Well, i haven't updated since Hoi An, which feels like such a long time ago! I feel like now i wish i had stayed for an extra day or two in Hoi An, it was a pretty awesome place. Great food, great beach, nice hotel, it was all good. Anyway, we went to Hue next, which is just a few hour bus ride up the coast. The distance is short but the roads were going through mountains so it was mucho windy. We got into Hue and it was raining, this was pretty much the story for the whole time we were there. We checked out the 'perfume river', but we didn't get round to going to the Citadel because it just rained like crazy the whole time and it wouldn't of been all that fun. So instead we ate some good food, found some cool bars, and just chilled out a bit. Our favourite bar was the 'why not?' bar, cheap beer, free pool and other games. On our last night in there a couple of the staff ended up playing with us, we had some pretty intense games of jenga...not helped by the drinking. Anyway, about 4 or 5 days after we were in Hue. typhoon Ketsana made land south of Hoi An, but brought with it hugely heavy rainfall for Hoi An and Hue. Some people died and many were displaced from their homes, so we were very lucky with our timing.
After Hue we flew up to Hanoi (you've gotta love the cheap asian airlines), and spent a couple of days there. We arranged our Halong Bay tour through a company called Vega travel who had been recommended by loads of people. So we had some time to kill in Hanoi. It felt a little less crazy than Ho Chi Minh city, and i think i liked it more. We visited the lake in the old quarter and checked out the Ngoc Son temple, which has this old story about a giant turtle and a famous sword. We had some more good food, one place we stumbled upon was called the Gecko bar. At the entrance from the street all you could see was a long corridor with fairy lights directing you down it. From there you go up one flight of steps, and then a spiral staircase, we thought we were just being set up to get robbed! Anyway, we got to this cool rooftop place, great food, nice atmosphere, and no robbing. That works for me.
So we got picked up by our travel company at 7.45am, and the minibus picked up the other people on our trip. It took about 3 hours to get to Halong Bay, where we quickly got led onto our boat and had lunch. The boat itself was awesome, most of them are the same in Halong Bay. You have an upper sun deck with sun loungers, beneath this is the dining room area and then down and on the side of the boat was our room. Lunch was good, we all got to know each other. Then we cruised for about 1 1/2 hours over to a cave called 'suprising cave'. That was pretty good....and quite suprising....i guess. From there we cruised over to a bay surrounded by tiny islands where several other ships had anchored. We jumped off and did some kayaking, into a grotto where you go under one of the islands where there is a gap to paddle through. That was pretty cool. Then we paddled back to the boat, i jumped out of the kayak and steven fell in, i maintain my innocence in that! And then a few of us had a go at jumping from the top deck of the boat into the water. From the top it doesn't look so bad, but when you jump you feel like you are falling for longer than expected, and you hit the water pretty hard. Lots of water up the nose. Good times. Showered and had dinner, then a bunch of us sat on the top deck, drinking tiger beer, looking at the stars and the other boats floating around us, it was a pretty awesome night. There was one english couple who were the same age as me, and are both doing their masters in engineering at southampton once they get back, and there was another two english peeps, who everyone assumed were a couple but weren't, they were just travelling together. So we sat on the top deck and had a pretty good time.
We also had a couple from Paris, Barcelona and Hong Kong, although the dude in the Hong Kong couple was born in Vancouver, so that was cool to talk about that part of the world with him. I slept pretty well, the water was calm. We were told we could get up and see the sunrise at 6am, there were a few of us about at 6.20am, but the sun was coming up behind one of the islands, and it was a high one. So i went back to bed, got back outside at 7am and it had just come over the top. We had breakfast before 8, cruised over to another place where those doing the 2 night 3 day tour jumped off onto another boat. I was kind of wishing i had gone for the longer tour as we were with a pretty decent bunch of people, but i had already booked my flights back to Bangkok for the following day so i couldn't change my mind at the last minute :/
So we cruised back for about 2 1/2 hours to the harbour area, the whole place is just ridiculously beautiful, its hard to describe. So we were back on land at 12, had lunch and rode back to Hanoi. The following day we flew back to Bangkok, and i was keen to go back to the place with a swimming pool, so we went there. We had a few drinks in the evening, in one bar we were sat next to two finnish guys who were munching on a bag of bugs and asked if we wanted to try some, i tried a couple, and ended up buying a bag, getting a mixture of everything; crickets, grubs, and lots of other big things that i have no idea what they were. Anyway, we tried some, they had all been fried and salted so they didn't taste all that bad, particularly the grubs. I ended up sharing my bag with most of the bar and peer pressured people into trying them :D
Video of bug eating here :D http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52SDpjuqWhA
I don't remember much more from that night, but i remember we went to a club, where we met various people, but mostly i just remember thai girls being very drunk. I woke up the next day feeling pretty rough, so we just chilled out during the day, and went to Patpong night market in the evening. It was a pretty funny place. Its on a long street, and the night market takes up all the space on the road, but on the side were a whole bunch of bars and 'massage parlours'.....i used the quotation marks for a reason there if you catch my drift.....but yeh most of the bars had thai girls in bikini's dancing on poles, it was pretty funny to watch as we were walking past as most of then weren't particularly good. Anyway, i bought a couple of pairs of shorts, and we ended up at the end of the street, and there were a bunch of western eating places. We ended up going to pizza hut, and i struggled to eat all of my food. I think my stomach has been adjusting to thai food, and suddenly all this cheese and carbohydrates was too much for me!
The next day steven flew to Ko Samui, and i flew to Phuket. I decided to stay in the backpacker hostel in Phuket town, its a pretty nice place, and cheap, but a bit quiet. It is low season after all. 200 baht a night for a bunk with a fan, that like 7/8 dollars, 4/5 quid? Its weird, i've stopped thinking in pounds, i'm only thinking in dollars now. Its because in Cambodia and Vietnam you can pay with dollars and its easy to convert that local currency into dollars in your head. Aaaanyway, yeah its a nice place. There isn't much to do in Phuket town, all the resorts are beside the beaches. But its easy to get a sangewethu (or something) to a beach. I went to Hat Karon beach yesterday, there are red flags up telling people not to swim because its monsoon season and the sea is a little crazy but everyone was doing it anyway. There were some pretty crazy waves, and the riptide was pretty intense. When the tide was going out a few people got sucked out a bit further than they would have liked and the lifeguards had to go and fish them out because it wasn't easy to get back. It's a pretty nice beach anyway, in the evening i came back to the hostel, went to the market to get some food and watched a couple of movies with a few people in the evening. Right now i'm trying to decide what to do next, i do want to go check out the islands but i feel its just going to be more beach and western food, i'm sure they look amazing but i'm feeling a bit meh about it. I'm tempted to go north of bangkok to Chang Mai and Pai for a while.
My flight to New Zealand is currently scheduled for November the 3rd, as that's when my friend dave will be done with uni. But i'm thinking i might move the flights forward a couple of weeks, because then i can spend some time o the north island as well as the south! So yeah, i'm just planning and thinking today. But life is good.