A Travellerspoint blog

September 2006


hanoi, sapa, halong bay

Alright people! Here are some more pictures!

Hoan Kiem Lake, HaNoi. I thought it looked better in black and white. This was at the center of the "old town."

Temple of Literature, HaNoi.

This was taken from a balcony at a really cheap bar, Qua Bia Minh in HaNoi.

The platform getting on the night train to Sapa, HaNoi. People scatter and dodge trains. It's crazy.

Where we stopped for lunch and for a break from the rain, Sapa.

I think she is Zao, and there were these yaks everywhere. Sapa.

Children riding a yak, Sapa. Supposedly this is a really famous symbol of Vietnamese country.

The sons of the family we stayed with in Sapa. They were very shy at first, but then we taught them "rock,paper, scissors" and they were very fascinated with the hitting part. Once I taught them the hand-slapping game, it was out of control.

Sini smoking tobacco from the traditional bamboo pipe. This is also the man of the house.

Traditional dress of the tribe. Needless to say, my big Western body didn't fit.

This was our view from the house while eating breakfast.

Waterfall in Sapa. This took a lot of maneuvering in non-hiking shoes.

We didn't walk on this bridge, but other people did. Sapa.

Mikey expected to stay at the Holiday Inn in Hanoi. This was not. The Manh Dung hotel, HaNoi.

The cave we went into looked like it came straight from the Goonies. Halong Bay.

Halong Bay.

To sleep, our houseboat dropped anchor in the middle of the caves. This was Sunset, Halong Bay.

This was the view out of our window in the morning, Halong Bay.

We went trekking on Cat Ba Island, where we stayed, and it stormed and rained pretty much the whole time. This is the view from the top.

Mikey and I, Korean-style. Halong Bay.

A crazy-looking spider we had to cross to continue. This is when I learned to use the super-closeup function on my camera.

People really live here. Notice the TV antennas? Also, they just dump their trash in the water which, along with the diesel, has severely polluted Halong Bay. Interesting lifestyle though.

This was on the boat ride to the place we kayaked. The water is really that color.

This is where the caves open up into the Gulf of Tonkin. Halong Bay.

We needn't have worried. We did see some monkeys on Monkey Island, but it was from afar. Mikey lamented the fact that there were only 30 monkeys on the island, and there were more monkeys on other islands...so why is this one called Monkey Island? Discuss amongst yourselves.

View as we were leaving, sunburns and all.

To be continued....

Posted by lrbergen 04:17 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (0)

Photos part deux

hanoi, ninh binh province

More photos from HaNoi and the Ninh Binh province. It's a two-part series.

Water puppets from the show, Hanoi. My camera doesn't do too well in the dark, so this is the best one out of about 12.

Ok, so it's Thursday night in HaNoi. You're a high school boy. What do you do? Paint Precious Moments-style pottery, of course. I assume they paid for this, but at least they weren't doing drugs or trafficking prostitutes.

Ladies would walk around with huge bunches of balloons like this, mostly featuring Mickey Mouse. HaNoi.

This is fried pigeon, which Mikey insisted on ordering. What he didn't count on was the Christmas Story-style of head still attached. Not much meat, a little tough, but what can you expect from rats with wings? HaNoi.

Taken from a speeding vehicle, Ninh Binh province.

Small-town propaganda, Ninh Binh province.

Snake wine sold at one of the rest stops. I didn't have the opportunity to have any, but supposedly it's good for all kinds of aches and pains.

Fishermen, Ninh Binh province.

Outside of one of the temples, Ninh Binh province.

One of the guardians at a different temple, Ninh Binh province.

These pigs, and other livestock, are just free to roam around the general vicinity of where they live. Ninh Binh province.

See? These cows were just hanging out under one of the rocks at Tam Coc.

That's about it. There will be some more from Nha Trang and SaiGon as soon as I get them put on CD. Thanks, as always, for checking in.

Posted by lrbergen 04:38 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (0)

More Pictures from Vietnam

this is going to take a long time...

Here are some more pics I just uploaded from one of 5 CDs. This is going to take forever to do, but at least I have a fast connection here back in Korea.

Acrobats at the Independence Day celebration, Ha Noi

And some more

Platform shaped like a violin, Quy Hoa beach, Quy Nhon

Old-school vehicle, Hoi An

Myself, Lina (our favorite seller) and Sini, Hoi An

Street, Hoi An

Another street, Hoi An

Propaganda against AIDS at the train station, Danang

More from the Tam Coc caves

A family on the boat, Tam Coc

That's all for now! This only took me about 20 minutes. Really!

