Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts

Friday, April 12, 2013

and some more photos from Vietnam

These are some photos that Steve from the group shared ...
A well earned break

The group

A pit stop

Trying to hitch a ride

That's quite a load.

One of the posh hotels !

Rain coming in

Rain arrived

Some photos from Vietnam

Thanks to James who was on the trip with Dad for these photos ...

So Dad did have a wash while he was there !

Doubt Dad did any washing though !

Soon to be available in the UK !

Dad making hard work of it.

Very surprised Dad didn't stop for a trim.

Deep in thought.

Out on the road

Dad and James

Looks like they wanted get their photos taken

So cute !

Sunday, March 24, 2013

He's back !

Got a text, a missed phone call on my mobile, a voicemail on my mobile and a call on my landline .... yes Dad got back early this morning!

He managed swap his National Express ticket for £5.00 for a coach today - and they wanted to charge me £51.00 to do the same thing !

I arrange to meet him in Hanley. I got there with 10 minutes to spare and parked up. I could see the coaches arriving. I was messing around on my mobile and noticed a National Express coach pull up with "Birmingham" on the side. I watched as a few people get off but no Dad. I waited a few more minutes in the car and still no Dad. So I went over to the coach and got on, thinking Dad may have nodded off on the coach. I said to the driver that I was expecting my Dad to be on the coach and I had a quick look around - the folks in the front seats are giving me funny looks. Then the coach driver tells me it's the coach from Manchester going to Birmingham. Wrong coach so I make a speedy exist off! No sooner as I'd got back to the car then Dad's coach turns up.

36 hours of travelling and he's home to be greeted by freezing temperaturs and several inches of snow!  He's had a great time. Got a bit of a tan and in need of a hair cut/beard trim. A brew and a good nights sleep and he'll fill me in with all the stories. 

We've had around 1,700 hits on the blog while he's been away from all over the world including Vietnam, USA, Germany, Russia, Sinapore to name just a few. Hope it's inspired a few to get on their bikes and head off somewhere. You're never too old to ride your bike.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Day 28 - Homeward bound

Dad should be arriving at Heathrow at 5.25 am tomorrow morning. Was trying to work out if his flight had departed Kuala Lumpur yet but I can't tell from the flight information I can find online and Heathrow isn't showing arrival information for tomorrow yet. However I think it probably has.

No doubt he'll have lots of interesting stories to tell when he gets home. How quickly has that month gone!  Will update when he's back.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 27 - last day in Hanoi

Dad caught the overnight sleeper bus back to Hanoi. He'd ask for a bottom bunk but they'd tried to put him on the top, but he dug his heels in and got a bottom bunk. The bus had two toilet stops. Dad said he slept well and was back in Hanoi by 6.00 am - so a 12 hour journey. It cost £18.00.  He wasn't able to get a taxi so had to take a scooter taxi with his luggage! Dad sad it was a scary ride and he was glad it wasn't rush hour! Scooter bloke wanted £18 off Dad for the 1/2 hour scooter ride - Dad said he gave him £6.00 ! Got to the hotel at 10.00 am.

Today he has been to see Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre which was really good.

Today is his last day in Vietnam.  Exodus are sending a car for Dad to take him to the airport.

I've tried swapping his coach ticket (he'd booked Saturday instead of Sunday) but National Express wanted £51.00 to change - it only cost £37.00 to buy a single ticket. A bit of a Rip-off if you ask me! Shame on you National Express.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 26 - heading back to Hanoi

Dad text me this morning to say "yes he gets back on Sunday". What's he like ! At least he's not got to worry about going back to work on Monday though. There'll be an empty seat on the National Express on Saturday unless he texts me back with his ticket number so that I can swap it.

He went out for a set menu evening meal last night. Five courses and they all came at the same time! The meal and beer was only £3.00. You'd just about get a pint of beer here for £3.00.

He's had no luck hiring a bike, plenty of scooters but no bikes. Don't think he's done much cycling this last couple of weeks.

