Saturday, February 27, 2010

sunday february 28

we are in phnom penh. there is an incredible amount of infrastructure for a country that has only really been at it for 20 years, but it is for the most part painfully poor, particularly the rural areas where there is no electricty or sanitation, only cellular service.

we spent two days getting here by boat and bus. it was a good little trip and once again we met a good little group from all over. we spent the night in chau doc where we dined with four of our bus mates. the food was good, but you have never seen so many flies in your life. not house flies, but midges of some type, completely covering everything.
the trip up the mekong yesterday was hot and interesting. the rural people really use the river. they appear to be completely self-sufficient. we joined a young couple from Scotland for dinner last evening, and we are meeting them again tonight and goint to one of these reataurants run by street kids. should be fun. we had a local specialty last night...amok. it had a thai taste, and after the bland vietnamese food it was a pleasant surprise.

today we went to the killing fields and S-21. a very depressing morning, and i think that we are in need of a 60 cent beer. the atrocities are mind-boggling.

tomorrow we hop on a bus at noon and head up to siem reap. weare looking forward to this leg.
i will report back on angkor wat.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 25 Thursday

Happy Birthday Breen!!!

I haven't been able to log on to my blog for the past three days.
Monday we piled into the van for 16, thank goodness there were only 9 of us, as that is all that fit. The drive was harrowing. vietnamese drive like maniacs. he who has the biggest vehicle rules the roadways. fortunately there are very few cars, but there are thousands of motocycles, and lots of bicycles, but they are completely bullied by the bigger vehicles. pedestrians are the lowest on the chain and you need eyes on the sides and back of your head. we arrived about 8pm in nha trang, checked in, grabbed a bite, and hit the sack.
Tuesday we spent at the beach. after driving through rice paddies, oxen, ducks and chickens goint to market, oh yes and even 2 goats on a motorcycle, nha trang was surreal. a georgous beach with beautiful huts and bars with delicious smoothies, it was like landing in another country. could have been the bahamas, the cote d'azure, or any other fabulous beach locale. the water was warm and the surf perfect. we all hooked up for dinner at the sailing club. a nice upscale beach on the water. i had soft-shelled crab.yum. we topped the night off with a pint at the australian brew pub just down the way. good times all around. pat brought up a picture of her dinner guest from the night before...a big rat right on the table top. gross.
wednesday we did more of the same. beach beach and more beach. we had dinner at a small fish place. decided to go cheap. a salad big enough to feed four, bar-b-cued tuna and fries, and i am talking a huge piece of tuna, and two bottled waters. 6 dollars total. amazing. at 8:30 we boarded the overnight bus to saigon and i went off to sleep. it was perfect.
we arrived in saigon at 7:30 this morning. checked in and went out exploring. we saw the fine art museum, 2 markets, the reunification palace and the war museum. the war museum was the best. there was an exhibition of photos taken during the war by embedded photo journalists. some we certainly remembered from magazines but lots were new to us. there was also a huge display of the birth defects as a result of chemical warfare. pretty awful stuff. after 2 hours i was propaganded out, and i am now finished with the vietnamese war, or the american war, as they call it.
tomorrow morning we are off on a 2 day boat and overland trip to phnom phen. nest message will be from cambodia.
keep well.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

