June 25 2016

THE LOVELY VIETNAM

Vietnam was a country I wanted to visit, as last year I spent just two days there and loved it. But after Burma I was tired. My back hurt. I spent 4 and a half months on the road by then and realised travelling is hard work. It doesn't leave you with free weekends and holidays. At 4 PM you don't just stop travelling and move to another activity. Travelling is a part of your life, every day, every minute and it is up to you to take your time off when necessary. Every month my backpack was lighter as I got rid of the unnecessary things, but yet it was more and more difficult to carry it. When I started to travel I wanted to see as much as I could, I moved quickly and saw more places in a short period of time . I noticed I wasn't comfortable just lying around all day and doing nothing most of the time, unless I felt bad. Sure, there were some days where I didn't do much, but soon  I felt like I was spending my money in vain by not doing lots of things. When I was finishing my travels I realised I don't need to see everything, but it is important that while I travel I feel good and I do things that make me happy and relaxed. Even if this means just sitting at one place and just observing the life that passes by.

Realising all that I decided to take about 2 weeks off before going to Vietnam. From Burma I crossed to Thailand by land and after spending quite some time on the bus I arrived to Koh Samet Island with an important plan: to relax, do nothing and take as much time as I needed. I loved the small island because there is not much to do but still by walking you can see different bays, I loved the small ones. I walked around and ended up at the smallest and most peaceful bay. I got a bungalow directly on the beach at Ao Nuan Bungalows for 800 Bht with shared toilets. First I wanted to stay just one night because it was a bit too expensive for me, but I felt so good there so I stayed 3 nights. I didn't spend much more money, I just needed some good food and a nice beer and it was perfect. One day I walked to the further beaches, but really took it easy. I loved sleeping and hearing the waves and wakening up to the sound and the view of the sea. Later I moved for another 4 days to a bit cheaper Ao Pai Huts (600 Bht a night), where I had toilets inside but had to share my room with mosquitoes and ants. I continued my days relaxing, swimming, doing some Tai Chi, writing my blog and eating good food. I felt a bit lonely and met Julia there and we had some fun while enjoying a good curry, some cocktails and dancing barefoot on the beach. Soon I decided it was time to continue my relaxing days in Chanthaburi, the only place I visited twice during my journey. I felt good there, relaxed and loved spending some more time with my brother, the lovely hosts and some Hungarians. To get there I »hitchhiked« a bus at the main road and was welcomed at the bus station by my brother and a durian. I was careful trying it as last year I didn't have the best experience. But I wanted to see what all the fuss was about this strange, smelly fruit and realised that it can be really good if it is ripe! I spent 4 days there and had a great time - I didn't need to plan much as my brother drove me around to the markets and to the massage centre, where 4 months ago I had the best massage ever. I tried to arrange another massage with the same guy which was difficult as they didn't speak English there much and I didn't know how to describe the guy, just that he was amazing. They told me to come back the next day and I was pleased as the same guy actually came and gave me another great two hour long massage. But I was a bit too eager and had another massage the next day, which wasn't a good choice as my body was still delicate. The second massage was therefore very painful and afterward I had pains for more days – I realised that too much of good things can also be bad :). I loved spending the days not doing much, taking the boat over the river, driving on the back of the motobike and eating good food. We cooked curries in the evening and I tried amazing durian curry. But on the 1st of April it was time to board the plane and continue my adventures in Vietnam.

 

                     GOOD EVENING, VIETNAM

 

I flew from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City. I had some troubles with my foot – I don't know why but my left foot where the second finger connects the ball hurt so much that I couldn't step on it , so I spent lots of days limping around, moving slowly and relaxing. I decided I wanted to visit the Mekong Delta and stay at Ben Tre. More agencies explained me the same – the cheapest for me would be to go with an organised tour and at the end of it just stay there. I wanted to take the local bus, but they said it is just maybe 2 dollars cheaper than the organised tour. I believed them and took the tour, although with the pain I didn't feel the best. But it was nice meeting some nice people and our tour guy was really great. We visited bee farm, coconut candy factory and took some boat rides on the Mekong. It was a bit touristic but not bad. At the end I realised that to get to Ben Tre I needed to take a motorbike taxi which cost me more than a local bus from Ho Chi Minh City, which was of course possible to take for a cheap price. I felt so sad. I asked at leat 4 agencies and they told me the same story, but they were just trying to sell me their service. Actually later I felt happy that after so much travelling I still can get so naive, because I believe the people are honest with me. It feels nice that I am not just sceptical about every people but rather mostly trust them. I think life is much easier if you believe people are mostly good, but get disapointed sometimes, rather than just see bad and be worried about every situation. I prefer his belief.

