A Travellerspoint blog

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Last Week

Spooky feeling about Impending Trip

overcast 8 °C

Hiii all,

So Here it is - The Last Week at work ~~~ almost scary.

So here I am on Thursday 1st Feb, twiddling my thumbs, ( same as normal really) and wondering when the email will be back up an running.

I need to set my 3 months AWAY message and if I don't I guess i'd have to stay in LBG an cancel the Sabbatical. hahahaha!!!!!

ani_bugsbunny.gif

Anyway just to keep all those geeks and Nerds who have nothing better to do than wonder why I have not posted yet..... (Ian ???) here at last is my first Post....

Everyone here is moaning about do this Lee or do that Lee.... Jeez Christ am I going to miss everyone so much.

Posted by Raedor 01.02.2007 08:40 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Saigon ~ Here we are

Melt Down

sunny 35 °C
View Saigon to ??? on Raedor's travel map.

Hi 1 & all,

Finally made it after quite an exhausting journey really.
My short stopover in Singapore was very tantalising and I'm really keen to revist this as it looks sooo amazing.

As you'd guess my co-travellers on plane 1 from H'row to Singapore was the retired old friendly couple called Ted & Alice who regalled me with their travelling stories in seriously heavily overtoned hallitosis flavours throughout. Rather sweet at times. He being the ex-fireman was a barrel-chested chappie who really needed a seat and half-a-wing to accomodate himself, thus ensuring my misery was quite complete with only 20" of the 26" (approx) being available to me.

Changi_Airport1.jpg

The second half of my trip was very good & I soon arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, where it took a good hour to get through immigration. God !!! your made to feel as if your smuggling a half kilo of something in even though your obviously not, but all the same shades of "Midnight Express" was everywhere. The luggage hall was a total riot with staff frantically throwing bags eveywhere to stop it all jamming up because everyone was taking forever in immigration !!!. I soon spotted my bag and quickly recovered me ole trusty backpack off the floor and was off. leaving all in the wake shouting and hollering????

Straight into the very hot furnace outside and the heat and humidity slams into you, Jeez no way you can ever prepare for this. Quite a few people desperate to grab your bag and make you get into their cabs ensure you move on past all for awhile. Gey your breath and jump into a nice clean looking cab and ask for Hotel whawteveritsnameis please and as your realise you have'nt haggled and are probably gonna have to pay him half ½ your sabbitical allowance in 1 cab-ride do you enquire and are assured when he says a nummber that seems to have 26 zero's but feel comforted that this is about 5 quid.

So after safetly arriving in HCM itself, my first stop was the shower where I became recivillised and chilled.

Next day I managed to meet up with some dudes from Warrington who gave me some nivce pointers a to where I should and should not go / avoid and various other things of value from a surviving point-of-view. They were going to one of the many museums glorifying the VN War so this is where i met the atrocities that were inflicted on this whole Nation indiscriminately by the proud ole USofA. You cannot stand and see some of the exhibits without tears in your eyes as it is very graphic and totally shows the brutallities and waste that Wars are all about.
No Winners

Horrors_of_War_1.jpg

Anyway on this chillin note i will test this out and post to all and I hope you all get it ok.

I will catch you all again real soon.

Byeeee

Posted by Raedor 11.02.2007 17:40 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Chuc Mung NAM MOI

The Party Begins

sunny 34 °C

Hiii All..

Apologies for not getting this blogg ofd to the start I was hoping to. However ... Holidays just sorta do that to you I spose. Chillin real out and an amazing time.

Saigon is a total cacophony of sights, sounds and smells all hitting you at once. Truly truly an amazing place. People are so friendly and helpfull and I think that despite being ripped off now and then, because it is generally small change its of no consequence.

Well having now gotten used to the heat and humidity and various other factors such as eating eyeballs .... yeah right !!! I ate rabbits eyeballs, goota say Rabbit was fine and the eyeballs sorted tasted just chewy really, rather lavoursome and not like your average eye would taste I guess.

