Saturday, March 17, 2007

Vietnam, Halong Bay and Uncle Ho!

The American invaders were evil and ruthless, they fell out of the sky like falling fireballs, but we gave them shoes and they had books to read!!! Thata from a plaque at the Hao lao Prison in Hnaoi Vietnam. Where for a small fee you can laught at the communist propaganda on the walls and the pictures of American pilots shot down during the Viuetnam conflict, many pilots are smiling uncontrollably, probably theres a gun out of camera shot pointing at them!!!!
Anyway my eager beavers you have guessed it, its time for Uncle Bengy to read you all a story before you go to bed, this one takes me from ojne communist country to another, into magnificent bays and enctanting caves.
So my little devils let begin shall we?
After I last wrote I was waxing lyrical about the tubing in Vang Viene, it was so good in fact that I did it for a second time with a few Canadians and a random Aussie whom I had known from Chiang Mai. But this time we didnt go on the tubiong to finiosh it, we went on a uber booze tube and only got as far as 400 yards down the river before we settled in a bar with a massive swing where we got suitably plastered on the free lao lao and then witnessed Irish men in drag going down the river!!!
Then next day was a bloody bumpy and cramped bus trip to the capital Vietiene. I was squaced into the window as some fatty chose the bloody seat next to me and wobbled all over me for 4 sodding hours. I wanted to punch that wobbling gut into next week! Finally I arrived in the capital which is the smallest capital city I have ever seen, Vietiene is tiny. Yopu can judge a coties size by looking at its skyline and there is none there. The place is very continental and baguette sellers are a plenty. But the communist flags put a quash on any thoughts of this place still having any liking of the French, but they are still very frogesque none the less.
While In the capital; I met up with a mate from the trek in Chiang Mai and we ended up pissing about a little and drinking lots, but like everywhere in Loas all the bars shut early.
Now I have gone on about travel being surreal at times, the things you see, the people you meet. Some of it can seem like an odd drug infested dream. Well how about this then?
I was sitting on a bench reding the Vietiene times (English lanaguage very poorly writen daily, ark at me I can tak with all my spelling mistakes), then suddenly this figure passes me, takes a double take and walks over. Well sod me sideways with a broomstick. I went to school with him!! How random and surreal is that?
Vietiene is basically very, very boring and once you have explored all it has to offer which is basically bugger all apart from ag golden temple is to get out ofd there. I picked up my vietnamese visa and off I went via Basil Brush airways to Hanoi.
I decided on a whim to fly to Vietnam and I dont regret it at all. I got to the airport and was walking to the plane along the tarmac and I was so excited as it had propellers, I had never been in a plane with propellers before. But my joy was short lived as we boarded a Vietnamese airways jet, but I giggled as it was a fokker!!!!!
I arrived in Hnaoi and bloody hell was it foggy and cold. It is there wet season in the vietnamese capital. Out came the jumper and the jesna nd the all stars for the first time. The rain drizzled constantly while I was there and after I had procured myself some dingy room and ranbdomly met a few people on the plane whom stayed at the same place I was we went out to get merrily drunky.
My time in Vietnam (only a week) was spent in 2 places, Halong bay, the magnificent UNESCO world heritage site and Hanoi itself. But the city was far far far too mental and I enjoyed getting out of it and the smog. I have never seen so many motorbikes before in all my life, they swerve in and out of the roads and the pavemebnts are so cluttered with what shops seem to sell or random bikes and people sitting on stall that you have no alternative but to walk in the dangerous roads.
I later learned that the Vietnamese whom are an immensely proud and aggressive race, blive in destiny so they just drive and if they die then it was ment to be. Well I dont want to die yet so I managed to get accross the roads by doing some motorbike dodge dancee that made the ocals point. But after a few days I was just walking right out ans they were avoiding me as I sauntered along the wet and mucky streets ruining my jeans and all stars! Some of the streets in Hanoi sell the same things. Its so odd as you walk down streets with the naems like Bnag po, Hnag cien, Bien bo and trang mut and one street will have nothing but bamboo shops, the next will be selling Communist flags, the next mirrors and the next frech meats all in bowls in the rain with dogs sniffing at them. Oh before you put meat and dog togheter, yes I have eaten dog meat. It was rather chewy, but when your hungry on a boat beggers cant be choosers!
