Google PlusFacebookTwitter

Hoi An is Pure Travel Porn

By on Nov 8, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam. Okay I’m going to say it, go out on a limb and just be done with it, no embarrassment or blushing, no pillow talk. Simply put: Hoi An is pure, unadulterated travel porn. There I said it! I’m so in love with Hoi An that I’m going to use every clichéd saying under the sun; It’s the perfect mix of old world Asian charm, home to some of the most tantalizing gourmet Vietnamese food and the perfect place for  romantic strolls under glowing paper lanterns that light the barmy evenings. Everywhere you look children play along the quiet alleyways and as you stroll along the river you are gifted with glimpsing insights into artist’s studios, ancient homesteads and a way of life long forgotten. Your senses are carried away with the aromas of simmering broths and incense sticks to a faraway place, all helping to suspend you in a sultry evening of everything you dreamed Asia to look like, plus everything you didn’t. Needless to say I think Niki and I really liked Hoi An. After a dramatic entrance and Niki collapsing, we ended up spending 5 amazing days here, just wandering through the museums and temples by day and strolling the along the river at night in search for the best dinner and of course dessert. It’s very easy to put on a few kilos in Hoi An, in fact my beloved told me I should “buy some fat pants” today. I blame Hoi An! Here are a few recommendations that are well worth the visit. Cargo Club: Neo Colonialism is still well and truly alive is this amazing bakery come cafe come restaurant. I knew about the  Cargo Club well before we arrived in Vietnam. Its name is legendary on the travel circuit and anyone who has been to Hoi An has certainly eaten themselves in to a slow death with one of their many, many, many pastries, desserts and gourmet delectables they have to offer. My brother’s girlfriend highly recommends the Tiramisu and I would have to agree! Needless to say, Niki and I had to be rolled home every night after we would finish here. Come to think of it, there were a few lunches that we need to be rolled home from as well. Secret Garden: Sort of defeats the purpose of telling you about this secret restaurant, however it’s a gem. I’ve always found my favorite places are down quiet alley ways that aren’t as popular with tourists, however this place is on the way though. Hands down and I surrender, this place had the best Vietnamese fusion in all of Vietnam and the restaurant is beautifully placed within an Indochinese setting. Yes its expensive compared to South East Asian standards, but the servings a big, the staff are beautiful and the food amazing. The free samplers you get at the start are indescribable. Phu Quoc Hotel: Another best of moment goes to this great hotel. Recommended in the Lonely Planet it’s a 5mins bike ride to the Old Town and has spacious modern rooms with room service, free breakfast, swimming pool, cable (hey I’m on my honeymoon, I can watch TV on my holiday), the most friendly staff and free internet. I’ve paid more for less in Australia and the flowers the gave us because it was our honeymoon was a nice touch. Rule No. 10 of being married – Never tell your wife a second helping of dessert is probably not a good idea, apparently women have a dessert stomach? Now for my last suggestion and one of my favorites. Wait for night, than head into the old town, cross over the bridge and head to the lantern quarter of Hoi An, it  truly is a kaleidoscope of colours and characters. Anyway what an amazing 5 days! I nearly killed Niki three times and I have only been married for 2 weeks, which so far makes it about a 30% chance when she wakes up that I’m going to some how endanger her life. It is definitely worth a stop in Hoi An and arguably the number 1 destination to visit in Vietnam. Tomorrow, we are off to Hue and the cultural heart of...

