Jamie and Sophie's Adventure

Jamie Longmore and Sophie Jones travel the world

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Holy Mary, Mother of God


Sweet Jesus, anyone that went to "The 6th FARM" with me, check this out. If it asks you to install Flash player, do it, it is worth it. I could barely contain myself when I saw the email from, well he/she may want their identity to remain a secret so I'll just say a huge thanks, you know who you are ;-)
Anyone that doesn't understand this post, just ignore it. If you can't see it here, try clicking here
Please leave comments on this one guys!

Hanoi-ing

Well we didn't see much in Hue as the sights we did go to see either didn't exist or were closed. The bus journey to Hanoi was horrible, because of various stupid people we didn't get to sit together, Sophie was stuck at the back on an awful seat that wouldn't recline and I was next to a snoring fidgeter. We made it after 14 hours or so in one peace at least. We got taken to a hotel that was too expensive and seemed to be nowhere near any other hotels so we got a short taxi ride to the Hanoi Spirit House. The taxi driver started going absolutely mental at me, we aren't totally sure why but he seemed to be saying I slammed his door (which I didn't) so I should give him money. I'm assuming this is one of the usual cons that they always do to tourists, it wasn't really what I wanted after that long journey. The guy started to square up to me but realised I was twice his size and about 25 years his junior so he went to get some big black object from his car to threaten me with. Public humiliation is the worst thing for a Vietnamese person so I gave him a wink and shouted HELP, RAPE a couple of times and he went away rather sharpish.
So then we went to the hotel, where we were told that for $8 we got A/C, a big room, breakfast and free internet. We said we wanted a fan and not A/C so they put it down to $7. After a few hours they made us change rooms to a smaller one that smelled funny but we said OK as we couldn't be bothered to move hotels and we had blocked up the other rooms toilet anyway. So this morning, after having no problems the previous days with the breakfast and internet, they decide to tell us we can't have them for free as we are only paying $7. They were being very rude and didn't care that it was their fault and that's what we had agreed so we checked out. They had dyed Sophie's blue jumper red in the wash which we pointed out and all they said was that it couldn't have happened in the wash (which it had to have) but must have happened when we got in the shower... not sure what he gets up to in his shower at home but we certainly don't wear jumpers in them. Anyway we refused to pay the full amount and eventually left to find another hotel. We are now in Mai Phuong Hotel which isn't that great but it will do for one night and the people are very friendly there.
Tomorrow we are going to Halong Bay on a 3 day 2 night tour where we stay on a boat one of the nights and see some famous caves, do some snorkelling and various other stuff so should be fun.
On Monday we are flying to Laos. Do a search for Hanoi to Vientien by bus and you will see why we decided to fly. There isn't a single good account of this journey on the net, apparantly you end up being stranded in the middle of nowhere, paying loads of extra money and it's not even a proper bus (the seats are sometimes beer cases), not what we want for 24+ hours. I'm looking forward to getting to Laos as I heard you don't get hassled on the street like you do here. I'm not really feeling much love for Hanoi, the south of Vietnam was definitely nicer with less con artists and more things to see.
I'm not sure if I mentioned it already or not but we are multi-millionaires here, several times over which is quite cool, Sophie spent over a million Dong yesterday on various things, big spender.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hue we go

We are waiting for our bus to pick us up and take us to Hue (pronounced hoo-way) so thought I'd give you a small update.
The cookery class was excellent, we started the day at 8:15, having a free drink (I had Vietnamese coffee, which is very tasty and I'm not even a coffee drinker). We then got taken on a tour around the local market and were taught how to check if different foods and fruits were fresh and what to look for when buying various items. Next we had a half hour boat trip to where the course was. We pulled up at this fantastic looking restaurant, got shown around their herb garden and taught about the different things they had growing there.
We then had a demonstration of various dishes from the chef who was very funny and then we would repeat it for ourselves, some of the food we ate as soon as we made it, the rest got taken away for later. We made a tasty eggplant and lemongrass dish, vietnamese pancakes ricepaper and spring rolls, as well as watching demonstrations on several other dishes. We were then taught about food decoration, being shown how to make a fan out of cucumber and a rose out of tomato (I refused to do that one as I would have been sick peeling a tomato).
We then went and had a 5 course meal, which including the food we had made and was very tasty, think we may have overdosed on squid and shrimps though.
In the evening we went for a few (very cheap) drinks with Mal and Simone who had coincidentally (or so they say, we suspect they are stalking us, though they think the same about us) checked into the same hotel as us.
We picked up and paid for our clothes last night ($202 total) and I am delighted with mine, though unfortunately Sophie's not very happy with hers because the trousers are too short and the woman said she couldn't make them any longer (I thought that's what we're paying her for!).
My silk pyjamas and dressing gown have JL embroidered into them which is very cool indeed.
We are going to leave Hue for Hanoi tomorrow at 6pm as there isn't that much to see in Hue.
I can't believe what I am seeing regarding The Ashes. Well actually, I can.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sew Good!

