Friday, June 17, 2011

Ha Long Bay

I was in northern Vietnam so, duh, of course I had to go to Ha Long Bay! They are currently trying to make it one of the Wonders of the World. It totally should be! I, personally, don't understand why there should only be seven. Rude.

Anyways, Cinthia and I decided that doing a three day/two night tour would be better than a two day/one night tour. We signed up for the Asia Cruise via our amazeballs hostel, Hanoi Hostel. We were picked up for our tour on Saturday morning and we went around Hanoi picking up the others that joined this tour. I was super nervous at first because of the endless number of couples that kept coming onto the bus. By the time we started on the road towards the Bay, there was Cinthia, Chris (Australia), three English girls, Jack (England), and I - as the only "singles." So that left five couples with us for a total of 17 people. Our tour guide informed us that, because so many of us signed up for this cruise, they were going to have to break us apart. Oh man, this was when I was pleading (in my mind, of course) that I wasn't going to be stuck with a bunch of couples.

The trip to the Bay took about 4 hours with a 20 minute stop in between. We got to the dock and they divided us up and, thankfully, I wasn't stuck with JUST couples. On our boat it ended up being Cinthia, Chris, and myself with three couples (Tim and Emilia, Mark and Ines, Paul and Debi) who ended up being BY FAR the COOLEST couples anyone could ever get stuck with! Tim and Emi live in England, but Emi is from Spain. Mark and Ines are both from Spain; Mark couldn't speak any English, so Ines did a lot of translating, but I got to practice my Spanish! And Paul and Debi are from England. I spent most of my time with Paul and Debi. They are so sweet and awesome. I had a blasty blast with them!

[official] Day One: we got onto the boat and had lunch, yum! And then we went and visited this huge cave... I forget the name of it in Vietnamese, but I think it translated to "Amazing" in English. It was pretty cool. I mean, I've been to caves before, so it wasn't really anything special, but it was neat I guess. After the "Amazing" cave we went to the floating villages and got to kayak around for 30 minutes! Not nearly enough time, but I love kayaking, so it was a ball! When we finished up kayaking, we got back onto our baller boat and got to go swimming in the Bay! Oh man, was that cool!? The water was a green color and such a lovely warm temperature: not too hot, but not too cold... Goldilocks would've loved it. We were allowed to jump off the boat, too! All of the guys and Ines were jumping off the third story! I wanted to, but it was really high! So I started at the bottom and worked my way up... to the second floor. When I jumped off the second floor, it felt like I was falling through the air for eternity (echo: eternity eternityy eeeternittyyyyyy), but it was fun. It was nice being able to swim around after sweating so much. The water was super salty and bit gasoline-y, too. That wasn't really nice, but whatevs. When everyone had finished swimming around, we all got back onto the boat and went and met up with the other boat that the other half of our tour people were on. They anchored our boat RIGHT next to the other boat (RIGHT next to it being that we could literally step right onto the other boat easy!). We ate dinner and then sat around under the stars. It was glorious.

Day Two: woke up at 8 am and had breakfast. After breakfast, we got onto our tiny boat with all of our stuff and said good-bye to our baller boat: we were heading to Cat Ba Island. On Cat Ba, we had the choice of either going hiking up a mountain or going biking. I really wanted to go biking, but NO ONE else wanted to go biking, so all 17 of us ended up going hiking. The lady who took us up the mountain said it was a 2 hour hike total, so I thought it was gonna be easy. It wasn't really that easy, but it wasn't, like, super difficult. What made it super difficult was the HEAT. Oh man. I stepped out and every part of my body was soaked in sweat. Lovely. The most difficult part of the hike up was these metal ladder/step things they had on the mountain. They were rusty and had sharp edges, which I promptly cut myself on (excellent) and they were slippery from all the mud that was caked on them, which I promptly slipped on and had a huge knot on my leg from (super!). At the end of the hike up we were literally rock climbing! I have wanted to rock climb, but not in this extreme heat, but hey, whatevs! At the top, it was a pretty view. Just mountains and mountains that looked like it went on forever and ever. Then started the climb down. Not as bad, thank goodness. We also went a different way to avoid the metal ladder/step things. Instead, I basically sat on my butt and slide down a bunch of rocks. I slipped a couple times (weird), but it was nice cos I was in the front and far enough ahead of people that I didn't get laughed at too much :).

We loaded back into the van and drove to a different side of Cat Ba Island where we caught a ferry to Monkey Island for the night. It was about 1ish when we arrived, and we ate lunch and then we had free time to swim in the ocean! HOLLA! That was awesome. I really enjoyed that. The water was so perfect again! That afternoon, we all just hung out. Some people walked to the other side of the island to see the monkeys, but after my last experience with monkeys in Lop Buri, Thailand, I decided I didn't really want to see any monkeys and I was perfectly okay with that. We had a lovely bbq meal that was provided, once again, by our resort. That night, we just hung out and played Uno with a couple people (English couple, Spanish couple, Swedish couple and me). It was funfunfun!! I forgot how much I liked Uno! Went back to Cinthia and my bungalow and fell fast asleep.

