Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bangkok - Hanoi - Sapa...

I'm now about 10 days into my vacation and it's going great. I think I am going to do a proper post about the whole trip when I am get back because I've picked up a few tips that would be helpful to anyone who travels out to this neck of the woods.

So, what I've done so far...

Originally I'd planed to go to Tokyo for 2 days before I met Mel in Bangkok, pretty much at the last moment I changed this and I'll now be going to Tokyo at the end of my trip. (I guess I missed Mel too much :))

So, I arrived in Bangkok and spent 3 nights there with Mel wondering around the streets and doing various touristy things. One of my favorite things was taking the water taxi along the canals. It costs 8 Baht (0.16euro) and was a very cheap thrill. These guys are just like the crazy moped/tuc-tuc/taxi/van drivers in Thailand except that they are on water. The funniest thing is that the bridges are actually lower then the boat, so the whole roof collapses around you as you near a bridge. Tons of fun :)

We then flew with Thai Airways (very nice airline - I'd use them again) to Hanoi in Vietnam. All I can say is that place is crazy. Just think of the crowd coming out at the end of a foot ball game out a tight alley, put everyone of them onto a scooter, then tell each of them that if you don't beep your horn every second you will kill them... Welcome to Hanoi. There was a lot of interesting things there and it is much more of a culture shock then Bangkok. Basically, Dublin is to Bangkok as Bangkok is to Hanoi... We stayed in a hotel called Sunshine (which was in Lonely Planet). They are a really nice group of people and I'd recommend the place to anyone staying there. We also booked most of our trips (that I'm about to talk about) with them and throughout they were great.

So, next we did a 3 day, 4 night trip to Sapa. Sapa is in the mountainous north west of Vietnam and is right beside China and Laos. There are a lot of minority Hill tribes there and the scenery is great. The 3 days there where spent trekking through the hills and, one of the nights, staying in a Tribes (Red Dzao) village. One of the highlights was playing a local card game with some of the people from the village (and a police man for some reason...) I was doing quite well until they took out a bottle of rice white (a.k.a. petrol in a bottle) and announced the the loser of each game (lasting about 4-5 minutes) has to do a shot... I slept well that night.

Currently I''m a few locations on from Sapa (Hoi-An) but I have to leave this cafe now - so I'll update this sometime over the next few days...

Friday, July 15, 2005

This last while...

This last while has been reasonably interesting. The last three weeks have been spent talking to clients in California. The work itself is interesting and I'm learning a lot as I go along. It has been easy to slip back into the flow of things over here. Week days are basically, work, eat, work, eat, do something fun, go to bed, repeat. It can get a bit repetitive but the weekends have been great fun.

Each of the days over the weekend I've been biking around the bay. It reminds me a lot of two years ago except this time I can handle my bike a lot better. The hills around Ireland are so much more technical then over here. They have trained me well :) The main points about biking in California are:

  • The trials seem like a paved road in comparison to Ireland. (My hard tail Stumpjumper handles it really well)

  • When it is hot, the up hills can be grueling!

  • Downhill == roller coaster (except a much better rush)

For the 4th of July, we all headed to down Santa Cruz to which 10,000 crazy people let off fireworks on the beach. As far as I know, rockets are illegal in California – but tell that to anyone down there! It seemed pretty dangerous at the start as fireworks were landing in the crowd close to the ocean. We stayed back a bit from the ocean and it felt a lot safer. (Or maybe it was because it was darker and we couldn't see the rockets landing in the crowd) Anyway, we sat round a fire, chatted and toasted marshmallows. It was cool.

Last weekend myself and Fergal went to Great America (Ok theme park) The best thing was the Xtreme Skyflyer. You are basically winched up 153 feet. When you pull a rip cord, you free fall and eventually (6 feet before the ground!) pull up into a swinging motion. It was a lot of fun. Hitting 60 miles per hour going head first towards the ground is something I havn't tried before. I think the next thing for me will be either a bungee jump or a parachute jump. (Mel has been trying to get me to do one for ages – I want to, I just haven't had a chance yet :( )

Today was also notable in that it was my last day of work for a while. Tomorrow morning I'm flying out to Bangkok and then on to Hanoi. I have been looking forward to a break for so long.