Five more sleeps ...

... until I find myself on a flight to the Philippines. Palawan, to be more exact. It sounds like it's going to be a magical place to explore. It's a shame I have only 10 days.

As I type now, Levi is curled in my lap and Datsun is squished on the side of the chair, between myself and the hot air blowing from the heater. This chair was hardly meant to hold three. Whatever will they do in my absence?! One hope is that they are able to treat the house guest a bit better this time around. Spoiled little ... you know whats.

Last Week in Vietnam ...

I thought I'd seen it all in HCMC but Hanoi presented a craziness that hardly compared. What an amazing place! I couldn't believe my eyes while touring the city ... the streets had everything to offer. Mom and I purchased two big duffel bags and started filling them right away!

Two days later, we were booked on an overnight boat tour of Halong Bay. We had the option of being dropped off on Cat Ba Island and we took it. I mean, who's really going to say no to being dropped off on an island?! Not I!

Like most things in Vietnam, empty promises were made and upon our arrival at Cat Ba there was a lot of confusion. We were told someone would be waiting at the pier to take us into the small town. The tour guide on the boat had a piece of paper showing we were to return to Hanoi. Mom wanted to take the boat back but I opted to stay on that island. There was a fast ferry to the mainland so there were other options. Mom was a bit unsure, but I told her not to worry!

The 40-minute drive through this rustic island was amazing. A stop highly recommended if one makes their way to Vietnam. One night turned into two which turned into three which turned into four. It seemed my persistence paid off! It was a quiet place with some great beaches and our room was only $6US a night.

We booked another day trip touring a different part of Halong Bay. We saw more caves and Monkey Island where we were lucky enough to see some monkeys. We stopped for lunch in the bay and jumped in for a swim after we ate. The water was fantastic!

We made our way back to Hanoi on Friday as it was going to take the full day to get there. Our boat did pick us up and it was smooth sailing after that. We had all of Saturday to shop, shop, shop! Sunday was for packing up and saying our goodbyes. I was making my way back to Taiwan, Mom was heading back to Canada.

Mom, I'm very thankful this was an experience we were able to share together! And I'm glad you have a better understanding of what it is that I'm doing over here in the fantastic world of Asia!

Hoi An

Hoi An was damp and beaten up ... a whole other world from the previous cities we'd seen. Despite all the mishap, things seemed to carry on as normal. With flood warnings for the following day, first thing we did was book a flight out. We had 24 hours to take in as much as we could.

The streets reeked of character, each building offering its own uniqueness. Stores lined the tiny alleys selling anything and everything one could possibly need or want. We had one week left in Vietnam. With no set plans, neither one of us was buying. A bit unfortunate as it's a haven for bargain shoppers.

We hired a taxi for the afternoon to take us to My Son. It was very peaceful. Lacking sun and blue skies, it still proved to be breathtaking.

The hotel we stayed at was $18US for the night and was the worst so far. The toilet seat was broken, the shower spit drops of water. The beds were damp and the TV wasn't working. Mom wasn't overly happy to be there and I tried reminding her that it was only one night out of an entire lifetime. If one can look at it that way, it really seems small and unimportant ... we were lucky to have a roof over our head and a bag of (somewhat) dry clothes.

In any other season, I'm sure Hoi An is a great place to hang your hat for a few days or so. We were glad to board that plane and be on our way out, however ... this time heading to our final destination, Hanoi.

It was a quick flight and just like that, we were thrown back into the mad city life of Vietnam.

Thursday November 15th, 2007

Scheduled to leave on a 7:30pm sleeper bus to Hoi An, a 12-hour trip that cost $10US, we decided to take our luggage on board. People arriving from that direction found themselves left with wet bags and dirty clothes as the streets were flooded meters deep.

The initial part of the trip was kind of like having a sleepover with mom. We were dressed in comfy clothes, side by side in bunks under blankets. At the time, we thought 12 hours would feel like days. Some people were making the journey all the way to Hanoi ... if I remember correctly that would've added an extra 16 hours on a bus with no bathroom.

We made one stop in the middle of the night/morning ... probably around 3am. I got off the bus and was sure to hit the bathroom twice but about 2 hours later I found myself having to go again. It was then that I kicked myself for thinking that water and a small snack at the rest stop was a good idea.

I didn't want to go up and ask the driver about the next stop so mom did. On her second time asking she was told to wait five minutes. Within the five minutes the bus pulled over to the side of the road and opened the door. As I stepped outside in the dark I could see we were in the middle of nowhere. Squatting by the bus was the only option. With on coming car lights right on me I could only smile and think about the immediate situation and how this is probably the norm. I was quickly reminded that I was very far from what I consider home.

It was hard to sleep after that. I knew it would start getting light soon and our stop was just over an hour away. Of course the bus made a bathroom stop about 30 minutes after my experience. Could I have held it? I'd think yes.

The drive into Hoi An, for me, was the most interesting of the whole three weeks. It gave one a look into the real Vietnam. Imagine this out of place bus driving down country lane roads where pedal bikes seemed to rule. Water was everywhere ... debris hung over cable wires letting one know just how high the water was on the day prior.

The small dwellings and shops that lined some roads had a distinct water line. This line showed about a ruler's length above most front doors. Fences of dirty clothes were strung about even though the rain was coming down.

Some quotes taken directly out of the Viet Nam News:

- 5th flood to hit the central provinces this month
- thousands homeless, scores dead and remote regions holding on by a thread
- 400,000 houses have been submerged
- landslides have destroyed several national roads
- 2,400 houses are facing the possibility of starvation
and lastly:
- The Canadian Embassy announced it was sending C$100,000 to flood hit areas

All this being said, I have some great things to say about Hoi An. Eyes posted at a later date.