To start our day right, we stopped by Ha Coffee Bar for breakfast. I got the Hacienda Acai bowl and picked up locally roasted coffee beans.
After breakfast, we drove to the west shore to take in the wonders of Waimea Canyon State Park. We made it to all the lookout points and past many trails that would be ideal if we had more time. We also drove through Koke’e Statepark which is attached to Waimea Canyon State Park. You can camp in these areas with loads of trails to take. Waimea Canynon State Park brings you up to an elevation of 3600FT.
Many hikes that I would have liked to do in Waimea/Koke’e Park:
We finished our drive up and unfortunately the last 2 lookouts were for the most part covered in cloud coverage so we couldn’t see the Na Pali Coast from there but we were able to see into the canyon.
We drove about 30 minutes back to Kekaha to catch our Na Pali Coast boat tour with Na Pali Experience. We booked the 2-7PM sunset boat tour of the Na Pali Coast for $179USD. We had Captain John lead us plus a family of 3 on this 5-hour adventure down the coast. For those who aren’t the best with motion on waters, bring medication for it. I did not and apparently couldn’t handle the motion. To be fair, we came from a 3600FT elevation and the pressure from the elevation change was already messing with my head.
Take everything that they recommend you take including a long sleeve or something to keep you warm during the ride in and out. When you are on the boat, it takes about 45 minutes from where you board at the Kikia’ola draft boat harbour past the military base before appearing around the right corner of the Na Pali coast. The cloud coverage was pretty much over our ride. We saw the spots where Mary J Blige and many others have filmed music videos and movies.
The skies might’ve been dark but the waters gave us appearances of dolphins and turtles. Our sea captain also navigated us into some caves like a pro. We had a little bit of time to also snorkel in the waters. Being in the water was my safe haven for this 5 hour tour – bobbing in the water with a life jacket felt like bliss for me and my body that was suffering motion sickness. We hopped back on the boat after about 30 minutes in the water to a nice treat of freshly cut fruit and other little snacks before heading back to land. The ride back was bumpy and cold – a dry long sleeve or wrapping a towel is a good choice.
We learned that Kauai is slowly deteriorating. The whole island is actually a pancake but because it is so lush and tropical and tons of water falls, the water needs to find or make ways to drain back into the ocean. With that being said, all the ridges that are seen on this island are places where water flows out.
It felt so great to be back on land. We started our drive back from Kekaha to Kapa’a with Gypsy Guide on. It led us to try the most famous Saimin spot on the island – Hamura Saimin. You seat yourself around the W shaped counter or the big table. I got the small saimin and a chicken skewer. They are also known for their Lilikoi Chiffon Pie.
I really wish I went through with booking the helicopter tour over the island but I guess I will have to come back and do it. These were the helicopter companies I looked into and are highly rated. Helicopter tour gives you a new perspective of the island that many miss and wouldn’t be able to see from the ground or waters especially a view of Waialeale – Weeping Walls. Kauai also has the 2nd wettest place in the world called Waialeale – The Weeping Walls. The wettest place in the world is in India.
On facebook Market – You can post that you are interested in doing the Waialeale – Weeping Walls hike and hopefully a local will respond to take you OR you can look for a guy named Mark Woogie Kracht on Facebook – apparently he is a local who has done that hike multiple times and offers to take people.
Princeville – Hanalei
We had breakfast at Java Kai. The bright teal just draws you in. I ordered The Beetnik $9USD (toasty bagel with cream cheese, housemade pesto, local beets, & sprouts) and a Golden Sunrise shake (turmeric, dates, coconut milk). The food and drink were incredibly delicious. The coffee shop is also attached to a cute boutique called Shipwreck Kauai.
Our first stop after breakfast was Kīlauea Lighthouse – $5 – It’s just a lighthouse really but the money goes towards a good cause. If you don’t care to help a good cause of preserving land and refuge for wildlife – SKIP THIS IF YOU DON’T CARE TO HELP OUT. There is a little information house on the property to the left side of the lighthouse. Before we continued our trip to the North shore, we stopped by a fruit stand. There are a bunch of fruit stands around the islands which are not manned with a person but its an honest system where you take what you want and put money into the box that you think is fair.
