Vietnam (entries 9-15)
"Darn Coke bottles!"
July 2nd 2002
In the Lotus hotel and I’m very satisfied. This is probably the best hotel we’ve been to so far! We arrived in Hue at about 8:30 this morning. Because of the annoyances, that we’ve experience on the train, we decided to take a bus. $9 US with Sinh Café. For shorter distances we’ll take a bus and for longer ones It’s probably better to take a train or plane. Along the way I met a man named “Trung”. Hue is a professor of chemistry at the Hue University of Sciences. He invited Le and I to house for lunch, sometime during our stay in Hue. He introduced himself by opening a coke bottle for me. Darn coke bottles! They sell it, but how do we open’em? He showed me a simple technique and it looks cool too! ~~ Anyway. After an awful night sleep, in my stinking clothes, with cars high beaming me in the face and people in the seats in front of me pushing their seat as far back as possible I have arrived in Hue! While in Hue, if you’re a foreigner and carrying a backpack, should defiantly expect to constantly get hassled to go to the “better and cheaper hotel”. I was told that the north side of the river is much quieter, so I declined all offers, hopped on to a taxi and headed for the “Khac San Hoa Sen” (Lotus Hotel). I’m too happy about my decision. Very clean double room with fancy chairs and an enormous balcony. Oh! And also a very nice bathroom… All for just $13 a night.
"> Hue <"
July 3rd 2002
Hue is like a little of many places. Laid back feel of the old California, hip café scene of Paris, (at night) the dreamy feel of those white houses along the shores of Greece, and the genuine friendliness of the Vietnamese people. Oh! Can’t forget the historical sights. Very beautiful city yet still a small city. I feel like we’ve done activities of four days in one. Le and I had the chance of meeting a group of very good people, all helping to run “Thu on Wheels” (motorbike tour company). The head poncho is Thu. She and her “brothers” (mostly cousins) made our stay in Hue very enjoyable. A motorbike tour of Hue and surroundings for $6 a person. She also owns a restaurant with delicious food and cheap.. Cheap.. Cheap.. Prices. We visited two tombs of great kings and two pagodas. I finally got a picture (several actually) of monks. We also visited the “Japanese Bridge” which isn’t that interesting, but the scenery on the way was all worth the trip. Rice fields that stretched for miles, with a backdrop of plush and also bare mountains. We passed some duck farms and saw a duck shepherd. I’ll let you guess what that is…. On the way to Duc’s tomb we drove at least 15 minutes, surrounded by thousands and thousands of burial plots. One extremely giant cemetery. We were traveling fast too! It just wouldn’t end. Later we shopped around for a bit and came back to the hotel. Taxi driver tried to rip us off so we only paid half the price. Ha! Pissed him off. I read in my lonely planet guidebook about a restaurant surrounded by a lotus pond. It said, “Nothing beats the atmosphere”. We arrived to discover that every does. There are holes in the bridge leading to the restaurant. When you enter you see a bunch of small plastic chairs and a joint that seems like it’s been abandoned. White fluorescent lights along the walls. We didn’t get the food we ordered because, and I quote, “I was afraid you wouldn’t like it”. What he’d thought we’d like turned out to cost more. Also the owner has a dog that’s definatly been beaten several times. It doesn’t show physically, but when you go as far as point to it it’s eyes shut, squeals, lowers it’s head and dodges while jumping back very quickly. Anyway what I’m trying to say is that I was definatly not satisfied with the “Huong Sen” restaurant. TOO EXPENSIVE.. When we left we walked for a bit, got lost, started to rain hard, and we called a taxi. I’ve shaven, showered, and sleepy. Night night!
July 4th 2002
We were almost robbed! Those darn cyclo drivers. “Hello my friend… We are broda… You want cyclo cheap?” After some bargaining the price went down to 25000 dong for each cyclo. We headed off to the market then Sinh Café and our final destination, the post office. My drivers’ words were “Okay! 25000 for hour.. 2 hours.. 2 people” With a smile on his face “100,000 dong!” What! 100,000.. I told him to take the fifty and stop wasting my time. Well.. They followed and argued a lot. He told us he’d be waiting at our hotel. Ha! He wasn’t there… I called his bluff. Though I shouldn’t feel so proud about it. The situation is still fresh so… Anyway.. Today we visited the imperial enclosure. Spent three hours there. Extremely beautiful. The high point was the hue college of arts, inside the enclosure. Many wonderful sculptures. A paradise for a picture taker like myself. Almost had an orgasm! I think I would have it were possible.. lol .. After exiting the enclosure we met the “friendly” cyclo drivers I mentioned earlier. Tonight was a truly unique experience. We met five guys from Vinh city. All here for the entrance exam for the Hue University. These guys (Dat, Tuan, Kuan and I forget the other two’s names) were extremely nice. They wanted to know about us as wee did about them. After a while of walking I offered to treat them all to a drink of sugarcane. They refused, but I also refused to accept their refusal… We had a laugh and also the drinks. After an exchange of address’ and numbers they were on their way..