 

                                   The Mekong Delta

 

I loved it last year and also this time. Although because of my pains in my foot I couldn't move much I felt good just observing and interacting with the locals in a place where white people were rare. I met a local friendly lady Quynh and spend quite some time with her and her family. She speaks English good and is very friendly, she invited me to her home and cooked some local dishes. We talked a lot and it was nice to have her around, especially as I couldn't walk much around. This way I learned a lot about Vietnam and it's friendly people. Of course I made some »friends« with a local lady at the market, she sold me great dragon fruits and other fruits and we comunicated a lot using just our body language and laughter. I loved eating at some local place where for less than half an EUR I got a big plate of vegetables, rice noodles and rice paper and made my own fresh spring rolls! It was so delicious and they were so friendly there, I still dream of this place :)!! And I really loved the fried bananas with a coconut sauce, amazing! I slept at the Que Huong ( 38 Hai Ba Trung, ☎ 075 3835 888), where they didn't speak English much but it was a great place for just 100.000 – 120.000 VND a night (25.000 VND = 1 EUR), in front of the town's lake. So while resting here I didn't spend much money but still got to experience the local life. Even the fact that my phone fell from just 5 cm and broke it's screen didn't make me angry - I spent days checking some phones and decided to buy Xiaomi, a Chinese company that makes good quality phones for great prices. When I felt better Quynh lent me her motorbike and I drove around the island. I loved it. After 3 days of resting and not doing much I was moving again with the wind in my hair. I love travelling by motorbike because this way you get to see so much. As I was limited in walking because of my foot problems this was a great way to see the fertile Mekong delta, wonderful nature and meet smiley and friendly people. I had fun with some people who were collecting coconuts and had them open up a coconut which they got directly from the palm tree, just for me. We talked a little, using some English words and some Vietnam words, but mostly body language and we laughed a lot. When I offered to pay for the coconut they were offended and wanted to give me another one :)! I drove  to the far East side of the island and observed the lovely landscape. When I got closer to the sea I loved the beautiful salt harvesting places and was surprised when I saw how they dry the shrimps just there on the street, after seeing that I lost my appetite for dried shrimps :). I was thinking about seeing some more places at Mekong delta, because I loved it there. But as I had a lot of time there for research I bought my plane ticket back home, returning on the 25th of April from Hanoi. Yeah, the past month I had been thinking a lot about home and this made me realise it was time to go home. And also my body was telling me the same – it was tired and exhausted from constantly moving from one place to another. From constanly making lots of decisions. From doing, experiencing and feeling so much every day. This is the part of travelling that I love, the freedom to move around and do whatever feels right, but this is also the price of traveling, because especially if doing this long time, mostly alone, it can get harder every day. I didn't have the specific plan when to return, I had about six months in mind, but I didn't know if it will be enough or if it will be too much. I decided in the beginning to go with the flow and come back when I feel like it. After 3 months I couldn't imagine myself coming back yet because I had lots of energy and plans. But when I realised it is time to come back, I decided to buy my returning ticket and enjoyed the rest of my adventures.

 

Leaving Ben Tre with a local bus wasn't a problem  - as this place wasn't touristic like Ho Chi Minh the people were honest and I had no problems getting the local bus to Ho Chi Minh and from there the bus to Mui Ne. It was time to swim some more, this time in the South China Sea.

 

