nha trang

Posted in nha trang, vietnam by moonwire on October 30, 2009

We left Hoi An after only two days. Totally not feeling the place. We had to get back to Danang to catch the train to Nha Trang. The original plan was to go to the beach in Mui Ne, about a 5 hour bus ride south from Nha Trang, and as the train ride was already 9 hours, we decided to spend the night in Nha Trang. The 9 hour ride sure was a long one, and not that comfortable. However, we were sitting behind a couple with a young daughter and it was so beautiful to see the father interacting with the child. I haven’t really seen that here in Asia. Children often just run around are being tended to by their mothers, but he fed her, cuddled her, basically gave up his seat so the little girl could sleep and all this while he also took care of his sick wife. Really endearing.

We arrived as planned and checked into the Son & Daughter Hotel, about a 5 minute walk from the beach, just off of one of the main streets. It was a sweet little hotel with a tiny little balcony. At night we went for some beer at the Red Apple where a live band was playing. The vibe was really mellow and we both immediately liked it there. As a matter of fact, we liked it so much that we decided to skip Mui Ne altogether and get our beach fix in Nha Trang.

The beach was totally gorgeous. I’ve seen some amazing beaches during this trip, but this one was sure one of the better ones. Lots of yellow sand, clean water, and just a beautiful setting. It definitely rivaled Kata Beach in Phuket and it wasn’t very busy at all. Most people on the beach were locals just hanging out. Only one day it rained pretty much all day, so we basically just hung out, watched telly, read and played on the computer, but we also had some great sunny weather and we did the ultimate tourist thing… get two chairs and a bamboo umbrella on the beach at the Sailing Club where we spent all day doing more of nothing. It was just perfect. After traveling for about six months now, moving around quickly really wears me out. The excitement of getting to a new place has been replaced by the fatigue of having to pack my bag again. So, even though we did very little, it was just what we needed to relax and unwind. We had some really good food and we went back to the Red Apple several times. Nha Trang turned out to be yet another lovely surprise.

Photography wise, there wasn’t much to shoot. The town wasn’t exactly pretty and it was pretty sleepy over all (except for the traffic). I’ll make it up with my next blog, which will be about Saigon, where I am now.

Nha Trang Airport, not a very busy one.

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danang and hoi an

Posted in danang, hoi an, vietnam by moonwire on October 24, 2009

On Monday morning we took the train from Hue to Danang, about a 2.5 hour train ride. The ride itself was surprisingly comfortable. Definitely not a repeat of the Yogyakarta-Jakarta ‘bisnis’ express. Nobody sleeping in the isles, no people constantly begging and selling stuff and no transvestites with tambourines.

We checked into the ‘Golden Gate Hotel’, which was the cheesiest place ever. It actually had a structure on the rooftop resembling the Golden Gate. The room itself was pretty basic but it had an added lovely touch: a Christmas decoration above the bed. It was cheap and cheerful, for sure.

We got some lunch at ‘Bread for Life’, a restaurant which employs mostly deaf people. It was interesting to see the sign language and we learnt a few words ourselves. Also, something I didn’t know, is that sign language, though there are similarities, is not universal. The staff was lovely, the food was great and it was just a really nice place to relax and hang out.

In the afternoon we walked to China Beach and it was fantastic. Quite a beautiful beach with a lot of chatty local people. We talked with a bunch of curious giggly students who barely spoke English, but yet it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I had caught yet another cold (the third one in a bit over a month) and I was exhausted and felt crappy in general, so at night we hung out in our Christmas room watching sappy movies.

We were so presently surprised by Danang, that we decided to stay an extra night. The next day we basically did the same thing. We had brekkie, then walked to China Beach again. The weather was significantly different from Hue. It was hot, humid and when we got to the beach, the sun also emerged. It was nice walking on the beach, but it was hard to cool off. The water was hot, the sand was hot, the ‘breeze’ was hot. There was no escape from it. Though it was nice to feel a bit of heat again after chilly Hanoi and Hue.

When we got back to the room, we took a shower and a nap and at night we were ready for some good food. Though we love the food here in Vietnam, it doesn’t fully agree with us all the time. Eating on the street just didn’t look so appealing. We had found a lovely Vietnamese restaurant from the guide book and decided to have dinner there. Well, when we got there, it turned out it had been torn down. We then decided to hang out with the locals but when we got to the restaurant, the waitress only yelled one thing which we didn’t understand. Then when we wanted to make clear we wanted to eat and drink she shook  her head.  So we left, back to the Bread of Life across the street, while we watched other people actually eating at the place we were told ‘no’. Bizarre, but in a funny way.

After our late lunch, we went to the Bamboo Bar for a few excellent beers called ‘Biere Larue’. We had fun just watching life go by in Danang. There isn’t all that much to see and do there, but the people were wonderful. We got constant hellos and waves, flirtatious men, too. It was lovely not to be bothered by people trying to sell you things constantly, though there was one cyclo driver who was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer. We have nightmares of him showing up in other places to terrorize us.

