Friday, August 31, 2012

Moon Phases

It's been a pretty meh week. I'm not in a stellar mood. Just feeling a little down and blue, am sure the weekend will perk me up tho.

I have a friend who says it has to do with the moon. And look at that, tonight is full moon. She once told me she was going to track my moods via my blog posts and map them to the moon cycle to see if there was any sort of correlation. I think that would be quite interesting ... although I don't believe the moon should have anything to do with my mood since it wasn't till this morning when I saw on Facebook something about the moon being full and blue last night or tonight that I even remembered the conversation with her. And I was in a funny mood before that. It's not exactly a bad mood, it's more a blue mood. It's like when you're surrounded by people but still feel lonely. It's one of those days. Yesterday and the day before were not stellar moods either, but they were more prickly with annoyance moods. And I'm sure work had plenty to do with that. Although I definitely could feel I was prone to them ... like when you wake up and you just know someone is going to annoy the crap out of you. That.

So anyway, here's hoping for the weekend. The Trucker came for dinner on Monday night. On Tuesday I went to a very quiet (just 3 of us) SCM Dinner and then The Trucker came over last night again.

I went to a Nutritionist on Monday. I'm going back to her today to get an eating plan. I'm a little nervous of what she's going to advise. I don't eat terribly, but I think I snack really badly. And The Trucker, well you know how he insists on dessert after dinner every night. It's a bad habit he's gotten me into. I've also cancelled my Personal Trainer (last session with him was last night). Gym is super boring me and I haven't been able to get back into since coming back from Vietnam. Now I know, I've never been super into the whole gym thing so I tend to change it up every few months. So now I'm off to give Boot Camp a try in September. I'm a little terrified, but hey, it's only 4 weeks, I'm sure I'll survive. I also want to start swimming again. I last did that when I was dating Varen, I think. Oh, and one of the guys at work has offered to take me paddling with him at Emmerentia. I've been interested in paddling since before I moved to Jozi, it's just I never really thought it was something I could do on my own because I definitely couldn't lift a canoe onto the roof of my car or get it down again ... Anyway, I'm keen to give it a try and see if I like it. I definitely think I am lacking the fun-factor in my exercise routine which is why I get so bored and demotivated with it. But that said, it is hard to find things you enjoy when you're not a very sporty person and running and cycling don't really appeal. Anyhoo, we'll see how it goes.

What else ...? Nothing I can think of right now. Let's hope I perk up over the weekend :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

02 August: Hue to Hoi An

We were up, showered, packed and ready for breakfast by 8am. At 08h30 our Hue Easy Riders guide arrived to collect us. Was very cool because he ended up riding with all our luggage so The Trucker and I could ride one one bike together.

Travel Planning Tip: We tried to contact a number of the online Hai Van Pass bike-trip sites, but only one actually eventually got in touch with us. I kinda got the feeling on the day that there was actually only one company, the Easy Riders, who offered the trip and everyone else was just on-selling it. Hard to say, really.

Aside from the obvious bonus of doing this trip with The Trucker, today was definitely a huge win because without him it is probably not something I would've considered and it turned out to be an awesome experience and one I'd highly recommend even if you don't know how to ride.

Let me tell you, while biking is a spectacular way to see and experience this country, it is not all that comfortable. But they seem to know that and we stopped often enough for it never to be too bad a problem.

The main stops included Elephant Springs (Suoi Voi - Voi means Elephant) which was a complete surprise and absolutely superb. You head off the main road up a little way into the mountains where there are these giant granite boulders with a stream running down between them. It makes for many beautiful pools of water.

It wasn't too busy but we were far from the only people there. Plenty of other tourist bikers and quite a few locals (apparently it is school holidays). We swam and cooled off there for a while.


Our next major stop was at the top of Hai Van Pass. Wow, riding over Hai Van Pass was great fun, lots of twists and turns, and we had spectacular views. Reminded me a bit of Chapman's Peak.

