The night train to Hoi An was a long one, about 18 hours. It was fine until the last three hours or so when it got super hot and I wanted a shower real bad. Laura had booked us in to the Hoang Trinh Hotel in Hoi An. We arrived on Feb 9, my Birfday. After showering, we were having a beer on the patio when all of a sudden the hotel staff appeared and handed me a cake and a present (they also sang happy birthday). Laura didn't tell them or anything, they knew it was my birthday from my passport. It was really nice of them. Nicer than anything my friends at home would do for me, that's for sure. The hotel staff also gave us free smoothies everyday, and 3 more presents when we checked out. If you're ever in Hoi An, you should stay there, it's the best.
We didn't do much in Hoi An. It was awesome. The town has a section that is a UNESCO world heritage site so it's all colonial 'n stuff and is Disneyland-esque like Luang Prabang. It's a cool place, though, despite that.
There are a LOT of tailors in Hoi An. It's sort of the place to go if you want clothing custom tailored. Me: 2 three-piece suits, 6 shirts, 1 blazer, 3 ties. Laura: 3 dresses, 1 jacket, 1 skirt, 1 shirt. Total cost: Not telling, but I assure you it was less than the price of an off-the-rack suit at home.
Mickey, our tailor, and I.
After Hoi An we went to Dalat. The night train there sucked. I don't think I like night trains anymore. We were getting on a train that had come from Hanoi. When we got to our cabin a Vietnamese lady was sleeping in one of our beds. It turns out we were cabin'd with Vietnamese people who had bought out the two bottom bunks and were sleeping four people on them. At one point one of the guys that works on the train poked his head in to the car. I thought he was going to send the two extra people away, but instead him and another guy came in and they had a little party. Then at 3am they all woke up and started talking really loudly.
Dalat is in the Central Highlands area of Vietnam. They have a lot of agriculture stuffs there. They even make wine! It's not that good but at most places you can get a glass of Dalat Red wine for $1, so I'm not complaining.
Dalat was an interesting town. Even though we met a few whitey's, there were mostly Vietnamese tourists there. It seems that Dalat is a hot vacation and honeymoon spot for Vietnamese. It was cool. We had some good street food. We also went to this place called the "Crazy House". It was pretty crazy.
The place is also a hotel. This is actually a room you can stay in. Actually.
Also, this one time, there was this little kid with his pants pulled down standing on the edge of the sidewalk just peeing onto the street. He was waving his arms around and laughing. I took a picture, but then realized that it probably made me look like a perv so I deleted it.
There are these guys called the Easy Riders in Dalat that you can do motorcycle tours with. They're a pretty famous group- so much so that there are multiple easy rider "knock-off" companies. There is debate online about who the REAL easy rider's are, but I don't think it matters anymore really. We just picked a couple younger guys (most of the easy riders are older guys it seems) that seemed nice and went with them for our 3 day trip.
All I can say about the Motorcycle tour is that for most people, including us, it ends up being a trip highlight. They drive you around the Central Highlands on the back of their motorcycles and stop at different places to talk about local agriculture, life in Vietnam, history, and some war they had here a little while ago (have you heard about this?). Thien and Kim were awesome guides; Thien was particularly funny. As we got to know each other better he started making progressively more and more inappropriate jokes. He seemed to have an endless supply of material. We called him a pervert but ironically he didn't know what it meant. Kim was a bit quieter and more of a gentleman. It made for a good combo, I think.
On the first night, a bunch of the older Easy Riders guys from the same company as Thien and Kim were at the same hotel as us (I think just for fun). We ate with them. They ordered this snail and green banana dish. It was pretty good and tasted pretty exotic. A lot different than the Vietnamese food we'd been eating up to that point. They were also getting hammered. I don't think any of the older guys had customers so they were just pounding local Vodka and Beers. Thien and Kim weren't drinking too much since they had to drive us around the next day (although Thien had a serious case of the asian red face from the two beers he had). After dinner we went with them to the Karaoke room deep in the basement of the Hotel. These guys love their Karaoke. It was funny. We only stayed for about half an hour 'cause after it was funny, it was weird.
Partyin' with the Easy Riders
We got some random old guy to take this picture. We were in a rush to catch a bus and didn't have time to retake another one that didn't have our heads cropped.
The crickets were okay. Better than the cockroaches but not as good as the tarantulas.
They feed these pigs the leftover rice from rice liquor production. It makes them drunk and they stumble around their pens, not unlike the meatheads on Granville street at 1:00am. Which is funny cause they also look, act and smell like those people...
After three days on the motorcycles, tons of stories, lots of sick jokes, one run-in with the police (it's not as bad as it sounds) and a rushed goodbye at the bus station, we were on our way to Ho Chi Minh City (the city formerly known as Saigon).
Saigon is very different than Hanoi. Saigon is pretty much like any other big Asian city (lots of big buildings, bars/restaurants, white people, traffic, etc.), whereas Hanoi is like a going back in time to what Asia may have been like before tourists and KFC came along (take away the motorbikes and it feels like the 1800's). There's more neon and big business in Saigon, which makes sense because of the whole capitalist/communist thing. Also people seem happier down here... or something... maybe it's just cause it's hotter though.
The first night we were here we made the mistake of going to the GO2 bar on the corner near our hotel. Beer was way overpriced by Vietnamese standards (about $2.50). The next day we found a place that was selling the same beer for $0.50! This is a section of the "backpacker" street where some cheap hotels put out metal fold out tables and little plastic chairs and beer and liquor for ultra cheap. It's packed every night. When the sidewalk fills up, they put chairs and stools on the street. When the police drive by, everyone on the street has to get up and move their chairs to the sidewalk. When the police car clears, they can resume their position on the street. It was funny to watch.
Those two giant glasses of whisky were $1.25 each.
The whole time I've been in Vietnam, I've been hearing about this war that happened, like, 40 years ago. The "American War" it's called. It must have been tough having the American War going on at the same time as the Vietnam War. They even have a museum here dedicated to remenants of the aforementioned war. It's called the War Remenant's Museum. It paints a pretty nasty picture of the Americans. Good ol' propoganda.
We also went to this place called the "Cu Chi" tunnels. At first I thought it was a dark tunnel that you crawl through and invisible hands tickle you, but in the end it was just another war thing. It was actually pretty interesting.
Me Me in a foxhole.
They also have a firing range there. I got to shoot an AK-47. It was expensive, but it made me feel like a big man so it was worth it.