Friday, 23 April 2010

DON'T go trekking if you're ridiculously clumsy

Doing a trek through the hills and rice paddies of Sa Pa is really incredible.... unless you're a clumsy buggar in which case you'll get latched on to by a hoarde of little hill-tribe women who carry you about before guilt tripping you into buying everything from belts to fabric-covered whistles.

I for one had to be helped along by an 80 year old H'mong lady in crocs with an enormous wicker basket on her back who was skipping about the place like a spring lamb while I fell on my face and sat in puddles.

The second we stopped for lunch we got absolutely bombarded by our little helpers, asking us to buy from "the three lady carry you.... TWO HOURS!", which makes you feel guilty and retarded in equal measure.

The same goes in Sa Pa town itself- there are beautiful handicrafts to be had everywhere but you can't go out on the street without an iron resolve. You take a sideways glance at a bedspread out here and a hundred H'mong grannies come and smother you with them.

It's a terrible place to come if you're a softie or a magpie, even worse if you're both- I've somehow found myself in possession of enough hand-woven cushion covers to blanket a football pitch. This is despite the fact I have not got a single spare cushion at home. Be afraid.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

DON'T do Halong Bay in the rain

There are beautiful beaches and coves to visit... but we couldn't go. Because it was wet and cold.

You can sit on the top of a boat and sail through the bay... but we sat inside. Because it was wet and cold.

You can go snorkelling and see the sea life around the rocks.... which we did for five minutes and gave up. Because it was wet and cold.

I will grant that all the mist and fog did give a kind of eerie beauty to the whole thing, but that wears thin pretty quickly when you are constantly damp. Trying to admire anything through a faceful of wet is not the best.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

DON'T try to maintain a blog in Vietnam

Terrible idea. Whoever tries it is an arse.

DON'T get the cheap bus from Mui Ne to Dalat

Least not without a damn strong nerve and an even stronger sports bra.

If there is one way to punish people for being tight-arses, this is it. Four hours of rickety hell down roads that might as well have been laid by Godzilla in the midst of an epileptic fit. Being, ahem, petite doesn't exactly help either- my bum left the seat about once every two seconds and I caught some genuinely impressive air on more than one occasion.

Apparently for just $2 more you can get a bus that goes on brand spanking new roads. So, unless you want to arrive with bruises having replaced your will to live, I suggest you bite the bullet and fork out for it.

DO eat something rank (Part 3)

This one tops the lot- hard boiled duck embryos.

I must admit this one was actually a mistake. A hideous foetus related mistake.

I ordered two of them off a street stall in Dalat thinking they were boiled eggs, forgetting that anything innocent looking out here usually contains either some surprise creatures or parts of an animal you never knew existed. I was soon reminded when I cracked the top expecting yolk and brown goo came out instead.

After the initial horror, naturally I had to try a bit once it was already in front of me. Tasted like yolk with veins in. Which is exactly what it was. Even I wasn't brave enough to power through with this one.

In all honesty I don't know what I was expecting from a city where you can visit a copy of the Eiffel tower and get your picture taken with a Vietnamese cowboy in the same day. It's like an alpine village meets Vegas on acid here. I'm half surprised a jack in the box didn't pop out.

Not that I want you to get an unfair image of Dalat cuisine- they do have a few tasty treats, including hot peanut flavoured soy milk which is lush. Even if the poor woman did advertise it to us as 'penis milk'.

DO drive a tuk-tuk

In our case at least, find an awesome Cambodian tour guide who is enough of a nutter to let two English girls with no producable driving licenses rag his tuk-tuk around for the whole day.

When people say Asians are laid back, they aren't exaggerating- he ended up spending the entire day chilling in the back seat with his arms behind his head getting double takes from passers-by.

Mr Bov, we salute you.