Down the other side of the pass is Da Nang where we stopped for lunch. Not a very impressive lunch, sadly. But I don't think Pho is my meal here. I'm much more taken with their Spring Rolls :)

After lunch we went up Marble Mountain. Which, of course, included the obligatory tourist shopping spot. Yawn. We took the elevator up the mountain and wandered a little. I am sure we missed most of it but, we did visit a few of their cave buddahs. Same problem I had in China, I can only see so many buddah statues before I lose interest completely. Luckily The Trucker is the same :)

From there it was on to Hoi An. Our bike guide took us straight to Kimmy's (apparently the best spot for tailored clothes, but who knows?). I wasn't too sure if I really wanted anything but I figured hey, why not? I doubt it is really worth shopping around and we're here for a limited time anyway. So I've ordered 3 dresses (!).

When I was done choosing fabrics and getting measured, I popped across the road to another tailor shop (they are everywhere!) where I'd seen a jacket I liked. And ended up ordering another style I preferred. I really am much more of a see-and-touch-and-try-on kinda girl. Seeing the dress style in real life is far more likely to work on me than picking from a photo in a pdf (although that didn't seem to stop me at Kimmy's - haha).

After that we headed to our Hotel, La Tonelle. It's more of a homestay. It is not as awesome as some of our previous hotels, but the location is *amazing* (for those who know, we're in the Japanese Bridge road). Sadly they had NO WATER when we arrived. Sigh, what can you do?

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodation thru Agoda and I would definitely use them again when planning my own overseas accommodation.

We had a quick rinse with some bottled water they provided and headed out. I had heard that Hoi An was especially worth seeing on the Full Moon, which is why I had organised our schedule around that (to a degree, it only worked for the beginning of August). Tonight was the Full Moon and Hoi An was alive and awesome! Although apparently they'd actually had their Full Moon Festival last night.

Our hotel is perfectly situated for wandering the fantastic Ancient Town. The place was beautifully lit with paper lanterns and people are all over selling little ones with candles that you make a wish on and float down the river. Stunning. Apparently this actually happens every night tho? It does, but on a much smaller scale. Nothing was like the craziness of our first night, the Full Moon.

We found this little shop and ordered some custom made leather shoes. I already knew I wanted these before we left South Africa. I wanted a pair of knee high red boots :) I also found some lanterns I want too. I think that will be my "item of the trip" and I've ordered them in 4 different colours to go with my Moroccan light at home. I think it'll look awesome :)

Then we headed over the bridge and had dinner at a fancy little spot called Mango Mango (rated 4.5 out of 5 on Trip Advisor). There are so many restaurant here. We stuck with ordering a variety of starters (4) to share. Best way to eat here, I think :) We also had a yummy cocktail called Asian Infusion, which was Vodka with ginger, lemongrass and lime, I think.

After dinner we went and wandered some market stalls and bumped into some people we'd gotten to know on our Halong Bay cruise. We ended the evening catching up with them, sipping R1.60 beers at a riverside restaurant.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mutants by Armand Leroi

"Who are the mutants? We are all mutants. But some of us are more mutant than others."

Variety, even deformity, may seem like an unlikely route by which to approach normality, even perfection. Yet much of what we know about the mechanisms of human development, growth, and aging comes from the study of people who are afflicted with congenital diseases, most of which have genetic causes. Congenital abnormalities reveal not only errors within the womb, but also our evolutionary history.

In "Mutants," Armand Marie Leroi gives a brilliant narrative account of our genetic grammar and the people whose bodies have revealed it, balancing both the science and the stories behind some of history's most captivating figures-including a French convent girl who found herself changing sex upon puberty; children who, echoing Homer's Cyclops, are born with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads; a village of long-lived Croatian dwarves; a hairy family who was kept at the Burmese royal court for four generations (and from whom Darwin took one of his keenest insights into heredity); and the ostrich-footed Wadoma of the Zambezi River Valley.

Stepping effortlessly from myth to molecular biology, this elegant, humane, and illuminating book is about us all.

I loved this. I honestly bought this book about 3 years ago (maybe more?) and never got around to reading it. But I'm super glad I finally did. It is fascinating. And there was plenty to Wikipedia and even new stuff to add to my Life List (visits to the Vrolik Museum in Amsterdam or the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia). There are bits that were a bit too in depth about DNA, but I found this otherwise easy to read and I just skimmed and got the gist of the bits that didn't interest me. I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in the Human Body, how it is formed or genetics.

