A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: DavidPearlman

Halong Bay, Vietnam-Party Cruise

Yesterday, I awoke early and had everything packed for a 1 night cruise through the hostel for Halong Bay. It seemed like a must-see place here in Vietnam, so I was eager to go. I had to check out of the hostel, so most of my stuff was in the stogage room at the hostel.

I got on the bus around 8:00, which picked up various folks for the cruise around Halong Bay, which is a bay filled with lots of islands sticking right out fo the group. Many which contain caves Once all of us we're picked up, around 60 of us-I learned that this was a true party crusie. The short leader said “Who's here to party???? You are all going to get f___d up!”.Of course everyone cheered .I was sort of nervous-I couldn't keep up with 20 something year olds when I was 20 something. Now 25 years later I will be left in the dust.

After 4 hours, at approximately noon, after a stop at a rest area to purchase Vietnam souviniers, including those from the disabled, (art which was made by them), we made it to the pier where we took a tender to the boat. The boat held about 90 people. We started with lunch in the dining room, which consisted of some type of tofu, some type of breaded fish, french fries and other stuff. Some of the guys at the temple we're recent graduates of Babson College, and weren't too happy to have some 48 year old on a cruise on their backpacking graduation trip.

After lunch-the activities started.

First kyaking to a nearby bay. Most folks we're in pairs. I was alone. I went in a kyack, and promptly tipped it over and fell in the water. I was embarassed, and had to swim about 3 feet to the dock and have the helpers pull me on to the dock while everyone else who haven't boarded their kyak waited for me. At this point, I was thinking about just staying on the boat while everyone else kayaked. Eventually, a woman from Chicago was also alone-so I just went in the kayak with her. After doing that, I learned I should have stayed on the boat. Kayaking is boring. The girl seemed to know exactly how to steer. I didn't enjoy it. It was boring, but the bay was quite scenic.

Next was jumping off the side of the boat time. After kayaking, we got back to the boat, where drinks we're served,for a fee. I had a beer with lunch-I could have had another but didn't feel like paying for one. I told one guy that if they offered me a free beer, I would jump off the boat. I spoke too soon-he said he would buy me a beer. So I got up-there we're two places, a lower deck and higher deck to jump. I climbed up the ladder, walked along a ledge, and jumped off. I landed in the water with a large boom-it wasn't too bad, and he bought me the beer. I felt good-one 20 something girl tried to jump off, but got scared when up there and climbed back down the ladder. Others did it but only after standing on the ledge for a while. But I did it immediately.

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Then the boat started sailing into the sunset. Rather than sit and have a narration of the spots, we did beer yoga. The instructor/cruise director/short guy does all sorts of yoga poses, and then we do a sip of beer after each pose with a long straw. It was rather entertaining, and wasn't serious but not a total joke either, as we passed by a bunch of islands.

Then came a happy hour, with one free drink, which was weak. And dinner. Dinner was ok-a lot of seafood. Then there was a crew talent show with some lame skits, the crew running around. And then another happy hour with dance music playing. The music kept playing. But few people we're there. I took a nap on deck-because I didn't want to go back to my room to see my two roomates gone while I couldn't take it-because I was bored-but I eventually I went back and they we're both there. We hung out for a while talking about life. Then we decided to go back to the dance floor, and see if it got better. They both got into conversations with others. I was bored, so I went back to the room to sleep-it was roughly 11:00 or so.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 04:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi-Vietnam-All Hale Ho Chi Manh

Yesterday, i awoke early to do a walking tour of Hanoi, which was supposed to start at 10:00 am every day. But because the tour guide had a prior commitment, it was due to start at 3:00 pm. I didn't want to wait that long-so after the great free breakfast at the hostel I took a walk to the Presidential Palace, which included a carp pond, a house on stilts which he actually lived in (he didn't live in the palace-for reasons I didn't get), but did visit people from around the world there. I saw the cars which he used to use, and the beautiful landscaped garden. While I was able to wander around, the guards didn't let me, or anyone else, loiter. They kept encouraging us to continue walking until we left the grounds,

Then I saw the Ho Chi Manh Mausoleum, which is huge, and was guarded. I accidentally walked too close and the guard blew a whistle.

i then went for noodles for lunch, and walked back into the heat for the Ho Chi Manh Museum. (I wanted to go after the Mausoleum, but the museum is only open from 9-12 and then from 2-5 (or 6)). I arrived at 11:45, and it was already closed, so I had lunch and went later.

From what I learned, Ho Chi Manh seems like a ok guy. He convinced everyone to succeed for the good of the country: Farmers supposedly increased their yields for the good of the country. Factory workers increased production, and students studied harder. Soilders fought harder and everyone was more successful, and that is why they conquered the Americans. IT also said he was a pacifist, and hated war.