Today he's been for a walk around Sa Pa and found the plumbers merchants. I bet he went in for a look around. He'll be coming home with a tub of Boss White and half a dozen washers.  He's also been for a walk around a lake. He's started heading back now and caught the local bus from Sa Pa to Loa Cai. Apparently he got a seat with the driver so had great views! The local mountain people work very hard on the hillsides which are terraced for growing food. There are footpaths that go way up into the mountains.

He'll catch the overnight bus back to Hanoi. Hope he's got decent seat where he can sleep. Hopefully it won't take 19 hours get back!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 25 - back in Sa Pa

Dad's few days in the villages/homestay came to an end today and his plan was to have an overnight stay in Sa Pa and then catch the train back to Hanoi.

This morning his breakfast comprised of six pancakes but Dad only managed eat two so he offered the others to a young lad, aged about 10 who was carrying a big basket of wood. The lad ate the lot ! Dad then got a scooter taxi but his helmet was too big. Every bump they went over the helmet would slide down over his eyes! If that was me I'd be too scared to let go to push the helmet back up !

Dad visited the Cat Cat village . There was dancing and music show which Dad enjoyed.  Hope Dad didn't partake in this local custom !

Tourists to Cat Cat are most attracted by its unique customs, including the custom of "pulling wife". A man can ask his friends to lure a girl he likes to his house and keeps her there in three days. During these days, if the girl agrees to become his wife, a wedding will be held. However, the girl can happily go home after three days if she does not like him.
He was back at the hotel in Sa Pa by lunchtime. Still non the wiser what the hotel is called as when Dad gave me the name last time and I looked it up, the only thing I found was Vietnamese coffee!

Dad has had a change of plan and may catch the sleeper bus from Sa Pa. If he catches the train he first has to get a bus from Sa Pa to Loi Cai and then catch a train, plus he'll have the hassle of then trying to get his bed on the train.  I was starting to panic thinking he needed to get back to Ho Chi Minh City but his return flight is from Hanoi, so he may as well stay in and around Sa Pa rather than going back into the city.  Mind you I'm a bit confused as to when he's actually coming home. His itinerary shows he leaves KL on 23 March at 23.55 and arrives Heathrow at 05.25 +1 (where +1 denotes next day). The note he's left about what time his coach arrives back in town says back 23 March at 2.30. I'm useless when it comes to working out times but something doesn't add up here !

Dad's plan for tomorrow is to hire a bike as he's met a biker who has hired one in Sa Pa.

I also received a postcard off Dad today - it's still nice to get a good old fashioned postcard.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 24 - Giang Ta Chai.

Dad caught up with me with a few texts today. He had a great meal last night with Peter and Elizabeth from Paris who are also staying at the same home.  They chatted over various holidays they'd done. Just hope Peter and Elizabeth are good at English as Dad's French is not that good !

This morning he's had the best breakfast so far while in Vietnam- pancakes, honey, banana and coffee. You can't beat good old fashioned home cooking !  A late start today for Dad as the walk did not start til 10.30. He then walked for a couple of hours on that "mina road" again (minor roads) to the village of Giang Ta Chai. Dad not that happy as he'd arrived there by 12.30 which is a mere stroll for Dad!  So after lunch Dad went for a walk in the bamboo forest. Lots of big colourful butterflies. Dad said there is not much wild life in Vietnam as most is eaten !

He also been for a swim in the river with the local children.

I'm assuming that he's having another Homestay tonight with the locals.

Found this cool 360 photo of Giang Ta Chai

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 23 - Ta Van Village

Received a text off Dad this morning which I was surprised about. I thought maybe as he moved further into the mountains he'd start losing reception on his phone. That's not been the case. There has not been a day when he hasn't been able to text.

Dad met up with his guide this morning and they walked out of Sa Pa on the "Mina Road" which probably isn't the name of the road but he meant a minor road ! He then picked up the scooter tour bus. Not sure what Dad meant by this! Was it a scooter or was it a bus ??? They did a two hour tour before stopping for lunch in Lao Chai.

