Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Recapping - Part 1

To say the past couple of weeks have been hectic would be a gross understatement. Chris and I have been packing our days with as much as we can possibly handle. It stands to reason that I've been a little too distracted with travel to write up my blog. To put things in perspective: My last blog came to you from Da Lat and covered everything up until leaving Mui Ne. This blog is coming to you from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, 1500km north of Da Lat (or: two 4-hour buses, one 12-hour overnight bus and one 15-hour overnight bus in backpacker terms).

I've decided to split this blog into two parts as writing one blog about all that has happened in the 11 days since my last entry would be too cumbersome. Part 1 will include Da Lat and Nha Trang and Part 2 will include Hoi An and Hue...

Part 1 starts roughly an hour after I finished typing up my last blog. We had been invited by the guys who ran our hotel to play a game of football that evening. It sounded like a great idea and we agreed to go along. At 18:30 we jumped on the backs of motorbikes and headed off to the football field. It was freezing and the ride on the back of the motos to get there was chilly to say the least. The field was a small astroturf only big enough for 5-a-side, enclosed by nets to stop the ball rolling on to the adjacent fields. I'm afradi I don't have any photos as I was expecting it to rain so I didn't bring my camera. My expectations turned out to be correct. About five minutes into the match it started belting down and it didn't stop for the rest of the night. Within seconds we were soaked to the bone. The only way to stave off the cold was to get stuck into the game. We did just that.

It was an awesome game and possibly the best experience of my trip so far. The rain and cold only added to the experience. The cold forced us to throw ourselves entirely into the game to stay warm and we were rewarded for our efforts. We had started off quite slowly as a team and soon found ourselves 5-1 down. We quickly adjusted to the conditions and mounted a comeback that was nothing short of legendary. As we became used to the rapid movement of the ball on the wet astroturf we started to judge our passes better and started timing our shots much more exactly. We became better as a team and moved the ball around fluidly between us. The result was utter dominance over our opponents.

I hate to be unfair to the rest of the team, but it was the foreigners who proved to be the winning ticket. Chris, the two Americans (Joe and Shawn) and I scored the majority of the goals for our team and performed the midfield roles to perfection - controlling and distributing the ball. In the end Chris had scored about 5 goals, Joe - 3, Shawn - 5 and I - 8.

After a solid hour of intense football the game abruptly stopped. We were told we had won and were heartily congratulated by the other team. The locals on our team were beaming and seemed very happy with the way the game had turned out. We were quickly ushered back on to the motorbikes and whisked off to the hotel. At the hotel we were told to meet in the reception area in 45 minutes. As winners we'd be going out for supper. It sounded fantastic!

45 minutes later, after a much-needed, hot shower we all met in the reception area and piled into a taxi. The taxi took us down the road to a little local restaurant which turned out to be closed. Another plan was hatched and we were put on the back of motorbikes again and scooted up the road to another local resaurant. We sat down and were brought piping hot rice wine to warm us up. It was just the thing we needed. After a ridiculous amount of shots of rice wine a huge, steaming hot pot was placed on the table. The rice wine flowed and the hot pot rapidly diminished and finally, feeling full and utterly content we hopped into a taxi and headed back to the warmth of our beds. A fantastic day concluded with a smile.

The next day we wandered around town and visited the Crazy House for a dose of the absurd. The morning started off with a meeting with the leader of the Easy Riders over some green tea. We said we wanted to do a motorbike tour the next day and it was quickly organised. We then took a very leisurely meander through the town and ended up at the Crazy House. Not much has changed since the last time I was there, but that's a good thing as it remains as absurd as ever. It was surprisingly good to revisit the Crazy House and it brought back great memories of the Easy Rider tour I did the previous time I was in Da Lat and made me eager to do the tour the next day.

Da Lat is full of pleasant surprises. The next morning we walked over to Peace Cafe to meet our Easy Rider companions for the day. You'll never guess who turned up. Or perhaps you will...

Dunhill! You couldn't have scripted it better! The star performer of the last Easy Rider tour I did had made a comeback and was now taking Chris and I on a tour. It was fantastic! The laugh, the smile, the knowledge of the history of the country - Dunhill was just as awesome as I remembered him. The tour was fantastic. We visited some of the same places as the last time, but added a few more. It's always good to be doing something new and all my fears of doing an identical tour to the previous time were quickly allayed. We took in some fantastic views, stood under a raging waterfall and visited a beautiful pagoda among other things. It was a great day out and really rounded off my experience of Da Lat.

The return of Dunhill!
The next morning we hit the road to Nha Trang. The bus trip was nothing short of memorable, if perhaps, for the wrong reasons,. The poor kid who was sitting directly behind me was terribly carsick. The road down to Nha Trang from Da Lat is probably the most winding road in the country and the poor guy felt it. He spent the better part of four hours barfing into a plastic bag.

We spent the afternoon lazing around the streets and beaches of Nha Trang then headed out in the evening to play a game of pool and have a beer. The roughest night of my trip certainly wasn't planned, but somehow it pieced itself together. One beer and a game of pool somehow morphed into a beer, a game of pool, a free mojito and 3 buckets of rum and coke. It was brutal, especially when you consider that rum is cheaper than coke, thus more rum goes into a bucket than coke. It tasted like rum with black food colourant. It was messy, very messy...

The next morning we were up bright and early to catch a boat tour of the islands. Needless to say the last thing I wanted was to be on a rocking boat. But I'll leave it at that. The boat trip started slowly with a visit to an over-priced aquarium which we chose to skip. We'd be snorkelling at the next island so there was no point in seeing fish in a tank. A swim was just what I needed to break me out of the haze and I was feeling much better after we left the second island. A huge lucn followed and it completely sorted me out. I was feeling right as rain by the time we stopped at the third island. At the third island things got extreme. The boy band came out to play us a few songs, but the lead singer was a Ho Chi lookalike. He was such a cool guy and rocked out on the drums and then the guitar, singing all the time. It was rock 'n roll at its finest with Ho Chi taking the lead. Pure genius!

Karaoke followed, which was a bit of a let down as we were now forced to listen to all the other tourists warble away at the tops of their lungs. The Irish contingent did the tourists proud, though with a swinging version of some Mexican song.

The floating bar followed and I dived into the water to cool off. Despite my best efforts to avoid the bar I had 4 horrible shots forced on me. I let a lot of that brutal liquid wash away into the sea and steered clear of the bar. I opted to lie in the water and cool off. I was still recuperating from the night before.

After a brief stop at the fourth, and final, island we headed back to the harbour. The Irish blokes were now well on their way and sang along to all the old classics that got blared over the stereo. They were great company and one couldn't help but smile at their rendition of Wonderwall by Oasis.

We arrived back at the hotel and booked our bus ticket out for the next day. We collapsed on o our beds just in time to catch the start of the day's play at Wimbledon. It was a brilliantly relaxing end to a packed day. We packed our bags the next morning and checked out. We then headed to the beach to kill time before our bus trip to Hoi An. We played cards and read under a palm tree on the beach then wandered back to our hotel to catch the bus.

More in part 2

P.S. I ran out of batteries for my camera on the Nha Trang boat trip. So I don't have any pictures of Ho Chi to upload from my camera. I was able to snap a few on Chris's iPhone though. Here are some links:


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