A Travellerspoint blog

August 2014

Ban Gioc waterfalls for 45 minutes

My bus left early in the morning, I walked across the street about an hour early hoping to find some breakfast. No such luck. The only stall open was this chubby lady's restaurant. I sat down and stared as she cut up a whole chicken, a bunch of pork, a few bowls of limes and some sausages. This took 45 minutes and when I finally asked for some food she said no.

I wandered around the terminal until I found someone selling baguettes. The man made me a divine egg sandwich for 50 cents, no questions or starving required.

Finally, it was time to leave and we pulled out, turned one corner and… waited for people to show up. Haha. Oh Vietnam...We didn't really leave the city until about 6 a.m. The next bus was leaving at 6:30, so I wonder what time they actually left at.

The scenery on the way was incredible, it felt just like Apocalypse Now. The road was bumpy and twisted and turned unpredictably. I tried to imagine what it would be like in the dark, near impossible to stay alive on this road probably. There usually weren't any guard rails or barriers on the edge of the steep cliffs. We rambled through rice fields and muddy rivers flowing in between mountains, and our bus wound its way through pot holes and eventually stopped in a small town.

"Cao Bang?" I asked. I don't know any other words.

"Yes."

What? It's only been two hours, it's supposed to take five.

I borrowed the bus driver's phone and translated "Where is the bus to Trang Khanh?" I was supposed to switch in Cao Bang to get to a smaller city, then take a motorcycle to the waterfall. He only says "Cao Bang. Yes!" OMG you are so unhelpful.

I went looking around for another bus, but they were all empty, so I figured this was only a rest stop. Thank you geniuses, for all your help.

When we actually got to Cao Bang, a man jumped onto my bus and attempted to push me onto his bus. Seriously, I just endured a five hour bus ride, I have to pee and get lunch first, thankyouverymuch.

After peeing and eating, he was still there, waiting for me to take his bus, shouting "WATERFALL WATERFALL" over and over in my face. He wasn't leaving for an hour still, so I was at a loss as to why this was so urgent. I took a nap in the back seat of the van until we left.

His bus turned out to be a literal milk run, people would flag us down and give us packages for their friends up the road. Once, we drove back and forth looking for someone who was waiting for a package from us.

The scenery again, was amazing. The karst peaks reminded me of China of course. They are the same mountain range as in Guilin and Zhangjiajie. We would frequently stop for water buffalo and people toting things on their shoulders along the way.

Every once in a while though, someone would literally barf in a plastic bag and throw it out the window, harshly ripping me from my dazzling dreamland in the jungle. Tell me why I do this for fun again?

At the waterfall, I was given about 45 minutes to look around and go back to the bus stop. There is a nice rice field that you have to walk through to get to the waterfall, it takes a few minutes to walk there an walk back, so he didn't give me enough time. But it was the last run of the day, so when I got there, I jumped in the water for a swim anyway. The water was so clean and refreshing, I didn't want to get out.

When I got back, there were two nice Vietnamese people also waiting for the bus. One of them spoke English so we chatted a little on the way back. He helped me find the night bus to Hanoi and we got some chicken soup and waited for my bus together.

My bus was the kind with the beds, all pimped out with rainbow lights and a leopard print blanket, so cozy in the blasting air conditioning. From Hanoi, I quickly got another bus home and made it back to Ha Long at about 9 a.m. I kept saying "Hon Gai! Hon Gai!" and they didn't try to drop me off on the tourist island, they actually dropped me off at the right spot this time. Persistence pays.

On the bus to Cao Bang

On the bus to Cao Bang


Me vs. sticky rice in Cao Bang

Me vs. sticky rice in Cao Bang


Ban Gioc waterfall

Ban Gioc waterfall


Rice field

Rice field


Rice

Rice


Ban Gioc falls

Ban Gioc falls


Pimped ride

Pimped ride


Ban Gioc falls

Ban Gioc falls


I swam in there

I swam in there


packed bus

packed bus


Me and Vietnamese guy

Me and Vietnamese guy


Two swim or not to swim?

Two swim or not to swim?


