Tu Sei Tom Cruise

July 22, 2011

My journey is nearly over. After 19 days and 10 900kms I have entered my final week inAsia. The time for reflection shall be later, for now let me tell you about my last few days, as they have been hectic, harrowing, humbling and happy (yes I know, quite uninspiring).

We spent our only full day in Saigonon a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. They are pretty much a bunch of underground tunnels used by the Vietcong during the War. As westerners are too fat to fit into the tunnels, we were only able to go through one. It’s hard for me to express how it felt. Basically you are two metres underground, it’s obviously pitch black and the only way to fit is to either crouch right down or crawl on all fours (both options I explored). 40 metres in the tunnel seemed like an eternity. Its flustering and by the time we finally reached the end and gasped for air, we were drenched in sweat. Not heat sweat, as it’s quite cool underground, but sweat from fear, anxiety and discomfort. We were glad we did it though, as it’s quite an important part of the history of the War.’We paid some money to shoot some M16’s, the US’s choice gun during the War, a bit of an unforced error, as it wasn’t as much fun as we hoped.

We left Loukas with not much more than a ‘cya mate’ and immediately got a $5 massage. When we got into the place we realised it was pretty seedy. I endured an hour of pain and discomfort. My girl boy  girl dug her knees right up and down my spine. It was truly terrible and four days later and I’m only just feeling better. After the massage, she gave me the eyes, followed by the look down to my crotch and then pointed to another room. I politely declined, much to her surprise and disgust.

It was time to leave Nam and we decided the best way was to go by boat along the Mekong to Phnom Penh, as the Delta was something we thought we really wanted to see. The tour was horrible. We were ripped off several times, the river itself was quite uninteresting and we spent a night in the worst hotel I have ever been too. Only four things went some way towards redeeming our experience.

1-     Young people on the tour, a first for us this holiday.

2-     There was an Italian family with us, giving me the chance to brush up on my rusty native tongue. They were impressed and seemed to understand. John, recalling his glory days learning Italian in primary school, wanted to say this to the couple as we left them.

To the attractive 30-something wife– Tu Sei Bella
To her husband
– Tu Sei Tom Cruise (He really looked like him)
To the wife- Arrivedeci Bella
To the husband- Arrivedeci stupido

In the end he decided against it. Disappointing Ehhhh.

3-     We visited a crocodile farm, where they are bred  for eating (they actually taste alright). In true Bonello family tradition, I decided I had to antagonize one of these monster crocs. I threw twigs at a massive one hoping he would snap or at least whip his tail at me. He remained asleep so an American guy we met decided to take it a step further. He pulled a banana out of his bag and threw pieces at one. The croc remained motionless. With his last piece it landed on the crocs head with a slap and stuck there. We all cracked up, but the animal didn’t budge. We decided it would probably be too far to throw the peel.

4-     The final redeeming experience on this tour happened when we were at the hotel. Late one night we ventured down the street of this tiny town looking for some beer. We found a group of about 10 guys sitting around a table drinking and eating. They invited us over and we felt only too obliged to join them. They started passing round shots of rice wine to which we would shout ‘1 2 3 4 skull’ in Vietnamese. As a chaser they gave us these clams dipped in a chili sauce. It was amazing. We sat, drank, talked and ate for about 30 minutes with these guys. It was probably my favourite moment on this trip and something I won’t forget for a while.

Anyway this entry is much longer than I anticipated so I am going to leave it there. In a couple of days I’ll write again about Cambodia. We’ve visited the killing fields, home to the slaughter of millions of Cambodian’s in the 1970’s. Today we hit up Angkor Wat. It’s supposedly a big deal, I’ll be the judge of that. And we have been staying in a 5 star hotel for the last couple of days which has also been a culture shock for us. Until then…

Sup Yo!

:: By huw bizzle 1 Comment

I want to touch the elephant badly!