Dad said many of the mountain ladies follow him to try and sell things ! After lunch they had a one hour walk to Ta Van village. He will be staying with locals in their home. Very basic. Mattress on the floor, wc and shower. There are also a French couple staying as well. They will also eat with the family in the home.

Found this photo of Ta Van village

He'd just been for a walk to the river water bed and watched a local man fishing. He said the weather is still hot in the mountains - I think he's just rubbing it in as it is so cold here at the moment.

Found the following on Trip Advisor about a company that do Homestay at Ta Van village. Think this is the sort of thing Dad is doing. Sounds right up Dad's street !

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 22 - Sa Pa

Received a couple of texts of Dad. He had a good meal last night in Sa Pa with the group of Vietnamese people. One of the group spoke a little English. No doubt there was a lot of talk very slowly and arms flapping from Dad ! After the meal he went for a walk about town. He said there where "thousands of folk" walking the streets on Saturday night looking for their "match" ... what's up with these folk have they not heard of Internet dating sites !!! Sa Pa is obviously pretty busy at weekends and from what I can tell from his text his hotel was a bit on the noisy side! This morning he's been out for breakfast - pancakes, honey, coffee and a bowl of fruit all for £5.00 which for the Vietnamese people is quite expensive. Dad is intending to have a couple of days in and around Sa Pa and will catch the train back to Hanoi.

Received another text later on to say that he booked himself a 3 day, 2 night stay in one of the lower level outlying villages. He's out on Monday and on Wednesday he'll return back to Sa Pa. Today he's been for a big walk in and around Sa Pa and was grateful he'd packed his trainers. Lots of women in very colourful clothing from the mountain villages selling things on the streets.  Doesn't seem to be much cycling going on though!

Apparently Dad's beard is getting a lot of attention as Vietnamese men don't grow them.

Many thanks to James and his brother Burt for getting Dad to Sa Pa and looking after him.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day 21 - He made it to Sa Pa

Had a couple of texts off Dad. He caught the mini-bus to Sa Pa at 8.00 pm and 19 hours later he arrived! It did stop off a few times for food and a visit to a temple where they burnt paper horses - sounds interesting! I think they must have been on slow roads as Dad did say that at times they were only travelling at 15 mph! Sa pa is just over 200 miles from Hanoi - travelling that distance in the UK would probably take 3 - 4 hours .... unless you are travelling on the M6 and then it is probably 6 !

The last part of the journey from Lao Cai they climbed 1600 metres up to to Sa Pa. He said he'd booked into the Trung Nguyen hotel but when I tried to find this it came back saying "Trung Nguyen" is Vietnamese coffee!   Weather is much cooler. Tonight he was out for a meal with 18 Vietnamese people who he'd travelled with on the mini-bus with. Only one of them speaks a little English. That will be an interesting night out for Dad!  Hope Dad doesn't pick dog off the menu!

On Saturday Sa Pa is a thriving market town where local villagers flock and many wear traditional dress.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 20 - and a change of plan

I got into work this morning and opened up my email to find an email and a photo of my Dad from James.  James had meet Dad yesterday.

Dad and James (sitting to his right)

Not long later I received a text from Dad that said he'd had a big change of plan. He'd caught the local bus to Do Son which was around 45 kms and cost £2.00.  While out for breakfast he'd met James and his friend. They are from Singapore and are working in Vietnam in the oil industry. Dad went back to their offices and watched an oil container being opened.

Dad spent the day in Do Son and he met some students practicing their poetry (if you are reading the blog ... keep practicing that poetry!). He also tried to hire a bike but they'd only got a tandem and as we all know a tandem is built for two ! As Dad says it worked out for the best as he'd not have met James if he'd gone out on a bike!

He then had a family meal with James who told him about Sa Po which is on the border with China. Just been reading up on it and it does sound very much like a place my Dad would visit.

