Part 3 of 3: Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam in Three Weeks: Hanoi, Hoi An, the Phu Quoc Island, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

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December 31st 2009
Published: December 31st 2009
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Final stretch of our three week adventure now brings us to Vietnam. Please see blog entries "Part 1 of 3: Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam in Three Weeks" for pictures of narrative and pictures of our time in Thailand; And see, "Part 2 of 3: Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam in Three Weeks" for our time in Laos.

Our last leg of the Journey.... Welcome to Vietnam

December 31st, 2009... The day is coming to an end on our second day in Hanoi, and I just heard my first of many anticipated fireworks. Happy New Year! The transition from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi was quite a transition. We are still on "Lao Time." Everything seems very fast here, and have now learned that Hanoi is tame in comparison to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where we will be headed to before too long. Our guard has been down, as traveling in Thailand and Laos was pretty easy and there was a certain degree of trust assumed. Here, not that there are not kind people, certainly we have met many, we have quickly learned that we need to watch out for being taken. Our lesson last evening was a persistent vendor selling some type of round sugar pastries. We really didn't want any, but felt obliged when she served us a bag full and set them on our table. We negotiated down her high price and returned some of her treats. When we were paying, she gave us back incorrect change, then refused to give us back our change even though she said she would. Instead she quickly served us more of her sugar snacks saying that she needed the money. Her friend was standing nearby with another basket, and they left with a satisfied smile. I would recommend watching out for the bait and switch play, as well as avoiding these pastries. They taste and feel like eating five sugar cubes at the same time. We could only tolerate a bite of one. But, this lesson served us well. We started watching out for other scams, and now have our radar up just enough. Though, with traveling, it is much more enjoyable to go with trust and assume that most people are going to treat you fairly. We were helped today when we got lost, took an exciting motorbike ride when we couldn't find our way to the Temple of Literature, and was welcomed back by a motherly-type to the little pho (noodle) soup shop as valued customers. We are staying at a very nice place, its like a honey moon suite (they upgraded us at no extra charge). It is called the Splendid Star 2 Hotel (just open two months ago). Quite a treat. Certainly the fanciest hotel I ever have been to. Although Steve and I are not big city people, we have been having an adventure getting around, and trying new things. We didn't have plans on where we were going, but have decided to head South rather than to go to Halong Bay, as most tourist do. We only have a short time here, and have decided it is more important for us to have warmth and another beach experience before we return home. We also changed our minds on taking a train from North to South after hearing that it is exhausting to do an overnight one. Tomorrow we will fly out of Hanoi. to Danang, then stay in Hoi An, before flying to Saigon to overnight, then going to Phu Quoc Island for three nights, then will finish our journey with another overnight in Ho Chi Minh City. So, I will update and add more pictures as we go along. Steve has arranged for another International Teaching School Tour before we depart back to the States. So far... I am liking Vietnam. It reminds me of Bangkok mixed with some India, and then its own uniqueness. Happy New Year!

Just past New Year's, very early morning here in Hanoi: Steve and I just returned from a wonderful night out walking around the Old Quarter, and eventually found a creepy entrance with a spiral stair case that went up and up and up. It led us to the Geko Bar and Restaurant. Quite a fun scene. So, as I sit here on New Years Day in Hanoi, all I can say to myself is "wow." Who would have thought I would rate my night here as my #1 New Years of all time... On the appearance Hanoi is a chaotic city and not a place that we would naturally gravitate to. None-the-less, yes, this is it, only to be topped by some other adventure in some other time. Tonight I say this must be it. Here's to being continually lost and still having fun. Happy New Year! May the adventure only continue!!!

January 1, 2010: Morning. Steve and I took another walk around the little lake. It is nicknamed the liquid heart of the Old Quarter. Despite the pollution and often risking your life to cross a street, Hanoi has certainly grown on us. We are finding our way around now, at least if we don't venture too far out. There is terrible pollution at times, and the exhaust from all the vehicles (cars and motorbikes) and and smoke from outdoor cookeries can make you certainly start hacking like the locals, however it is exciting, fun, and always an adventure. We fly out this early afternoon to Da Nang, then will taxi it to Hoi An. I will include some more photos in a day or two.