After a while, I walked back to the hostel, and took a nap. Then I went back to the lake from the previous day.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 16:41 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi Vietnam-Holy Hotness Hanoi

Yesterday, after arriving at the hostel around 10:00 am, I was able to use the bathrooms to take a shower and shave, and change, since I haven't done so since in about 24 hours.

After that, i went outside to walk around. Vietnam seems to be the polar opposite of Japan. Everyone follows the rules in Japan. People wait at crosswalks for the light and never walk into traffic.. Starbucks, Mcdonalds, and other chains are everywhere. Here in Vietnam, there is disorder everywhere. Motorbikes come from everwhere, and there are no crosswalks. The buildings seem old and crumbling, similar to what i remember in Havana. Little shops are at the bottom, selling everything from clothes to computer accessories. It was a somewhat interesting walk, but I had to idea where I was, (or where I was going), I was groggy from on-and-off sleeping on flights and airports all night, and it was hot, really really hot. I read somewhere it was 99 F with 90% humidity. I was becoming a sloppy mess. So after about an hour or so I decided to go back to the air conditioned hostel, and work on the computer, and rest a while until check-in.

At 2:00, I was able to check in to a bed on the top bunk, I rested for a while. and then tried going out again. (I still wanted to see the city). I was able to go for pho, which I believe is a thick soup, which was delicious with chicken and meat. i had it at a real casual eatery, with a lady and a big pot and foot stools on the street. i walked along, and found a place for a beer-again just foot stools be the side of the road, underneath a railroad trestle near the hostel. I relaxed. i watched the traffic, and the skies turn grey as it rained a little. I kept watching the endless motorbikes.

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At around 5:30, I headed back to the hostel. The hostel serves free beer at 10 minutes past each hour starting at 6:00 am. I had a beer, and talked and waited for the next beer at 7:00 pm. After that, I went out for dinner. It cooled down to a point to comfortably walk around. I found a place that served some other spicy soup, which was good. I got into a fight with the server because it was more expensive then I thought, (still only about $2.00-$3.00 for the meal). I then walked into a downtown area, where there we're plenty of lights and stores, many selling clothing and souvenirs.
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i walked around some more, found my way back to the hostel. It was World Cup night and everyone was watching Morocco vs Portugal, or someone. After a while, I went up to a movie room near the roof, and watched the end of some Leonardo Dicaprio/Kate Winslett film that wasn't Titanic and supposed to take place in the 1950's. Then I went to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:46 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Japan to Vietnam- I Don't Think I'm Turning Japanese

Yesterday was my last day in Osaka, and Japan as well. I have seen a lot in Japan, including Animae Stores, Mt Fuji and countless temples and shrines. I have sung karaoke in a traditional-type place and bathed in an onsen (traditional bath). I have seen museums and memorials, and ate a lot of sushi. But it is time to move on.

Osaka wasn't particularly great. It didn't have the history of Kyoto. It wasn't as small as Hiroshima, and therefore not as peaceful and walkable, but not as big and dynamic as Tokyo. So it wasn't much to me-and of course the earthquake didn't help. The Japanese people are very very very polite-over the top polite. In a restaurant with four people working, when leaving, all four would bow and say thank you (aragato mas-or something like). All four would greet you when walking in (sinio-or something like). It was too much sometimes-endless greetings and bowing.
So I was sort of glad to leave.

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My last day I didn't do much. I woke up to two minor quakes. (just some light shaking). Two folks in the hostel, one who was supposed to stay a day or two longer, was scared off and decided to high tale it out early that morning to Tokyo-on presumably steadier ground. I got up and looked for a post office to mail some stuff off. Mailing it was too much of a big deal I found out (I had to present an accurate inventory of lots of little items, so I bit the bullet and just decided to keep carrying the stuff with me).

I went to the same bookstore I went to the day before to buy a book on Japan. I had some last raman noodles, and spent all afternoon (For about 4 hours) in the common area of the hostel on computer.

At around 5 having nothing else to do, I went to the train station to have some last conveyor belt sushi, and take the train to the airport. I arrived at the airport around 7-nearly five hours before my flight. I found out to pay a reduced fee for luggage (on Air Asia, a discount airline), I had to pay for luggage ahead of time. I had problems getting on the internet though. I tried over and over again on my notebook at the airport. I couldn't get on. At around 8:55-3 hours before the flight-I was one of the first on line to check in. They wanted to charge me $200 to bring my bag since I didn't check it in online (about $30 more then the cost of the flight). I told them I couldn't get on. I asked to speak to a manager and they reduced it to the online price of $64.00. (Air Asia charges by segment-one for the Osaka to Bangkok leg and Bangkok to Hanoi). To make matters worse, I showed the paperwork I had for the Vietnam visa, and she said she had never seen paperwork like that. She reluctantly checked me in-but now I was nervous and prepared for a clusterf__k when I reached Vietnam. (This was a special Visa service in Vietnam-where they we're supposed to greet me and walk me through the process).