Me vs. Ban Gioc falls

Me vs. Ban Gioc falls


Rice

Rice


Packed bus

Packed bus


Welcome to Ban Gioc falls

Welcome to Ban Gioc falls


Ban Gioc falls

Ban Gioc falls


On the night bus

On the night bus

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

TWO CAVES

I woke up at about 4 a.m. and slowly roused myself to life. My sunburn was kind of intense. There was a dubbed over documentary about stem cell research on TV. I packed my stuff up and headed out.

At the bus station, it was impossible to buy a ticket. I gave up and went for a bowl of pho for breakfast. Then, I found out I had to pay the bus driver directly for the trip to Lang Son. So weird.

Buses here are ridiculously slow. Before we left the city, we crawled along the main street until the bus was full. Only then, could we speed up, until someone got off, wherever the hell they wanted. Then, we had to try and fill the bus back up again.

Just outside the city, the bus was inspected by the police. They only looked in the bottom of the bus and I'm not sure what they were looking for. But as soon as we were out of sight, the bus driver took a big green sack of something from somewhere and shoved it into the hold below. Hmmmm…. I wonder what he had in there.

As we drove along we kept picking people up. Some people even had to sit in the aisle on those plastic stools everyone loves around here.

The bus wound through lush mountains and past small creeks with wading water buffalo and naked bathing children. I had literally jumped into the pages of a National Geographic. I was way out there, for real.

When I got to Lang Son, I opted out of the taxi again. It was only 4 km to the caves, so I just walked.

There were two caves and they were both drippy and creepy, they even had bats living inside. They were also virtually empty, compared to the last one in Ha Long Bay, which actually had a line up and was packed full of other tourists. If I travel so far, I should at least have some solitude, am I right?

The first one had a big hole in the top, that let in the light. You could climb to the top and look out over the suburbs. Haha.

There was also an old lookout with an ancient wall and gate. It was nice. When I climbed back down, I walked to the second cave, which had an actual river running through it.

I wasn't too tired after that, so I just walked back to the bus station, grabbing some snacks on the way. The hotel across the street from the station was a little expensive by Vietnam standards so I walked a little further and found a cheaper one nearby.

cave

cave


hotel

hotel


Guy kept sleeping on me

Guy kept sleeping on me


Bathroom

Bathroom


Cave

Cave


A little bit of life

A little bit of life


View from the cave

View from the cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


cave

cave


Pho

Pho


Me vs. Pho

Me vs. Pho


cave

cave


cave

cave

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Got sunburned at the beach again

I finally mastered the weekender back packing. All my things are assigned to a designated pocket and I can close my eyes, reach into my bag and find whatever I want. I know, you're jealous, you don't need to tell me.

This weekend, I thought it was going to rain. For some reason I didn't bring my hat and I suffered for it. It was extremely hot and I think my scalp got burnt. Along with everything else, because I dunno the sunscreen I bought didn't work very well or something.

I caught a bus at about 6 a.m. and made my way extremely slowly to Mong Cai. They threw me off the bus at about 9 a.m. and I attempted to walk the 7 km to the beach, thinking it would feel that much more refreshing when I got there.

At about the halfway point, a woman quite sternly demanded to drive me the rest of the way. I was getting a headache from the sun beating directly on my skull, so I let her. She brought me to the beach and I walked along the shallow waves, trying not to cut my feet on the shells, until I got hungry.

Everything there was extremely far away from everything else, so finding a place to buy something to eat was no simple feat. When I did, all I found was a crappy little shop with some ramen and chips for sale. The same woman was there. Strange. I bought my staple snack food, ice cream and beer, and went back to the beach.

Besides two fisherwomen looking for clams, it was deserted. I went crazy and jumped butt naked into the warm water. I found a place where there was not so many crabs and took a nap in the sun. It was like a sauna you couldn't escape from. This was a Saturday on a long festival weekend and the place was completely empty. It was awesome. Hot, but awesome.

When I was tired of the beach, I walked to what I thought was a small bus station, but it was actually a place to chill out and look at China. Possibly with animosity? I don't know.

I tried to get a ride on the tourist buses there, but they wouldn't let me, so I walked down the road until I found a public bus back to the city. Then, I took another bus to the bus station where I could catch another bus in the morning at 6:30 a.m. to Long San. Perfect.

I chose a hotel at random across the street to sleep in. The woman had to have my passport. Oh no. I forgot. I hastily traipsed around looking for a copy shop. Finally I found one and the man printed a copy of my passport that I had in my email. (For about 5 cents) and I went back to the hotels, hoping one of them would accept it.

