

In the afternoon, Lucky took us to Tonlé Sap Lake, where we were going to view the floating villages. We did not know that you had to book a boat tour in order to see these villages and we awkwardly realised that we did not have enough money on us. Thankfully, Lucky was able to lend us enough so we could still set off. We got our own motored junk little junk boat and off we went into the waves. The sun was just about to set, and so our driver stopped in the middle of the lake so we could enjoy the spectacle without obstructions. He insisted we should have a swim, and so we dove into the darkness of the lake, with the sunset right behind us. It was quite the experience. We did come out of it feeling a little oily and sticky, but nothing that wouldn't wash off in the shower of the hotel. Next, we were taken to one of the floating shops which also hosted a crocodile farm. A few alarm bells rang in our heads as we discovered that crocs were being bred in the very lake we were swimming in, but hey... just another thing to add to our list of adventures.

20130104_173631.jpg

Sunsets and crocs aside, the actual floating villages we paddled past were a little underwhelming. We know there is much more to it, but whether they just weren't accessible to tourists or whether we came at the wrong time of day, we will never know. Lucky patiently waited for us at the little port and drove us back into the city. It was quite a long drive back, maybe 30 or 45 minutes. Many of the locals get around on bicycles, as did two young locals boys, who took the opportunity to hang on to the tuk-tuk for a bit of a rest. We thought it was hilarious, and we tried to help them to hang on. They were able to drive along for a while, before Lucky angrily told them off. I think the boys noticed our disappointment, and so for the last 15 minutes or so, they peddled as hard as they could to keep up with us the entire journey. It's these little encounters that made us fall head over heels with this country – such gorgeous people!

We got back to Siem Reap and Lucky convinced us to book ourselves in for a Cambodian dance and music spectacle at one of the hotels the next night. After we made the booking, we quickly got out of our oily clothes and went out for dinner. A series of fancy and Western restaurants adorns the busy streets of the city, but we preferred to have our meals in the little side-streets with the locals, who were filled with pride at having us dine amongst them. Bellies filled with scrumptious food, we walked it off by having a stroll through the night market. Now, I will happily admit that I am a sucker for markets and bargains, but that night, it was Ben who went on a t-shirt extravaganza! That's my man! ;)

Saturday, 5th January

Lucky convinced us to get up at 4.30am to see the true beauty of the majestic temples at sunrise. There was a surprising amount of other tourists up at the same time, having the same idea, and it made for a really great atmosphere. The temple that was regarded the best at sunrise, was the famous Angkor Wat temple. Renovation work was being done on the temple, which was a crying shame. Luckily for us, it wasn't all that noticeable on the pictures we took at sunrise.

DSC_0343.jpg DSC_0431.jpg

Now, we both believed Angkor Wat did not deserve all the hoo-ha. Seeing it at sunrise was an experience of a life-time. And yes, it is a great temple. Amazing architecture. But, for some reason the dark stone that was used reminded me of the victorian architecture which you find around Scotland and the whole place had a sombre appeal.

We were quite happy to move onto the next 'big' temple: Bayan. And oh. my. goodness: What a beauty!!! I am not going to spoil this place with badly worded descriptions, but will leave you with a picture instead:

DSC_0599.jpg

We went back to the hotel for a snooze. Tonight, we were heading to one of the posher hotels for a lovely dinner as well as to see a traditional Khmer dance and music show. It was a gorgeous evening and the dancers were amazing. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

DSC_0759.jpg

The show finished early enough for us to enjoy a walk along the river beds, before bidding another wonderful day in Cambodia goodnight.

Sunday, 6th January

Last day on our temple pass and Lucky decided to take us to one of the furthest located temples.

DSC_0824_copy.jpg

It was yet another beautiful place, and we quite enjoyed the long drive through the many villages. We stopped along one of the roads to see the locals make some local sweet delicacies made out of palm sugar. It was nice to get amongst them and see how they worked, but my attention soon drifted off when a beautiful little girl asked me to hold on to her baby sister. Anyone who knows me well, will know that handing babies over to me isn't the best move, as chances are very high that I won't want to return them again. And this time was no different: what a gem of a bub! ;)

DSC_0870.jpg

Sadly, we had to get a move on if we still wanted to see some of the other temples as well. We visited so many that it was hard to keep track of, but the one that definitely stood out was the temple which was made famous by Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider. You know, the temple, which has a giant tree growing right out of it! To the locals and the architects, these trees are a real nuisance, destroying important landmarks and holy temples. But from many a tourist's perspective the trees add a certain charm to the place. The architectural site once represented a city, bustling with activity, lived in by numerous inhabitants, with merchants visiting from far and wide. Now, it lies empty. Seeing nature living amongst these beautiful ruins in a way seems like a reincarnation. As if the souls of the past came back to claim their lands. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but my favourite temples were by far the ones that had trees living amongst them...

