05.07.2006 33 °C
Me: Err Hello... wait hangon (guidebook out).. errr Sin Jaooo?
Waiter: Yes please sit down I shall bring you menu
Me: Its says Weasel?.. and tortoise?.. and snake.. umm whats fake dog meat?
Waiter: You want?
Me: No chips and steak please
Yes we are adventurous arent we! Well it was a bit much we had only just crossed the border of Vietnam and already they were trying to force feed us wild beast of the strangest descriptions.. my favourite is still Weasel (followed closely by fake dog meat???!!!) although I am yest to summon up the courage to try it!
So would you warrant it, we happen to be in Vietnam, but ever so much has happened since last time. For a start I declared three days of mourning following Englands noble stand against the cheating Spics (sorry sorry I mean our friends the Portuguese). It took me along time before I stopped repeating 'I cant believe we just lost to Portugal'. I still cant.. clearly the Argentine ref had some money riding on the game, either that or the Argie should just get over the fact that they lost the Falklands war.. even though it was in their own backyard, although perhaps the fact they invaded what is esentially some rocks and some sheep the size of the isle of wight at all is telling! Ok thats it as far souring international relations goes for now.. but seriously what the hell is Englands deal, why cant we take penalties. I'm haunted by Christiano Ronaldos grinning mug grrrrrrr. I never thought I'd say it but, Vive la France! Put one over on em!
Ok ok back to the subject at hand, Laos. We left Luang Prabang on another 200 km 8hr mission with the usual windy roads headed for Phonsovan, essentially just the main road with some houses, restaurants and guesthouses on either side and thats it. It was so quiet you couldnt find anywhere to eat after about 8.30pm. Two rather odd facts stand out for Phonsovan though: One, its the capital of the most heavily bombed province of the most heavily bombed country in the whole world! Two, its home to the frankly bizare plain of jars which as one might assume is essentially fields filled with huge stone jars, the purpose of them being completely unknown! According to our guide and from what we can gather, the prevailing theory among the Laos population is that they were used to store Whisky or rather the local brew the optimistically call whisky or comically Lao Lao ( I think the man with the job of naming it may have had one to many maybe). This theory although amusing is unlikely seeing as the jars hold anywhere between 50 gallons up to probably 250 gallons and there are hundreds of them (there were thousands and thousands, but international society for the preservation of culture.. namely the US Airforce did a fairly good job of blowing up the majority of them). Other theories include cremation and storage (bit unimaginative the last one really). Anyway as far as our guide was concerned almost certainly it was for the storage of booze which says a lot about the Laotians and they're culture as well as explaining why shops dont open till 11am (they all have hangovers!). Anyway they were extremely bizare and quite amusing although by the end of the day I was ready to move on. The other notable feature of the Phonsovan landscape includes the vast numbers of unexploded cluster bombs of all shapes and sizes and various other items of war junk including tanks and planes!! They use the bomb casings as stilts for their houses, fence posts, flower trays.. you name it they use it! Its extremely odd, nowhere however was stranger than our guesthouse's front room, inside which contained hundreds of clusterbombs, guns, shells, mortars, a nose cone of a fighter, even a stuffed cat wierdly enough! In all very strange!
Anyway we decided one day was plenty of time to see the jars and we were right so twas off to Vietnam 'pon a rickity bus irritatingly labelled VIP although quite how it qualified I am unable to divine! Too cut a long story short it was a nightmare, a 14 hr long one at that. The most interesting part being having our bags 'searched' by Vietnamese customs, which involved them asking you what a few items of your luggage were. In my case this turned out to be my speakers, the firstaid kit and my washbag, after which he decided he was bored and told me to go away (just as well I packed my drugs, bombs and guns at the bottom of case really!). Apart from this one relatively amusing insight into the mechanisms of good old fashioned Communist suspicion it was a bloody awful trip and to make matters worse, we arrived in a place called Vinh, which is a complete hole. It was the Slough of Vietnam and only one person in the whole bloody city spoke English, it was also the spot where the dialogue at the top took place. Yes indeed welcome to Vietnam! would you like your Weasel rare or medium rare?
We got the hell out of there first thing the next day, as of course any sane person would do. However before the delights of Hanoi were to be unleashed upon us, we first had to endure what is in absolute honesty the scariest 4 hours of my life. Untill lunch time the bus had been achieving a fair whack along the highway and making good time, but after lunch our driver who I assume had been drinking turned into a maniac who was apparently having a race against his other bus driver mates. The highways in Vietnam resemble a B road in England, one lane in each direction and some road markings from time to time, however this does not stop the Vietnamese from overtaking, undertaking, be it a blind corner or a hill they lunge in and out without ever slowing down doing 100km/h. The number of near misses against other trucks and busses was mindblowing, in the end we moved from the side of the bus closest to the oncoming traffic to the other side in a bid to at least lessen the crash injuries it seemed we were bound to recieve at any minute. One particular scary moment involved the bus driver overtaking one of his mates and waving and making odd faces and noises at him while all the time a truck was growing ever larger in front. What this guy was doing we have no idea, but it truly made us think about flying instead of taking the bus.. as it is we're taking the night bus tomorrow.. so i guess fools dont learn!! Wish us luck!
Anyway it was with relief that we arrived in Hanoi alive and in one piece, and even more of a relief to find that its a great place withb lots of culture and charm (we havent seen any yet but we will tomorrow, if we get up!). So we wasted a day or two just strolling around, we went to see a water puppet show which is a highly amusing water based version of punch and judy only with more history to it and slighty more advanced puppets and plot lines.. well more advanced than, 'thats the way to do it' and the like!
In the end we decided to head off to to Halong bay on a 3 day 2 night tour package, before we got to comfortable. For the princely sum of 47 dollars each we found ourselves transported to a luxury boat that was for a change fairly luxury (apart from our cabin leaking when it rained), where we cruised around these amazing limestone islands and visited caves.
Then we were taken to an amazing hotel and were checked into the best room we've stayed in all trip, all this and all meals included.. it was brilliant! We met some great people and we even had some Germans who were eating some humble pie this morning after last nights shock defeat to the Italian nancy boys. That'll teach some for their comment when we first met our tour guide who proclaimed how sad he was that England were out of the worldcup, only for them to proclaim they were quite glad.. well Fritz humble pie for you it is! but twas unfortunate indeed for them! The guide it should be said wasnt great but he was at least somewhat amusing being both effeminate in behaviour and voice and amusingly incapable of answering simple questions. Still great value as far as we were concerned. And now we are once again in Hanoi, where we hope to visit Mr Ho Chi Minh in his Mausoleum all embalmed up to the eyeballs for our viewing pleasure! Apparently they are extremely strict with someone we met suggesting he got told off more often there, than through his entire school days. So hands our of your pockets and stand up straight!!
Anyway tis all for now.. I mourn the English ineptitude when it somes to international competition..hmmmmm.
Farewell friends and remember theres allways 2010 (zzzzzzzz)