January 2nd. We are now in Ho Chi Minh City, otherwise known as Saigon. We were a little sad leaving Hanoi, and found that we enjoyed it much more than we thought we would. Yesterday, we took a flight to Da Nang, then took about an hour ride in traffic to peaceful Hoi An. We didn't have much time there, and it would be a place we would like to return to. Although we did get out to explore the Old Historical Town in the evening, which was beautiful especially with all the paper lanterns here and there. Our unfortunate event is Steve is now sick. We called it an early night last night, and we're up early for a ride back to the airport then a flight to Saigon. On the transit bus to the airplane, Steve felt quite dizzy and passed out., and even had a bit of a seizure! Yikes! He was burning up with fever and likely had his electrolytes out of balance. So there we were on the transit bus, with everyone getting on the plane. Steve came around and was feeling a bit better, enough to sign a waiver for the airline so he could load the plane. We have been hanging low here in the City, just getting out here and there. However, we have now diagnosed that Steve has the Swine Flu. He got vaccinated two weeks to the day of being exposed to a sick woman who was giving him a massage in Luang Prabang, Laos. Steve said she was coughing constantly, although she did give him a good massage that day. So, it looks like he just missed getting his immunities built up to guard against catching it. Bummer! For me, I was vaccinated before Steve, a benefit of working in a hospital. I will hope and trust the vaccination works. :--)

We will continue to rest and try to take it easy. We head off to Phu Quoc Island. We will be staying in a Garden Bungalow in some ocean resort for 3 nights. Hopefully, the sun and rest will help Steve get over this thing. So we will venture out to get some dinner, but basically will be held up in our hotel. We do have two full days to explore Saigon when we return from the island, and have Steve's friend, Jered, who has made plans to show us around. Steve also has plans to visit the International Teaching School, so we will hope he feels better for that. But, our adventure continues... rain or shine, and in sickness and health. I will add some pictures a bit later... dinner calls.

January 5th, 2010. Here we are on Phu Quac Island. The Lonely Planet Guide describes the island as mercifully undeveloped. Quite true. I am sure it will be changing before too long, but for now it is pretty rustic and unspoiled in most areas. Steve and I have had the beach mostly to ourselves. The ocean is warm, and the sun bight with just a few puffy clouds here and there. Yesterday, I went swimming eight times, and only shared the water a few times. Currently, Steve is getting a beach-side massage under a bamboo-shade umbrella, and I am viewing the calm blue-green waters from a cute beachside restaurant/ small bungalow resort called Paris Beach, drinking my second Payaya Juice of the day, which is more like a shake. Steve has been enjoying the mango ones. Fruit just seems to taste better in the tropics. Paris Beach appears to have the rare internet service, at least during the day, and great food. We walked down from our big but less charming resort last night, passing by several night fishermen and children pulling in their nets. This is a big fishing area, and the seafood pasta I had last night was just loaded with fresh shrimp and squid. It was great. Steve is slowly feeling better, which is good. He
Our fancy room in HanoiOur fancy room in HanoiOur fancy room in Hanoi

A little embarrassing... it is really nice!
has had a miraculous recovery really and just is now recovering from a cold. I ended up with a bit of a cold myself, but so far have escaped what he had. Our trip is quickly coming to an end, with just a long day in Saigon tomorrow before our flight. We miscalculated our return time, so we are officially on the count down now. We fly from the island early tomorrow morning, then will be checking into a different hotel in Saigon. We do not feel we have given Vietnam justice, nor has it charmed us into making plans for a speedy return. Currently, Steve isn't so sure about teaching overseas as he was. We loved the people of Laos, although the air quality was often bad due to the slash and burn going on. Thailand is such easy traveling compared to Vietnam. So, Thailand, of the three countries, has our hearts. We found that not speaking the language in Vietnam hindered our experience. We also did not go to the most popular tourist attractions of Halong Bay and the tribal villages, so we cannot report on the beauty of the North. Because we love the warmth of the tropics, and being near a lovely ocean, our next tropical adventure just may be to rent a bungalow on a small island in Thailand for two months. I will add some more photos from our time here on the Phu Quac Island, and some city scenes of Saigon, but will call this good for the narrative of our three week adventure to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Happy Travels! Thanks for tuning into this latest adventure.

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