Thursday, July 26, 2007

About Time!

Our first bucket of the day!

Steph, Jo, Kris, and Roisin in their tubes.
Sign number 1.Slightly tipsy...

Self-portrait in a tube



Again, we think that means hello, but possibly not. Anywho, you may have guessed by the title and the new language, that we are in a new country. And that country, ladies and gentleman, is fantastic! Setting foot in Laos after being in Vietnam would make anyone breath a sigh of relief. Don't get us wrong, we really enjoyed Vietnam, but the atmosphere here in Laos is just so much more relaxing, refreshing and fun. For example, when you get harassed in the street in Vietnam, it goes something like this:
Cyclo driver: "Madam! Madam! Cyclo? 1 hour? Cyclo?
You : "No thanks"
Cyclo driver: "1 hour! Cyclo! Where you go?"
You : "No"
Cyclo driver : "1 hour! Cyclo! Where you go?"
You (walking faster) : "I don't want a cyclo.We're walking, it's healthy"
Cyclo driver then proceeds to follow you around for ten minutes repeating the only 3 sentences he know in English.

In Laos, it's more like this:
Tuk-Tuk driver: "Tuk-tuk? Waterfalls??"
You: "No thank you"
Tuk-Tuk driver : "Ok"
It's fantastic! And fantastic. That's all.

Anyways, we started our tour of Laos in Luang Prabang, which is a lovely city. It's all green and mountainous around the city and the actualy town is quite cute. We wandered around for a while before meeting Roisin, Matt and Callum for dinner and drinks. On our second day, we got Lao massage (3 dollars for an hour!) where our massage therapists doubled as mosquito killers... we'd be getting massaged and then BAM! She's slapping you, giggling and saying "Mosquito!" The massages were nice though, and after feeling thoroughly relaxed, we decided to climb up a mountain to see the temple and the sunset. There were too many clouds for the sunset, but the temple was pretty. Anyway, thats about it for Luang Prabang... but it might ineterest you to know that the "international" airport is about the size of Fairview.

On Tuesday, we (the six of us) came to Vang Vieng, where the main attractions are re-runs of Friends and Tubing. So, on the night we arrived we got our fill of Friends (our brains went slightly numb) and the next day we went tubing. Tubing was FANTASTIC! The picked us up around 9, and we first headed out to a couple of caves. At the first cave, we had to wear headlights and pull our tubed butts through it with a rope. It was fun. The second cave was less fun, and probably more interesting, but we couldn't really understand what the guide was saying... something about mermaids and eagles and Buddha. After that, we ate rice out of banana leaves and the real fun began... we hit the river!!! So, we got in our tubes and slowly started going down the river... no rapids or anything, just nice, relaxing fun. And then, out of the blue, some Lao guy is sticking out a bamboo stick at you to pull you to shore. You grab on and then there you are, at the most make-shift bar you could ever imagine. It was all made of wood... that is, the bar was made of wood, the floor was made of wood, the walls were made of wood... and so forth and so on. Here, we were faced with two choices: 1) drink your whiskey and coke out of a bucket (that's right, a bucket) or 2) jump off the trapeze from oohh, 15 metres, into the water. Naturally, we did both. After a short break, we got back on our tubes and headed to the next bar. There is literally one ever 200 metres. Each one is essentially the same - booze, trapeze and benches. Good times. Needless to say, we did not stop at all of them, but we sure would have liked to! We did about three (getting a bucket at each - Oh My!) and then headed back. Our first sign that the boys had had too much to drink was when they started dropping their pants for all to see. Our next sign was when they jumped off the trapeze with no pants on. By the time we got back into town, we were probably not walking too straight, either, but at least the girls kept all their clothes on. But we really had a great time!

So tomorrow morning, we are headed out to Laos' capital, Vientiane. Apparently, it's quite nice, so we hope it lives up to its reputation. In the meantime, anyone who has been reading the blog and not posting should get on that immediately. 8 comments is really not enough for us!!! Korp Jai (thank you, we think).

A bientot!

Steph, Kris and Jo

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dragon Tales


So, let's see... last time we "spoke" we were just leaving Nha Trang for Hue. Well, Hue pretty much sucked. In a nutshell, we got screwed into getting up way too early, Kristelle burned her calf on a motorbike and we walked around in the sweltering heat for two hours trying to find the friggin citadel. When we finally found it, we were too hot and annoyed to really look around, so we were quite quick about it. That night, we took an overcrowded (as in, people sitting on stools in between the aisles of seats) 12-hour bus to Hanoi.

In Hanoi, we celebrated Kristelle's birthday in style. And by that I mean we went to the hospital to tend to her leg. The night was more stylish... we featsed on pizza and pasta (ooohh, so not Vietnamese!) and then hit a few bars with Matt, Callum and Roisin (our buddies from the sand dunes) where we enjoyed 65 000 dong vodka/pineapples. Yummy.