We made our way to Hanalei Bay Beach and found the beach courts. We asked the lifeguard to borrow their ball. We peppered for a few hours. We got food in Hanalei and took in the quaint little town. I grabbed a chicken katsu mini from L&L.
We tried to make our way to Queens Bath but there are only 8 parking spots in a very posh neighbourhood where you cannot park on the side of the road and only in the designated spots. It is recommended to get to Queen’s Bath really early to claim a parking spot because the closest legal parking is quite a walk away.
Defeated from not finding parking to see the Queen’s Bath, we drove from Hanalei/Princeville to Koloa/Poipu. It was such a beautiful drive through the tall tree tunnel to Koloa. Koloa is a small town that is only a few blocks but is where the workers for the plantations use to reside.
We continued on to the Spouting Horn to watch the power of water currents apply pressure into the caverns and have water burst out of the blowholes.
We continued down the coast heading east to Shipwreck Beach & jumping cliff. The waves at Shipwreck beach are strong and great to catch a quick wave. To the left of the main beach area, you will see the cliffs and possibly someone brave enough to jump off the rocks. We decided to climb up and explore that area. When you get to the top, there is a lot of space and different layers of rock formations. Many people fish from up there. We were only able to witness 1 person jump from the rock but it took him much courage and talking up to jump.
To Poipu Beach – the beach is very populated by tourists. The view was nice with a large parking lot but nothing special.
The sun started setting so we decided to head back towards home and find dinner. We settled with Coconuts – Fish Cafe where I ordered the Local Style Seared Ahi Plate. Walked across the parking lot to Tropical Dream Ice Cream for some Thai Tea Ice Cream.
After all the hiking we had done the previous days, our clothes and shoes weren’t looking the best so we decided to head to Kapa’a Laundromat – open 24/7 to do laundry before we started our travels back home. We met a traveller from Montreal and met some locals who told us the history of Kauai during our laundry adventure. This one gentleman in particular told us how Kauai was never conquered by King Kamehameha so they are their own island before USA. His family owned land on Kauai so he has a different passport to show his is a true native of Kauai. His best suggestion for us was to just meet a nice Hawaiian man and move to the island. Those are fine words or wisdom to live by.
We had a 6AM wake up call before hitting the road once again for a long haul drive. We switched up the seating in the truck. We traded and took over the smaller 4 person table and played cards. First time playing gin rummy for me. We literally played for 7-8 hours with only 2 stops. Frans needed to open the cabin and fix the the pipe as it became exposed. Our last pitstop was at a gas station with a newly opened Nando’s.
Arriving in Palapye, we stayed at Camp Itumela which probably had the best wifi spanning the entire campsite. The main reception area had a courtyard that held the main pool, tree top like patio and further in, the bar and more lounging areas as well as a playground.
This campsite also features a pig and 2 goats as well as roaming dogs, cats, chickens and peacocks. There are 2 outdoor toilets and showers but also an indoor toilet and shower facility. There is also a volleyball court mind you the size was more of a badminton court and had metal poles as the court and middle line. The net was also really floppy and low. After dinner we played a few rounds. Word of advice, don’t chase after it outside the court as immediately or if the perimeters, the ground is less cared for and rocks and other jagged things await. Clive was telling us that in his 2 years with ATC, he has never seen anyone actually use the volleyball courts that are available.
Majority of the other people on the campsite work in the nearby energy plant as engineers building turbines. These engineers come from around the world – Netherlands, South Africa, Thailand etc.
Sarah had heard from Will that there was a local club nearby which she wanted to check out so we decided to go. Clive was originally going to accompany us but it was getting late so we made arrangements with two of the bar staff – G and Benny who were willing to take us. Benny’s fiance Charity also joined us.
We ended up walking to Wamzito night club which is the only club in town. All ages it seemed for only 20 Pula entry fee. The bars in Palapye close at 11PM everyday are aren’t allowed to serve alcohol past that time so they all come from the bar to the club. The club opens at 11PM which is the time we arrived. Pretty dead for the first hour but then the crowd slowly but surely filled out. The music playing was house music (not really my cup of tea) and we stayed on the couch for a little while. We were definitely the minority in the club and had many people come up to us just to shake our hands. We danced for a bit and we wanted to walk back but G kept telling us we shouldn’t. Luckily enough Benny and Charity hadn’t left yet and drove us back. I can definitely say Sarah was the life of the party that night with her dance moves and got her photo and video taken by/with the locals. There was a row of food being sold on the side of the road but the rules of the road were out the door with 3-4 lanes trying to find parking at the club leaving us stuck just outside the club for a long period of time. We got back to the camp and showered around 130-2AM and went to bed.
Another 5 hours in the truck to get to our next destination in South Africa. We crossed the Botswana border to enter South Africa. Pretty quick and easy. The river divides the Botswana and South Africa but also two other countries.
South Africa info
-Population of 56 Billion
-South Africa is still under dictatorship.
-There are 11 official languages – 9 that are African
-SA in the Iron age was gold trading with China
-In the 1400’s Europeans & Portuguese wanted to use Africa as a route to trade with China
-The Dutch came in the 1600’s in persecution.
-The French came down and brought wine and formed the African culture of wine
-The British came and colonized and pushed the Dutch inland in 1820s
-Union of South Africa Cape created the Orange free state and Transvaal where the Dutch inherited the apartheid with white segregation 50-70s
-Cape Town was the first to be explored.
-Johannesburg was a gold mining town and is the largest city in the world not sitting near water
-The Blacks, Indians and Chinese were categorized and segregated by race
-These ethnicities lives in the township of Soweto which meant South West township
-They were issued a dog pass that they had to use to get into the city with curfews and segregated in all walks of life (bathrooms, buses etc)
-Mixed race people would be put into prison as black and white weren’t allowed to procreate
-1976 massacre saw 176 students killed as students from the Soweto township protested against the Apartheid.
-In schools, students must learn Afrikaans languages.
-With the Soweto uprising – The English, Canadians and Australians shut down trading with South Africa
-Only by 1980’s the trading started again.
-In 1994, South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela became the first president of South Africa.
-South Africa holds the Guinness World Records for having 2 Nobel peace prize awarded
-The population is comprised of 80% black and 20% white
-Gay marriage was put into law early on
-South Africa is slowly balancing it out with the government giving more incentive for Black owned companies
-The 1995 movie Invictus shows us how two South African men – Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar united a country using Soccer / Rugby.
-The South African flag features a sideways Y which represents people coming together – The rainbow nation.
-South Africa is the largest producers of platinum in the world. They also mine Chromium and Angston
-80% of the country is run on coal
-East coast cities like Durban have warm tropical beaches
-West coast cities have cold climate linked by deserts
-Cape Town rainy climate
-South Africa has so many different ecosystems within it’s country
-It has the 2nd largest population of Indian outside of india
-Unemployment is high
-The language of Afrikaans is a mix of Dutch, Belgian, German, French & Flemish
After 5 hours of travelling, we arrived in Polokwane, South Africa. We stopped by the mall for an hour lunch so the staff could go grocery shopping for the next few days. The girls and myself shared 4 pies from King Pie. NOTE – The bureau and alcohol stores are closed on Sundays. Unlike many places I’ve visited, it is very strange to be in a place where black and white people and some Indian are the norm however being an Asian person is a rarity. The staring is not subtle at all. We hopped back into the truck and stayed the night at Boma in the Bush. The camping property is quite large but no wifi and the bar is situated in the house of the owner. The water pressure for the showers was the best thus far of the trip.
It was my day to do cooking prep in the rotation. The sky started turning darker as we prepped and the temperature dropped significantly. Rain was coming. After prepping, we did a little bit of a yoga session lead by Lisa pre-dinner before it started to rain. We had free time and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. The girls ended up by the pool reading and catching up on their journaling and the rest were napping or at the bar.
For dinner, we had beef stroganoff and vegetables. The kitchen had covered grounds with a fridge and outlets so we just hung out there into the night as one by one we all went to shower. We ended up staying up until 11PM chatting away after dinner with Alberto about life and the tour itself and how expensive it was to fly out of Costa Rica.
There was a crazy amount of lightning and thunder overnight. The clothes I was regretting to have brought (long sleeves and pants) came in handy in that moment.
Our morning wake up call was for 6AM with it raining a little through the night. When we came out of the tent, the watering hole had finally been emptied with 1 elephant approaching from the distance as we ate breakfast. We had to pre-pack our lunch as this day was our first long-haul drive where we would not stop for a lunch pitstop. We drove from Nata to Maun.
On our drive, we spotted ostriches and zebras.
Okavango Delta info
-The delta is a UNESCO sight because the tectonic plates shifted and use to be dry but now it’s wet. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact.
-May-July is when water levels are high. The rainy season brings nutrients down for the animals. The water is low season is about a meter deep.
-Mokoro are traditional boats that are made of jackelberry, sausage or sycamore trees dug out to make it hollow and push it with a pole. Polers use large staffs to push through the river.
-Fishermans turned to tourism to create more income.
– The Okavango Delta is 15000KM depending on water levels.
-Antelope/Impala that live in the delta have their hooves jut out so they can adapt and not sink into the mud.
-The Delta is made up of different channels.
Our day was made up of driving to Maun. We arrived at Sitatunga Camp – Delta Rain – our campsite for the night. We set up our tents right outside the wooden columns so we were closest to the bar to get better wifi reception. There is a pool (murky waters) and a volleyball court (not up to par but decent enough with soft sand). Good thing I brought a volleyball. The girls and myself played but it was sure hot. Will, Clive and the other guide from another tour joined us before we had to stop for dinner.
After dinner, the sun had set and back to Volleyball we went. The rallies got more intense as Shaw also joined and Will had gotten some tips for Lulu and his form improved. Alberto also joined. The lights seem to be on timer going off every 5 minutes or so and back on after 3 or something like that. We played into the night but finished so we could go shower.
The showers were quite glamourous from what we’ve had. Overhead shower head but the stalls are much larger and have a shelf and towel rack with a level you could sit if you’d like.
After the relaxing shower, we met Shaw at the bar where to offered us homemade rosmalai (Indian dessert) and pistachio coconut ice cream. Absolutely delicious and a real treat after playing volleyball. The pistachio ice cream is made with condensed milk, cream, nestle milk powder, cooked down then add Coconut cream, coconut flakes, pistachio, almond.
Shaw is originally from Pakistan. His father was a banker who opened banks around the world and moved around and settled down in Botswana. Shaw studied in Cape Town – culinary. He recently took ownership of the food and drink of Sitatunga camp about 2 months and has big ideas such as an open concept outdoor kitchen. His side business is security systems for the big resorts. He lives in Kasane and Francistown (4-5 hours away).
NOTE – This overnight portion of the trip is when you should pack neutral colours (no bright colours, blue and whites) not to scare animals and pack sneakers and pants to avoid getting scratched up on your bushwalks.
I woke up and repacked 1 bag for the overnight stay with swim suit, a change of clothes, camera and whatever else you need for overnight.
We had french toast for breakfast. It was my turn to purchase a block of ice for 20 Pula and packed it into the smaller cooler that we would be taking with us.
We all got on the safari truck and off we drove to the delta. It got a little bumpy entering into the village surrounding our entry point to the delta channel for the mokoros (old fashioned boats you pole to get you around). Sarah and myself had Simon as our poler. In your mokoro before you step in, the poler places your sleeping mats (2) opened and creates seating with a back rest using your backpack, 5L waters and sleeping bags. The ride was 1.5-2 hours and was very smooth and relaxing. As we were entering into our campsite, there were 6-8 elephants walking past just meters away.
When we all finally arrived to the campsite, we met Xtra – the head of the polers and Phil & Litos the bushmen. They gave us the rundown about the general campsite and gave us strict rules about asking permission and requiring a person to escort us if we wanted to venture as we were in the wild. Since Clive and Frans stayed back and ran errands, Will became one of the polers and the cook for this portion of the trip. For lunch, we had tuna pasta and oranges.
It was way too hot to do anything in the sun until 3PM but at least we had a nice view of the elephants from our site. At 3PM, Will took us out and we tried our hand at poling and swimming in the same river. The water is orange in colour due to vegetation but clean and refreshing nonetheless.
Poling is more difficult than it looks especially with wind and going against the current. Similar to stand-up paddleboard and kayaking but you only pole on your dominant side then use the stick as a rutter to help steer. We made it down a bit and parked the mokoro to dunk into the river. Summer months are when the river water levels are lower so standing was not an issue and you would still be above the water standing in your knees. The water is very refreshing with little fishes swimming around. As you are standing up, you can peak over the grass and see on-land where elephants are just roaming free.
We had to pole our mokoros back and got ready for our afternoon/evening bushwalk. We split off into 2 group and had to walk single-file. The evening walk was nice but we only were able to spot zebras, herons, wilderbeasts and buffaloes.
We came back famished to a candlelit (a little too windy) dinner of roasted chicken, coleslaw, rice and squash courtesy of chef Will.
After dinner since all of us were still sitting around the table, we played werewolves (similar to mafia). Will chose his werewolves (he chose the 4 of us) and after 2 rounds, Katie accused us 4 being the “canasian werewolves” as Stephanie was the doctor and Lisa the seeer but both unfortunately had been killed off early in the game. Thus the name Canasian Werewolves came to be.
Our game was short lived as we all migrated over towards the campfire. The polers did a special performance for us with traditional songs and dance which finished off with group mental thinking riddles. We ended the night watching the stars (cloudy) and fireflies with the girls until the fireflies glimmer started to disappear and the clouds rolled over.
We woke up at 5AM for our morning bushwalk. To be honest, nothing special but the sunrise was lovely. Unfortunately we weren’t able to spot any other animals minus zebras and elephants in the distance during this walk. We returned to breakfast of baked beans, hardboiled eggs, toast and bacon. Packed up and back we went in the mokoro leaving the delta behind.
Simon our poler poles part time but is also a overland/safari tour guide in Maun. He and his girlfriend are expecting their 1st child in 4 months and he plays soccer. His sister met us on the river to collect the bag of jewelry and carvings that they make and try to sell to us tourists. Majority of the times, the women make the jewellery or the sculptures but the men are the faces that try to sell it.
On the mokoro ride back, I pumped the soccer balls I brought with me and gave them away to the kids in the village. I also brought a bag with 2 t-shirts, a pair of pants and another ball. The children are so lovely. I walked towards the soccer field where a large group of children were all of a sudden, all the children ran over to me, swarmed and took the whole bag out of my hands. Madness. I’m happy I was able to give the soccer balls to these nice kids before the mob.
Back at Sitatunga for lunch of chicken burgers with a relaxing do whatever afternoon. A few opted to do the additional flight over the delta excursion while a few went back to town to do some shopping. I stayed behind and just relaxed with the 2 dogs on site.
We had spaghetti with beef bolognese for dinner. Shaw ended up taking us down the road to see the crocodile farm with Shaw. Once again, we finished off our night playing some volleyball with Shaw and Will but we the intensity wasn’t the same as the last volleyball night and we all seemed drained. We showered and met back up with Shaw at the bar where he had prepped homemade pistachio ice cream for us and made a huge portion that we demolished.
Woke up bright and early to attend the morning market and purchase some food that we can give to the monks at alms giving. The morning market opens at 5AM and the alms giving goes for an hour from 5-6AM. This morning alms giving of food serves as the main means for which the monks to get food and it also serves as their one meal for the day as they enter into 6 hours of meditation. Women must dress modestly wearing tops that cover cleavage and arms and shorts that cover up to the knee at least.
