A Travellerspoint blog

Where are we right now and Anecdotes!!

sunny 34 °C

Where We Are Right Now?

Currently in Ko Lanta, Thailand. Been here for a couple of days and looking to spend around a week here. Its a fantastic laid back vibe with some really good day trip opportunities and so can serve as a good base for a while.

Sorry we have got a few blog entries to publish, but its been a bit crazy of late. We hope to get these entries out in the next day or two.

Currently pending:
Siagon / HCMC - Vietnam
Gulf Islands - Thailand
Krabi - Thailand

POA (plan of action) moving forward is to chill out a bit on Ko Lanta and use it as a base to explore the region. We will thereafter look to head south towards the Malaysia border and potentially onto Kuala Lumpur, which is a major travel hub for onward connections. We are still busy looking into that side of things and are taking things a little slowly and are information gathering on our options.

Ko Lanta has got some great beaches and we have found a simple but incredibly good value for money place towards the south of the island.

Anecdotes

  • Blomming - the holding of a voluntary position, preferably horizontal and outdoors, of motionless action to preserve energy and maximise contemplation and reflection, which can at times progress to an advanced state of deep sleep, but then you are dossing and not blomming anymore.
  • Munchkinite jarite - a penis shaped Vietnamese salami made of meat of unknown origin and type usually sold by an old wrinkley dude on a overloaded scooter with Polystyrene containers and a load hailer attached bellowing chanting and mesmerising tones. This normally is enough to attract hoards of locals who find this item an absolute delicacy.
  • Ripping it to another level - locals taking insane and completely unwarranted advantage of tourists, normally at the most inopportune time - when tourists are tired, exhausted and weirry after long travels.
  • Travel wobbly - an inopportune and unforeseen state of disorientation and travel dismay, normally brought about by amongst other things, thirst, hunger, an over endulgence of local culture or an overwhelming choice of opportunities or at times lack of options within an environ of locals playing ripping it to another level. Remedies to a travel wobbly include, for Cath: a snack of sticky mango rice, followed by a massage and a nap. For Greg, cold cold beer, possible some kind of western food and a bit of a blom somewhere preferably near water or in long grass in the shade.
  • Travel gremlin - an advanced extreme state of travel wobbliness lasting more than a couple of hours. Remedied by prolonged treatment as detailed in a travel wobbly. Further to this a more applied glam-packing setting is required with the potential scheduling of a strat meeting to tack course or change focus and or direction.
  • Stat Meeting - Strategy Meeting to table ideas, focus attention and get a game plan on.
  • Glam-Packing - an "upgladed" version of back packing, maximising utility and value added comfort and an improvement in setting, normally accommodation. Glam-Packing is a major remedy to any onset of a travel gremlin or advanced stages of the Travel Wobblies.

Posted by Waldos on Tour 06:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Getting suited and booted in Hoi An

sunny 26 °C

Both Cath and I were very keen to take up any good opportunities of getting some outfits and suits made somewhere in Asia. Hoi An is the perfect place for this with a fantastic reputation for great work and good value for money, as well as variety, with over 400 tailors in a small town of less the 50,000 permanent inhabitants, we had plenty of options.

After a lot of online research we decided to go for a tailor called Kimmy's they seemed to have a lot of excellent reviews and only very few horror stories so we thought we'd give it a go. As we arrived they handed Greg a catalogue of designs to chose from and within seconds panic set in - lapel shape, standard or slimfit? two buttons? three buttons? single or double vent? too many choices and I could see him getting ready to back out the door. Luckily a friendly Vietnamese sales assistant sat Greg down and took him through the process step by step to find a suit that suited his body type.

After breathing a sigh of relief - he had chosen the perfect suit - and then it was on to the fabrics. . . Cotton, wool, cashmere, silk? Blend or no blend? Stripes? Checks? Herringbone? The options were literally endless. But this time Greg had gained momentum and began enjoying the process so breezed through the selection process and chose a pale grey cashmere/wool suit. Now all we had to do was wait to see the work in progress - first fitting booked for the next evening.