After a 12 hours bus journey, which as usual was 2 hours late leaving, we arrived in Hoi-An and once again managed to find ourselves a bargain hotel for $6 (called Hotel Nhi Nhi), this one even has a bathtub along with 2 double beds, cable TV and a fridge. We have done a bit of sight seeing but the main reason to come here is to get high quality tailored clothes made for dirt cheap prices.
I have ordered 2 suits (one with waistcoat), 2 shirts, silk pyjamas and a dressing gown all for about 70 quid. Sophie has got herself a nice black suit with trousers and a skirt along with a pink shirt for about 35 of your English pounds. We go back tomorrow for another fitting and any final necessary adjustments will be made. It's so tempting to buy loads more things but it will cost too much to ship home. You can get shoes made for $25 but I haven't ordered any... yet.
Our tailor is a lovely lady recommended to us by some girls we met in Nha Trang, her shop is called Phuong 1.
There are literally 100s of tailors here, it is completely ridiculous, 9 out of 10 shops are tailors, the other 1 being a souvenir shop.
A couple of people in Vietnam have bizarrely assumed that Sophie is an Indian, though one of those people is known as "The Crazy Monk", but it amuses me all the same, especially when she got a small cut in the middle of her head that looked like an ornamental spot.
We go to Hue on Saturday afternoon, which is thankfully only 4 hours by bus and are there for a couple of days before the 14 hour trip to Hanoi. Sounds bad eh, well when we goto Laos, that's a 22 hour journey.
Time to go get some food, which reminds me, tomorrow morning we are doing a Vietnamese cookery course with Redbridge Cafe who are recommended in Lonely Planet so it should be good fun.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mud baths and boat trips

On Sunday we went to a health spa type place, but this one had a difference, here are the stages:
Shower in mineral water; Wallow around in a huge tub of mud for 15 minutes; sunbathe to bake the mud on you; wash in the shower again; have jets of mineral water sprayed on you from all angles; go in a tub of hot mineral water for ages; stand under a mineral waterfall; swim in a mineral water swimming pool. Apparantly all that is very good for your skin and they claim it can cure all sorts of things from rheumatism to the lurgy. Whether it does or not, it was a very interesting and fun experience, we got some photos of it so look out for those soon.
Yesterday we went on an island tour with a guy called The Funky Monkey and it was very entertaining, firstly we went snorkelling, then the boat crew did some singing and dancing for us (the Nha Trang Boy Band), then we had a floating bar, which was based on a big rubber ring in the middle of the sea and was giving us a horrible tasting cocktail for free, we then went to a good beach before going to an aquarium to see all kinds of weird and wonderful fish.
In the evening we went out for a meal with some of the guys we had met on the trip and Mal & Simone, I had a very nice BBQ marinated tuna fish and a good time was had by all.
Today we are going to spend some time on the beach (though I burnt my back yesterday whilst snorkelling so I've got to be careful) and then at 6:30 tonight we head off on a 12 hour bus journey to Hoi An, which is where you can get cheap, but good quality tailor made clothes from. We'll be there for 3 or 4 days. I'll put some more photos on if we find a good internet cafe.
Leave us some comments, haven't heard from most of you for a long time.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Do Not Disturb!

We arrived in Nha Trang after a 5 hour bus journey, got dropped off at a very nice looking hotel which we thought would be far too expensive for us, but thanks to our well honed bargaining skills we managed to get a massive room with fridge, tv, balcony and hot water for $6, very nice. We have only been here a few hours and took a quick look at the beach, where we will spend some serious sunbathing time tomorrow. We have been trying to find out how best to get to Hanoi which is where we go next, the bus journey takes 2 nights and 1 day and is about $15, or the train takes about 30 hours and is $65, what great choices.
Yesterday, late afternoon after we had been on our Easy Rider tour, we decided to have a little nap as we rarely get enough sleep. We were awakened by the woman that runs the hotel coming into our room to bring some laundry, stupid woman just walked straight in, woke us up, saw us and ran out saying sorry. OK fair enough, she should have known we were in the room as we took the key off her about 30 mins before and hadn't given it back as you do when you go out, but we forgave her for this mistake.
Later, as we were getting ready for bed, she opened the door again to show some people round the room, let's just say I wasn't wearing many clothes! Quite what was going through her head I don't know but we left the Do Not Disturb! sign on our door for the rest of our time there and, unless she came in a bit quieter this time, she must have taken notice.
Hopefully we're gonna meet up with our Aussie mates Mal and Simone tomorrow, we'll do our best to find a Bia Hoi in time.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Easy Riders

