A little bit of snow...

It snowed last night here in London, which is quite unusual. It was really more of a blizzard at work in NW London, with about three inches dumped in only a few hours. Of course this meant there were no trains running and traffic wasn't moving. We ended up walking a couple of kilometres to Wembley Stadium station and catching a suburban overland train, the only train running anywhere near my work.

This morning was no better with the Bakerloo line out North of Queens Park. Yeesh! We're not talking much snow, but it completely screwed up everything.

The city does look beautiful, something of a winter wonderland. Can't complain there!

And I can't really complain when much worse is happening with public transport elsewhere.

Still raining -- time to bail

Well it's still pouring down with rain here in Nha Trangh. It's quite sad as our plan for here was to spend three or four days lying on the beach sipping cocktails. Instead we've been wandering around with not much to do, hoping the rain would stop.

It now appears there's a typhoon off the coast. While this poses no threat to us, it does mean that most of the country is rainy and will be for some time. In a beachside town there's not a whole lot to do when the weather sucks.

So we're moving on to Hoi An, where there's more to do in rainy weather. This is the town where you can get excellent clothes made really cheaply.

Last night we had a relatively expensive but absolutely exquisite seafood meal. Prawns, crab, squid and amazing fish. It ended up costing about $10 each but was worth every succulent morsel. Yum!

Not much more to report, really. Hanging out with lots of other bored foreigners waiting for the bus at 7 o'clock tonight.

Raining in Hoi An

Well we're in Hoi An, the shopper's paradise. In this townm you can get a suit whipped up in a few hours for US$20, or anything you can find in a fashion magazine or photo. I've spent US$115 so far on a couple of suits and a bunch of shirts.

However we're pretty much trapped here. It's been raining since we left Dalat on Saturday because of a tropical low off the coast. That meant missing out vbaluable beach time in the coastal town of Nha Trangh. The stormy, 14 hour overnight bus was pretty uncomfortable on the single lane, potholed goat track they call Highway 1.

When we got to Hoi An, it was still raining and continued overnight. Our cheap hotel, interestingly called the Trade Union Hotel, was nearly flooded the following morning. A stormwater drain next to the hotel broke its banks and flooded the roadway out the front. With it rising so fast overnight we figured it would only take a bit more rain to get it to rise the foot or so needed to make our beds float. So we moved to a nicer, more expensive hotel on the third floor. There's a conveneient balcony we can moor boats on if it comes to that 8)

In the flooding yesterday we took a boat ride and shot nearly a whole roll of film in half an hour, looking at the restaurant we had tried to find and eat in the night before with water flowing through it.

The rain eased last night and the floodwaters are going down. The low system seems to be blowing itself out. Hopefully we'll get some sun and can go to the beach soon!

Raining raining raining

We're in Nha Trangh and it's been raining all yesterday and today. Looks like it might clear up by tomorrow, thank Bob. Not much to do in a beach town in the rain.

Apparently there's a storm (typhoon perhaps?) off the coast and it's raining throughout the whole country.

Oh well, all we can do is drink beer, eat amazingly fresh seafood and wait out the rain. The things you do 8)

We love Vietnam!

It's funny how bad experiences contrast so readily with good. Last night we arrived in Dalat, the internal tourist capital of Vietnam. All the Viets have their honeymoons here. It's strewn with tacky tourist parks with Vietnamese dressed up as cowboys, cartoon mouse bins, the whole tacky deal.

After the bus arrived, we had a terrible time with tour and hotel hawkers demanding we come and see their places. We all got a bit stressed by all the attention and ended up spending 3/4 hour traipsing up and down the budget hotel district until a tip from a German couple on their way out of town clued us into a fantastic, cheap hotel. After all the stress, we weren't expecting much from this town. After checking in we got majorly hassled by the very poor hill tribe children trying to sell us shoe shines, cigarettes, maps and chewing gum.

Then this morning the air cleared and we started having fun! At breakfast one of the cigarette and gum sellers started talking to us. We were attempting to speak the language from our phrase book and she and her fellow seller ended up sitting with us for half an hour giving us lessons in Vietnamese. The hardest part is the tones which are quite complicated with different accents above letters (look at the next Vietnamese Restaurant you see) indicating different ranges of tone.

After that we negotiated a brilliant motorbike tour around the various sights in this town. Our guide was friendly, spoke excellent English and was great fun. Holly, who had some trepidation about hopping on the back of a motorbike, absolutely loved it.