"A lot done!"
July 13th 2002
I’ve been reading so much lately that I haven’t had time, but I realize now that I better put all this on paper now before my memory starts to fade J.. We left Hue and head to a little town called Hoi An. I would say that it had to be the cheapest city in Vietnam, but for that reason we spent the most there. The tailor city is what I’ll remember it as. Had many clothes made and stayed at a fancy hotel with satellite TV (though the staff wasn’t too eager to please. We met some nice people in Hue and it was all very relaxing for me. Left Hue headed towards Nha Trang by bus (without tilting seats). On the way there we met a couple from Milwaukee. They were both sunburned to a toast and had decided to skip Nha Trang upon arrival. Very nice people… Our heads turned that day (at least twice). We couldn’t find a decent hotel for a decent price so we headed back to our start point (Sinh Café). Had some fruit shakes and started our quest to find a hotel once again. This time motorbike drivers were all over us. “ I help you find hotel”. He continued to repeat a couple of times, that he knew of a beach front hotel with plenty of hot water and space, until I understood his “almost English”. Stupidly we decided to go with him only to find a hotel with a water park view and for $17 a night. We refused and had them take us to another place, paid them 5000 dong each and found a room for $7 a night. It seemed an amazing deal at first, but then we realized that we were located next door to two karaoke bars. We went to sleep pretty late so it didn’t bother us… My favorite things about Nha Trang were 1- Bumping into a couple and their friend (Agnes, Maurice and Binh). We had seen them several times and chatted once before in Hoi An. We had a dinner at the candle light café, exchanged emails and said goodbye. They were the kind of people I can see my self being close friends with. Agnes & Maurice were on a trip of a life time (9 month backpacking trip through out the world) and had met up with Binh, who they knew from Holland, in Vietnam before he headed back to Holland. 2- the kind hotel and restaurant staff that we met and 3- the 25-year-old looking 40-year-old monk that I exchanged emails with. Really!… Exchanged emails with a monk!. Who would’ a thought? Nha Trangs beaches were at times tacky and a bit higher priced than usual, but it was very nice.. Though I haven’t been to any California beaches… I can imagine people comparing it to that. We stayed about 4 nights. I also bought some books there> “Unpacked” a book about tragic backpacking trips and “Stream of Wisdom” which is a book to help you realize the roots and meaning of Buddhism. We departed to Mui Ne and on our way there, we made a short stop at Ca Na beach. Very quite, white sands, turquoise waters and the occasional jelly fish that washed onto shore. Beautiful! I became anxious and ran to the bus driver. “Is this how Mui Ne is?” He replied “Yes, of course!” Man! I was so happy. After exchanging buses at Phan Thiet we were taken to Mui Ne. Upon arrival I knew this city wasn’t that big a deal. I was told that the typhoon in the Philippines had sent high waves to the beaches. They looked horrible. Black from some kind of mineral and the hotel’s property was collapsing into the waters.
(***read on to part two***)
"A lot done (part 2)"
We immediately decided that we’d head back to Ca Na the next day. During our stay we rented a motorbike and after a two-minute lesson I decided to take it for a spin. Le was reluctant to get on, but I convinced her. We rode for 2 hours and searched for the sand dunes. When we arrived it was too dark to see anything so we headed back. A monk invited us to have breakfast with them, but we had to decline the next morning because we were to head back to Ca Na… Now I’m sitting on a beach bungalow listening to the waves and watching the stars twinkle. Earlier today Le and I made a steep climb to a temple (in the mountains) and climbed further up to find a giant flat boulder that looked over the tiny beach below. Le did it all in bare feet. I think it’s a Vietnamese thing. She’s sleeping now, but we’re going to head to a close by restaurant for dinner later.