Yesterday morning, we left for a 2 day/1 night tour of Halong Bay. From Hanoi, Halong City is a three hour bus ride, the most exciting part of which is the expansive rice fields and sickly looking cows. It all becomes worth it, though, when you finally hop on the boat that will be taking you around the bay. The only word to describe Halong Bay is breathtaking. And we don't mean breathtaking like you just walked past a particulalry rank sewage pipe in the streets of Hanoi and can no longer breathe from fear of vomitting... oh no! We mean breathtaking as in the scenery is so amazingly beautiful that no words (or probably even pictures) can do it justice. Ha long litterally means "where the dragon descends into the sea". Legend has it that the 3000 islands and ilsets of Halong Bay were formed when the great dragon that lived in the mountains ran towards the coast. Its flailing tail gouged out the valleys of the bay and the areas dug up by its tail filled with water, leaving only the land we see now visible. After a short boat ride, we went to visit the "Surprise Cave". It's a rather impressive collections of stalagtites and stalagmites, though its charm is greatly diminished by the multicoloured lights stuck in every possible place and the penguin shaped garbage cans set at regular intervals. It kind of felt like DisneyLand. From there, we sailed on to Cat Ba Island, where we spent the night in a room overlooking the water. When you walked out our door and looked straight ahead, there was just water and mountains in the distance, turn left and you saw giant rock formations, the like of which you could find in the latest King Kong movie... only less dark and creepy, more sunny and fun. This morning, we sailed back to Hanoi, taking full advantage of the bright sun to tan on the boat's upper deck.

Kristelle and Steph went to put some pictures on CD to upload them to the blog, but the CD drive does not open here... so, what we're really trying to say is that we got stuck in a crazy thunder storm for you people, but you still have to wait. Too bad.

And now, we are hungry, so we'll talk to you again when we get to Laos.

Steph, Jo and Kristelle

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Live and Learn

Xin Jao!

We think that means hello... but don't quote us on that...

Anyways, so ten days after reaching Vietnam we have learned a valuable lesson. How to cross the road when it is teaming with motorbikes, taxis and bicycles... none of which seem at all inclined to let you pass, and street lights are non-existant. It's all in the puppy dog eyes (is there anything they aren't good for?). You take your first step out into the street, making sure to look those psycho drivers right in the eye, silently pleading with them not to run you over. Even when they seem to be swerving towards you, maintaining eye contact is key. Also, the biggest mistake you could make would be to hesitate. You hesitate, you die. In fact, we barely even flinch anymore when those motorbikes are headed right for us...

Aside from crossing roads, the past couple of days have been quite busy. From Ho Chi Minh, we headed to Mui Ne, a quiet little beach town further north. We arrived there and were promptly greeted by some friendly hotel people, who offered us a bungalow on the beach with a clean shower (!!) and fans for the wonderful price of 4$/night. We took it. We spent the rest of the day on the beach, taking Top Model pictures in the sand (you don't get to see any of those... it was a joke) and trying to get a tan.

The next day, we visited the sand dunes, which is what Mui Ne is famous for. We bought a tour package, hopped on a rickety old Jeep big enough just for the three off us and headed off. Our first stop was a hotel, where we picked up three more people!! They sat in the trunk!!! Oh my! Anyways, it turns out they were awesome. Two British guys and an Irish girl with whom we are now officially in love. So our guide (I say guide, but I mean glorified Jeep driver) first dropped us off at the "Fairy Stream" and told us we had forty minutes... then he left us surrounded by small children more than willing to lead the way. So, bare feet, we followed them down a dinky little stream. We're not too sure why it's called the "Fairy Stream" but it is. The walk was quite uneventful until the end when the kids started asking for money. We would give them some and then they'd pull out the puppy eyes and say "One more? One more?" It was quite funny actually...

Then we went to the white sand dune, where we were once again attacked by children. These ones were trying (quite persistently) to get us to give them 50000 dong for one crazy carpet ride down the dune. At first, we declined politely, but then they kept at it... so it got messy. We ended up asking for a demonstration, and then running away when they went down. Naturally, they caught up... but it was funny nonetheless.

After that we saw the yellow sand dunes... They looked just like the white ones. The best part about them was that we got to witness our first Vietnamese chick fight. It was pretty intense. Of course, not speaking the language, we had no idea what they were fighting about (probably a boy), but there was some serious slapping and yelling going on.

Then we saw the red canyon, which was quite a trek, but well worth the views from the top. We got really dirty... the combination of red sand, small passages on the way down and rain is just asking for trouble.

Finally, we got to see the fishing village. It smelled. That's all.

All this was done, of course, with our "guide" just dropping us off at each place and leaving us to fend for ourselves... interesting way of doing it, but it worked out.

That night, at 1 am, we caught the bus to Nha Trang. Here, we visited a rather impressive pagoda with a Giant Seated Buddha at the top overlooking the town and we went on the world's crappiest boat tour of the surrounding islands. The best part of the tour was when the ugliest swimsuit of all time got tossed overboard. It was a bit sad for the woman who lost it, but overall, humanity has been done a favour.

Tonight, we are taking an overnight (12 hour) train to Hue. What we'll do there is undetermined as of yet, but surely it'll be entertaining!

See you soon!