The original lady was happy with this document, thank god, and I got me a banh mi sandwich for dinner and passed out at 7 p.m.

These handy signs help you along

These handy signs help you along


Tra Co beach

Tra Co beach


Bathroom in Mong Cai

Bathroom in Mong Cai


Random river crossing

Random river crossing


So many shells

So many shells


Me on the beach (not naked)

Me on the beach (not naked)


Me on the bus

Me on the bus


Strange church in the middle of nowhere

Strange church in the middle of nowhere


Tra Co beach

Tra Co beach


Rice field on the highway

Rice field on the highway


Rice field on the highway

Rice field on the highway


Rice

Rice


Rice field

Rice field


Beer, water, sandals, beach

Beer, water, sandals, beach


Fisherman on Tra Co beach

Fisherman on Tra Co beach


China is over there

China is over there


View from the hotel

View from the hotel


Fancy parking lot?

Fancy parking lot?


Hotel room

Hotel room

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Strange but nice weekend with my student, Sky

One of my students (her name is Sky) invited me to visit her house this weekend, so I cancelled my beach trip and went with her instead. I was kind of imagining it would be a girls' weekend with beaches and massages and pedicures, but I was completely wrong. I experienced a small amount of disappointment and rage, so keep that in mind when you're reading my entry. In the end, once I figured out the deal, it was a really great "exchange" but not a "friendship" like I thought it was.

I met her at school and we took the bus for a couple hours into the countryside. I could've sworn she said she was going to drive us in her car, but no matter. Things got even more strange once we got to her house. She said she taught children at home in the afternoon and evenings, so could I visit with them for a bit? I was completely floored. Oh, you mean you're not really my friend? You want to use me as a prop for your English school? My god, no. I usually have no problem doing this, but it's usually explained explicitly from the beginning. This time, there was no mention of children until we were leaving for her house on the bus. I felt quite deceived and manipulated, once again, but of course I went with it anyway.

My biggest problem with making local friends is that they don't actually want to be friends at all, they just want to suck English out of you in return for maybe a home cooked meal or some such thing. For me, this is a fine arrangement, as long as both parties have agreed to it. I had no prior notice that I was going to be a classroom prop, and I was annoyed. You see how this is?

Anyway, I said nothing and just went with it, rolling my eyes on the inside. Sky did pay for my bus fare and put me up in her cousin's hotel for the night after all. The kids were cute and took me to the market, where I showed them the names of things they didn't know like broccoli, tofu, crabs, eels and sugar cane.

It was really extra strange (and this is where I caught on to her little scheme) when they said

"How come you're not buying anything? The last teacher bought so many clothes!"

….Oh really… "Why? When was that?"…

"Last weekend."

Mmmhmmm.

I get it. Again, I say to you, I do not mind being a prop for your English school, just for the love of God, tell me I am and don't pretend you are doing me a huge favour. /end rant.

Once I figured out the actual plan, it was a good trade for me, but until then, I was irritated and cranky about it.

When we got back, Sky started asking me more grammar questions, so I told her I needed a nap and shower, getting myself out of tutor duty again.

After my nap, Sky and her husband cooked an amazing meal and some more kids came over to ask me more questions. Like I said, before, I am very open to these kinds of exchanges, but I was simply not mentally prepared this time. I thought this was going to be a quiet girls' weekend hiking in the mountains and drinking tea. No matter, onwards and upwards.

The kids took me down to the river where we had some crazy sweet lemonade and a big plate of fruit. At about 10, we all went to bed so we could go hiking in the morning.

Before I could sleep though, Sky's cousin had to register my arrival with the local police. I forgot my passport because I thought I was staying at Sky's house. They marched me over there arm in arm, telling me "no problem" over and over again. The police seemed to think these two women were a little silly about the whole thing, but maybe I'm just projecting.

As expected in the morning, roosters woke me up at 3 a.m. Of course they did!

Some children then barged into my room while I was still sleeping and undressed. Oh Lord, why didn't I lock the door?

We went out hiking for 15 minutes and then it started to rain, so we went back.

At breakfast, Sky gave me so many rice noodles with pork that I thought I might explode. Then, there was more fruit after that. Some students came back and took pictures of me.

