Sabaidee, Laos!

Again, I apologize for the lack of blogging the last few days. I couldn’t shake a sinus infection and I was laid up in bed.

Tuesday was a bit of a let down as again we couldn’t get a cruise in Halong bay, just an excuse to come back I guess! We both used the day to rest as it was much needed.

Wednesday I woke up covered in what I think was heat rash, with a migraine and a sinus infection. I decided it wasn’t worth fighting and told Katelyn to carry on without me. She had a great day exploring Hanoi, while I rested the whole day. Although I’m not sure if my body could handle the excitement she endured!

This brings us to today, we woke up early this morning and flew from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos. We went for lunch then checked in at our hostel, and are now resting (early mornings and I don’t mix). Vientiane seems like a lazy city, from what we’ve seen… and the fact that today is a public holiday isn’t helping that vision out.

The plan for this afternoon is to walk along the Mekong River and then dinner and potentially some pool at the hostel. I’m hoping being able to get out and do things will help me shake this illness and it’s associated mental funk.

The Beauty of Having No Plans

Well, today ended up vastly different than how we had planned it.

We woke up fairly early and ate breakfast before we met our van to take us to Halong Bay. As soon as the bus came, we hopped on and (thought) we were on our way to an amazing adventure.

We passed the compulsory tourist take down shake down and were in the van for about 10 minutes before we noticed it pull over. My first thought was that we had a flat tire, or had made a wrong turn. However, the tour company rep turned around and told us that the cruise had been cancelled due to inclement weather. It was a little bit tough to take as we had already travelled about 2 hours out of Hanoi. But, we’re incredibly lucky that we were able to rebook for tomorrow. Stuff like this happens, getting bent out of shape about it won’t do anything. While it sucks, it just comes with the territory.

We got back to Hanoi, arranged the cruise for tomorrow, prayed for good weather and then went off for lunch. We ended up finding two really good and really cheap places to eat today!

After lunch we decided to walk to the Temple of Literature as it was one of 2 things open today. I’m honestly very surprised at the amount of temples/meeting halls in this country due to the political situation. The grounds were immaculately kept, and added to the neat vibe of the city. I’m really enjoying Hanoi as there’s lots of green space which makes the city feel a lot smaller.

We finished up at the temple and decided to visit the other tourist attraction that was open today (they must hate Mondays as much as I do) – the Fine Arts Museum. This was definitely a highlight for me as over the past few years my appreciation of art has increased dramatically. My favourite pieces at this museum date from the 1950s on as I have a fascination with propaganda and art that relates to it!

Our next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – this imposing structure was built to commemorate the first president of Vietnam. It was in the middle of a giant square which made it all the more imposing. Another thing that added to the interesting feeling of the place was the giant hammer and sickle flags that were flying. This was probably the only place on the trip that has given me culture shock as I find the whole political system quite foreign and to see flags like those up close was a little eerie.

After that we stumbled upon the One Pillared Pagoda – which dates from 1045. This was really cool to see, and also quite small so we didn’t venture in.

After finishing up we walked back through the chaotic streets of Hanoi to the hotel. I honestly can’t count the number of times that I’ve almost been run over by mopeds. They’re everywhere and pop out of nowhere. Its insane.

Ok, back to hoping for good weather tomorrow. Well, not even good weather. Just not bad enough that our cruise gets cancelled again because that would suck.

Hammer and SICKle

Seems like I’ve done a lot of apologizing for not blogging over the last two days… and here’s another. The Wifi here is even worse than in Myanmar and I couldn’t even upload my blog yesterday. Also I’m still sick… so thats another reason.

Yesterday was a bit of a long day, we flew from Da Nang (the closest airport to Hoi An) to Ha Noi. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for our bags, we were on our way to the Hotel. We ended up arranging a car to pick us up as we had heard horror stories about brutal cabbies from the airport.

As soon as we dropped our bags we noticed that the beds had been pushed together, and as we had shared a very tiny bed in Hoi An promptly asked for them to be separated, much to the confusion of the front desk staff (“oh, are you brother and sister?”).

We got organized for the day and decided to take a walk down to Hoan Kiem which is a lake close to our hotel. It kind of reminded me a little of Central Park although not as isolated from the city. We ended up walking from there to the Vietnamese History Museum which was a little misleading to me as it glossed over the period from French Colonialism to the present. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about ancient history but theres only so many pots you can look at.

After that we (I) decided to find a Starbucks to fill up my mug collection. I ended up finding the Ho Chi Minh City mug here, and bought that along with the Hanoi and Vietnam ones to fill my collection. The lady working the cash surprised me as they were “celebrating Starbucks coming to Hanoi” and gave me a tumbler for free (well, almost free..she charged me for it instead of a mug)!

After that we ditched the mugs and chilled for a bit at the hotel as we had had a late lunch and weren’t exactly hungry. We ended up going for Pho later which was much needed.

This morning we ended up getting up a tad late and spent the morning organizing our budgets and the like. It was a little scary looking at how much I had spent, and ended up putting myself on a budget for the rest of the trip (although that was to be blown out of the water by the cruise we’re headed on in Halong Bay).

We ended up hitting a few of the major tourist attractions in the city, and I managed to stay under my $50 CAD budget for the day. The first stop was the Vietnamese Women’s museum which was really cool. It was interesting to see the traditional roles of women in Vietnamese society, along with their roles within the traditional cultures of the country. Within the museum there was a cool exhibit on vietnamese religious beliefs (they believe in the Mother Goddess) and an interesting movie on female street vendors in Hanoi. It really put my funds situation in perspective. Some of these ladies were making $20USD every 12 days – making my situation absolutely trivial.

After the museum we headed to the Toa Lo Prison – infamously called the Hanoi Hilton. This was definitely more of a prison compared to Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh – although I’m not sure if a valid comparison can be made between the two. It was really interesting to see the positioning of the Vietnamese with respect to the history of the prison (and the Vietnam War). I won’t get into too much detail here (as this is probably being monitored… Hello Vietnamese Government!) but you can ask me all you want in 5 days!

After that we headed back to the hotel and stopped for a quick snack along the way. We found a cool café and I had a passionfruit yogurt, pain au chocolate and a fresh pressed juice. So much for that budget.

Feeling full we made it back to the hotel and relaxed (and bitched about the Wifi) for a bit before dinner. We had decided to eat at a place that was billed as “cheap and cheelful [sic]” but upon seeing no tourists there immediately changed our minds. We ended up eating at 69 restaurant, and I had the “69 Style Fried Rice” (no comments from the peanut gallery).

Now, we’re back at the hotel and headed off to bed. Our bus to take us to the boat in Halong Bay will be here at 8:30 am… pray for my soul please. I haven’t gotten up before 9 this trip (except for that one day in Angkor).