Published: November 12th 2010November 9th 2010
After my last blog...
we did a tour of Mue Ni which was mostly sand dune sledging and sunset watching, which was very nice. We also had a group of pretty cool people, 2 of which had just done the Philippines like us and another 2 that are doing pretty much the same route as us but backwards to it was cool to hear about where they had been and what to expect.
The next day, we headed in-land to the central highlands and Da Lat. a 4 hour coach journey that probably in the history of my life didnt see me falling asleep..not least because i could see how the driver was driving on the hairpin bends with drops either side. We got there safe and sound though, only to be greeted with a weeks worth long of rain which meant to we were unable to leave because of landslides and flooding in all the surrounding areas..so dalat was pretty much shut off from people arriving and leaving.
Initially, I dont think ive ever been so happy to see rain. We arrived at night..in the rain and it was a cool 17.c which saw us putting hoodies,shoes and
though..we didnt see any fairies..
socks on for the first time in our trip! It was lovely to get snug and to go out and not instantly sweat. However after around 4 days of continual downpours and the understanding that we weren't getting out of Da Lat the way we planned..the weather soon became a drag.
Our first impressions of Da Lat was that it felt like we were in europe somewhere..i suppose this was greatly helped by the weather, but it had this safe feeling about it, the roads and buildings had a great french influence too.
It was a lovely city, it felt safe and everything was walkable. It is apprently Vietnams 'city of love' though I struggle to see how..maybe the giant transformer in the middle that lights up vaguely looks like the Effiel Tower (actually as we were driving in jimis' first comment was, 'oh bloody hell theyve only gone and driven us all the way to France..look theres the Effiel Tower')
We were dropped off in front of a hotel that wasn't the nicest,but as it was tipping down with rain we survived a couple of nights and then found a much cleaner,friendlier place up the road with
the owner Vietnamese/Quebec who would 'bow' to us each time we came in and out. We did a 'Countryside Tour' with a group of people and our tour guide was probably the best one yet. The rain held off for us and we visited a coffee plantation..i never knew coffee grew on trees how ridiculous is that?? ive never been a great fan of coffee but as we were there I thought id try..Vietnamese coffee is like nothing ive ever tasted..its texture is thick like syrup and they used condensed milk too so its super creamy and sweet. We went to a silk factory to see the process from start to finish..which was fascinating to see but I still cant grasp how a little grub can create such a fibre.
After, we went to a cricket farm..after which we were served up a plate of crickets to try. Which I am proud to say, was the first in our group to dig in.
Crickets are the only creepy crawley I said I wouldnt mind trying whilst out here..and now I have thats probably the height of my culinary adventures. Certainly dont fancy trying the Vietnamese delicacy of half developed duck
embryo or still beating snake heart.
We stopped for lunch and ate with Carly and Sasha, two solo travellers that we got friendly with on the tour..turns out Sasha who looks now older than us was 32 and a leukaemia researcher back in the states. He was half Japanese though and confidently ordered us a steam boat (something I was nervous about getting after my experience in Thailand) but I avoided the meat and just slurped up the soup.
After a few more days in Dalat we decided enough was enough and we either had to get a very expensive flight north,missing out all the stops on our bus ticket and getting to the destination wayy before we needed to be, or to fly back to HCM for cheap,extend our visa for 2 weeks and work in Go Vap Orphanage like we had originally planned to do. As you will assume from the destination at the top of this blog, we decided to go with the later. We took the quickest flight EVER back to HCM (the only way out of Dalat due to landslides and flooding) we were barely in the air for 10 mins which seemed ridiculous
after our 20 hour or so bus journey. The only ever plane journey ive been on which I hadnt fallen asleep..so jimi was pleased. Dont know if my no sleeping was due to the shortness of the flight or aided by the man in front of me reclining his chair back as far as it would go then dangling his arm over the back of the seat..which didnt bother me, until..after a few double takes I realised the hand in front of my face in fact had an extra finger. This creeped me out a bit and as bad as it is I couldnt help giggling knowing what Tasha wouldve said to this predicament!