DSC_0961.jpg DSC_0948.jpg

Ben wanted to pay a last visit to the Angkor Wat temple. We saw most of it the other day, but there were so many crowds at sunrise, that we never really bothered to see the inside. The place kind of gave me the creeps, so I waited outside whilst he had a little peek. Whilst I was waiting, a Japanese couple ran up to me with a massive camera and excitedly asked “photo”. Yes, of course, I'll gladly take a picture of you both. I make a gesture to grab the camera off them when they suddenly pull away and say “No! Photo you!” and before I knew it, the wife stands next me, puts an arm around me, while the other hand, stereotypically, makes the peace sign. I was too gobsmacked to say much. Or smile much, for that matter. The husband thanks me a few times, and is about to go away, when the wife shouts at him, angrily pointing at his bag. Out comes another camera, even bigger than the previous one, and yes, now it is her turn to take a picture of me. Their commotion at seeing a white person brought along so much attention that I heard a group of American passerby's ask one another what kind of celebrity I was. I was mortified. But... it did make me realise what it must feel like every time I travel and want to take a picture of a local person. How when they say they feel embarrassed and I tell them “it's all good”, they are in fact really embarrassed. Karma, maybe? It wasn't the only time people were taking pictures of us in Cambodia. Whenever we drove in the tuk-tuk, Asian tourists would take out their cameras and shoot away. You can almost imagine them saying: “Look at those two uptight whiteys sitting there!” Very bizarre feeling.

Monday, 7th January

[Happy Birthday to my lovely brother, Yani!]

I read somewhere that one way of making a difference in countries like Cambodia is by donating blood. Now, donating blood has long been on my wish list, but I was too young to do so back home, too “short” to do so in the UK (absolute bollocks!), and too foreign to do so in New Zealand. So, I grabbed my chance when we had the day off. Lucky donates regularly and so he came to get me from the hotel in the morning so we could donate together. Arriving at the hospital, I was greeted by the director and the doctors as if I was royalty. They were so appreciative that I was willing to give up some of my blood to them! This was not a regular hospital, but also invited young mothers and their children for a free nutritional breakfast every single morning to ensure they started their day well. And seeing what amazing work they did, made me all the more certain about doing it here. A preliminary prick and I was given a sad tap on the shoulder and I was pointed to the door. I burst out in tears, asking what was wrong, and got a massive cuddle from a few nurses who kindly said: “Lady, you too small. You need your blood more than us.” I was unhappy the whole day... and vowed there and then that I was going to be donating blood in Australia, no matter what the cost. (And I eventually did)

After that minor debacle, I returned back to hotel a soppy mess, and started packing our bags before having breakfast. We were able to leave the bags at the reception until the end of the day, so we did not have to carry them around whilst wandering around the streets of Seam Reap for the last time. We found a stall that did pancakes and my day was suddenly brightened up significantly :)

We had our final dinner at our usual local spot in one of the side-streets. While we were eating, an old homeless man, whom we had seen roaming around before, begged us for money. We had been trying on several occasions to get him to join us for dinner, but every time he got a shock when we addressed him and walked away. Being an emotional bag that day, I was determined not to let him get away. But again the old man refused, too embarrassed, maybe even too proud. The locals must have been watching us as they were all in on trying to get the old man to finally give in. As soon as he sat down, the lovely stall-holder and her children prepared him a thick broth of rice and meat, something which would fill him up a lot more than our well presented meals. It filled our hearts with joy that he wouldn't be going hungry that evening. As a buddhist country, compassion and giving to others is regarded highly and we were happy to be able to end our time in this country helping someone out, as small as the gesture was. And it just shows that the kindness of others does rub off on you, no matter what language they speak, no matter whether you know them or not. And that is a priceless feeling, which we sadly did not encounter whilst in Vietnam.