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The next day we nervously attended the fitting and they unveiled a fully finished suit and shirt - amazing! The suit was near to a perfect fit - just needs a few alterations on the back and legs but the finish was very professional and Greg looks very smart! And with that, another suit, a few more trousers, sports jacket, shirts and shorts etc. were commissioned.

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Next up was a suit for me, Greg gave me a few pointers on what he thought would look good and I decided to try a different tailor that specialised in ladies attire. We found a tailor who had the perfect jacket displayed in their shop window so I strolled in to start negotiations. They got to work showing me the options and adapting the design to fit my shape and I walked out happy and excited!

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Greg, jumping back in here, Cath's task was to find herself a "knock out punch left hook outfit"! And that she did, after all the fitting sessions and adjustments etc, and a look at the finished result, she looks absolutely stunning and now has a strong left and right hook of an outfit.

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The excitement grew and a few more outfits - dresses, jackets and sandals were all sourced, materials and style selected and fitted. Very pleased with the end results! All the work was excellent and fitted perfectly! And again very good value for money. 1 suit in London would easily equate to 3 suits out here in Hoi An and all custom made with really good materials and workmanship. So I think we will back here one day. Although they keep your measurements on file for 3 years and if you want to order online they can all support that kind of request to.

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We had noted that we had over-packed big time. I have no idea why I am dragging a pair of flippers, jackets and loads of other stuff all around tropical Asia when it's so cheap and easy enough to hire the stuff if need be. So all these items together with all our custom made clothing shoes etc. were all wrapped up and boxed ready for shipment to Aus, at a very reasonable price. So hopefully by the time we get to Aus, we will have a brand new outfit to do the two step into all the job interviews

Posted by Waldos on Tour 03:07 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Beautiful Hoi An, beaches and the full moon festival

semi-overcast 27 °C

We opted to take the very economical 5 dollar 5 hour bus trip from Hue to Hoi An and arrived in Hoi An at about 13:00 - when we got there we found out that the trip was actually only 170kms so you can imaging what a frustrating bumpy ride it is - but for 5 dollars you really can't complain!

Unfortunately travelling had taken its toll on me and I'd picked up the flu so I crashed and slept for the rest of the afternoon while Greg explored the town. When I woke up Greg took me on a tour of Hoi An which is absolutely beautiful. It's as beautiful as Luang Prabang but with amazing crafts and shopping. The shop fronts are all ancient and painted yellow with dark wood shutters and every shop either has a tailor or some kind of craftsman selling their wares. Tailors make up 80% of the shops but dotted in between are lantern makers, leather smiths, silversmiths and some amazing designers selling handmade silk garments. At night they close off the streets to pedestrians so its really nice and relaxed - besides the constant haggling 'helloooo!' 'where you froooom?' 'You want see my tailor?' 'Nice clothes!'

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Greg and I did the rounds and started to scope out potential tailors the choice is endless and the quality varies so we decided give ourselves a few more days to make the right choice - added to this it wasn't long until we realised that this was truely the most amazing place, it has it all, the most incredible markets, shops and tailoring outfits, wonderful food and a briliant beach, all surrounded by beautiful rice paddies. The prices are all quite reasonable and the region attracts a different kind of tourist, and so as things turned out an original booking of 2 nights turned out to be a week.

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I (Greg) have been contracted to do some remote work for the company I used to work for in London, but this time working directly with a team in the US on the roll out of a treasury application throughout markets in the APAC region. Building on my past experience, my location in terms of time zones, and the flexibility of working remotely from anywhere for 1 to 2 hrs a day at most suits us fine and fits in with our travel plans, but is now an additional consideration we need to take into account for our travels moving forward.

The first day in Hoi An was taken up with shopping for Greg's laptop so he could start working again so we had to take a taxi the city of Dan Nang (a fast developing city, not a tourist hot spot by any means) which is about a 30 min drive from Hoi An. After asking a few locals we were confident that we would find a computer shop as it's Vietnam's third largest city so off we went. Well we got to the shop and on first impressions it looked great - 4 stories specialising in computers surely we would find what we were looking for. We headed for the section we needed and things went downhill once we realised that no one spoke any English - have you ever tried to by a computer using hand signals? Luckily they had wi fi so we turned to google! We started making progress when suddenly we heard a familiar voice - not only the first westerner we had seen that day but a South African accent?! We turned around to see Barry Hilton running around in a bit of a panic! (For the sake of our UK friends and others around the world, Barry is probably SA's no 1 stand up comedian). Turns out "the cousin" was struggling to get his showreel off his iPhone while working on a cruise and had stopped off to try and solve his problem! Incredible, so we had a quick chat and swapped stories, both absolutely shocked we had bumped into someone not only from SA but from PE, small world. Anyways we had a good chuckle, had a few photos and a man hug and we off on our separate ways.

