A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Homecoming

....is always bittersweet!


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

  • * Note: I wrote this while still in Vietnam and actually forgot that I still hadn't posted it.

The feelings associated with leaving anywhere are always mixed for me. I am looking forward to getting back to the states in some respects. Back to what is normal, where I can talk to everyone, where the food is recognizable and I know what to expect next. But, there is a part of me that's sad to be leaving this great country. I have been sad, frustrated, perplexed, lonely, hungry, sick, happy and awed at the same and at different times during this trip. Through it all, I think that I've learned a bit about myself and I know that I have learned a lot about the people of Vietnam. I'm certain that there will be numerous reflections on my trip in the future as I re-count it for friends and family at home. I'm sad to be going home, yet excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

I found out about two days ago that the contract that I had confirmed prior to leaving, has been canceled. It's been a bit stressful the past two days, dealing with leaving and the end of my vacation but also now the fact that I don't know what to expect when I do get home. It will be an adventure in its self figuring out where I will end up in the next couple of weeks. Thank goodness for friends. I have multiple places that I can stay if needed during the next couple of weeks while I wait for the perfect job offer.

I want to say thanks to Kim and Mike for putting up with me during the past couple of days. I ended up getting pretty sun-burnt at the beach my first day out and Kim was a champ trying to make sure that I was comfortable. Then I was sick....that's twice now during my trip. Fortunately, it didn't last long and I was back to normal quickly.

Mui Ne, although pretty...is a pretty boring place if you aren't interested in water-sports or if your like me and get too much sun the very first day! I knew I should have used more sun-block!!

Kim, Mike and I went out for a night on the town my last night there and I think Mike snuck in some pictures of Kim and I dancing. Yes....I danced, although I'm certain that most of the time I looked like I was having some sort of seizure! I even played with Kim's practice poi (don't know if I spelled that correctly or not but poi are what fire dancers use). It was a lot of fun but if I had been using real poi, I would probably have 3rd degree burns all over my body and be stuck in some Vietnamese ICU at the moment. Thank goodness, they were not real!!

Airport acquaintances can be quite interesting. I was just interrupted by some guy from Seattle that proceeded to tell me his entire life story as well as the life story of several of his friends. I love when people start a conversation and within the first 2 minutes, they are telling you how 'rich' they are. Like I care? I don't base my judgment of people on how much money or possessions that they have but rather what kind of person they are. So I sat and listened to how many houses this guy has and how many cars and that he is soon to be moving to Vietnam where, in his words “material things dont matter” WTF? He just gave me a 20 min dissertation on how much material wealth he has then makes a statement like that? I guess I just don't understand some people.

So, I managed to get away from him for the moment but he is on the same flight as me and I hope like hell that I can avoid him during the flights and above all else...during my 8 hour layover!!

I've drank enough coffee to sink a ship but my Ambien is close at hand so I can get a little sleep on the flight. I am mostly rambling at this point as I am bored and don't know what else to do with my time.

Airport observations:

There are only 8 non-Asians (other than me) waiting for the flight, all of which are couples.
There is one baby that is currently screaming it's little head off and two toddlers.
Three people are lying on the seats sleeping
8 of us (yep me included) are sitting on the floor due to no seats available.
two people with I-pods in their ears
one woman with black eyes so big she looks like she had one hell of a fight with someone
Dumb and Dumber is playing on the TV with Vietnamese dubbing. You should really experience this at least once in your life. It's crazy. There is only one voice for the dubbing and it's totally monotone sounding. I don't know how they stand listening to it.

My flight is getting ready to board so I'm going to sign off for now....see you in Seoul!!

Posted by Khandilee 10:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Getting there is half the fun?

....still not there!


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

At the Hanoi travel agency, I talked to the agent about the best way to get to Mui Ne in the least amount of time. Since there isn't any airport close to Mui Ne and I really didn't want to go back through Saigon, I was told that my option was to fly to Nha Trang and then take a local bus to Mui Ne. The agent assured me that there are near hourly buses that run from Nha Trang to Mui Ne. Great, I think. I will leave at 0900 and arrive around 1030 in Nha Trang. An hour to the bus, possibly an hour wait then a 4 ½ hour ride to Mui Ne. I anticipate arrival in Mui Ne around 5pm. Still plenty of evening left to have dinner and drinks with Mike and Kim.

