Birds call, dogs yelp, monkeys shriek,
March 7th, 2011
We stayed the first two nights in Tad Lo in an expensive resort (ok, it was only $18 but that’s considerably higher than our average). We stayed in a bungalow on stilts right near one of the waterfalls. However the noise from the waterfalls weren’t the only noises there. When we woke up we heard lots of yelping and yapping which we later found out was a monkey and several puppies locked up in a cage right next to each other. There were also the sounds of crickets – I saw one a few days later that looked like a praying mantis but with huge double wings which were disguised as a green leaf with veins and all. Or perhaps they weren’t crickets but cicadas, which since we were on tree level with them was absolutely deafening.
Angkor book robs James’ sleep
Lucie doesn’t stir
February 23, 2011
We took a 16 hour train ride from Hanoi down to Danang. At the first stop a group of Australian cyclists hopped on (their bikes had been shipped ahead to meet them in Danang). Two of them joined us in our cabin. They were very cheerful mates constantly making fun of how load each other snores. After a bit they went of the drink car. Much later they stumbled in, crawled into bed, and good to their word started snoring as loud as any snore I have ever heard. I was engrossed in a very bad book which I had only bought from Amazon and downloaded onto the Kindle because it was $2 and was about the ancient Angkor kingdom whose temples we plan to visit in Cambodia. Despite being an awful piece of literature I ended up reading it the whole night through, gently being serenaded by the Australians. Despite the noise Lucie managed to sleep right through it. Never did I think that I would be admiring someone else’s sleeping skills, but my wife never ceases to amaze.
Mango ice cream slowly melts
Rainbow lights reflect
February 25th 2011
In general we were delighted by the good food in touristy Hoi An. One hot night after dinner we found an ice cream shop that was quite good, bought a few cups, and ate it on a bench by the river. On the other side of the river, the multi colored lights of restaurants and bars and various shops reflected off the still river.
Beachseller with drool
Wounded turtle but alive
Basket Boat in waves
February 26th, 2011
We spent a good bit of the day at the white sand beaches near Hoi An. Round basket shaped boats floated by being push along by men using a large pole. We ate a very greasy lunch at a restaurant there which ended up not sitting well with me later that night. (My 2nd food poisoning in Vietnam – who would have thought?) Several times some beach sellers came up to us trying to sell us fruit, snacks, or other items. One came up to us three times was selling English language newspapers – drool was forming in bubbles by the side of his mouth.
Hoi An has a large number of disabled people, both physically and mentally, who live and work together doing arts and crafts. There are several NGO’s set up to help them out, including one by a friend of Vang’s who we met up with earlier in the day. This newspaper seller did not seem at all rabid, so we assume the drool was due to other issues. His persistence in trying to sell us one paid off – we bought a paper.
The paper has a story about a turtle that had been injured in Ho Kiem lake in Hanoi. This was the lake that we visited when we where there and knew of the legend where a giant turtle took a holy sword that had been used to drive out the Chinese invaders over 800 years ago from the hands of the famous warrior back into the lake to return it to the gods. This turtle it turns out is only one of three giant turtles of this species left, the other two being in a zoo in ironically, China. It’s age is guessed at over 200 years and the injuries it sustained were caused by other non-indigenous turtles of a smaller variety that had been released into the lake. We were assured that a vet was taking care of the larger one.
Snakes, birds, yoga pose
God of Time and Consequence
Headless Cham statues
February 26, 2011
At Danang’s bus station early in the morning we got off a minibus going to Kon Tum because they were trying to overcharge us, made us sit in the back of the bus, and in general treating us rudely. The next bus that left was fortunately a Mai Linh Express, however it was going at 2 pm so we had the day to kill. We hopped a taxi to the center of town and checked out a museum of Cham artifacts. The Cham kingdom existed a millennium ago throughout modern day Cambodia and southern Vietnam, during around the same time as the temples were built by Angkor Wat. Their beliefs were a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism and so many of their statues were of Krishna, Vishnu, and other gods. Often their limbs would be a bit longer than they should be proportionally and stuck out at weird angles. There where many statues of the bird god Garadu and dozens of Naga which are mythical water snakes. The story of Garadu and the Nagu comes from the Hindu Ramayana.
While there was no statues of the “God of Time and Consequence” there where several depiciting the God of Time. A neat God to have in and of itself, the printed guide wrote it as the “God of Time and consequence” and then on the next line: “ly, many of the….” We liked this title better. The God of Time was depicted as a single floating head without a body – this was in stark contrast to many of the other statues in the museum which had bodies, but whose heads were removed due to invaders who chopped them off, or collectors who decided that the heads were all that they could carry away.
Red lights in dark house
Worship ancestors’ spirits
incense, pictures, fruits
Febuary 27th 2011
We left Hoi An by private car to Danang bus terminal early one morning before sunrise. On the road there we saw houses that were entirely dark except for two red lights glowing inside eerily as if they were haunted houses lit up for Halloween. After passing another one whose lights were on the outside of their house we saw it was part of their altar to their ancestors. Every single house in Vietnam has an altar devoted to honoring their recently departed, in which they put up pictures of their relatives and burn incense and give them gifts such as fruit.
Mai Linh, our safe bet
Crossed Lao border, jungle view
Relaxed sleepy towns
Febuary 28th 2011
Throughout Vietnam there were taxis whose meters would charge at twice the rate, taxis who would drive in a big triangle to let the meter run longer, and taxis who if you negotiated the fare before hand you could go 3 times cheaper by pitting one taxi drivers rate against another. Then there was the Mai Linh taxis. They were dependable, with a cheap meter rate, and drove straight to the destination (we have a GPS to check to make sure they do :). Our friend Vang told us about them in Hanoi and we went with them ever since. They also ran a bus company Mai Linh Express (Looking up Mai Linh website online they seem to be one of the bigger conglomerates doing not just transportation but construction, washing powder and who knows what else) which we took both from Danang to Kon Tum, and then from Kon Tum over the border to Attapeu, Laos.
The road over the border was windy and jungly crossing over the paths that were once part of the Ho Chi Minh trail. Once arriving in Attapeu we were stuck at how much more laid back it was to any town in bustling Vietnam.
See my foreign face
Rip me off without disgrace
Vietnam oh Vietnam
From our tour guide up Fansipan who tried to fool us into thinking we need another permit to visit a nearby waterfall, to a bread seller who forgot to give us back 50,000 dong in change ($2.50) until gently reminded, to a bus conductor who blatantly charged us as foreigners more, we had our share of Vietnamese who seemed only to see us as two walking wallets.