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Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

Just when i thought it was safe, the country poisions me, Travel-log (day 71) Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam

In sickness, travel, Vietnam on October 29, 2007 at 16:50

I was enjoying my relaxing time in Sapa. I woke up thursday late and found myself craving water spiniach and garlic. I managed to find it easy enough. I ate it and i enjoyed it. I walked around, i used the internet, i walked around somemore. Eventually i also ate a small bag of kettle chips, a small peice of chocolate, and some curry fried vegetable rice. All harmeless foods, or so i thought. By 6pm my stomach began to hurt violently. The cramping sensation felt vaguley familiar and registered as food posioning. I tried to sleep, and i guess i must have managed an hour or so but then around 8pm i bolted awake with the sudden realization that i was about to puke. The good news is that i made it to the bathroom. The bad news is that i only managed to make it tot he sink. As im sure you can imagine, it would not go down the drain. I had to remove the plugs to the sink and let it drain onto the floor and used the shower to wash it away down the drain. I felt much better. The pain in my stomach had become a dull ache. I managed to sleep that night albiet very poorly. I woke up friday in the morning. I laid in bed for a while and decided that i needed to go get some sort of food and somethign rehydrating to sooth my stomach. They don’t have gingerale here so i ended up buying one can of coke, one can of tonic water, one can of soda water and 3 small bread rolls. I only managed to stay outside for 20 mins before i ended up crawling back up the 4 flights of stairs to my room. I got back into bed. I managed to eat 2 bread rolls, drink 0.5L of water, and one can of coke. 3 hours later i found myself runnig to the bathroom. Then the pain started. Different from before, this was full body pain. I could not find a position that did not hurt. All of my bones were screaming in agony. I finally figured out that this was a fever. I took some pills to try and bring it down and releave some of the pain. It didn’t help. Somehow i managed to fall in and out of conciousness but between cold chills, feverish sweating and clear delirum i had the fan on the window open and was sleeping under a heavy duvet. SOmetime in the morning i woke to a knock on the door. Tine and Ken had come to tell me they had arrived in Sapa. As i got up i realized i was soaking wet with sweat and that nothing hurt anymore. HA! fever broken! I wasted the day away mostly in bed. I did manage toeat breakfast and dinner and was hopeful for sundays long bus journey to Dien Bien Phu.
Sunday morning arrived for me at 4 am when the roosters started crowing.. the sun was not yet up. I tried to go back to sleep but the damn birds wouldnt let me. Eventually i got out of bed, finished packing, spent some quality time with the toilet, and took a shower. All the while i was ordering my digestive system that it had better behave itself. At 7 am i was downstairs and ready to go to the bus.
And then there were two.
Dien Bein Phu is not a popular western tourist destination. We paid the hotel $13 basicly to take us to the intersection the bus would come by and have someone wait there to get us on the right bus. A bus arrived around 8:15 beeping and speeding around the corner. With hand motions our guy tells us this is the one. I look at the Dutch guy and we both start laughing.
Question: How much can one 18 x 6 x 6 ( all in feet) mini bus hold?
Answer: 36 vietnamese people, 5 aisle sized boxes, one huge duvet not compressed but wrapped in plastic, 5 suitcases, about one square foot of random stuff i could not identify because people were sitting on it, one tall dutch guy, one fat american, and 2 large backpacks.

And that was just on the inside. Our seats of ocurse were in the back. We waked over boxes and people. My feet never touched the actual floor of the bus, in fact i couldnt even see it. The conditions were horrible at best. But thepeople were estreemly friendly. No one spoke a word of english and they knew we did not speak any vietnamese yet they kept speaking to us and waiting patiently for our replies. After 3 hours the bus started to clear out a bit and we were able to get more comfortabe. The next 3 hours were filled with more fun. A minor accident with a huge box of apples ( it fell off the roof while we were speeding down the road) created an instant party. Apples were passed around and laughs were had. I was having a wonderful time, and then my body reminded me that i was in fact still stick. I found myself pleading with my large intestine like people plead to God when they think they are going to die. Only instead of promising to be a better person i promised to eat more fiber and less spicy food. The last 4 hours were torture. The curvy mountian roads were mocking me with landslides and rock piles. Slowly we sped along and finally arrived at 6:20pm. We got off the bus and tried to figure out where to go when a guy came up and in his 5 word english vocabulary said. Hotel. two people 1020 dong. He meant 120,000 dong ($7), it was more than i wanted to pay but at this point i just needed a real toilet and i didnt care about anything else. So we went accross the street and booked in. I spent ample quality time in the bathroom and thanked my digestive system for wcollectively achieving a small miricle 10 hour bus ride. We went to explore town but after about 90 mins i started to feel ill and left mr dutch guy to go back to my room. The digestive system i once praised was now causing me extreem distress. I made it back to my room and finally broke down and took the 2 pink pills for travelers diareaha. I tried to just let it un its course but it was just too painful.
Today is my last night in Vietnam. Hopefully i will beable to survive the journey into Laos. I will be without a phone until i get to thailand in aprox 2 weeks.

