Hi One and all,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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