sunday february 21

we met up with 7 others for dinner last night on the river. 3 canadians and 6 poms, as the aussies call them, brits to us. this is the group that is renting the van for the trip to na trang tomorrow. we will try to make a stop at mai li on the way there. there is a museum and a memorial there. it will be sad but hopefully worth the visit.
today we rented bikes and rode around the coast. the beaches are beautiful. white sand and surf as far as the eye can see. there is only one tiny section with resorts although i suppose that to will change with time.
all the vietnamese ride motorcyles. there are thousands of them on the road and nobody follows any of the rules. lots of people here where masks, i am guessing as the birthplace of avian flu perhaps that is what they are trying to prevent. what you see all time, however is a family of 4 on a motorbike. both parents often have helmets, but the children never do. they are often standing or riding side-saddle in their flip-flops, no helmets, but masks on. seems crazy, but it is the norm. i read in the paper yesterday that there have already been 400 fatalities on the first six days of the new year. crazy.
we are off to grab some dinner. we just can't decide where, we both feel like good old home food tonught, but i guess that is out of the question. we had lunch at a great little restaurant that trains street kids for the hospitality industry. it is an 18 month apprenticeship and they get hired for all the best spots. it was by far the cleanest place we have eaten in yet, and the food was wonderful.
off at the crack of dawn tomorrow. i expect that we won't get to na trang until about 8 tomorrow. in the meantime, hope everyone had a great week-end.

Friday, February 19, 2010

saturday february 20

we arrived in hoi an yesterday at about 5. it is everything that we hoped it would be. a really lovely city. this time we took a tourist bus and got here without a hitch. the only problem was that the hotel didn't have our reservation so they sent us to one of their sister hotels for the night. better location, but not nearly as nice. today we are at the hotel that we booked and it is lovely. we went out for dinner along the river and met some great people. they are having the same travel problems as we are, due to tet, so they have decided to rent a van and driver to take them to na thrang on monday. we are in. should be a lot of fun. the sun is finally back and the weather is grand. what a difference it makes. hoi an is on the river and at night it is all lit up and stupendous. we did a bit of shopping today, gerry even lived dangerously and got a haircut.
we are heading back out to the streets and will meet our travelling companions for a drink at 7.
more hoi an news to follow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

thursday february 18

we arrived in hue about 1:30 and have had a chance to visit the city and see the imperial palace. no much else going on here, and we are heading off to hoi an tomorrow afternoon. it is also a unesco world heritage sight so should be quite lovely. it has been overcast the whole time we have been in vietnam, but fortunately we have managed to escape the rain.
the last twenty four hours have been challenging. the train ride was an experience that Gerry absolutely refuses to re-visit. i will spare all the gory details at this time, suffice to say that it wasn't pretty. we survived however, and will live to tell the tale. it was a total of 17 hours and gerry insists that conditions in the don jail are better.
other than the train it has been a quiet day.
next report will be from hoi an. we are chasing the sun, but haven't found it quite yet.
hope all is well at home.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

wednesday february 17

we are just dropping by at the guest house to pick up our packs and head to the train station. it was a long day of walking in hanoi. the water puppet show was fabulous, dinner was excellent, and we even caught a bit of olympic hockey. the train will be 16 hours in a 6 bed hard sleeper. i will report back. in the meantime have a great few days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

tuesday february 16

the young man from hanoi kids arrived right at 9 after a nice breakfast of pho. he was happy to practise his english as ha says english study in school is boring. sound familiar? we started at the temple of literature, the first university in hanoi. i am not sure of the start date but hanoi will be 1,000 years old in october. the students all visit the temple at the beginning of the new year and rub the heads of the turtles(bronze)for good luck. then it was off to the pagoda where every person in hanoi was visiting and making offerings for a new year. there was even beer stacked up. we had some street food there, more pho, but also these deepfried shrimp on a crispy cake of some sort. yum. we tried to ask questions but there were things that he would not discuss. he would not even tell us what his father does. quite interesting.
in the afternoon we wandered over to the army museum. luckily it was open, but oh my,such propaganda. it actually becomes a bit tiring. very intesting to see the other side mind you, and vietnam has had a lot of oppression in it's lifetime. then we wandered aimlessly...actually i was in charge of the map and managed to go in the complete wrong direction. big whoop, it wasn't like we had anywhere to be.
i think that we will go to a little tapas bar near the lake for dinner. it looked cute, and was reasonably priced. tomorrow is our last day in hanoi before we climb aboard the slow train to hue.

