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Entries about southeastasia

Hanoi....only 4 months late!

semi-overcast

Sorry sorry I know I've been rubbish at keeping this updated...but it's hard...I legit spent tons of time in Nepal catching up on about 2 months of my own diary (by torchlight...but we'll get to that) let alone blogging :/ and you know what they say...spend the time making the memories to capture, not capturing the memories...or I'm just lazy...yeah more likely that :/
Anyhow I'm in Lombok and it's been absolutely bucketing down so I thought I'd try and properly sit down to write so here goes...back where we left off...Hanoi.

I arrived in Hanoi exhausted but excited to spend Christmas in the capital of the most Christian country of south east Asia and New Years on a boat on Halong Bay?....hell yes!
Hanoi is much smaller and less westernised than Saigon which was lovely, I stayed in the old quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake which although chaotic was very atmospheric. Big shout out to Hanoi Backpackers, these guys run an awesome hostel, incredible tours are are just generally all round fantastic people.

The first couple of days was a blur of exploring the city and hitting the sights.
Honestly I can't remember what was on what days so in no particular order:

Women's museum: Interesting...essentially a museum on Vietnamese culture and traditions of different ethnic groups

Hoa Lo prison: contrasting on areas but a good overview of large parts of Vietnamese history

Temple of Literature: really pretty area but I think I must have lucked out with tour bus hour...it was so.crowded.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Reaalllyyy spooky...you had to get there super early, go though more security than an airport...line up...walk across a massive complex that was all misty and had a huge building set in the middle. Once you walked past the extremely heavily armed guards you couldn't stop moving as you filed around Ho Chi Minhs body which looked extremely wax like. Weird but cool.

....and simply meandering the lanes of the old quarter

I also managed to drink wayyy too much highlands coffee and eat far too many tuna toasties from Joma and Bun Cha (BBQ pork)

Christmas Eve pub crawl was a crazy night involving trying to buy Santa hats off innocent bystanders, free shots for Aussies, clubbing Vietnamese style and kebabs before we got (very!) lost on the 2min walk home that meant at 20min cab to get us back...oops...Merry Christmas!!

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After a late start the next morning and much skyping we had the most massive lunch on the roof and with free flow beer and sangria we were all in bed by 8pm...woo so much class right there.
Scored some cotton buds in the secret santa...so useful!

Came down with a cold over the next couple of days so instead of heading out of the city for a couple of days I stayed in bed...awesome. That was a fun story. I did however manage to drag myself out to Joma (what a surprise :/ ) and skype Immy for a record breaking 3.5 hours while she was in Spain...good grief.

There was a night out somewhere here worth mentioning. The curfew in Hanoi is midnight when everything closes...we all headed across the highway to a club ran by the mafia and kept on going. On the way home one of the guys was asked if he wanted a ride by a moto driver who then tried to pickpocket him...much persuading and fight breaking up later we were followed all the way back by said driver which did not help any of the guys patience or testosterone levels!

I couldn't sleep one night and around 4.30 am I decided to get up and head over to the lake as many people had said it was really interesting pre dawn and I knew I'd never wake up that early!
So so glad I did...despite the freezing cold, everyone and anyone was out exercising and socialising and it was more crowded than during the day!
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New Year's Eve came around and it was time to head off to Halong Bay and that is another post in itself I've decided! Sorry this is so rambly, it was a while ago!

Stay smiling xx

Posted by isabellepurcell 04:39 Archived in Vietnam Tagged travel vietnam christmas asia hanoi backpacking southeastasia Comments (0)

Bangkok and Hua Hin


View Isabelle vs the world on isabellepurcell's travel map.

After flying out of Bhutan, we had a couple of nights in Bangkok. Due to the fact that Paro's airport is purely visual and doesn't have a control tower we had to have a grace period before the groups flight back to Aus in case of rain or fog meaning that we couldn't leave Paro.
We used this time to relax for our last few days together and I took the opportunity to see parts of Bangkok I missed last time. First up was Jim Thomsons house, a beautiful traditional Thai style country house set in lovely gardens, right it in the middle of the most manic city I've ever been. It belonged to the founder of the Thai silk industry who went missing while hiking in Malaysia. It still houses his impressive collection of art and artefacts and was extremely interesting. The contrast to surrounding Bangkok was also the weirdest experience.
With Barbs local knowledge we had a great lunch in the locals section of MBK and picked up a few bits and bobs (like a phone charger-seriously who forgets to pack one?...me apparently)

Back at the hotel I was surprised with about 10 emails from mum (love her!). After confirming that, you know...everyone was ok, found out about the cyclone in the Philippines. James, Beth and I had a flight booked early the next morning to Nha Trang, exactly where it was headed in the next 24hrs and with people being evacuated already, naturally decided to change our plans. That arvo was fun (sense the sarcasm) trying to get onto insurance companies, airlines, hotels and various embassies and consulates. All worked out nicely, with an extra night in Bangkok planned, we were Hua Hin headed on the coast, 2hrs drive from Bangkok.
That night we hit up patpong and I'll say no more.
The next day was full of massages, rooftop pools, and burgers (the first thing that wasn't noodles or potatoes in 3weeks). After dinner (pretty sure we keep the restaurant across the road in business while we were there) we waved the majority of the group off to the airport. Saying goodbye was hard, we'd all got so used to each other's company, had the most amazing experience together and I couldn't have asked for a better group...can't thank everyone enough.
We changed hotels for our last minute extra night . No one really knew what we were in for, we just booked it because Adam who we'd travelled Bhutan with was staying there so it made sense. It was beautiful! The most amazing pool, gorgeous hotel and right on the river. We pulled a sneaky and piled 3ppl into a 2 person room and it ended up being a bargain! Late night swims and a couple of piƱa coladas later and I was convinced everything happens for a reason.
After a very hot bus ride to Hua Hin the next day and we spent the next few days relaxing as much as possible, literally doing nothing and soaking up the beach. We had a ahem 'interesting' night out and did some great people watching. In the interest of full disclosure it's worth mentioning that one day here just didn't happen as far as Beth and I were concerned. One missing persons report, multiple calls to the embassy (again!), dealing with the police, multiple hours and the biggest freak out ever later...James was actually ok.
Back in Bangkok, after another super hard goodbye I spent the next couple of days holed up at the hostel or a fab Internet cafe in Siam paragon writing my 4000 word assignment for Bhutan. With that done and dusted I headed out to Asiatique, a night market on the river for Loi Krathong, a massive Thai festival.
I've never seen so many people crammed into boats and in one area. It was absolutely beautiful though, 'krathongs' are released down the river decorated with flowers and lit with candles and incense. There were also tons of floating lanterns marking Bangkoks skyline. The idea is that you let go of all your anger, hatred and bad deeds with the Krathong and let your negative thoughts float away. There was a 'water parade' of sorts with lit up boats and barges and it was a fantastic, atmospheric night.
Battled the crowds back, ready for a VERY early train into Cambodia the next morning.

Stay smiling xx

Posted by isabellepurcell 08:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand bangkok asia backpacking southeastasia Comments (0)

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