01 August: Hue

Shew. Worst overnight on a train ever. And you *know* how many nights I've spent sleeping on a train in the last 2 years!

Anyway, it started out okay but, the train was seriously rocky. It meant we were literally sliding up and down in our bunks, from head to toe. It makes it pretty impossible to sleep. Add to that a snoring Frenchman on the bunk opposite me (I was on the bottom bunk and The Trucker was above me) and I was not a happy traveler.

I figured out I could stay stable if I slept on my stomach (which is my least favourite sleeping position) and thankfully he seemed to only snore when we were stopped at stations. Guess there was an upside to the side-to-side rocking :P

So yes, at least I did manage some sleep. But it was very broken with plenty of tossing and turning as parts of my body hurt from a barely there mattress. And The Trucker seemed to get even less sleep than I did.

I enjoyed the morning scenery. Their graveyards (I assume that's what they are) seem fascinating. And we saw plenty of them from the railway line (and thruout our trip).

We arrived in Hue at about 10am and easily caught a taxi to The Gold Hotel where we're staying. Another good hotel room :) Well, after an initial room-change because I flooded the first one's bathroom during my shower. Great view from the 11th floor!

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodation thru Agoda and I would definitely use them again when planning my own overseas accommodation.

Around midday we rented a scooter and set off to explore Hue. First stop was lunch at the Mandarin Cafe. It was delish. We ordered a variety of starter-type meals: spring rolls, Banh Khoai and some other roll-your-own rice-paper pork things.

After we had eaten, we hopped back on the scooter and went to check out the Citadel. Which was kinda interesting but not amazing. Maybe because I was in China last year or maybe because they are very obviously in the process of restoring it. It is vast tho and I'm sure we didn't come close to seeing all of it. But we saw enough.

Then we decided to just ride around Hue. We headed off into very un-touristy areas and then proceeded to run out of petrol ... Luckily it seems you don't really need to know where the petrol stations are (they all seem to be on the outskirts of town right next to each other?) because we asked a man riding a scooter where we could get some and he directed us to an old lady's house-front store where she measured out a litre for us. Bizarre, but I spose they buy in bulk for themselves and their vast bike-usage.

We went and wandered the Dong Ba market too. Not at all touristy and a bit of an assault on the senses. Nope, haven't bought a thing here yet.

After that we filled up at a regular petrol station. In case you were wondering, you seem to get the bikes you rent on next to empty and you have to put in fuel. I thought with rental cars (never having used one myself) that you received a full tank and you made sure you filled it again before you returned it? Regardless, we'd now learnt our lesson.

We went and grabbed our cozzies from the hotel and rode the 14km to the Thuan An Beach. What an awesome way to spend and afternoon. We enjoyed the water and didn't see a single other tourist there and there were very few people at the beach generally.

When we got back to the hotel we had a swim in their pool then relaxed for a bit before going for a sundowner on their 12th floor bar. Bit of a let-down after the cocktails on the Halong Bay cruise!

Then we took the scooter out again to find some dinner. After a quick search on Google we decided on a place called Nina's. We did struggle to find it, it's down 2 side roads from the road it says it's on! Again we chose a variety of food to share. It was okay, by no means even nearly the best meal of the trip. But the place is quite cute.

We found a night market along the river after that and stopped and wandered before stopping for a drink. I had a lemon juice and it is my new favourite thing! Love it. Which I guess makes a lot of sense since my current favourite fruit juice at home is Sir Juice's Lemonade.

Then it was back to the hotel for us. Here's to catching up on some sleep and resting our bums before our "Top Gear" motorbike tour tomorrow :) Yay.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

31 July: Halong Bay to Hanoi

Slept fantastically on the boat. We both woke up at about 3 to the rain tho - we'd decided to leave our curtains open during the night.

We were up quite early in the morning although there was no real sunrise, it was very overcast in the morning.

After some pastries, but before proper breakfast we went to Sung Sôt Cave. I knew it was big but I really had no idea how huge it was. Absolutely massive, with multiple chambers.

Back on the boat, we freshened up. It was very hot and sweaty in the cave! Then we packed and went for breakfast. Another Vietnamese coffee to finish and then we sat watching the view as we headed back to Halong City.