But....

That isn't quite how it ended.....

Plane leaves on time. I arrived at the airport and checked in with the ticketing desk. The nice lady behind the desk tells me '29, HURRY'. Shit, I am thinking to myself that somehow I have gotten the times messed up and my flight is getting ready to leave. I rush across the hall to line #29. There are two people in front of me and I am a little nervous that I am going to miss my plane. A third Vietnamese lady pushes her way in front of me and I nudge her back behind me. No way am I going to miss my flight! I get to the counter and am told that I need line #28 if I am going to check baggage! Shit!!

I press over to line #28 and use the Vietnamese method of getting to the front of the line. Just pretend that there isn't a line of 20 people waiting. I proceed to push my way to the front of the line. There doesn't seem to be any rush from the clerk checking my bag. My boarding ticket is handed to me and I am told 'gate 10'. Thinking that there might be a wait for security, I quickly make my way to gate 10 security. There are only 2 people in line in front of me! My lucky day! I am still unsure why the first lady was adamant that I 'hurry' but I rush through security and get to my gate. Flight to Saigon is just announcing final boarding. The flight board soon changes and my flight is on schedule for 0900! I still have over an hour to wait! What was the damn 'HURRY' all about?

Luckily there is a smoking area so I grab an iced Vietnamese coffee and head to the smoking area for one last drag before my flight. My flight is uneventful other than the fact that the boarding/un-boarding process is a little different than I am used to. All of the passengers are loaded onto buses and taken about ½ km to the plane to board and we are boarded at both ends of the plane according to our seat assignment. Other than the hassle of the bus it's rather efficient. When we disembark, it's much the same although the plane is only about 1500 meters from the terminal and we are still all herded onto buses! We could have walked it faster than the time it took us to all get on the buses!

I've arrived in Nha Trang, or actually about 25km outside of Nha Trang. Again bombarded by the taxi drivers and all I want to do is smoke a quick cig before heading to the bus station. A young backpacker approaches me and asks if I would like to share a taxi into the town center and I decline (regretfully, I'll find out later). I stomp out the butt to my cigarette and grab my taxi. I attempt to negotiate a price and am told 'meter' Sounds good to me so off we go...

My taxi was $400K dong!! I find out later (too late) that the taxi only should have cost me about $200K dong from the airport per Lonely Planet!! I asked the taxi to take me to the bus station and inform him that I am headeed to Mui Ne. It takes us nearly 45min to get to the CENTER of town (now I am wishing that I had shared that taxi!). I am delivered to a travel agency...immediately I am upset and inform the driver that I need the Bus Station! Remember that travel agent in Hanoi? So, off we go to the bus station. I arrive at the bus station and they all look at me like I am an idiot! There are NO local buses to Mui Ne!! The only way to Mui Ne is to take the bus from the tourist office!! Thankfully, my driver is waiting for me. We continue back to the same Travel agency that we have just left and the lady at the counter shakes her head and rolls her eyes (not really, but that's how I feel).

I explain that I need to get to Mui Ne today and find out that the next bus out isn't until 7:30pm!! It's about 11am now..... At this point I am cursing the travel agent from Hanoi! I promise that tomorrow he is going to get a phone call and a piece of my mind!

I book the only bus to Mui Ne and wonder what I am going to do for the 8 hours that I now have to wait to head out to my destination. First order of business is notify Kim and Mike that I am going to be much later than expected. I am directed to the nearest internet cafe which smells of urine and old cat litter and send a quick note to let them know I am going to be late. Hoping that the email will get checked before Kim starts to worry....

Walking out of the internet cafe and heading toward the beach (certain that there will be food to be found along the beach-front), I run into Eddie Murphy! You know the african american comedian? I am certain that you have heard of him and probably seen some of his movies at one time or another....