Yesterday i flipped someone off, Travel-log (day 65), Sapa Vietnam

In travel, Vietnam on October 23, 2007 at 21:17

I started walking back to the train station and i realized i should probably eat. I just wanted something simple like Pho. I found a pho place full of locals, so i went in. They seemed very confused but ran over to get me a menu. It was of course all in vietnamese but i knew roughly what the vegitarian food should look like so i searched the menu for somethign familiar. When i didnt find anything i got out my phrase book and tried to get them to understand i did not want any meat or any fish. Once they understood that they handed me a new menu, but this one only had rice dishes. So i searched more to try and explain that i wanted vegetable Pho. My pronunciation must have been worse that horrible. Finally i asked for a pen and wrote it down. Pho rau. When it arrived i filled my soup bowl with garlic and chilli paste which was sitting on the table. It was a huge bowl of soup. I couldnt finish all the broth. The people inside were rather nice, and for a moment i forgot that i had recently decided to hate this entire country. That is until i continued my walk to the trian station. There were many groups of laughing and pointing. Staring and oogling. But it was the group of 10 guys that started laughing and calling out to me to go over to them and mocking the way i was walking that i guess pushed me over the edge. And unlike my normal self in anger i stuck up both middle fingers and continued to walk away. They stopped laughing but i did not turn around to see what they were doing. I got to the trian station and got my bag out of the locker and proceeded to the waiting area. Eventually i boarded the train. The people in my sleeping cabin seemed friendly enough but i was not really in a socializing mood so i took out my sleeping bag and promptly went to sleep. I woke at some early hour in the morning to the sounds of people waking but a still dark room. We reached the train station around 06:15 and i paid for a mini van to Sapa 35 km away.
It is cold here. I am literally in the clouds. The people are friendly. They are still curious of my colour, size and hair. Just a few moments ago an old lady came up wo me and hugged me and tried to put a hat on my head. She almost didnt let me continue walking which i found a bit annoying, but she wasnt mean about it in any way. I think i ­ill stay here a few days to relax and read.

This morning i took a bath, Travel-log (day64), Hanoi Vietnam

In travel, Vietnam on October 22, 2007 at 19:37

Cary and i boarded a bus in Hoi An at 14:00 on thursday afternoon.  We drove through Hue and it sure enough was flooded but not nearly as much as i had expected. We still continued on to Hanoi. We arrived in Hanoi around 06:00 friday morning vert tired and disorented. After searching for 40 mins we ended up at a hotel near the freeway. They promised us a room for $6 a night, plus free breakfast and free internet. We gave them our passport information, but not our passports as i needed mine to get my finnish residence permit issued at the embassy, and  Cary took the opertunity to keep hers as well. They tried hard to get us to book a tour through them but we didnt know what we were doing so didnt want to book anything just then. We put our htings in our room and had to kick one of the employees out as he was laying on one of the beds and jokingly refused to leave. After settling down a little we decided to explore a little. We ended up finding a tour for Halong bay for cheaper than the guys at the hotel quoted us and at a company we actually trusted. We stayed out all day. Some tme around 8 we stumbled back to our rooms completely exhalsted and ready for bed. We walked inside and imediately they ask us if we are ready to book our tour now. We made up some lame excuse about our other friend already booking one for us. They looked confused and annoyed. We said good night and walked up to our room excited about the showers we would soon be taking. We were in our room for about 10 mins when there was a knock at the door. I was too tired to think not to open it. It was the guy was the front desk. He stands there in front of us and sayd ” room $10″ We argue as it was promised to us for $6 when we checked in. he goes on to tell us that since we did not book a tour through them the room was now going to be $10 for the night or we get out. At this point we have basickly been awake since yesterday afternoon and its dark and we dont know the city very well at all. Cary tells him that we need to pack and we shut and bolt the door. We stand there dumbfounded, not completely understanding what just happened. 30 mins later he knocks on the door again demanding we pay the $10 now and that we nolonger get any breakfast. We reluctantly agree to pay him $8 for the room and onec he leaves bolt the door again. Id like to say i slept with one eye open that night but the truth is i was so tired i passed out as soon as my head touched the hard pillow. I did however cuddle my backpack. In the morning we liberated the mini fridge of 2 cans of coke and 2 bottles of water before running off to catch our tour bus to Halong bay.