Halong Bay was absolutely beautiful and really the photographs can't show it sufficiently. The one thing I was quite horrified by tho was the amount of pollution in Halong Bay. We saw plenty of plastic rubbish floating past us while we were on the boat. Very sad :(

We caught our 3hr transfer back to the Eclipse Hotel in Hanoi, left our luggage with them and went out exploring Hanoi some more. We had a look at the Temple of Literature. It's not that interesting and I wouldn't recommend the effort. We also found a shop to buy supplies for our overnight train - quite handy being so well train-traveled this time around, haha.

We were exhausted and our feet were sore so we headed back to the hotel and managed to get a room for an hour so we could shower and cool off in the air-con and rest our feet for a bit. Much needed!

They called us a taxi, which was there pretty much as they hung up the phone. And we were delivered to the train station.

All aboard the SE19 to Hue. We watched the city at night for a while, had some spicy beef instant noodles for dinner (oh, the memories of China!) and then read our books before we switched off our light. Our carriage is 4 berth cabins and filled with mostly French people from what we've heard.

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our sleeper train tickets online before we went with Vietnam Railway.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Wow, did my weekend start off spectacularly. The Trucker had another Surprise Date Night planned :) If I ever doubt how lucky I am with this boy, you are all encouraged to remind me, because really, I am <3

He took me for dinner at Licorish Bistro. To say we had a stunning experience there would be an understatement. It was a superb evening from the service to the food to the company ;) I would highly recommend this spot for a special night out.

I had their Scallop Tempura to start. I was a little nervous cause it was a bit of a toss-up between that and their Goats Cheese Strudel. I'm not generally sure where I stand on scallops, I don't like it when they remind me too much of mussels and are remotely chewy. But since I'd decided on their Harisa Crusted Scottish Salmon for my main, I decided to stick with the seafood theme. The scallops were divine. Honestly, delish and the Mango chutney the came with was seriously addictive!

The salmon is probably the best Salmon I've had since F!sh. So yummy. The Trucker started with their Star Anis & Cinnamon Cured Beef, which he really enjoyed. I had a taste, but it was too licorish-y for me. I think it is right up there with my worst flavour, along with Olives. He had their fillet taster-plate for mains. What a fabulous idea and they offer a fish one as well. 3 small fillets done in 3 different ways with 3 taster glasses of wine to go with each. He absolutely *loved* it. My favourite thing was the wood-smoked flavour of their mashed potato. Oh. My. Word.

I'm too excited because apparently they'll be changing their menu in September, getting ready for summer. We will have to go back and try it ;) I skipped dessert but they did give us a little taster of their licorish ice-cream. It's got a coffee flavour to it, but it was still too much licorish for me. But I reckon if licorish is a flavour you enjoy, you should definitely try it :)

What a spectacular extreme opposite to my Wednesday evening restaurant experience.

On Saturday I had to head back to Tiger Wheel & Tyre. My back-left tyre has been leaking air since I had the tyres replaced just before we went to Vietnam, less than ideal. We had breakfast at Europa in Sandton while they investigated. Seems I now need 2 new wheel rims (for the 2 back wheels). #sigh. It never ends :( Anyway, they knocked them out a bit to stop the leaking, so that gives me a little time to figure out what I want to do ... this is all very time-consuming. Seriously, how does anyone get anything done in Joburg or South Africa in general when things are only open while everyone else is at work or for a mere 4 or 5 hours on a Saturday morning. Urgh. Annoyed.

We made a turn at the Bakos Brother's sale, but the queue was probably more than an hour long so we hopped straight back in the car.

We relaxed for a bit in the afternoon and watched The Dictator. Meh, it had some kinda funny moments, but I'm not a huge Sascha Baron Cohen fan.

After that we headed off to a friend of The Trucker's for a braai. Turned out to be a pleasant afternoon, although I didn't really know anyone there.

On Sunday we headed out for breakfast with The Trucker's sister and niece and then got some shopping and had a generally quite relaxing day. The Trucker was mostly out doing work admin and getting his car cleaned, while I cleaned the bunny hutch and didn't really do much of anything, really. Oh yes, I did get this week's blog posts ready tho ;) Yay.