The Hoang Lien Son range of mountains dominates the district, which is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. This range includes Vietnam's highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, at a height of 3143 m above sea level. The town of Sa Pa lies at an altitude of about 1650 m. 

Looks like the climate is a bit cooler as well which Dad will like.

Dad has cancelled his bed in Do Son for tonight and will take the overnight coach (with friends of James) to Sa Pa which is around 250 miles. He's also had a few attempts to get money from the ATM and has actually managed to get some this time without any blood loss by the sound of it!

Chilling in Halong Bay

I received this photo from Naomi who had been on the Exodus trip with Dad.

Great photo of Dad "chilling" on the boat around the Halong Bay.

Looks like he's also sipping a cocktail ! ? What a life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 19 - Haiphong

Had a very early morning text from Dad. He was up early as he was catching the ferry to Haiphong at 9.00 am. While he's been on Cat Ba he has been having his meals at the same restaurant. It is a family run restaurant and Dad has been having hugs and "high-fives" off the owners son, so the family have been looking after him well ! He said he'd been eating a lot of sea-food, but to date he'd seen no improvement in his spelling! Would have to agree with Dad on that one :)

He text later to say he'd had his last breakfast with the family and caught the bus, then the ferry and then another bus to Haiphong.  Dad said only he got off in Haiphong, the rest of the bus were heading to Hanoi.  He has got a room at the Duyen Hai Hotel (I can only find a Vietnamese page!). The hotel costs £16 a night, ensuite, TV but no air con and Dad says it's very hot at the moment (he ought to be here!). There is no bike hire at the hotel so he went for a walk instead. His text says "dun miles" which at first I thought was a place, but then realised it meant he'd walked miles !  He had found a big lake with the help of a map. He had also found a museum but it was a closed. Dad hadn't met another tourist but the local people are really friendly. Tomorrow he is hoping to get a bus to the Do Son region.

Dad did text again later to say Haiphong is basically a big container port town and a gas terminal. He has today had the worst meal of the trip in his hotel and that he won't be having breakfast there in the morning!  He reckons he's been spoilt in Cat Ba. He did say the beer was pretty good though !

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 18 - Cat Ba Island

Received a text off Dad early this morning to say he'd used the ATM for the first time. First one he tried, no luck. The second one he tried, no luck. The third one he tried he managed to get £6.00 out and managed to get his finger stuck in the ATM (heaven's knows how!) trying to get the rest of the money out!  Quite a bit of blood apparently and he had to go get the lady from the bank to help. In the end he managed to get £60 out!  So Dad is walking round with "blood" money at the moment.  I've got visions of Nepal all over again!

Received another text later this morning to say that Dad had hired a private guide to Cat Ba National Park. He was picked up by scooter but this time he did get a helmet. Had a bit of a scare when I read the next line of the text which said "went to a hospital .... " as I thought he might have fallen off the scooter, but the text continued ".... hospital cave that was used in the war". It is three floor building, so it must be a big cave! His tour continued to Giao Forest where he climbed a 250 metre mountain with a watch tower at the top.

He was back to the hotel by 5.00 pm. Tomorrow he is heading back to Haiphong on the mainland but this time via the fast ferry which takes just 45 minutes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 17 - Cat Ba Island

Was starting to think Dad had been captured by pirates .... he'd text yesterday to say it's 5.30 and we are still at sea and then I heard nothing else !  Had visions of being asked to pay ransom or Dad walks the plank !

This morning at work I heard the familiar text alert on my "Dad" phone (long story ... he seems to have blocked me on my normal phone) and was expecting the ransom details .... but it was Dad. He'd arrived on Cat Ba at 6.00pm last night and managed to find a small hotel, with no stars! His text says the hotel is called Xuan Hong hotel, but they only place I can find on Cat Ba of that name is a floating restaurant!  The room is good and has balcony and the sea front is only 200yds away (so it can't be the floating restaurant!). Cost is only £5.00 a night.