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I took the first flight to Bangkok, ready to go to sleep, but bilingual pre-recorded announcements to order meals, duty-free items, etc, etc kept me up for a while. I did sleep though on the five hour sleep.

I had nearly a 3 hour layover in Bangkok. This was a different airport then I went to last time in Bangkok. The airport the last time was ultra modern. This one looked like a bus station. I slept there as well, and got on the final flight to Hanoi.

When I arrived at customs, a guy had my name on a peace of paper. He asked me to give his my passport and the paperwork-and a few minutes later he had the Visa. I got my bag after a few minutes and found the hostel driver to take me to the hostel. It was surprisingly easy.

Posted by DavidPearlman 20:55 Comments (0)

Osaka-An Earthquake to Shake Things Up

Yesterday, I didn't have any plans. I wanted to find an English bookstore, and to walk around the city. Otherwise, I had no plans.

It turns out I picked a good day to have no plans. As usual, I went to the common area of the hostel to use my computer. The wifi didn't work-so I went to a small table near the front desk of the hostel on the lobby, where I was able to get the wifi on. The staff came in. At around 8:00 am, the table started shaking softly, and then it started shaking violently. The whole room started shaking violently. Some pictures fell off the wall, I think. I held on to my expensive camera so it didn't fall off the table. An alarm went off, and about 20 folks from the hostel, groggy from being woke up, walked down the stairs and went outside.

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After a few minutes, the shaking stopped. I joined the others from the hostel, we chatted for a while. One girl from Southern California said she thought that was the worst earthquake she had ever been through. The two staff workers at the hostel we're nonchalant. Apparently they have been through enough earthquakes here in Japan that this was no big deal. (I found out a few weeks ago Japan has an earthquake at least once a day-although many are extremely minor). This actually wasn't the first earthquake I experienced. Back in the 90's I was living south of Boston in a rented room in a house on a small street. One morning, I felt the house shake-it felt like a big truck went up the street. When I got into the car to go to work I learned it was an earthquake (it may have been from a nuclear power plant 10 miles away or so). When I got to work that day-someone was recounting the earthquake, shaking a desk back and forth violently (but I remember, it felt like a big truck-nothing more ). THIS earthquake felt more like his exaggerated movements. While it was somewhat scary and exhilarating at once-I thought it was just an interesting way to start the day. I wanted to get on with my day, so I planned a free walking tour I found out online.

I walked outside-everything looked normal, and walked down to the metro station to take the metro 4 stops to the walking tour (Which started in about an hour-but I wanted to get there early). People we're just mulling around the metro station, but there was a sign mentioning there was no service. So I walked back up the stairs, and tried walking to the area (I walked there the previous night-so I thought I could find it ok). When I walked at night, I found some bright lights that indicated where it was-Since it was daytime there we're no bright lights. So I walked roughly an hour in the wrong direction. I eventually found a metro station-but the metro was still closed. I walked 45 minutes to the meeting point.

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Google Maps was still working on my phone-so once I found some wifi-at 7-11, I turned on Google Maps, and walked about 45 minutes in the correct direction. Wifi also told me the walking tour was cancelled, as the tour guide was stuck in a train during the earthquake. He did say there was a 1:30 walking tour, and I decided to wait for that.

At 1:30, I met some others waiting for the tour to start. We waited 1/2 an hour-the tour guide didn't show up. I learned this tour was cancelled to. So I walked around a little, and decided to go back to the hostel and take a nap. I did, and read my book. (I was able to take the metro-it started running again).

After a while, I Found there was an English bookstore about 45 minutes from the hostel by the main train station. As I walked along-I discovered that about 1/2 of all stores we're closed. In the train station-folks we're just standing around as well-most trains we're cancelled. That day, I also learned that the earthquake was a 6.0 on the Richter scale, and at other parts of the city, there was a lot more damage, and some injuries.

I wanted to go back to the conveyor belt sushi place for dinner-but it was closed. So I took the metro back to where the walking tour was supposed to be (there are lots of restaurants/vendors there). and had some noodles and some grilled dumplings, and then went back. I had a beer with some guys from the hostel on the roof.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 14:50 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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