This country is worth its weight in gold and more. Kindness, compassion and beauty all go hand in hand and it was with a heavy heart that we said our goodbyes, hoping to make it a “see you soon again” instead. We love Cambodia!!

If you want to see all of our pictures, simple follow this free public link to our albums: Temples of Angkor 1
Temples of Angkor 2

Posted by Fat Face 21:33 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

South East Asia: Vietnam to Cambodia

South East Asia December 2012 – January 2013

sunny

The junk boat cruise was an unusual way to spend the last day of the day of the old year and the area left us somewhat underwhelmed... This made us think twice about our plans to catch a sleeper-train into the heart of the country. After some quick pondering, we realised Vietnam was not ticking the right boxes for us and that we should maybe head over to neighbouring Cambodia a few days earlier than expected. And so, in a mad rush, we borrowed a laptop from the hotel and booked ourselves some flights to the Southern Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as Saigon). We informed the hotel staff about our last minute changes and they were so kind as to go sell our train tickets on for us at the station. They also managed to get us a room for the night in one of the other Rising Dragon hotels. Oh how we owed them!

And so the next morning, on...

Wednesday, 2nd January

… rather than waking up on a sleeper-train half way across the country, we took a flight down to Ho Chi Minh City. There were no direct flights available to any of the Cambodian cities, but we were told that there were regular bus services running between both countries. And once we found our hotel in the city, with a kind upgrade to a larger room as a celebration of the new year, we did not waste time and immediately booked our tickets. We could not believe how cheap the tickets were: $20 for a 12 hour journey! Absolutely incredible. The rest of the day, we had a short wander across the city and bought some supplies for our long journey ahead, such as a few litres of water, some French pastries (of course!) and other nibbles. Ho Chi Minh City definitely had a much nicer vibe than Ha Noi, but that was largely due to the vast climate difference. There was no complaining about the cold here and we were instead welcomed by a warm tropical climate. Not too warm and not too cold, so that even Ben was quite at ease. There were masses of tourists around, which in turn showed a difference in the local's attitudes towards outsiders. At times it seemed more like an act, rather than genuine kindness, but these Vietnamese knew that in times of tourist booms, being friendly was the difference between making an income or going broke. We had a quick meal somewhere and then explored the famous night market, before heading back to the hotel for an early night.

Thursday, 3rd January

We had an early breakfast at the rooftop buffet room of the hotel. No banana pancakes, no fresh French pastries, no happy Emilie. Clear to say I won't be given them full marks on my feedback form! ;) We drove off in the bus around 8am and reached the Vietnamese – Cambodian border roughly around 2pm. Sitting in a bus for such a long amount of time may seem like hell to most people, but we drove by stunning countryside all along the way and we got to catch up on some much needed sleep. The border control represented an almost caricature-like image of both countries. The Vietnamese border patrol were rough, rude, prodded you along from side to side and objected to anyone jumping the queue unless they were fellow countrymen. It was very frustrating. The building was again a reminder of the Soviet state: a bunker like place. And then, a few metres ahead, you enter the Cambodian border patrol station, which might well have been in a different world altogether. Beautiful ornaments adorn the place, smiles all around and such a welcoming feeling. We could not help but let out a sigh of relief. We knew right then and there that we were going to fall in love with this country.

Driving through stunning country side, we finally made it to Cambodia's gorgeous capital Phnom Penh. A connecting bus should have been awaiting us there to take us to Siem Reap, but we were casually told that we missed it. You should have seen the look on our fellow traveller's faces: they were absolutely livid, shouting at the locals, demanding the bus to turn around and get them and all sorts of other nasty stuff. We weren't all that fussed, to be honest: we had made it out of Vietnam into Cambodia and were going to enjoy every moment of it! We quickly made arrangements to get seats on the next bus and flagged down a tuk-tuk driver to take us on a trip around the city. He recommended the “Killing Fields”, a remnant of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge past.

20130103_154632.jpg 59FC4C6C2219AC68175C3FE25AF95141.jpg

This site will bring shivers up your spine. Cambodia's history is a gruesome one, but when you know the details and you see how the people have gone through hell and back and still manage to show compassion, kindness and live their lives in happiness, that is when your respect for them multiplies a thousandfold.

