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Friday, April 30, 2010

A life of leisure in Viet Nam

I have slacked on my posts on my trek from Southern to Northern Viet Nam and have so much to catch up on. First of all, I LOVE this country. Aside from how beautiful the landscape is, it never ceases to be interesting from one town to the next, each vastly different than the last.

I was lucky to catch really clean water and beautiful days on the beaches of Mui Ni and Nha Trang in central Vietnam- pictured here is the bizarre over-sea gondola from Nha Trang to VinPearl Island just off the coast where I spent a day of childlike leisure at the water-park. Warning: theme parks in Vietnam DO NOT have the same standards as home. At the end of the slide you may crash into the not so soft barrier!

Just of the coast, the green mountains climb perilously high making for spectacular views. Particularly from the train rides, with tracks wedged at the bottom of the mountains snaking up the coast. The inland hills in Da Lat were just as spectacular and with some of the best hiking I've ever experienced. And when the humidity becomes too much you rent a motorbike and see the country side that way. I'm looking very forward to more trekking in the Northern hill station of Sapa, perched on a steep slope it is know for its plunging views over the valley and rice terraces in the Northwest. But today I'm enjoying the bustling city life of Hanoi and planning a trip out to Halong Bay for the weekend.

I've definitely settled into life as a woman of leisure while here in Vietnam. Most days my schedule consists of an early wake up to see whatever sights are on the agenda in the early morning while the temperatures are cool and tourists are scarce. After the morning excursion an afternoon spa treatment is usually in order. Sounds extravagant, but at $6 for an hour back and foot massage or facial and some aroma therapy I reason I could spend the same kicking about town and on drinks and meal, right?!

Most of the photos here were taken in Ho Ain which I totally fell in love with. The shops and the custom tailoring that the town is known for is a major tourist trap (though, having a dress custom fitted to you for a few dollars was great fun) the streets and buildings were so quaint and romantic and the mood very mellow. I was lucky to be there on the night of the full moon when no lights are allowed and the whole town is lit up only by lanterns. That setting plus a delicious bowl of the Ho Ain specialty, Cau Lau, on the river after an afternoon at a great Vietnamese cooking class was hard to beat!

List of some random/fun travel points:
- I don't think I will EVER get the sounds and images of Vietnamese music videos that are BLARRING on every bus and/or train in this country out of my head. Think Vietnamese karaoke tunes coupled with the worst soap opera you can imagine. They are truly priceless.
- I still can't believe I don't see more motorbike accidents AND that I have not yet been run over by one. Try as I might not to, I know I still look like a deer in the headlights every time I cross any street.
- The sleeper buses are great, 3 rows across and 2 levels of beds squeezed onto a bus, which would actually be quite comfortable on a 12-hour overnight drive IF the only traffic rule of thumb here was NOT to just lay on the extremely loud horn ALL the way. Seriously. There are no rules of the road that I can see, its just honk like crazy as you drive on any and all sides of the road and the motos or pedestrians better move it!!

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