E-mail Update - 2010-06-02

The dangers you never think of

Hey Everyone,

Well the trip so far has been a good one, we have been pretty much on the move everyday. Today is the first day that we have not accomplished a lot and it is due to the rain in here in Sapa, Vietnam.

We left from home on Monday May 17 just after getting done with our finals at Platteville. I love ANA (All Nippon Airlines), they are so much better than any American based company. You get lots of good food, frequent drinks & movies that you can pick from right in the seat where you are. I watched 5 movies on the Chicago to Tokyo part of the trip, even though I probably should have been sleeping, which is what Becky was doing :) At the Tokyo airport we saw an interesting high-tech toilet, the Japanese love their technology and some transformer toys that reminded me of my nephew John because of how much he likes transformers. After a 4 hour layover there it was the next flight to Bangkok, Thailand. The ANA flights were again good, but after either being in a car, bus or plane for over 24 hours it was nice to get to our hotel. We actually arrived on the biggest day of civil unrest in Bangkok so we stayed near the airport in an expensive $50 hotel to be on the safe side. The room was amazing and we even each got a free massage, free Internet, and airport transfers so it was worth it. We didn't venture far from the room because we were not in an interesting part of town and because it was so hot (heat index of 110 degrees I think - over 43 Celsius), plus given the issues going on in town. We hope to be able to see some sights when we fly home from Bangkok. The next day we had a short 2 hour flight to Hanoi, Vietnam in the late afternoon. We flew to Bangkok first and then back to Vietnam because it worked out to be several hundred dollars cheaper even though it was more flights and doesn't make sense if you look at a map.

The first reaction to Vietnam was that it was also very hot. The first day we were there the temperature it felt like was 115 degrees (over 46 Celsius). We also had to walk up 5 sets of stairs to get to our room "the penthouse", at the top of the building. That floor was by far the hottest in the building and it was a cooker there. Thankfully once we got the AC and fan going we got the room to cool down. However, as soon as we would step outside we would be hit with the extreme heat.

We didn't let this stop us and on Thursday May 20, did the city walking tour that was in the Lonely Planet (pictures on Facebook). It was nice as we saw some great sites. The down side is getting harassed by people to buy all manors of things. One lady carrying these 2 baskets that balance her shoulder by a piece of wood actually put it on Becky's should and put her hat on Becky to have to take a picture. Becky said she didn't want that as the lady had just did this of her own accord and gave her the baskets right back. I think the idea was to have us take a picture then ask for money or sell us some fruit. We continued on to see a church, several pagodas, gravestones being made, some interesting bridges, several city lakes and more people selling stuff that you could ever imagine. After getting back we had a rest at the hotel in the AC before hitting the streets again to go to the natural history museum which was interesting. After that we got some well deserved food and arranged a tour for the next day our of the city to the Perfume Pagoda.

On Friday we got up early to make sure we were ready to go on the tour to the Perfume Pagoda. Interestingly we were ready by the 8:30am time were given but were not picked up until around 9:15am, which as I said to Becky is even late for Asia. The people at the front desk of the hostel where we had booked the tour even seemed concerned and had called a couple times to make sure they hadn't forgot about us. After a bus ride to the town where we started our boat trip in these metal boats which hold about 6 people. They are powered by one woman who has two oars, so it is pretty slow going up the river. We even had to stop at this one point to have documents of the boat rower checked. It is a beautiful trip up the river, however really a hot one. Being in a metal boat with 115 degree weather and no clouds causes this to happen. So we were hiding under our sarong and other clothing to try to keep from getting our skin burnt. Once at the Pagoda start point we hiked part of the way to the top, but stopped to get food, which wasn't so great. I pretty much just stuck to the rice. After that we walked up to the cable car platform (the first few hundred steps in heat had been enough for us). However, it wasn't running as I guess the people were on lunch break, so we waited around for a while until it started so we could the ride to the top. It was a pretty quick but scenic ride. Once there we still had a little way to walk both up and down to get to this cave that is special to the Vietnamese people. Then after waiting a while, maybe a smoke break, we again were headed down. All the Vietnamese people crowd the platform and pass you to get into the cable cars first so we were on the second to last one to go down. When we were almost to the bottom the cable car and entire system stopped. The guide put his arm out of the window and started waving it and I guess they decided that they should let the last 2 cars of people unload at the bottom before shutting it down! At the bottom we took a little different route on the way back and say the Pagoda, which is very beautiful. Then we went back down to the boats and got in. As we were on the way back the weather started to not look as good. Once we are headed back down the stream about a 1/3 of the way there the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, which are both bad signs. For some reason the lady driving the boat decided this was a good time to go slower, and talk to her friend driving the other boat and on her cell phone. Of course about half way back it started raining. And this isn't some light rain, it POURED. We had put all the important stuff in the waterproof bag that we had brought (although I missed putting in the playing cards and some other things that the water wasn't so good for). As were now soaking wet, moving at a snail's place the lightening started to pick up...yeah that was just what we needed as we sick wet in a metal boat. And this wasn't lightening that was sideways miles away. It had thunder that felt like it shook the boat and was coming straight down, which tells you how close it was. It was one of those dangers that you just don't think of before going on a trip. Eventually soaking wet we made it to shore and back to where the bus was, but everyone was soaked. We took a little while to dry off and then got in the mini-bus for the ride home. The only thing really eventful about that was seeing a motorbike crash on the wet roads as he tried to cut a corner too sharp. Eventually we made it home and got cleaned up which was a good feeling. The nice thing about the storm was that it cooled down the temp considerably, now it only felt like high 90's low 100's which was a welcome change from what it had been!

Well it is after midnight here and we need to catch a 7am bus tomorrow so it is time for me to go to bed. As for the photos I normally attach, everything is now on Facebook. We actually have pictures from the first 4 full days in Vietnam on-line. So if you want to see pictures just add me on Facebook, you can find me using this email.

As always if you want off this list just let me know.

Love & Peace!
Brock & Becky