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30 November 2005

Halong Bay

Mystical mountain things sticking out of the sea...Ooooh

Aaaaaarrrrr...I paid $105 for a one night cruise around Halong Bay. A ridiculous amount of oney but there I was livin' it up in luxury on this really plush Junk [it's a type of boat].

If you don't know, Halong Bay is an area on the North-East coast [just like Hartlepool - ha!] which has over 3000 little limestone islands jutting out of the sea and we went for a cruise around some of them.

It was quite misty so the islands looked absolutely amazing - like nowt i've ever seen before with me own eyes.

So on this deluxe boat where they were feeding me copious amounts of prawns and other really nice seafood I had the most chilled out time so far. I gotta mention that I shelled my first crab and ate pretty much all of it [although I couldn't really handle smashing his back open while his little beady eyes were looking at me - that freaked me out a bit - but I smashed it up anyway.

Anyhoos, all the other people on the boat were like old retired couples wanting the easy life so it was a bit wierd. Luckily for me there were a pair of late 40's Californian women [from Lake Tahoe] who were well up for adventure so I hung out with them most of the time.

We went Kayaking in the bay and into some caves that led to a hidden lagoon [just like 'The Beach', only without any beach, so nowt like 'The Beach' really]. That was so beautiful. It was really quiet and the water was calm and I coped pretty well in me little canoe.

Then they fed us more ridiculous amounts and we sailed back into the bay and then got on the bus and now i'm here in Hanoi again.

I'm gonna go on the train down to Hue whic is North Central Vietnam and spend some time around there before I head a little further south to the beaches of South Central Vietnam [apparently it's a lot hotter down there] and i'm gonna do some scuba diving and some proper sunbathing.

See you then...

A Junk on the Bay

A Junk on the Bay

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28 November 2005

Vietnamese Hill Tribes

Mountains, colourful clothes and Opium

So I took the 10 hour overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai on the Chinese border and then took a three hour bus trip to a place called Sapa - the largest of the North Viet highland towns.

Instantly I was inundated with requests to buy bracelets, handmade bags and opium from the old ladies of the Black H'muong tribe. They all wear really elaborate clothes and headdresses and mostly have no teeth [what teeth they do have are usually gold - a real sight to see].

From here I had a private tour to a village called Ta Van with my guide May Pham [a tiny girl from the Red Zao tribe]. We trekked about 20km to the village and we stayed in a stilt house with a family of 12. Amazing, they have nothing yet still they manage to rustle me up the most amazing dinner i've had so far in Vietnam [after the Cobra].

I stayed on the top ledge of the house while the rest of the people stayed in two tiny rooms downstairs together. The views around here are so beautiful - mountains and rice paddies galore.

All of the men in the house seemed to smoke. There was a really old man of about 85 who lived there and he always had a lit cigarette in one hand and was smoking a bamboo waterpipe with the other - even the 3 and a half year old baby was smoking a cigarette! No lie! I watched in amazement as this toddler came into the kitchen with a cigarette and lit it from the open fire and started to puff away. Nobody batted an eyelid - not even the kids' mother. Something that I still can't get my head around.

After the village we went to Bac Ha market and to the Chinese border which again was full of really colourful tribesfolk all trying to sell everything to everybody. I succumbed and bought a really nice little handcrafted jaw harp - and some Opium.

All in all an another amazing experience for me. Back on the overnight train to Hanoi and preparing for my cruise around Halong Bay...Excited, me.

Bac Ha Market

Bac Ha Market

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25 November 2005


Let's all go to...Capital City


So I spent a week in Hanoi and loved every second of it. It's the kind of place where everything happens on the back of a motorbike.

Well, not everything, but most things.

The city itself is so pleasant to be in. All the streets are lined with trees and everything costs about 40p. A ride on a motorbike costs 40p, noodle soup costs 40p and cigarettes & beer cost 40p [all of which can be bought whilst on the back of a motorbike.] hehehe...

It's weird, you'd think that it would be scary going 60kph without a helmet on a dual carriageway whilst your driver is talking on his mobile phone and buying a beer from the back of another passing bike - but somehow it's not. Well, it's not for me but i'm like that when it comes to risking my life [just joking mam, honest] [not really, everybody else].