I have eaten so much amaxing seafood and some of it takes some getting used to, believe me, one moring i was served what I could only describe as a steaming plate of about 10 translucent dogs bollux. I was sure that if I refused I would offend my hosts, so I gingerly began to eatr them and though not a speciallist in any way. The texture feel and jellylike glutinous shape they were made it so hard not to go into gagging mode. It sorts felt like one of the programmes you never imagine yourself being in......??????
So, I thought if they could all eat this then I could too and after an age I finally allowed the last glistening sliver to join the other bollux in my guts. Proud elation was my just reward. I finally found out when served again a few days latewr that it was shrimps wrapped in some sort of rice paper that becomes jelly like in the process.

Anyway, now going off to a Temple prior to celerbrating Tet in the town centre with usual fireworks etrc etc.

Seeeingggg you

Posted by Raedor 06:54 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Swimming in the China Sea

>>> Or into Hot black Mud <<<

sunny 34 °C

P1000179a.jpgHiii One & All.

Well I think the day is the 20th of Feb. I sorta lose track of time as things still seem kinda surreal and "Midnight Expressy".
Your never 100% sure that if all the attention you get is because you are truly being welcomed as a foreign guest or being eyed up for plump pickings or simply because they need to keep the jails full :)

Whatever I hope its not the later, but just paranoid ole me. I really do take my hat off to Mr Michael Pallin and his round the World travels. I try to emulate his style and decorum when I engage in sign lingo etc.......

Like two days ago I set off real early, bout 6.00ish, to hit the coast at a place near Vung Tau. I guess 'Ho Coc' was about 50Km further up the coast.

Anyway I was travelling in some relative style in a VN Taxi that cost about £40 for the whole day complete with driver and a VN family who have been acting I guess as good tour guides and generally being friends and who suggested that this was a very nice beautiful place and well worth the visit especially as they had relatrives right near rthe coast where we could chill out if ness.

So it was relly nice to get out into the real countryside and see the sights and all. We stopped 10.00ish for breakfast at a roadside bar and ate the as usual bowl of steaming Pho. So tasty and very easy to digest, who'd have thought noodles, beef, and freshly chopped herbs for breakkies could be sooo tasty. This then washed down wiith a nice pot of some tea whilst we chatted to owners of cafe and I had to play the game of guess the ages. Me having hair on my arms and legs always causes some amusement.

We finally arrived at their Fathers house in Phu'rÔc Bù'u, ( I think this translates to Southend cica 1786). A pretty poor but lively place. Here we had a dink and I was introduced to their Father who at 72 years of age could only partially see, however, he was a Professor of English, so I then had the most sensible conversation with a VN person for the complete trip to date. Very interesting guy
and some amazing tales to tell me. Very pro Margaret Thatcher and UK and quite disparaging of the whole VN government.

Finally onto the beach and then a glorious few hours lounging by the sea and chillin and swimming etc.

I was told that further up the road was a thermal spring resort well what thery actually said was 'mud streem'. But seriously this was a top quality thermal spring spa complete with packets of very thick mud which you plastered all over and then allowed to dry and then wash off in very relaxing baths.

This you followed with a swim in the thermal pools. I have never swum in natural water so hot must have been around 40+ degrees or hotter. There were warning signs all around not to exeert yourself as the heat can be dangerous.
It was only when you got out and dried off on a sunlounger that you realised how hard your heart and cooling sysytem was working to cope. You felt quite lightheaded and strange and I could see what they were warning you about.

So after a trip back to Fathers house and another quick bite to eat it was back to Saigon in the Taxi.

Oh!!!! when they accidently somehow played a Rap song on their car radio and I stupidly said it was quite nice, (especially as I was heartily sick of VN ballad music), I then had to endure 2hrs of thumping rap groove with the volume turned up to 26 on the richter scale and of course in true Pallin style I had to say how lovely it all was...............
The driver despite having to stop to wash his face to stay awake naturally became the demonic pumped up F1 driver we all love to hate. Music ... another dangerous class A drug really.

See yalllllll

Lee

Posted by Raedor 19:09 Archived in Vietnam Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Acclimatising

Further sightseeing

sunny 29 °C

Well, I find it hard to believe that I have been here now over 2 weeks. Feels like 2 months really and its so nice to know I have many weeks still to go.