DSC_1009.jpg

We caught the bus at 6pm and after a long journey through the night, we finally arrived at our destination around midnight. We immediately walked to our hotel and had a really good ssssleep...

For all the pictures of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, please follow this free public link: Phnom Phen and Siem Reap Photos

Posted by Fat Face 21:14 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

South East Asia: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

South East Asia December 2012 – January 2013

overcast

Monday, 31st December

4.30am arrival from Lo Cai station back to Hanoi. The lovely staff of our hotel were already awaiting us and looking at the weary eyes of the fellow tourists, stressfully trying to make their way back into the city, we were incredibly grateful that our hotel took such great care of us. There were no more hotel beds available for us to have a rest, so the staff brought us some pillows and blankets so we could have a sleep on the couches in the dining room. They also lent us the keys to the bathroom and cooked us up a scrumptious breakfast, which really made our day :)

We did not have very long to relax as a bus awaited us at 8am to take us to our next Northern adventure: a junk boat tour across the famous Ha Long Bay. The weather was really dull and grey, with cold northern winds, which probably wasn't the best time to explore the area. It looked nothing like the many pictures we have seen around the internet, but it was impressive nonetheless.

We arrived at our boat around midday and were shown to our individual rooms, which were surprisingly spacious and comfortable.

3C433AAF2219AC68170F6E74BE78769C.jpg

We were sharing the tour with a group of around 15 people: a handful of Koreans and Singaporians, three lovely men from the Maldives, an American couple with a young son, a young Australian couple and a Taiwanese guy and his Vietnamese friend. Lunch was served almost immediately after, followed by a series of very touristy activities. Our tour guide, Seven, was slightly annoying, but we put up with her in the spirit of the looming new year.

And so, all boats were lured to the “Amazing Cave”, named this way as one beautiful cave leads into another, even more beautiful cave, into yet another more more beautiful cave. It was indeed quite amazing. Along with thousands of other excitable tourists, it was a mad rush to get through the caves and make it back in time within the allocated hour. It was a real shame, but we managed to get plenty of stunning pictures.

20121231_160940.jpg

After that, we were given another hour to paddle around the bay on kayaks. The water was freezing cold and I seriously felt no desire to get wet, so Ben teamed up with an Australian guy from Canberra named Kyle. They seemed to have a good time, but did end up getting their gear entirely soaked. Happy I made the right call!

20121231_165255.jpg

Dinner was served around 6.30pm and then we all awkwardly waited around, wondering what else was on the program for us. The Vietnamese don't celebrate New Year at the same time as us Westeners, but the boat crew clearly felt obliged to throw us a party, so they asked us to gather back in the dining room around 10pm for a “party”. This gave us enough time to have a long nap, before spending what would surely classify as being the most surreal evening in our lives. Nothing more to that: just surreal.

DSC_0847.jpg

Tuesday, 1st of January 2013

  • Happy New Year! *

3C4C47E32219AC68173397118D5A6DE6.jpg

We had to get our breakfast before checking out of our rooms. No delicious pancakes this time around, which was a bit of a disappointment... but, we did get offered a cooking lesson. Our tour guide Seven was teaching us all how to make Vietnamese spring-rolls. Ben had a go at it. Can you guess which one was his?

20130101_101721.jpg 20130101_101734.jpg

We got to try them out over lunch and they were luckily quite a bit tastier than they looked. The end of lunch also marked the end of our little cruise.

Posted by Fat Face 21:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

South East Asia: Sapa, Vietnam

South East Asia December 2012 – January 2013

Friday, 28th December

A good 10 hours later, at the inhumane hour of 5 in the morning, we arrived at Ló Caí station. Because we ordered a tour, there was no frantic looking for transport or places to stay: we got picked up by a mini-bus, driven to our hotel in Sapa, a good hour or so away, were given a breakfast voucher and the keys to our room. It was all very easy, which suited us just fine. The temperature difference was noticeable with Hanoi: Sapa was by far much colder. And despite the fact that the locals were huddled up in several layers, the air-conditioning was still blaring through all buildings and no heaters were seen. It seemed absurd. And cruel. I thanked my lucky stars that I bought some extra clothes the previous day – my body has become too acclimatised to the heat in Darwin (read: I have become such a wimp!).