July 18, 2011

Loyal readers. Welcome to part IV of my blog series as part of my Vietnam adventures. A quick update so far…

Warm, stressful but pretty Hanoi
Simply stunning Ha Long Bay
Regretful unfriendly Da Nang
Ancient peaceful Hoi An
Bum-hurting but wonderful Hai Van Pass

So, on we marched  roughed it on a train for 10 hours to what is renowned as the best beach in Vietnam, Nha Trang. The train trip was interesting. We ate some questionably cooked chicken drumsticks, luckily for us we avoided the unforced error and a lengthy trip to the squatting toilet. Our soft sleepers weren’t the softest and an interesting musk and sticky residue on the walls ensured I never really felt comfortable. Our Viet bunk mate smoked and listened to music loudly on his phone. We wanted to set him straight but for some reason we were all certain he was a gangsta, and decided against it. An old Viet man sat at my feet for the last half of the trip, he seemed nice enough.

Like Hanoi previously, it took us a while to warm to Nha Trang. It was busy, smelly and we got the same old intrigued/disgusted stares from locals, a far cry from our experiences in Hoi An. The beach was nice, nothing like the brochures though. By this stage we were well and truly off Viet food so we delved into some German, Spanish, Italian and French. Also some American in the form of KFC, that was an unforced error.

The nightlife in Nha Trang was different to anywhere we had been, a good mix of locals and tourists and the inevitable slai’s. Went to a beach party and hit up a couple of different bars. Nam is crazy in that during the day it’s relatively quiet on the streets. Come evening it’s absolute chockers and by midnight everyone is in bed. We walked past a guy with a big hairy dog to which a slightly intoxicated Loukas announced, “that’s a big puppy”, only for the dogs owner to rebuke in broken English…”no no puppy” with a fat laugh I was even proud of.  We got offered boom boom, mary jane and even a bit of coke by some pretty shady blokes, we regretfully thankfully declined. Loukas got gyped out of $5 by a dodgy doctor in a hospital we found was surprisingly hygienic.

We are now in Saigon (HCMC), the last city on our tour down Nam. It’s like a totally different country. It’s cleaner, cooler, newer and has a much happier, pleasant vibe. Today we went to the Reunification Palace, that was a forced error. It was boring and the highlight seemed to be a rug in the middle of the Palace that heaps of tourists congregated around. I remarked that it was the place were President Ho Chi Minh’s puppy did a wee once. Our second stop was The War Remnants Museum. It was, as expected, heavily anti-American and pretty confronting. Pictures of deformed children, affected by Agent Orange gas, and limbless corpses lined the buildings walls. My stomach, already abused on this trip, didn’t enjoy it very much.

We have been walking round quite a bit, and inevitably Ehhh is always ahead of us slow-pokes. We have noticed that his legs bow out a bit to which I gave him the nickname David Bowie. This has progressed now to Ziggy Stardust. I don’t think he’s a fan yet but he will be.

Tomorrow we hit up the Cu Chi tunnels, home of a network of underground tunnels used by the Vietcong during the War. It’s supposedly claustrophobic, we’ll see how I go. After that we leave Lou Kas Kork Oti Dis (his name in Viet) for a trip along the Mekong Delta and into Phnom Penh.

Sup Yo’s!

:: By huw bizzle 1 Comment

Whiiiissskeey

July 12, 2011

The posts continue. I don’t have a camera with me so Im going to keep blogging so these memories don’t escape me.

Any lingering disappointments from Da Nang were swept aside after staying in Hoi An the last three nights. Apart from a dodgy taxi driver who did a few laps of the town before magically stumbling across our hotel, we have had an amazing time here. It’s a small ancient town famous for its tailors. Fittingly (geddit?) we got some suits, specifically for Jomeegs (that blog belonging to the female representative) upcoming nuptials. Myself and Ehhh’s suits are pretty sweet. Well fitted and quite schnazzy, we’ll try not to outdo you Josh but I’m not making any promises. Loukas’ is still a working progress after a few alterations, but I’m confident it will get there eventually.