Then, Sky took me to her in-law's house where they have a small farm and it was all very quaint. I wanted to ask them how they survived the war, but the discussion wouldn't go any further than how old are you? why aren't you married and why don't you have kids? Then continued with an admonishment of my lack of children and praise due to their amazement at my ability to travel alone.

Sky took me on a grand tour of some of her friends' homes who all gave me more fruit at each stop. They also asked the same questions and told me I should have children, while in the same breath telling me how lucky I am to travel. The logic was mind boggling.

I was relieved to stop at her English speaking friends' house where we complained about AIC, the company running the training I was doing.

When we got back, the students were making a special lunch for me, but I was shooed out of the kitchen into my room where I took another nap and packed to go home.

Lunch was amazing and I received two gifts from the students, a nice mug and a little statue. I said goodbye and went home completely exhausted.

The countryside around Tien Yen

The countryside around Tien Yen


Sky and custard fruit

Sky and custard fruit


Me and all the kids

Me and all the kids


Kids stole my camera

Kids stole my camera


Me and kids

Me and kids


On the bus

On the bus


You know, just papayas in the front yard

You know, just papayas in the front yard


Kids with lunch

Kids with lunch


My room

My room


Lemonade at night

Lemonade at night


Me on motorcycle

Me on motorcycle


Me and really smart kid

Me and really smart kid


More kids

More kids


On the mountain

On the mountain


Me vs. custard fruit

Me vs. custard fruit


Kids stole my camera

Kids stole my camera


Bathroom

Bathroom


Me vs. rice noodle and pork

Me vs. rice noodle and pork


Amazing dinner

Amazing dinner


Me vs. custard apple

Me vs. custard apple


Kids stole my camera

Kids stole my camera


Kids stole my camera

Kids stole my camera

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Epic blog post, restful day, restful mind

Hello friends. This weekend I traveled to Cat Ba Island. I don't know exactly what I was looking for, but I think I found a tiny modicum of it there.

The ferry my students told me to take left from "Tuan Chau", a port unmentioned in the guide book and very very far away from town. I took the city bus as close as I could, then a motorcycle taxi right to the wharf. I made it just in time for the first ferry crossing and stood on top of the boat in the rain the whole way over. Luckily, I brought my super Vietnamese rain coat, and I lapped up every minute of it.

I realized in that moment that this really, is what makes me happy, my dearest friends. I don't know how many people still read this, because I'm sure I don't really exist anymore to most of you. I hope most people can understand the draw that the unknown and the unique has for me and I know anyone who really knows me would not take my lifestyle choice as a personal slight against themselves. Or even a slight against my own country.

There is just no other way for me to be as happy as this at the moment. Despite the whining and moaning I do. I know it's a lot and I apologize. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to choose this way of life right now.

Thirty or forty years ago, this would never ever be an option for a single lady. Thirty years ago, I'd still be married and probably have two and a half kids, two cars and a big TV with my weird jealous husband in the suburbs. My travel whims would only be indulged for two or three weeks per year at Club Med.

I am daily grateful for the strong support of my family and closest friends, my TESL classmates and other teachers I have met along the way. These are the people who truly respect and understand my drive and passion. Thank you.

I know this isn't the life everybody wants, but I'm so thankful for my people who respect my decision to make it happen for myself.

All this came to me while freezing and getting drenched in the biting wind and rain, as my ferry navigated the karst landscape in the emerald green waters of the most astounding scenery I've ever laid eyes upon in my life. Not even terrible rain could bring my spirits down on such an adventure.

And now, back to the story of Cat Ba Island. Fortunately, I saw a French couple who were also going my way when I got off the boat. So, instead of being hounded by taxi drivers at the wharf, I simply followed them onto their mini van to the cruise dock. The driver caught on and charged me about five bucks, which was well worth it of course, because we were at least thirty minutes away.

I just briefly skimmed the Lonely Planet while waiting for the ferry to arrive and I saw a hotel on its own personal island. Well. After this week of nonsense, that sounded amazing. I found the tourism office and asked them to check if the hotel had any rooms, but it didn't. Bummer.