We watched Zombieland which I also did not think terribly much of ... Not a very good movie weekend. Haha.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A "So Bad It's Comical" Restaurant Review

SCM on Tuesday, as usual. Delish celebrations for @clairam's half-birthday (yes she celebrates those - haha). And then on Wednesday there was *great success* ! I managed to, on my own, get my Vietnam Lanterns open :D

Look, I won't lie, it was tough work. My hands and fingers were helluva sore. But I did it. And they're still open (ie. they haven't popped closed), which I feel is a very good sign. Now to get them hung & lit ... let's not hold our breath here, okay, it took how many years to get my Moroccan Lamp up? Anyhoo, how cool are they? :)

Then on Wednesday I went out for dinner with 13 of the work peeps. I actually organised this (of course I did). I'd booked a table for 11 last week and then increased it to 15 the day before. And we ended up with 14 people at Cantina Tequila in Fourways.

It was a truly disastrous experience. Just dreadful and I wouldn't recommend the place to anyone, aside from the fact that one of the guys at the dinner had actually been there the Friday before and had raved about the place. Maybe they were just having the most off-night of their entire existence? Either way, I won't be going back. I'm sticking with Cafe Mexicho in Melville from here on out.

I'm not even sure it is a real Cantina Tequila anymore ... I consider Cantina Tequila to be like the Spur of Mexican restaurants, you know, standard and reliable and pretty much the same whichever one you go to. I noticed as I was leaving that this place didn't have the signage using the logo or correct font. So who knows? I'll admit I haven't been to one in 3 years.

Anyway, here is how the evening went. It started mostly okay as everyone was arriving. We ordered a jug of Margaritas (they only had lemon flavoured. I myself am partial to the Lemon-Strawberry mixed jug). They weren't great but they were acceptable. Firstly from the moment we arrived the service was shocking. And to be honest if your food is stellar I'm willing to over look this as we're a table of 14 and chatting and what not. But seriously it became a little annoying when we finally wanted to order our food (we did this after 8pm) and our waiter would get distracted because someone ordered another Coke Light (or something) and disappear off to the bar area and stand there and wait for each individual drinks order. He definitely was not a multi-tasker.

We all ordered, I asked if they could bring everything at once as some people were having starters and some people weren't and some people ordered starters as mains etc. The food came out very erratically. I personally had received my starter-to-share (Chili Poppers that were the yummiest thing I ate) and my starter-as-main (Chicken Nachos) before other people had receeved any of their food.

Okay, the Nachos. I dunno what their policy generally is. I gather they tout them as "Home Made Nachos" but honestly they were like fried drop pastry. Or my other favourite description of the evening: Bow-ties with Cheese. I could hardly tell what was what but  can tell you that most plates of Nachos that had been ordered went back with the topping picked off and only a few of the Nachos touched.

I will point out here that I received guacamole with both my Chili Poppers and my Nachos. But people who received their Nachos later didn't get any guacamole or any salsa (chopped up tomato and onion, really). When they asked for this they were told, there was none. They'd run out. Then a Half-Chicken and Veg arrived. Only there were potatoes and no veg. Apparently they were out of veg. Someone had ordered a side-salad, nope, they're out of that too. Another girl had ordered a Vegetable Quesadilla and eventually she asked the waiter (after we'd discovered they were now out of veg) if she was getting her food. He just looked at her blankly and said "No". Our Biggest Joke of the Evening: They were out of Mexican Food ?!

We asked to see the manager multiple times. The waiters scuffled about and kept saying He was on his way. Eventually someone showed up, no he's not the manager, the guy who'd been serving us all evening was (Oh lord). But he'd phone his fiance who owned the place. They acknowledged that I'd booked in advance but I don't think they handled the situation smoothly at all.

They came around offering free-tequilas. Really? I think only 2 people partook. The rest of us were driving home.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. When we placed our order, we were categorically told that they didn't offer a doggie-bag service, so no take-aways or leftovers. Not that anyone wanted any by the end of the evening, but I wasn't impressed by that little revelation either.

I had to leave first and I paid for my meal on my card and left. After all, the only thing really wrong with my food was my own fault for ordering their peculiar Nachos. Apparently no one else ended up paying for food, only for the drinks. Fair enough. Although in my opinion, too little to shake the bad experience.

