Saturday, March 21, 2009

Notre Dame Saigon Photos and the Chu Chi tunnels

Well Frank's split and I've left Vietnam for Cambodia. Before I left I visited the Chu Chi tunnels which were amazing. This was the tunnels were the VC's hid from the Americans during the war. It was kind of like an amusement park whose central theme is "Do not fuck with Vietnam". The booby traps they employed were the stuff of nightmare. Clever spikes traps that stuck in the knees or the armpits, all designed to cause maximum damage.

I also shot an AK 47 which was awesome, obviously! I scored 8/10 too.

Besides that I got some pics inside the wonderful Notre Dame cathedral there which I'm delighted with. Regardé...

Queen of Ho Chi Man

Neon Virgin of Saigon

Thank You Saint Anthony

Right now I'm in Phnom Phem in Cambodia and think I'm going to hang around for two weeks here and train. There's a decent kick boxing gym here and I'll be interested to see if its much different from the Thai version. The Cambodians are fantastic and everyone I've met has been really lovely and has a great sense of humor. Even the drug dealers and pimps are a good laugh. When I explain I can't go to a lady for "Boom Boom" because I have a wife and she'll kill me (An imaginary wife is a great asset when traveling) or I can't smoke weed because I play for Man united they roar with laughter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nha trang, Yop and war on the streets.

The notorious FTG and I bust out of Hoi An after seeing My Son and hit Nah Trang by night bus.

Amazingly I had quite a good nights sleep. FTG complained endlessly and unfortunately had his headphones pinched, personally I think he lost them.

Anyway Nha Trang is just an average beach resort with no real heart to speak of. Nowhere near as pretty as Hoi An. I was starting to get really pissed off with Vietnam and was looking forward to making an exit. But FTG stumbled upon a rose amongst the thorns, the UB 58 hotel with our lovely and completely mental host Miss Yop. She spent most of her days punching and kicking Frank and I for being cheeky obviously FTG being even more of a mouth than me got the brunt of it. My favourite moment being Yop running down the corridor to kick Frank in the shin and tell him he was dangerous. Frank being no more dangerous than the common garden vole, was delighted.

Anyway on our first night there we decided to try some buckets. The last thing I recall was buying my third. Thankfully FTG was at hand to put me back in the hotel while he went back out in the night. And it wasn't pretty, there were young westerners getting a hammering all over the street. Kids on mopeds pulling up beside them and cracking them with helmets. Frank literally had to run for his life and was pursued. Unfortunately having no idea where he was, he just ran for an age Forest Gump style trying to avoid being robbed and beaten. Thankfully he made it home in one piece but surrounded by about feral twenty locals. The brilliant people at our hotel saved the day rescuing him street low life's pursuing him. But in fairness I'm surprised if Frank doesn't get chased by irate locals wherever he goes.

So the UB58 people where awesome, essentially they adopted us (probably realizing we shouldn't be trusted with scissors never mind traveling by ourselves) While we waited for our night train we just hung with them in their living room watching telly. For some reason I was asked to chat to their daughter in Germany over Skype. I thought I was just going online and there was this Vietnamese lady waving at me.

But what a night train it was! We were first class and had the cabin to ourselves. Finally Grimshaw and Field had gotten a break. A few beers and Ritz crackers later and we woke up in Saigon.

As I write this I'm being poked and prodded and slapped on the arse by the women who work at the hotel. They are unbelievable here. It like a kind of local sport "Slap a Whitey!"

See you in Cambodia

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vietnam, F T Grimshaw and cheating death on racing Mototaxis

Well after a week in Vietianne I was more than ready to go. Its a chilled city with none of the ATM issues I experienced elsewhere. Unfortunately there's not a lot to do unless you enjoy the grim, illicit and disease ridden thrills of sleeping with prostitutes and/or lady boys. However there is Buddha Park which is pretty cool.

Into the mouth of hell

There is also Pra That Luang. Le Super Super photo pic

Pha That Luang

Waiting to walk

The hand factory

That is pretty much it.

Eventually I bust out to Vietnam and met Frank. We stayed at the Backpacker Hostel in Hanoi which is pretty much were all the travellers go. However being a pair of utter fools we decided that it wasn't for us we needed to find another bar area. After a meal at a street cafe that included a whole frog we hit Hanoi and immediately got lost. An hour or so later we found a bar. Possibly the most expensive bar in Hanoi but we hit it hard and the Barmen appreciatively gave us a ton of local firewater. Blind drunk and having no idea where we were we took two kindly scam artists up on their offers of a ridiculously overpriced moped ride back to the hotel. Not content with dealing with the shady underbelly of Hanoi we decided to sweeten the deal, add a bit of spice to the broth, some magic to the night.