Halong bay was breathtaking. We cruised around on a boat for a day. We stoped one to see the most touristy cave i have ever seen. It was clad in bright blue and pink lights. It even had a man made water feature.  The first day was spent completely on the boat. The next morning we docked at Cat Ba island where we would hike up a mountian and later take a boat to go kyaking. All the while we were in the bus to the start of the hike our tour guide kept looking at me and explaining how hard it was going to be. When we arrived he said anyone who thought they couldnt do it hsoudl stay here. He meant me. I went along to prove him wrong.  The hike started like a vertical climb. I lasted a book 15 mins and then puked. I decided it wasnt worth it and told him id go back and meet them. He did not hesitate and left me to catch up with the others. I said there confused for 30 mins then slowly walked back down the mountian and meandered along the windy road next to the sea. As it turns out that was the best choice i have ever made. I heard later form the others that it turned into jagged rocks. They returned with bruises and cuts all along their legs and told me about when they had fallen. I was bruise and cut free. The kyaking was wonderful though. its hard to describe the calming beauty that was surounding us.

 We returned to Hanoi sunday afternoon. Cary had some time to waste before she boarded a night trian to Sapa, and i was going to share a room with our new Sweedish friends. The hotel room had a bath and i spent about 2 hours soaking in warm to cold water then took a shower. I hadnt felt that clean in quite a while. Today i got my Visa for Laos and bought my train ticket to Sapa. I leave Hanoi in 2 hours. I have grown tired of Vietnam. Today 16 people took my photo. I dont mean i was standing in front of something beautiful and they just happened to get me in the shot. I mean they stop directly in front of me and point the camera in my face. I cought 16 people trying to be sneaky. I started posing and asking them if they had gotten enough and if i could see them. The people in this country are rude.

It's all fun and games until someone gets attacked by a monkey, Travel-log (day 59), Hoi An Vietnam

In travel, Vietnam on October 17, 2007 at 12:16

The bus from Dalat to Nah Trang made me sea sick, but the ride was beautiful. I arrived in Nah Trang and walked around the beach by myself. I decided i had had enough of being by myself so i booked a boat tour on the “party” boat.  The trip started out with the tour guide standing at the front of the boat with a microphone singing “My heart will go on”, you know.. the song from titanic. First we snorkled, then we ate, then we drank the worst wine ever while holding on to life savers floating in the water. The wise tasted like nyquil, but with more actual alcohol. Needless to say…. we were all pretty drunk.  I spent the rest of the night hanging out with people i had met on the boat. We stayed out until sunrise the next day. I only slept 3 hours before going out again to meet them for lunch.  In my sleepy haze i let someone talk me into going on a boat tour the next day to Monkey island. This was the worst tour ever. The first stop is on an island where they take you to feed ostriches, and deer. The next island you walk to see a waterfall that didnt exactly have much water falling, and then we sat down to a plentiful seafood lunch. This of course means.. i had paid for food that i couldnt not eat. The finaly 3 hours later we go to monkey island. They hearded us into some seats where we were to stare at the “animal” show. Performing monkeys, dogs and goats. I watched for 10 mins with my mouth gaping open blinking in shock. They abused the animals, and the tricks they were doing were not even interesting just sad and pathetic. I decided id go for a walk and atleast take photos of the “wild” monkeys. The MOnkeys however had other plans. I watched one girl get jumped by a pack of monkeys. We got a little scared so started walking together thinking we would be more fearsome in a pack. The moneys were not afraid. At one point they surounded us and flashed their teeth. We walked slowly back to the beach and to our boat. The monkeys followed. I wasn’t afraid of monkeys before.. but i am now.

I took a bus from Nah Trang to Hoi An monday evening. A night bus. My chair squeaked and the passengers on the bus wanted to kill me. I managed to survive with only two bruised knees from the chair in front of me which had been bashed into my legs repeatedly thoughout the night. We arrive din Hoi An to find it raining, but beautifuly crowded with old buildings and taylor shops. I got a coat made. Its lime green, and wool. And i love it.. and it was taylor made for me, and it was only $35!

