Friday, April 22, 2016

Vietnam - South to North

Just did another solo traveling in Vietnam from Saigon, to Hanoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Sapa, Hanoi, Cat Ba, Lan Ha Bay and finally Hanoi before flying home. I did so little of survey prior. 50% of my trip itinerary was planned out in Saigon when I'd purchased an open bus ticket costing me 800k-900k dong. And the other 50% of it was planned out in Hanoi, taking tips from a couch surfer from Chiang Mai, Maew Chaiwiang.

The travel was alright. I'm glad that I've explored the country quite a bit, the people, the food, the motorbike culture, the street food culture, the minimalist culture, some young entrepreneurship, the coffee culture, the ways that tourists are over-priced or scammed, the congestion and scarcity of space in the cities, the ways most locals are looking up to westerners (questionable) and the sleeper bus culture and etc. Although I read that the economy has been taking off at >6% per annum, but I've found that there are still quite a large number of people living in certain level of poverty, but they are happy. A French girl told me that although there are so many poor people, the society is functional and livable in general, in contrast to what she saw in Beirut, Lebanon where things are in still and stationary. Traffics, security, businesses are not warranted.

Anyway, there have been plenty of unknowns whom I met along the way who've made my trip meaningfully interesting.

A Filipino Canadian Jamie (from couch surfing) at Aleezoo in Saigon. She has been living nomadic for like a year or so. Fell in love with Langkawi. But yea, she just relaxed and lost.

A Saigon girl Hien (from couch surfing) who brought me to the Phuc Long cafePretty interesting cafe in the sense that the crowd there is just the locals. I am not thrilled at the scene where all the foreigners hanging out. She is nice and she shared some tips about Saigon. She is the only local who is so assertive that I don't look like a Vietnamese.

Another Saigon girl Chi La May (from couch surfing) who took me to dinner and motorbike ride around Saigon. Had a beer at rooftop bar. She works as a travel agent in partnership with USA/Europe companies.

An Airbnb host from Hoi An. The guy speaks a little Cantonese as his dad is from China. Spent quite a bit of time chatting with him, despite difficulty to understand his broken Cantonese. He told me that Laos and Cambodia are doing better these days compared to Vietnam in terms of tourism. He is alright but when I was leaving the town, he made an offer to send me off from the home stay using his motorbike and he asked for a fee. WTF...

Another Airbnb host Lyn from Hue. Definitely a super host. Took me out for dinner, went on boat ride at Perfume river, even cooked me lunch. More than what I'd could ask for. I mean I could be on my own and venture, but to get the true local taste, your best bet is to have him/her taken you along and try something that he/she normally does. She seems genuine and nice. Anyway, I've taught her something about business and investment.

An uncle from South Korea who came to share table with me over BBQ dinner at Sapa town. We both had to communicate via GOOGLE TRANSLATE. Yea, funny. He started talking of the tragic Sewol ferry sinking accident taking place in 2014. It's quite striking for me. I saw a couple walking by, and I told him that the couple are Korean, based on the make-up. He went chatting them up, proving me correct. Lol...

A French girl Julie (from couch surfing) whom I met at Hanoi and then met again in the village at Sapa out of coincidence. Spent an evening with her at Ete bar. Interestingly we got into some serious topics, than all the traveling stories, as I'd expected.

A pair of Russian couple whom I went trekking with. I thought they are pretty decent people, although the typical perception that we have is that Russian are crazy. I told them too. They are vegetarian, courteous, and fun. They are both wedding photographer by profession. They do 2-3 months vacation in winter every year. I got invited to Russia. Lol...

The trek master from Sapa village. Pretty interesting person. Speaks relatively good English. 21 years old and married with a kid. I told her that Sapa will be different 20 years down the road, even there may be no more paddy field. Young people leave to work in town. Economy will be more dependent on good and services, than farming. She said no way. So we will see.  

Two girls from Singapore Natalie and Lydia who went to the same home stay in Sapa as I did. Pretty girls or Chio Boo (in Singlish) We met again in Hanoi before I flew home. Smart and fun people to be with. I told Nat that she looks like Stephanie Sun and she told I'm noisy.  Hahaha...speechless. We had a BBQ dinner. As we were about to get done, there was a brief raid whereby the authority just appeared out of thin air, seized some tables, got out of sight, all in a blink of eye. It's pretty dramatic.

Two Hanoi girls whom I met at Cat Ba. It was such a small island, that I bumped into them too many times, even went on the same day trip cruising around the Lan Ha bay. One of them became my kayaking partner. Despite quite a bit of interactions, it's no easy to get along with them. Lol...

Four Thai guys whom I met on the day trip cruising the Lan Ha bay. One of them can speak pretty good Chinese. As we started talking in Chinese, the German counterparts were taken aback. Yea, these days, if you speak a little Chinese, you're in different league. Lol....

Overall, a good adventure and exploration.

There was a fuck up the first day when I arrived at Sapa. I had booked two days of homestay in the village, 5km off the town. I took a motorbike taxi to the village, and then two con ladies came walking me to the village. The women at the home stay were confused of my arrival, which then I found out that I was in the wrong home stay after making a call. For safety reason, I took a cab back to Sapa town and stayed the night there.

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