Hoi An and Hue in Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam
Tried on my suit and it fits amazing. It was a little costly to send it home. I choose to go with air mail even though it was twice as much as sea. I bought two North Face bags for a total of 14 dollars. One is a smaller book bag which is a great day pack, and the other is a large backpackers bag, with a bunch of removable storage bags. We walked around the town and at night went out to a nice dinner. It was very fancy. Afterwards I walked to a carnival alone becuase everyone else wanted to go to bed. The carnival was the lantern festival that concluded on Tet (the New Years). They hade live music acts and a bunch of carnival games. The prizes for the games were as follows: water, orange fanta, red bull, beer, cigarettes. Mind you there was no age limit for these games. Also there were many booths that had gambling...you would bet on a picture and win money according to a big spinning wheel. I watched for a while and then played. I won several times and lost. In total I probably lost 25,000 Dong. It was a very cool thing to be part of a genuine Vietnamese carnival. I got stares from everyboHoi An, dy and was probably one of only 5 white people out of the 2000+ locals.

I went for a run the next day and went shopping a little. I explored the city some more. Went out to eat at a nice little place where I had a 5 or 6 course meal. I had a large beer and then split a 4 person bucket with Lyn. Then I got everybody to go back to the Carnival with me. We sat and watched everybody play bingo (or something close to it). It was interesting to watch because they were singing a song and picking the numbers and reading the numbers off and dancing...all apart of the bingo game. We went to a bar afterwards which was filled with backpackers. The bar was quite overpriced (about 2-4 dollars a cocktail). After the bar Carrie, Lyn, Kim, and myself, yeah three older girls ;), all got some alcahol at a kiosk on the way home. We mostly got rum and coke for dirt cheap...but I also got a pack of cream-o's. These are fake Oreo's and cost only 15 cents, compared to the 50 cents for the 'real deal'.

We drank along the hotel's pool and listened to music from my ipod. The pool was on the roof of the hotel and the atmosphere was perfect...

The next day we woke up early to go to Marble Mountain. I hiked up to the top where there were many bagodas. Along the base of the Mt. there were shops selling all types of marble goods. Typically they would be crafting and carving, but becuase of the New Years they were not doing so. In other countries things stay closed for ~3 days, but here (in a communist country) things can stay closed from 5-15 days. But the important things remain open. I wanted to get myself and my sister SHAWNIEB a marble tea set. They ranged from $10 to $50 dollars, and in the states would run much over 200 dollars. They were intricate and beautiful. Maybe I'll buy stuff later, becuase I just spent a crapload on my suit and sending that home (about what I budgeted for 10 days of travel).

Hue, Vietnam
In Hue, Vietnam we went for a tour of the Tuc Doc's summer home and tomb, an arena where tigers used to battle elephants, and a local crafts village. In this village they were making Vietnamese hats and insence. The insence was made my rolling this scnted cotton candy-like material around a wooden stick and allowing it to dry overnight. We got back with little time to shower and get ready for dinner. We ate at a local place, which was very cheap. I ordered whole squid w/ tomatos, vegetable sour soup, and a large 1.5 L bottle of water for only 56,000 Dong, or about $3.25. Afterwards the 3 or 4 of us 'party goers' went to a bar and had some driks and shot some pool. I left early and walked alone back to my hotel. I wanted to find some bao so continued down a long road. LONGER than I would have guessed. After I spend 40 minutes walking and no luck of bao, and not quite sure where my hotel was I got a cyclo and went back. They first two cyclo drivers wanted 100,000 dong and I refused and offered 8000. They looked pissed and drove away after realizing I would NOT budge. The third cyclo driver said fine, but repeatidly asked me if I wanted to buy marijuana on the entire ride home. Of course I refused. Today we are walking to the Citidel and on the way back stopping at a super market (at least that's what they call it). Here we're going to get some snacks for the sleeper train tonight. We depart Hue at 15:30 and don't arrive until early the next morning, so it will be a long crapy train ride. Cheers!


