Travel Diary of Our Honeymoon
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Here are excerpts from our Diary on our trip through Bangkok, Vietnam and Malaysia.


EXCUSE THE SPELLING AND WRITING AND LACK OF DETAIL COS CONNECTIONS ARE SLOW AND EXPENSIVE AND WE HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO TYPE !!! YARY!!!! Updates when we can make them are at the bottom so keep scrolling. Updates are not italicised..

*Frantically visiting doctors the morning of our departure. One doctor says Kar can fly!! The other says No, Kar Cannot Fly, her EarDrum Will Perforate. Win and Kar decide to go anyway.
*Catch a cab into the city with gear to buy a camera before heading to airport. Power outtages!!!! Seems power has gone in the city...
We choose our camera in the dark. Sirens wailing, buildings getting evacuated including 333 Collins
St, lucky Win didn't work today...woman outside screaming "It's 91 today!! It's 911 today!!" Maniac.
Power came on just for us to use our credit card in the eftpos machine thingy before power cuts out again.
*We catch another cab to the airport, narrowly escaping with our lives aas traffic lights not working up to the Tulla Freeway. Preparign us for traffic in Asia :P
*Plane very late, Kar's ears fine :)
*Arrive in Bangkok!! Hotel absolutely beautiful.
Driver crap but too tired to react much other than "ooooh" and "aaaah" and *yawn*

*Woke up early, caught skytrain to Mo Chit and walked to weekend market. Fun, hot, pollution!!!!
Many stalls sellign Osama supporter T-Shirts. Hmmmm...
*Siam Square shopping centre very boring. Food stalls outisde MUCH more interesting.
*Met a coconut seller - a very young bopy with a very sharp cleaver with careless disregard for his own hands. Very scary. Maybe I'll give it a try..?
*Central Shoping Centre - yummy stalls and Marks & Spencer crisps!!!!
*Met a Dr Silly who caught us a tuk-tuk to some government festival at the thai trade centre. Bought mum's birthday present!!!! It's just gorgeous...and Win bought me one too :)
*Encountered a Bakery Festival!!!! YAY!!!! Whilst waiting for our boat:
* Dinner cruise at night on the main river running through Thailand, the Chao Praya.
Food crap but cruise absolutely wonderful. Breeze like cool silk on sticky face and bare arms.

Did you observe your minute's silence..?
*Left by bus at 7am for Floating Markets, about 140km from Bangkok. Passed salt mines/fields, coconut plantations, fish farms, fish sauce factory, etc
*Caught sampan (long boat) along canals to the Floating Markets. The houses along the canals are amazing, the life even mroe amazing. Expectign stench but the canals are very fresh smelluing, the ride exhilarating and fast!!!! Sampan stops, wonder why, then see an old old OLD woman ROWING past us with her groceries behind her, grinning a toothless grin at us. A whole community on the banks of the canals: barber shops, dogs, chooks, general store, petrol station for boats, so amazing can't descrivbe not enogh time.
Feel strange taking photos feel so voyeuristic am sure the locals don't appreciate being stared at and their hosues peered into. Only taek oern or two. Feel I had to capture the moment...Also wondering about erosion of canal banks due to recent introduction fast boats.
*Floating markets great just see photos
*Afternoon visted temple, but got sidetracekd by stalls in front of temple - ate Locust uguh and liked locusts...tallest and biggest dome in Thailand. Hrmm...
*Rose Garden nto so good but win liked the elephants. No roses in sight :)

More eating :) Leaving soon...

Friday 16/11/2001
*HELLO! Still eating everything in sight. Not as much chilli as thailand. NO coconuts either :( We are in an internet cafe in Hanoi, waiting to go to Sapa.
Kar's feeling very sea sick - funny cos it only just started and we've been on dry land for over an hour now :P We were on a boat (stayign on one) for 4 days in Ha Long Bay - or bay of the descending dragon and it was just gorgeous - no sickness until now the room for me is still rolling around :)

Vietnam so far...well, I think I love buffaloes more than cows :)
Hanoi is beautiful we lvoe iot. IT's very charming, evidence of French and Rennaissance architecture everywhere. Lots of distressed paint and cute colourful shutters. MOTORBIKES EVERYWHERE and CRAZY TRAFFIC too :) Crossing the road for the first time was as scary a thing as we've ever done :) Strange seeing families on a motorbike - all of th familythat is, mum, dad, 2 kidds. No helmets. Not many cars. Lots of Russian 4WDs though...Win will tell you all about the various angines of every vehicle if you'll let him (aarggghhh)...