There is a large tourist attraction for Koreans to come here and there are actual Korean shops around. Either way, there are tons of expat here that have opened up shop.
We walked the morning market which opens at 5AM and grabbed sticky rice with coconut and sugar for 5000 kip and then grabbed a stack of bananas to hand out to the monks at the morning alms giving. The women and some men give offerings with prayers on the side of the road and in the end, the monks bless them before heading back to the temple to sweep and meditate. The first round, Amy and myself didn’t separate the bananas quick enough to give to all of them but we did hand them out before the van of older Korean ladies came out and went straight into the faces of the monks at alms giving with their iPhones. We walked through the market again as the sun came up and walked down a random street where it was lined with more street vendors selling fresh vegetables, fish, meats and tons of unusual things I never see at market such as dead bats, little birdies, live frogs with skewers in their leg so they can’t go anywhere to live chickens in a bin.
We walked over to the National Museum of Luang Prabang to take photos and across from it are stairs to goto Mount Phousi (The best view of Luang Prabang). You can buy flowers or birds in cages to bring up with you as offerings. The first staircase is free to climb but once you reach the top of the stairs, there is a platform where people leaving the flower offerings. The second staircase that leads to the top, you need pay 20000 kip to get to the top. We did not go. We walked around a bit then made our way back to the guesthouse and relaxed on the balcony. We also met a man named Joe who is originally from Chelsea England and worked as an engineer but now is a world nomad working remotely on digital marketing for a Swiss company. Also meet a guy on the balcony named Kevin. He’s from America – Videographer who studied math economics who is planning on going to Hakaiddo next year to work and shoot snowboarders and skiers.
I really wish we had stayed here longer as the weather is amazing, very similar to Hawaii with a dry heat but humidity is low. I don’t think I’d love to live here but I definitely want to come back. It’s also the number one spot to travel to for 2014/15. It’s very different from Vietnam out of what I’ve seen of it. More modern, less crowded and everyone is friendly. More personality and character for sure. Tuktuks are everywhere but they share a narrow road with cars and motorbikes.
It’s actually expensive to purchase land here. Robin showed us a plot of land that was worth 1 million USD. The homes here are regulated in terms of architecture wise as they have to be built in the same style as the colonial French design from centuries ago. Apparently there is only one cement mix truck here and usually they hand mix their cement. French influence everywhere and you can get good baguettes and croissants here.
The drive from the guesthouse to the airport is about 15 minutes and we passed the old airport which got abandoned once the new one was built. The airport looks like a mall plaza on the exterior. We got through no problem and hopped onto our little plane with Lao airlines once again.
The plane ride with Lao Airlines was quick and good quality for what we paid and to Southeast Asia standards. We landed around around noon in Pakse and it was blazing hot outside. The taxis wanted 80000 kip to drive us to our hotel – Salachampa Hotel – No. 10 Rd . We ended up going with a tuktuk driver who we bargained down to 30000 kip.
The weather here also reminds me of Hawaii as it’s a hot heat but no humidity but can also cool down as the sun goes down. We went to grab lunch at Vida Bakery but I ended up reading the google maps offline wrong and we went the opposite direction and found ourselves at Champasak Plaza which is a shopping centre and we found a supermarket (first one since coming to SEA) – Tang Frères – Grabbed a few things and then we trotted back out into the blazing heat to make our way to Vida Bakery (188, Rd 12, Ban Thaluang) for lunch. I had a ham and cheese croissant & the daily fruit smoothie. Vida Bakery is ranked high on the TripAdvisor list and it was really good. Its owned and run by British expats but they hire “Vida boys” hirings locals that offers them employment skills and is somewhat a school environment similar to George Brown with Chef House as their teaching restaurant.
