Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I've been in northwest Vietnam and it is beautiful. Where there are tourists it is hard to escape sales techniques and locals trying to squirrel every penny out of you. Where there aren't people smile and every single person waves and says "hello". What does this to people? Vietnam is hardly that touristy. Furthermore, Vietnamese people spit, chew with their mouths open, stare at you, and throw their rubbish into the beautiful hills.

To really enjoy this country, find a place away from the tourist trail. Then it is as wonderful as any place you might visit. Don't do that and you will most likely leave this country feeling it is the worst place in South East Asia. And many people do.

Shamefully I cannot write the lengthy peice I wanted to about Sapa (the pretty but touristy hell hole) and Lai Chau (the pretty but untouristy place of pleasure). This is mainly because I have calculated my time on this machine badly and I need to get to bed. And that is because we are going to Halong Bay tomorrow and we have to get up at 7am.

So I leave you now with a half-week of pleasure ahead of me having left my Weblog to rot.

Do I care? Well actually there is a touch of bother within me.

But not enough to sit here for any longer.

Monday, April 19, 2004

And so I arrive in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

There is only one word to adequately describe this city: CHAOS.

The legal standard side to drive on here is the right, but reality states that there are no laws. Motorbikes and bicycles crowd the streets and flow down the streets of Hanoi like water gushing through. I use this analogy because to cross the road one must simply walk to the other side whilst the traffic magically weaves around you. It is quite an unnerving experience, but one you get used to. Westerners are still rare enough to attract young children into approaching you and saying "hello". But also to make you a target for locals looking for a bit of business. Expect to say no to taxis (cars), cyclos (bikes with seats at the front), and motos (moped drivers who want you to cling onto the back), and also to postcard salespeople, shoe shiners, representatives outside of restaurants, cafes and bars, and any other service you might not want.

It is understable of course when one considers that most people here are pretty damn poor when compared to the West. If only the US had paid the $6 billion in reparations they had promised as part of the ceasefire agreement, or had not waited till 1994 to end their embargo. Such pettiness. In fact with 27,000 dong to the pound, most visitors here are billionnaires. Which isn't bad when you consider that four of us ate at a street vendor last night for 30,000 in total.

So yes. It's damn cheap.

And the most luxurious thing to do here is to find the most expensive restaurants in town and treat yourself to a gourmet meal for something less than $10 per person. It's hard but I managed to find the finest place - and it is Bobby Chinn's. His steak is second to very few most likely; it melts in one's mouth.

It is thankfully cool here. After the heat of Bangkok it is wonderful to be able to wear long trousers and socks; the biting insects however still visit my room at night. The bastards. The buildings are fairly old and life exists on the street - much as it does on Bangkok. However Bangkok is a sprawling beast compared to quaint little Hanoi. The centre of Hanoi city is a lake which surrounds a small temple and an even smaller ancient ruin. And that's pretty much it for the major landmarks.

I need to stress again at this point the chaos that are the streets here. Bikes weave in and out and around each other like termites on a termite mound. I wonder at how I have yet to see an accident but somehow the Vietnamese avoid it. It is anarchy in action. Hence large vehicles like lorries have the run of the road. A lorry's method of approaching a busy crossroads is to honk its horn repeatedly and drive steadily onwards. It seems to work. The horn on a vehicle is used to indicate to others your position - thus the frequency of their use is magnificently high.

Tonight I head for mountains. Cities are only so good, but I need mountains and clear air for a few days. Frequently differing smells are good for only so long.

There is much to come from this trip no doubt.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

If you could take a glass, dip it in an ocean and then somehow label each individual atom. Then pour the water back, wait eleven years, before taking your glass and re-scooping from any ocean or sea. You will have a better than evens chance of finding at least one of your original labelled atoms. So it is then that if you were to wait eleven years scoop a glass full of sea and examine the contents, you would certainly find some atoms that originated in the bladder of some drunken Full Moon Party reveller on Koh Pahnagn, Thailand. For many were wading ten feet into the water to urinate, bak turned from the beach.

But I shouldn't start this review of the Full Moon Party on a negative. It was a pretty good occasion. Everyone was friendly, there was lots to see and do, and the alcohol was bountiful and cheap. At one point I got to stroke two large Eagles. Dance floors ring the beach and revellers flatten the sand. It's quite a night. And no wonder for days leading up to the event tourists and travellers fill the resort of Hat Rin and then empty it in the days after.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The other day I went into our bathroom and there sat a cockroach the size of my arm. I swear had I not recognised it as a specific species of the Earth I would have convinced myself it was an alien visitor sent to communicate with me via it's massive waving tentacles.

After duly dispatching it into the night, we espied a mosquito hovering about our room. Books in hand we chased it for many minutes. I settled onto my bed defeated. There! It was crawling up my fucking leg. Like a fool I flicked it away. "No!" Rob cried from the neighbouring bed. "Why didn't you crush it?"

"I don't know", I admited.

I now have a bite the size of New Malden on the inside of my right foot. Bah. Now I have to decide wether to plaster it over with a, erm, plaster or to endure the constant itching that accompanies the abrasion of sandel on bite. If only I had crushed the fucker when I had the chance.

The following day we studied a long thin red worm furiously hurtling it's body around in an attempt to transport itself up a beach. It seemed like a thing one would normally only see on a nature documentary. After we walked off a couple of other lads went to study it, satisfied that we had vacated the area. They didn't want to be seen to be copying us. No doubt the worm's journey was followed entirely be seperate groups of lads peering curiously at it. Odds are, one chap would have crushed it eventually.

Which is what I should have done with the bastard mosquito.

Let this be a lesson to you all.