Posted by lrbergen 01:48 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (0)

When Worlds Collide

day 30-31: sai gon

I spent much longer in Nha Trang than I had thought and now I am in the crazy madhouse that is Sai Gon (or Ho Chi Minh City, whichever your preference might be). We arrived after 10 hours on the bus, tired, dirty and not ready for the bombardment of people greeting the bus with promises of cheap hotel rooms, motobike taxis, and cyclo rides. What I have been experiencing with these sellers everywhere in Vietnam was intensified tenfold in Sai Gon.

It's so overwhelming, everyone yelling "hello madam! motobike! taxi! cigarettes! cyclo! do you have a hotel? very cheap!" Etc., etc., etc. It comes from all sides. Then a 9-year old girl comes up to you selling cigarettes. At midnight. Five minutes later a woman carrying a sleeping baby tries to sell you gum. You feel helpless: propagate this kind of selling or give them a chance to eat tomorrow? You cannot walk down the street without being bombarded by everything.

What has struck me the most is that Saigon is nothing like I've ever seen. EVER. There are still so many old buildings and houses and historical sites and looking directly around, it looks like almost everywhere else in Vietnam. But then you look a bit further and see the huge neon lights popping up everywhere advertising Hitachi, Samsung, Coca-Cola, etc. There are actually high rises here, whereas everywhere else has had maybe 5 floors, maximum, even in Ha Noi.

There is still such a sense of disillusionment and extreme poverty after the American War as well. Many of the cyclo and motobike drivers used to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. but after siding with the Americans against the north, and after the Americans all but abandoned them, and after being relocated to re-education camps, they have no hope of ever regaining their former lives.

I met one such man in Nha Trang, Mr. Thanh, that took me around the city and introduced me to his lovely family. He gave me the gift of coffee, and I provided him with income. His wife cooked a delicious meal that we ate at the beach. Mr. Thanh worked for the Americans and was actually sent to Dallas for military training for 3 years. After the Americans pulled out of Vietnam, he was moved from his home that he had lived in all of his life. He has a university degree in science, but now he is a motobike driver, who while complaining about his lot in life, does so graciously and with no bitterness. He seeks out the Americans in Nha Trang so that he may practice his American accent so he can teach English to other adults in the city and earn money. He dreams of one day returning to America. He is 63 years old with 6 children.

Being in the north, I never encountered any anti-American sentiments, but then again, almost nobody was really connected to the Americans during the war. In the south, so many of them worked with our military to defeat the Communists and still have these memories, still feel the effects.

I went to the War Remnants Museum and saw the most touching, the most moving display of anti-war sentiments. There were rows upon rows of pictures of US personnel, North and South Vietnamese soldiers, families displaced by the war, victims of Agent Orange, journalists killed while covering the war, victims of the Mai Lai massacre, and other such pictures. It was hard and extremely emotional, and one display in particular of the journalists gone missing or killed. I have no pictures yet, but I have this that was written about them:

Photographs are the images of history rescued from the oblivion of mortality. Long after those who died to take these photographs are gone, long after those of us who knew them and survived them and remember their experience are gone in our turn, the images they captured will remain to show generations to come the face of the war in Indochina...
...Eleven different nationalities are represented among the dead - American, Australian, Austrian, British, German, French, Japanese, Singaporean, Swiss, Vietnamese and Cambodians. Nor can one fail to note the sacrifice of the seventy-six photographers, two of them women, who died on the Vietnamese Communist side.
Yet all of these photojournalists of Indiochina prevailed in the end. In a war in which so many died for illusions, and foolish causes, and mad dreams - these men and women of the camera conquered death through their immortal photographs.

- Neil Sheehan

And on that note, I leave Vietnam to go back to the developed world of Korea. In retrospect, Vietnam has been wonderful. I have lived in the lap of luxury, but I have also seen the face of poverty. Even this somewhat disheartening stay in SaiGon has opened my eyes to a different way of life, a people that have suffered so much and yet retain their sense of humor, their smiles, their grace, and their determined spirit. Vietnam has forever left an impression on me and if you're reading this, thinking of coming, by all means come. The people will be waiting.

Posted by lrbergen 21:17 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnamese Eye Candy

day 23: nha trang

sunny 34 °C

And by that, I do not mean a beautiful Vietnamese person, although that would be nice as well.

This is a purely photo-inspired blog, because it took me about 30 minutes to upload these huge pictures on the slowest computer EVER. Seriously. It is yellowing with age.

The riverside as shot from a boat.

The family from Segovia, Spain that I had met in Halong Bay and again in Hoi An. The boy on the left called me a monkey. But only after I called him one.

A really cool painting in one of the bars we went to.

One of the deserted intersections at the hottest part of the day.

Danika, Juki, myself and Sini live in luxury.

The moon rising during the full moon festival at Cua Dai beach.

