Friday, 9 August 2013

Hanoi and Halong Bay, Vietnam

We had both been really excited about visiting Vietnam. This had been increased by other traveler's stories; both the good (food is great, museums propogandatastic, the beaches beautiful) and bad (you'll get ripped off everywhere, there's always hawkers, pollution and the traffic).

Hanoi is centered around an old town and sprawls out beyond that. Each of the 96 roads of the old town is named after what was made and sold in that street.The roads may haven been busy, sometimes smelly and polluted but they were wonderful. Each street still sold what it was named after with a thoroughly modern twist. On tin street there was extracted fans aplenty, on silk street there were clothing shops with the latest fashions and on bamboo ladder street, well there was bamboo ladders!!!

The street food was absolutely amazing with stalls on every single corner selling one dish to crowds of people. We tried pho, bun bo, BBQ, hotpot and washed them all down with Hanoi beer. We also thoroughly enjoyed mooching around the night market at the stalls and were very impressed by some beautiful handmade cards we spied!!

In Hanoi we visited several museums including the women's museum and etymology centre. The women's museum was really interesting as it described all aspects of Vietnamese women's lives. Our favourite section was the women of the Viet Cong and the "Mothers of the Nation." it was really sad as these women had lost whole families of sons and husbands to the cause of the Vietnam war and were rewarded with a medal. We also learnt about some of the many women who fought the U.S.A as part of the Viet Cong. the museum listed how many successful kills they had made, which was very odd as you mainly hear the other point of view.We also visited the place which had been known as the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam war andhad been the prison of many U.S. POW's including John McCain.

We both felt that Northern Vietnam had a very Chinese feel to it, with the architecture, the food and the culture. This was especially apparent when we visited a Confuscianist temple.


We also went on a trip to the famous Halong Bay. The bay contains loads of limestone islands and rocks looming up from the water's surface and is very beautiful. We decided to do a 2 night 3 day trip with 1 night on the boat and 1 night on an island.

We had a fantastic time on the boat and stopped for kayaking around a floating village and swimming off of the boat. The food was suprisingly delicious and we had great company. In the evening we had music and played too many games of ring of fire, resulting in some interesting photos!!

The next day we headed to the resort, which was pretty grotty. The sea was too choppy so we had to land the boat the other side of the island and trek (or scrabble) up a massive hill to get round to the resort with flip flops on and all our stuff!We were so grumpy!!!The views were stunning and overall we did really enjoy ourselves.

On our last night back in Hanoi we went to a traditional water puppets show. It was pretty interesting to see but we were glad that it finished after an hour. I don't think everyone found it as enthralling as we did though!!!!


Tuesday, 6 August 2013


Our final stop in Laos was the capital city Vientiane. We spent quite alot of time pottering about, walking around and drinking coffee.  The city was awash with scooters and pretty busy.

One day I went to visit a women's centre which teaches sewing and weaving to local women to provide them with a skill. This allows women to earn money and keeps the traditional methods of weaving alive. The cewntre also offers the opportunity to tourists to take part in a craft workshop. I decided to dye a pattern on a silk scarf.

The dyes are all made from natural materials including jack fruit, insects and bamboo and we could see them being made. It was a very relaxing morning to be able to dye a scarf and chat.

I was pretty pleased with the final result!!Adam meanwhile had been toughing it by having an hour long massage!!!

Our other expedition was to the Cope centre. We hired a couple of bikes and headed over there. Laos is the most bombed country in the world (per capita) and around a third of those bombs didn't detonate on impact. Therefore much of the country is covered in UXO (Unexploded ordinance devices) As Laos is so poor, many people collect the scrap metal from the bombs in order to sell them, many people have parts of bombs in their homes (as lamps, boats, tables etc) and as a result many people die and are maimed from these devices. Others are killed whilst ploughing and farming the land and some have houses built over the buried devices so when they light a fire the bomb is triggered blowing up them and their homes.

Due to the lack of help from the US (who dropped the bombs in the first place) and the fact that Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world at the rate that it is going it will take over 100 years to clear.

Cope offers limb replacements to those affected by the bombs as well as other people in need of them, from being born without limbs, disabled due to a disease etc. It was a fascinating centre and the displays were really interesting. We tried on some prosthetic limbs and can't imagine how people are able to walk in them!!Before heading off we treated ourselves to some icecream and good karma (the money went to the centre) It was delicious!!

On our cycle back we stopped off at the Arc de Triomphe (built obviously by the French) and spied the world peace gong!!

Our next stop....Nam.....