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Hoi An is a cultural centre and the people are so friendly and very proud of their heritage. The town is surrounded by rice paddies, cumquat plantations and flower gardens so the photo opportunities are endless, we hired a scooter and bicycles a few times while we were there and were thoroughly entertained riding along the country roads taking in the scenery and waving to all the friendly locals. The friendliness of the people is pretty much the polar opposite of those in the North - in many respect we felt like we had stepped into anther country. The children run alongside your bike and wave to you. Everywhere you go people are happy to have a chat.

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We found a lovely little restaurant called Miss Ly's which offered an amazing tasting menu which was right down my street - fried wontons, white roses, fresh spring rolls and a delicious Pho! Greg also found a divine stir fry! Finally - the Vietnamese cuisine we had been waiting for! While we were in Hoi An we didn't have a bad or even an average meal - the food was absolutely delicious, fresh, healthy and reasonable priced too.

Unbeknown to us we had arrived just in time for Hoi An full moon festival (nothing remotely like the infamous full moon party in Thailand that we hope to avoid like the plague) which happens every month to celebrate the full moon. As the sun set local families began to arrive at the riverfront and set up their lantern shops selling colourful paper lanterns which you can place in the river for good luck. Within a few minutes the whole river was lit up with lanterns bobbing along in the moonlight - it was absolutely magical. Everywhere you looked there were little children dressed in traditional clothing selling trays of candle lanterns (a UK health and safety nightmare but very cute none the less!). We grabbed a couple of cold beers and climbed aboard a gondola type row boat for a hr ride through all the lanterns on the river courtesy of our friendly elderly Vietnamese rower.

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The food in Hoi An was nothing short of superb. Every time we ate we were mesmerised with the flavours, quality and value for money. Some big claims were made by both of us, for Greg: best soup ever (spicey chilli beef noodle soup), for Cath: best fish ever (wrapped in banana leaf) and best prawns (grilled with chili and garlic) ever! Massive claims we know but we will stand by them.

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While we were there we also decided to book ourselves on a cooking course. We accompanied our guide down to market early morning, who showed and spoke us through all the various foods and ingredients. She expanded on the Vietnamese cuisine and all the little bits that are more typical of this region in central Vietnam. The market was a normal working market, not touristy at all, and loads of all sorts of things that don't even shock us anymore, but are still nevertheless very interesting to see. We made our way to a small boat and ventured down-river to the delta / wetlands of the small river that runs through Hoi An, through palm mangrove type swamps and ended up on a small Island, the location of our cooking class for the day. Preceding firing up the gas and going through all the dishes for the day, we were shown and then de-husked the rice ourselves and made rice milk, an ingredient for one of our dishes. Rice is such a major part of their cuisine and is such a versatile crop is incredible to see how they apply in its various forms to their dishes. After a wonderful day cooking and witnessing a local cock fight we made our way back into the little town of Hoi An.

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During our time in Hoi An, Greg kicked off some of his work sessions early morning and normally finished up by 10am. So I used this time to take a bit of beach yoga making my way down to the beach on a bike through the rice fields, as well as exploring the market area, sipping on a Vietnamese coffee at a coffee shop and generally just pottering around. Greg calls it "my eat, pray, love time!!" Ha ha.

As soon as Greg had finished up we would meet up and go for a fitting, hire a scooter and head off the beach for some lunch, suntanning and body surfing. There were some really authentic little Vietnamese places to eat on the beach and they bring the food and drinks right down to the loungers on the beach, so not tough going at all. While in the beach area it was interesting to see loads of a little basket boat type things that the fisherman use. So strange! The story goes that years back all fishing boats were imposed a special tax / levy. So as to avoid this tax, the locals build round " boats" that were technical classified as baskets rather than vessels. Very strange to see but they still use loads of them, and its authentic, not some touristy thing.

