Blogging is a discipline and I am feeling the wrathful lash of being required to sit in internet cafes to feed the ravening hordes! Despite the discipline I love you still and comments are welcome ūüôā

Hu√©.¬†After the¬†rigors of¬†Hanoi,¬†it¬†was¬†a relief to escape down the coast. Not that it isn’t a nice city but the hustle is wearying.¬†We embarked on a sleeper bus to Hu√© for 12 hours (these things are amazing¬†– felt like¬†I was in a spaceship!) which was great and I actually got some sleep. Hu√© contains¬†yet another World Heritage site – the old royal palace compound from which the affairs of Vietnam were carried out. It’s an enormous walled city block with a huge moat, surrounded by an even larger wall which contains the entire old part of the city. It was heavily damaged in the war but is now being restored. The Palace is huge and you can see how it may have been pleasant to while away the days accompanied with eunuchs and a harem of the most comely ladies. Harumph. We also hired some scooters to go and see an impressive monument Tristan saw from the window of the sleeper bus. Unfortunately he must have fallen asleep again because after driving for 70 km out of the city on State Highway One, no sign of this¬†apocryphal structure had appeared. Instead we were informed by a nice railway signaller that it was only another 40km away, i.e. smack bang in the DMZ which takes most people an entire day to go and see. Ah well. Hence ‘I’m sure its just around the corner’. 140 km on a scooter is not recommended. On the plus side we are both still alive.On the way we saw many war cemeteries of Vietnamese dead. Many of them unknown soldiers.

Hoi An.This is the most beautiful placeI’ve seen so far in Vietnam. Very laid back and flat (good for biking)¬†and the old part of the city is very pretty with frangipani flowers draping themselves over the street and the tailors (that the city is famous for) hawking their wares with languorous detachment. Actually that’s not true, they are as sharp as anywhere else, I just wanted to use the word languorous. And it was hot. Mid 30s, so where do you go if you are dying of heat? The beach of course! Palm trees and spring rolls. And the ever present hawkers trying it on constantly with trinkets, gewgaws and sunglasses. Always with the sunglasses. Anyway, I also celebrated my 28th birthday in Hoi An, a romantic dinner with Tristan overlooking the river and then onto the bar trail, one bucket down (they put in some kind of Vietnamese stuff similar to¬†Red Bull and Vietnamese ‘Rhum’ that probably contains¬†amphetamine of some sort) we ended up at the beach dancing! Coming back to town I uncharacteristically told a moto driver I would rather give birth to a chair than agree to a ride home. Sometimes you just have to be firm. Next day head not so happy. Insha’Allah or something!

Nha Trang.This is the place people come to party at the beach. Formerly a major location for American GIs to go for R&R. It has a 6 km long¬†beach and lots of hotels! Arriving at 6am from Hoi An, the beach was packed with Vietnamese! They really have a thing about preserving their skin during the sunny day, something to do with preserving their beauty for their husbands and also maybe something to do with peasants being browner from working in the fields so staying white is in, tanning is out. Anyways, didn’t do a hell of a lot here, mostly sat on the beach and drank beer with some mad guys we met in Cat Ba. On their good authority,¬†the pool at the beach bar I spent my birthday night at is a pit of carnal pleasure and STDs. Shocking. We hired some scooters and decided to do a two day mission to Dalat, inland and slightly south west of Nha Trang.

Dalat. Wow. What a drive. A new highway that cut 100 kms off the journey from Dalat to Nha Trang was opened 2 years ago and allegedly is the highest mountain pass in Vietnam. Waterfalls, landslides, sheer cliffs and impressive engineering work. The mist again is present and the area is very sparsely populated so fairly natural looking. Dalat has a large lake at the centre and is very hilly, like a Swiss hamlet! It’s very known for its coffee and wine. Also, it is terribly kitsch and perfect for Vietnamese honeymooners. It was very quiet on the foreigner front and the Easy Riders (motorbike tour guides very desperately trying to secure our patronage). We visited the ‘Crazy House’, an architechtural nightmare built by the daughter of a former president of Vietnam. Some kind of Hundertwasser-esque hotel with themed bedroooms and mirrors on the walls and ceilings… awesome. We also visited a naff waterfall and it started to rain… and didn’t stop. Unfortunately we needed to get back to Nha Trang in order to catch our bus to HCMC. We fitted some cheap 50c ponchos and bravely decided to try the journey back. Pouring rain and stinging droplets in the face. We witnessed two overloaded scooters skid out with 2 people on one and 4 on the other. We stopped to see whether they were alright. The rain was carving great grooves in the deep orange clay cliffs and pouring across the road. At a certain point it intensified to such a degree that we were forced to seek shelter in a shed that was no doubt used by the highway builders. I’ve never experienced rain like that. I’ve been inside but never outside in it at speed. It’s painful! There were others sheltering there as well and once we had dried ourselves and knocked back some tea and rice wine shots we were ready to brave the elements again once it had slackened. The journey was very hairy but also something I am¬†proud to have completed – it¬†took 5 hours (compared to the 3 and 3/4 it took the previous day in blazing sun). A warm shower and change of clothes and a night bus to Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City.

Now in Saigon and leave to Cambodia tomorrow morning.

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