Day Three: This day was just traveling back to Hanoi, basically. From Monkey Island, ferried to Cat Ba, drove to the other side of Cat Ba, ferried to our big boat in the bay, boated back to port, ate lunch and hung out til we disembarked and got onto our van to head back to Hanoi.

I had a great time in Ha Long Bay. I am SO happy that I decided to do the three day one instead of the two day one. I feel like I would've felt rushed doing the two day tour, plus we got to see more on the three day one, baller! I met so many lovely people, as usual. I feel lucky.

Peace, love, & granita!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Hello all!

I'm currently in Rome, but this post will be about Sapa... hence the title. I landed in Rome last night and am staying one night in a hostel then moving over near the Colosseum to a room that I found on AirBnB with a girl named Alice! Should be cool!

Anyways, Sapa. Oh my goodness. What a beautiful, serene place. I wish I had stayed more days there, but I had booked a three day Halong Bay trip and did not really have time to stay longer. I probably could end up staying a week in Sapa. I loved it.

First, it was in the mountains, so a TEENY bit cooler than the busy, crazy streets of Hanoi. Second, it wasn't as crazy or busy as the streets of Hanoi. Thirdly, I met the nicest (nicestnicestnicest!) people there.

Georgia, Cinthia, and I took a day train (never.again.) to Sapa on Tuesday. It was ten hours. It wasn't that bad, but I definitely will not be doing it again. We were the only foreigners in our car, which was pretty cool actually. We got to witness the interactions between the Vietnamese families first hand. I'm pretty sure most of the families were not traveling together, but whenever a family had some sort of food, be it cookies or fruit, they shared it with everyone. It was quite an experience.

So we got to Lao Cai and had to take a bus up into the hills. It was really windy, but I didn't get sick, whew! Once we got to Sapa, I knew I was going to love it. Cinthia and I went to our hostel which was a bit of a walk from the main part of the town, but it was great because it wasn't too nosy or anything. We met up with Georgia after showers for dinner and walked around a bit. It was definitely great.

Our first full day, Cinthia and I went to a place that we read really great reviews about called Baguette and Chocolat, or something to that effect. (Because Vietnam was settled by the French, you can find a bunch of French stuff, like architecture and food there, pretty swell) Anyways we got there and ran into Georgia! Neat-o! We spent a good amount of time there and decided that we'd walk the 3 km to a H'mong village by the name of Cat Cat in the valley. It was mainly all downhill but we saw the most spectacular sites. Rice paddies and waterfalls and streams and just green green green, EVERYWHERE!

That night we went to the night market and ran into two H'mong women, Tu and Lily. This happens quite often, as they are roaming the streets selling their crafts, but even if you don't want to buy anything, they just want to sit there and chat with you! SO NICE! I love it! Anyways, that's what happened with Tu and Lily, we just sat around and talked for a while. We found out that they were taking some people on a trek the next day and we asked if we could join up! They said yes! YAY!

So, on Thursday, we set off in search of Tu and Lily. We found them. Oh man, the cutest cutest women! I love 'em. So we set off towards Tu's home. She walks 3 hours to Sapa almost everyday and three hours home the next morning. She has 7 kids at 32 years old. She's so nice. We asked a lot of questions and got all the answers, it was so neat!! On our way, we saw many many rice paddies! I asked Tu if it would be okay if I planted some rice and she said totes (but not really). So, when we ran into some people planting rice, she asked. I promptly took off my shoes and socks and walked into the rice paddy. It was super squishy and muddy. They handed me a handful of rice plants and I got to work! I was smiling and giggling the ENTIRE time because I was so giddy. I kept saying "This is awesome!" over and over. They were so nice to me. When I finished with my first handful, they gave me another! Great times. Afterwards, I sort of washed myself with more dirty water and put my shoes back on and went off again.

Tu's little compound type of thing has a bunch of animals: ducks, chickens, pigs, and she said they even have a water buffalo, but I didn't see it. She started making lunch for us and we played around (sorta) with her seven kids. It was pretty neat. I was so happy. She and Lily fixed a magnificent meal! It was so delicious, but I couldn't finish it. I tried my hardest, because I didn't want them to think I didn't like it, but I failed miserably. After lunch, we bought a couple of their crafts and they shoved free stuff into our hands.

So, smiling big, we started off back towards Sapa. We got a bridge and ordered mototaxis to take us back to the town. My mototaxi decided to break down halfway there, but I got another one easy. Super.

Once back in town, we said our goodbyes to Tu and Georgia, and Cinthia and I went back to our hostel to wait for them to take us to the bus station. That night Cinthia and I returned to Hanoi. It was about an 11 hour drive, but the bus was a sleeper bus! Literally! They had seats, but they were laid down allllllll the way, so they were practically beds. Excellent.

I loved Sapa. Really. What a wonderful place filled with the nicest people. I would totally go back in a heartbeat.

Peace, love & (oh how I miss it!) KIMCHI!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hanoi, day 2

Hola from Hanoi!

I don't feel like typing a lot, so I'm gonna bullet point this post. Holla.