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Hoi An is an absolute highlight for us! One of the most amazing places we have ever been to! Despite growing as a tourist hot spot it's still local and under-developed and authentic, but we aren't too sure how long it will stay that way because it is such a wonderful place and it probably won't be long before the packaged tour companies look to send operations there. For now though it remains a more independent travel destination equi-distant between Hanoi and Saigon / HCMC. We both have a feeling this will not be the last time we will see Hoi An!

Oh, and while we were in Hoi An, we finally heard some fantastic news about our Australian PR visa. It had finally been approved so we at last had a green light on our move out there. We had packed up all our stuff in London into a storage container ready for shipment so that if we heard the news while we were travelling we could give instruction to ship our stuff. So we celebrated with a fantastic meal at another great restaurant in Hoi An, with a big sigh of relief.

Posted by Waldos on Tour 09:02 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Where are we right now and Anecdotes!!

sunny 34 °C

Where We Are Right Now?

Currently in Ko Samui, Thailand. After a bit of a quick synopses we decided to tack course and skip Cambodia for now as it the very eventful lead up to TET or the Chinese New Year and combined with the higher prices flying out of Cambodia and our desire to maximise on the visa period in Thailand we decided to head to the Thailand peninsula and more specifically the hub island of the gulf coast - Ko Samui.

Cambodia looks way more cost effective back end of Feb and March time, even from KL or BK so hoping to fit that region in then.

Strangely, if you fly into Thailand you get a 30 day visa but if you go overland you only get 15 days, so in order to try and keep our options open and maximise our potential time in Thailand we decided flying into Thailand was the best option.

So in summary, within 24 hrs, 2 flights, 4 cab rides, 1 bus ride, 1 catamaran trip and a 4 hr nap at a dodgy airport hotel in BK between flights we had finally traversed over from Saigon / HCMC to the Thai island setting.

POA (plan of action) moving forward is to take in the islands of the gulf, potentially visit a national park on the mainland and make our way over to the west cost.

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Anecdotes

  • Blomming - the holding of a voluntary position, preferably horizontal and outdoors, of motionless action to preserve energy and maximise contemplation and reflection, which can at times progress to an advanced state of deep sleep, but then you are dossing and not blomming anymore.
  • Munchkinite jarite - a penis shaped Vietnamese salami made of meat of unknown origin and type usually sold by an old wrinkley dude on a overloaded scooter with Polystyrene containers and a load hailer attached bellowing chanting and mesmerising tones. This normally is enough to attract hoards of locals who find this item an absolute delicacy.
  • Ripping it to another level - locals taking insane and completely unwarranted advantage of tourists, normally at the most inopportune time - when tourists are tired, exhausted and weirry after long travels.
  • Travel wobbly - an inopportune and unforeseen state of disorientation and travel dismay, normally brought about by amongst other things, thirst, hunger, an over endulgence of local culture or an overwhelming choice of opportunities or at times lack of options within an environ of locals playing ripping it to another level. Remedies to a travel wobbly include, for Cath: a snack of sticky mango rice, followed by a massage and a nap. For Greg, cold cold beer, possible some kind of western food and a bit of a blom somewhere preferably near water or in long grass in the shade.
  • Travel gremlin - an advanced extreme state of travel wobbliness lasting more than a couple of hours. Remedied by prolonged treatment as detailed in a travel wobbly. Further to this a more applied glam-packing setting is required with the potential scheduling of a strat meeting to tack course or change focus and or direction.
  • Stat Meeting - Strategy Meeting to table ideas, focus attention and get a game plan on.
  • Glam-Packing - an "upgladed" version of back packing, maximising utility and value added comfort and an improvement in setting, normally accommodation. Glam-Packing is a major remedy to any onset of a travel gremlin or advanced stages of the Travel Wobblies.

Posted by Waldos on Tour 06:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The Imperial City of Hue, DMZ and the Perfumer River

sunny 26 °C
View Asia & Aus 2013 on Waldos on Tour's travel map.

The general rule when it comes to mopeds in Vietnam is :

Whatever you do don't look behind you! And when someone in front of you is in your way hold down the hooter and continue hooting until they are well out of your way. Do this and no one gets hurt - well besides your eardrums! (nd possibly a few others who fall between the cracks)

Hue is definitely a much quieter smaller town than Hanoi but for some reason, the hooting is just as bad - the drivers here must be overly cautious ?! Hmmm not convinced on that one I think they just like the sound of their own hooter.

After settling into our hotel we set out to explore the Imperial city, a UNESCO world heritage site positioned on the banks of the Perfume river It's an interesting town to explore both because of the huge ancient walled city with a central forbidden city as well as its close proximity to the DMZ for the Vietnam/American war. There are also a number of old tombs and Moseleums to visit and a buzzing market on the river banks.

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We spent a day exploring The Citadel and Forbidden City which was fascinating. The last dynasty to live within the Forbidden City were in the 1800's and although most of it has been destroyed by the bombs, it still has parts which are exquisite in vivid red and gold.

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We picked up a few cold brewskis and after some lengthy haggling between Greg and two cyclo drivers we managed to negotiate two guides to cycle us around the old town to explore the back streets, laying back in a woven basket on the front of the bikes, beers in hand. The best was peering through people's windows, watching them preparing and eating dinner, playing cards and chatting - hardly any people were glued to the TV - quite refreshing to see! Good timing for the ride as it was sunset and the lighting in the streets off the beautiful buildings was brilliant. Everything involves a light hearted haggle with a pushing hint up of a upsell as soon as their is an opportunity.

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You really do get good value in Asia and particularly Vietnam, that cyclo experience incl beers for just over an hour came in at under £4 for both of us, and a cab ride from one part of town to the other is also off the charts value compared to London or Europe at around Dong 30,000 or £1 for a 10 to 15 min cab ride!! Accommodation is also such good value, is hard to believe! Same thing in the UK or South Africa would cost 5 to 6 times the price if not more.

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We then stopped off at a tour company to see if we could book a few tours as well as our onward travel to Hoi An. We sat down and the lady took us through our options and as we were booking the usual question of 'where you from?' was asked. We told her South Africa and she looked at us and laughed. . . You not from Africa? You don't look like them! So we just settled on London to keep her happy.

While we were in Hue we took two day tours one amazing and the other extremely boring pent up in an ageing tour bus for 12 hours!

We opted to do a full day DMZ tour which we were quite excited about as it visited the Vinh Moc tunnels and another few key areas from the Vietnam/American war (incl the Rockpile, Con Tien and Khe Sanh Combat base amongst others). The tour itself could have been so interesting but at it turned out is was as bland as anything and consisted of a woman giving a one sided and scripted version of the war and being stuck in a bus 90% of the time practically clawing our way out at the end. Visiting the Vinh Moc tunnels was really interesting and worth the drive so I suppose you win some you lose some!

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The DMZ is a region, 5 km either side of the Ben Mai river separating North and South Vietnam, and was the scene of major battles and conflict during the war. A large proportion of military as well as civilian casualties took place over this territory, which does has a number of bomb craters and numerous cemeteries. The military cemeteries all relate to the Northern troops, and the "Southern Imperialists / Puppet Government" are all regarded as traitors so the tour guide looked at me with absolute disgust and astonishment when I enquired about the location of their graves. Anyway, that's the war talk, Cath says this is getting boring and I need to wrap of the war show now.

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The next day we started the boat tour with the wind taken our of our sails expecting the same drab tour as the day before. We boarded the boat which would take us ip the Perfume River to visit various temples and Moseleums from some of the previous Monarchy's . Needless to say we were presently surprised when our passionate guide boarded the boat and started giving us some insight into Vietnamese history and culture. Every place we stopped off at he had a little story to tell about the culture and how each one related. We had the best time and left feeling very inspired and happy with renewed faith in our Vietnam trip!

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We rounded off the excursion with a routine brewski on the banks of the river watching the sunset, the hussle, bustle and listening to the hoots of the city as well as the watching the lights of the town being turned on, a another brilliant day out!

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Posted by Waldos on Tour 09:11 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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