Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hue and up

Hue was great. We had a lovely guest house where the staff was attentive almost to the point of annoying but lovely none the less. We didn’t do a lot on the first day due to sheer exhaustion. The next day was filled with more recoup time. I tend to forget that I’m getting older and a day of travel on a rickety bus can really take time to bounce back from. We found a couple of great bars although I think they could use some work with the names. Brown Eyes sounds like a bar in Castro not a hot spot for foreigner fun. We met up with a girl we had met earlier in the trip and the ice cold (without the ice for once) beers went down quickly. Before I knew it we were dancing Loft style at Brown Eyes shots and beers kept coming and coming wow it was a banner evening for sure. Lizzy walked me home and then went back out for more fun with the girls.
The next morning we had a tour of Hue on the backs of motor bikes. I was hung over in a terrible way and nervous to hop on the back of a motorbike for the day. I held on for dear life the first few miles but was able to ease up as we moved along.

Me and my trusty driver 
Behind us is the Perfume River and the Mountains
in the far background are Laos.

One of the Pagodas
My ladies on their bikes.
Hot Stuff!!
I got to see some interesting sites during the day including an old woman trying to sell me fruit whose mouth bled as she spoke. Barf. I saw the oldest covered bridge in Vietnam. Who cares? But really I did get to see some of the countryside which was great. It was really interesting to see the rice growing process. People tilling the fields with hand pushed equipment. Picking the rice by hand and seeing it laid out in the sun to dry. Watching the old women pick through the rice to get rid of every bad piece. It just really showed me that Uncle Ben might be the face of rice but little Vietnamese women are the ones doing all the work.
At one of the sites it was so blazing hot that we decided to take a rest on some stairs under a tree. Well apparently being fat, tall and white makes me Angelina Jolie! We were swarmed but parents who wanted photos of and with us. They were putting children on our laps and all laughing in a giddy manner as they squeezed in-between two of us. There were flashes every few seconds as the Asians laughed and whooped it up. HaHaHa. I was called out for a few individual photos too. I would like to believe it was not because I am the fattest person they had ever seen but I’m pretty sure it was.
We got to make out own incense and see a bunker that was used by American soldiers. We saw a group of monks in the middle of a prayer and that was beautiful. The view of the perfume river was beautiful too. We saw some old buildings including the Citadel and an old pagoda. I was scared at first but I now see why people love their bikes so much. Out of my comfort zone task # 2.
At the end of the day we were happy to take a cold shower and get some food before heading out on our night bus journey. This time we headed north to Hanoi. We were stuck in the coffin part of the bus and I had a few moments of claustrophobia but I survived. I took some photos from the bus to pass the time. Valium is also an over the counter drug here so a few of those little puppies can help make the trip a little more tolerable. We got to our hostel dead tired but I needed to sort my gear and take a shower so no nap for me. We met a really nice woman from Ireland who made an excellent lunch suggestions. Al Frescos was delicious and so needed after the week we had been having.
We woke up early the next morning to head out on a 2 day 1 night trip out on Halong bay. It was a party boat type atmosphere and we did meet a couple of great ladies. Our tour guide however was a total douche and made for a game of Kings even more intense than my Thanksgiving ’10 game. Halong Bay is on a list to be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and while it was beautiful I don’t think it deserves to be on that list at all. It was really gorgeous and the waters were emerald green and very refreshing. The food was also good but as far as the service provided by our guide “Chops” and the other workers on board it was pretty nonexistent. We wish we had gone on a different trip but live and learn right? Right!
Swimming in the beautiful bay

That night we got on board a night train to Sapa. It was so much fun to have our own little room with our beds and some bumpin’ Vietnamese tunes. When we got to our hotel we had time for breakfast and a little freshening up. We then met up with our guide and some women from one of the hill tribes in the area for our trek. Now we were told a minivan was going to take us to each village and our actually “trek” time would be like 3km. WRONG! No bus as all Just us hiking our asses all over Sapa. The first day was mostly downhill but still a little hard with the stones and sometimes slippery rocks. We got to see a water fall, a Hmong village and cross a couple of nerve racking bridges before the day was over. We took motor bikes back to the hotel and settled in for some lunch and nap time.

Look at all that green!
The second day was the true test of my strength and had I known what I was getting into I would have said no way! Once you are in it though there is no way out so just gotta push on through. Well our first test was to get down a hill that was at about a 60 degree angle. I was first in our pack and with the help of one of the ladies I made down terrified but unscathed. Worst part over right? Ohhhhhhhhh hells no! We still had like 8 miles of downhill terrain to get through. Liz twisted her ankle on a rock and fell on her knee. After digging some of the rocks out and cleaning it with the little water we had the hill tribe women wrapped her up and we were on our way. Those ladies amazed me. I was terrified the entire time that I was going to fall and they were bouncing around in their shower shoe type sandals with babies on their backs like it was nothing. My first fall was into a giant pile of buffalo shit that had thankfully been mixed with enough mud and water that the smell wasn’t as bad as it could have been. M like it was nothing. My first fall was into a giant pile of buffalo shit that had thankfully been mixed with enough mud and water that the smell wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My next fall however was the one that really got my adrenaline pumping. I was trying to climb up a hill but even with my bamboo pole and little ladies helping me it was too slippery for me to get a good hold. I slipped a couple of times and my helpers caught me but the third time I fell hard and fast. I only slide maybe 5 ft but I was more scared than I’ve ever been. If I had not been able to catch myself what waited below me was a ravine with jagged rocks and rapid flowing water. I got myself back up and after digging a few steps with my bamboo pole I tried to make my way with jagged rocks and rapid flowing water. I got myself back up and after digging a few steps with my bamboo pole I tried to make my way up again. This time I made it but quickly lost my footing and sliding fast and furious down the hill. This time I caught my leg on a stick and got a nasty cut that felt like someone slicing me with a hot knife. It was bleeding pretty profusely and the tribe ladies basically pulled me up the rest of the hill to get me fixed up.
It was hard to throw out my western ideal of medical treatment but I just turned my head the other way while the Hmong women fixed me up. After a delicate combination of spit, chewed up plants and pressure the bleeding stopped and I was good to keep walking. I really loved meeting the women and didn’t mind spending money on their trinkets and whatnots because they were all handmade and it is the way they make their income. The coolest souvenir I got from the day is not the 6 inch scar that I will have but the leg wrap our guide gave me to stop the bleeding. It was part of her traditional dress and it isn’t something one can just buy. It was a real treat to be able to meet the women and see their villages. Ahhhh i’m always going to be an anthropology nerd!
I had a really wonderful time in Vietnam and it is safe to say that I will visit again. Now onto Laos and time to 
figure out what we will do after Brittny leaves us on July 1. Sad face!
The rice paddys were so amazing

Some Black Hmong women

Our first "easy" path. BS!

This downhill slope was seriously at about 70 degrees or more

Us with some of the Red Czah Women

The beauty mark left by my fall

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