News: when we first arrived, we had CNN and ABC. However the next dy we learned the government had stopped the airing of these channels. SO no news from the outisde other than other tourists. The Asian world is not a good one for Australians since Howard won the election. Don't worry Ai, I haven't been having political discussions with anyone - not much anyway. Most travelelrs have been likeminded.

Hanoi City
Beautiful, charming as said above. Many lakes inside. Many people around lakes - funny cos pple sell things around the lake all the time, but at night it's like a social event - vendors and maybe thweir friends gather aroudn many little coal fires to coko corn to sell but it's jsut like they've come out for a picnic really.
Water puppets were ok but we fell asleep halfway !! We've been very tired - our days are packed full. Still good to have time to sit and contemplate the societies we've been passign thru.

Temple of literature very interesting. Many stone turtles with inscriptions of people who've gotten masters degrees. Composed of many courtyards, with lakes for the hands, feet and head until you reacfh the altar to Confucious at the top. Explain later.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum closed cos they're embalming his body again.

Old Quarter markets are very interesting. Banana fritters yummy anywhere you go I guess :) Actualyl it seems that bananas are a staple here, to vietnamese as coconuts are to thais. Selling all sorts of food in these markets from snails to monkeys in cages. Very sad.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay was JUST AMAZING, the limestoe karsts are so gorgeous. we were with local guides so went to places where no other tourists were going and it was just so peaceful floating out amongst the fishing villages.
They call it the bay of the descending dragon cos they believe that a mother dragon and her children descended and landed there to protect Vietnam from pirates. It is quite cool - the bay is full of limestone karsts which do look like dragons all holding paws. No people or animals can live on these karsts cos no fresh water - the bay has the highest salt content. We saw many butterflies, fish and sea eagles galore but not much else other than the peopel - and dgos - livign in the fishign villages. The dogs are interesting, they all seem to be spitz crosses cos all their tails curl upwards. Our guide wanted to us to try dog but we politely refused :)
*Cat Ba National Park (nestled in Halong Bay) was beautiful. We landed there and trekked into the Viet Hai village in the centre. A local from the village had traveleld with us with her baby - she was returning from hospital where her husband was stayign from an accident he'd had with a tractor. Was good to see village life as close to normal as it must have been possible - the children and people were very curious and also very friendly, no one trying to sell us anything, just going quietly about their daily lives which consisted mostly of thatchig roofs and farming. SO MANY DOGS THERE!! Lots of baby animals - baby everything!!
Another local guide took us literally VERTICALLY up a mountain across the paddy fields (muddy!!) - very scary, very slippery, very fun, the view at the end fantastic. Going DOWN was VERY DANGEROUS and happy to say we were absolutely covered in mud by teh end :) The life in the village in the middle of this desolate national park is very peaceful, they grow rice and peanuts mainly but their skill isn't great so the quality and quantity of the rice is very poor. THey farm a lot of animals - I went to use the "Happy Room" (toilet) and heard a strange grunting - a pig roundnig the corner to stare at me. Quite disconcerting at the time . Their food was very yummy though. Not that I ate pig...
Waking up on the boat was magic. So soothing.

Amazing Cave
Amzaing Cave at Halong BAy National Park - truly deserves tis name. We'll show you photos, not many words to desribe. Lots of Aseans once lived in caves thousands fo years ago around Halong Bay, not anymore of course, but none coudl live in Amazing Cave cos the water lebvels were so high. This is evidenced by my fave part of the caves - the scalooped ceilings where the waves made wave liek hollows. THe cave itself is composed of 3 caves, each larger than the last. THere are images fo everything in them particularly some of the 4 most sacred symbols of the vietnamese people - dragon, phoenix, turtle, goddess. And there was uncle Ho of course.

We've had great weather so far!! Whe we first got to Halong, it was misty and rainy, but it cleared up in the afternoon and remained very blue.

*There is a lot of signs that many non governmental organisations operate in and around Hanoi. We visited Hong Ngoc Humanity Centre - basically this is a centre for abandoned or disabled children who learn to weave and they live by selling the proceeds of their weavings (gr ?)
They were so warm and friendly, very different to most children we've met in Vietnam who are mostly touts and very aggressive and persistent at that.

*It seems that in the north of vietnam or where we've visited anyway, tourism has more been taken advantage of, than been the purporter of disadvantage unlike the hilltribes of thailand who seemed to have suffered at the hands of tourism qutie a lot. I guess we'll see further when we go to sapa tonight for the next week. Tourism here seems to support most local life. There is definitely a very large discrepancy in prices for tourists and for locals.