                                          Mui Ne

Arriving at Mui Ne in the evening wasn't a problem. As I had Vietnamese sim card with internet credit I found some places during the bus ride and decided to chech out the cheapest one. The owners were friendly but as the doors opened there were about 5 cockroaches running around the small room, so I decided to look some more. It was funny when I told the lady that there are cockroaches and she said with a big smile: yeah, it is normal in Vietnam :). I found a great place almost next door to 1&10 hotel, a little bit inside, with just local people, friendly hosts and good beds – Nha Nghi guesthouse. But as my wish was to spend another night listening to the sound of the waves, during my walk on the beach I checked some places and find a really nice place at Bien Dua Resort, I think it was just $7 dollars a night, a nice bungalow with the view of the sea. First my plan was to stay just a day but I was so satisfied that I stayed 3 nights there. I  still had pains in my foot so I needed to take it easy and here it was a great place to do that. I spent days walking just a little around, swimming a lot and just relaxing in my hammock. They have great food in Mui Ne, it was really cheap and people are so friendly. I met the neighbours, a girl from Ireland and two brothers from Chile who had been travelling for a while and they invited me to barbecue dinner. I found a small market and bought some vegetables and they prepared other goods, one guy was a chef and they also took a cooking class in Vietnam, so the dinner was delicious. On the top of it we had cold beers and pisco, traditional chillean drink, I actually liked it. It was fun talking about our adventures and life and later two Chinese girls joined us for a beer and explained how different life in China is, but that I already knew. At my guesthouse the staff was great, they rent motorbike cheap ($4 a day), so I went South West to Ke-Ba. I loved being able to move a lot again and see beautiful coastal life. It is different than in Thailand. A lot of deserted resorts and stranded beaches. I got a bit lost trying to find a shortcut and all of a suden in front of me there was a dragon fruit farm. Oh yeah, this was amazing, I love dragon fruits, but not all of them – these were really delicious, sweet and juicy, fresh from the cactus tree. One guy picked it up directlly from the tree and gave it to me, I bought and ate so much of them, the white and also the pink ones, and I think the cheapest were less than 50 cents for a kilo :). In Mui Ne I found a kiteboarding school. I wanted to learn kitesurfing during my traveld and had a budget just for this occasion. In Thailand there wasn't the best weather but here I came to the perfect place to do it - yet I decided to postpone learning it as my foot was still hurting, I guess I need to be more patient. I wanted to see others kitesurf, but the wind was very poor so nobody was doing it. I guess it was better this way, because when I saw them in Rodos, Greece, I was so overwhelmed that I wanted to try it. Next time :)! I found a nice place at the beach where there were some locals having a party and enjoying the day, singing karaoke like Vietnamese love doing. I returned passing Ke-ga, a small island with a lighthouse from which you can get great views.I decided just to walk a bit and observed the interesting fishing boats – just small round boats with vessels. I took a nice swim in the deserted beach, had a delicious lunch, visited a temple and found an interesting graveyard – instead of gravestones they have small houses or themples above the graves. The next morning I took an organised tour at my guesthouse with a jeep to see the white and red sand dunes at sunrise and the fairy stream. It was a nice tour, cost as little as $5, and there were about 7 of us, it was fun. I enjoyed walking in the sand dunes, it was amazing view, seeing the sea from the sand dunes. I enjoyed walking there and just observing others who had fun running or jumping there. There were two Chinese girls, very friendly, I remembered them because they said that they like my smile. And yeah, I smiled a lot. That what happiness does. It didn't matter that I was tired or in a pain, but I was just enjoying the lovely day. The fairy stream is also nice, I visited it twice, first with the neighbours from my guesthouse and now again. It was so relaxing walking through the stream and surrounded with colourful sand dunes, cows and other animals. After returning I relaxed a little and took a bus to Dalat.

 

