Published: March 20th 2011March 20th 2011
Ooh, this entry is not gonna be easy because I am at an internet cafe, amongst a bunch of teens playing video games (nerd alert!) and the keyboard keeps wanting to make my letters into Vietnamese. I will do my best! I had to leave my hostel to use the internet because I was distracted by all the sociopathic movies that the people were chosing to watch - first Natural Borne Killers and right after American Psycho. I tried to look at each of them so I know to stay far away if I see them later. I mean, maybe watching them one at a time but right after each other makes me worried about those people and their hobbies. Because there is a huge selection of movies to choose from!
Oh well. Anyway, on to the interesting stuff. I will update you with what I have done since I last wrote from Luang Prabang, Láós. Ooh, some Vietnamese characters made it through that one! So, I really wasn't feeling Láo. I had heard that it was amazing, that the people were so friendly, but I didnt really see that side, which is unfortunate. The side I saw
was more often the how-can-I-make-money-off-of-you and/or stare-at-you-without-smiling-even-when-you-smile-at-me side. I heard some stories about the kindness òf the Laos people, but I did not see much of it. They weren't unkind, just not as friendly, at least in my experience, as the Thai people. I thought that the Thai people were pretty much awesome. And you hear some people who think that the Thai are too aggressive and the Láo people are the bést. I really think that it depends on each person's experience. Anyways, I left Luang Prabang and took the night bus to Vientiane, which is the capital and very French-inspired. There is not a super amount of things to do, but I wanted to have some yummy French food, because my sister Leigh said that you could get some excellent French food for a low cost. So that is what I đid. I had a romantic French meal dinner with myself, and it was lovely! I started off ordering onion soup - I think that I saw a look in the eye of my waiter perhaps, thinking, "Oh no, she isn't one of those cheap westerners who is just gonna order soup, is she?" but I think that
he was quite pleased, because I also ordered a glass of white wine and steak with red wine sauce! I know, I am supposed to drink red wine with dark meat, but I love my white wine! And I was thinking, this is kind of a lot of money, but then I realized it was costing me about 15 dollars, which was totally normal for going to dinner at a regular place in Houston, and I wouldn't have thought twice about it at home! You kind of get traveling goggles, where things that would not be at all expensive at home seem expensive traveling because you have gotten used to the amazing deals. Although I haven't gotten as bad as my French friend Anthony, who thought that paying $2.50 for a dorm room with hot water was too expensive! (if you read this Anthony, sorry, but I can't help myself!) So I really enjoyed my lovely French meal!
The next day I got on a plane to go to Hanoi - the alternative was a 30-hour bus ride from hell. Now, I have gone on a very pleasant 22-hour bus ride - twice actually - between Buenos Aires
and Iguazu Falls - but this bus ride is like the opposite of pleasant. Apparently people have to lie on top of one another and there are other animal species involved - basically, just not a good time. So, I decided that I could definitely afford to pay for a flight. I arrived in Hanoi and took the minibus - I was so proud of myself because I was the only westerner on my minibus! The other travelers seemed to think I was adorable because they were smiling at me the whole time and were quite friendly. They helped me figure out where I needed to stop off. I wish I could understand Vietnamese because apparently one of the women on the minibus was really funny - she kept making everyone crack up! Oh, well! It was a good experience and was only 2 dollars - they charged me 5,000 dong more than the others (about 25 cents), presumably for not being Vietnamese, but a taxi would have cost maybe 20 dollars or something. Then I took a cab from a pretty unscrupulous cab driver - he was talking to me in the middle of peeing in the street. He agreed to 40,000 dong but then claimed that I had said 50,000 (this was 2 dollars versus 2.50 - he originally wanted 5 dollars) and, ás I only had a 50,000 dong bill, he refused to give me ten back. Since I don't know how to say, "Ten less is for sitting there peeing in front of me on the street" I had no choice but to accept.
So I get into my hostel and it ís HUGE! And it seems like everybody knows everyone else - a bit intimidating for the lone traveler. Plus, it was super cold and rainy! I didn't understand it, this is Southeast Asia! It is supposed to be lovely, right? Not so in Hanoi! So I went to bed a bit early, mostly just to have some warmth. The next morning I met some really nice girls from various places that were staying in my dorm room - in particular, two girls from California. Random aside - I don't meet a lot of people from the states, but when I do, it seems like they are all from California! And most of them have been! I wonder what that is all about? Are people who live in California just more adventurous? Or they have more money to travel? I don't know what it is, but it is quite interesting to me. Anyways, I agreed to meet up later with these two girls from Cali to celebrate St. Paddy's Day. And that was a quite fun night. Lots òf music, chatting with random people, and face painting. An Australian married couple noticed that I had nothing written on my face, so the husband insisted on painting an Irish flag on my face with paint and Wite Out! It was a fun night, and I was having such a fun time with the girls, Lila and Shannon, that I agreed to go with them the next morning on the Rock Long, Rock Hard tour òf Halong Bay, even though the weather was crap! So, the next day at around 8:30, we headed off to Halong Bay. It ended up being quite a good experience despite the cold weather. We stayed on a really nice boat - we asked the tour guide about the recent sinking of a boat on the bay and the death of 12 people - he told us that the tour company that owned the boat was a really cheap one, and that the boat had a leak that, rather than repair, they had been using a pump to pump out the water. Apparently early in the morning, the pump had stopped working and the boat started to sink really quickly. He said that after the boat sank, the authorities came in and made sure that several features were added to all the boáts. But our boat, the Jolly Roger, would never have anything like that happen to it because it is very well taken care òf. I never felt unsafe while I was thểre.
So, Halong Bay is AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS! Of course my pictures didn't even close to capture the beauty of the bay. The beauty was somewhat dampened by the cold rain, but only somewhat. We had the opportunity to go swimming in the bay, and, although it was maybe 50 degrees outside, I figured, how many opportunities does a person have to swim in Halong Bay? So I jumped in and WOW it was COLD! So I only really was in the water for the smallest amount of time possible, but that was enough! We then went kayaking to see some cool caves. Then that night we had dinner and all played this massive game òf King's Cup. It had quite a lot of interesting rules. The next day, the sun came out in all its glory! I LOVE THE SUN! Especially after a cold and windy couple of days! And the sun loves me...too much, I think! Turns out that only thirty minutes in the sun gave me quite a sunburn - especially an outline of the necklace I have been wearing! It looks pretty ridiculous! So now I am putting on plenty of aloe vera and praying that I don't peel! I am back in Hanoi and am planning on staying at least a couple of days, then possibly going to Sâpa. I will keep everyone updated. But nơw I am gonna head out because I am getting tired of the little boys squealing excitedly about their video game achievements!