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Showing posts from 2009

Ha Long Bay

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We take off for Ha Long Bay early Sunday morning. We decided to book the tour with the Kangaroo Cafe. The tour is more expensive than others, but the company is run by an Australian and boasts that they have the best tour of Ha Long bay. We take a bus to Ha Long City and have lunch. The lunch is one of those meals were you really wonder if this is it- the meal that will send you to the toilet for hours on end. Luckily no one got sick, and after a few beers we forget about lunch. Trent and I also met and enjoyed the company of 3 girls from San Fransisco who just finished taking the bar. We cruise around the bay to a large cave and take a smaller boat to the tourist trap of a cave. The cave is pretty cool, but like everything else, it would be enjoyed more if there weren't masses of people doing the same thing! We get back to the boat and Trent goes for a swim. After watching the sun set on the sundeck, we have an amazing meal.

We get up the next day and the boat takes off f…

Hanoi

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After a horrendous overnight bus ride, we get into Hanoi. Unlike the last overnight bus, this was packed with noisy locals and an awful smell that came from the frequently used toilet. It was on this particular trip I learn that Vietnamese have no sense of an orderly line. Since I decided to protest the bus's bathroom, I waited patiently for our evening stop. As a few of us started a line, these jokers just but in and stand right in front of you. Suddenly, I'd found my biggest petpeve of Vietnam. Not the sidewalks used for parking/driving, or shoddy (resourceful?) craftsmanship of what's considered a "fix" for any number of problems that tend to rise over time, or even the pushy peddlers. There's something wholly nonsensical about the disregard of a first come/first serve queue. End rant.

We arrive early at our hotel, and plan the next four days of traveling. Hanoi is similar to Saigon, but Trent and I seem to prefer Hanoi as it doesn't have th…

Hoi An

After a down day in Na Trang, we take the bus to Hoi An. This route is an overnight bus, filled mostly with tourists and this time we get a more modern bus. One sleeping pill and 12 hours later we arrive at 7 in the morning. Hoi An is a quaint little town on the river not far from the coast. It's known for hundreds of tailor shops and good cuisine. A good bit of rain settled in our first day here and our time was spent lazily shopping and eating.

First thing we do is rent a couple of old beater bikes and ride 4 km to the beach. At the beach, vendors compete with each other and lobby hard for your money. We sit at a local's little beach station, which looks more like a kindergarten patio set. We buy a coconut from him for a little over a dollar and then head back to our hotel, Vinh Huy. This was another place that the bus line was in bed with, and the accommodations are decent. As you would expect, these places are filled with tourists and it's nice to chat with…

Dalat and Cental Highlands

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We bought an open bus ticket to travel through Vietnam. A number of tour operators sell these, and we couldn't distinguish among the quality/price from our googling. The open bus seems like a convenient way to travel through the county, as you can get on and off at your leisure, but buses typically only depart once per day. You also have the option to get a "sleeper" ticket for a few bucks more. The sleeper is totally worth having the room to spread out for the longer distances traveled.

To depart for the bus we are told to be at the tour company by 7:30. We are promptly led to the bus line hub, and they help us decipher which bus is ours. In Saigon there are a number of buses leaving for local tours and other destinations. There's a mix of more modern buses and those that look like they've been around since the 70's. We got the latter, and our bus broke down about an hour in. At the stop we start chatting with a nice couple from St. Louis. Its actua…

Saigon

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Officially Ho Chi Mihn City, but everyone call it Saigon...and it is pure madness! I can't help but wonder how the traffic works itself out, but somehow it does. Little motorcycles ride every which way on the road and sidewalk. Be prepared to have nerves of steel when crossing the street. There are traffic lights, not necessarily used for pedestrians. Therefore, you must walk into traffic- VERY SLOWLY, looking the people in the eye so that they are aware of you. The millions on motorbikes coming at you will slightly swerve in order for you to continue across the street.

We take a taxi from the airport to our hotel, Quan San, in the popular backpacker district of De Tham. De Tham is smack in the middle of the Saigon craziness, but our hotel is tucked away in a little alley, offering a bit of reprieve from the honking horns and city noise. Our room is pretty small, but has a tv, fridge, AC, and internet all for $16/night.

We're eager to hit the food scene here. I am a big fan of V…

Nusa Lembongan

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We hitch a ride to NusaLembongan with a fisherman. The boat ride was very nice until we reach ridiculous swells. We get pretty wet, but once we get to our destination we realized it was all worth it! I LOVE NusaLembongan as it seems to be more our style. We first find a really cool place to stay called Bunga Bungalow. It has a lot of character, a great restaurant (the nasigoreng is to die for...I suspect it may have crack in it), and there are places to lounge and watch the amazing surf that rolls into the island. The first day Trent and I rent a scooter bike and travel around the island, which is particularly small (takes 4 hours on scooter to get around the island). We hear there is a cremation ceremony and take off on our scooter to check it out. WOW ~ is all I can say. They have large contraption, referred to as a Wadah, that is decorated and carries the dead and mourners to the cremation site. Once the dead is placed down at the cremation site it is set on fire. This …

Surfing misadventures

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Desperate to get in the water, I hire a guide to pick me up at Padang Bai. I agree to mutual extortion for the guide to drive out of his way as well as to rent a board. We roll up to Keramas and I see that the low tide has exposed the reef, but the swell isn't too intimidating for my first time in the water in almost 2 years. Has it really been that long? I follow the guide walking gingerly on the reef. There are only 3 other guys in the water, including a couple of spongers (body boarders). The guide drops in on a couple of 5 - 6 foot rights. I follow suit by dropping in on a beautiful set, and face plant. What the shit just happened? That pulls me pretty close to the reef and I end up getting a little cut up on my feet. One or two more face plants later, and I catch a couple of decent rights. Tide fills in, the size picks up a bit, and so does the crowd. We surf about a half day and head back to the hotel. Surfing isn't like riding a bike. Wish I could have a …

Ocean Views

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Hello from Padang Bai, Bali! Trent and I spent the last two days completing our diving certificate. We stayed in Sanur, Bali near the dive shop. The hotel we stayed at SindhuMertha Suite was really nice http://www.sindhumertha.com. Our room overlooked the pool.

