Doug & Janice's World Tour Viet Nam Journal

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    We spent 3 days trekking in Sapa, North-West Viet Nam
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    Mekong Delta

    September 20, 2008
    Let me tell you about when I was in Nam...

    Crossing the very friendly border of China / Viet Nam went smoothly, and we had to pay 28 cents each for a health screening. We walked past an infrared camera that showed skin temp, and we were deemed fever free.

    We've been in The Nam for a few days, now in Hanoi. It's an exciting place and more different from China than I would have guessed. It's scooter mayhem with very few traffic lights, or any other type of traffic control. An absolute thrill to bicycle in, or even cross the street as a pedestrian.

    This is also a very inexpensive place. Food and lodging is a bargain, and becoming a millionaire costs about $60. ( $1 = 15000 dong). The highest denomination bill that I've seen is worth about 6 bucks.

    We're off to the beach for a 'Junk Cruise' then to the mountains (Sapa) for a few days of what the tour company calls 'trekking through mountain tribal villages', not something that is likely to live up to the brochure, but at these prices who can resist.

    From one Communist country to another, but it looks like there is not the censorship here that made internet use so difficult in China.

    Signed, 'Spreading the word of Freedom behind what's left of the Bamboo Curtain'

    Doug and Janice.

    September 25, 2008
    We just got off an overnight train from Sapa. 3 days mountain trekking with the indigenous tribes, as the brochure says. More info later.

    September 28, 2008
    Greetings from Vietnam!
    Well, we rode our bikes across the border from China into Vietnam a few days ago. We both expected Vietnam to be the same as China but were we wrong! Vietnam has obviously embraced tourism! We found a great (and cheap) hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. While here we visited the French Quarter, the Ethnic Museum and of course...the Hanoi Hilton. So, here's a quick overview...amazing French influence in this city, both in architecture and food (yes, we are eating well). We have noticed a big difference between China and Vietnam when it comes to how they treat native peoples. China wants everyone to "blend" (you see that everyday with the way Tibet is handled,) but Vietnam seems to embrace the cultural differences, and they've got a great history. And the famous Hanoi Hilton...hard to imagine what occurred there... But when touring the buildings very little is mentioned about the Vietnam War. This prison is famous to the Vietnamese because it was built by the French in early 1900's and held Vietnamese prisoners fighting France. They do have a display room for the Vietnam War period...but maybe there's a bit of propaganda... We did see the lake McCain landed in!

    Since everything is so cheap here, we decided to leave the bikes at our hotel and take a few local trips (truth is, it's so damn hot who wants to ride a bike!). We took a two day trip to Halong Bay to see the amazing limestone mountains jutting out of the sea...and we stayed overnight on a Junk. This is a UNESCO site and is beautiful! We then returned to Hanoi and took a night train to Sapa. This is in the far northwest area of Vietnam. We did 3 days of trekking through the mountains and terraced rice patties and slept in a local "hill people" village.

    Now we are back in Hanoi and are catching a sleeper bus tonight to jump down to Hue. These sleeper buses are great - an actual bed to sleep in! (OK, a very small bed!) Overall, The Nam is a blast. Cheap, great tourist services compared to China (I never did like when I heard travelers say " I don't like that place, it's too touristy")..Well, going to a no tourist zone is like watching weeds grow.

    We're finished with what used to be North Vietnam, it's off to the south, where we expect to have fewer smiles as we tour in the land of so many American ghosts. No doubt it will be a different mood.

    Again - we are well, happy and having the time of our life. Hope everyone at home is well!
    Janice and Doug

    October 10, 2008
    Hi guys. Thought I'd drop an end of Summer note and say that we're sorry to have missed the season back home, but that we are alive and well, and living very cheaply in southern Viet Nam, and, many here love Americans. It seems that not many are in love with Ho Chi Min.

    We've been beaching, and even rented a scooter for a couple of days to ride up in the highlands.

    We are leaving Hoi An ( a resort town so much like Key West) and peddling southwards.

    Miss you all, until next time, Doug and Janice

    November 9, 2008
    Hi everyone,
    Well, we are getting ready to leave Vietnam and head over to Cambodia. Vietnam has been an interesting country - at times wonderful and then there are moments when I can't wait to leave.

    When we left Hanoi we took a "sleeper bus" south to Hue. Not much to see here but this is the start of the Vietnam War area. From Hue we traveled to Lang Co (a forgotten beach resort area) and then on to Da Nang. Between Lang Co and Da Nang is a mountain...rather than biking up the pass, we elected to get a lift through the new tunnel. Two-wheeled vehicles are not allowed in the tunnel so a new business has developed - they load your bike (motorbike or bicycle) on to a flatbed truck, then you are loaded into a bus (loaded being the optimum word) and off you go, all for 60 cents. The tunnel is about 10km long and saved us about 30km up a mountain!

    Once we got to Da Nang we had a few problems - Doug broke a few spokes on his back wheel again (a continuing problem). Once we got that resolved, well - I got hit by a scooter. Ended up with a few ugly cuts and bruises but the big problem was my back wheel was "taco-ed" (I learned that term but a punk biker back home!) Basically the wheel was bent in a taco! Now we were in Da Nang and they don't have squat for bike home this wheel would have been trashed, but here, well it has taken Doug about 3 weeks to get it "right".

    After Da Nang we followed the coast down to Hoi An - what a town this was. It is known for silk custom clothing and food! We didn't purchase any custom clothing but we sure did eat! This was the best food on the trip! They have a very strong French influence here so think of a French/Asia mix...Yum! From there we peddled along the coast for a couple days and then jumped on the train to Nha Trang - another beach town. This is Vietnam's diving capitol so we spent quite a few days under water! Great hard coral, some that I've never seem before. And again - great food (we need to stay on the bikes to work this food off!).

    After Nha Trang we went to Saigon - Wow, yup - Wow! I have never seen traffic like this. Hanoi was crowed but these people are crowded and aggressive. After one day of biking around the city I gave up. Just couldn't handle it. I think I was also remembering the Da Nang hit and was nervous. While in Saigon we did the tourist trek to the Cu Chi Tunnels - these are the famous tunnels that we all heard about from the Vietnam War - it was a difficult place to visit but something I'm glad I saw. After a slow ride out of Saigon, we have been peddling round the Mekong Delta. A lot of ugly traffic the first 2 days but then it opened up a bit to reveal interesting boats, stilt houses, fish farms, rice paddies, etc.

    Today we are resting in Chau Doc and plan to catch a boat tomorrow morning to take us all the way up the Mekong River and across the boarder into Phnon Phen. So, Goodbye Vietnam and Hello Cambodia. Well, I hope you all are well and enjoying everything this life has to offer!
    Janice & Doug