November 19, 2006
I forgot to mention in yesterday's posting about the train! It was okay, and the trip was long, but slept okay. Getting back to Hanoi was not so good, with other people taking our room, and it was all a bit grim.
Woke on the 8th about 5.30 eggs for breakfast and lunch today. Went to Ta Van for lunch. Today was monsoon weather, so we slid back to town from our walk through the villages and had dinner at the Green Valley hotel. Took the bus to Lao Cai at 6.30 and then a long, anxious wait for our train tickets. It is amazing that the Internet access is the best ever, yet the systems have not caught up with the available technology.
Lots of pushing and shoving to get on the train by everybody, and Elly got hit. Arrived back in Hanoi on the 9th for breakfast and the Internet.
5.00 am arrival. Met baby and took photo. Went on tour at 10.00 with Te as our guide. Trek up and down uneven steps to the Cat Cat village, feeling very dizzy. Went to one of the villagers homes and bought two embrodiered pillowcases - only 7 km but felt like about 30 :-) Went back to the Huong Ha hotel, where everybody else slept. At 5.00 pm Elly and I went to "Chocolat and Baguettes" cafe for Duo chocolate tart, tiny cappucino and enormous hot chocolate for Elly for $4.30 all up. dinner at 6.30 at Gerberas was beaut - Sizzling BBQ Chicken/Beef with rice.
Met up with MeMe and MeToo who want to marry time and Mike :-) Went to the marriage maker and saw a party in the temple. Men were playing instruments, egged on by a huge crowd, maybe to attract women?. Started to go through the night markets, but Elly needed to go to the toilet urgently and couldn't make it to the hotel.
We found an Internet cafe called the Camillia Guest House - they let Elly use their personal toilet and laughed when we offered money for the toilet paper. This was one of the most touching things about Sapa, as well, of course, as the scenery!
Waiting for John till Jim said he'd be there at 2.00pm. Jim was worried about flights to get home, so Tim and I went for a walk. Never take traveller's cheques with you - big commission to change these, and at the Saigon Bank, it took 45 minutes. Time and I walked right around the lake, had a shake at the Kangaroo cafe, and bought Tim and Elly a T-shirt at Hang Gai, as well as 2 T-shirts for Mike at Ma May - great little place just up from the Sunshine 2.
Bought Mike 5 pairs of undies at the place I got the clothes, which ended up being horrible - don't ever go to the , as the clothes were badly made and therefore a rip off - you wouldn't buy them in a pink fit. Jim bought second Buddha at the same place.
After Carl, Stephanie and Laura left at 9.30 (and our Pho breakfast together!), we walked to the lake, to see the temple. We ended up at a department store, where Elly and I bought two shell bags, and ordered new sunglasses for $45 AUS. Jim bought a buddha. After 3 or 4 hours, Jim, Elly and Mike went home, whilst Tim and I went to the Kangaroo cafe, looked at the shoe market, and then walked the Hung Gai.
Ordered 3 shirts, 1 skirt suit and 2 pairs capri pants, then home for a welcome (and most powerful in the world) shower. John came to take us to a restaurant in Tai Ba, in the suburbs (rice wrapper specialty). Mike went on the back of Dave's motorbike, and you can see the picture of this below :-)
The Autumn Festival meant there were billions of people around, and millions of those were kids! The restuarant was fantastic and the people there were fascinated by the seven giants, and especially fascinated by Tim's hair - the lack of cut, as much as the colour!
Afterwards Dave doubled Elly to the 1/2 Man, 1/2 Noodle bar on the back of his motorbike, after dropping Mike off at the Sunshine 2. Had a drink, then home to bed.
On 3 October we walked up 445 steps to see a spectacular view. Carl was like a vision as he came into sight at the temple, carrying a 1 litre bottle of water! Everybody had a swim (although I was a little worried about sharks, and Elly took about an hour to get in the water!), and kayaked, and then onto top deck after dinner for a nap and one of the most serene times ever in the dark.