                                                Dalat

I was really lucky to have found a nice hotel in Dalat – A Dong Hotel for 150.000 VND for a night for one person. Clean, spacious, comfortable and with great staff. They were friendly and lent me motorbike for 100.000 VND a day. I find it relaxing that there the workers were enjoying themselves while working as they were playing cards or some other game, but at the same time took good care of the guests. I wanted to rent a motorbike for two days but the first day I went outside, found a market and visited Hang Nga Guesthouse, called The Crazy house.  It is an amazing place, a guesthouse with extraordinary buildings, unique rooms for guests and artistic vibe. I loved it! In Dalat the roads are crazy and I got lost lots of times. First time actually I wanted to leave the city, but I  ended up close to my hotel, luckily just when it started to rain. It was pouring and the clouds were all over the place, so I decided to return the motorbike and just stay in, relax some more and take it easy :). I walked just a little around, of course visited the market and at that time I was already tired of bargaining and checking the prices all the time. In touristic places they give you usually high prices and I already knew how much something should cost and wasn't ready to pay double. I loved the local snacks: yummy baked sweet corn, sweet potatoes or some other local thing like a pancake filled with some things. I didn't experiment so much with food as a lot of it included meat and I wasn't really up for it. In Vietnam it was the hardest of all the countries I visited to find good, cheap street food without meat... you can see the chickens hanging around everywhere, from a lot of food stalls, for me it was a bit disturbing. The next day the weather was better and did a great tour with my motorbike. Some people take organized motorbike tours but I preferred going by myself and just going with the flow. There are a lot of waterfalls around Dalat and I decided to check out the Elephant waterfall. I loved the scenery on the way and was fascinated by the coffee plantations and finding out how avocadoes grow – on trees, like apples :). They were selling avocadoes at some homes and I stopped at one place and had such a great time with the lady. She didn’t speak English, but we communicated anyway and laughed a lot. The avocadoes she was selling were not ripe enough for me, but I found some good ones among those which were already ready to be thrown away. She offered me delicious sweet potatoe and when I asked them how much I owe them, she didn’t want to take my money. I guess they prefered a great big grateful smile than money. I loved moments like that when I hang out with the locals, maybe just sat with them and had some laugh. The waterfall was nice and I wanted to see it closer, so I descended the stairs, which were improvised rocks. As it was a bit slippery and the soles of my shoes had already became completely flat, soon I ended up on the floor. Luckily this time my right leg was bruised, so I forgot about my left foot problems for a while. Afterwards I was very careful climbing around but didn’t want to lose the opportunity to see the waterfall from up close – and it was amazing. I got to step behind the waterfall and felt the amazing energy there, great feeling. I continued my trip and did a loop around, going through Cau Dat – and visited another tea plantation, the first one in Vietnam. I love the tea plantations, I guess my trip could be called The tea plantation tour – from the ones in the far North West of Thailand at Sop Ruak  to the breathtaking ones in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, to the more solitary ones at the hills around Kyaume. I tried some local tea at one coffee plantation and later at the tea plantations I drank an amazing coffee :). I realized how great Vietnamese coffee is, even the ordinary one tastes so special and amazing, and the smell is so intoxicating, smelling like chocolate. I loved the scenery coming back to Dalat, the lovely green rice fields and the hills, surrounded with tea plantations, so relaxing. In the evening I gave my leg a cold compress, using cold beer and the pain was better soon :):).

                                         Nha Trang

I wanted to take the night train to Hoi-an, so in the morning I took a bus to Nha Trang and decided to spend the day relaxing at the beach. First I had some troubles leaving the luggage, I was going around from one hotel to another to leave it there. Usually they didn’t want to take it or wanted me to rent a normal room for it, which of course seemed crazy to me – to rent a room just for a backpack. I was tired, hurt in both legs and a bit sad when I found some very friendly staff at one travel agency that were prepared to take my backpack. I was already ready to pay as much as they wanted but at the end they didn’t want to take my money. It is not about the money, maybe I saved about 3 $, but I love the friendliness and the warmth of the Vietnamese people. I found the market and enjoyed a nice coconut at the local stall. I loved just sitting in the market and enjoying the local delicacies. I liked the beach although it was quite windy, but I loved being surrounded by the local families and enjoyed talking to a friendly guy. Before going to the train station I wanted to buy some food but had troubles explaining the waitress that I don’t want to eat meat, I just wanted some noodles – she left and came back with a noodle beef soup and I ended up reclining it and trying some leftover that some local group had at the table I joined, they were really friendly, I shared a beer with them and talked and laughed until it was time to take the train. I couldn’t get a bed on the night train as I was buying the ticket for the same day – it is good to buy it in advance. But I took the soft seat and was a bit worried at first. Actually it was a great ride, I was sitting next to a guy who travelled from Ho Chi Minh over the weekend to Da Nang to visit his girlfriend. It was so sweet, he travelled 16 hours in one direction to see his loved one. It is so funny that in my country it takes less than 3 hours to get with a car almost to any place, but for us sometimes driving 1 hour away seems so far :).

 

