17.03.2010 - 21.03.2010 36 °C
Donna was forced to eat her words after laughing at Laura for comparing Lao Airlines to BA...the flight was delightful and Laura was thrilled when they brought us our free meals. Donna not so much when she discovered the pastry was filled with tuna mayonnaise. Once we'd landed, we headed straight to tourist information to book our places on the overnight train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. We were pleased to get a space on the train, as first class was already sold out. However, when Laura was left on her own when Donna went to get money, the tourist information man did a very good job of scaring Laura about the train, warning her that they were both top bunks and were cheaper than any other bunk because of the horrible conditions - his broken English led us to believe that there would be no mattress, no space and no air conditioning. Since this would be for 29 hours, we were concerned, and decided alcohol would be the key. He then told us we had to go to a hotel to collect the tickets. Obviously Laura was convinced we were about to be sold to a hotel. Once at the hotel, they did their best to try and persuade us to stay, but we grabbed our train tickets and ran.
Once at our guesthouse (not hotel), Laura found a restaurant recommended by our guide book. Following the map to where we thought it was we found a dark alleyway which eventually led us to a lovely little restaurant full of Vietnamese people and no Westerners...much to their amusement. We both ordered steak and chips for approximately 1 pound each before realising the idea was to order more than one dish each so we went all out and ordered roast pigeon to share. A whole bird appeared, head included. Laura loved it, whilst Donna wasn't so keen, so Laura seized the opportunity after 'accidentally' flicking pigeon into Donna's eye, to steal the rest of hers. Not content with this she also attempted the head, finally realising it to be full of bone and so admitted defeat. Pig.
As we were only in Hanoi for one day, we decided to just have one drink and then have an early night. This was thwarted by a happy hour deal, and having becoming addicted to beer, we decided to be adventurous and order cocktails. Clearly these went down well and six very strong cocktails later we befriended two elderly gentlemen from Denmark introducing ourselves as Phoebe and Lucy. These fake names appear to have stuck. Laura seized the opportunity whilst Donna was in the toilet to let them know that 'Lucy' had a real thing for Michael Douglas especially since he met Catherine. We then went to the bar to pay as Donna kept reminding Laura that the hostel shut at midnight and as it was quarter to, we should go. During this time, Laura had befriended the barman and demanded two free drinks because it was almost her birthday. The barman was only too happy to oblige. We then got chatting to an American, teaching in Vietnam with his mute Vietnamese girlfriend, who was apparently the pool champion of Hanoi. Of course, Laura proceeded to enter us into a pool competition with them. Somehow, Donna managed to tear Laura away, and after a hilarious journey home, we had to wake up the guesthouse owners, who were sleeping in front of the shuttered door, to let us in. Nevertheless, the next day was still very productive.
We managed to find Hoan Kiem lake and had breakfast, spending the rest of the day seeing the French Quarter, the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda, Opera House, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and the Presidential Palace. Highlights include:
1. An old Vietnamese lady approaching Laura in the Temple of Literature, shaking her finger and pointing in disgust at Laura's vest top and shorts. All Laura had to say was, 'What the hell is her problem, it's not like it's a God or anything, just some shitbag University'.
2. Our attempt to find the water puppet theatre. We were sure we had found it when we stumbled across coloured bunting, and several stages and rides. However, on close inspection, we discovered it was in fact a children's English School and we decided to give up looking for it. Laura remains adamant we were succesful claiming, that it was 'a puppet show of sorts, if you think that children *are* puppets'. Good luck to her in her PGCE.
3. Some Asian people saying 'picture' to us. We lent forward to take a picture of them to which they snatched the camera away pushing us into the group saying 'no, picture OF you'. We ran away.
4. Somehow always managing to become trapped by tourgroups of elderly Asians in matching brightly coloured macs.
5. Every single Asian child we came across in the Temple of Literature waving at us and saying 'hello'.
We then needed to catch our nightmare train to Ho Chi Minh City. Again, we arrived 72 hours early, which we considered a good thing as we were dreading the train journey so much, we needed to start on the beer. We had dinner at one of the road side cafe where all the Vietnamese people seemed to eat, seating ourselves on the primary school size chairs. We managed to order noodle soup, but Laura felt we were missing out as all the Vietnamese people seemed to have loads of bowls of other shit to share. Laura felt cheated by her Hanoi dining experience, so we went to find more beer and possibly some more food. A large cowboy bar looked promising, until we spoke to one of the 20 cowboys outside who seemed to find the fact that we wanted to go in hilarious. Laura demanded to know whether or no it was a strip bar, Donna advised us to move on. We found a restaurant for some delicious spring rolls and were greatly entertained by the Americans sat next to us as we hear one remark to his friend how his Vietnamese wife couldn't understand a word of English when he first met her and had to communicate through pictures and signs. Riveting stuff.
We nervously found our room on the night train and were thrilled to discover it was in fact luxurious compared to our accommodation for the last few nights. We did have mattresses, blankets, pillows, air con, space for our bags and could almost sit up (we had imagined an inch above our faces). The first night was disrupted by Laura waking up to discover the Asian man below Donna's bunk staring at her. They were soon replaced by a family and we were much happier. We thought we may be bored spending a whole day on the train, but soon realised how lazy we are by nature, decided at 5pm, that we should maybe turn our ipods off and wake up. We arrived at 5 in the morning imagining we would have to wait ages before finding an open guesthouse, but it seemed the whole of Ho Chi Minh City was awake by this point. We found an interesting room with a balcony view inside of the reception. Our bathroom came complete with a cockroach and many ants. Perfection.
Our first day consisted of exploring the city. We saw the Reunification Palace (paying 50p to go in, mostly for the shade and fabulous toilets), the War Remnants Museum and finally a Notre Dame style cathedral. Outside the cathedral, was a massive statue of Jesus, whilst Donna was taking a picture of Laura in front of it, Laura became convinced that it was singing to her. Donna admitted she too could hear it, but was not keen to agree that it was because Laura was the 'chosen one' and that it was probably something behind the statue. On closer inspection it was an ice cream van, and the music followed us for the rest of the day. We had time to kill before attending a hilarious water puppet show, so decided to find somewhere to eat. This was made more difficult by the fact that Donna's feet, which had been ruined by flipflops in Hanoi, were now being destroyed by her other shoes. We had beers in our new safe space in Vietnam, before going to bed as we had an early start the next day.
We had booked an excursion to the Chi Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City which was really interesting. We were thrilled to shoot an M30 gun and get the chance to go down into the tunnels. We were particularly pleased as many people wussed out of the tunnels claiming them to be too narrow. Naturally we stopped off at a disabled person factory on the way home to be made to feel guilty for not buying anything, but were entertained by two thoroughly homosexual Americans who asked us what the specially designed mobility chairs were, 'how cute' they declared before taking pictures on it, while we sat embarrassed.
Our evening was spent at the airport before our flight to Phuket, we were sad to be leaving Vietnam, as we both thoroughly enjoyed it and are keen to return. That being said we've had an incredible few days in Koh Phangan, but feel like there won't be a lot to report other than food, buckets, many massages, and beach. Needless to say, this is our new spiritual home and we never want to leave.