Ok, it really isn't Eddie Murphy...It's Eddie Murphy II or so he calls himself. He is a riot! Has me rolling with laughter (much needed at this point). We chat for a few minutes as he tries to sell me an 'Easy Rider' tour. After he finds out that I have already taken a tour, he gives up on the sell and I ask him where I can find some good food, with only one cup of coffee this morning and a couple of M&M's on the plane...I am starving! He offers to drive me a couple blocks down the road for free (yeah...nothing is free). I'm dropped off at a local Vietnamese restaurant with a great view of the ocean. Well, it's a great view if you squint real hard and turn your head just the right way to see through the trees. I ask him to come back in an hour and give me a tour of the city and we negotiate a price. Lunch is good, not great but good and filling. Mr. Murphy returns promptly in an hour and waits for me to finish my lunch.

We stroll around town and stop at the Cham tower. I am feeling like a cheap-skate and don't pay to go inside the grounds. Next we go to the Temple. There is a HUGE white Buddha at the top of the hill and I find another traveler sitting and listening to some local women verbally fighting with each other. This is the first that I have seen anyone angry in Vietnam It's interesting to watch the interaction. They are nearly screaming at each other. I chat with the other traveler about the culture and what we are seeing and our travels. I have nearly forgotten that I have a paid driver waiting for me. I say my good-bye and head back down the hill. There is another Buddah part way down the hill. It's a reclining Buddha and is Huge also. At the temple, there are a group of children chanting/singing/praying and it's mesmerizing. I have now been in two different Temples where there is (I think) praying occurring and both times it has had a very calming effect on me.

My hour is nearly gone and I don't want to pay for another hour so I suggest that Mr. Murphy take me somewhere close to where we started that we can have a good Vietnamese Coffee. The Green Cafe is our destination and the great discovery is that they also have free wi-fi! I'll be back here later....

Mr. Murphy suggests that I take a hotel for a few hours of rest and a shower. I guess I must smell? I think that this is a great idea! After coffee, we head a few blocks away and negotiate a great price for a few hours hotel room. I pay Mr. Murphy and he heads his own way. I relax for a couple hours, stretch out and have a wonderful hot shower (only wish I had some clean clothes with me).

It's now pushing 5pm so I head out to the Green Cafe again for a Pineapple drink and some spring rolls to hold me over for the bus ride to Mui Ne. The internet is great and I'm able to get one blog posted but the spring rolls are a little tasteless.

At 6:30pm I start walking to the travel agency to catch my bus. They told me to return at 7pm. I'm there by 6:45pm. I sit and chat with one of the agents (different from earlier) named Chau. She is very sweet and at 29, she is married to a Vietnamese man living in America. She dreams of going to America to be with her husband and it seems that it is quite a lot of work to get accomplished. She tells me that with an attorney, she should be able to be in the states in 12-18 months. She is very excited and asks me all about America. At 7:30pm, someone calls and states that my bus is going to be late and will arrive around 8pm. At 8:15pm I am still waiting. Finally at 8;40pm, a moto-bike driver arrives and after a few minutes of Vietnamese I am told to go with the moto-bike driver to the bus... I lug the big backpack and hop onto the back of the bike. With my eyes closed, we rush through the street traffic, me nearly falling off the back due to the extra weight! Ahhh...my bus, finally!

It's currently 9:27pm and we are finally on the out-skirts of Nha Trang, hopefully headed to Mui Ne! I was told that Mui Ne is not a scheduled stop for this bus (after I booked it) and am hoping that the conversation that Chau had with the moto-driver was transferred to the bus driver. None of them speak any English so I cant confirm my plans with them. I'm nearly out of battery power and the bus is totally dark so I am going to end this now. I'll update on the outcome soon....

Life is good....

Update: Arrived in Mui Ne at about 2am. Mike and Kim were awake and waiting for me...love them!! Chatted for just a few minutes then off to bed...

Posted by Khandilee 20:31 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Taxi's, Puppets, and getting lost....