Hanpoi is begger central and before you notice it there is 8 around you all drooling with fingers outsrteched. But they are not the biggest annopyance by far. In second place on the annoying Vietnam scale is the bloody book sellers, one of whom I almost got into a fight withm but I will elaborate on that later. These book sellers approach you and all of them have the same books: life of pie, Mr. nice, lonely planets phrasebook and some war book. You say no thankyou and continue to walk but they will follow you for at least 100 years. i went to see the Army and hostory museum but alas it was closed on Fridays and one collared me. I said no and walked off, so he followed. I said no again and yet he persisted. Then I looked at him and saiad no, so he hit me with his book! I thought sod this and turned to face him. Now I am not a big person but I towered over this little c*#t. He hit me again and I went right into his face and laughed at him and then he shouted and suddenly too army men appeared with ak47's from the museum (why do you need machine guns in a museum?). Anyway I continued to death stare him and he continued to blare on about 'why you no buy'. So I made that mock movement forward when you go to hit soemone or headbut them but you dont actually do it. The result was he flinched so violently away atht the books went everywhere and the army guys pissed themselves and laughed ands actually pointed at him. Then James this irish guy pulled me away saying that I would probably get shot anytime soon. So we buggered off and found the Lenin memorial statue instead and I stared at his bald head and beard.
But lets get back to the point shall we, the most annoying people arethe men whom own a motorbike and sit on street corners and vereytime you walk past they say 'motorbike' some even follow you as you walk and always offer you'something'. Now thats a novel word for drugs I must say. They piuss the hell out of me.
Some are comical like the guy who came over and said 'you need anything I have everything'. So I asked if he had Herpes and a black and dekker power drill and apparantl;y he said he did! I was then told to stop antagonising the locals. It wasnt me officer it was all this Bia Hoi I had drunk on the street corner, which is 2000 Dong a glass. There are 31,000 dong to the pound so it was by far the cheapest drink I had ever had, even cheaper than stealing!
As the money ios so useless I kept some foir prosperity, why have a 500 dong note at all? I took out 32 quid and was a bloody millionaire!!!!
Hnaoi seemed to be full of people I had met before, and soon I had seen almost everyone from the slow boat in Loas. Soon I found myself buying communist vietnam war art prints and drinking Hlaida beer with the guys and gals from the trek and the boat, a little reunion was held in a place called le pub and jusdt as I was breaking the seal a massive entire city power cut plunged us into darkness. I still have no idea where I realesed my bladder, probably in the bin!
Away from drinking now, I have beeen imersing myself in some of the culture. I went to the temple of literature which is a monumewnt to confusius and was a bit boring and I went to the Ho Chi Minh maseleum where in the style of Lenin and Mao before him Ho Chi Minh lies preserved in a glass case and you can wander past him and look at his whispy beard. Outside the guards have the funniest little changing routine where they do an almost goosestep but more mincy!
Ho Chi Minh who died in 1969 but wasnt put in that glasscase untiul 1975 (whgere was he during that time, in the fridge?) is the father of viuetnam and the father of communistm in the country. He is revered like the Thais love their king and I heard an American get lamblasted for likening him to Colonel Sanders! He is affectionaley known as Uncle Ho. How sweet, you can buy postcards, stamps, t shisrts, art prints even walking sticks with his face on the front. He is their uber leader, whom they love and adore to this day. His final resting place is a massive shrine to him and the gardens and houses and his cars are all beautifully restored! Uncle Ho is a legand in Vietnam and for me I liked the fact that hje was on everything and had some really coo proaganda posters. 'Come on and join Ho'. That one made me giggle.
The jail museum was more anti French than anti American, but if I were a yank I would avopid that country as they look at them with an air of 'ha ha ha ha ha ha ha we beat you' in their eyes. So they hate the French as they colonisedthem and imprisioned many freedom fighters, they hate the Amerricans because of the war and they dont particularly like the Aussies and the Kiwis as they joined in too. But they have nop opinion of the Brits at all, they like us as we look funny and have big noses (ha ha ha yes I know mine is a honker), but as we have never done anything to offend them we get along fine. Thats once they find out that you are not a septic!
The city was beginning to wear me down so I decided to go to the world haritage site of Halong bay,oh what a trip.
So with a muzzy hangover from Englans glorious victory against the FRecnh still in my mind and the beer on my breath I boarded a mini bus for the 4 hour journey to Halong bay. There I met a few randoms who were on my boat, or junk as it was an oriental style boat. The people on board were a great bunch and our first night yet again consisted of drinking a boat dry.
Halong bay is a collection of some 3000 islands and rocks and is magnificent and so majestic. I gazed at the cebnery and it was so beautiful that words fail me. The fog had lifted and even though it was dull it was clear visibilty and you could appreaciate all that you could see. That first day of a 3 day thingb we stopped off at a cave which name escapes me, but we nicknamed it Gary Glitter cave and there was a stone that l;ooked a little like a penis, so it had red lights shone upon it.
Luckily for me some of the people on the boat were funny buggers and up for a joke so we all giggled profuselyt at the long line of camera snapping Japoanese tourist all rubbing a stone that looked like a turtle. It was an assembly line of rubbing!
Outside the cave the harbour was full of little boats with women in straw hats selling beers and cakes, so we all stocked up on Halida beer with the gloroious old 1980's style beer ring pulls that compleatly come off and went back aboard. The crew went mental. 'You cant bring beer on here uin less its our'!! Okey dokey seeing as we have drunk you lot dry, well done!