After a hearty breakfast, we were awaited by our guide Dao for our first walk of the trip. Today, a day-trip through the local nearby villages was scheduled. It was a small walk that lasted approximately 5 hours and we had a really good time. We went through H'Mong villages where arts and crafts were sold. It gave a wonderful insight to the their life-styles, which have barely been touched by globalisation and modernisation.

20121228_103016.jpg

We then walked on to a stunning waterfall, attended a traditional dance show and basically enjoyed the stunning rice-fields that surrounded us. We ended the walk with a lovely lunch before heading back to the hotel.

20121228_113839.jpg DSC_0377.jpg

In the afternoon, we visited the markets in Sapa. Because most visitors come here to do walks and hikes, the town is a mecca for buying cheap hiking gear. We both waterproof jackets, Ben bought himself some hiking boots and trousers, etc. The materials get bought at local prices from the big factory in Hanoi, so we got the best quality at the best price. We were really chuffed!

Saturday, 29th December

After a night of shivers, another day in beautiful Sapa took place. This time, we were going to do a two day hike with local H'Mong guide Sô. We were really lucky, Sô was great and we were grouped with some great people, who we got along with really well. There was a Dutch couple: Brenda and Roland, soon-to-be-wed Canadian-Australian couple Tegan and Ryan and Kazu, a Japanese guy. That evening, we would all be staying in a home-stay and we had a long journey to go.

20121230_132725.jpg
Our guide Sô

The scenery was gorgeous, but what had the biggest impact was the local H'Mong people who walked with us.

DSC_0507.jpg

There was a group of women with a few children and all of them were beautifully clothed in traditional gear, kind-hearted and so interesting and rewarding to be around. We did realise that they were hoping to sell us some of their handcrafted goods at the end of the walk, but we cherished their company and decided to deal with the business-side of things afterwards. We were tourists after all and meeting them was definitely worth spending a few dollars on. Ben and I had our own to “chaperones”, as I called them. One woman was called Penh, the other one was called Son. If we lagged behind, they would wait for us. If we struggled through the muddy country-tracks, they lent us a hand, they were never far away. And every now and then, they would create things with twigs, teach us a few words in their local language and show us around.

DSC_0472.jpg
beautiful Penh

We arrived at our home-stay in the late afternoon and were free to roam around for a few hours until dinner would be served. Every couple did their own thing and Ben and I decided to go for a little walk. As we walked past the sleepy little village, we came across a massage parlour and thought now was as good a time as ever to get our first ever massage. I mean, the Vietnamese were renowned for their good massages, right? We went back to the hotel, got changed into something a little cleaner and asked Tegan to join us. She was going to have a relaxing bath, whilst we were having our massages. We were welcomed with a cleansing tea and a bowl of grated, sun-baked ginger slices. They were surprisingly delicious. And then, we each got taken into separate massage rooms. Thankfully, the beds were equipped with electric blankets, so we did not freeze to death.

The massage involved “cupping”, which was a real South East Asian thing. If we had done some proper research on it beforehand, we would have never gone for it, but we were gullible. The massage itself was great, but the cupping was nothing more than torture and we were left with giant circular bruises for the following five days!!

20121231_231657.jpg

Sunday, 30th December

We woke up around 9am and were served a massive plate of delicious pancakes. Yusss! We then all got ready and left the host-family at 10am, ready for the last part of our hike. The temperatures had dropped considerably since the previous day, and it was misty and rainy, with no sun to warm us up this time around. We therefore all decided to opt for the “easier” version of the walk back, which lead us to a small place with a waterfall where we would be stopping for lunch. We were told you could climb the waterfall, but no one seemed as keen to go for the extra trek, so Ben and I went alone, chaperoned by a gorgeous nine year old H'Mong girl named Se. It was a very slippery climb up and if it weren't for Se, the little mountain goat, I would have most certainly taken a few tumbles.

20121230_120431.jpg
waterfall

We were told later that day that moments after climbing the waterfall, the temperatures dropped below zero and the water had frozen over. In a way it made me feel a lot better for my constant whinging and moaning about the horrid cold.