Yesterday I took it easy and toured around Saigon in general. The Presendential Palace was quite pleasant and it seems quite scary see the tanks still there that actually rolled through the gates back in 1975.

However, I then took a trip across the Saigon River to one of many, I understand, of Ho Chi Minhs Palaces. This was really very nice and informative although being Tet not very busy which was nice for me.
(TeT is chinese New Year).

Saigon.jpg

Then went to a famous 19th century Temple. This is quite amazing and overpowering, you feel a quite humbled really and it is nice to make an offering to win that Lottery or Nirvana or whatever you so desire.

I thought you would like to see what $4½ a day can buy you in terms of room space.

My_Hotel_Room.jpg

Amazing really...:)

So as i gotta quite a stonking hangover from too much mixing of Vino last night I'll catch up with you all later.

Ciao & take care

Lee
(Off to Hanoi this Sunday.)

Posted by Raedor 20:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

HCM to Hanoi

>> On the move <<

sunny 35 °C

Young_girl4.jpg

Hi Everyone,

I snapped this picture when I was going to the Beach the other day in the Taxi guys car, touched up using Paint Shop Pro it seems to convey the feelings in Vietnam very well. She is a beautiful kid with a voice to melt your heart.

So I think its fitting that she somehow symbolises Vietnams future and growing prosperity. You cannot help but notice the stark contrast from very rich to very poor, although I have not in any way been pestered when I am out with local people or indeed even on my own you do not feel too intimidated. Sure, there are times when you feel as if your on the Moon and everyone is looking or glancing at you but thats kewl with me and as long as you are firm and respectful then things seem ok for now.

Lots of local people do however warn me about wallet snatchers etc etc etc which does have a tendency to make you feel paranoid, although safe is better than sorry.

Downtown_Saigon.jpg

Have done a lot more Temple visiting and only yesterday I was very fortunate to be in a Japanese Buddhist Temple when a very special visit occurred by the numero uno Priest. It was very reverential and Buddists from all over the world were also there including British, French and many others. The place quickly became jam packed and when I left about an hour or so later with my friend it was'nt far different from the recent Wilkinson rugby match to see everyone make a grab for our two seats.

Palm_in_Zoo.jpg

I grabbed this shot of this huge Palm in the Saigon Zoo along with seeing the usual suspects of Elephants etc.

Kids_with_Jumbo.jpg

It is quite sad to see animals treated this way, but then again things do improve albeit slowly. It is very sad to see Puppy dog sellers on the roadside, you somehow just want to impersonate an RSPCA official and confiscate the lot or do a Rolfy Harris and somehow save them all. Even today, as I was driving along with my friend, I saw a large bowl with I guess 20 or so terrapins/tortoises in and you cannot help but feel like you should do something???

I set off tommorrow to Hanoi, capital of Vietnam and have booked a mini tour. So 3 days in Hanoi, them to Ha Long and Sapa and back to Saigon for a total of 8 days. I must confess that even though I packed so light, it is still far tooo much to carry especially in the heat & humidity here. So funds are going quicker than I hoped but I do not think I will have any problems with the food being sooo cheap.

I forgot to mention that my friends father who spoke English soo well actually gave me his most treasured two books, one was about the Vietnam War and the other was more about POW in VN I think. As he was almost totally blind, it was even more touching when he managed to write a nice dedication in each one.

They have all been a real bunch of nice people to me and I will try to get a picture of them all and post on the blog.

Nyet___son.jpg

ATK.jpg

Anyway I best go now cos the clock is a ticking away. I have placed my £10 Skybet for Arsenal to thrash 'em 2-1 tommorrow and with any luck will see the game live in Hanoi.

Cyaaaaaaaaaaa

Posted by Raedor 17:14 Archived in Vietnam Tagged lodging Comments (1)

"News - Flash" --- Late Edition

Hi One and all,

Gardens_in_Sapa.jpg

Well I must apologise for not staying in touch, its so quite easy to do when your very busy not working or other similar things. Have to confess though that the vast array of foods and my carelessness has laid me up low for at least a week with the craps etc.
Added to which I got a heavy cold, almost went onto autopilot and rang in to work sick.

Trying to get antibiotics and other sensible medicines is a bit of a joke here with the language; you get something that helps then again it sometimes can backfire on you. Found this incredibly strong Chinese medicine which sort of resembles lead shot but made out of pure camphor or something sinisterly similar, however, when you have 4, 3xtimes daily they beat anything that the UK can give me in killing the gut bugs. However, where it has backfired on me was that when I was in Sapa, (North Vietnam), I bought some "Dried Shitake Mushrooms" and my so called friend Thu', instead of putting one mushroom to 1 litre of water put 4 or 5 to ½ liter of water, thus ensuring I was not out of sight of a loo for the next 2+days.

Anyway, as you can gather, I made it to Sapa and finally to the Chinese border at Lai Cao and that, maybe, will have to remain another adventure. There is so much itself to see and do in Vietnam although I am getting a bit blase about seeing Temple after Pagoda. Although all are each individually beautiful and unique, unless you have the right guide or book, one soon merges in with another. What always amazes you is where they keep on appearing, tops of mountains or big hills seems to be favourite places and so you will always stay fit & trim if nothing else. As it is still Tét here, (Chinese Lunar New Year) everywhere is busy and the holy places more than others because the more Temples and Pagodas you visit, I guess the more kudos and status you Karma incur's. I think that Temples are generally holy places where anyone can worship whereas Pagoda's are Buddhist specific.

Gateway_to_China.jpg

Sapa itself is a beautiful place and the H'mong people are really great & welcoming, very strong and proud of their traditions and always friendly and happy. Saying that, the VN people in general are very healthy despite seeming to take awfull chances with food hygiene and life in general. I am sure that the Buddhist way of life here is so ingrained its almost like a 'cést là vie' thing.

As well as a few days in Sapa I also stopped in Hanoi for a while and stayed a few days in Ha Long Bay. Even experienced a day or two of rain.

Travelling around on anything less than a coach is really not worth the hassle, for a few Dong / pennies more you get the luxuries so its worth it. Most major main roads have acres of rice fields surrounding them so its pointless to just go off wandering across country & jungle if you not totally prepared. So I flew to Hanoi on an organised tour thingy and a coach and train was laid on for the Ha Long & Sapa bits.

The sleeper train to Sapa was a train ride out of Hell, even though it was meant to be 1st class airconned all the way. However, due I guess to the track conditions the most we ever made was probably 30 mph and for about 3 out of 6 hours 5 mph. Added to which, because the track was so friggin bad every 10 secs you got an enormous jolt as you went over a sleeper .... pure hell especially as I had to endure it again on the return journey. Even drinking the local Worm wine 50% plus could not send you to sleep.

Worm_Wine.jpg

I tried this stuff at a local silk making factory where the poor expired Mulberry worms who after giving their all trying to make a sweet cocoon of silk for themselves, were infused with the local gutrot. Must say it tasted really nice :)

Ha Long was and is the most beautiful place you could ever imagine. Pure filmset stuff. Not only were the 3000 or so islands amazing in every way but on one island the cave complex underground was equally as staggering not only in beauty by by the sheer scale of the rock formations.

Me_on_Hill..ong_Bay.jpg

The main feature of the 6hr boat ride around these islands was the Lunch choosing ceremony at the local floating Kwiksave (or fishmarket).

Here from an array of pens we chose from either fresh 6" shrimps or 2' long squid or a whole host of other very nice looking fish. The chosen fish and squid was so beautiful and although quicky done it seemed to me that the sellers went about the dispatching in a heartless fashion to almost shock their customers before throwing them onto our boat to be cooked later.

Ha_Long_Squid_Lunch.jpg

Anyway, I will post another update soon, although Travellerspoint itself is a real pig to use because its so slow and when your in a Net cafe everyone seems to want to look over your shoulder and see what your doing.

Ciao for now

Ha_Long_Ba..l_boats.jpg

Posted by Raedor 17:55 Archived in Vietnam Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

"Keeping abreast of Events"

Still here & fighting flab???

sunny 35 °C

Well Folks

Sure as hell been awhile since I last wrote, despite all those promises to keep everyone updated everyday, the Internet is a slow and fickle beast here, particularly in Central Vietnam, Hoi An especially.