My next choice was to find this "Cat Co 2" beach. There is also a "Cat Co 3" and "Cat Co 1" beach, which I found first. Both of them were quite full and annoying looking. Even in the rain. When I finally found beach two, it had been engulfed by a private resort since the guidebook was written. Although an effort was made to provide a separate public area, it was kind of gross. So, I went to the reception desk to ask if they had a room for me. Nope. Crap.

Well, I was starving, so I ate at the hotel restaurant, which was right on the beach and had passable seafood noodles with Vietnamese coffee.

This would've been a great place to come last weekend, but I'm sure it would've been packed anyway. Even with the annoying eighties soft rock ballads coming from the Beachside bar. Toni Braxton and all. So, hurray for the rain scaring people away.

It was kind of hard to believe that this little slice of paradise was only a total of four hours away from my door. Wow. One thing about this job is location. It's super easy to escape and find a place where no one will bother you (very much) and you can just chill. In related news, here's the update on my employment situation. If everything goes according to plan, I will be back in the Western hemisphere just after my thirty-third birthday.

So far, I've alienated everyone I work with except Hans, and my best friend Cheryl. She will be gone very soon, since she got fired in about the second week. This was a huge blow for me. Needless to say it'll be the first birthday probably spent alone and by myself boo hoo hoo. But I'm sure I can persuade Hans to come out with a couple bottles of Vietnamese wine or vodka, long story.

Right now, I have a tentative job waiting for me in Honduras. Initially I wanted to quit this one early and go to that one after the firing of Cheryl, the boat ride debacle described earlier and after my boss called me a child for refusing to carry this shitty laptop back and forth to school five km per day. Ugh.

When I handed in my resignation, my boss went berserk and she started flip flopping on everything she ever said to me.

"You're not getting your airfare reimbursed. You're not getting a bonus at the end." and then vice versa, the next day she claimed the opposite.

I didn't know what to believe anymore, so I just didn't tell her any of my plans after that. All the while, I had been updating my new boss on all these developments, and she was royally confused I'm sure.

I really and truly didn't think it would be that big a deal if I left, since they were firing people left and right, while simultaneously verbally abusing me.

Whatever.

In the end, I decided to stay and finish the contract. I'm taking a GINORMOUS pay cut in Santa Rosa, so I might as well save some cash before I'm living a life of poverty by Canadian standards. In Honduras though, they maintain I will be living "comfortably" and making two hundred dollars more than local teachers do. That's still only six hundred dollars a month, but hey, that's the going rate in South and Central America, I've heard.

Question: But Louise, isn't Honduras dangerous?

Answer: Yes I think so, BUT there have not been any tourists murdered in the country with the highest murder rate in the world AND otherwise hurting a foreigner is a HUGE taboo with severe jail time. So says David EJ Perez, El Salvadorian extraordinaire.

Question: So, do you feel safe then?

Answer: Yes, of course. I consider myself a pretty seasoned traveler and I have a supportive group at my new school who will help me make travel decisions before I leave. I will also be arming myself with the latest guide books and generally dressing like a bedraggled hippy on the weekends. Someone who wouldn't earn any muggers any profit whatsoever. I'm also contemplating getting a GASP cell phone but don't tell ANYONE. I mean it. It's going to have the embassy and the police programmed into it and THAT'S IT.

Question: Whatever happened to that guy in Korea?

Answer: Who, Dave? Dave's in Minot right now, fixing his big burly F-150 man mobile. So far, the plan is to spend Christmas in Syracuse and Niagara Falls together. If we don't hate each other after that, I'm going to follow him to Italy in June. Yes, you heard that right. Follow. But only for ninety days, max. Until my tourist visa runs out or we hate each other, whatever comes first.

Question: What's your verdict on Vietnam?

Answer: Vietnam sure is pretty. It would have been nice to stay here traveling around every few months, but alas it was not to be. If Miss Bossy Boss has to be an incompetent and disorganized nut case, then so be it. I feel like I was fed a fairy story to get my hopes up into putting up with all their crap they do around here.

Bottom line, once again I'm living my life in between fifty plans that fall apart and one that could possibly work. Tomorrow, I might have a new one, but for me it's the planning part that's so exhilarating. Maybe that sounds lame or even stressful to some of you, but I always feel like I'm putting a big puzzle together, juggling the people, places, money and experiences together until they resemble something coherent. Exhale. Whoah, I think I just articulated something I have never been able to before. Phew.