Monday, February 15, 2010

monday february 15

happy family day to all you ontarians.
we started the day off bright and early here in hanoi. cool but fortunately the rain held off. the guest house provided big bowls of pho for breakfast. yum. not gerry's favourite but good for his system. he is feeling much better today, though not 100%. then it was off to the train station to figure out a way to leave. that was a production let me tell you. you start to understand why people take tours, particularly when there is such a language barrier. we did finally manage to get an overnight train to hue on wednesday. a six berth hard sleeper...we'll see. then it was off to continue our exploration. the city was very quiet in the morning but got busier as the day went on. we wandered over to the "hanoi hilton" to see when it would be open, and lo and behold it was. it was very interesting. the french treatment of the vietnamese prisoners was depicted as worse than living for sure. the depictment of the american prisoners shows them playing soccer and volleyball, decorating a christmas tree and receiving souvenirs. i am sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
dinner was at a cute italian restaurant recommended in frommers, but anytime they quote the price in US dollars you know that you are being ripped off, because the price in dong seems so outrageous. today we took 8,000,000.00 out of the bank. that has never happened before.
tomorrow we have made an appointment with hanoi kids. they come and spend a few hours with us to practise their english. should be fun and we will get to see some new parts of hanoi.
i'll get back to you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

sunday february 14

happy valentines day, chinese new year, and tet.
we have arrived in hanoi. it is cold and drizzly.
for our last night in luang prabang we decided to go to a touristy place where they had traditional music, dance and food. it was good fun even if a bit pricey.
news flash!! big emergency. someone stole my lipstick. yes my lips are naked. i already lost the lipliner and now someone has taken my lipstick. i left it in the bathroom at the guest house and someone there took it! i ripped the room apart to no avail, but believe me i know exactly where i left it.
back to the blog. gerry has been feeling under the weather since last evening. i hope that it was just something he ate. he hasn't had any appetite today and is now in bed. hopefully tomorrow he will be better.
this morning we went out to the elephant conservation park to ride the elephants, have lunch, go for a river ride and then back. it was great fun on the elephants. i got to ride bareback sitting on her head. i've never done that before. then it was off to the airport and on our way to vietnam. security in loas is just a suggestion, and entering viet nam was a piece of cake.
with everything shut down for tet, i am not sure what the next two days have in store. i tried to cas some travellers cheques and the gal told me that the banks won't open until next monday...8 days away. the girl at the desk here at the guest house tells me that i won't be able to get a plane, train, or bus for the next few weeks. it wouldn't be the end of the world except that it is cold here. i veel your pain.
i will let you know where this all goes. until then...happy Tet.