To say I have had a few good weeks would be an understatement. I made it to Campuchia, just, (Cambodia) and the infamous 'killing fields'. Visited grissly bone temples and villages where it seems that some of these massacres are very deeply instilled in everyones psyche. Must surely be equivalent to the Nazi gas chambers and the horrors that go with that.... these things can never be and should never be forgotten.

Skulls.jpg

Got there via a bone crunching motorbike taxi for the last 100Km's or so and a relatively comfortable bus/coach. Roads in many parts are diabolical & even though you try to sleep, (not on the bike, of course) the best you can achieve is a type of Zen state where the pain in your butt & other places somehow ceases to make it to your brain as the self-induced hypnotism takes over. Take it from me, a 100k on the back of a bike is really really no fun & although bight & breezy it is also mind numbingly sweltering hot & humid, especially the minute after you stop.

And as I mentioned earlier. I have been along the coast of Central Vietnam and have to say that Hoi An has to be my favourite place so far, though Vung Tau in the south takes some beating.

Hue.jpg

Hue2.jpg

( The above few paras were written a few/couple of weeks ago now... tsk tsk tsk!!! & so the next few paras are more relevant)

It is really interesting to note the amount of people taking an interest in my trip from work & other places, (Thanks Simon) & the hits on the blog have nearly made it to the 1500 mark. I hope that when & if the time comes that you can have a sabbatical, that my travels could inspire you to do a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

So...... I have now also made it to 'Nha Trang' on the coast & this is so gobsmakkingly beautiful, words nor pics can do justice to this place. I thought I had seen the best, but this takes the cake for me.
I finally succumbed here & tried the local massage, :) ;) :)
OK!!! I'm being frankly utterly honest here. This was the all frills but clean massage... though it has to be said I can easily see & understand why you can go the whole hog, but I just enjoyed the essential process & have to say it was more than great.
Steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzy etc etc women walking on your back as they hang off ceiling bars.... amazing how you can take pleasure in being walked on.

ani_cheshire_cat.gif

Oh!!!! and the best bit for me was the after effects / pampering etc where you are further indulged by having your ears dewaxed, shaved, etc, torture at the time & I'm told a little dangerous, but so good to hear again.

Dalat_2.jpg

Anyway after Nha Trang I made it to the famous Dalat mountain region in central Vietnam and where you are about 1500-2000 metres up and where it is about 15*-20* cooler. Very picturesque, beautiful and lots to see and do. Everything grows easily here and the fruit and veg is the best around.

Dalat.jpg

I have now booked the ticket back via Malaysia Airways and I have quite a long stopover in Kuala Lumpar, so may just have enough time to bungee off the Petronas Towers. www.petronastwintowers.com

Take it easy & hope to see you all soon in 2008. :))

Lee

Hue_hotel_view.jpg

Nha_Trang.jpg

River_view.jpg

Posted by Raedor 07:53 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

"Keeping abreast of Events"

Still here & fighting flab???

sunny 35 °C

Well Folks

Sure as hell been awhile since I last wrote, despite all those promises to keep everyone updated everyday, the Internet is a slow and fickle beast here, particularly in Central Vietnam, Hoi An especially.

To say I have had a few good weeks would be an understatement. I made it to Campuchia, just, (Cambodia) and the infamous 'killing fields'. Visited grissly bone temples and villages where it seems that some of these massacres are very deeply instilled in everyones psyche. Must surely be equivalent to the Nazi gas chambers and the horrors that go with that.... these things can never be and should never be forgotten.

Skulls.jpg

Got there via a bone crunching motorbike taxi for the last 100Km's or so and a relatively comfortable bus/coach. Roads in many parts are diabolical & even though you try to sleep, (not on the bike, of course) the best you can achieve is a type of Zen state where the pain in your butt & other places somehow ceases to make it to your brain as the self-induced hypnotism takes over. Take it from me, a 100k on the back of a bike is really really no fun & although bight & breezy it is also mind numbingly sweltering hot & humid, especially the minute after you stop.

And as I mentioned earlier. I have been along the coast of Central Vietnam and have to say that Hoi An has to be my favourite place so far, though Vung Tau in the south takes some beating.