I had grand plans to go to Hue today, to see old temples and bycycle around. BUt Hue is flooded, and so i will be skipping it and going straight to Hanoi.

The Vietnamese keep pointing and laughing at me, its getting quite annoying. But all is still well and i keep meeting great people.

The city of groaping, Travel-log (day 53), Dalat, Vietnam

In photos, travel, Vietnam on October 11, 2007 at 04:39

I arrived in Dalat yesterday afternoon. I was the only one on the bus not booked through a tour, and thus the only one who had no accomidation pre arranged. This meant that when i stepped off the bus all the people who own hotels and guesthouses in the neighbourhood swarmed around me. I was feeling lazy and just went with whomever managed to get their card in my hand first. I did pretty well. A $5 room with hot water and a tv. In Dalat a fan isnt needed. In fact i slept with a blanket on because i was actually cold.

Dalat is a city full of hotels. It is aparently the place honeymooners come.I walked around most of yesterday afternoon and when dinnertime came i desperately searched for this veggie resturant that is suposed to be super wonderful. Needless to say, i never found it. I walked back in the dark and decided i was tired of exploring alone. I woke early this morning and walked down to the tour company and booked myself on the sightseeing tour around Dalat. Most of the sights were just ok, if not unbelievably cheesy. At one place i found myself away from the others on my bus. I saw spoted by a local trying to sell me things, but when she got closer she of ocurse felt the need to feel my hair. I didnt mind so i let her. This was a mistake! She called out something to her friends and then before i could move i was surrounded by 10 vietnamese woman. They were grabbing my hair and rubbing my scalp. One woman even grabbed my boob! After about 5 mins of fondling they decided they were done, but remembered they were trying to sell me things. I did not feel the need to buy but i almost insisted they give me something for free for my troubles.

Dalat is in a very beautiful part of Vietnam. Full of trees and lakes, and waterfalls, but one day is enough. Tomorrow i am off to Nha Trang! To the beach.

All photos of cambodia are now uploaded on flickr, and my vietnam photos so far are also there. I have not been taking anywhere near as many photos so far in vietnam.

C'est comme Paris!, travel-log (day 51), Ho Chi Minh Vietnam

In photos, travel, Vietnam on October 9, 2007 at 06:03

Ho Chi Minh is like Paris… except its full of Vietnamese people and not French people. The traffic here is something else. Its a small miracle every time i make it across the street without being creamed by a motor bike, or car, or truck, or bicycle. Yesterday i did a walking tour with a Belgian couple i met on the boat from Cambodia. It was fun and hot and long. Today i relaxed a bit more. I went to a few museums and walked around trying to find a SIM card for my phone. Through a series of hand jestures and about 20 mins of me speaking extreemly bad Vietnamese i managed to get a SIM card and add money to it. The SIM card cost me 100,000.00 VD ( like $5) and it came with 100,000.00 VD of calling credit . So basickly the actual SIM card cost me nothing. This phone should work until i leave vietnam. I would like to think it will work in Laos, but its not likely to.

I have again grown tired of city life and will be leaving tomorrow for Dalat. Feel free to call me at any time. It will cost me nothing, but it might cost you a few arms and legs.

from the us and canada 011 84 90 7409838

from europe +84 90 7409838

Feel free to leave voice messages if i dont answer, though i havent yet figured out how to check them.

NEW PHOTOS There are alot of them. They are mostly photos of buildings. might be boring.

