Archive | March, 2012

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Cat Tales: March 2012

Posted on 31 March 2012 by brett

The Face Mask

The Face Mask

March kicked off with several stops around Central and Northern Vietnam. We found it difficult to avoid the tourist track up the coast….. and, impossible to bond with the local people. Sapa promised a village getaway, but we found that it was super touristy and spoiled. In a sense, we wish we had alotted time for Southern Vietnam where the people are supposedly more cordial. In the end, we found positivity in Vietnam through meeting several new friends kayaking at Cat Ba Island.

Top 10 Vietnam Scams:
10) Woman puts heavy basket on our shoulders in hopes for a tourist photo and tip
09) Taxi driver tries to charge $15 instead of the $1.50 on the taxi meter for a simple 2km ride
08) Paying $.25 to pee outside on flat concrete flooring
07) Paying $1.00 for a wet towelette without telling us before the meal
06) Masseuse ends 60 minute massage at 45 minutes after changing a friends’ watch 15 minutes ahead
05) Paying for 2km taxi ride after charging us for 5km Continue Reading

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

Posted on 29 March 2012 by brett

Real Monk or Not?

Real Monk or Not?

Northern Thailand was quite a refreshing break from the previous few months on the road through Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Thailand in general is a very easy and friendly country to travel around. The Thais are very much set up for tourism and this is why so many people from all over the world vacation or choose to live in Thailand. One can find just about anything they need. Most Thais are extremely friendly and willing to help tourists, especially in Northern Thailand. 

Exotic Asian Art

Exotic Asian Art

Chiang Mai is a great place to stay awhile and hang out with a multitude of things to see and do.  Chiang Mai old town is a square of 1.5 sq km surrounded on all four sides by a moat and a 700 year old  medieval wall once used to protect the city from the Burmese. Inside the city walls are a number of small streets and alley ways filled with friendly family guesthouses, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets. The great thing about Chiang Mai is while you have many tourists and expats in the city, there is also a large mix of locals living all throughout the city. It’s very easy to mix in with the local people and get to know those friendly faces from Chiang Mai and their culture.  Continue Reading

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Sweet Serenity, Luang Prabang!!

Posted on 08 March 2012 by christie

Lao Cooking Class

Lao Cooking Class

Laos was a refreshing change after two grueling weeks in Vietnam. The people in Laos are so friendly and kind that it was almost hard for us to turn that switch inside and let our guard down from dealing with the soulless people we encountered during our Vietnam travels. We were in such a hurry to get out of Vietnam that we booked a one hour flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang ($150/person). It was an easy flight and we got our $35 visa on arrival at the airport in Laos. Central Luang Prabang is a short 7 minute ride from the airport. The government has control over the transportation leaving the airport so you are forced to pay a flat 50,000 kyat ($6.50 ). We tried to share the minivan but they just doubled the price, so we went solo.  

Downtown Luang Prabang

Downtown Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a wonderfully quaint town situated between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. It’s a town that you can’t help but love due to its charm. At the same time, there is a bit of disappointment in the way that tourism has swallowed up the local culture and people. We had a very comfortable stay and it was hard to leave after a week. Continue Reading

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Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay

Posted on 07 March 2012 by christie

Cat Ba Island Kayaking

Kayaking Cat Ba Island

Ha Long Bay or “descending dragon bay” was the most anticipated leg of our trip to Vietnam. We had watched travel channel TV show hosts like Anthony Bourdain and Samantha Brown cruise around the 2,000 mystical limestone islet formations… while sipping gourmet cocktails and explaining why the area is so sacred to the local floating fishing village people. The zone has UNESCO World Heritage status and claims 20 million years worth of karst formation creating a tropical oceanic and sea shore bio-system. Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species. Legend says, the early Vietnamese people fought against invaders to settle the area. To assist in their defense, a family of dragons were sent by the gods for protection. Continue Reading

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Hanoi, Vietnam

Posted on 05 March 2012 by brett

Night Sleeper Bus to Hanoi

We departed Hue on our first night bus bound for the capital city, Hanoi.  The night bus was quite interesting with three rows of double bunk reclining sleeper seats.  Mostly tourists purchased the seats and then locals boarded the bus and packed the aisles for their nights’ rest. Luckily we had both opted for top seats, otherwise we would have been sleeping next to a bunch of strangers.  The night wasn’t too bad and we both got a decent sleep given the accommodations. We arrived in rainy Hanoi at 9am the next morning. We were immediately bombarded by taxi and moto drivers as we stepped off the bus at the local travel office. We had already been warned about the fake taxi driver scams so we were extremely skeptical in accepting any rides. Christie had three reliable taxi companies written down but none of the drivers appeared to be with any of the companies that used meters. The drivers wanted to charge us 150,000 dong ($7.50). The problem was that we had no idea where we were in relation to the Rising Dragon hotel…… and there are like five hotels with some variation of that name in Hanoi (we later discovered the Vietnamese copy business names and trick tourists into paying for the wrong service). Continue Reading

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