Hue.jpg

Hue2.jpg

( The above few paras were written a few/couple of weeks ago now... tsk tsk tsk!!! & so the next few paras are more relevant)

It is really interesting to note the amount of people taking an interest in my trip from work & other places, (Thanks Simon) & the hits on the blog have nearly made it to the 1500 mark. I hope that when & if the time comes that you can have a sabbatical, that my travels could inspire you to do a once-in-a-lifetime thing.


See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.


Zoom out!!!

So...... I have now also made it to 'Nha Trang' on the coast & this is so gobsmakkingly beautiful, words nor pics can do justice to this place. I thought I had seen the best, but this takes the cake for me.
I finally succumbed here & tried the local massage, :) ;) :)
OK!!! I'm being frankly utterly honest here. This was the all frills but clean massage... though it has to be said I can easily see & understand why you can go the whole hog, but I just enjoyed the essential process & have to say it was more than great.
Steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzy etc etc women walking on your back as they hang off ceiling bars.... amazing how you can take pleasure in being walked on.

ani_cheshire_cat.gif

Oh!!!! and the best bit for me was the after effects / pampering etc where you are further indulged by having your ears dewaxed, shaved, etc, torture at the time & I'm told a little dangerous, but so good to hear again.

Dalat_2.jpg

Anyway after Nha Trang I made it to the famous Dalat mountain region in central Vietnam and where you are about 1500-2000 metres up and where it is about 15*-20* cooler. Very picturesque, beautiful and lots to see and do. Everything grows easily here and the fruit and veg is the best around.

Dalat.jpg

I have now booked the ticket back via Malaysia Airways and I have quite a long stopover in Kuala Lumpar, so may just have enough time to bungee off the Petronas Towers. www.petronastwintowers.com

Take it easy & hope to see you all soon in 2008. :))

Lee

Hue_hotel_view.jpg

Nha_Trang.jpg

River_view.jpg

Posted by Raedor 07:53 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

>>>~_-* Back Home Again *-_~<<<

There & back again

overcast 9 °C

Hiiii Everyone,

.

AT_as_Hmung___frm2.jpg

They say all "Good things must come to an end" and whoever it was needs shooting because its so bloody obvious and so bloody irritating, especially when it happens to you.

Still I have to admit I have been so dammed lucky to have had the opportunity to have done this. Thanks in great part to my employers, the London Borough of Greenwich, (LBG), having granted me a Sabbatical leave from work.
LBG_Logo.jpg
Which simply means that anyone who works for more than 20... YES!!! ... TWENTY years is allowed 2 months off with full pay. It is a really great perk and yet you do have to show true commitment and loyalty to them in return.

However, LBG due to a nationwide equalities policy called "Single Status", rather than showing true value to all their employees and keeping the Sabbatical as part of the Terms and Conditions of employment they have taken the easy option of now stopping anyone from benefitting from this very rewarding, 'chance of a lifetime' perk.

I hope the Unions can help persuade them otherwise as otherwise many employees will not be so lucky as me and unable to experience Life to its fullest.

Seems as if LBG are merely thinking of the pennies rather than the true welfare of its Staff.

To keep the 'Sabbatical' for all staff would show exceptional valuing of its employees and be a Beacon to other authorities about how to foster goodwill and relations.

Anyway, enough of my moaning as I'm sure you've more important things to do.

So I arrived back in good old England on the 25th April and was duly ensconced back at my deak the following Monday where the reality hits home that its al over.

No More Trekking - No more Adventures, I thought to myself. Its all finitoed and finished.

Loadsa wonga, loadsa fun, loadsa hassles, loadsa memories.
Jeez I would'nt have missed it fot the World and given the chance I would set off again tommorrow.

To all the kind and caring people I met and I met many, I say a huge Thanks and hopefully one day our paths will cross again.

Take care and remember this adage when travelling, it may just bring you a pleasant surprise.

Me1.jpg

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good things, therefore, that I can do, any kindness that I can show a fellow being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again"

ani_flag_vn.gif

flag_un_king.gif

Island.jpg

Posted by Raedor 04.05.2007 00:35 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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