Steph, Kris and Jo

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Good Morning Vietnam

So here we are, in Saigon, Vietnam!
We arrived here mid-evening on friday. First struggle, find a place to stay that would be 1-cheap and 2-with A/C or fans (yes, we're already picky like that). Well, that's where the Ghost Lady comes in handy! We were walking on the street looking for a place to stay when this random lady offered us a room that appeared not only to be clean, but cheap and with a tv and a fridge...almost Holiday Inn style. After checking it out, we dicided to stay there. Now you're probably wondering why we call her the ghost lady. Well the reason is simple: she's everywhere. For real. First, she was there when we needed a room. Then, when we went to get our bags from where we had left them, she randomly appeared outside the door to lead us back to the hotel (cuz it's in a sketch alleyway). Then, when Steph went out alone and got lost on the way back, there she was, yelling at her that she's going the wrong way. Also, she's NEVER around in the day... very ghostly.... anyways, we love her.

Saturday started off very early (because Kristelle and Jo keep waking up at 5h30 in the morning). We first decided to walk around and find the best deal for a Mekong Tour. We also ended up booking our bus ticket for Mui Ne and Nah Trang. We then headed to the Saigon Fine Arts Museum. However, not only half the paintings were not even hung up, it was so hot that we decided to cut the visit short and do something else. In the afternoon, we took a taxi to Dam Sen Park, which is a big amusement park / garden. We saw the orchard gardens and big animals made out of plates/bows/spoons. We walked around for a few hours, trying to work on our tan a bit (why not) and then called it a day.

All that leading us to today! We went on a tour of the Mekong Delta. They first took us to the city of My Tho, which is about 2h away from Ho Chi Minh, from where we took a bot and toured around the Delts's main 4 islands, Unicorn island, Dragon island, Turtle island and Phoenix island. These islands were named after animals that the Vietnamese people worship. We got to taste coconut candies, banana wine (which tastes horrible), and tea with kumquat and honey from the bee farm. We were also treated with local traditionnal music, which was really cool. Oh, and our tour guide self-nicknamed himslef ''Mr Lovely''. Yep, we all agree... That goes pretty well with our new theme for this trip: ''How bizarre''.

So that's about it for our Saigon adventures. We're leaving tomorrow for Mui Neh and are looking forward to spending some time on Vietnam's beaches!

Thanks for your comments, we really appreciate them! Miss you all!
Josie Kristelle and Steph xxx

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

That's one way of doing it...

So, as it turns out, getting to South-East Asia is no easy feat. Of course, our way may not have been the easiest way of doing it, but here's how it went:

Tuesday, July 3rd
5:00 AM - Haul ass out of bed.
5:30 AM - Drag same tired ass to airport.
7:30 AM - Clear American customs. Laugh at Kristelle when she is the only one who apparently looks sketchy enough to be searched. Laugh even harder when search includes cleavage area... never know what she might have in there!
8:00 AM - Board flight and get reasonably excited about things to come.
(Spend next 24-36 hours in plane - sleep, eat, watch movies, attempt more sleep, repeat)
3:00 PM Tokyo Time - plane lands in Tokyo. Steph's ears are completely blocked because of her cold and she wants to die. Great.
4:00 PM Still in Tokyo - Sleep in airport. Sketchy, we know... but oh so sleepy.
5:00 PM Still Tokyo - Steph is scared to get back on plane with stuffed nose and still blocked ears, so sets out on mission to find pharmacy. After extensive search of useless duty-free shops finds an information kiosk. Utters first Konocheewa (not how it's spelled... but you understand) and somehow manages to understand that there is a drugstore at terminal 56. Finds drugstore and signs to girl that she has a cold (cold??? points to nose and pretends it running - aaahhh cold!) Girl shows her where cold meds are but all boxes are in Japanese. Steph is confused, so let's girl pick. Girl picks giant horsepills with no English instructions. Steph pays 1700 Yen for pills and prays that they work. At our terminal, Steph succesfully transates instructions (with help, clearly) and takes two giant pills. Turns out, the Japanese know how to create miracle drugs for sinuses.
6:15 PM Tokyo - Board final flight to Bangkok. Try not to sleep so you can do so upon arrival. Fail miserably. Sleep for 3 hours, wake to the question "Chicken or Beef?", scarf down food, and promptly fall back asleep.
11:15 PM Bangkok Time - Land in Bangkok. Clear customs (and get pissed at guy for STAPLING your bloody passport!) and exit airport.
11:45 PM - Get dropped off at wrong hotel. Walk with nice doorman to correct hotel. Check in.
12:00 AM - Find smelly room on 4th floor and attempt to air it out.
12:30 AM - Since phones are much too complicated, head to internet cafe (FULL of people laying Warcraft, by the way) to reassure parents that we are not dead.
1:00 AM - Go back to hotel and attend to Josee-Anne's exploded stuff then try to sleep in the stifling heat/humidity.

Right... so, surely, you can all come up with far easier ways of getting here, but where would we be without a little adventure. Now, we are off to take a boat to a train to a park to a snake farm.

We'll attempt calling again when we can figure out the phone system... maybe.

Steph, Kris and Josie