So I saw lots of temples and pagodas and lakes and soldiers with machine guns. There were beautiful girls on every street corner offering motorbike rides coupled with "massage, Boom Boom" and everybody wanted their 40p's worth.

Then after a couple of days trying to get over the jetlag, I went to see Uncle Ho [Chi Minh] in his death bed and his other various Soviet style dwellings - which was alright.

The best thing was when I went to a village called Le Mat, the 'snake village'. I went with my pal Xuan to a place that had loads of snakes and I bought a Cobra. It was quite expensive though - about 25 quid english money. Then the people in the shop slit it open and pulled out it's heart which they placed in a shot glass and topped up with the snake's blood and some rice wine.

The trick is to down it in one you see but when I drank it, the heart got stuck to the glass so I had to have another glassfull of blood and wine. It went down the second time.

Next was a glass of the Cobra's bile mixed with rice wine which was a bit more tart than the blood. Apparently it's good for the eyes and the stomach. [The heart is good for the blood and is supposed to be an aphrodisiac.]

So the poor cobra got chopped up and cooked in front of me into 7 or 8 different dishes. I had snakerib bittle, sauteed cobra with garlic, crispy fried cobraballs, cobra spring rolls, sticky rice dripped in cobra fat and finally snake gruel to toop it all off.

Pretty intense as dinner goes but surprisingly tasty nontheless. I'm actually surprised at myself for even doing it but I thought I may as well - for a laugh - although it wasn't funny. Also, it's totally illegal these days to catch super dangerous snakes and feed them to foreigners - can't imagine why?

So, Anthony Bourdaine eat your heart out [no pun intended.]

That was about it for Hanoi - well, as much as I can remember anyway.

Next is a trip to the hill tribe villages in Sapa which is right on the Chinese border.

Cam on and Chuc ngu ngon

Mmmm...din dins

Mmmm...din dins

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22 November 2005

One Night in Bangkok

A bit dodgy, really...

So I arrived in Bangkok relatively safely and booked into my really nice hotel. Woooooo!

Then after the general kind of 'oh shit, what am I doing and where the hell am I?' kind of stuff, I decided that I wanted some food and took a stroll along the dirty flyover where my hotel was perched.

Anyways, There wasn't much happening really until I turned onto one street with loads of neon banners and people sitting around eating and drinking in the street.

Looked ok at a glance.

I didn't really want to make it obvious that I'd just arrived in town so I kind of put me head down and played it cool. Strut down the street and sit down at some outside bar type thing.

The fella came over and took my order and I got some fried noodles - and a beer.

So after the fella went I looked around to see where I was and directly in front of me was the 'FreshBoyz' club and to the right of me was the 'Futureboyz' club and next door to that was the 'Hotmale' club all with varying degrees of campness and outrageous ladyboy 'things' hanging around. Every now and then there would be a pretty boy/girl strolling past with his/her t-shirt tied in a knot and demin hotpants blowing kisses at me.


The worst part was that when I actually looked to see who was sitting in the same bar as me, it was a smattering of really [and I mean really] dirty, western sexpests leering at the him/her whadyamees.

The one old guy sat behind me with bleached cropped hair was the worst - I think it was his "studded leather vest" that made me finally leave.

So then I went back to the hotel and cried myself to sleep and got up at 5am and flew to Hanoi where I am now.

Hanoi is amazing by the way - stay tuned...



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20 November 2005

Saying Goodbye

...after a bit of a kicking

Thanks to the TaeKwon-Do crew for giving me a full-on beating at my last session yesterday.

I knew I was good at sparring but Ten-on-One was just a bit too much.

So thanks for that Mr Moreno!

Anyways,whoever and wherever you are, check out the Pantera TKD website:

Badass North London TaeKwon-Do Club

If you live in North London then go train there. If you don't - then move.

I'm off to Vietnam now so see you all later...

Saying Goodbye

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2 November 2005

Still In the UK

Not Long Now

Packing My Bags and buying some bog roll.

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