*Whoops ok we have to be off now to catch the ngiht train for Sapa. More news later!!

Journey to SAPA
Night train - Very very very very Eastern Bloc. Very old Russian trains ciomplete with wierd gadgetry that doens't do anything. Tiny cramped carriages, 2 bunkbeds per carriage. Rattle loud. Dark. Barred windows. Scratchy blankets. Czechs next door speaking Yeddish - more eastern bloc than ever!!!!

Lao Cai - our destination. Very much a border town, Dusty and murky.
Climbed on board a ricketty old bus for the bumpiest journey to Sapa hill station hours away up the mountains.
*Glimpsed China in misty predawn gloom.
*Sunrise over the mountains and paddy fields jsut absoltuely amazing. Look at the pictures in the honeymoon piccies section. You know what it is to feel completely awed by creation, to really believe there is God, when you see it. The view inspires a tumult of emotions above all exultation at being alive and the ability to revel in the glory of the earth at her best.

Beautiful. My experiences here will lead me back again for a much longer stay.

Sapa is a hill station high in the clouds, terraced rice paddies everywhere, as we cliimbed through the villages on our treks around Sa pa we passed endless rice paddies, vegetable fields, marijuana plants in abundance, loads of indigo plants which the hmong and dzao use a lot and loads of farm animals :)

Hilltribe folk everywhere, very warm and welcoming, young ones speak very good english - not learned from schools, but from tourists.
Tourists are very familiar to those hilltribe villagers who walk 7-15 km each day one way to sell/buy goods at Spa market, but the hilltribe villagers who did not venture far from their homes (we visited them with our local guide who was a grand nephew to one lady we visited) were not so familiar with tourists.

Although tourists are plantiful in Sa pa and certainly not at all unusual, the hilltribes appear to retain their way of life, no obvious signs of exploitation. Althoguh there as one particularly insensitive and annoying american tourist we observed poking her huge lens into the faces of startled and scared hilltribe villagers. The hilltribe folk particularly the older generations do not seem to like photographs at all. It is the least we can do to respect that. It is proper to ask first and if refused, then accept the refusal. The locals we spoke with advised us not to give money in exchange for photos for fear this would lead to begging or a fate similar to northern thailand hilltribes.
We made special friends with 2 young black hmong girls, Ma and Shu (pronounced Sher). Shu made us friendship bracelets and we exchanged addresses - hers as a guesthouse in Sapa where she could collect her mail. No idea how she'll read it though!!! I learnt much about thier habits, culture and customs from her. Her sister, 15, has a baby wwhich she carries on her back to market each day. Shu (13) is considered quite old and due for a husband soon.
Everyday villagers trek into Sapa for trading - for the market. Many hilltribes still use barter although currency is increasingly popular. Tourists are taken advantage of good humouredly -they buy the earrings and weavings that the hilltribes make for prices that the hilltribe villagers themselves would never (according to Shu) pay even a quarter for. They usually exchange goods not currency.

There have been health centres opened up in each village particularly for midwifery.

I absolutely loved Sa pa, by far my favourite place.
The beauty of the surrounds, the warmth, humour and simplicity and happiness of the hillfolk, the woodsmoke mingled with the smell of mountains, strams, bamboo, rice plants, mud all combined...indefinable but infinitely divine.
Falling into rice paddies, getting muddy on the climbs and visiting the flower hmong was fun, when I bought one of their skirts I got such looks of absolute amazement thta it was quite funny. I had people patting my bottom for the rest of my time at market and a troop of followers. I think the thoght of a foreigner actually wanting to wear what they wore was a very novel one to them.

Interesting. Met a fellow on the plane to singapore, from ESSEX!!!! I was SO EXCITED to meet him, I recognised my home accent straightaway :) Anyway, we went into Singapore town together where he wandered off and we got a bus (6 hour journey!!!!) to Malaysia

Very good. Very fun. Lots of good food and of course lots of happy reunions with relatives!!

KL is just so pretty now, quite clean also.

*King died on our first full day there which plunged the nation into mourning - very very very very sad apparently he was a really good king. One funny thing - at prayer time (loudpeakers in every street) the dogs join in by howling...hmm...
*Ate everything in sight!!!! Rellos took us to all the best food palces including Klang for seafood :)
*Had a good birthday with my rellos :) I'm 24 now...arrghh!!!!
*Flew back to s'pore - dind't wanna catch a bus again!!

*Wandered around singapore city, very clean and also very pretty - not much else to be said really