After a short walk, a bus took us back to the hotel where we were able to have a (cold) shower and change into warmer clothes. We took a last stroll along the markets and then waited for our bus back to Lo Cai station where we would be receiving our final meal of the day before heading back on the sleeper train to Hanoi. No need for apprehension this time, we were both very much looking forward to the warmth and comfort of our bunks!!

To see of our pictures from our time in Sapa, please visit the following free photo albums:
Sapa Album 1
Sapa Album 2

Posted by Fat Face 21:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

South East Asia: Ha Nôi, Vietnam

South East Asia December 2012 – January 2013

overcast

Tuesday, 25th December (continued)

We arrived at Hanoi airport and after aimlessly walking about for a while, we bought ourselves a sim card and made our way to a mini-bus to take us into the city. Armed with a map, we strolled around the lake to find a charming spectacle of people dancing, waltzing and aerobics'ing to some cheesy tunes. Fighting the urge to watch them go on through the night, we made it to what we assumed was our hotel, only to find out that there were no less than seven “Dragon Hotels” spread around the capital. We did eventually make it to the right one.

Wednesday, 26th December

“Gooooood Morning, Vietnam!”, oh how I longed to utter those words! ;)

Here we were, in Hanoi, with absolutely no plans other than starting the day with a scrumptious banana-pancake breakfast. If there is one good thing about the French colonising Vietnam, it is without a doubt the legacy of pastries and baked goods they left behind. And how I have a soft spot for old-fashioned bakeries and patisseries!

The people at the reception of the hotel were incredibly helpful and friendly and so we inquired about the tours around Northern Vietnam. They had complete packages available at reasonable prices and so we decided to just go for it. It would save us so much hassle and we heard really good reviews from the other guests of the hotel. And so the morning was spent deciding on what tours and packages to go for. It was great to have the next few days entirely organised.

DSC_0119.jpg DSC_0120.jpg

The first thing we did was look up a local tailor. Our good friend Pablo and his husband Glenn had their wedding suits made in Hanoi and we had promised to hand in photos of the ceremony to the tailor and his daughters. They were incredibly grateful for the pictures and we were happy to help put a smile on someone's face. And how gorgeous were their suits?

Pablo_and_Glenn.jpg
Pablo and Glenn at their ceremony, looking lovely in their handmade suits!

Next, we decided to visit some of Hanoi's local attractions. It is a really easy city to explore on foot and so we walked along to the Temple of Literature. The weather was dreary and grey, so it was not the best time to explore the place, but it was nonetheless interesting.

DSC_0140.jpg
Temple of Literature.

We then went on to visit the Botanics, which included the One Pillar Pagoda. There was a swarm of tourists surrounding it, so we enjoyed it from a distance.

20121226_163556.jpg DSC_0183.jpg
One Pillar Pagoda

As we walked on, the atmosphere suddenly changed and it was as though we landed ourselves in Communist Russia. We had arrived at a large pathway, clearly used for Communist parades and with the dullness brought on by the weather, it felt somewhat uncomfortable. We were quite happy to get away and walk on.

DSC_0169.jpg

Our final stop took us to another beautiful temple on the lake, before we went back to the hotel.
20121226_170736.jpg
hahaha, no shorts allowed!

Thursday, 27th December

[Happy Birthday, to my uncle Peter!]

We had only spent a few days in Hanoi, but already had enough of it. Somehow, the vibe we got from venturing the city the previous day was not a very good one. It felt desolate, empty, cold and the locals were far from what we expected. None of the promised friendliness, except for the lovely people at our hotel. It really was a disappointment. We wandered the streets a little and got our belongings ready for our trip ahead to the Northern tribes.

20121226_134417.jpg

That evening, we took the sleeper train from Hanoi to Ló Caí. It was Ben's very first time on a sleeper train and he was both excited and apprehensive. There was absolutely no need for the latter, as the berth we were given was outstanding. We were a little worried at first, as all the 'comfortable' soft beds were fully booked and we had to make do with the supposed hard beds in 'cattle class'. The benches were made of solid wood, but the mattresses were lovely and comfortable, so we were very happy bunnies. And at the first movement of the train, Ben was already out like a light ;)

20121227_200755.jpg

For more pictures of our time in Hanoi, please access this public free link to our Facebook album: Ha Noi Photo Album

Posted by Fat Face 21:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 43) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 »