I apologize to my loyal readers and followers of my blog, that I have left my trip reports incomplete. I am not in Vietnam anymore, the last time I was there was in September 2006. I continued my trip through Laos, Thailand and India, then hit Germany, Latvia and the UK on my way home, and arrived back in Chicago on Feb. 2, 2007. I spent about 4 1/2 months at home, and got to spend time with my family and friends, including my adorable nephew Myer!. But alas, my I knew my planned trip wasn’t finished, and I am now in Ethiopia. I arrived in Addis Ababa on June 13, 2007, and my friend Jaye (whom I met in India) and her boyfriend Andrew picked me up. They are traveling overland through Africa to S. Africa, and invited me along for a few weeks. We are currently in Awassa, and heading south to Mogo National Park, and then will cross the Kenyan border. Internet is very sloow, and not available where we are going. So I won’t have the chance to update this for a while. Just wanted to let you all know what was going on with me, and I will try to keep this up again when we reach Nairobi.
The morning of my Halong Bay trip, I woke up before my alarm, as I often do when I know I need to wake up for something and am anticipating the alarm. I showered and had some time to watch a little TV before heading down for a quick breakfast of pho, or beef noodle soup, and waited for my pickup. In the lobby were two girls I hadn’t seen before, one having severe difficulty on the painfully slow guesthouse computer. I chatted with the other one, and we both realized we were all booked on the same Halong Bay trip, though I was only on for one night and two days, and they were on for two nights. Another couple came downstairs, and they were also checking out and going on our tour, and were also on the 2 night trip. Realizing this might be a chance to meet some people traveling in the same direction as me, I changed my trip to include the second night and paid the difference.Though we were told to be ready by 8, our pickup didn’t come until almost 9, a seemingly common occurence, as they tell everyone 8, but depending on where you are in the pickup, you might be last and almost an hour later. We grabbed our bags and set off with our guide to the bus parked a block away. Though it was early and we were all a bit tired, we chatted easily and were all clearly ready to get out of the city. Read the rest of this entry »
My early morning taxi ride from the train station to the Old Quarter took only a few minutes, and after a couple of head shakes and puzzled looks, my driver found the small alleyway where my desired guesthouse was located. After finding where the guesthouse was supposed to be, I saw a sign that said they were closed for remodeling, so I went into the one next door where a few other people were already milling around the lobby. After talking to the young woman running the place, she said they had a room but that it wouldn’t be available until after 11 when the person checked out. I said that was fine, but in reality was so tired that I just couldn’t imagine walking around trying to find another place. Since it was only about 6am, I cleaned up a bit in their bathroom and walked around the streets for a little while, and had some coffee. It was a nice morning and Hanoi was almost peaceful at this hour, though there were plenty of people already buzzing around. After wandering around for about an hour, I headed back to my guesthouse and waited for my room, and watched TV in the lobby. Luckily, the room opened up sooner than they thought, and I managed to get in there a bit after 10am. Not wanting to waste the morning, and since I was up already, I quickly showered and went out again to explore. Read the rest of this entry »
My bus from Kunming to the Vietnam border town of Hekou left promptly at 7pm. The sun was setting quickly, and after only about 20 minutes, it was too dark to read and since there were no lights on the bus, I pulled out my handy but geeky headlamp and read some more. The bus seemed to be lurching and having some problems, and after another 15 minutes or so, we pulled over at a rest area, where we were suddenly stuck for about an hour while the driver and his helper, plus two men from this little repair shop took out the gear shift and messed around with some bus parts for a while. After going to get another part and installing it, we set off again, a little late but nothing to be concerned about. Or so I thought. Read the rest of this entry »
Dali is one of the more popular tourist destinations in China, especially for backpackers, known for a laid back vibe, beautiful scenery and the availability of certain herbal delights. I was more intent in getting out of the city of Kunming and seeing some nice countryside again, and booked an afternoon bus to Dali which would take about 5 hours. There was also the option of taking an overnight train, but seeing as that takes 10 hours, I didn’t see why anyone would do that. After eating some breakfast and packing up, I hopped in a taxi to the bus station. Kunming streets are clean and easy to navigate, but are a real pain in a car, as you have to drive very far out of your way and do a U turn instead of being able to just turn left at any given intersections. But after only a few minutes, I arrived at the bus station, ticket in hand, and made my way past all the hawkers to find my bus. Showing my ticket to a few people, I was finally directed to the back of the station, and shown a minibus that had the Dali characters on the front. My bags were thrown in the back, and I sat on the minibus, by myself, and waited for it to leave. No other people got on, however, and a nagging feeling started at the pit of my stomach. Something didn’t feel right. Read the rest of this entry »
After buying my subway ticket to the stop nearest Shamian Island, I waited for the train for only a few minutes. Since there didn’t seem to be any way to tell what stop we were approaching, I had to count the stops before arriving at my destination. Leaving the subway, it had suddenly darkened outside, and I pulled out my guidebook to try and figure out where I was. A young Chinese girl approached me and asked me if I needed help, and she quickly pointed in the direction over a small canal, “Shamian Island.” I thanked her and headed off over the bridge towards the island, which is not only home to many British and European style buildings, but also houses the US embassy,which is where American families have to go when they adopt Chinese baby girls. It was something I wanted to see for myself, but as the island is one of the bigger tourist attractions in itself, I thought I might meet some people there. Read the rest of this entry »
Photos are up on my smugmug homepage for Cambodia (with captions), China and HK (without captions.) Enjoy!
