Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An update?

Forgive the tentative title; I'm just not sure if this update will work or not. See, I can't even view our own blog here in Vietnam. Most internet sites work just fine, but for some reason, our blog always comes up blank. I'm not sure if this is some sort of censorship (our friend Adam says he can't view anything with the word "blog" in it in China without resorting to elite haxor skills), or just a problem with our blog, but I'm pushing forward.

Right now I'm waiting for Picasa to load my photos, then I can begin the annoying process of reselecting the ones I want to publish and uploading them. In the meantime, I can confirm that Vietnam is the most frustrating country I've ever visited.

We've had a lot of fun; don't get me wrong. But there are many things in this country that just drive me up the wall.

Today I was almost run over... AGAIN... for example. Right now we're in Ho Chi Minh City, AKA Saigon. The traffic here is more insane than anywhere else in the world, I'm convinced. I haven't been to India, so I guess I can't truly say for sure, but I'd be pretty impressed if it was worse than here.

The problem is that there are just too many motorbikes and too few traffic laws. Well, enforced laws, anyway. We've shot a little bit of video that will hopefully illustrate the situation, but I'm not sure whether we'll be able to post it on the internet or not.

Ok, done with Picasa. Looks like it will upload. I sort of breezed through the photos as I was annoyed with doing all the work again; looks like I have 43 to post instead of the 60+ that we originally selected. Oh well.

We begin in Hanoi. As I mentioned, we flew on Vietnam Airlines from Vientiene to Hanoi. Lovely. Took 45 minutes instead of 32 hours on the buses. Sure, it cost about $200 more, but, yo, that's WORTH it!

All these photos were from like 2 weeks ago, so forgive me if the details are already hazy. We've taken another 200 photos in the meantime so we're a bit behind.

Also, looks like the internet place is about to close up shop soon. I'm going to keep my comments brief so we can finally get this [censored] updated.

Street vendor in Hanoi. If people buy and sell it, you can find it on the back of a bicycle or moto here.



Cool beer 2500 dong. 16,000 dong is $1, so yes, this is pretty damn cool.



The 7-year-old who served us our cool beer.



Our new favorite Vietnamese dish, Nuong Bo (or something). Basically self-barbecued beef with tons of ginger and garlic. You also get tomatoes, onions and the most amazing dip in the world.



This is the dip.



I got a very short haircut in Hanoi and also trimmed my beard. I feel you need to know this for some reason.



There's a picturesque lake right in the middle of the old district in Hanoi. Some pictures to follow.







I screwed up the composition on this shot just a bit, but these were some very pretty fresh spring rolls we had at a "training restaurant" in Hanoi. Basically the waiters are street kids that learn english and a skill working there. Good food, too.



The fried variety.



Dessert. This was a little prettier than it tasted.



Halong Bay. We spent the first night on a boat; the next on Cat Ba Island.



Not a great shot, but it gives you an idea of what the bay is like. Tons of limestone cliffs.



This, to me, is the essence of capitalism. We're out in the bay, in the middle of nowhere, when this lady rows up with her fully-stocked boat. You could get Oreos, a dozen types of booze, Pringles, you name it. I thought this country was communist!



Very cool and huge cave in the middle of Halong Bay.





View from the top.



Just thought this was funny. There were tons of kids under the age of 10 rowing their own boats around the bay. Who knows what they were doing.



Our room on board the boat. Not bad!



Some of the people we had meals with and hung out with during our Halong Bay excursion. Danielle from DC and Harry and Greg (son and father) from Australia.



The water is really blue-green here.



See?



Cool standalone karst cliff.



Dinner at our cheesy-ass "3-star" hotel on Cat Ba island. The room wasn't bad; the restaurant was fairly terrible.



Our tour included some "trekking," which was just a short hike over a mountain led by this really old dude. Also pictured is this Chinese guy who was a really funny character. Half the time he would sit silently by himself. The other half of the time he would try to get people to do crazy things like jump off our boat into the ocean while it was moving, or make them pose for photographs while he directed them like Austin Powers (yes! yes! yes! no! no! no! yeah baby!).



Perhaps because our guide was 143 years old, we took a lot of breaks.



Pho Bo, the most common meal in Vietnam. Delicious.



This was an interesting musical instrument we saw in a museum somewhere. You play it by clapping in front of the pipes.



Common problem for me in Asia: Things are too small.



Liz makes some friends.



This is soooooo standard, not sure why I'm even posting it.



I lost my sunglasses right before we left for Hanoi. No problem, I picked up this pair of Prada replicas for $5.



Some kids we met in Hue. They all were learning English to work in the tourism industry.







Pizza! We finally decided to give the ubiquitous Italian food a try in Asia. Not bad, although I don't think these results are typical of what you'd get.



Here's something you'll often see in Asia: a beautiful lakeside setting....



... so peaceful and nice...



... you almost don't notice the massive piles of rubbish nearby.



The town of Hoi An, where the tailors and shoemakers will ape any style you bring them. I call this the "Err Jordan."



That's all for now. I need to get back to the hostel... the internet shop owner has closed his metal gate 95% of the way to fool the police that it's closed. I don't want to get in trouble in this country for using the internet too late at night. Adios!

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