By the time I was done puking out everything in my brain into my notebook, the rain had stopped and I jumped into the ocean. It was that gross soupy temperature, even after all the rain, but I didn't care.

I put my dry clothes on and dozed off. Suddenly intense techno music and a crazy man on a microphone was screaming at some partiers on the public side of the beach. They were having a game of human foosball. Perfect. My nap was completely ruined, so I attempted to find a ride home.

Tuan Chau ferry

Tuan Chau ferry


Phuong Long ferry

Phuong Long ferry


Cat Co 2

Cat Co 2


Tuan Chau ferry

Tuan Chau ferry


Me vs. Cat Co beach two

Me vs. Cat Co beach two


Me on fast ferry to Haiphong

Me on fast ferry to Haiphong


Me vs. Vietnamese coffee

Me vs. Vietnamese coffee


Cat Co beach two party

Cat Co beach two party


Some ships

Some ships


Tuan Chau ferry terminal

Tuan Chau ferry terminal


Cat Ba Town

Cat Ba Town


Me vs. seafood noodles

Me vs. seafood noodles


Me vs. flowers

Me vs. flowers


Some ships

Some ships


Cat Co beach two

Cat Co beach two


Fast ferry

Fast ferry


Some ships

Some ships


RAINCOAT

RAINCOAT


Me vs. steam bun hand delivered on the bus

Me vs. steam bun hand delivered on the bus


Me on Cat Co two

Me on Cat Co two


Bus to town

Bus to town


Tuan Chau ferry

Tuan Chau ferry

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Quan Lan is beautiful

This weekend can be immediately classified as a success. Wow.

I woke up early to check on the status of my interview for a job in Honduras. The recruiter hadn't replied yet, so I told her I was going to the beach for the weekend and could do an interview on Sunday. Yep, no problem, she replied to me just before I went out the door.

At eight, I went to buy my ferry ticket and surprise surprise, there was a boat leaving at ten thirty, with express service to Quan Lan. Excellent. I packed my bag quickly and headed out onto the boat.

It was predictably empty, because I'm sure this is a special summer run. I sat on a bench in the stern and of course, this obnoxious family sat right next to me. The woman started inching over into me until she was smooched up against my shoulder, even though there was plenty of room on the other side of her husband. She was just too afraid to tell him to move over I guess? I noticed he kept getting closer and closer to her as she smooched up against me. Finally, I couldn't take it any more and got up and sat in the giant space beside her husband. Ugh.

So, I sat there happily for a while until I spied two French men inside the boat. I asked them where they were going and they named this crazy expensive place. So much for tagging along with them. They offered to call the hotel and see if there was a room tonight for me, but I declined. It had its own private beach, so I was tempted.

When I got back to my seat, that same stupid lady was sleeping in my spot. I pushed her legs over and she moved. What a retard. Why do people just have to take up the most space possible when they are in public?

When we got to Quan Lan, I just got on the first bus I saw, thinking it was going to the beach, but I just ended up getting dropped off at a random hotel. A very nice pharmacist woman brought me exactly to the beach after she realized what happened to me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon napping, swimming and sunning on what amounted to my own private beach anyway. Fantastic.

At one point, a woman with very dirty crooked teeth and a triangle hat came up to me and grunted. She had a white burlap sack over her shoulder. I quickly realized she only wanted my empty beer cans. What service! So I gave them to her and went back to the serious business of snoozing and "filling in" my tan.

The water was a lot cooler than on Ngoc Vung and the waves were a lot more violent and exciting. I spent a good part of the day just jumping around in them. Also, there was not a lot of garbage and hardly any noticeable crabs and other creatures crawling around. Besides that woman and an older man with his dog, I was the only one there. There were also a bunch of tables set up waiting for customers, and a karaoke machine that occasionally blared for no one, but other than that I was totally alone.

Later on in the afternoon, my pharmacist friend and her family came to swim for about thirty minutes along with some local people. One teenage girl came to talk to me, she was annoying so I told her goodbye and she left. Soon after, she came back and blatantly took pictures of me snoozing on the beach. I told her to stop and she kept taking pictures, so I got up and tried to grab it out of her hands and smash it, but she held onto it and started taking pictures again. I grabbed my towel and chased her down the beach screaming. This was the second time someone just HAD to take a picture of me half naked on the beach without asking. A man did it to me last weekend, but I thought it was a fluke. This time, I was furious. Now I know how those poor actresses feel when their butts end up on the cover of grocery store magazines. All they wanted to do was relax for a bit, but people had to go and take photos of them in their face, even after they said no. The worst part is for them it gets published everywhere. At least for me, it's only a bunch of stupid Vietnamese people who will look at the pictures and giggle.