After a 9 hour bus journey, we arrived in Dalat, only to discover that it's quite chilly here! I love the cold, but Sophie has joined the locals in wearing multiple layers. I bargained our hotel room down to $6 and it is one of the nicest we have stayed in, it's called Peace 2.
Today we went on a tour of the city with a couple of guys who are part of a group called The Easy Riders, they took us around on the back of their motorbikes and were good fun. We went on a cable car ride, went to the "Crazy House", saw the "Crazy Monk" (not related), went to a waterfall, a Chinese Pagoda, the railway station, a minority village which has a 20 foot stone chicken statue and saw where all the coffee beans grow.
Early tomorrow morning we have a 6 hour bus journey to Nha Trang, which has got some nice beaches for us to relax on and work on our tans. If there's any good internet cafes I'll put some more photos up.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cu Chi coo

Firstly, I've put up a few photos from Vietnam CLICK HERE. It's hard work putting them up on these crappy computers so I'll put some more from Thailand and Cambodia up when I can. Check out the photo of the Susan and Adam look-a-likes.
Yesterday we went to the Cu Chi tunnels which were used as hiding spots in the war, we got to go through them, they were tiny, practically had to crawl through them in places. Today we went on a Mekong Delta day trip where we went on a river, canal, saw and tasted people making coconut candy (yummy), held a huge snake and probably some other stuff I can't remember right now. It was a good, fun day, we then went to the market, changed a few clothes that didn't fit and then I treated Sophie to a nice meal. She's packing at the moment as we leave for Dalat tomorrow at 7.45, I should probably go pack too as it's 11pm here, afraid I'm gonna miss the England match unless I wake up at 3am.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Good Morning Vietnam


We're now in Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Southern Vietnam, known to the locals as Saigon.
Our trip to Kratie was good, we went out in a boat and watched a bunch of Irrawaddy dolphins (pictured here) and a great sunset, I then played a game of keep-up with a few locals, though instead of using a football they use a shuttlecock type thing. The next day we went back to Phnom Penh and decided to stay there a day as two 7 hour journeys in two days was enough for us. We went to the Russian Market where I got one of my watches repaired for next to nothing and Sophie bought some presents.
We hired a boat for $5 each to take us on a sunset tour down the river which was lovely, I've taken plenty of photos, some of which I might look at putting up tomorrow as the internet is ridiculously cheap (though not that fast), we'll see how it goes.
We went out in Phnom Penh for the last time and met up with our cheeky little friend, Ley, who goes around trying to sell people books, he's only 10 but speaks brilliant English, when we said we didn't want any books he said "OK I'll come back when you've had more beers".
So then yesterday, we got a 6.45am bus to Vietnam, it took about 7 hours but the bus was pretty comfortable and a 7 hour bus journey is nothing to us anymore, just like cold showers, in England I'd dread to prospect but now we are so used to it we don't care.
Our little guesthouse is quite nice, if a bit small, though today I did see a cockroach, which ran and hid before I had time to kill it. Last night we met up with our Australian friends that we met on the disasterous Bokor trip, Mal and Simone, who introduced us to Bia Hoi, which is basically like a bar on the side of the street where they brew the beer and drink it each day until it runs out, a jug of beer costs about 8 pence. 8 pence for a jug, surely even MJ would buy a round here!
Today we went to a war museum, the zoo and a little temple, then went shopping at the market for bargains. Some Diesel jeans, a polo shirt, a billabong t-shirt and a few other things for under 7 quid. Lots of the clothes here are genuine too and just so cheap because they are made here. I've bought another suitcase to fill and hopefully have Mum and Dad take home for me when we see them at Christmas.
Tomorrow we are going to the Chi Chi Tunnels and on Thursday we move on to Da Lat.
I should probably mention the traffic here, it is unbelievable, I was quite happy to see the sights of just our block but Sophie wouldn't let me so we eventually did have to attempt to cross the road. There are thousands of motorbikes that aren't prepared to slow down, though they will move slightly to try and miss you. Red lights mean nothing, one-way streets mean nothing and all you can hear is a constant beeping of horns. We saw 2 accidents within a few hours of being here. Chaos.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sihanoukville and beyond