Two days in Danang was enough, so on  Wednesday morning we took a taxi to Hoi An, about 30 kms south of Danang. We both thad he same feeling about the place from reading about it. When we got there, it actually looked really nice. Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site as well (like Hue and Luang Prabang). The architecture looked worn, but lovely, and we saw lots of nice looking cafes and restaurants in old colonial buildings. Not too bad.

Sure it wasn’t, but the constant hassling was bad. You cannot take two steps without hearing ‘buy something pleeeaaase!’, ‘come into my ‘sop’, have a looook’, ‘where are you going? motorbike? cyclo?’ Totally not relaxed. After we had rice and tofu for lunch, we walked around town and it was just a tourist theme park with a lot of hassling. Such a shame, really. I understand that without the tourists, the town probably would not have been preserved and the lovely restaurants definitely wouldn’t be there, but the place is a caricature. However, at night we had some of the best Indian food ever, followed by some more Biere Larues at the Treats Cafe. It was a really nice, mellow night, quite the opposite from what Hoi An is like during the day.

The second day in Hoi An, we didn’t do much. We ate and drank, walked around for a bit and mostly just relaxed. I hardly took any photos there as it didn’t inspire me at all. Despite the tourist trap factor, we had a good time in Hoi An but it’s definitely not a place I’ll ever want to return to. Next: Nha Trang.

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Posted in hue, vietnam by moonwire on October 18, 2009

We left Hanoi on Friday morning and took the plane to Hue. The flight was less than an hour and when we arrived we took the bus, all backpacker style, into the city. We got dropped off at some point and managed to find our hotel without too much trouble. We’re staying at the Orchid Hotel, which is really quite fantastic. So yes, I’m taking these places as a real treat as on my own I would never stay here because they’re just above my budget.

The first day in Hue was a bit of a downer. It lacked the character and hustle and bustle of Hanoi. It seemed very quiet here and we saw quite a few ‘tourist restaurants’. However, the next day we ventured into the Old City and it was wonderful. Hardly any tourists, just locals going about their non-tourist business. Lots of little streets with wonderfully coloured houses in French colonial style. We ended up having a great day with a wonderful lunch.

Later, at our dinner place, Cathi bar, we were served by a bunch of giggly girls, who had picked up a tiny bit of Dutch. They thought us some useful Vietnamese. They were both looking for a nice guy, with a ‘hot body’ as their first priority. Though we didn’t find any hot bodies at the DMZ bar later, we did have fun just chilling out on the covered patio, drinking Ricard and Campari.

Today started off with a lot of rain. It rained quite a bit yesterday as well, but we still had about 6 hours of dry weather, though barely any sunshine. Today it was only dry for a few hours, in which we ventured out to check out a large supermarket as well as a bit more of the Old City. After we got back we watched some ridiculous Viet music videos before we headed off for a massage. The place looked legit from the outside but once we were in there, it looked like a whorehouse. I’ve never had a girl in a tiny mini skirt and high hooker heels give me a massage. The massage was okay. It was a hot stone massage, though I really do prefer a Thai massage even if it hurts sometimes. After the massage we had a decent pizza and headed back to our hotel. Just feeling so lazy and exhausted.

Off to Danang by train tomorrow. We’ll probably only be there for one day, before we continue on to Hoi An.

Here’s a few more from Hue:

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Posted in hanoi, vietnam by moonwire on October 15, 2009

I left Bangkok on Saturday morning and flew into Singapore as my sister was due to arrive two hours after me. All went well. Her plane landed on time and we headed into the city to our hotel. At night we had Indian food at the outdoor Lavender food court and it was great. The next day we went to Orchard Road, which wasn’t really inspiring. I am not a big fan of Singapore, though I admire the cleanliness and the availability of everything.

Early evening we flew to Hanoi. I had arranged for the hotel to pick us up but they weren’t there so we took a taxi into the city. When we got to Mike’s Hotel they did not know about the pick up. Also, they had two rooms reserved for us. It was a bit bizarre but they offered us a free upgrade on the room. Well, when we saw the room big smiles appeared. A lot of space, a computer, fridge, safe, balcony. Absolutely fantastic. Really nice staff here as well so it’s all good.

However, at night we were hungry and didn’t realize that most things close early here. We couldn’t find any restaurant open at 11.30 pm, so we ended up with cup noodles. And we got lost trying to get back to our hotel. This city is a maze and the two maps we have, including the Lonely Planet one, are different from each other, and neither is  accurate. Every time we leave the hotel we get lost somewhere. We started making jokes about it when planning our walking routes. We’d find the spots where we would get lost. And were pretty much right about it every time. However, after 4 days we’ve gotten slightly better.