Our guide was fantastic (see above with Laura), and dealt beautifully with the American boy from hell, who complained, bullied and threatened most of the crew, about everything. In my travel days you wet along with most things and saved the whinging for important stuff, but he gave young people a very bad name generally. We were in bed and asleep by 8.30!!
Woke on the 4th October to an egg breakfast and went to another island to swim and walk up the top to another magnificent view. Took 2 hours to get back, and we had lunch at a restaurant in a hotel nearby. Had a bit of a snooze on the bus tri back and stopped for an icecream. Always afraid of what I'll miss out on when sleeping :-) Got our laundry, showered in the best ever shower, and had dinner with John and Ha in a little restuarant up the road. Fantastic!
November 12, 2006
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59669410@N00/ has Hanoi and Halong Bay photos - a mix from Carl and Mike. Had dinner with John, Ha, Dave, Carl and Stephanie 69 mA May Street - in a private room. Had our laundry done 4 k for 4 US$, and oganised our trip to Halong Bay. Grat breakfast at the Sunshine 2 hotel omelet and incredible bread roll.
To get to Halong Bay, we first got a minibus to the bus station, then a bigger bus to Halong Bay, then on to the boat. I lost my sunglasses at the embroidery shop/workshop for children with disabilities/drink stop, and you'll see them in our photographs :-) Bought a silk embroidery in black and white, then onto boat.
Great lunch, and then onto the limestone caves. Still the people came to sell us things - see the picture of the woman in the boat (left below).
November 11, 2006
The Hardings arrive in Hanoi! See my beautiful purple shirt to the right.
The cyclone took the camera out of action, either because we could have taken one of the flooded rooms, or else it was raining too much and the camera would get wet! So the next photos are of us in Hanoi - finally catching up with the Selbys, and John! On the first night in Hanoi, we had drinks at the top of the city, and then dinner elsewhere, and a fairly early night, like 11.30!
More about the typhoon can be read at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200610/s1752846.htm
It was not a great thing, although breakfast, which only Elly and I went to, was interesting - got to talk with lots of people, including a family of 15, including their 82 year old mother and father, who were from Townsville. Got a bit worried about Tim and Jim, who, as it happened, had been taken elsewhere in the hotel because a window had smashed near them. Mike was in his room by himself, which was not good ;-( No power, flooding and hysteria, as well as the suggestion of singing and dancing (and, of course, some follow up) was the order of the day in the restaurant, where we were locked in, till the Rescue Committeee came to get us.
We went out walking about 5.00 that afternoon - no power, lots of destruction, but the repair started immediately. The river came up about 300 metres into the town (Jim says I'm exagerrating, which I could well be). Couldn't get my shoes, and eventually Carl and Stephanie got them for me a week later! Below is a photo of the Hoi An Hotel, with Laura.
November 10, 2006
29 September was spent mostly looking for the best tailor, but after an eventful 1.5 hours in the markets (the only tout in Hoi An!!!), we ended up at , recommended by at least two people - great service is probalby a bit of an oxymoron, but we had a dress made for Elly's Year 6 farewell for $45, three gorgeous shirts for me for only $17 each, in silk (hopefully to match the gorgeous skirt bought a year ago :-)), and the most beautiful skirt sets for $45 and $55 each. The shoes were $22 each, so we got Elly's to match. There'll be people out there who paid more/paid less, etc, but we're happy with what we got.
Picked up our clothes - fantastique! The 30th saw us going to My Son ancient relics on a $6 tour, but not before throwing everything into our suitcases, because of the threatened typhoon. After breakfast we took some photos of the raging ocean (a little worried about tsunamis), then off to the most miserably wet, soaking excursion ever! When we got back we had been evacuated to the Hoi An Resort in town, so went to pick up clothes. Shoes weren't ready, so had lunch instead. Asked Jim to get supplies for the cyclone - one Pringles and 1 large water latter retired to the restaurant at the Hoi An Hotel. The resident cat was being fed by a group of Korean and Japanese and Chinese girls :-)
The storm raged all night, with a lot of noise as the storm shutters shook, rattled and rolled! No much sleep that night.