The Hoi An Cyclo Challenge, Vietnam

By on Oct 27, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam. Arriving back to our hotel from our anti-climax of a relaxing morning on the beach, we received a knock on our door, considering I just got undressed to change out of my bathers I decided to just go ahead open it whilst being completely naked!  Just as my hand gripped the handle to pull it open, my bravado encouraging me to do it, Niki walks out of the bathroom, looks at my hand trembling towards the handle, instantly she knows what I’m about do and before I can explain myself, falls onto the bed laughing as if this was the biggest joke she had seen all week. With my encouragement burst like an over inflated balloon, I yelled “just a second”, grabbed some clothes and opened our door to the friendly front desk attendant. The staff at Phu Quoc Hotel are the best in all of Vietnam and as we recently found the attendant  got married only a week before, Niki and she would enjoy a number of girly chats over the week. However this time her face was smiling yet straight to the point, she said with an almost life and death situation voice, “we would like to you to be in a game show for the hotel”. Instantly I knew I couldn’t pass this opportunity up, how many times in your life do you get to be in a Vietnamese Game show right? So before I knew what I was doing, I agreed. This was one of those times I should of clarified a few things before I agreed to it – my mind takes me take to a time in Bangkok when a Thai lady asked if I wanted a happy ending with my massage, this was another time I should of asked more questions before jumping in and just saying yes…..okay maybe not, but you get the point. So after getting dressed and running down the stairs, the request became a little more detailed, in fact, it morphed into a totally different concept all together, I was going to be riding in a Cyclo Rally from the town center to the beach we just rode from. This time I was to be the passenger whilst I left it up to a professional to do all the hard work, or so I thought.  As the challenge was only for me, I felt bad about leaving my new wife but before I could say “Comme onnnnn down”, Niki was being chucked on the back of a motorbike and became the official photographer for the event, whilst I was going to represent Phu Quoc Hotel in basically an over-glorified Miss Cyclo Universe challenge.  As Niki headed off, I jumped on the back of another motorbike and hurled myself towards the starting point and where my carriage awaited. Arriving to the starting line, drums were playing, beautiful Vietnamese women were walking up and down holding banners like at the F1, I had underestimate the seriousness of this event. All the other hotels and tourist companies each had amazingly decorated cycles and an adopted tourist to come for the ride. They were dressed in amazing Vietnamese silk, brightly coloured sashes and other iconic clothing and here I was, in an outfit more closely resembling pajamas than finely tuned racing gear….I was in trouble (I put all my clothes in the wash that morning). Mentioning my dilemma to my motorbike rider, he said Ill fix it and rode off into the sunset. Niki and I were sure he went to a local tailor shop and before I could say “can I buy a vowel please”, I was wearing a red women sash with the hotel’s name on it. Now I just looked like an over-sized candy cane, but it would have to! I met my cyclo driver, a man half my size but with legs built like rocks and Niki went off to begin her photojournalism. Half and hour of waiting and my driver suggested I sit on the driver’s seat and Niki in the passenger seat for a photo; this happened to be the same time the race began! So before I could say “What is a three wheeled bicycle”, the driver gave me a sly smile and pushed me off. I had just become the next Michael Schumacher of the cyclo world in this PR stunt and it was about to backfire. Pushing the heavy pedals  to get up to speed whilst following the 20 other cycles along a route that would take us through the old town of Hoi An before onto the final destination, Cua Dai Beach.  It was surprisingly easy once you got momentum, Niki was loving it and people were lining the streets to wave and cheer. Naturally I embraced this. As I turned the first corner, watching all the cars still on the road as I was riding along, this was about the time I realized I hadn’t had the chance to ask the basics….like where the brakes were for instance? And as I waved back at people, who for some odd reason seemed to be overly waving at me as if they were trying to tell me to look out for something, I heard Niki yell out “PETER WATCH OUT”! Well apparently they weren’t so much waves of excitement and love for me, but...

Cua Dai Beach Vietnam

By on Oct 3, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam. After our disastrous ride from the day before, today I decided to treat Niki to a lazy day by the beach, so with that we jumped on our bikes…..pedal power this time for the 5km ride to Cua Dai Beach. It was a relaxing early morning ride, pass rice paddies, lily fields and kids heading off to school. We followed the Thu Bon River as it bends towards the sea, finally arriving at the empty beaches of Cua Dai. Parking our bikes up and paying 100k dong for two sun beds, we relaxed into an inspiring view of crystal blue water lapping against perfect white sandy beaches. The water was cooling against the already sticky morning, the sand was burning and the slight breeze was appreciated. The perfect touch was a beautiful old lady, with aged lines intriguingly crafted into her face who sold us fresh mangoes and a pineapple expertly cut, quartered and skinned. This woman knew how to use a knife and I was envious, if not slightly afraid, of her skills. This lasted for about 2 hours… Rule No. 8 of being married – Providing relaxation time is always good for your wife = Happy wife, happy Life! By 11ish the mainstream tourists had woken from their slumbers and nosily made there way down the beach and decided to plunk themselves on both sides of us. This was the beginning of the end of our relaxation time. Now I’m not usually so grumpy and anti-tourists (each to his or her own), but today was meant to be quiet, meant to be relaxing, meant to be chilled – and then the pawn (I can’t spell it the other way as Google will hate me) star pervert come camera man arrived. You know the type. The one with a camera pretending to take images of the ocean, instead zooming in on women in bikinis as they sunbath, as the put sunscreen on or participating in any other American college year movie stereotypes. What got me was he was so blatantly obvious about it, that I cant believe no one else noticed. So if you were on the beach in Hoi An in July perhaps keep an eye for “girls go crazy in Vietnam” DVD which might be released on YouTube soon. This was also the time that three lively tourists plunked themselves down and decided to roast themselves to oblivion and I’m talking blisters and skin cancer territory. Not to mention the loud, boisterous and slightly rude bargaining they begun with the pineapple lady. Is it really that important that you pay 20 cents more than a local? We can afford it. However this was nothing compared to a particular badly behaved British couple that were about make an appearance. So let’s set the scene: All the sun beds are lined up under umbrellas, so everyone has a perfect sea view of the beach in front of them and can pull the beds forward to get into the sun without blocking the other person sight. So lets welcome our tourists, who stroll in and instantly throw their clothes to the ground, pull out their beds and then in the most bizarre thing,  turn them sideways and place them in front of everyone else so they can’t see the water. WHAT THE!?!?! I was seething, this isn’t good beach etiquette and totally disrespectful. So what did I do? I wrote them an imaginary letter. Dear British Couple on the Beach in Hoi An I am writing to you to inform you that just because you think you have god’s gift of a body, it doesn’t mean you have the right to make everyone look at it. And no, contrary to popular belief no one wants you to pop your pimples in front them, it’s just not cool. I didn’t pay my money to witness that! So next time you come to the beach, please don’t put your chair in front us so that you completely block our view from the beautiful sea view.  Instead, grab a mango, be a little more considerate and chill out! Your sincerely Peter PS Get a wax! With that, I felt my stress levels going through the roof and decided enough was enough, jumped back on our bikes and headed back to the hotel to mope. I thought of putting a book together of all the rude and annoying things travelers and tourists do – what do you think? Dear American Tourist in Italy, no one wants to hear you sing to your boyfriend at the back of the bus for 2 hours, and then turn to him and say “I think I should become a singer” in a non joking manner. I’m sure I’ve done some rude things and I’m not perfect, but generally I try to think of others whilst I travel.  Anyway enough of my soap box, for today was just warming to be one of the most memorable days in Vietnam…I was about to become a...

