A Travellerspoint blog

Ha Long Bay and back again

To the city of Hanoi

overcast 8 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

Well from Jen's last entry, we headed out for a 2 night/ 3 day stay on Ha Long bay and Cat Ba Island. We rode on a bus for about 3 hours to the port of Hai Phong City. Along the way we stopped for a bathroom break about halfway out at a workshop for handicapped children. See Jen smiling.
It was a tourist stop as every tour bus to the bay stops there to encourage shopping. We bought 2 coffee's to go and they are served in plastic bags with a straw. Pretty cool as the garbage packs up to nothing. Starbucks could learn a thing or 2.

It was cold in hanoi and even colder on Halong Bay. We boarded a junk and Jen tried to sunbathe but with cloudcover and clothes, we decided to retire indoors. The food was awesome and we had a couple of Tiger beers with a guy from Germany and his 2 friends from Spain. We enjoyed their company then we got off the boat to explore some exciting caves for about an hour before getting an opportunity to do some sea kayaking around the rocky islands. That was awesome to get out and do some activity and warm up! After the paddle, supper was served on the boad and Jen and I were given a beautiful stateroom in the all-teakwood vessel. Our room had a heater and private bathroom. We retired early as it was our first oppportunity to get warm in days.
The next day we got dropped off at Cat Ba Island National Park and rode some touring bikes and did a short trek through the jungle. It was really cool to walk and see some caves similar to those that the Vietnamese used to fight the USA in the war. Our guide also shared some knowledge of bombings in the bay and his village during the war to make it seem a bit more real. After the brief on land adventure, we got back on the boat. They served lunch on the little boat then took us to this small 100 foot wide stretch of beach to "look for monkeys sometime here" the guide said. We got off to the beach surrounded by over 100 foot high cliffs on 3 sides and water on the 4th. The boat pulled about 150 feet from shore where it sat for about 50 mins while they did dishes and Jen and I sat on a rock. The view was gorgeous.
And we were happy.
The weather was cool, breezy and cloudy when we saw the wild monkey.

We were surprised to see this kind of wildlife here.

After we quietly and awkwardly boarded the boat with our brave european companion, we headed to the main port to spend a night in a more luxurious hotel with heat. We spent the rest of the day and night in the room getting warm again and me getting over my stomach flu issues.

On the boat ride home, we saw more beautiful islands and got back to a much warmer Hanoi.

We returned to our hotel in Hanoi where we were told there were no other rooms so he was sending us some where else. 2 guys on motorbikes showed up, we threw on our big packs, small packs and grocery bags, jumped on the bag and they rode us through the busy, cramped, noisy, streets of Hanoi like a couple of locals. It was fun and the hotel was actually in a better location than the last. We also paid 3$ more for heat. Totally worth it.

Posted by jented 19:11 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Holy Hanoi...it's cold!

(That was Ted's great title!)

overcast 11 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

Ted and I bought toques and mitts to help us survive the boat trip and tour to Halong Bay on Monday! Yep, it is that cold...only 11 degrees! We arrived on Sat. and instantly put on everything we owned - even socks (that was a first for me!). Hanoi was a ghost town on Saturday because it was the end of Tet - Chinese New Years - Happy Year of the Rat!

When we arrived on Sat. we struggled to find something open for lunch - we almost ate at the street vendors but since Ted and I were both getting over the stomach troubles and it would be our first meal in Vietnam we decided something a little less exotic may be slightly smarter. We had our first amazing cup of Vietnamese Coffee at a little cafe on Hoan Kiem Lake.

This city is noisy, fast paced and very chilly! It is really cool though. There are millions of motocylces, vespas and such whizzing around. Everyone honks to tell others to get out of the way. The town really celebrates the new year so there are a lot of red flags up and stores closed or only selling "New Years" gift baskets. We spent Sat and Sun. wandering around, drinking coffee and admiring the colonial buildings. oh, and cuddling to stay warm at night! We stayed in a little guest house that was facing the alley (no good window seals) with no heat! Every morning around 5 am you can here the old ladies chopping vegetables in the alley outside our window. We are staying in the Old Quater. A lively part of town. It is fairly easy to navigate. There aren't as many services (ie., convenience stores, internet places etc) but you can definitly feel the "socialist", french feel to this place. It certainly is "cool"! We haven't found any yoghurt but I guess if that is our biggest problem we are in good shape!

We've also had a bit of a Visa problem. We only have a 15 day visa. So we had to hand in our passports to the Guest House guys to get an Visa extension (b/c we could only get special 15 day passports in Bangkok - due to New Years). But here we find out that we need an entirely new visa and they say it takes five days! We are a bit skeptical but I guess we'll have to trust them. We have spent a lot of money to stay here - it better be worth it!