Tonight we wandered around filled with much more confidence, which is all that is required to get by around here. A simple "khong moi" gets rid of the hawkers and the helpful addition of a smile gets you anywhere. These people are lovely, friendly and eager to help, but poor. What we initially saw as aggressive hawking is really just the result of real poverty. The moment you show you've been around more than a day or two, by speaking the language, they give up.

Also we've managed to work out and enjoy the process of bartering for prices, an essential tool for the third world. It's no to be approached as an adversarial, aggressive process but as a bit of sport. After all, for us at least, we're haggling over 20 cents or so but also want to conserve our funds for the rest of our trip and to brace ourselves for the appalling state of the Australian dollar. As with everything in this country a sense of humour and a smile go a long way. To barter for, say, a couple of dragon fruits (red, weird fruit that taste like kiwifruit) a Vietnamese "bow nyew" or "how much" will bring you something like 20,000. You giggle and go "no, 10,000". They find your price hilarious and offer something lower. Eventually you either arrive on a price or walk away to try the next stand. Of course as you walk away another price will be offered, hopefully to your liking.

The thing that has changed our experience most is realising that this isn't a nasty process of us versus them. We have way more money than they can imagine and have to keep this in mind and not be too focussed on getting the same price locals get.

Today's motorbike tour also let us into a little tip that anyone interested in travelling here should know. The Sinh Cafe open tour is not the way to get around this country. It's cheap (US$32) and gets you through the main sights, but they aren't the real Vietnam. Travel is more a process than a tour, so we would rather have caught a series of motorbike tours around the place than the sanitised tourist bus experience we are doing.

A motorbike driver we met tonight truly convinced us of this fact. He was friendly, had great English and the testimonials in his book were genuinely positive. He even organised a wedding for a couple of Americans in a minority (as in non-Vietnamese slash and burn minorities with different culture and customs) village in 12 hours!

Anyone thinking of travelling here, be sure to contact us and we'll give you the lowdown. When we get to London we'll write it all up and let people know.

Loving this country heaps. Tomorrow we catch a bus to Nha Trangh.

In Dalat

We're now in Dalat. Not much to report except seeing lots of beautiful countryside on the 8 hour bus ride here. Dalat is the main tourist destination for Vietnamese. It's much cooler than Saigon, which is a nice change from the stifling humidity.

However the people here are a lot poorer with the result being they're more desperate. That coupled with the fact that it's the low tourist season makes the hawkers and motorbike guys much more persistent, which gets tiring very quickly.

Tomorrow we'll be doing a tour around the area and catching the bus the bus on Saturday to Nha Trangh. There we plan to spend a few days on the beach. Mmmmm!

Having fun and will say more when we have more to report. Limerick coming after we drink more beer 8)

Snow!

It snowed this morning. Must have been a couple of inches at least, judging from the amount piled up on cars in the street. Not quite a white Christmas but nice nonetheless. Rachel called us at 5:30am to tell us to run out and see it. Holly was so excited she got to work early and wandered around Hyde Park to watch the ducks taking shelter.

You can see a picture here and live cameras to see the snow on the ground if it's still there here. There's still snow outside out door making the footpaths treacherous and there's more on the way, apparently.

Christmas was good fun with Holly and I spending Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day at Rachel and Danielle's in Battersea. There's no public transport on Christmas Day so we had to get there early. Lots of fine food,good booze, great company of all that ice you Aussies would have gone through, we just stuck our beer and wine on the balcony to chill.

Not much else happening. Holly's working at Harrod's but has managed to score New Years Eve and Day off. We bought our tickets to a party with Luke Slater, Asian Dub Foundation, Liam from the Prodigy and Adrian Sherwood. Should be fun.

Tomorrow my new computer arrives from Glasgow from an auction on eBay. Should be more contactable then.

Bad poetry

We've taken to writing limericks while sipping yummy Vietnamese beer about our travels. We'll do one or two poems a day about our travels.

2/10/2000

We jumped on a cyclo in Saigon
And went "what the hell have we got on?"
They ripped us off blind
Which put us in a bind
So now we negotiate in Dong

3/10/2000 (Day)

A friendly cyclo driver named Minh
Toured us around the city he lives in
The chicken market in Cholon
Flashing Buddhas were switched on
The streets hum a beautiful din

3/10/2000

There once was a Frenchman in Ho Chi Minh City
Who got too drunk in a bar, he was shitty
He picked a fight with a flic
Who bashed him with a stick
They took him to the station. What a pity.

(PS: flic is French for cop)