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Sunday 10 Jun
Hanoi, Vietnam

Nazi Women, Hardcore Isrealis and Plastic Penguins!!

We're still alive peeps, just a bit slack on the ol' updates, and about 7 weeks behind. Got lots of new photos on now so have a peek..... here y'go!!

We left Phonsavan in Laos for Hanoi, Vietnam, which we knew would be another boneshaking 15+ hour journey by the local bus and train. Usual SE Asian bus, people crammed on and sitting on top of each other and in the aisle on kids plastic chairs, but we were lucky and had the back seats with everyones luggage piled next to us but at least we could stretch our legs out, BONUS!!
Poor Israeli dude (who we now know as Hardcore Amir) was stuck infront of one dude chain smoking the whole way and the bloke in front being sick out of the window for 10 hours. It was a toss up between window open to breath or window shut to stop being splattered by chicken and rice remnants..Lucky man...

Had fun with the boys at the back learning a few Vietnamese basics, Numbers and hello, thank you and all that, being the linguistic genius' that we are, we had it licked within the 10 hours but forgot it all a day later..Typical.. Ended up in a place called Vinh in North Vietnam where would get the train to Hanoi from, BUT NO TICKETS LEFT FOR 2 DAYS... ARRRGGGHHH, lucky there was a few women touting tickets outside, and we were on way up to Hanoi a few hours later on a suprisingly modern train with OK seats..But for 12 hours...

24 hours, and no sleep later, pissed off with the hotel touts harassing us at the train station, we were in Hanoi with our strictly kosher friend Amir as he was going the same way, but spent the next 2 hours in pissing down rain wandering around town looking for a budget place to crash in.. Hanoi is absolute madness even at 6am, with what seemed like all the worlds Hondas (and Chinese copies) interweaving through the junctions at light speed with no regard for personal safety, but with a suprising art of not hitting each other...

We finally ended up at a cheap place, which happened to be the place that the first tout tried to get us into at the train station, cos I said I had a good feeling about it?!?!?! Well I know I'm not always right but this place took the biscuit. TV didnt work, room was up 10 flights of stairs, no lock on the door, etc etc etc. But being knackered and wet, and after no sleep we thought we'de cop it for the night. The owner seemed a lovely lady at first, but once she had our passports, out come the tour books and the hard sell. She was, without offending our Kosher friend "A NAZI". Whenever she had the chance she would tell us "SIT DOWN" and "YOU LISTEN ME NOW" and rant on about having to book a tour with her. We ended up having to try and sneak out of the place if we wanted to go out or she would have us in a headlock till we signed up.... Beeyaaatch.

Anyways.. had a few good days in Hanoi, wandering aimlessly, and drinking at the local 'Bia Hoi's' (Fresh Beer shops) where you just sit on the street on kids plastic chairs and tables (cheap and easy to pack up we presume) and get pissed on $1 jugs!!!!

Spent a good afternoon at the Museum of Ethnology, which explains the history and culture of Vietnam with walk through displays and the like, which really opened our eyes to all the hardship that Vietnamese people have been through the last 80 or so years.
These guys were on a food ration system up until 1985 where you had to queue for a day for a bag of rice, register bikes and radios, had countless fights against colonialisation from the French through to the Chinese, endless war's between themselves (North Vs South), and not to mention all that American nonsense in the 60's (don't get me started on that one). This really explains why most Viets over 40 are a hardcore bunch, and take no shit!! Although officially still Communist, it runs with Capitalist ideologies (big word for me) and is changing at such a pace that only the younger generations can really get their heads around it.

Anyway, less of the serious stuff.. We thought we might as well see some of the North while we're here and decided to go to Halong Bay (boat and island tour), which is no cheaper to do on your own, Paul n Debs style, as the bay is monopolised by all the tour companies. So we bit the bullet and booked our first 'PACKAGE TOUR', but not with the Nazi.
We've heard lots of horror stories about us poor westerners getting ripped off when booking tours, so we went with Debs 'good feeling' and booked with an Aussie owned place, and it turned out OK!! Halong Bay (which means decending dragon) is dotted with lots of beautiful limestone cliffs and peaks which somewhat resemble a dragon snaking in and out of the water, if you squint enough, and has fantastic water for a swim, which we did from the boat!! Turns out after seeing some of the other boats sailing about we were actually on one of the better ones and not crammed in like sardines.

Went to visit a cheesy cave which was a bit on the fake side, lots of Korean/Japanese groups going through with their guide holding up a 'Tour Group' sign incase they got lost, and shouting through a megaphone incase they were deaf. Mood lighting, handrails, and 3 foot high plastic penguin rubbish bins throughout, really made the experience genuine....
After a lovely night on the boat we were ushered like sheep to Cat Ba island and checked into a lovely brand new hotel. Now Cat Ba, for those that don't know is a bit like a downmarket Vietnamese Gold Coast, or an upmarket Blackpool for my english readers, you get the idea. We bumped into Amir on the Island who amazingly, after showing us his typical Isreali zero tolerance for pressure sales (hence the name Hardcore Amir) had booked the same tour with the Nazi. He paid a lot less but got what he paid for, 30 people squashed onto a just afloat boat, unidentifiable meat for meals (so just plain rice again for our Kosher companion) and a cockroach infested hotel on Cat Ba. Never mind eh!!

Back to Hanoi after the tour, and by this time we revealed the magic formula of crossing the road, just walk and dont look, they dont wanna hit you as much as you dont wanna be hit. Also got familiar with the streets in the old quarter, not the names but what was sold on them, so if we got lost I would refer to my portable GPS system (Debs) and it be "Ok, go up Toy St. do a left up Door Handle Pde. and then turn right at Shoe Rd." Easy!!

We also went to visit the Mausoleum of the revered Ho Chi Minh, who was Vietnams fearless leader througout the American war and the reunited the North/South divide and made Vietnam an independant country again. Now uncle 'Ho' is actually embalmed a lá Mao and Stalin, and is on display for all people to come and pay their respects. No photos of him i'm afraid for fear of getting shot by the 4 armed soldiers that constantly guard his body. Bit macabre really but a bit of history in the flesh (or formaldahyde!).

So that was Hanoi for us then.... Were working our way down south, even though as I write this we are at the southern most point of Vietnam cos were a couple of lazy buggers and cant be arsed updating, but we'll fill you in on our past adventures at the next convenient/sober day.....

Laters Alligators!!!

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MASSIVE Chinese statue


Well, we are finally getting our arses into gear!!!! Sold the house, quit our jobs (thanks for working right through babe!!) bought backpacks, had too many injections, booked a loose itinerary and now were off!!! Will keep you all posted..WISH US LUCK!!!

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