Leaving the airport in Hong Kong was as easy as getting there, and I hopped aboard the express train, which runs all night, back towards the station closest to my hotel. Unfortunately, the shuttle buses weren’t running after midnight, so I hopped in a taxi and quickly arrived at Chongking Mansions. This late at night, the place was even sketchier, and being alone I noticed it even more now. But for some reason, I didn’t feel at all threatened by the people, and they I think were more curious about me than anything. Clearly upset, I think they probably knew to leave me alone and I rode up the slow elevator in blissful silence. Mentally exhausted, I climbed into my small but comfortable bed, and turned on the TV. Cable TV can be a curse sometimes when traveling, but now it was a blessing, as I fell asleep to CNN and the evils of the world, unconsciously realizing that there were worse places to be. Read the rest of this entry »
Our first night in Hong Kong was a fairly uneventful one. After finding out the Happy Valley races weren’t on, Chris and I headed out to explore the surrounding area a bit and get some dinner. We wandered for just a few minutes and came to an Irish pub that was recommended in our guidebook, and headed in, basing our decision on the sole fact that English Premiership Football was being shown inside and Chris needed his fix. The pub was fairly full, but we managed to get a table in view of the big screen TV and browsed the standard Irish pub menu and ordered some drinks. I was quickly overcome by indecision, as there was food on the menu I hadn’t seen or even thought about in months: Caeser salad, chili, Reuben sandwiches.. It was a minefield of horribly bad for you, but incredibly tasty Western food that I had pushed back far into my subconscious, and it was now springing to life. I ordered a Caeser salad and some red wine and settled back to watch some football, unaware that the food cravings I didn’t even know I had would become stronger everyday that I spent in HK. This clearly wasn’t the China that I just spent three long weeks in; it was another place entirely. Read the rest of this entry »
Spending the last night on the cruise boat was relaxing and peaceful, and aside from having to repack our stuff, we didn’t have much to do. Our final port of call was a town called Yichang, and we were told by our tour guide Kevin that we needed to be off the boat by 6am, so they could get the boat ready for the next trip. Luckily, we knew this ahead of time, and had planned our flight out of Yichang for 10am, giving us plenty of time to get to the airport from the boat dock. Getting off the boat, we searched in vain for a taxi that would agree to take us to the airport on the meter instead of a negotiated price. Finally, a driver agreed, but insisted we pay the 10Yuan toll also, which we agreed. We hesitated about heading into town to try and find some coffee and breakfast, as we weren’t sure how far the airport was, and assumed that we could get something there. As it turns out, not only did we have more than enough time to get breakfast in town, but it was a regrettable choice as the options were slim to none at the airport. Read the rest of this entry »
The first night in Chengdu was an early one, and I fell asleep almost instantly, only to wake up in the middle of the night having to run to the bathroom. Uh oh. Something other than my rash was also going on now, and I went back to bed hot and sweaty, making repeated trips to the bathroom throughout the night. Surprisingly, I felt okay in the morning, and though my rash wasn’t completely gone, it had definately improved. Determined to accomplish something that day, we set out after breakfast to book our Yangzi river cruise and transportation to Hong Kong. But in the heat of Chengdu, I started to feel more ill as the morning progressed, and needed to constantly find a bathroom everywhere we went. My rash was still itching, and I just felt weak and slightly dizzy. After making a few inquiries about cruises and flights, I felt I needed to either go back to the hostel and sleep, or go see a doctor. Since I didn’t want to be stuck on a boat for 4 days feeling ill, Chris and I decided I should see a doctor just in case, and after what seemed like an endless amount of time getting a taxi to take us, we made a stop at the No. 3 Hospital in Chengdu. Read the rest of this entry »