July 22nd 2002
I have mixed feeling about Ca Na beach. It was beautiful, but I wouldn’t recommend staying there longer than a day. The food and accommodations weren’t that great. No right to complain though, it is a small town and I did enjoy everything else. Again> the scenery was absolutely gorgeous, but it’s the strangest town we’ve been to so far. It was like an episode of “Erie Indiana”, hotel staff was quite odd. We stayed for two nights and as a result got sick. We’re now in Ho Chi Minh city (Pham Ngu Lao area). Until this morning, I thought we’d been here for only five nights, but after checking the calendar I realized it’s really been eight. Eight days! Man! What the? What a shock… Anyway, many interesting things have happened. I bought a giant Buddha head. My shopping is almost complete. All I need now is a couple of presents for friends and family back home… Home.. I miss it so much…. As I was saying interesting things have happened, not all good, a crazy man wanted to fight me today. I was getting ready for a fight, had my dukes up. I really didn’t want to hit anyone during my whole trip and plus my girlfriend was there. I was scared to, seemed like genuine hate. Was just hoping the parks security would show up, and that they did. They handled him; I just couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. …. .. We’ve visited many “on the list” places. Museums, galleries, fancy joints, markets etc.. Those markets are so fun, everyone’s out to make an extra buck Being that we’ve been in Vietnam for about 2 months now; we’ve gotten the handle on bargaining. All the things we’ve bought - wouldn’t have been able to buy half as much if we hadn’t bargained. Some items can be reduced to a third of its original price. .. Earlier today we shopped around for a fancy restaurant. We found a really nice one, equipped with a piano and a man to play it!!! This was an upper class restaurant and it came to $11 USD. Can you believe it? For the both of us! 11 USD! . . I’m gonna try to spend more the next time I come back. Brought $2000 CAN and only spent half so far. I’ve been thinking a lot in Saigon, maybe too much. I’m now sitting on a toilet, it’s 3 am, in my hotel and Le is sleeping. I’m just thinking and planning and I don’t “think” it’ll stop for some time. My belly is hurting, gonna drink some nuoc mia (sugar cane juice) and try to head to bed.
"Back in Hai Phong"
July 29th 2002
12 days in Saigon was much more than enough to see it all. We booked plane tickets with Sinh café – from Saigon to Hai Phong. We got tickets for the 27th, arrived at the airport at 4am only to find it closed until 5am. Doors opened and after a long wait inside, we got let into the main grounds. Our flight number didn’t show up, so I had my plane ticket checked, only to realize that we came one day too late. A mistake was made with our ticket… Long story short, we waited for standby tickets until 7am. The only tickets available were business/first class. Forked over $77 US in total and headed to Hai Phong via Da Nang. Upon arrival, a car picked the first class flyers and drove us 5 meters to the exit. I couldn’t help to feel a bit embarrassed, along with the other two first class flyers. We walked out the airport, bargained with drivers and headed to Co Chins’. Man! Hai Phong is laid back; you really realize it coming from Saigon. I remember leaving here, not being able to cross the street on my own. After the streets of Saigon, Ha! No problem! Le and I are getting to se the city more, since we have more time to ourselves… Coming back this time to a new face, Le’s brother. Our trip crosses paths before we depart. We’re going to head back to Hanoi on the 31st and head home on august 8th. 10 more to go! Can’t wait to decorate my home with all the artifacts I’ve bought. I love Vietnam, but really starting to miss Toronto. I’m sure after settling back home; I’ll miss Vietnam just as much.
"A bitter sweeat entry"
August 4th 2002
We left Hai Phong yesterday morning. Many tears fell, but my face was well and dry. Though I was very sad. I’ve become very close to Le’s family and see them as part of my own family now. 3 days ago was the most un-enjoyable day for us in Vietnam. On our way to Bac Chuangs’ (Le’s uncle) the taxi driver decided to go in the opposite direction. We told him to stop, but he just wouldn’t here it. After some shouting he stopped and we got out. We told him that we weren’t paying him and walked away. He stood in front of me and we argued for a while. By this time a crowd had formed and for some reason they took his side. I got tired of arguing and out of anger, threw the money in his direction (real disrespect in Vietnamese culture). He now wanted me to pick up the money and hand it to him. I refused and he jumped towards Le. Next thing I knew was that he was in my arms (choke hold) and gasping for air. I slammed him on my knee and threw him into the crowd. Another was holding le and I pushed him off. Now this guy wanted to fight me (gave me a signal.. in a Bruce Lee type stance). This guy could kick my ass easy and now a crowd had formed, against us. I think it was the drivers’ neighborhood. We walked away and to our relief saw a police officer. No help though! He was more concerned about the fact that I threw the money than anything else. He told the driver to go and we left as well. This whole ordeal angered me more than scared, but I could tell that Le was terrified. I just felt so bad that my stubbornness added to the deceit of the driver pushed it so far and gave this memory to Le. For the remainder of that night, I was angry with all of Vietnam. All I could think was “how uncivilized these people must be. Uneducated bastards!”, but as I said, I was very angry and I knew these harsh feelings would wear off. And so it did. The next day, we met much of the family to give our last goodbyes and we were truly touched by them all. I regret nothing about this trip and would definatly do it again. There’s now three more days left, before we head to Toronto. Last minute shopping, a few phone calls and the remainder of the time will be spent with Le’s family in Hanoi. We’ve grown very close now. It’s night-night for me now. Everyone else is already asleep.