                              Da Nang and Hoi An

I decided to rent a motorbike in Da Nang and go to Hoi An and back, because the distance is just 30 kilometers. I was lucky to find Ngoi Nha Nho Hotel where I got the motorbike for 2 days for 100.000 VND a day. Sometimes you need to bargain a bit but this is the usual price for one day. As the screen of my telephone broke I needed a new one and wanted to get Xioami – a Chinese company that is known for it’s quality and good prices. The problem is that they sell it just in few countries outside China and in Vietnam they sell it in Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang and Hanoi. I checked Facebook page where to find the shop in Danang and waited for more than an hour for it to open – then I realized they sell only accessories here and not the phone, so after searching for it in Ho Chi Minh City I realized I will need to spend a lot of time for this phone. I liked the drive to Hoi An, an ancient city with amazing surroundings - green rice fields with buffaloes and lots of water. The city is nice, a lot of beautiful buildings, just a bit overcrowded for my taste. As a touristic city it had benefits, like a lot of options, great tailors and lots of things to do. But the bad part of it is that they started to take entrance fee just to walk around the city – I read some things about it and lots of people said they didn’t pay it. Nobody asked me, so I managed to get inside without problems. It is an interesting, alive city, but the countryside of it was the winner for me! And just 5 kilometers away is a nice beach, a bit crowded but I had a chance to swim a lot. I didn’t want to leave my stuff unattended so I asked two tourists to look after it as I was enjoying the sea, carelessly. Later we met again and walked around a bit, in the evening because of the lights and the music Hoi An is an interesting place to see. But it was time to go back to Da Nang and actually I found this big city interesting – a lot of different bridges (the famous one with a fence as a dragon) and nice beaches. I wanted to go to the Hai Van pass, a little to the North of the city. Just the drive there was relaxing, not a lot of traffic and as I was ascending I had some amazing view over the beautiful beaches and interesting woods. I made a short stop at some amazing beach  (https://www.google.si/maps/place/16%C2%B008'45.5%22N+108%C2%B008'14.1%22E/@16.145976,108.135051,1139m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d16.145976!4d108.137245)

It was a great place…almost deserted, white sandy beach and a big tree to relax under and escape the heat. I took a nice swim but despite the uniqueness of this place I decided to return soon to Da Nang and take a train to Hue the same day. As this drive is supposed to be one of the loveliest train rides in Vietnam, I wanted to take it during the day. I was lucky as I managed to catch the train just in time, but got a hard seat because everything else was full. Actually this wasn’t bad as it wasn’t full and I had lots of sits for myself so I could enjoy my take away lunch bought at the train station an a beer with the view. They sell lots of things on the train also, but usually I prefer buying some corn or rice with vegetables on the train station.

                                                 Hue

I wanted to stay close to the train station in Hue and I found more places to stay just a 5 minute walk from it on the right, next to the river, I chose the cheapest and the nicest :). I bought a night train ticket to Ninh Binh for the next night and was very "lucky" as due to some Vietnamese holidays had to pay about 30 % more, but anyway I decided this time to take the best ticket, a soft sleeper. In the evening I had a great experience with the local restaurant where I bought a big coconut. I talked a little with the locals and ordered some food. I enjoyed the atmosphere and at the end they didn’t want to take any money for the food. I guess I was one of rare tourist there and to me this was a special act of kindness, although at first I wasn’t comfortable not paying, but they insisted, so I accepted this special gift. Later I passed by and wanted to give them some peanuts I bought but they wouldn't accept it. Their gifting was completely selfless, wanting nothing in return, I felt so happy to be able to receive this! I have learnt that people, especially in Europe, have troubles excepting things, little gifts. In Asia when I offer somebody something to eat they usually accept it with gratitude, but  at my home country I offer a piece of fruit or a flower to a random stranger and I get turned down often. I guess they think they need to give something in return, where the biggest gift for me would be just if they would accept my gift, simple as that :). The next day I took the motorbike and drove to Gia Long Tomb. It was a nice place and the drive itself was interesting, driving along the river, in the countryside. There were just a few people there and it was very hot so I just took some rest under the tree. I walked around and enjoyed this peaceful place. On the way back I bought sugar cane juice, just perfect for refreshment. I needed some more money and discovered that the first time I withdrew money I was so lucky – the ATM I used gave me 7,5 million VND, which is about 300 EUR. I usually withdraw this kind of money as in these countries you need to pay the country’s bank fee, which can be sometimes even 5 EUR per transaction. Well I almost lost my nerves while searching for an ATM that would give me more than 2 million VND. I checked a lot of places and at the end, after more than an hour of driving around and looking for a better ATM, realized that only few of them actually would give me money, some didn’t work for my card. At the end I was very happy that I could withdraw any amount I could get for any fee, that’s how crazy their system is. I decided to take one last swim in the Vietnamese sea so I drove there, about 30 minutes away from Hue. It was nice, just the locals, and to go with the flow I swam this time dressed, like everybody around me and just enjoyed the big waves and the wind. It was nice observing the locals, having fun. As I heard thunder, I decided to go back but on the way the rain caught me. People put on their rain coats and drove on. I did the same at first but it was raining too much so I just stopped at one place and waited a bit. I had a little more time to drive around and realized that Hue is quite a nice place with its Citadel and lovely stone walls. But for me it was time to go North.