So we arrived back in HCMC..staying back in Thanh Thuong which is nice because Tu is so friendly. Second time round its not so daunting, though perhaps getting comfortable is a negative, as on our second day here having lunch in a cafe on the street, somehow my wallet got taken from jimis pocket. We are still baffled how. We had been warned to the point of being put off visiting HCMC all together on our first time round,about so many people ripping you off
Go Vap Orphanage
i want to take them all home..
and the ridiculous crime rate but I guess in major cities its one of those things. It couldve just as easily happened in London. Luckily I had taken out my cards before we left our guest house otherwise I wouldve been in a state..instead it was just a sort of..'so its not in your pocket and not on the floor..?its gone then. Lets get on with it' unfortunately it had at least 3/4 meals worth of money in there so thats a bit gutting but im lucky nothing more was taken.
For some reason, we decided we needed to go out in the biggest thunderstorm downpour ive ever seen...to buy some books and arts and crafts for the children at the orphanage. Kim, our organiser, asked if with my experience of working with autistic children if I could do some art therepy with them and if jimi could get some of the kids to get into doing some exercise. So we got inspired and went out to buy stuff. The rain was SO heavy a golf umbrella and a rain coat didnt suffice and we ended up wading through rivers on the street, along with the rats escaping the
Yesterday we had our induction at the orphanage. We met Katherine, our translator at the head office for Vietnam's main newspaper where she works. She introduces us to her colleague Vincent who wanted to join in on our induction because he wanted to write an article about us working at the Orphanage!This amused jimi and I greatly.
Go Vap has over 200 children, some are victims of the disgusting chemical Agent Orange that the Americans layered over Vietnam during the war. Others have downs and other disabilities and terminal illnesses which is very upsetting. Jimi, surprisingly dealt with it incredibly well,it was so lovely to see him playing with the children today they certainly took a shining to him.
The lovely thing is there is no prejudice, the 'healthy' kids play along with the disabled kids like normal, where as at home teasing will often occur.
After our induction, we went for lunch with Katherine and Vincent, they explained that the district which we are staying in is very expensive (even though its mostly backpackers) even down to a bottle of water is almost 3 times the price..so going for lunch with them was cheaper
than what we've been paying for a drink in most cafes! So bad!
After lunch we got on the back of their motorbikes to tackle HCMCs rush hour traffic..often head on. Ive never felt so close to death. Although Katherine is a very careful driver, ive never been on the back of anyones bike other than my dads when I was a lot younger. And that was only on empty country roads, not weaving through traffic that looks like it is going in any direction to get ahead. Simply terrifying..but such a nice way to see the city too! I had point blank refused to get on the back of a bike in the Philippines,after too many friends being involved in accidents on bikes in Asia. Also a lot to do with the fact they dont see wearing a hat a a necessity. But I reckoned if I was going to do it, it may as well be with someone I trust. Ive never seen so many motorbikes in my life, I couldnt imagine driving a car in Vietnam, it must be one of the most frustrating things ever with bikes ALL over the roads squeezing in between bumpers
In the evening, Katherine and Vincent came back to pick us up to take us to the cinema. With the intention of watching Megamind- it seems even Vietnam cant get away from the grasp of Hollywood majors. It wasnt showing but instead RED was on, which jimi and I had seen last week but SO wanted to see it in the cinema plus neither of us had been to a foreign cinema before. It was quite an experience..the auditorium was very small and funnily enough most of the audience were travellers too! Though the etiquette was very different from back home, the Vietnamese would answer phone calls in the middle of the film or hold conversation when the narrative was slow. Dont think that would go down so well at home! Ruined the illusion of film but still, RED is so good it didnt really matter :D
Today though we had a very early start in time for the morning feed. We had a good few hours of play with the children and went for lunch with Katherine. Afterwards, we went and met Vincent at a Kareoke bar with their fellow office friends to celebrate his promotion. The President of the paper was there too..it was SO surreal, not just because we were drinking beer at 1 in the afternoon wailing to beatles tracks but because,i suppose it would be the equivalent of sitting in a room drinking with a very early Rupert Murdoch haha. So there I was, drunk on 2 beers in the middle of the afternoon with a few very influential people from Vietnam's newspaper media.
All in all, a very surreal couple of days, however its so nice to hang out with Vietnamese people and see the places a lot of tourists dont know about. Not only that, the chance to get to help some lovely children on our trip is SO rewarding and something ive wanted to do for too long. And we've been able to do it for free. Ive known people that have paid up to 3 grand working for 2 weeks in Orphanages in Asia. I havent even spent that much in the 3 MONTHS ive been in Asia, let alone paying for 2 weeks for your own time.
After this week we plan to attempt our journey back up north once more,across Laos and down through Northern Thailand to be in Bangkok for New Years with my cousin Joe. Exciting times.