The first day of diving was somewhat uneventful. We went diving off the coast of Sanur and it was somewhat choppy. We did two dives the first day to complete most of our "skills" for the course. The second day we went diving off the coast of Tulamben. The diving site was at the shipwreck US Liberty, which was a US warship torpedoed by the Japanese army during World War II. There was coral all over the ship and the fish were amazing. We also saw a HUGE school of fish. A woman just ahead of us on the dive said she saw a black-tipped shark ~ I wish we would have seen that! Overall, the dive was pretty awesome.

After we got our diving certificate we packed up and headed to Padang Bai. It is a port city that has a lot of cha…

Inland Tour

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Hired a driver today to tour some surrounding areas including some temples, rice fields, and Batur lake. Two words: tourist trap. At times I felt we were at the Baja border crossing coming into the states being peddled some plastic Jesus. But instead of a plastic Jesus it was a surrong, banana, or some manufactured wood carving.

Most of the stops were at temples. These were religious Hindu sites. The scenery was pleasant in some of the areas. Steps of rice paddies decorated steep hillsides. And at the bottom of the valley are colorful decorative buildings and large baskets of fruit offerings.


We had lunch overlooking Batur lake and accompaning volcano. The lunch was ok at best and we joined the multinational tourist brigade at the 4th stop on the days itinerary. Get me outta here.

While our driver gets lost for a bit, we see locals harvesting rice in open fields. Now it feels like a vacation. Arriving in Sanur, our hotel is a bit of an upgrade, we even have AC! We head back t…

Downtown Ubud

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Crashed hard last night and woke up to a thousand rousters at 5 in the morning. Our accomodations at Ina Inn are simple and set on a small rice field. 21 bucks a day gets you your own room and bath plus free breakfast. There is also a small pool with a nice view.



After a small breakfast and chat with a retired American, we set out to explore a bit. The architecture here is very ornate, even for simple houses. We step past many locals setting out little "offerings", consistent with Hindu religion. They are basically little plates adorned with flowers and a little food.





First thing we do is head to the Monkey Forest, which is a 10 min walk from our place. We were warned to keep shiny things put away, lest they be stolen. Plus Carrie's collegue was bitten here by a hungry expectant monkey last month. No thanks monkeys. It's interesting to see so many little monkeys running around, but also a little sad because the whole scene feels contrived.




I'm eager for …

Travel Purgatory - Singapore

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After a day and a half of travel we've landed in Singapore. It's been an odd day between lack of sleep and a 14 hr layover until the flight to Bali. We'd heard that the Singapore airport is replete with a movie theatre, swimming pool, and even a hotel. The plan was to kill time between flights at the hotel and hopefully adjust a bit to the time change (10 hrs ahead of Denver). Unfortunately all the cheap rooms were full. But since it was 1 in the morning and we were wide awake, we hung out until we could explore a bit. Turns out all of the in-airport fun requires you to have a boarding pass, so forget the pool, movie, or tour. Yep, the airport even does a 2 hr bus tour of the city.




Got some quick breakfast of Mi Siam (sp?), a short nap, and we bought 2 light rail (MRT) tickets to the center of the city. From there we caught a taxi to the botanical gardens. The brief experience in Singapore affirms what we heard: shopping is king in this city. Truely a consum…

On our way

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Currently sitting at DIA. We just took out the dogs for the last time and Carrie is a little stressed out about leaving the Adonis in his semi-recovered state. Long story short, Adonis had a really bad infection in his leg last week and he has been under close supervision since.



Yesterday we finalized our initial plans in Bali. After a day and a half of travel, we'll arrive in Ubud. It's a small arts and crafts town that is a tourists vision of local Balinese, but should be interesting nonetheless. There are musuems, interesting hikes, and a monkey preserve. We'll spend a couple of days there, then head to Sanur for our final certification dives.

I like to try and find a good travel book on my trips. For Italy it was Karl Marx (can't remember the title), Fiji was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and this time I'll try Atlas Shrugged.

-- Post From My iPhone

Scuba 101

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Today was the first lesson, of two, for our PADI confined water certification. Carrie was a bit nervous at first, but she settled in after some equipment malfunctions. The mask she bought was too big and flooded constantly. And her regulator separated from the mouthpiece, which freaked out the instructor.

The dive shop has highly recommend Bali, and we'll do our final cert dives there. The biodiversity in Bali is amazing, not to mention the abundance of solid surf breaks. Our plan changes daily, but we're thinking or first week will be spent there. I highly recommend traveling with a flexible schedule. Expectations change as you travel, and you don't want to miss out on an awesome recommendation because of an itinerary.

We've really enjoyed our experience so far breathing underwater. It's like snorkeling on crack. We're currently regrouping at Southern Sun with a fantastic double IPA, looking forward to our trip in a week and a half.


-- Post Fro…