                                        Ninh Binh

 

I took a soft sleeper on the train this time, which means only 4 persons in a berth and the bed was ok. People are constantly coming and going but I managed to get some sleep. I skipped the most visited place in Vietnam, Halong Bay. Some people said it wasn’t so special for them and that there were too much of people, so I decided to visit Ninh Binh instead. I was very satisfied with the choice as the surrounding is amazing. I rented a motorbike in a place just across the train station and enjoyed the views. Although the weather wasn’t the best, it was raining a bit, l enjoyed it so much. I stopped at Tam Coc where most people take the boat rides around. It looked nice but it was raining so I just walked around a bit and drank delicious coffee. I visited Bich Dong pagoda and took a boat ride not far from it -one lady “picked” me up from the road and told me to follow her. She took me to her home and then her husband rowed the boat. It was nice, relaxing and I was enjoying myself passing green rice fields and going through the caves. On the way back there was this roundabout. I was alone but there was another car trying to get in. I was very careful as the drivers in Vietnam don’t have any rules – they even sell T – shirts with a sigh: green light – you can go, yellow light – you  can go, red light – you still can go :):). And this means that there are no rules there, I think that the one who honks the most has the right of way which is so crazy and confusing at times, but this way you realize you need to drive very careful and be present at all times and everything is good. I call it an organised chaos :). I did a mistake in this roundabout and instead of just driving on I stopped. When I used the brakes there were some stones on the road and my motorbike just fell over.  Luckily I was driving really slowly but still I got some bruises on my hand and legs mostly on the left side. I guess the Vietnam will be a country I will later connect with “leg pain”, although I had amazing time there. I got scared but actually realized that I was very lucky – I spend a lot of time on the road, in busses, on trains and on motorbike. If this would happen the previous day while I was driving fast on a wet road, I don’t think I would get away only with bruises. It made me think. It made me grateful for all the travels I did unharmed!

                              Travelling North-East

I decided I want to visit Sapa so I booked a night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, this time I took the sitting ticket as I had a good experience the previous time. Well this train was a bit different, the soft seat wasn’t that comfortable and the cockroaches on the wall didn’t make it any more pleasant, but I was lucky as it wasn’t full so I had two sits for myself. And as the sun was starting to light up the amazing views came to life. But to get back a bit, I had one day to spend in Hanoi and I this was a day that confirmed that it was time to go home. I spent the day finding a shop to buy my phone which wasn’t that hard, but the hardest part was to find an ATM that would give me more money than just 2 million of VND. I googled and found the banks, but locating the ATMs wasn’t as easy as some locations on the maps weren't precise. So I was walking around, searching an ATM with my hurting leg, it didn’t seem far but it kept getting away from me. Finally I decided to take a bus to another place when just after a few seconds of the drive I saw a sign for ANZ, the bank that usually gives you 5 millions of VND. I was so happy when I heard it count the money, the slot opened but all of a sudden it didn’t want to give me money nor my card. I admit, I was so tired and fed up with the search that I got upset. By this time it was already past bank opening hours so I was very happy when the ATM gave me the card back and after some time I got an SMS from my bank that the transaction was cancelled. This I recommend to everyone travelling – arrange with your bank that they send you SMS for the transactions, because sometimes some banks don’t give you the money but the money gets off the account. I was so upset I needed a sugar pump and bought a great chocolate cake to make me feel better, and it helped. Ok, I decided to find any ATM that would give me the money and this was a hard mission again, finding a bank that would give me any money. I stopped by at the phone shop and asked again if there is any option to pay with a card and they said no. I explained them I would buy the phone I was checking before but just needed to get the money. It took me half more hour to find a bank that gave me just 1,5 million VND, but I also managed to exchange some money at the jewelry for a good exchange rate, I actually recommend changing it there, better than this crazy ATM game :)! Ok, finally I got enough money and I came back to the shop where they explained me, using of course google translate which in this case was actually really good, that the phone I wanted to buy was out of stock. The world stopped at that moment, I spent the whole day going around searching for this thing and all in vain. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t tell me this before, as half an hour before I was right there, telling them which phone I chose. It was too much for me to handle at that moment. I went outside, sat beside the road and cried. I couldn’t stop. All of my emotions that I was keeping inside got out. I was tired, I was hurt, I felt alone and powerless. It wasn’t about the phone but it was about the way I felt at that time. Exhausted and happy to be going home soon. I called my friend because I needed just  to hear a voice from somebody that was close to me, although very far on the map. It was actually very funny as my cry turned into laughter soon and I actually didn’t know what I feel like doing more. I calmed down and decided to make the most of this situation, so I went back into the shop and just bought the other phone I was actually deciding between that day. Not a big problem, I just needed to calm down to find a solution and I felt better soon. I was also tired as during the day I tried finding some place where I could avoid getting meat on my plate, but in vain. So finally I got a nice dinner with the friendly staff that were happy to prepare something for me and for a cheap price. They made me so happy that they got a really good tip, just for being there at the right time, with a friendly attitude.