At this point, I felt like my skin was getting crispy, so I went to find a place to sleep. The first place I saw was also recommended in the Lonely Planet, so I stayed there for 200,000. One of the people that ran it asked if I wanted to "have dinner at my grandparents' house" and of course, I said yes for 100,000 more VND. So dinner and a hotel added up to fifteen dollars, Canadian. This part is important for later: I gave the woman at the hotel 500,000 and she gave me back change. I didn't count it, because these people were so friendly, I felt they weren't going to fleece me anyway. I just shoved it in my wallet and went on my way. I assumed she had given me back 200,000 which would pay for everything.

After another nap, they brought me to this mansion on the other side of the village. When I got there a bunch of white twenty-somethings were rolling spring rolls at a long table while sitting on cheap plastic chairs.

"What… hahahaha…. What…. is…. this…. some sort of class?" "No, they are just trying this." The woman in charge said.

"Hahaha… ohhhhkayyyyy…." This was Grandma's house, and these were her tour group friends, having dinner. Eyeroll.

While it was absolutely delicious, it definitely was not what I was expecting at all. Nobody wanted the shrimp cooked with the skin and heads on, so I just chowed down on that. I also had three enormous spring rolls with spinach and rice. Nummy num num.

The tour group entertained me with bland conversation and then I walked back to my hotel for a good sleep before my ferry ride back home.

I walked to the dock, because it wasn't far at all and boarded the boat. As I was waiting for it to leave, the guy from the hotel chased me down and said that I didn't pay for dinner. "Um… yes I'm pretty sure I did. I paid the woman with the long hair five hundred, but I don't know how much she gave me back."

"She gave you three hundred back."

I checked my wallet, but it was all full of small bills and I have no idea which ones are the the change I got last night.

"OK, I honestly don't know, I didn't count it and there's no receipt or anything, so…"

And he turned and walked away. It really made me sad because I didn't know what change I got, for real, and if I owed so much, why did they give me back too much change. I gave them FIVE HUNDRED, they could have given me back any change they wanted. Sigh. I'm not sure if he was just trying a trick. People have tried to trick me so many times here, who ever knows anymore? Double sigh. When they didn't kick me off the boat for lack of payment, I was relieved and headed back home to town again.

Quan Lan beach

Quan Lan beach


Quan Lan mangrove?

Quan Lan mangrove?


Quan Lan mangrove?

Quan Lan mangrove?


Me on ferry home

Me on ferry home


Ferry to Quan Lan

Ferry to Quan Lan


Sunset at my hotel

Sunset at my hotel


Mangrove?

Mangrove?


Fishing village Thanh Loi

Fishing village Thanh Loi


Me on ferry to Quan Lan

Me on ferry to Quan Lan


Quan Lan beach

Quan Lan beach


Quan Lan dock

Quan Lan dock


On the beach

On the beach


Quan Lan beach

Quan Lan beach


Quan Lan dock

Quan Lan dock


Quan Lan beach

Quan Lan beach


Minh Vu Hotel

Minh Vu Hotel


Me vs. spring roll

Me vs. spring roll


Minh Vu Hotel

Minh Vu Hotel


Sunrise on Quan Lan beach

Sunrise on Quan Lan beach

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Garbage beach

This weekend, I was supposed to go with Derek and Cheryl to a deserted island. In the morning, I went to buy my ticket, but I wasn't sure they were really coming, so I didn't get theirs for them. I asked them by email if they wanted me to get theirs and they said yes, so I went back, but there were none left. I was unsurprisingly, and disappointedly, on my own again.

At two, I boarded the boat, but suddenly they started taking it apart, and we had to get off and wait for them to fix it. Fine. This island doesn't have many facilities so I brought my own food and beer. I didn't even finish the first of my warm beers and the boat was fixed and ready to go again. This time, I was slow getting onto the boat and they gave me one of those dumb plastic stools to sit on. Eventually people moved away from the sun and I got a spot on a bench, but of course in the sun. So, I got a good tan. I also met the owner of a hotel on the island I want to go to next week. So, if Cheryl and Derek are up for it next week, we might go there.