My Son and the Ride of My Life in Vietnam

By on Sep 30, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam. Hindsight is a mixed blessing, it can give you the ability to look back at a situation and laugh about all things funny, or the chance to look back and say “what the hell was I thinking?” Well today on our trip to My Son, it was going to be a one of those “what the hell was I thinking” kinds of days. Earlier that day, Niki and I decided to hire out scooters and ride the 35kms to the ancient temple complex of My Son, a sort of smaller version of Angkor Wat. I grew up riding bikes and feel reasonable comfortable scooting through traffic, however my beloved wife having only attempted once in Thailand, was in a different league of her own. When the bike shop owner asked politely if we wanted to share a bike, memories of our last attempt sharing a bike came flooding back – the wind in our hair in remote Laos, my beautiful wife to be holding on to my waist like lovers riding through Rome…the small rut that I hit, Niki falling off and the  broken shin bone Niki received from this, it all came flooding back. Instantly looking at Nic thinking the same thing, I knew we had to get a second bike, neither that I had reservations about letting her even get close to the road, let alone ride on them. “Niki, you have to go faster than 10kms an hour, it’s not safe” I yelled as I zipped passed her on my scooter. After getting past her wobbles, refueling and getting out of Hoi An’s traffic, we started playing the game of cat and mouse. For the next 35km I would ride ahead, stop and wait for a couple of minutes, than Niki would cruise by, allowing me to repeat the process all over again – it was tiring.  After heading straight for a good 45 minutes, we hit our first major issue, a set of traffic lights! Being advocates of the British driving side, Vietnam developed it’s road’s like the rest of Europe – incorrectly. With nothing to loose I simply closed my eyes, prayed to the higher almighty and gunned it! All I heard was Niki yelling from a distance “waittttt fooooorrrrr meeeee yoooou bastardddddd!” Rule No. 7 of being married – Wait for your wife! It will save you a telling off. The rest of the trip to My Son would be cruisey, as all the turns would be in our favor, coming back though was going to be a different story and it was obvious Niki hadn’t realised this yet. If she had, I’m sure she would have turned around on the spot. We arrived into the complex of My Son, being told that we could park under the shade of a tree by a local women, only to get off and be told we had  to buy a drink from her shop for parking there – damn the Vietnamese were good, how do I keep falling for these tricks?! After a cold drink, we then realized we were 1km away from the actual site and it was pointless parking where we had. Laughing, we jumped back on our bikes and headed closer. As we got closer, another person, looking a little scarier, told us to park in a car park. The car park more resembled a dirt bowl; however who am I to judge? Then the scary looking official told us that we had to pay for parking, handing the money over and seething through my teeth, I knew this was going towards his Saigon beer allowance. After a good two hours, we finally begun our walk into the My Son complex, the massive site consist five regions of temples, buildings and other ancient delights. Considering it hundreds of years old, it’s aged well. After walking through the various complexes and passed a giant phallic that Niki pointed out (That’s my wife, always keeping an eye for the good stuff!), the incredible heat was starting to make us look like British tourists in Spain. With that in mind, we headed back to our bikes to head home. The ride back started off well with the exception of Niki falling off her bike…..whilst standing still. The roads were empty; this was mainly due to the fact that the roads were eerily quiet due to siesta. I broke the trip up in my mind into two intersections and a Y junction to navigate and we would be home free. Five minutes before the first one I pulled Niki over and discussed the game plan, stick with me and when I say go – we go! So heading towards our first and biggest intersection, I yell to Niki “GO” and without out looking back I merge into the endless stream of traffic, it was like a work of art! Looking over my shoulder to make sure my beloved was with me, only to look back to see Niki at the intersection still –  paralyzed with fear, tears overwhelming and a look on her face similar to a women trying to eat jellied eels – pure disgust! Zipping back to her, I can see she has had it, the incredible heat, the insane traffic and the weary body from riding a bike, I could tell all she...