We’ve taken it pretty easy. What we usually do is look for places to eat and then we walk around town getting there. So much to see here and it’s not overrun with tourists at all. I love the little streets and alleys. The people are friendly and the food is delicious. At night we do the same thing, but add a few beers to the story. The first two days we had great weather but for the past few days it’s been raining pretty much non stop. It doesn’t bother me all that much, but it’s hard to take photos when the rain comes down in biblical proportions.

The food in Hanoi has been great. We had the best spring rolls ever at Little Hanoi. We also had some delicious ‘cha ca’, which was roasted snake head fish in a broth with fresh herbs. They serve it with rice noodles and peanuts. It’s a good thing we only googled ‘snake head fish’ when we got back to the hotel, the photos didn’t particularly look appealing. However, the dish was very very good.

The city is fantastic. Probably the best city I’ve visited yet. I have a soft spot for Cambodia, because of the people, but city wise this is much nicer than Phnom Penh. The people here are easy going and friendly and there’s tons of little alleys with shops and restaurants. There’s so much to see here. And except for one afternoon, we haven’t ventured out of the Old Quarter. The newer part of Hanoi we saw wasn’t very inspiring. However, I could easily spend another week here, but we’re not. We’re flying out to Hue tomorrow morning.

I’m not really in a writing mood tonight, so here’s a few more photographs.

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bangkok revisited

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on October 9, 2009

My last night in Bangkok. I’ve been here for a week now and it’s been fantastic. I did not do much at all. I shopped for new clothes, got a haircut, a Thai massage, ate and drank, went out a few times at night, caught up on sleep, washed all my clothes in the machine,  I read and listened to music. This was a well needed break from the crazy traveling around.

The shopping is amazing. There’s lots of cheap clothing to be found, but there’s also favourite stores like Mango and Zara (Western prices, though). I got rid off most of my old stuff, that I’d been wearing for months.

Another thing that amazes me is the people. For a city this size, they are remarkably friendly and helpful. Really easy going as well. You see the craziest things here. Guys in shirts and ties wearing mascara and lipstick, ladyboys that are obviously men wearing women’s clothing and high heels. Anything goes here. Sure, there’s people begging in the streets, but relatively not that many. And none of them have displayed any agressive behaviour.

I stayed at a wonderful hostel in Silom. It looks like a boutique hotel. Very industrial and lofty. I had booked a private room as I don’t like dorms and I’ve enjoyed hanging out here very much. A cool place to meet other travelers as well.

Though I have not done a single thing, I have not been bored for a single second. I love it here.  It has all the conveniences of the Western world but it still has Asian charm. It’s cheap and cheerful.

I didn’t take any good shots and truthfully, photography hasn’t been on my mind that much. I really feel like I hit a peak in Cambodia and it’s hard to keep it going.  Especially since having ‘access’ was so much easier in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I’ll get back into the shooting mode again when I go to Vietnam (with my sister, who’s flying into Singapore tomorrow). This week was about relaxing, enjoying just being here and looking good 😛

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escaping cebu

Posted in Uncategorized by moonwire on October 3, 2009

After two days of Iloilo, I was ready to move onto Cebu. Definitely hoping for a better experience. Well, the moment I left my hotel, I already had some street kid lunging at me. And that pretty much set the tone of the day.

When I arrived in Cebu, I took a taxi to my hotel and while the car stopped, another street kid tried to open the door, which I had wisely locked. A few minutes later, I saw a guy sitting on the sidewalk, only wearing a dirty t-shirt, no pants.

My hotel was nice enough and in the afternoon I decided to go to the mall. I had thrown out the clothes I was wearing in Manila wading through the flooded streets and I needed a few new things. On the 10 minute walk to the mall, I already got grabbed twice. Then when I got out of the shopping centre, I actually had some guy trying to grab my bag. I went to my hotel room, had a good cry and booked a flight out to Bangkok for Saturday, not thinking about the typhoon that was going to hit Manila that very same day (luckily it didn’t).

By this time I was in a state of panic. I did not want to be in Cebu any longer and I did not want to get stuck at the Manila airport, either. Luckily, there was a direct flight for the next afternoon to Singapore. I booked it immediately.

When I arrived in Singapore i felt such a great sense of relief. Back in civilisation. I took the train to my hostel in the North East part of town and at night I walked around and just marveled how nice it was. Outdoor restaurants with people eating curry and noodles, cars stopping at traffic lights, people being nice and well behaved. I did not get hassled once.

Unfortunately, in Cebu I noticed that my beloved ricoh GRD camera had a jammed lens. Not that I wanted to take photos there, but now I wasn’t able to shoot digital at all. Luckily, Singapore is electronics heaven and the next morning I went into town and bought a ricoh GRD III.

Then it was time to fly to Bangkok. I have 6 days here as I need to be in Singapore again on Saturday to meet my sister. The curious part of me wants to explore the area around Bangkok but the exhausted part of me just wants to relax, have a good time and save my energy for my next adventure, which will be Vietnam. I have been in 7 cities in 9 days… the exhausted part might just win this time.

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