Nha Trang to Hoi An, Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnam
We took a sleeper train from Ho Chi Min City to Nha Trang. The train was a nice one that shared a cabin with 4 beds, a TV, a writing table, comfy sheets, and AC. We were told the train arrived at 5:30 so AJ woke us up at 5, but we didn't end up getting off the train until 7. We walked around the beach at Nha Trang while we were waiting for our rooms to be ready for check-in. Carry, Kim, Haeirshem, Lyn, and myself got breakfast on the beach as well. On the beach Kim and Lyn get beach chairs while I continued to walk down the coast. I made friends with a local man names Bhac. We talked about life and he asked me for a drink. He teaches Vietnamese to English speaking students (which explained his relatively good English). He said the beer was too much on the beachfront and that we should go to a local mart farther from the shore. I comply and follow him. When we get to the store/kiosk, I buy one for myself but see that he has not selected a beer, so I buy him one. I begin to feel he has used me for the free beer. We continue to walk when we get to a fenced in white shack. Chained to the door is a dog. Bhac says this is his house and invites me inside. He says it's too hot and he wants to wash off and relax. I say I am content with staying here (which is outside of the gated area). He insists and I claim that I don't have the sun where I am from and he says "may [he will] visit [me] along the beach later" and I say OK. I walk back to Kim and Lyn (rather briskly at this point). We sun bathe and I teach Kim how to play draw poker and then Texas Hold'em.

At night I choose to walk around and find a 'local' place to eat. Many of the others choose not to come along. I find a place that served; Ostrich Heart, Pig and Chicken Feet, Pork Kidney, Liver, Stomach, Gecko Soup, Snake Head, Snake Blood, and the list goes on and on. I order Pork Stomach and some seafood soup. The others order chicken, soup, fish, and noodles. My food comes in 5 minutes while the Lyn's chicken comes in a little shy of 90 minutes. In all fairness we can confess to its freshness...we saw the chicken (still alive) taken back to the kitchen and it takes a while to kill a bird, then drain it of its blood and remove its entrails. I ordered water and it never came so then I ordered a beer but that never came as well. It's touch when no one speaks English in the place...it was not frequently visited by tourists. We got our bill and it was a little over half a million dong. Lyn's 120,000 Dong meal had been raised to 250,000 dong since it was "the holidays". We argued since this was not on the menu, but the man persisted. Everyone in Vietnam is trying to rip you off, but I will not talk about this since it's a communist country and I am using a public computer and don't want "free room and board" for the next 10 years of my life.

Early the next morning, at 7 sharp, I took a yoga class with Kim and Lyn from one of older girls on the trip as she is a yoga instructor. It was good, but tough to wake up since we were up late drinking the night before. Near 8:45 we took a day trip on a boat. We visit 4 Vietnamese islands on the boat, which probably had between 100 and 200 people on it. It was crazy trying to get out of the dock since there must have been 50 other boats either coming or going. There was no sense of semblance. Aboard the boat we were served a nice large lunch, family style, with filo dough stuffed with rice mushrooms and other goodies, shrimp, rice, noodles, beef stew, soup, bread, and various other meat and fish dished. At one island some went snorkeling or scuba diving and at another some went to a beach or an aquarium. At one of the islands we jumped off the boat and ate fruit and took shots of liquor in the ocean. The locals played western classics using instruments made from salvaged pots (plastic and metal).

We got back with a little bit of time, but had already checked out of our rooms, so I showered in the pool house and got dressed in my PJs for the over night train. I was wearing my Foster's PJ bottoms and everyone teased me. I guess no one wears PJ bottoms outside of the US. This train was MUCH worse that first one. There were cigarette buts in the storage bin above the beds to store our stuff. No TV, cheap florescent lighting, and the AC barely worked. We arrived in Da Nang at 5:30 and took a short bus to the city of Hoi An.

Hoi An, Vietnam
We could not check in right away so we ate some breakfast and went for a 2 hour walk around the city.
The city is wonderful and a sharp contrast can be made from the rest of Vietnam. The city is much cleaner and the people are too. They don't spit on the street everywhere and they smile much more. We walked to some of the famous tourist attractions and strolled in some of the local markets. AJ had remembered that I wanted to buy a suit so he took us to a place that he has had good experiences with. They will keep on altering the clothes until the client is happy. I bought a cashmere-silk suit and shirt for $138. The average wool suit without a custom designed shirt was ~$100 USD. They can make ANYTHING you want. They have countless European and American magazines that we can flip through and pick out what we want. Haeirshem bought 2 suits and a pair of pants that zip off into shorts. The pants were made from amazingly soft material that dries quickly when wet and he was able to choose embroidery, pocket size, etc. Basically anything you want they can do. They had absolutely no clothing inside the store other than 4 or 5 demos. All they had were lengths of fabric and endless possibilities. I think I am going to buy a North Face back back or a North Face luggage for about 7 or 8 dollars. They are knock offs, but the tailoring in Vietnam beats the cheap brands in American.

I believe I am taking a tour tomorrow somewhere 50km outside of the city and may take a Vietnamese cooking course tonight, but nothing is set...that's the wonders of backpacking.