Pre Rup temple

Eastern Mebon

Ta Som temple

Neak Pean temple

Preah Khan

Angkor Wat

Angkor Thom

Ta Prom

land mine museum

Banteay Srei

temple i saw the sunset at, i dont remember its name

Saigon ,Travel-log (day 49), Ho Chi Minh Vietnam

In travel, Vietnam on October 7, 2007 at 07:08

The Mekong looks like frothy chocolate milk but i have found no golden tickets lately, and the boat driver’s name was not Willy, nor Wonka i know that this river will not make my taste buds twirl and leave a smile on my face as my stomach is fileld with chocolately goodness. It would however fill my belly with an assortments of bacteria and make my insides twirl. My boat ride from Cambodia was fun. It was relaxing and long and cool. The boarder crossing was painless. We got off the boat at the boarder and a woman told us to follow her, so we did. She told us to pay the man 1000 reil ( cambodian), or 3,000 dong ( vietnamese) (0.25 US roughly) for the health inspection, so we all paid the man the money. Strangely enough there was no actual inspection of any kind. She then told us to give her our passports, so we gave her our passports and all hearded into the resturant we were told to go into and waited. She returned in 20 mins and told us which boat to get on next. All in all it was fun.  We arrived in Chau Doc about 2.5 hours later, got off the boat and walked to the hotel we were suposed to stay at if you had booked the multi day tour. I did not book the tour but the hotel was the one i had  marked in my guide book anyway, so i went along. I was going to stay in Chau Doc for 2 nights and leave for Saigon on sunday, but after arriving in chau doc i realized there was not enough there to stay 2 days. So with a lack of ideas, or rather pure laziness i booked myself on the tour that the other people on the boat were on. This tour would take me to a few towns i wouldnt have bothered going to. The tour was… interesting? We woke early for the complimentry breakfast which included bread, butter and jam or cheese, and a drink. We were then shuttled arround to random places. They described them in ways which made them seem interesting but really they were just opertunities for us to buy things. Though they were interesting a little. I saw some weaving at an over priced scarf market in the Cham villiage in the mekong delta. I saw rice noodles and rice paper being made which was actually really interesting. And i saw incence being made 2 times, once by hand and once by machine. This was boring but atleast somewhat informative.  We saw alot of floating markets which was fun to watch. And now it is sunday and i am sitting in an internet cafe on a street i cant pronounce in the wonderful city of Saigon. Yes, thats right.. Saigon. The map might say Ho Chi Minh, but all the locals say Saigon. 

Vietnam is A LOT cleaner than cambodia. The people are a little more friendly, or atleast not so eager to free me of my money. They are however a bit more direct. In Cambodia, they are farely dark skinned, and so my skin wasnt so much of an issue to them. They were however mezmerized by my hair and my aparently larger than life sized arms. Here in Vietnam, they are preoccupied by the colour of my skin and seriously confused by my hair. I spent most of friday and saturday telling people it was infact ok if they wanted to touch it. They mostly declined my invitation but the moment i turned my head tried to sneak a feel then run off before i could turn around.  I could get tired of this quickly.

I bid thee farewell Cambodia, Travel-log (day 46) Phnom Pehn Cambodia

In Cambodia, photos, travel on October 4, 2007 at 18:12

My bags are mostly packed and i just used up the last of my Cambodian money on a boat ticket to Vietnam! At 07:00 i will get on a bus which will take me to a boat. this boat will go very very slow and take most of the day. But i am looking forward to a relaxing boat ride after 4 days in this busy city. I have managed to upload some more photos but there are still many many more.
Boat ride to Siem Reap
Banteay Kdei
this one might be mixed with another temple. i am clearly wearg 2 different shirts in these photos so im not sure what i managed to do but for now we will say its all the same place

photo update

In Cambodia, photos, travel on October 2, 2007 at 05:19

I have managed to upload some more photos. I only managed so far to upload photos i took up until september 23rd. They can be found in the Sihanoukville folder and the Kampot and Bokor national park folder.

The absense of humanity, Travel-log (day 44), Phnom Pehn Cambodia

In Cambodia, travel on October 2, 2007 at 05:04

Why do people flock to the aftermath of death and destruction? Even after you see it you can’t understand it. You can’t make sense of it because it does not make sense. But still we come. We look. Maybe we need proof that it happened. Today i went to S-21, and the killing fields. I stared at the photographs, at the faces of the victims. They were mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. They were children… so many children. They were innocent. They were human. I walked through the buildings trying to find some explination. I started to feel guilty for things i had no part in nor knowledge of. I was not yet born and i couldn’t have stopped it. But it is still happening. In other places to mothers fathers and children. And still i do nothing. I looked at the photographs. Some of them had been written on and at first i thought it was rude. Then i realized they were photographs of the “bad guys” and i didn’t feel so strongly. But as i continued walking and watching the lines between victim and criminal became blurred. When do you become a victim? I thought i knew, but i don’t. Are you a victim first when you are forced to pick a side? Or are you a victim only once you pick the wrong side? Are you a victim still when you choose your life over someone elses? And if we can all be victims from the start and regardless of our actions after, than who is to blame? I walked through all the buildings. I took some photos, but there were just so many. So many dark corners, so many secrets. Eventually i stopped going in, i just slowly walked past and looked into the windows. I find myself now trying to make some sense of it, but i know there was no sense to it.