The city centre is full of restaurants and tailors. It is void of cars, with lots of motorbikes and bicycles. We couldn’t convince Ehhh to give it another go after he got a bit too comfortable with a telephone booth last time he was at the wheel, but myself and Loukas decided to explore town the lazy cool way on scooters. We got to see lots of places and got quite lost a few times but ten minutes riding around and we soon got our bearings back. Getting some appreciative looks from other tourists, perhaps the confidence got to Loukas’ head. In a little backstreet he decided to take on a wet sandy corner and I’ll let you guess who came out on top. A few bandages later and some antiseptic and we were back on the road.

Day 2 in town and we set off on the Hai Van Pass Tour. On the back of some pretty sweet Honda Cruisers we set off on the 150km ride to Hue. We were all a bit tentative at first but soon grew pretty comfortable. Anyone that’s been on a bike before can understand the difference in relation to a car. Where 50km/h in a car seems sluggish and boring, on a bike is exhilarating and scary. 70 feels like you are absolutely flying. Unfortunately a few too many country pancakes and spring rolls meant we couldn’t go much faster. There is a draw side to this speed. The genuine fear we felt over 8 hours of riding absolutely consumed us. Pouring rain and steep corners were nothing compared to the traffic. In Nam lanes don’t exist, if you want to pass you go for it. Trucks and busses overtook us at 70 clicks with the customary blare of the horn warning. With no music and not much talking there is a lot of time for thinking. I played out every hypotethical situation that could possibly occur. The worst was slipping and falling under the wheel of a truck. Rolling into telegraph pole and flying over the side railing weren’t much better. The only consolation was the idea of flipping into a wet soft rice field. Thankfully none of the situations played out in my head came to fruition. To make matters worse, on the road into Hue we saw two smashed bikes in the middle of the road. Beside them, a policeman drawing a chalk body, outling the head around a pretty big patch of blood. The ambulance leaving the scene showing little urgency told us all we needed to know, a chilling reminder of Vietnam being renowned as having some of the worlds most dangerous roads.

On a brighter note, the tour was amazing. The views from the top of the pass were beautiful and seeing some old US bunkers was interesting, as we hadn’t experienced many war sites since we got here. We also stopped at Elephant Falls, no elephants present unfortunately, just a beautiful stream and waterfall. The bums were sore after a 60km ride with no stops. A few rubs of the cheeks and a couple of squats and we were ready to go again. Also saw the Imperial City in Hue, I wasn’t much into it, ask Johnno about it if you want.

As if there were any doubts remaining, the Three Muskqueers got facials today…and a pedicure. Myself’s and Johnno’s (correct me mum I can never get it right) toenails were presenting threats to our socks so it was a necessary move. I got value out of my $7, Tina, my beautician, giving some pretty mortified and looks at my hoofs. The facials were quite relaxing, Loukas even managing to fall asleep and snore at one stage…how embarassing.

I should talk about the heat in Vietnam. So far we haven’t experienced too much rain (though as I write this it has begun pouring). The main thing is the humidity. Unless you are in a room pumping out the AC, the sweat is shocking. Beads of sweat drip down the face and the back sweet soaks your shirt. Any moderate exercise obviously exacerbates this. You get used to it though, hopefully I won’t lose all sense of whats acceptable when I get back home.

The fun continues here. We have become expertised at getting peoples attention. Anyone that says making weird baby dinosaur wails is immature doesn’t know what they are talking about. Food is great, tummy has been better. We have a ten hour train trip tomorrow, but at least I’ve bought a book on the War, perhaps I can rid myself of this ignorance once and for all.

Sup Yo!

:: By huw bizzle 2 Comments

Schindlers Lift

July 9, 2011

I’m at the city of Da Nang, the third biggest city in Vietnam. You would think with a population of just under one million and being located right on the beautiful China Beach, it would be a tourism hot spot, and that is what we thought. But no, it turns out Da Nang has little to no tourism. As some American backpakers en route to Hoi An aptly questioned, “Does anyone actually go to Da Nang?” We enjoyed the greatest crab and pork lunch in an upmarket restaurant before taking a swim yesterday. The locals didn’t appreciate our presence at all, especially the guys. We got a lot of looks, and not the “hey look a fat westerner” looks I’m used to, more scowling. I didn’t feel too comfortable but Ehhh and MBD (Loukas) felt it was just curiosity. My theory of some lingering post war resentment and mistaking us with Yanks was probably a bit off the mark.