Love, Sweat and Tears in Hoi An

By on Sep 3, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam. “Peter! Listen to me, I need a taxi!” my beloved wife said sternly to me. My Response: “I can’t find a taxi! It’s not my fault there are none around, don’t get narky with me”. Her Response: “I’m not getting narky; you’re bloody lost and can’t admit it”. My Response: “I’m not lost, I know where we are, and the map doesn’t lie” (Apparently it does). Her Response: “The man back there said we were lost and you told him he was wrong”. My Response: “What do you want me to do then?” Her Response: “Well, I’m going to ask the person over there to call a taxi!” My Response: “Nic, she doesn’t speak English and we don’t speak Vietnamese”. Her Response: “arhhhh you’re so frustrating” My Response: “you’re so frustrating”. My Response: “Nic don’t cry, it won’t help us” Yes my dear readers, Niki and I were having an expedition into our first marital argument whilst lost in the quiet suburbs of Hoi An. Today, Vietnam decided to throw everything as us and we fell to our knees. Rule No. 6 of being married – Don’t tell your wife not to cry, because it probably your fault that she is in the first place. Niki and I were feeling a little stressed this morning and for good reason, we had just spent 12 hours on an overnight train from Sapa arriving into Hanoi at 4am, before jumping onto a plane bound for Danang, then catching a taxi to the local bus station to jump on the most horned obsessed crazy local bus we have ever travelled on. After stopping and starting for over an hour, we then walked 3 kms into the remote suburbs, the complete opposite direction to our hotel all whilst swimming in 38 degree heat with our huge packs on. Needless to say, things were getting a little heated between us. Now being a man, I take full responsibility… and blame it on my guide book for not telling me there was a second bus stop, which incidentally is where we were dropped off. And due to this reason it was no way my fault for Niki and I being lost. Yes, I told the local man who was trying to help me he was wrong, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. So when I finally found our way, with Niki close to tears, sweat pouring off her from the ridiculously hot walk, me steaming that I was lost, Niki did the only normal thing to do upon entry to a hotel – she fainted! It was no little “Peter I don’t feel so good”, drop to the floor type of faint, it was a climbing up the steps to inspect our room type of faint. One of those moments when I get the chance to act out my Doctor fantasy’s and yell out “we need water here stat! And Nurse mop my brow”.  I’ve never seen so many hotel staff run around before and as she gained consciousness again, I quickly stuck my head in the room, said it looks great and hurried Niki onto the bed. For the next 4 days, everyone would  make sure Niki was treated like a Queen. The Phuoc An Hotel was one of the best budget hotel’s I stayed in in Vietnam, if not the best. The staff were genuinely friendly and all gave excellent service, the rooms were immaculate, the breakfast great and of course free bikes into the town was an added bonus. I would highly recommend you staying here. This was also about the time in our trip that my battle with Giardia finally stopped me in my tracks, I couldn’t move anymore without feeling sick, keeling over due to severe cramps and running to the toilet. It was to the point that I needed to get medication, admit myself to Hospital or take out my pocket knife and slice out my bowel – I preferred the medication option. So after Niki was feeling a bit better we hurried down to the local chemist to get some antibiotics to nuke my bowels. We needed Tinidazole and we knew we could get it over the counter, but not before a game of charades to explain my symptoms. With six people involved and a lot of hand gestures we finally got our message across with the help of a friendly lady who walked in off the street. Who then, with me obviously just explaining my severe problems and sense of urgency as I was holding on for dear life, said “do you want to come down to my Sister’s tailor shop”. Which I politely smiled and said “Umm not right now, I need to go back to bed”. Obviously not letting go that easy and here I thought I might get leniency as I was dying, she said “It won’t take long”.  Which I apologetically responded “Sorry, but it won’t take me long till I burst” and with that I run back to the hotel to sleep for the next 24 hours. The adventures into Hoi An would have to wait for another day and needless to say, things were just warming...