He's managed to hire a bike today and was away by 9.00 am. He had lunch in a small village and the family tried to marry Dad off to their mother-in-law ... not sure what is worse pirates or proposals of marriage!  Anyway Dad declined the offer.

He got back to the hotel about 4.00 pm having done around 50 kms.  I'd text him to say how cold it is here at the moment and he text back to say it's currently 30 degrees!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 16 - Cat Ba Island

Received a couple of texts off Dad today. First one said he'd been trying to get postcards but the hotel was in a "non-tourist" area and he'd not managed to get any. However a taxi scooter was dispatched and came back with some.

His plan for the day was to go to Cat Ba Island but as there were no ferries he planned on hiring a boat. However he managed to get on a boat with a tour group and headed out to the Islands. He text to say at 5.30 pm that we was still on the boat.  Not heard anymore ... hope it wasn't a pirate boat he went out on !

Just noticed that we are fast approaching 20,000 hits on the blog. I think we've clocked up 1,000 while he's been out in Vietnam. Thanks folks for visiting his blog. Dad will be right chuffed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 15 - heading back to Halong Bay

Had a couple of texts off Dad today. First text said that he was on the local bus heading back to Halong Bay. The bus stops at all the villages on the way and it cost £5.00. Had a look on the map and the trip is about 90 miles. It cost me £4.00 the other day to get from Kidsgrove on the local bus and that's just over 4 miles away !

Dad sent another text when he arrived in Halong Bay. He's booked himself into Thuy Duong Hotel. He's got a sea view and a balcony but the room is not so good, so will probably only stay the one night. Plus there isn't the facilities to hire bikes !  The local bus didn't actually come into Halong Bay but dropped Dad off on the highway, so he got a scooter taxi. Dad said it was a bit scary ... it must have been for Dad to say that! 

Dad will be getting withdrawal symptoms as he's not been on a bike for a few days now !

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Day 14 - off the itinerary now !

Received a couple of texts off Dad this morning. They'd had a good farewell party last night as it was the last day of the tour. Dad's plan now is to have a couple of days in Hanoi. He's staying at Thien Thai - well it is the best boutique hotel in Hanoi ! He's paying $45 dollars (approx £30) for B&B. He's not going to hire a bike as it's much too busy on the roads. On Sunday he'll catch a bus back to Halong Bay, book himself a hotel and hire a bike for a couple of days.

Today he's had a walk around the Hoan Kiem lake in the old district of Hanoi. He stopped off for lunch (£1.00!). He then saw the rest off the group off to the airport. He then spent a few hours at the military museum. Weather is good, 26 degrees.

Will keep you posted.

I take no responsibility for accuracy in these blog posts, there is a great deal of guess work involved in trying to decipher Dad's texts.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 13 - Cruising and Hanoi

Received a short text off Dad first thing but he was texting off the bus. He'd had a good time on the boat and three good meals. They'd been inside a big cave and done some canoeing off the boat. I received another text later to say it was hard texting on the bus (crumbs knows what sort of bus they are on!). They are now back in the hotel in Hanoi. En-route back they'd been on a tour of Hoa Lo Prison which the US prisoners called Hanoi Hilton! They'd also visited the Temple of Literature. Tonight is their last night together as a group, so they are out for a farewell meal. That two weeks has gone by real quick.

Not sure yet what Dad has planned for the next couple of weeks, but he did say he'd text me with the details.

Details of the day from Exodus
Day 13 (Day 14 Ex London) Cruise in Halong Bay & return to Hanoi

We continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before
returning to port. We then drive back to Hanoi, and take a sightseeing
tour of the city: this will include visits to the Temple of Literature, Hoa
Lo Prison and the Old Quarter of the city. This charming city contains
many beautiful old buildings, and the atmosphere is completely
different from that in Saigon in the south mainly due to the much
more conservative nature of the North Vietnamese. Also, unlike its
industrial counterpart, the centre of Hanoi has a faded charm with
broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period as well as
some attractive lakes and pagodas. In the evening there is the option
to enjoy a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppets.