CraSh Williams' Blog

Posts Tagged ‘south east asia’

Lost in the big bad city…

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on May 6, 2011

Ho Chi Minh City is the nuts, the big bad brother to Hanoi – which in comparison seems shy and retiring. Set on the banks of the Saigon River, HCMC has approximately 7 million inhabitants all of whom are darting here there and everywhere, the traffic is a nightmare – there must be tens of thousands of scooters on the roads and I’m pleased we learnt to cross the road whilst in Hanoi as here, it’s much more daunting!

Broken up in to numerous districts, we’re just on the outskirts of District 1 (Dong Khoi, central HCMC,) in the backpackers’ area called De Tham. Our hotel is OK – having being spoilt whilst up near Hoi An, we’ve been brought quickly down to earth – (whereas our last Hotel cost $125US, this one is $20US,) thankfully we’ve bought our earplugs along!

Located here means there’s lots of bars and places to eat – as per our normal routine on entering a new city, for lunch yesterday we went for a good old curry – it was superb as well! Last night we found a bar with half price cocktails so we duly set in for the evening quaffing numerous mojitos and long island ice teas before stumbling out of there to find a Bia Hoi (street stalls selling beer) – we found a great one almost opposite, as well as ice-cold beer, they were also selling freshly cooked crab claws, perfect.

Nearby is the city’s busiest market, Ben Thanh. Having been around for 100 years this vast covered market sells everything you could want and when visiting anywhere for the first time, we always make a point of visiting the markets as soon as a possible as it’s a great place to get a feel for any city and this place was no exception, it was bonkers!

Like all markets this one had a fresh produce section which we wandered through seeing live fish being gutted, live frogs literally having their legs pulled from their bodies (which were discarded) and the still kicking legs placed into a bowl, ready for selling! Feeling hungry(!) we went to the section of the market selling food and quickly found the one selling seafood, ordering fresh clams, snails, crab & scallops we settled in for a very atmospheric lunch amongst the bustle of the market.

We’ve also visited the War Remnants Museum which our Rough Guide states ‘…is the city’s most popular attraction but not for the faint hearted…’ It’s an incredibly moving museum, predominantly photographic in content (though outside is various ‘captured / left behind’ US fighter jets, Chinooks, tanks and big guns of which we took several photos.

The photos are horrific and moving at the same time, not only are they (in places) very graphic it’s the ones detailing the effects of apparently 75 million litres of defoliant sprays (Agent Orange) across the country, which not only destroyed the countryside it ruined the lives of many people not yet even born. There are numerous photos of children born with numerous birth defects and of malformed foetuses. It’s quite shocking to think that this happened in my lifetime – we both came away feeling quite subdued though at the same time amazed that such a country as Vietnam is moving forward at such a pace, particularly given it’s very recent past.

It really is the most incredible place.

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Leaving Hoi An

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on May 4, 2011

Alas, all good things come to a close and yesterday we said cheerio to our friends Lisa & Jamie as they’re returning back to Norwich – to start their wedding plans in earnest. It’s been great to be able to spend time with them in Vietnam – for us it’s been a ‘holiday’ in the middle of our travelling, great hotels, superb food and good company.

We had a final lunch at a beach shack, called Anh Duc, which Lisa had found three years previous. It’s a superb place, right at the end of the beach, away from the purpose-built restaurants – where you’re pressured constantly to go in and eat – not very authentic nor very nice though I guess if you’re a bit of lardarse and don’t want to walk the length of the beach then I’m sure they’re fine!

We ate and drank way too much but all agreed that this was the best meal we’d had during the whole two weeks – we asked for the menu three times and just kept ordering; baked fish, crabs, squid, shrimps and lots of wine. All fresh, all cooked by the owner of the shack and we sat there for a good three hours.

Even the cheap Dalat wine, normally a wine to make you grimace, tasted excellent – at least towards the end of the meal!

Well, Shelley and I are now sat in Danang train station, our train an hour late – Lisa & Jamie are probably en route to Malaysia where they pick up their next connection. Funnily enough, when they arrive home we’ll have just arrived in Ho Chi Minh City – a train journey of 17 hours.

We can’t wait, bring on the big bad city!!

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Friggin in the Rigging

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on April 27, 2011

Following on from my whinge fest – being sat in a harbour for hours and hours, we finally made it aboard the tourist boat – Minh Quang. If truth be told the girls have done well, very well. Our Junk is a 2 berth floating palace which in contrast to the other Junks – carrying  between 16 and 32 passengers plus crew – we’re indeed travelling in style (well done TCT and SSW!) –

Life aboard see’s shades of our recent  Cargo Ship voyage – travelling slowly, barely cause a bow wave, minimal people, the freedom to do as we please and a chance to get to know the crew – though speaking very limited Vietnamese, we’re all on nodding terms!

We asked Duc, our guide about the larger Junks; he told us that they cost about $400US per day, per person – this to us is an astronomical amount, paying so much for so little. Granted, the Junks are large though with that many people, they also look very cramped. The food is supposed to be excellent but given the choice, I’d rather be aboard Minh Quang – of which we paid $125US per person for the whole trip – as previously said, the food is excellent  and we’re not beholden to 30 odd other passengers!

Having been away for the last several months, some of which was aboard the aforementioned ship, I finally got to swim in the sea – it was glorious! As soon as we set sail from Cat Ba, Jamie and I had changed into our swimming costumes and demanded to swim!

Neither of us being put off by the Japanese whaling fleet tailing us (we were safe in the fact that Greenpeace were just behind them) Us two land whales gracefully entered the water – I thought with the grace of Tom Daly though apparently not, it was more akin to a couple of breeze blocks being tossed off a bridge!

Later that evening we anchored up; the crew cooking a fantastic meal of fried fish, baked fish, tofu and several other tasty morsels, we ate well, drank warm white wine before retiring to bed, nicely tired and very happy.

I awoke a little before 6am this morning so took the opportunity to go above deck to snap some phots – it’s really beautiful here, there are several fishermen’s huts all of which are floating around us and numerous limestone cliffs rising from the water. One of the fishermen has some Vietnamese music playing in the background, in a strange way it enhances my morning rather than detracting from the peacefulness of this area.

Again, I’ve started a day with a dip in the ‘oggin – I really could start each day like this, diving off the boat into the emerald green waters. It’s our final morning aboard the Minh Quang, we’re about to have breakfast then we’ll set sail for Halong Way to join our minibus back to Hanoi City.

Tonight we leave Hanoi; we join an overnight train to the Vietnamese city of Hue…

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