Friday, February 12, 2010

saturday february 13

on tuesday we caught the bus to chiang kong. we could learn a few things. for the princely sum of 7 dollars we gt a reserved seat, a steward on the bus, water and a bag of cookies each, and a hand towel to clean up when we arrived at our destination. then it was a taxi to the ferry, a quick ferry ride across to laos, a one page form to fill out, payment of 42 u.s. dollars, and we were in laos. we canadians pay the most to enter laos however. the most in the world. the americans only pay 35 dollars, and they bombed the hell out of them. go figure. then it was dinner and to bed.
wednesday morning we grabbed a cab to the pier and boarded out boat at 10;15 for an 11: 00 departure. the seats were hard wooden benches really not meant for 2 people, and the boat didn't leave until 12;30. our bums were sore before we even got going. nevertheless it was surprisingly fun people from all over the world were on the boat, and it was easy and fun to strike up conversations. there was beer and food onboard...and only one bathroom. surprisingly, though it wasn't pretty, they kept it clean and well stocked the entire trip. we were talking to an american viet nam war vet. he was full of great stories, but unfortunately he was racist redneck.after having too much to drink he fell in the Mekong getting off the boat. in all fairness it was a very thin plank and he is 69. we arrived at pakbeng at 6;30, found a room, had dinner and went to bed.
on thursday we arrived at the pier to start the whole process all over. this time they took all the people from two boats and put them on one. it went from bad to worse. the benches were even smaller and they were three across instead of two. once again we had a blast as we knew lots of the people quite well by then. we were able to sit on the edge of the boat with our feet hanging over..can you imagine that in canada? they would have a big wire fence and people yelling at you to get away from the edge. it was a longer day and we arrived in lang prabang at 6:30 again. we found a room, got cleaned up and met some dutch friends for dinner. a great time was had by all.
luang prabang is beautiful. a world heritage sight. yesterday we explored the town. you can see the french influence here. a very large baguette on the street stuffed with anything you want including lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, onions and chili sauce costs 1.20. everyone who speaks a little english wants to have a conversation with you, including the monks, of which there are many. for dinner last night we had a lao barbecue. a hot coal fire with a sombrero shaped grill on the top. in the brim or the moat goes the broth and the noodles and vegetables, and on the top you grill the chicken and the tofu. it comes with fabulous garnishes and egg. delicious. because of the french influence you can also get a glass of wine much easier than in Thailand.
today we rented bikes and have been exploring outside the town. tomorrow we go see the elephants and have a ride, and then it is on the plane to vietnam. we would have stayed here a bit longer but we if we didn't leave tomorrow we couldn't get out for a week because of tet. we are flying lao air...cross your fingers.
we have loved laos, both the country and the people. i would return here in a heartbeat. next posting will be from vietnam.
take care all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

monday february 8

this morning we were up at 6 to watch the superbowl at a local sportsbar. we met a great guy from portland maine last night and he joined us. a good time was had by all. fortunately the best team one. what made it so much fun, however, was a young american from new orleans. he was so pumped that he made it fun for everyone. it turns out that he lives here and has a small mexican restaurant.
we went off to the bus station to pick up our tickets for the bus trip to chiang kong tomorrow. a 6 and a half hour bus ride for 7 dollars each. we will get our visas to laos at the border, hopefully, walk across the bridge, and be in laos tomorrow night. on tuesday morning we will get on a slow boat, two full days, to luang prabang. this will be an adventure!!! l
there is a good chance that i won't be able to get back on the blog for 3 days or so. we won't have disappeared off the face of the earth, just incommunicato.
thailand has been fabulous and we look forward to returning before we head back to singapore.
until then.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

sunday february 7

we had to change hotels as the one we were in could not accomodate us for two additional nights. we managed to get one just across the street. wandered the saturday night market last night. gerry is marketed out. they are all similar...tons of people, goods and food. off to dinner after. we found a lovely place where we could get a glass of wine with our thai food. a real treat.
today we went to sammy's organic cooking school. it was fabulous. he has a place in the country with his wife and two year old. the only others in the class were a gal from Taiwan and her 15 year old nephew. we had a blast. i think that i can manage pad thai quite handily now. we are so stuffed that we can barely move. no running around looking for dinner tonight, but we will pay a visit to the sunday night market.
tomorrow morning we are off to some joint to watch the superbowl. since we are twelve hours ahead i will know the outcome long before you. LOL!!! care to bet??
talk tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

saturday february 6

last night we decided to go to a restaurant recommended in frommers. of course we wandered aimlessly looking for it. i had the wrong address in my head, but eventually it was located. it was northern thai and the food was fabulous. the best food that we have had yet...and it has all been darn good. the place was lovely. tablecloths and beautiful decor...all for the princely sum of 12 bucks, that included four dishes and two beers.
today was off to the flower parade. it was spectacular. i haven't seen the rose bowl live, but i am guessing that this parade would give it a run for its' money. communities far and wide participated with beautiful floats all created out of flowers, people in native dress, and every marching band that is in existence in northern thailand. the floats ended up at the park with a huge botanical show, booths of every kind, and of course food as far as the eye can see. all these people do is eat, and they are all rail thin.
we are off to a cooking course tomorrow. we chose one that is out of the city so that we can have a day in the country. "sammy" seemed really nice, there are only 6 people per session, and he has an organic farm.should be fun.
everybody negotiates really hard here. sometimes it just seems so cheap, but i guess that is how business is done. the standard fare to the airport here is 120 baht about 4 dollars. the girls behind me just talked him down to 70. seems like it would hardly cover his gas.
not sure about dinner plans yet. we just scoped out a spot for the superbowl at 6 on monday morning, and then on tuesday we are off to laos. weather here is hot- even for chaing mai. later