After more great food last night and a few passion-fruit mojitos, the waiter told us they probably didn’t like our bright boardies…an interesting theory. I met some Finnish backpacker and talked to her for a while, apparently friend-guyness transcend’s countries. Good fun all the less. We nearly booked a motorbike tour over the Hai Van Pass, but bailed at the last minute after discovering the guide operators perhaps weren’t too trustworthy. Ever since, they have been following us all over town…hmm.

I guess the attitudes of locals here represents how I feel about the whole of Vietnam thus far. There isn’t the warmth I experienced in Thailand, where saying ‘thankyou’ correctly drew a smile and a laugh from shopkeepers. It’s still early days and I’m expecting that to change though. Still loving life over here. Hoi An for some tailored suits and the ancient town of Hue awaits us in the next couple of days, before a 10 hour train trip next week, There’s sure to be stories from that.

Sup Yo!

Edit- The title is thus named because the elevator company in our hotel is called Schindler, hence Schindler’s Lift from the movie of a similar name.

Hai Van Pass

:: By huw bizzle 1 Comment

Living the Honda Dream

July 8, 2011

They say first impressions last, but anyone that has ever met me knows that isn’t true. Like meeting people for the first time, I hated Hanoi when we first landed here just over four days ago. After two flights, delays and some pretty average plane food, the last thing I wanted to do was roam the streets of one of the busiest cities in Asia. Bikes and cars horrified me, smells were intolerable and my stomach had already decided it hated life one day into the trip.

After a decent sleep, considering I was sharing a room with Snorlax himself, we decided to walk around Hanoi again to give it a second chance. Day time was much calmer. The heat and humidity still zapping, but it seemed the 3.5 million motorbikes had been parked somewhere out of sight. I began to notice the archicture, tall thin buildings from French origins (cue pretentious correction by Smokey) with little shop fronts at the bottom. The streets had been cleaned from the night before, where hundreds of Vietnamese had sat on corners chewing sunflower seeds. A fresh lunch of rice noddles and pork (I actually think it was dog) went down surprisingly well.My stomach still wasn’t 100% but I had other things to worry about, with a two night cruise to Ha Long Bay on the horizon. The tour was amazing. Not even the disappointment of sharing a boat full of Liam Neesons and Kens could hamper our spirits. The islands were amazing and we even did a spot shiltload of kayaking.

Being the fit young men we are, we decided a little swim from our boat to a nearby beach. I guess it was about 200m away. We made it alright, but once we got there, EhhhhhJohnno’s dodgy leg gave up on him. Leaving him and Loukas sitting on some pretty sharp coral, I swam back to the boat, fetched a kayak and paddled back to them. With only one oar (massive regret), they then held on to the boat while I struggled back to the ship once more. This all took it out of me and unsurprisingy, I wasn’t too keen when I heard we would be doing more kayaking after lunch. The caves and lagoon we saw made it all worth it in the end. Not even some epic sun-Bernie Mac dampended my spirits. A sunset conversation on lunar patterns was quite enjoyable until we released how little we knew about the world we live in. But I did find out the moon completes a full cycle in 29 days.

We are back in Hanoi now, before we fly off to the coastal city of Da Nang tomorrow. At the markets tonight we must have visited medium size street, and a Viet medium is the equivalent of a todlers onesie if I’m being honest. A vendor even banned me from trying on a shirt, for fear of stretching it I guess. Me and EhhhhJohhnno were chatted up by a Viet girl and her 8 year old brother. Originally fearing a scam, it turned out they just wanted to chat to English speaking people. Unfortunateley the infant and the eight year old brother cramped my style. Next time I guess.

I’ll try to keep blogging. Not sure how committed I’ll be and how interesting it will be, didn’t stop me this time though.

Sup Yo!

:: By huw bizzle 3 Comments

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