...in Hanoi


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

Finally arrived in Hanoi after a harrowing overnight bus ride. The sleeper bus was a bit different this time as there was a sort of 'capsule' for your lower legs/feet. Thinking that I was choosing the lesser of two evils by choosing to 'sleep' in a top bunk instead of the closterphobic lower bunks... I'm still unsure if I chose correctly or not. Sleep was haphazard. There was constant swaying being in the top portion of the bus, I was fearful at times that I was going to sway right over the edge of the bunk onto the poor people below me. The karaoke was interesting but not quite enjoyable, and the constant horn honking (still haven't gotten used to this) was enough to keep even the dead awake. But, I arrived safely.

Arriving in the morning, I was certain that I was not going to be able to check into a hotel for hours. This thought along with the fact that sleep had evaded me, and i hadn't had a cigarette in nearly 12 hours, was enough to put my mood quite foul as the taxi and moto-bike drivers soon found out.

Descending from the bus, the swarm of drivers mobbed me. 'taxi? moto? where you go? you want taxi? i take you to hotel? taxi? moto? where you go?' My initial response was polite and plenty of 'no thank you's' but they just wouldn't stop and each response got nastier and nastier. I just wanted to figure out where I was and have a smoke!! Finally, I told one poor soul that if he didn't get out of my face It would be a cold day in hell before I would ever ride with him. I think they got the point as they all stepped back....only about 2ft!!

Finally figuring out where I am (about 2-3km from the city center), an European couple and I decide to share a taxi.

Checked into the hotel and took a nice hot shower and my mood improved greatly. I never have been a morning person.... I headed over to the Kangaroo Cafe to get my Halong Bay tour scheduled. I have to say, I am impressed at this point with the Kangaroo Cafe. There was no big push to sell me any of their tours. I was handed a book to look through that thouroughly explained the different options and nearly had to lasso someone when I was decided and ready to book! Everywhere else I have been has hounded me and stood over my shoulder and given a hard sell but the people here left me alone to decide which was a very nice change.

Next on the agenda is to book the Water Puppet performance for later in the evening. This was done quick and easy and then I wandered around the city. I had actually taken my lonely planet with me with intentions of following the 'walking tour' of the city but very quickly got distracted and lost and no longer knew how or where to go to get back to my walking tour so it was abandoned. I aimlessly wandered through the city, taking in the sights, sounds and smells (some not so good). Finally stopping for a coffee and a snack I asked the server where I was on the map. The spot she pointed to was nearly off the map!! I guess I wandered much further than I had thought. Miraculously, I made it back to my hotel for a little afternoon nap.

The water puppet performance was not as good as I had anticipated. Although paying for 'premium' seats for a whopping $60K dong (about $3.50 usd), my seat was horrible. I was in the 5th row, which should be good for about any performance, right? Wrong...this particular stage (being water) is actually set much lower than the traditional stages so I could barley see anything due to the heads of the people in the 4 rows in front of me. If you go, I recommend demanding either front row or paying the lower fee and sitting much further up in the theater. The entire performance was set to traditional music, which was interesting but due to my not speaking Vietnamese, I didn't understand any of what was going on.... The puppets themselves were nice and the maneuvering of them took some talent. 2/5 if I had to rate it.

Had a wonderful dinner after the show then retired early for my Halong Bay trip in the morning.

Life is good....

Posted by Khandilee 02:36 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hue (Way)

....too homesick!

overcast 63 °F
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I'm sure that no one is going to understand this and I am not even sure that I understand it. I AM HOMESICK! Yes...ME! Believe it....

It's difficult for me to understand my emotions right now because I normally try to be such a strong person and keep myself under control, but homesick is the only way I can describe how i felt this morning. I was sad and feeling sorry for myself for being lonely. I spend 99% of my time without close friends and family around. Why now? The only explanation I can think of is that I am really alone here. No one really speaks my language. I have not yet met another American. I feel out of place with the locals (although they have been nothing but overly friendly) and I feel out of place with the other travelers (mostly because they are so well traveled and I'm not).

I guess taking this trip alone wasn't the best possible solution for me. I'm not scared nor have I felt intimidated any any of the places that I've been. I just cant stop thinking about being able to share everything that I've seen and done with someone else and it would be so wonderful to have someone beside me to share in all the new experiences. So...who wants to take the next trip with me?? There will be another and hopefully sooner than later. And...if I have to go alone, I will!