After our late lunch, we went back to the room to cool down from the heat. We later went back out around 5PM and went to Sinouk coffee shop to buy coffee beans but it was closed for renovations so we decided to walk a bit more. We passed the shopping plaza from earlier today and walked south on NO. 46 Rd and noticed in the darkness people playing volleyball. We found volleyball! We asked if we could join and they agreed. Made new friends. So many names but Xay (Sai) and Nan/Aw were the most fluent in speaking english with us.
We played for a while and we’re completely drenched. We told them we wanted to eat but they said we should get coke first since we played for so long and needed to be refreshed. We actually hopped onto their motorbikes and off we went. We literally went a block or two, grabbed a giant table and coke and other drinks were being brought to the table by these little girls. We wanted to pay for their drinks but they wouldn’t really let us. Very Asian way of doing things and they said they wanted to treat us. They originally thought we were Japanese maybe Chinese. We told them we were hungry and we wanted them to bring us to one of their favourite spots so again we hopped on the motorbikes and we ended up on a sidewalk with plastic tables and chairs set up with very limited dim light and we ate meatballs and sweet sausage with a side of veggies. Our new friends are university students studying finance, IT and economics. From the names I remember at the table – Gino, Wit, Billy, Tank, Nan, Sai and Bo. We asked them if they would be playing volleyball again before we left and usually they play every night but that Saturday Tank was moving to a new home so they were holding a house warming party which they did invite us to. We are off to the jungle in Paksong for an overnight stay so we said we would check in with them via Facebook when we returned. I think they had class the following day so they kindly dropped us off at our hotel and went on their way. One photo from the night was posted and within an 30 minute over 60 likes and dozens of comments but Lao slang which can’t be translated. I find that the focus here is more so on being better educated, and more regulated rules, but bit more refined in a old new world. The design here is definitely the leftover of french colonization. We added a few of them to Facebook and notice they goto a french university. We should’ve tried to speak to them in french; maybe it would have been easier to communicate french than english.
Woke up early yet again but this morning woke up to rain which sucks. We packed up and went down to the second floor for breakfast buffet before getting picked up by Sun Legend Tour to take us on our journey to Ha Long Bay. We booked the 2 day and 1 night tour for $143.45USD/pp.
4 hour car ride. First van shuttle to have free WIFI. One other couple – Wendy & Vincent from Malaysia joined the sticky rice crew. Luckily the weather turned out to be spectacular outside of Hanoi. Our tour guide is Kien who also runs a Hanoi biking tour with Sun Legend and is the poster boy for it. Driving here is crazy but makes sense. Some highways are two lanes with 60km/hr but people float on the lanes and just honk when they want to pass to let them know. Gasoline is expensive over here for them at 84 cents per litre.
We arrived in Tuan Chau a little early so we had a stop at a pearl store. Then we began our adventures to the cruise ship. They had civet coffee (weasel poo coffee) but it was almost $100 USD. We gathered our belongings and took to the dingy which brought us aboard our ship. I being the odd one out got my own room with a double memory foam bed. We got settled in and off we sailed into the pinnacle of Ha Long Bay. These giant islands are made of limestone and look like they just separated and kind of remind me of the 12 Apostles or Loch Ard Gorge in Australia.
We had lunch then went on our way to kayak Luon cave. Once again odd number, I got my own two person kayak and I killed the kayaking on my own. Cool experience gliding through a tunnel into a safe haven surrounded by the limestone with monkeys everywhere; very serene. The next best thing was that on this pier, there were guys playing their version of volleyball on the pier! Asian volleyball at it’s finest which Amy and myself joined for a point or two before we had to go back to the ship.
Next event was Ti Top Island with a lookout point which was named after the Russian man who gave Vietnam their first airplane which was a great thing but no one in Vietnam knew how to fly it. It was about 500 steps to reach the top of this island and it was steep enough to make all of us breathe hard. We were all glistening by the time we reached the top but the view was definitely worth it. We rushed back down and practically jumped into the water at the beach and of course there was a volleyball net so we were obligated to play but that ball was heavy and the court not on even grounds. 4×4 with sort of shooting method of play but obviously Adam owned it. One of the guys was trying to block him but he kept OT-ing him so he switched spots with me. We got back to the boat just in time for sunset and had happy hour time then dinner and squid fishing and karaoke.