Way back to August, a house at Tam Coc, in between the caves.

Spices in the market in Hoi An.

Hall of Tortoises in the Temple of Literature in Ha Noi.

This is all for now because it took me approximately an hour to do all of this. No, really. And I'm in Nha Trang so I have to go do something touristy now.

Posted by lrbergen 00:51 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (2)

The People You Meet

day 20: quy nhon

sunny 40 °C

Sad to say, but I had to leave all the friends I've been with for much of my time here. They had to go to Saigon, while i have 10 days or so left here. Ten days that I am NOT ready to spend in Saigon.

So, to Sini, Juki, and Danika: farewell my friends. You have truly enriched my experiences here in Vietnam. I wish you nothing but good things in the future and a continuation of your travels. And I will also say that you had better keep in touch!

Now I am alone again in Quy Nhon (pronounced we-nyun). I am staying at a backpacker's hotel, a downgrade from my 2-star luxury hotel in Hoi An, which is run by a Kiwi who knows EVERYTHING. She has already helped me so much. Today I will go the Qui Hoa (pronounced we-wa) beach, which is actually a community where people with leprosy live with their families. The highlight of this: I will get to ride my bike a long way and be left to my own devices, without having to worry about the beach-hawkers. Yes, this is good. I am hoping tomorrow to go to Jungle Beach to sleep under the stars with nothing but a mattress and a mosquito net.

After that, I will head down to Nha Trang, which is a very beach-y place. There are scuba trips you can take for uncertified, first-time divers (which I am) and Surfing 101. For this I say, as has been the mentality of my entire trip, why not? I would like to also go down to Mui Ne, where I could possibly go sand-sledding. And I would also like to go to Dalat, further inland, to see the "Crazy House," which is described as something out of Alice in Wonderland. Then I will end my trip in Saigon and fly out at 1am on the 21st. So there you have it, in a nutshell.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but the computers here are so slow and my pictures so big, that I fear you will have to wait until I am settled again in Korea. Whenever it is that I move into my apartment.

PS - It is SO HOT here. If it weren't so beautiful, I would say that it was July. In hell. In an oven. Seriously.

Posted by lrbergen 22:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Real Silk Road

days 12-...indefinitely: hoi an

Have you ever thought to yourself, "Man...these pants couldn't fit any worse" or "This shirt is way too tight"?

Here in Hoi An, this is almost impossible. For $200 US, I bought 5 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, a winter coat, a light jacket, and two dresses, one of which was made from Thai silk, some of the best in the world. They took all of my measurements and seriously, the sky is the limit on different textures, styles, and patterns. They can copy anything and actually have several JC Penny catalogues for you to point and choose and for them to copy it with no problems. They take your measurements. You come back later after they made them (one is only 5 hours later!!!) and try them on, then take them away.

So instead of my year in Korea where it is skinny, skinny, skinny, and nothing fits and even if it does, it does just barely, I will have a whole tailor made winter's wardrobe.

More about Hoi An: it is very historic, with beautiful old buildings and motos and bicycles roaming the streets. There are several streets near the small river where motos and cars are prohibited.

There is a beach about 4km away, and Juki, Sini and I all rode to be surrounded in paradise, as long as you don't mind the constant offers to buy pineapples, cigarettes, jewelry, or foot massages. The hawkers there will say anything to get you to buy from them, including: "Why you drink beer? When you drink beer, shit happens. When you buy my pineapple, no shit happens. And you can make many babies because it makes you horny. You eat that other pineapple and you go to hospital." Pardon the vulgarity, but they really talk this way. The beach is surrounded by clean sand, palm trees and off in the distance, mountains. The water is warm and very clear with little flying fish. Who knew Vietnam was a beach destination?

The hotels are beautiful and very cheap. For a two-star hotel with a large room, a balcony, A/C, a tub, a TV, and access to the pool, I am paying $14 a night. I've heard that the 4-star price range is about $25.

The food is SO GOOD! Last night for dinner I had grilled tuna, which was basically like sashimi, with mango salsa and a small side salad. I had the best mixed drinks EVER, a mojito and something else, but full of fresh fruit. Today for lunch I had fish grilled in banana leaves with lemon juice, lemongrass, garlic, and whatever else and it was to die for.

Tomorrow I will be taking a cooking class where I can learn to cook these things. We leave at 845 am (not a problem when this has been my schedule anyway) and go to the market where we buy the freshest ingredients. We then get on a boat and go up to a little island, where we take the class and then get to eat what we make. All for $12 and with the rest of the day to spare.

Everyday I think things can't get better, and then they always do. I don't even have a favorite part of Vietnam, it's all THAT good.

Posted by lrbergen 02:27 Archived in Vietnam Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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