January 30, 2007

These Little Piggies Went To Market

Pigs HANOI, VIETNAM - They're all alive, I know because one of them winked at me.

January 30, 2007

Halong Bay

Halong BayHANOI, VIETNAM - After spending the last 3 days out on a packaged tour of Halong Bay, I'm back in the city gathering up my visa, train tickets and changing money. I leave for China tonight aboard a 50 hour non-stop train from Hanoi to Bejing.

Aside from some good company and great scenery, there isn't much to say about Halong Bay. Nothing went amiss and nothing overly exciting happened. For the first time in a very long time, I'll be travelling solo, though I doubt I'll be solo for long. The thing with travelling is that it's dead easy to meet others. Here's to hoping I find somebody who speaks English on my train...

January 26, 2007

The End of My Endless Summer

HANOI, VIETNAM - Money doesn't make the world go 'round, but it certainly makes me go 'round the world. Without a bottomless bank account, I can't keep travelling at the 'smell-all-the-roses' pace I've keeping. It's time for me to make rush toward Europe so that I can hurry up and get on a boat bound for home.

As a direct result of my new go-fast strategy I'm the proud new owner of a one way train ticket from Hanoi to Bejing in the north of China (50hrs). This will put me smack dab in the middle of a winter at least as frigid as that of Southern Ontario. What's more, If I were a betting man, I'd place myself in Siberia sometime in February. Brrrrr... No more beaches and no more sunburn; it's time to trade my shorts for mittens.

All I'm waiting on now is the Chinese Embassy for my visa. They're promising Tuesday. While I'm waiting I'll be heading out to Halong Bay with Victor, a friend we've met here in Vietnam for a last hurrah in Southeast Asia.

January 25, 2007

The Cheapest Beer in the World

The BartenderHANOI, VIETNAM - If I had to guess, I'd say that the average price for a pint of beer on planet earth is about $1 USD. I've seen more expensive beer and I've seen cheaper, but I've never seen it priced as low as I did last night.

2000 Dong for a big glass of beer might sound like a lot to somebody who has never dealt with Vietnamese Dong as a currency, but it's not. It works out to about $0.12 USD. That's why, when we stumbled into this mythical intersection somewhere in the old quarter of the city of Hanoi, we had to stop.

I'm not sure what to call this place. If it has a name, I'm unaware of it; I've started referring to it as 'the four corners of beer'. Each corner of this apparently random intersection, is crowded with plastic chairs who's diminutive size suggests that they've been borrowed, or stolen, from a kindergarten classroom. The people, locals and foreigners alike, sit in the street on these tiny chairs, and drink big glasses of an unnamed draft beer. It provides for a very festive setting and won't break the bank. I challenge you to find a cheaper beer.

Here, in the North of Vietnam, I'm finally beginning to feel my first shivers of winter. January in Hanoi is more of a sweater and jacket city than the shorts and t-shirt Capitals of Oceania and Southern Asia. In order to make room for the extra insulating layers I'll be needing I plan to be ditching my most of my summer wear.

Gia flew home today, after travelling with me the last two weeks. Once again I'm planning the next leg of my journey. I'm dedicating today as an Internet research day. I've got some ideas about what to do and where to go from here but they need finalizing. I expect I'll post again before the day is out.

January 23, 2007

I've Chosen Baldness Before It Could Choose Me

BaldHOI AN, VIETNAM - We've made it half-way to the North end of Vietnam to the city of Hoi An; famous for the old french architecture. It's even recently become a world heritage site. I've got a million photos to upload but it looks like I'll have to wait until we get to Hanoi, the capital. I'm pretty sure the Internet here in Hoi An is as old as a lot of the buildings.

Oh yes. In anticipation of eventually going bald of natural causes I've shaved my head. It's meant to be a sort of trial run for the real world; to test out the shape of my skull, which surprisingly has no terrible bumps or serious discolourations.

The picture above has me covering most of my head. It's just that I'm so... uhh.. bald now. I need to get used to it myself before posting it all.

January 19, 2007

The Easy Riders of Dalat

Easy RidersDALAT, VIETNAM - I can't exactly say why, but the informal crew of motorcycle guides, who call themselves The Easy Riders are dead easy to pick out from the imposter's. I can't exactly describe what makes it so obvious. They have that intangible quality; an aura of cool, they're confident and self assured. When they're not escorting backpackers around the cool mountain villages of Vietnam's central highlands on their vintage motorcycles, they're smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in the many cafes of Dalat. They all speak English, they're great at conversation and they've all got a story. It's easy to see why a lot of people end up keeping their guides for trips as far away as Saigon and even Hanoi (1700km).

We've been in Vietnam now for several days. After spending a couple days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) we decided a breather from the tropical smog and chaos of the city was in order. The cool mountain retreat of Dalat fit the bill nicely.

I'm having the usual frustrations with finding an Internet connection fast enough to upload my photos. My backlog is growing. C'est la vie.