Some information about Hanoi from Kien:
–7 million in Hanoi.
-Oldest bridge was built in 1901 but had to rebuild part of it due to the war.
-People don’t move out of Hanoi but tons of people come for university and never leave. They expanded to the other side of the red river to accommodate more people. The north is definitely had more wealth than the south from what I’ve seen. The people seem friendly here and not as judgy just a little.
-The old buildings with green and yellow colouring are old French buildings. I really love the architecture here even when it’s dingy looking but also quite clean and I absolutely love the marble flooring in some of the homes I’ve seen.
-The king moved the capital to Hanoi with 36 items and wanted to make it easier for everyone to purchase products such as copper to one street called copper street.
-Lifestyle – very flexible in terms of life, way of working, way of driving, way of eating etc. I the people here especially in Hanoi are hard working folk who may take their time like I’m sure I would in this kind of climate but nonetheless, working hard at their craft especially agriculturally. People’s homes are a combination home and shop front which makes it very homie everywhere.
-For beer – International Bia Hoi corner. The tour guide likes to go there as local girls don’t drink beer at any other beer halls except there because it’s a mix of locals and foreigners there.
-People aren’t suppose to occupy the pavement as that breaks the law and only use it for walking so a coffee shop owner would need to goto the police officer and ask for space on the pavement and the police are flexible and bribe them with free coffee and money. They can bargain.
-54 ethnicities but 80% Vietnamese.
Some knowledge of coffee for Hanoi & Vietnam:
-Coffee here is very strong; stronger than the south.
-For different seasons in Hanoi. So they automatically offer you coffee with ice there but have options in Hanoi for hot coffee and coffee with ice. People drink coffee for new ideas. Coffee for the inspiration.
-Coffee with yogurt
-Coffee with egg
-Trung Nguyen is the most popular brands.
Awoke at 530AM to watch the sunrise which at 530 looked like nothing and it was cloudy. I returned to my room but then outside my window, I saw a gleam of light around 6-630AM which was primetime for beautiful morning light. Everyone skipped yoga and taichi. We had breakfast then went to Sung Sot cave which is one of the 7 wonders of nature as this island has limestone tunnels inside into another world practically. They used this cave during the American war to hide from invading soldiers and to hide weapons and it’s interior is massive. It somewhat looks like that secret new world they found in Vietnam that has it’s own ecosystem. Back to the boat where we packed and made spring rolls and had lunch before heading back to Hanoi.
We checked back into our original hotel but in a 5 person suite which is actually pretty nice minus the fact there is one bathroom with low water pressure. Since Adam, Amy and myself are going to be on the move from Luang Prabang straight to Pakse straight into a jungle then off to Siem Reap, we needed to wash our clothes so we used body gel and hand washed them in the sink. Luckily there was 18 hangers in the closet in the hotel room. There is a ledge where the ceiling lowers slightly which came in handy to hang the hangers to air dry all our clothing which reminds us of an open market selling clothing.
For dinner, we walked over to a Quan An Ngon – 18 Phan Dinh Phung – which was a slightly higher end version of street meats but better service. We ordered a bunch of items to share including: ben cha, pho, ben thang, seafood /springroll, mango salad, green onions with garlic, fresh spring rolls, some type of fish thing. Everything tasted great, service was great and the place was booming and clean that we got seated upstairs. From there, we walked back over toward the pond Ho Hoan Kiem and made our way to Highland Coffee to check out the view and buy coffee. Unfortunately the smallest bag of beans they had was a size of a baby so I opted to go outside just around the corner to Trung Nguyen (coffee chain) and purchased a bag of espresso beans for 140.000VND. We walked around looking for dessert so we ended up walking back into the direction of the dessert place we went to 2 nights previously and had more dessert there. 95 Hang Bac. We arrived home shortly after and said our final goodbyes to Emily and James.