"Right! we'll give 10$ extra to whoever gets us back first."

Being gambling men, they took off like the hounds of hell and pelted us through the narrow lanes and traffic strangled streets. I'm serious, it was like something out of Akira.

Elated and wild eyed from adrenaline we purchased two more beers. Both of which remind untouched by our respective bedside when we woke the following day.

The driving here is mental, they joyfully drive full tilt on the wrong side of the road with gay abandon and seemingly unaware of the terminal results of a head on collision.

We checked out the Hanoi Hilton the following day. A pretty grim place overall. As was Hanoi to be honest. We spent most our time trying not to be knocked down crossing the street and being punched in the arm by grumpy old ladies trying to sell you total crap.

Hanoi cafe

I Think these next two photos speak for themselves...

Listening to Frank


However we made it out to Halong Bay which was very beautiful even under a blanket of mist. We spent the night on the boat and they had trapped drinking their expensive beer and trying to force karaoke on us. We tried to explain there is a basic formula that would work.... More booze = Singing. But they were fine with us not singing and just paying through the nose for beer.

Back to Hanoi and on to the Night bus! The night bus was an 18 hour trip down the coast to Danang then on to Hoi An. We missed the soft sleepers and got the hard sleepers instead. Which was deeply annoying. We found our beds then I got chucked out of mine by some irate Local man. Thinking I had done something taboo I was a good middle class westerner and duly moved. Then I looked at my ticket and found out I was a dumbass westerner too as it was actually my bed. Using the mix of pointing and speaking English as a foreign language I got my bed back as it turned out he was in the wrong cabin.

Wonderfully as he left after the hooha the bottle of vodka we had bought for the trip fell from my bag and broke into a million pieces on the cabin floor. The cabin not being much bigger than a public toilet was covered in glass and Vodka.

Obviously this went down like a cup of cold sick with my fellow cabin mates who stood outside tutting while I mopped up the precious booze.

The Vietnamese have a very different understanding of body space and really are one breath away of sitting in you lap. The older gentleman I share the bottom bunks with thought nothing of coughing in my face as I put my shoes on... Nice. Frank got his bottom smacked several times by the man he bought some beer from and we both keep getting punched in the arm.

However its a great way to travel despite finding out there was a bar carriage we couldn't find the next day. We're currently in Hoi An and are getting the night bus to Nha Trang.

Peace, Love and death metal!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Observations on Laos

As my time in Laos quickly approaches its end, I feel its time to post my glib observations. Here are some of the things people from Laos like to do:

1) Drink Beer Lao, as ubiquitous as mosquito's and twice as nice. I with them on this one, its ace.

2) Wearing their Tee's rolled up their midriff. When it gets a bit hot, which it has a habit of doing, this is the way all the fly kids wear their Tee's. Accept no substitute.

3) Support Liverpool FC. You'll see the odd other premiership jersey about but Laos is Liverpool to the core. They have massive parties when Liverpool are playing in a serious game. By massive I mean a couple of thousand people watching huge TV screens.

4) Cycling while holding an open umbrella
. This is the speciality of Laotian school girls who gracefully cycle along shading themselves from the hot sun with an umbrella.

5) Wearing face masks.
Like the Thais, the Laotians will throw on a mask if there is a plume of smoke to be seen. Which there often is.

6) Playing with mobile phones. This is a big one. While at the plain of jars my tour and I waited for fifteen minutes while the tour guides rolled up their Tee's and took photos of each other posing in the others shades.

7) Karaoke. If you get a local bus for a long trip and you see a TV on it....prepare. I got blasted on a 7 hour trip from Phonsavan to Vang Vieng. It didn't really bother me that much as I found it kind of hypnotic. An Italian chap I was with however was fit to put a gun in his mouth at the halfway point.

8) Light smoking fires at dawn and at dusk. Principally to get rid of the Mossies. I did find it gave me a cough at least I blamed the fire and not the cheap Laotian fags I was smoking.

9) Ropey ATMs. Just bring a decent stash of dollars or baht with you.

10) Drink Lao Lao. Out in the sticks this is how the roll. Rice whiskey! Which can be strong beJesus, up to 90% proof. Seriously they should think about using this stuff as a fuel source.

Overall I loved Laos. The people in general are lovely. Even the Tuk Tuk drivers in Vientianne are great criac, more than willing to have a joke with you despite you turning down their services. But don't expect it to be super cheap, its not. Being landlocked they have to import everything overland. In a lot of ways I found Thailand cheaper. The food in Laos is excellent. When you tire of Asian cooking there's good Indian and Western food to be had.