little girl overseas

i always dreamed about travelling overseas since i was a little girl and it truely has been the best thing i have ever done. i've grown in ways i would never have dreamed, seen some extraordinary places and met some wicked people ... dream it, do it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

HOW fast do the years go by but at the time it seems like forever. Over the next few weeks I have going to write a blog for some of the adventures I have been on .. starting with the first big trip ... Vietnam.

Most people would immediately think of the war when you mention Vietnam and yes it is still very visual - from the tanks left rusting on the side roads and tours the tourists can do of the areas where combat took place. But Vietnam had untouched beauty that took my breath away. We started in Hanoi and over 3 weeks we travelled down Vietnam using local trains, buses, cyclos, boats and bicycles. We decided against doing a tour and found it so easy to get around, you book your travel in cafes, yep cafes and yep, you can get eat your lunch there too or surf the net. They are brilliant as you can pay in either USD or Dong and offer a huge range of products, we even left our luggage in one for a few days while we took a 2 day trip.
The driving there is total madness and it feels like you are being driven around in a Dodgem car. Before long it soon struck us that indicators had not yet been introduced in this country, instead everyone uses their horns to let people know they are coming thru and all at high speed of course. Back home we give Asian drivers such a hard time over the way they drive but when you think about .. they must think that we are mad drivers as they don’t know any different. Noise is the one thing that you cannot escape wherever you are in Vietnam .. its a 24 / 7 thing .... the drivers constantly beep their horns as they are about to pass a car / bus / or motorbike.
In Hanoi we stayed in the Old Quarter and WOW I had never seen anything like it before, it literally blew our minds. It's very old and very busy maze of tiny streets which are named after what they sell ie. paper street, pot street, and believe me when I say this but make sure you have a good map on you, we got lost even with one. The streets were tiny and with the shops completely crammed full of their contents reaching up to the ceilings and overflowing onto the street, their buildings so old, it looked as if they would crumble if you leant against it.
I had never realised what a strong French influence this country had until arriving there and seeing it for myself. Most Vietnamese speak it and you see it from the architecture to the food, oh the food. I was very worried how I would be as I am well known for having a dodgey tummy but I did not have one problem - until we hit Thailand again. Pastry shops are everywhere and many locals push little carts around offering you bread rolls or donuts and its so ridicoulousy cheap ... we were paying 1000 dong for a bread roll which is about 12cents. Each town throughout the country had its own local delicacy which we of course tried in each city – Hanoi was the light fluffy pastries and Hoi An is a flat potato noodle with pork and rice paper definitely my favourite. Fish sauce is used on nearly all dishes - its much like soy sauce only a lot saltier - by the end of our trip, I was hooked on the stuff. ?? Oh and the coffee, as its too hot to use milk as would curdle from the heat within minutes, they use condensed milk it sinks to the bottom of the coffee and looks like and upside down Guiness to start with and beware it will rot your teeth instantly it is soooo sweet.
My favourite part of Vietnam was Hoi An. Its quite little place but full of life and was a place we had planned to stay only a couple of days but then kept changing our minds and staying a few more days. The buildings are beautifully coloured in bright vibrant colours which has over the years has started peeling and revealing a multitude of other colours. The locals are so friendly and after a few days were saying hello and chatting to us like they had known us for years. The food was fabulous as Hoi An is located right next to the sea so the seafood was abundant and mmmmm soooo fresh. Theres great little markets, stacks of places to get clothes made, the sea was sensational and nightlife wasnt too bad either, definately not a place to miss.
I would suggest going to Nha Trang ... but as we discovered not good in December, it was very overcast and windy whilst we were there. I would describe Nha Trang as the Gold Coast of Vietnam, the sparkling emerald green sea, beach that stretches for miles and there are lots of islands scattered around which you can go out to and spend the day at or a few days and it is also a great place to diving - at the right time of year though. We experienced our one and only cyclo ride here … it was hilarious, my only regret is that I never took a photo of our driver. He took us from one side of the city to other and back again. He wore clothes that were falling off him, had a lovely big toothless smile and was all of about 70yrs old !! We thought he was going to die on us by the way he huffed and whizzed when cycling. We gave him an extra couple of dollars at the end of the ride and Barry gave him a smoke all of which he was very grateful for.
We went to the Chi Chi tunnels, they were tiny .. originally only 60cms by 80cms .. which they have doubled and brave Barry went thru them twice - they were 30mtrs long .... ooooh yuck gave me the willies just looking at them .. in one of the tunnels there was bats that flew past his head yuck !!! in one of the little huts that we were in the guide was explaining something and one of the guys in our group went "snake" .. lucky he did as although it was small it had a red head and green body which is apparently dangerous and was right next to where the guide was ... the guide was ever so thankful that he was told it was there !!!
One of our last trips was to the Mekong Delta where got up at 6am to go to the floating market and wouldn't you know it our boat broke down and we were stuck for about 40mins (luckily we had our books - geeks aye) ... the markets were incredible - everyone puts their produce on a stick and hangs it up high for all to see what they are selling - its was the biggest market on the river - and the boats literally overflowed with what they were selling.. little drinks boats were going around selling coffee / tea / cold soft drinks - incredible .. we tied up alongside a pineapple boat and all brought one for 3000 dong (about 30cents).... YUMMY.
I loved every minute of my travels around Vietnam and after 4 years of travelling it is still my favourite place - I will definatley be going back one day.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

LAST weekend was Heidi's combined birthday drinks with another friend of hers at a club in London. It was a black dress theme so all were dressed up. The night went quite quickly and it was so nice to catch up with Heather and Neil who I had not seen for a long time. The club was 2 levels, funky upstairs and then downstairs was a 70's disco dance floor with flashing squares - very cool. I found the locals in there a bit snotty but hey wasnt there to socailise with them. Heidi cracked me up as went from sober to drunk in a matter of seconds and walking her down Oxford Street was very amusing ... and a bit painful in my new RED shoes!