Trekking Sapa, Northern Vietnam

By on Aug 11, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam. I was beaten, destroyed to the core and past the point of no return. I was exhausted, shattered, cracked, smashed, distort, deranged, confused, broken, in pain and ruined – and that’s just the travellers diarrhea! I haven’t even started to tell you about the way I felt after an obscenely long hike through Sapa’s remote wilderness. The day before, Nic and I had talked with the hostel manager and booked a day hike through remote villages and wilderness. Before his recommendation on which tour we should do, he simply asked “are you fit?” I strongly responded in my gladiator stance “I’m fit enough to carry a small ox”, he must of been in awe at my sheer adventure man attitude that he didn’t hear Niki say “no, not really, I just want a easy walk through some local villages and rice paddies”. 15kms into our intense 28km trek the next day, Niki flopped onto a rock, her eyes confirming that our marriage was being tested for the first time. I didn’t dare tell her that I just confirmed with our guide that with the exception of climbing Mt Fansipan, this is the hardest trek in the region. I was going to kill the hostel owner if I ever saw him again! Trekking, we started the morning meeting our Hmong guide, a young lady by the name of Xo.  After the introductions our motorbikes arrived and we jumped on and started our day’s tour. We weaved high up into the mountains on this chilly wet morning, the wind in our hair, cascading waterfalls in the distance and a happy wife, I felt  raw adventure pumping through my veins. This was what I wanted, no mass tours or well trodden paths, a real off the beaten experience. After 20mins we arrived into the mighty Tram Ton Pass, also known as Heavens Gate. Unfortunately though, heaven had blanketed the whole area with fog to keep the secret from us. So after a disappointing start we headed back down the pass to the Silver Waterfalls. With recent rains the waterfalls were flowing at full strength whilst falling from an incredible height. Getting a few romantic photographs in our wet weather gear, Nic then wandered off to find a bathroom – she would come back a changed women, never able to bring the strength to talk about her experience with the toilet, she has since developed a nervous twitch in her left eye when approaching an Asian bathroom. After the Silver Waterfalls we headed to the starting point of our hike – the local rubbish tip! Arriving here I was a little shocked, this wasn’t exactly the perfect picturesque start I thought of, the second thought was we were about to be murdered and our dead bodies dumped here. We jumped off our bikes and watched our riders ride off in the distance. We then watched our guide simply walk to the edge of the ridge we were on and simply disappear down a  very steep track leading down a rivine – game on! The first part of our trek was 2 hours straight down the side of the ridge. The track was slippery, muddy, incredibly steep and full of leaches. Climbing through prickly plants, over logs and fending of giant lost in time mosquitoes. As we hiked Xo explained the various plant varieties and what the Hmong traditionally used them for; from medicinal reasons to cooking. It was an amazing ecotourism experience. When the first leach of the day took hold of Xo’s ankle she gave a mighty squeal, even the strongest people have their weakness. This wouldn’t be last of the little blood suckers. We passed slowly down the mountainside, passing buffalo, livestock and local village children playing or working. At one point we came across six kids just sitting on buffalo and herding cows. At which point I turned to Xo and asked one of the dumbest questions I have ever asked anyone in my life – “What’s the difference between a cow and a buffalo?”  She gave me a look of are you kidding me and Niki adding to it “Peter, are you serious? Can’t you tell?” Xo simply said whilst laughing, “Horns”. Hmmm that wasn’t the best impression I could give her of Australians.   We stopped at a small waterfall for lunch at the bottom of the mountain. Niki was showing tiredness from the hard walk, however was still full of optimism. After we finished, Xo pointed to a long winding road up the side of a tall mountain in the distance, this was where we were heading. Niki gulped and then made the most fatal mistake of any trekker, she asked how much longer? When Xo responded “about 4 hours, with 3 hours going continually up “, I saw her optimism fall, it wasn’t til about 3 minutes later when she realised that she couldn’t turn back that I saw the last bit of hope leave her body. She was in it for the long haul and there was no going back, no matter how hard she tried to escape from the inevidable climb ahead. I could see in her eyes, this wasn’t want she expected when she said “I want an easy walk”. I could see in eyes that she was going to find away to...