It has become quite a story around the office and we can laugh about the story now.

Yesterday after work we went for some drinks with our team and the guy who suddenly left a few weeks back. On the way home I met The Trucker for dinner before his Action Cricket game and then went home and had a lovely long bubble bath, it's been a busy week.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

30 July: Hanoi to Halong Bay

We were up before 7am to shower and have breakfast before our transfer to Halong Bay arrived. The Hot water in Hanoi seems pretty much non-existent, although (barely) warmer than the cold. @clairam mentioned this problem at her hotel in Hanoi in December too.

Breakfast was quite yummy. 2 eggs and some bacon (actually I think it was more like some kind of fried salami or something?) which we ate on rolls (they *love* their french bread here, it was to become a regular). I had fresh watermelon juice - which is what I pretty much lived on while in Thailand. But there they make them with crushed ice (called shakes), which is much better!

The drive to Halong Bay was uneventful but I enjoyed the scenery, although I did nod off a few times. Far more rice paddies than I saw in China. And the architecture is fascinating with all these tall skinny buildings. It made sense in Hanoi, but they seem to be built like that everywhere. Even if there is not another house near it! It's kinda surreal, actually :)

We had a half hour stop halfway to use the loo at a very touristy spot selling all sorts of things. I hate these places. We eventually reached Halong City and boarded our boat.

Travel Planning tip: We booked our Deluxe cabin on a 2day Halong Bay cruise thru Luxury Halong Cruises on one of the Indochina Sails boats. They also arranged the Visa Approval Letter required when entering Vietnam for us. As well as transfers to and from our hotel in Hanoi, at an additional fee.

Wow! Our room is *stunning*. We have floor to ceiling windows (including in the bathroom, above a jacuzzi bath - which I sadly did not get to use :( ), a balcony on the side of the boat and a huge bathroom (bath & shower!).

We had a large set-menu lunch which, although it was good, was not nearly as delish as our far simpler dinner yesterday. We finished lunch off with a Vietnamese Coffee (made with condensed milk!) on the deck :) Delish!!

After lunch we took smaller "bamboo boats" to Luon Cave (below). Very cool and we saw a few monkeys playing on the rocks too.

A little after that we headed to Titov Island to swim. I chose to skip the 425 step climb to the top view point (view below taken by The Trucker from the top of the island) and instead enjoyed a longer time in the warm salty water. Good news: I didn't get stung by a jellyfish - haha!

As The Trucker got down from the walk, a huge storm came rolling thru. We enjoyed swimming in the downpour but I don't even think the rain lasted an hour!

To say this place is spectacular is a huge understatement. It is truly beautiful and I have hardly even read my book, choosing instead just to enjoy the view, sitting on our bed.

We had a wonderfully relaxing evening. Dinner was a buffet with some quite yummy things :) I especially liked the Hanoi fresh spring rolls, a weird crab dish (baked in the crab shell) and their prawn sticks.

With dinner we enjoyed a glass of very nice red Chilean wine. We spent the rest of the night playing rummy on the top deck sipping cocktails. It was really nice (even tho he's a sore loser! Haha)

Oh, and after dinner we also tried a little squid fishing. Which was very boring because apparently the current was moving too fast. But still, it was entertaining to have given it a try for 10 minutes :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

29 July: Johannesburg to Hanoi

06h15 (Bangkok Airport)
Luckily the flight didn't feel nearly as long as it was. Not that I managed to get much sleep, but I did rest for most of it.

We left Joburg and managed to get a middle row all to ourselves. The most helpful check-in counter lady I've ever had the pleasure to deal with :) She switched our online check-in seats especially so we were on either aisle seat of the middle row so it was unlikely anyone would book the middle seat. Score!

I watched Salmon Fishing in the Yemen first. I loved it. Lately the movies made of all my favourite books have fallen a little short, but this once was lovely. It may have helped that I read the book absolutely ages ago and was starring Ewan McGregor. Haha.

Dinner was delish, Penang Chicken Curry - the days of bad airline food seem long gone!

I started watching The Lorax before I was feeling sleepy. I finished it over a very early breakfast. Animation is not usually my best, but it seemed appropriate for a plane and I quite enjoyed it generally. I also managed to squeeze in 3 episodes of New Girl before we landed in Bangkok.