1. Woke up in time for a free breakfast. Always a good thing.
2. Cinthia and I went to the train station to book my ticket to Sapa for Tuesday with her and Georgia.
3. Walked to St. Joseph's Cathedral. Super pretty from the outside. Couldn't go in. Oh well.
4. Had my first iced coffee in Vietnam (coffee is supposed to be baller here). It was, indeed, baller.
5. Walked around the Old Quarter a bunch. Found a supermarket, went in, bought stuff.
6. Walked around more. Nothing too exciting.
7. Walked around even more. Found a really pretty ring, bought it. It broke less than an hour later in a cafe where I had my second iced coffee. Not nearly as great as the first one. Fail. Also had spring rolls.
8. It started monsooning while in this cafe.
9. Left the cafe and went to 69 Restaurant. Relatively good food.
10. Went back to ring place and they fixed it... with melted wax. Awesome. Where's super glue (slash KATIEDALE) when you need it/her?!
11. Went to yet another cafe where I just had lemonade this time. Got to talk to the padres, grents, and KATIEDALE while there :)
12. Went to the Water Puppet Show. It was cool. It was funny. I laughed a bit.
13. Came back to the hostel.

That's it. Not a too exciting day. The city is still noisy and busy. I'm a bit excited about Sapa. We'll probably go trekking a bit. Should be nice to get out of the city. Anyways. That's it. Goodnight.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hanoi, Vietnam

I'm in Vietnam. It was quite a travel day for me yesterday. Probably the toughest travel day I've ever had, which is a bummer, but I guess it was needed as I have learned from mistakes and whatnots. I will not go into detail because it exhausted me enough yesterday!

Anyways, got to the hostel last night around 10pm ish. There were two other girls here, so we talked for a bit and I got on Skype to check in with the rents. And then I had the most amazing shower I've ever had in my life. I don't think it was the shower at the hostel, so much as being sweaty and emotionally/physically/mentally exhausted from the day.

I slept in pretty late today, which was nice and needed considering I had been going on 4 hours of sleep in 39 hours. Rough life. Woke up and Cinthia (a girl in the hostel with me) and I went off into Hanoi! We went to the Ho Chi Minh mauseleum, which closes at 11am, so we missed that, but weren't too worried. We got to see the One-Pillar Pagoda. I didn't really think it was going to be just one pillar, but it definitely was. It was super cute and small and one pillar. Pretty neat. Supposedly it was built as some sort of replica of another Buddhist pagoda.

The Ho Chi Minh museum was closed for lunch, so we decided to go find something to eat as well. I had delicious steamed rice with chicken and lemongrass. Oh man. Delicious. And we sat around looking at her Vietnam book and map and figuring out what all we wanted to do while in Vietnam since we both came super unprepared, in terms of planning.

After lunch, we went back to the museum. It is very interesting seeing the differences of the museums from home and the museums abroad. The museums from home give you the history and a story, but the Ho Chi Minh museum we went to today, just had pictures and letters that were briefly labeled. This was when we both realized we didn't know much about Ho Chi Minh at all. From the labels that we read, we came up with what we think is who is was and whatnot. I should probably look into that; make me smarter and stuff.

Considering it was about 100 degrees fahreinheit here, we were both completely worn out after this (around 230pm) so we came back to the hostel and unwound a bit. After we got our thoughts together and stuff, we went back out into Hanoi towards Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter, which is where our hostel is. We bought tickets for a water puppet show for tomorrow (Monday) night, so that should be interesting. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I've been told that I must see one, so I will! We walked around the lake a bit and then started coming back. We were looking for food to eat when a huge rain started. It came out of nowhere! Really! It was crazy. So we were kinda stuck, but found a pretty good hole in the wall pho place.

Finally, we got back to the hostel and showered and have been relaxing a bit. I think that we are going to go to the train station tomorrow so I can book a ticket to go to Sapa Valley with Cinthia and Georgia (a girl from Australia).

All in all, my first day in Vietnam has been... crazy. It is hot and loud and super busy. I feel like I have to constantly watch where I am going because there are crazy motorbikes flying around in all directions. I'm hoping I don't get hurt! The Old Quarter is pretty nice, but I think I'm excited to get out of the city for a bit. I'm not entirely sure where I'll be going, but this is sorta what I have in mind: Sapa Valley for, ehh, two days? Halong Bay junk boat cruise for two/three days. Then either Ninh Binh or I'll buck up and take a long bus ride down to Hoi An. :) We shall see.

Miss and love!

The End

I finished out Korea, guys. I made it. The whole year. As happy and excited I was to leave Korea, I was great amounts of sad, too. I made friends there that made leaving very difficult. I'm going to miss them. They each had an impact on me that, I doubt, none of them know about.

Anyways, finished up the time on my futon! The new girl, Beth, came in on Tuesday night and we went out with Peter and Katie for some Green Galbi. She followed me Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so she is fully prepared for my babies! On Thursday night, we went to a favorite restaurant for dinner and to say goodbyes. It was hard. I cried. Weird. And on Friday we went out for same same, but different place. That was also hard. Katie and I stayed up all night Friday night cos I had to catch the airport shuttle at 4:30am on Saturday. So we just stayed up. Katie walked me to the bus and put me on it. That was sad. I love you, Katie Dale.

The End.