Saturday, 11 August 2007

Charlie Don't Surf

"Charlie don't surf" Well we do. Not very well but that's neither here nor there
Halong Bay, Vietnam

Also Halong Bay, some kind of hawk-type bird.

Top of a mountain at Cat Ba Island. The camera probably does not do justice to just how sweaty we all were.
"So, you reckon this boat will hold three people and two bikes? Ok then"
Water Puppet Theatre, Hanoi. Oooo the theatre, la-de-da

Check out my massive dong

Fancy some dog curry?

Surrounded by Israelis. They get everywhere. You've seen Haya before, the other two are Hadas and Miki

As you can see, before he buggered off back to England, me and Tom went surfing in China Beach. It used to be popular among the American GI's when they were given leave as a place to surf too. These days it's not exactly Apocalypse now with all the helicopters flying overhead as we rode the waves (or tried to) but it still allows us to say "back in Nam when I was surfing" and that's all that matters. Obviously.

You may have noticed my reference to Tom leaving, yes he's gone as well now, leaving me forced to talk to Haya for the forseeable future. Although for the next three days I am killing some time in Hanoi as I wait for my Chinese visa. Why do I need a Chinese visa? Because next on the list is Tibet, possibly at the same time as the Shoton Festival aka Festival of Yoghurt. There's a good chance that I'll be going to the Mount Everest base camp where I can walk in the footsteps of the great one, Brian Blessed. He just climbs it for fun every now and then apparently. So this Monday I leave Vietnam for China. I can't leave any later than this because my visa runs out, something I didn't realise until the other day and then thought, 'hmmm maybe I should actually plan where I'm going next as I have to leave the country'.

On top of the surfing, China Beach, near Danang, was one of my favourite places so far in Vietnam. Somehow it was still pretty undeveloped in terms of hotels, restaurants etc. although you could tell it will be unrecognisable in a couple of years time by all the building work in it's early stages. Only downside of the place was a very big angry looking dog wanting to eat me when I tried to have a look round Marble Mountain but hey, he'll probably be sweet and sour on a menu next week anyway.

Having not really had any problems so far travelling through Asia, and doing the odd group tour here and there, it was inevitable that we would see how things can go slightly wrong sooner or later. Basically we went on a 3 day, 2 night tour to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island, which were beautiful places themselves, it's just that everyone invloved in the tour from the booking agency, right through to our tour guide were completely corrupt! I won't go into massive detail but - long story short - we ended up having to go to the police to try and get them to do something about an agency that has obviously been scamming backpackers for a while. The "police" weren't remotely interested as they must have been suitably bribed a long time ago. But the tour did unite our group in a pretty sturdy hatred of our "tour guide". I think he flipped a coin each time before he spoke to us: heads he lies, tails the truth. Oh we had a lot of names for him, most of them four lettered. You hear plenty of stories about other people getting shafted, so once in a trip isn't something I'm going to worry about. Although I would like to see the receptionist of the Cat Ba Plaza tied up and bent over in an enclosure with an especially randy bull...

One of the best things about backpacking is the random experiences that are competely unplanned but utterly welcome. One such event was a few nights ago when we were celebrating the birthday of an Irish friend, Leanne. After we had hit a couple of bars we needed a new one and were walking along a road in the old quarter of Hanoi. When a large group of Austrian exchange students come along and tell us their Vietnamese/german guide is taking them for a lock-in at a bar called Half Man Half Noodle. As our friend Dave put it, a bar with a name like that sounds too good to be true. But it did exist and a lock in with a load of Austrian economics students we had.

Finally this week, I'm slightly worried. I need a haircut, but I'm in Vietnam. I need to find a barber shop that can speak the level of English I need to be able to tell them how I want it cut. This seems unlikely so I may just print out a picture of myself from two months ago and point to that. Next time you see a picture of me, I may have the haircut of an eighties footballer. Eeeek.

P.S. The picture format of the blog is a bit screwy again because Vietnamese computers think they know best. Wouldn't know best if I took a hammer to them...

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