A Glimpse at Tam Coc, Vietnam

May 16, 2010 1 comment
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Good Morning Vietnam!

May 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam – so much history, so much to see, so little time. With only a month to travel in Vietnam we knew our plans of traveling the 2,000 mile coast line would mean a whirl wind tour. After three hard days of travel from Laos we finally arrived in the bustling city of Hanoi. Tired, exhausted and tense we camped out in the Old Quarter for five nights before peeling ourselves away to hop on another bus. The Old Quarter of Hanoi is not generally the place you would think of relaxing for a while, but we found the madness of the streets, markets and energy that was felt made for the perfect spot.

Ninh Binh was  just a short two hour trip from Hanoi so instead of taking the fourteen hour

Tam Coc, Vietnam

 bus to Hue we decided to break it up a bit and check it out. The city itself is nothing to see but the surrounding lime stone rock formations, green rice fields and lazy rivers make for a relaxing getaway. The Tam Coc is why most travelers come to Ninh Binh, described as “a limestone karsts sweeping up from serene rice paddies, best appreciated on a languorous rowboat ride down the river, to the soundtrack of water lapping against the oars.” Come are you serious – who writes this stuff. Can it really be that good? Is this just another ploy to wrangle in travelers?  

Tam Coc, Vietnam

Looking back on our ride downt the Tam Coc the over descriptive phrase the guide book used didn’t do it justice. It was absolutely stunning, breathtaking and romantic. Having the entire river to ourselves with not a single other tourist insight is a rarity. It was perfect.

Back to the whirl wind tour we stopped through Hue and Hoi An before arriving here in Nah Trang where we plan to spend 5 nights on the beach before heading south to Mui Ne for more beach time.

Vietnam has been good – were excited to see what the beaches have to offer.

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Opps [Laos]

May 8, 2010 3 comments

After 3 long travel days in a row with just a few bucks in our pocket we arrived in Vietnam. Our last day in Laos was bitter sweet. In order to cross into Vietnam from Laos we had to decide if we take the border in the south which is traveled often or take the border crossing in the north which is the road less traveled. We decided on the North. Like most Laos travel days the scenery was amazing. After a few hours on a bus followed by a two hour boat ride we arrived in Maung Ngoi – where the drama started.

The fishing boat we traveled on was packed with supplies for the river side village as the only access is by boat. Naturally all the travelers on board started to help unload the goods as we were the ones who would eventually eat the stuff. After carrying the supplies up into the village and visiting a few places to sleep I panic as I realize my small day pack is not with me. Not just any day pack, the day pack that holds our passports, credit cards, cash and pretty much anything else you would consider important.

Running up the village “road” and down to the dock, the bag is gone. Here we are in a small remote village only accessible by boat,

On our way to the boat...

 there is no electricity, phone or internet and our stuff has vanished. We meet with a “police officer” in a chicken coop where he takes the details of what was inside. All I keep thinking is how are we ever going to get out of this remote village in this remote country with no passports, money or identification. To say the tension between the two of us was thick might be a bit of an understatement.

Sitting and waiting for the officer to run through the village Amy urges me to check the dock one more time. As I do the boat captain comes running up the steps with my pack that he “found” over his shoulder. After looking through the pack I find our passports, credit cards, camera and ID all in place -everything there but 500,000 kip or 70 bucks. Any other time I would greatly trade 70 bucks for my stuff back, but again with no electricity don’t think you are going to find an ATM. With enough money to spend the night in some shady guesthouse, we split a plate of fried rice for dinner and baguette for breakfast – we were left with 67 cents after paying for the bus.

Lesson learned – don’t leave your stuff on a dock (obviously), but if you do, do it in a small village where they have no need for digital cameras, ATM cards or passports.

I’ll talk about getting food poisoning that night another time. We’re just glad to be out of that place – although it was beautiful.

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Vang Vieng, Laos

May 8, 2010 1 comment

Caving via innertube

Vang Vieng – where tubing in a Tennessee river meets Cancun, Mexico. Known more for its binge drinking through packers than beautiful scenery, Vang Vieng is still well worth a 2-3 day visit. The city has definitely lost its charm as every street front is now a western style food stall with laid out backpackers drinking happy shakes and watching friends re-runs. Although most feel the town gave up its true identity in order to get on the backpacker circuit, many will agree that the scenery and activities that it provides is an accepted compromise.

Our first night we opted for a bungalow tucked back in the woods along the river to a noisy room in the middle of town. Generally when we arrive at a guest house, hostel or hotel we will only book one night at a time as we never know what might lie, “inside the cover”. Deciding that we would be in town for 3 maybe even 4 nights and the place was perfect and cheap we opted for booking all 4….Not so fast. We were informed that Chinese tourist had booked the entire row of bungalows and we would only be able to stay 2 nights. 2 nights it was.

Kayaking, tubing, caves, caves in tubes, caves with elephants, zip lines and river water slides we had an amazing time in Vang Vieng. From reading guide books it didn’t quite look to be our cup of tea, however we found that Vang Vieng offers much more than the infamous tubing craze and it’s not too difficult to find folks to team up with for an excursion.

We met many travelers that opted out of Vang Vieng and almost did ourselves. If you are in Laos and on the fence opt in as the scenery and activities will more than make up for the charm and character that this town lacks.

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facebook – banned [Vietnam]

May 7, 2010 Leave a comment

facebook banned in Vietnam

Unintentionally we will be giving up facebook for the month of May. Vietnam has made the decision to block the popular social networking site. Maybe not a bad thing – it will give us a reason to get back to blogging rather than posting short non-descriptive status updates. Kind of like “Fiji out, Bali in”.

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Kuang Xi Falls [Luang Prabang, Laos]

May 6, 2010 1 comment
Graceful – No. Fun – Yes

Luang Prabang is described as tonic for the soul. Thanks to the UNESCO restrictions Luang Prabang has preserved itself as a sleepy, remote town in the heart of Northern Laos. Walking the tree lined boulevards, eating the local flavor at a riverside restaurant and enjoying a stylish boutigue-hotel was the setting for 4 perfect nights in Luang Prabang.

After a few days wandering the markets and getting lost in this timeless city we met up with a couple and new friends from San Diego for a trip to the local falls. The falls were just as tranquil as the town where we spent the afternoon jumping into ice cold, bluest of blue water.
Most travelers opt to stay just a night or two as they recover from the slow boat from Thailand. The town is more than worthy of a just a night as it is truly tonic for the soul.
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Our prayers are with Nashville

May 5, 2010 1 comment

Without internet for more than a week we were shocked  to read articles and see pictures of the flooding in Nashville and other parts of TN. Our prayers go out to the families who lost homes, cars and even loved ones in this tragic event.

My good friend Ben DeRienzo put this video together.

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