Showing posts from November, 2009

Tomb Raiding on Two Wheels, Hue, Nov 25-28, 2009

The Citadel in Hue

As fascinating and mindblowing as Vietnam can be, it`s a spender`s nightmare. From any street corner to decent hotel, this country shops, sells and hawks as good as any.

Yet it`s not always a relaxed experience. It`s a safe assumption that as a traveller, any interaction involving money often means being overcharged, played, bilked and or manipulated until proven otherwise. The nicest smile, friendliest face, and fairest deal will still leave you wondering at what cost. I'd heard even North American Vietnamese are as perplexed with this as we. An agreed upon price changes, sudden charges appear, hoteliers and cabbies work in collusion to corner your business. For us westerners, not being able to trust, and having to ascertain a stranger`s honesty leaves us disadvantaged.

For all this griping, our dollar still goes a long way, and Vietnam isn't all that different from other parts of South East Asia.

Speaking some Vietnamese, looking like a local, or just roll…

Heavenly Halong Bay Nov 21-23, 2009

Halong Bay if you believe the Vietnamese, is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It has a UNESCO stamp to back it up, plus there is nary a soul anywhere who will tell you that its overblown and overrated. The 2000 drop-dead gorgeous limestone pinnacles rise from the emerald coloured Gulf Of Tonkin, like humps on a dragon (if you believe the local lore). Whatever, after 8 exhausting, demoralizing days fighting H1N1, and God knows what else in Hanoi, it was a ladder from the almighty, giving us our first fabulous days in Vietnam. Smog and motorbike free, our lungs could breath and we could finally chill without the constant threat of a motor bike wrapping itself around us.

Our one regret was our limited time. We booked a 3 day, 2 night cruise and wound up spending a night on Cat Ba Island. The jungle trek under a canopy of lush green foliage alone would have been worth the trip. Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island sunset

Another interesting feature of this area, and other coastal regions, …

H1N1 In Hanoi and Mao vs Ho

Presidential Palace
Temple of Literature

Hanoi, Nov 14-21 and 24

Well before one lands in Vietnam, you are forewarned and buried with redflags and alerts about touts, scams, thieves, annoyances, dangers and cheats. Indeed we saw evidence of this immediately after hitting the arrivals area when teams of young men plied us with questionable offers. But then a women walked by and said with perfect English and a casual smile, "good evening", and kept going. It was an unsolicited, spontaneous courtesy we rarely received in China.

We were also unprepared for H1N1. Of all the gin joints in all the towns, we (or Wayne) have to get H1N1 here. Why not the first week back at work? Why not a more serene locale like Phu Quoc Island. Our buddy Tom says Hanoi on a good day is dark and cold. On a better day it's grey and cold. Don't think he was only talki…

Destroying the Past To Make A Brighter Future (Kunming, Nov 5-7, 2009)


Kunming as capital of the province of Yunnan, and our last major city, is the gateway to our last region of China. It's hardly worth noting except for the pix that show some of the seemingly wanton destruction of the past and unchecked race to glamour and shine.

Twenty years ago Kunming had a provincial charm to it. One of the furthest cities from Beijing, it sauntered at its own pace; it housed many of the distinct minority groups within China, especially the Chinese muslims. Now the muslim quartered has been bulldozed over. Old Kunming as seen in the pix, is also being flattened for, "a Brighter Future.”

It will be rebuilt to resemble the old but for yuppified China. And shiny it certainly is. But it does offer something we havent seen in more than 6 weeks---clear blue, blue sky.

Amidst the shining new pedestrian walkway, we found 16 blind masseuses (ok, some weren't really blind....this is China…