Breakfast on planes is by far my least favourite meal. At least this one came with a croissant :) I felt so dehydrated for this flight tho, it was quite awful.

After we landed, it was very easy to find our next boarding gate and now we're sitting waiting for our flight to Hanoi - yay!


The flight from Bangkok was uneventful. They fed us again. This time the food was a bit weird ... including a crab-meat sandwich! I luckily managed to get a little more sleep on this flight too :)

We landed in Hanoi at about 09h40 (5hrs ahead of South Africa). We arrived to absolute chaos. Or rather, a huge crowd at the Visa Upon Arrival counter. It was a little confusing because you arrived at the pay point first but actually you have to go around, complete the form, hand in your passport, letter of invitation (which our Halong Bay Cruise company had organised for us), an ID photo and then they produce a full-on proper visa for you right there. It costs 25USD. And it only took about 40mins because of the queue.

After that Passport Control and Baggage Collection was a breeze. We found an info desk, got a map and hired a taxi to our hotel, the Hanoi Eclipse Hotel.

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodation thru Agoda and I would definitely use them again when planning my own overseas accommodation.

The drive was quite fascinating. The buildings are all quite colourful and seem to be tall & skinny. So far I am loving Vietnam!

We checked-in and are in a room on the top (5th) floor with a balcony out over the road with a cool view. We had a quick shower and headed out to explore.

Since we left the hotel just after midday, we knew we'd missed Ho Chi Min's Mausoleum's opening time. So first we took a quick walk down to Hoan Kiem Lake. Sheesh the traffic is chaos. And it's only a Sunday! Haha.

From the lake we decided to take one of the bicycle tuk-tuks to Ho Chi Min's Mausoleum anyway, just to check it out. What a wonderful way to travel. Although I'm quite sure we're being completely ripped off at the moment, but it is hard to know on Day One.

I am fascinated by us embalming people. It's not like it was that long ago. It's amazing to me that we still do things like this with our dead.

Anyway, we sadly didn't get to see him. But we took a walk back to the Flag Tower and the statue of Lenin (who I did get to see - haha). We stopped and had some iced-coffees (apparently the thing to do in Vietnam) and had something to eat. Some very tasty beef with peanut noodle salad and some prawn spring rolls.

We were right next door to the Army Museum so just wandered straight into their outdoor displays of planes and tanks and then into a little bit of their museum, not sure if it was the whole thing or not (I think we might've been supposed to actually pay an entry fee?).

After that we took a windy route back to our hotel thru the Old Quarter and then went back to the hotel to rest our poor feet!

Am so impressed, I was emailed yesterday that our 3 overnight train tickets had been delivered to our hotel. And there they were in reception waiting for us. So easy and simple! What a pleasure.

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our sleeper train tickets online before we went with Vietnam Railway.

After a nap we headed out at about 18h30 and wandered down Hang Ngang Road for the night market. We were a bit early and the rain was starting. The rain was quite lovely to walk thru in this heat!

Then we headed to My May road to try and find The Trucker's Facebook Name-Twin who was meeting us for dinner.

Do you have a Facebook Name-Twin? I had one but she got married so our names don't really match anymore. Funny how we both became Facebook friends with our Name-Twins. Haha. And his happened to be teaching English in Vietnam at the moment so they made a plan to actually meet! How totally awesome is that?

We headed the wrong way down the road and decided to stop for a beer at one of the backpackers (mostly to use their free wi-fi since our only means of communication with the Name-Twin was Facebook messaging - haha). Luckily we were early for the dinner.

After finishing our drinks, we headed back down the road to a little restaurant called New Day where after about half an hour we realised that the Name-Twin was actually already there but 2 floors up!

The food was so good! We shared Hanoi (pork) springrolls, some "Fresh" spring rolls (prawns in rice paper) and hot and sour seafood soup.

The Trucker had beef in curry sauce for mains and I had Noodles with shrimp and pork. So good! Good fun meeting The Trucker's Name-Twin too - haha.

By the time we left, it was pouring. Yay for rain ponchos. A wise investment in the rainy season here! Unfortunately tho, that meant that the night market was already packing up, so we missed it completely.

What a fantastic first day of our trip :D

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