I took a bit of a break from my computer last month, while travelling around Thailand and Vietnam. I met up with my man Jeff and his brother Jesse, as well as some other friends and family along the way. We started in Koh Samui on the Southeast coast of Thailand, headed a bit north to Koh Tao, made our way by boat and plane to Saigon in Vietnam (aka Ho Chi Minh City), with a few days in Mui Ne, flew to Danang and Hoi An in time for Christmas, then farther North to Hue, Hanoi, Sapa, Bac Ha and Halong Bay. We saw some great things, and had some good times. We were all learning to use Jeff’s new Canon G12 camera –I’m still sorting through a couple thousand pictures. I’ve linked to the first album in facebook, along with descriptions of the trip…
Here are some highlights:
- Amazing cheap massages right on the beach in Koh Samui.
- Dancing all night at the full moon party … after a few too many buckets.
- A very rough ride from Koh Samui to Koh Tao on a speedboat… roughly half of the boat tossed their cookies. Jesse and I barely made it out unscathed, Jeff did not.
- Learning to dive in Koh Tao, doing some underwater chicken dancing with Jesse, meeting great new friends like James and Caroline, and watching it all on video once we got certified – there`s a copy waiting for me at home that I paid way too much for. I was drunkenly talking about how I`m rich now and need to be a `benefactor of the arts`.
- Yummmmmy Thai food – including pad thai for a buck.
- Watching the visual symphony that is thousands upon thousands of motorcycles on the streets of Saigon… with many of the riders or their kids dressed as Santa.
- Meeting up with Roy, Hawa, Alicia, Sam, Archer, Onion/Boris, and Clay in Mui Ne. Loved spending time with the rambunctious kids who are all smart as a whip, eating great seafood with Vietnamese flavours, and seeking out near-daily massages. Boris` surgery and the resulting video are a standout. Another stand out is the night in the crazy Vietnamese club… think strobe lights, mind-blowingly loud music, bottle service, and plenty of enthusiastic locals.
- Vietnam in general… what a great country. The food, the funny and friendly people, and the beauty. Jesse, and eventually Jeff and I as well, made a lot of friends by making a big effort to learn Vietnamese… it made for a lot of laughs, and we got pretty good after a while! We also referred to Vietnam as the “cute factory“, because everywhere you looked were the cutest kids you have ever seen. We could barely contain ourselves.
- Though we spent some of our time in Hoi An wandering the streets lined with beautiful old French-inspired buildings, over half was spent Hoi An in B’Lan’s tailor shop, and being adopted by our tailor and her family as a result! They let us stay in their guesthouse for free – Jeff and Jesse are there now, on the tail end of the Tet celebrations. The karaoke night was the best part – both B’Lan and her husband are brilliant singers. And our rendition of “Sweet Caroline” wasn’t too bad either.
- New Years in Hue… everyone was ambivalent about going out, but we ended up at the “Brown Eyed Bar”, met some great people and did some dancing to cheesy tunes.
- A motorcycle tour in Hue – what a great way to travel in Vietnam, especially being on the back and not having to worry too much about the other crazy drivers. Saw beautiful pagodas, tombs, and a covered Japanese bridge.
- Shivering under our blankets and enjoying some serious HBO time in Sapa – I know I’m Canadian, and tend to exaggerate, but I swear that is the coldest I’ve ever felt.
- Running away from the pushy lady trying to push her tribal crafts on us, who always seemed to be waiting outside of her hotel, and starting cackling madly as she chased us.
- When we weren’t shivering in Sapa, joining our guide Sonny on a tour down the mountain into the hill tribe villages for some views of classic rice terraces. The best was that he was armed with plenty of candy, and would call out to the kids in the villages as we passed by to come and get some – these kids went crazy for it, and we got to feel like we won their heart. Sonny also managed to save us from other pushy ladies selling things.
- Though tainted by tourism and souvenirs, the market in Bac Ha had many corners that were still pretty `legit` (as Jesse would say). Jeff got some great pics of a water buffalo deal going down, and Jesse got some homemade knives for camping. Jeff made friends with a six year old, who was quite enthralled with his beard, and also pointed back and forth from Jeff`s chest hair to the monkey on his shirt, showing the comparison.
- More great friends in Hanoi, especially our friend Dao, who worked in our hotel and is the kindest, sweetest soul you ever met.
- Kayaking through Halong Bay, including going through some caves.
- Sitting in the bar by the pool of the gorgeous Metropole hotel feeling rich and beautiful…
In 5 weeks, I`ll be travelling around India, with Jeff and my 16-year-old sister Kylie. In the meantime, starting to see some good blog-worthy results at work. Till next time…