 

I want to tell you that travelling sometimes can be hard and emotional. It is not easy and relaxing all the time, I don’t want to write just about the good days but also show you the real picture. Sometimes it is exhausting, but looking back, it was well worth the tough moments. To be honest, I realized at some point that in average I feel so much better travelling. Despite the pain. Despite the hunger. Despite being constantly in action. At home I had more mood swings and felt more tired although I wasn’t doing so much. So yeah, it can be rough, but as long as it feels right in your heart it feels amazing at the same time. And when the time comes to go home you just need to listen to it and go back. Although confused, not knowing how you will manage to combine this two different worlds. When it’s time, it’s time.

Well let’s jump to the next day, on the train one lady already offered a van to Sapa and of course I took it. The drive was windy but very nice. Tea plantation. Rice fields. Green is really the colour for me. Sapa is touristic and that means a lot of people offering you stuff and services, but it is well worth it. It can be a bit annoying when after a long night there are lots of local hill tribe ladies that want to sell you something or take you to their homestay, but they are actually very nice, friendly and not really aggressive. Just trying to make a living. I decided to rent a motorbike again as my foot situation didn’t allow me much trekking. But the first day I spent in Sapa just walking around a little, eating good food and also did some shopping. As I was coming home it was time to get some things, like good trekking pants and great shoes – I bought them just because I really needed them as my hurting foot didn’t allow me to put on my too narrow running shoes and my Fei Yue’s soles (shoes from Kung fu training) were already too flat and not really safe for a bit of rain. The new shoes were amazing and it felt so good walking in them, my foot was hurting less. I also bought lovely silk shirt, which really wasn't planned but here they make such lovely things and I when I saw it I really loved it. I visited the local market at the bus station and ate a lot of delicious and cheap pineapples they had here and I found an amazing pomelo. There are a lot of nuts selling there, I liked the almonds and macadamia nuts! Sapa is a nice place to walk around but the highlight was the surrounding. I rented motorbike for two days and visited Lao Chai. When I saw the village from the top, surrounded by colourful rice fields, I felt happy. I felt relaxed. I felt great.  I stayed at Tavan Ecologic Homestay where I got a nice room and the staff were great. I needed just some time to relax and enjoy the amazing view, so this was perfect. The rice field just outside my doors made me calm and happy. I didn’t need much more. During the night it was raining so much but luckily the day began with a sunshine. I was admiring lots of waterfalls just up in the mountains but later realized that after a rainy day it is actually not good to be close to the waterfalls. The water was all over the roads and I had to learn one more thing to do with my motorbike – just go through the water with it, it is normal there. Actually going through the water isn’t a problem, what I learnt is that going through mud is the biggest problem – I got stuck in it. So there I was, with my new shoes all the way in the mud and trying in vain to move my motorbike. Luckily one local guy was very nice and helped me move it so I could continue my drive. My shoes were filled with mud and I washed them in the stream that was coming from the mountains. It was an interesting experience but I was happy that I was going to some other place that had better roads. I wanted to drive around a bit to get to Tram Ton Pass where at 1930 meters above sea level you can get amazing views of the Fansipan mountain with the peak at 3143 meters high. I enjoyed driving around on a good, empty road and enjoying seeing lots of waterfalls on the way and great scenery. Totally refreshing, even the weather was like that at this height. I found a nice restaurant on the way where I met one couple and a guy who travelled around with motorbikes and it was fun talking to them. I bought some tea on the way and as I found no place to sleep there returned to Sapa where I found a great place to stay with friendly owners. The next day I visited another village, Ta Phin, which had maybe just 5 tourists and was really nice. I just drove around as I was going to Hanoi in the afternoon. Luckily I managed to get ahold of the interesting five coloured sticky rice, which is  a speciality here. I was happy to have found it but wasn’t fascinated by it. Even driving back to Hanoi on a sleeping bus was nice, relaxing a bit and enjoying the lovely view outside the windows, the North of Vietnam is really  special place.