On Monday we headed up to Halong Bay for 3 days - We'll put pictures up tomorrow and update that component of the trip!

Posted by jented 02:26 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

tummy troubles

sunny 32 °C

Hey all!

Jen here...i've been under the weather since Monday. I've had some type of flu so needless to say, the smells in the markets and alleys has made me a bit quesy! Ted is now starting to feel the same way so we have been taking it easy. I hope you have enjoyed some of our pictures from our Mae Sot trip. It was a real highlight of our trip. It was hard to leave to come back to Bangkok as it is a large and challenging city to be in. Last night we went for another Thai massage while it poured outside. On Wed. we were told that our Vietnam Visa would be ready this am but when we checked in with the travel agent he told us noon. so without anything to do this am we took a taxi down to the MBK. A gigantic 7 storey mall. We wandered around the Tesco and got some "high fiber" stuff and then headed back to the mall to shop. Neither of us were really in the "mood" so it was a short trip. We headed back home to hang out by the pool at our guesthouse and stay in the shade today! Looking forward to Hanoi and meeting up with our Cycling group on the 17th! Not much more to report here!

Posted by jented 20:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Friends from Mae Sot

sunny 32 °C
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We found an air conditioned internet place that has photo programs that allow us to shrink them down to fit the site. Jen is feeling much better today and we are getting plans together to leave Thailand. We thought before we get caught up with stories, we would at least put some photos for ease of reading.

Talk to you again soon.


Posted by jented 00:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged volunteer Comments (1)

Sad to leave Mae Sot

A moving experience

sunny 34 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

Hello Everybody!

I apologize if I duplicate some of Jen's last entry but it has been awhile since we got to this. We have safely arrived in Chiang Mai yesterday enroute to Hanoi via Bangkok over the next few days. It marks the end of what was a beautiful and moving experience.

We have spent the last week and a half working with the Global Neighbors group from Prince Albert to build a school in a migrant village, supply 90 desks for children, teach and play with the migrant kids in some of the schools and get to know some of the most wonderful people in the world. The main orphanage and school (Hsa Thoo Lei) in Mae Sot is comprised of mostly illegal Karen refugees from Burma. There are many Burmese, Mon, Kachin, and other groups at the school and other villages in the Mae Sot area. The hardship that the children endure is not limited to only Karen people.

The kids and people there are such great hosts. They took our group through their school and spent alot of time looking after aall of us. Some were very brave to stand up in front of their peers and canadian guests and tell stories of losing their parents, homes, or siblings in the their journey to get to where they are know. They also hosted a beautiful barbecue on Monday night as a farewell, where the many excellent singers and performers got up and delivered excellent performances. The most moving moments were the ones where Jen and I spent visiting and playing with Eh Tah Tow, Look Htee Kheh, and her younger brother Hsa Law Tae Htoo. After visiting with them, each of them ran up to their room and gave us some of their favorite toys and pictures as gifts. It was an example of their incredible generosity. We are honored that kids with so little would offer so much to us, for the little work and time we were able to spend with them. It was wonderful. I also liked them because they appeared to enjoy my pretty rough magic tricks I tried on them.

We were also able to meet up with some of the administators and teachers in the school who were able to act as translators, guides, and friends to the group. We have photos of a few of them.

Hayso, an excellent guide through the Mae La Refugee camp and I believe is an excellent soccer player, and Karen language teacher.

Hong Sar, shown here with an australian volunteer Meghan, is an administrator at Hsa Htoo Lei and was able to spend some time with us showing us Mae Sot on bicycle, and correcting my faulty Burmese. He has a great sense of humor and is an amazing photographer. He showed us some of his work and it was very moving.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Mae Sot and will probably add some more experiences to the blog in the next few days of getting back to normal after our busy 2 weeks.
Jen is also not feeling well today. This is day 3 of some kind of stomach flu that comes and goes and got worse yesterday by the rough and windy road between Mae Sot and Chiang Mai.

Another incident of note is that yesterday, after Dave, our tour leader, checked us all out of the hotel after paying in cash (typical in Thailand more than Credit Cards) got a phone call from the hotel saying that they had not fully paid the bill. Dave gave them his credit card number for the balance outstanding and offered to pay the remainder when he returns in another week with another group of 17 to stay there for 2 weeks. We drove for a about half an hour and then were pulled over at a check stop by the military. Apprently, the hotel put an APB out on the vans and couldn't leave until the front desk clerk from the hotel drove out to meet us at the check stop and pick up the diffence in cash. Apprently cards weren't good enough. It was a misunderstanding and Dave paid the fellow but it was an unexpected delay for all of us in the group.

Stay warm to those back home and stay cool to everyone else in warmer climes.


Posted by jented 19:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

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