Friday, February 5, 2010

friday february 5

the flight from bangkok was uneventful. going through security is so painless it is laughable. the gal looked at my passport, commented on the great colour of my lipstick, smiled and said have a good day. i decided to check my bag for the first time. just because. when i went to retrieve it at the other end it wasn't there...last bag to come out. only me.
we spent the day wandering around the old city. one of the wats had a "talk to the monk" spot. it was very interesting. you could ask him anything that you wanted. i got a lot of my questions answered. the oddest thing is that they can't take part in any sport or physical exercise.
today we started with breakfast out. no breakfast at the hotel. i had sticky rice and mango. fab. we sat with an older couple from germany and three young people from italy. interesting conversation and the young italian gentleman was very easy on the eyes. we spent the rest of the day visiting other parts of the city n foot, and ended up with a massage. gerry's gal was fabulous and mine was completely useless. i thought that my head was going to blow off. i don't like being touched..painful massage i don't mind, but this was just awful. i bit my tongue, sucked it up and soldiered on. for 5 bucks you can't kick up too much of a fuss. we are just looking at cooking schools and i will keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

wednesday february 3

the steets of bangkok are the best at night! there is a fabulous vibe and everyone is out. bangkok is the complete antithesis of is dirty, poor, smelly and totally non-conformist, not particularly law-abiding,..difficult to read their maps and generally hard to get around, but at the same time utterly fabulous.
today we did the major temples. at wat pho which houses the massage school we had a thai massage for ten bucks. it was great. painful but great. then we hoofed it over to chinatown and in the noon-time heat grabbed an ice cream cone at mcdonalds for 25 cents.
back in our neck of the woods we grabbed some street food. pad thai and a spring roll for 90 cents. we stuck to the vegetarian version just to be safe. some of the meat and fish seems to hang around in the heat for a very long time. we have discovered that people who stop to help you on the street never tell you the truth. i thought france was bad, but you haven't seen anything until you come to bangkok.
tomorrow we are off to chiang mai. gerry nixed the bus, and we found a cheap flight for 75 bucks each.
we really must head out for a beer. it is bloody hot here, even at night. next report will be from chaing mai.

Monday, February 1, 2010

tuesday february 2

we are in bangkok. it is fun and fabulous. one final note on singapore. we flew air tiger, which is a budget airline. the budget airlines have their own terminal..i guess they don't want the plebs mingling. but what a terminal! there is free computer access with an abundance of working computers. there are beautiful tv's scattered about and the speakers are in the seats.there is food and drink and anything else you may wish to purchase, and there are free foot massage machines. sometimes i think we have a lot to learn. the flight to bangkok was uneventful. yea.
we arrived in bangkok, got a bus to our area, and then walked for two hours looking for our inn. we finally found it. it is great. a great location and free breakfast which consisted of real food. fabulous fried rice, stir-fried beef, salad, and the usual breakfast stuff. minus the peanut butter. we wandered around the area last evening. it is perfect. a giant beer costs 3 bucks and a plate of food about 2. people have advised against eating the street food, but is is tempting, it all looks so good.
this morning we got scammed into a ride around bangkok by tuk-tuk. the driver got so fed up with us not buying anything that he dumped us at one of the temples and disappeared..oh well it didn't cost us anything. today is a buddhist holiday so a lot of the temples are closed. finding our way back was a bit of a challenge as reading a map here is almost impossible and the people either don't speak english or only want to help if you are going to buy something from them. anyway, alls well that ends well. the adventure continues.