                         Back in Hanoi

 

The last day I spent in Hanoi just walking around a bit. My foot really hurt, but funny, when I walked into the market I felt better :). I love markets and walking around, I tried different food and bought some cloth which I will use to sew some nice piece at home. People usually really like Hanoi but for me it was just a place where I spent the last day. I didn’t see much but it was nice, the evenings are very much alive and colourful, with lots of people everywhere, especially on the road. I found some great glasses for just 40 EUR and these were the more expensive ones, but I really liked them. When I was too tired I just stopped and ate lunch and drank a beer, observing the local traffic that passed by. The Vietnamese traffic  I surely do not miss:). I spent the rest of my money, got a nice massage and another Xiaomi phone for my brother and headed to the airport. I was sleeping in a place close to it as I had an early flight. To get to the airport it is very cheap to go with a local bus. But as I was too busy with a lot of things I was a bit late. Still I wanted to take the local bus so one guy took me with a motorbike to a bus stop, in Vietnam just everybody is a motorbike taxi driver. I was used to a lot but still when we went into the crossroads I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best, because sometimes it looks suicidal, just going inside and not stopping for anyone, but it works, somehow :). But I kind of like this motorbike taxidrivers, although at first they can be annoying, trying to charge you way too much and pushing you to go with them, at the end they all seemed nice and took a lot of time to take me where I wanted to go. Sure sometimes they wanted some more money than it was arranged at first, but when it was justified (going further than they thought at first or asking 10 people to get me directly to my hotel) I didn't spare the money.  After arriving at the bus stop I realized that this was the wrong one, because I remembered the wrong bus number. I was already so tired and upset and without much more money. I found a taxi but he wanted way too much for driving to the airport. After a bit of negotiation which included pleading and using my very much sad and tired eyes, he agreed to take me there for $10. This was a good price as it was already late and starting to rain. But still it was a good price for him also, I just think that he really didn’t feel like driving there. He wanted to “get rid” of me and find another taxi that would take me there, I wanted still to find the local bus that would take me to the airport so we  got into a bit of misunderstanding. The guy was complaining like crazy, he wanted to leave me somewhere but he couldn’t do that so he drove me to the airport, but complaining all the time. I felt safe but still was a bit worried that on my last night I would have some problems, like getting ripped off or being left at some crazy place. Actually it was a nice experience because I trusted my gut that I was safe and everything turned out great, he even drove me 500 meters further closer to my hotel, still complaining. It was kind of sweet as his friendliness was stronger than his need to take advantage of my situation. At the end he wanted more money but I didn’t have it, I wanted to give him a pineapple but he wouldn’t take it. I told him he was a good man and said goodbye, knowing that he still earned enough. At the hotel there were full because one guy got sick so they drove me to another place. This was actually really good for me as this was further from the airport so they drove me in the morning directly there, otherwise I’d have to walk about 500 meters with all of my luggage, which actually weighed almost 13 kilograms (just the check-in luggage) - it was full of fruit I didn't want to leave behind :). The hotel was really nice and clean and the guy working there invited me to join him and his friends for his brother’s birthday. So I got to experience my last Hanoi beer and had my last chat with the locals, until one guy was getting a bit too drunk so I knew it was time to go to my room.

From Hanoi I flew to Hong Kong where I sat on a local bus and drove to the city centre, where I had time just to buy something to eat and go back to the airport. But I preferred seeing just a bit of Hong Kong  than waiting at the airport. It was interesting city, a bit different that most of the cities I visited in the last 6 months, big, modern and shiny.

When I was leaving Vietnam I wasn’t just leaving a country. I was finishing my travels. I was coming home. I was happy! But also sad. It was time! But still a piece of me stayed in Asia and a piece of it got stuck in my heart :)!!!

July 30 2019
NOVEMBER 2019 ADVENTURES

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February 12 2018
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                                  normal = conforming to a standard, usual typical or expected

 

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FINISHING THE UNFINISHED (Blog no. 4 / March - May 2017): training consciousness: meditation, trekking & conscious impact

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May 22 2017
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21.4.2017

 

 

March 23 2017
FINISHING THE UNFINISHED (Blog no. 3 / March 2017): Vipassana meditation - silent 10 day meditation

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March 1 2017
FINISHING THE UNFINISHED (Blog no. 1 / January 2017)- the beginning: Thailand, here I come again :)!

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May 6 2016
MY BURMESE ADVENTURE

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March 22 2016
MIXED MALAYSIA

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February 27 2016
TWO MONTHS OF THAILAND

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January 14 2016
CHINA 2015 - The beginning

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