Luckily on board we had this burly scot who spoke Vietnamese (he was a millionaire tax exile, thats why all the beers went as he bought them all for us) and he kicjed off and put them in their place as they were calling us 'bad people' in rather harsh veitanmese.
The rest of the day we spent kayaking and I hung back and managed to get one on my own. Oh what a joy, I kayaked through sea caves and one massive one lead to a huge bay where the water met shear cliff faces and the echoes when I clapped my hands were spectacular. If only it were sunny I thought, but I still dived off the canoe into the cold murky depths.
I kayaked around til it was late and dark and went around soem amaizing cliffs and jutting rocks. I was rounding a flashing life buoy and then I saw this other really small cave with light peering through from the otherside. I just managed to get through, I had to lie flat on my back and claw my way through but when I did I was rewarded with the sight of a massive oil tanker adorned with Chinese emblems sailing past. I kayaked towards it and the swell from the massive tanker made the kayak bob violently and at one point I thought I was going to be dragged under the waters never to be seen again. Note to self, dont kayak too close to oilo tankers! I was rewarded though as the massive metal hulk let off its horn and the boom echoed off the cliffs and rocks for about 30 seconds aftre and I was amaized. Then darkness fell and I had to find my way to our junk. I did and the drinkign begain with Bob the Scottish millionaire and former BBC radio presenter coming up with some of the funniest stories I have ever heard. There was a great little bunch with James from Ireland, two Britihs couples and some French people who loved the fact that we were lively. So they joined in wiht our binging until the ights went off and we had to continue outside with the massive shadows of cliff faces as our neighbours!
That nighyt we got so drunk we invented a woman called brenda puppy legs whom would become our little saying while we travelled around.
The next day we went to Cat ba island which is one of the larger islands in Hlaong Bay. Todays plan was to go to the national park to try and see the odd vietnamese semi monkey thing (but we didnt) and also to climb the mountain. It was cold so I put my only trousers on, some jeans and off we went. By half way up we were all covered in thick gloopy mud and my jeans were ripped to peices and destroyed. But the view from the top and the observation tower was worth the muddy climb. Then after scrambling up I found I could skip down very easily, strange that! I even managed to grind a log in front of some Aussie girls and stay on my feet to impress them imensely. Later on back in Hnaoi I woulds bump into them and have many Bia Hois with them before they got too drunk and one fell over!
We stayed that eveing on Cta ba island and I went for a massage that turned into a torture session where I barely walked out to the laughter of the others and then we explored the random marklets where kids followed you and stalked you around town. Old women with brown teeth chewed betel with red drool comming out of their mush and the sea front looked vaigly like an English resort but with communist properganda and large posters about keep veitname rice farming!
The next mornign after a street kick around with a few locals and gazing at the amaizing floating shanty town we got back on the boat and one of the crew members continueally tried to molest a small French child who took a liking to me and his mum gave him to me on ther bus and he shit himself, great!! Then he punched me and stood on my lap and I am sure it was dribbling!!!
The evening before we discovered somethhing that the Vietnamese have in common with the Jaoppanese, they bloody love kareoke!
We were on the boat heading back to Halong city through the monumental rocks and the fog got worse and worse, you couyldnt see anyhting and out junk had to hionk its horn every 30 secs just incase we came accross another one. We did howevere come accross a half sunken barge with a dog barking on the top and some random small boats that got so close that we had to pole them away! I stood on the upper deck up the rigging looking out into the mist, you could just about make out massive rocks with pagodas on the top and orther boats lighst in the distance but it was futile and the spotters were suggesting we head back to cat ba island!
Luckily we inched through the fog at the slowest speed the engine could muster and after an age made it into harbour.
Back in Hanoi the nrandomness of travel struck again as I bumped into Neil, Hazel and Steve from the trek and had a few beers with them and then the drunken Aussie girl night out ensued. I must tell you now what Bia Hoi is. It is heaven in a galss for next to nothing come to Nasm and try it!
Soon my time was up and after a few random things to do in the city like the turtle island in the massive lake where apprantly massive turtles live it was time to fly to Laos.
So now I am back in the heat and humity of Vietiene, but Bangkok bus beckons tonight and back to the city before I fly to Oz.I then rummaged through my bags when I got back to Vietiene the capital of little sleepy Loas, and to my horro one of my photos cds was cracked. Bugger, bugger, balls sod!!!!!!! But luckily it was from the first days when we all got travelling to the islands, most of which I managed to upload to a website and all the good ones are on anotehr cd and on my memory stick. But it makes you feel sick to lose som good ones, such as the ones in Bangkok and the party train and full moon and so on. Bugger. But thats life. I still have bloody loads though!
But alas now its time to go, I have been typing too long.
take care my chums
Apprantly I sound like Dudley Morre according to all the people on the boat???


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