Ngoc Vung is a little closer than Quan Lan, so I said goodbye to my hotel friend and got on a random truck with some people. They said we had to stop for fifteen minutes, but they didn't say why. When they got back from whatever they were doing, they said they would take me to the beach. Nope, they had to find their friend, then TOMORROW they would take me to the beach, and they apologized. Um, no? I didn't say a word, I just got off the taxi and started walking in the direction I thought the beach might be, without paying for the truck, of course. Ha.

The next person I asked, said the beach wasn't far. Awesome, so I found it and it was fishy smelling and full of garbage. Some kids were playing in the waves beside a dead dog that had washed up on shore. I kid you not. I didn't take a picture, it was too sad. You'll just have to believe me on this one.

All of the junk you throw in the ocean winds up here, folks. Think twice before littering, seriously. Here is a list of some of the garbage I saw on the beach: a dead dog, a huge light bulb, maybe from a boat, in tact, a fluorescent light tube thing, smashed, waiting for a child to cut his/her feet on it, bottles, juice boxes, cup a soup bowls, all kinds of plastic bags, a rubber glove, many kinds of shoes and flip flops, one of all of them, of course and various other unsavoury debris.

There were two hotels right on the beach, but they were both full. I don't see how anyone can enjoy such a lovely beach with a discarded juice box at their feet, but I digress.

I put down my little towel and my bag and jumped into the water. It was the temperature of soup. Seriously. Ew. So, I swam a little in the salty soup ocean. It was hotter than the air, and the air was pretty hot, as you can imagine.

There were SO MANY things living everywhere. Which is great, I love things being alive. But for me, personally, it gives me the heebie jeebies. Everywhere I stepped, I was afraid of crushing a crab, snail or other mollusc. I love things being alive so much, that it kind of prevents me from appreciating my life myself. It sucks being a self-aware human sometimes.

As I was enjoying the gentle waves, I glanced behind me and noticed a small, unattended fire. Is it a signal? Did some gangsters light the fire behind me so to say: "Heads up, this tourist might sleep on the beach, let's take all her stuff."??? I wasn't sticking around to find out. It was too mysterious to me.

So I marched back on down the beach, and saw some young men selling snacks.

"Where do I sleep?" I mimed.

They pointed down the completely pitch black road. I walked down the road blindly, my heart in my throat. A few motorcycles passed by slowly, probably to get a better look at the crazy foreigner, walking around alone at night. But in my mind, they all wanted to beat me to death and take my passport and camera. Heh…heh… I laughed to myself. How self centred of you, Louise….

I kept going, quickly to the lights of the one hotel left in the village. They charged me 400,000 VND at first, but then gave me back another 100,000 and I think I found out why. All night long, drunk Vietnamese men were singing karaoke and fighting, just one floor below me. The inside of the place was kind of open concept, so the voices seemed like they were in the same room.

At one point, a crazy old man stared in through the bars on my window and I smacked the pillow at him and yelled at him to get away. The pretty young woman accompanying him was probably a prostitute, and gently coaxed him away, giggling.

If anyone is reading this planning to go to Ngoc Vung, please book ahead if possible. I have no idea how, but try. Just don't get into a situation where you have to stay at this place. I took pictures of the sign outside for your convenience.

Worst. Sleep. Of. My. Life. Wow.

My communal room

My communal room


Sitting on the dock

Sitting on the dock


Me on the boat

Me on the boat


On the beach Ngoc Vung island

On the beach Ngoc Vung island


The hotel

The hotel


The dock

The dock


Some crazy people on the boat

Some crazy people on the boat


This beach is brought to you by the letter P

This beach is brought to you by the letter P


On the boat

On the boat


On the beach

On the beach


On the boat

On the boat


On the beach

On the beach


The hotel

The hotel


Little animals everywhere

Little animals everywhere


On the road

On the road


Waiting for the boat to get fixed

Waiting for the boat to get fixed


On the taxi thing again

On the taxi thing again


Bathroom in hotel

Bathroom in hotel


On the taxi

On the taxi


Sunset on the beach

Sunset on the beach

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)