I guess if I've learned nothing else during this trip, I have learned what it is to truly be alone....

After I was finished feeling sorry for myself and pulled myself together, I visited the Citidal. All I can say is that it is amazing. It's certainly something that you must see. enjoyed a liesurly morning walk through the maze of palaces and pagoda's. It is truly beautiful. I can only imagine what it was like in it's day of splendor.

The remainder of my day was spent (yes again) on a moto-bike tour of some of the sites surrounding Hue. At least there wasn't any rain and the sky was mostly overcast so the sun wasn't too intense.

We visited a small Japanese Bridge that was donated to the people of this little village on the outskirts of Hue. It was as beautiful as the one viewed in Hoi An, only made more special due to it's location. The bridge is placed in the middle of a huge rice field between what looks to be two small villages. My guide was telling me that some rich emperors wife donated the bridge and it's still used today as it was when it was first constructed. The villagers don't have to walk across the mucky waters anymore and they also use the bridge as a shelter from the mid-day sun while working in the rice fields. It's not uncommon to find the workers napping here during the heat of the day.

We visited two separate pagoda's that were much like all the other pagoda's I've seen. Then we visited the 'tomb' of one of the emperors. This was an amazing complex of buildings, with a moated river flowing through it. I'm not sure how many acres of land the site encompasses but it's quite a large area. There is a theater, a complex (mostly debris) where the Emperor's concubines were housed, And very ornate staircases, statues, and tomb entrances for the Emperor and his wives. It is reported that the Emperor had no children of his own and I was surprised to see a tomb for his step-son!! Who would have thought that they recognized step-children way back then....wonder if he was red-headed?

Overall, it was a full day of walking around and exploring the local historical sites. I should really have read up on the history of Vietnam prior to coming here. I know that there was some Moroccan invasion near the time of the French war and wonder if these Emperor's were of Moroccan influence (they look more Chinese influenced than Vietnamese). Something to investigate....

Life is good....

Posted by Khandilee 06:57 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Leaving Hoi An

...headed to Hue (pronounced 'way')

rain 76 °F
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So my last day in Hoi An included a two hour breakfast, wandering around, a two hour early afternoon snack, wandering around, a two hour lunch, a short nap at the hotel (I was just so tired after all that eating and walking). a two-hour dinner, and more wandering around...then early to bed. Sounds like a pretty difficult day, huh?

I did manage to go to the hospital also. Not as a patient...thank god!! It's quite 'old school' with the nurses in all white with caps! I took a couple of pics of empty rooms, trying not to be too intrusive. The ER was pretty full but nothing looked too serious. There was a couple sitting outside with a small baby that looked under a year old, and as I walked past them they called me over and showed me some pretty bad looking burn on the baby's legs...I couldn't talk with them because they didn't speak any english but I felt so very bad that I couldn't help them. Not sure why they were sitting outside, maybe they dont have money to pay and were hoping for some free assistance? I dont know but it broke my heart!

Still using glass IV bottles and I only saw two nurses and no Dr's the time that I was there....

I've arrived in Hue and it feels like more of the same as far as Vietnam cities go. Stopped into Thu Cafe for a bite to eat (nothing spectacular) and booked a tour tomorrow afternoon of the local tombs, Bunker Hill and some Pagoda's. It should be a good time. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Right now it's raining (imagine that....rain in Vietnam)! Need to make a pit-stop somewhere for some necessities (deodorant, and soap as well as some snacks). Then it's feeling like a short afternoon nap, before I wander out and try to find a place for dinner.

The bus ride here was so much better than the last one. I got the sleeper bus this time and although I didn't sleep, it was so much more comfortable. Able to stretch out my legs and relax with a pillow and blanket included the trip was finished in no time. Although I did have an early morning wake-up in order to make the bus at 0700!

My skype still isn't working here and I am quite upset. The cell phone that I bought when I got here won't charge and I have no other way to contact anyone. So if you haven't hear from me, that's why! Miss everyone so very much!! feeling a bit homesick but not yet ready to go 'home'!!

Life is good....

Posted by Khandilee 02:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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