To save me some time I'm going to copy and paste one of Sophie's group emails to explain some of the things we have been up to and then add some of my own:
(Sophie's words)
We've spent a few days in Phnom Penh doing all the tourist attractions and trying to navigate through the thousands of people on the streets. Phnom Penh is the busiest place i have ever been, it takes about 10 minutes to walk 200 metres because there is literally hundreds of people everywhere.
On Monday we went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields which were both very harrowing. The Toul Sleng Museum has pictures of 8000 prisioners including women and children and they all look expressionless which is very eerie. It also has the cells that the prisioners were kept in and the torture equipment very sad stuff. We then went on to the killing fields which was where the prisioners were taking after Toul Sleng. Its a field and lake in a beautiful seeting in the middle of nowhere with a huge monument and large holes in the ground. However when you go in the monument its full of skulls that they have dug up and you soon realise that the holes in the ground are mass graves. Its so difficult to believe how anyone could do such a horrible thing.
On Wednesday I bought a grapefruit which I didnt like so I gave it to a child on the street. His face absolutly lit up and he ran around holding it up in the air like it was the world cup, for all his friends to see before devouring the whole thing in less than a minute. All the chidren were trying to fight him for some and you could see that they really were starving. I had to try my hardest not to cry, its so moving that something that cost me 25p could mean so much to a child. The Cambodian children are all so lovely they constantly wave and run up to you to say hello, then when you say hello and wave back they are absolutly delighted. Lots of the adults are very friendly too and very polite, they always want to stop and chat.
Over the next few days we did the normal sightseeing things such as the Royal Palace, Temple and National Museum, (all fairly boring stuff but has to be done) before relaxing at a really lovely bar the Hope and Anchor, they sell beer for 40p and you get unlimited free peanuts as well as free pool (we'll definatly be going back there when we're next in Phnom Penh). We made the mistake of trying out a good 24 hour Australian Bar (according to the Rough Guide) but soon realised the rough guide author must be a single man. When we got there the drinks were very expensive and i was the only non-Cambodian woman there and me and Jamie were the only couple who hadn't met in the bar and didn't consist of a 20 year old scantily clad cambodian girl and 40 year old white man.
On Wednesday we went to the Russian market wich was great fun. As Cambodia make a lot of imported clothes there were loads of stalls selling GAP, Addidas, Nike, H&M, Abercrombie and Fitch, Topshop, Matalan and even Geroge from Asda. I bought myself a vest top and some silk scarves and Jamie treated himself his to a third Rolex. I also bought a few presents for a lucky few of you. On Thursday we moved on to Kampot so we could visit the Bokor National Park (Big Mistake). We booked on a disaster tour, they crammed 15 people into a pick up truck (after they said the maximum number on any trip is 8) and it meant that the truck had a puncture 4 times so we didnt get to see the waterfall or do the trek on the way back (well worth the 7 quid we paid especiaaly as we actualy spent 7 hours of the tour cramped in the pick up truck). I couldnt lie on my back last night as i have a huge bruise on my spine and its also painful to sit down. The final leg of the trip involved a sunset boat trip which was great considering we missed the sunset due to the break downs and it was actually a pitch black boat trip. To round off the day from hell off the tour guide coudnt get the boat to the river bank so we had to wade through a slimy river. We did however make friends with some great people so it wasnt all bad.
We left for Sihanoukville this morning and it was also a nightmare. The taxi tried to cram 6 people in as well as the driver, he wanted more, even talking about having someone else on the drivers seat with him! In the end he agreed to take 5 but I had to sit in the middle of the front where the gear stick and handbreak are as a french couple had paid for 3 seats so they could have more room. I have never been so frightened in my life especially when he started overtaking on bends. Cambodia is such a lovely place so its a real shame that greed seems to ruin it. They wont hesistate to lie and con you if it means an extra dollar or two for them.
(end of Sophie's bit)

So yeah, 4 flat tyres, unbelievable, we were stuck at one point cos we'd run out of spares but luckily another pickup truck came by and gave us one of theirs. Never book anything through Mealy Chenda.
Sihanoukville was a decent place, we stayed for 2 nights up on Victory Hill in a place called MASH, owned by a crazy Dutch lady. We spent some time on the beaches that were nearby and went out for a few drinks in the evening. A few of the bars... well let's just say the girls aren't shy there! For some reason Sophie didn't like all the semi naked girls and so we moved to a different part of the island, staying in Mick and Craig's Sanctuary which was fairly basic and I kept banging my head on the bathroom doorframe as everything in Asia is designed for midgets.
We went on a snorkel tour around some of the nearby islands, Sophie managed to get spiked by a sea urchin, which has left her in some pain, hopefully it'll be fine soon. Incredibly, I met a guy from Malvern (Poolbrook) on this trip, didn't know him though. When we were talking about where we lived, another guy chimed up saying he was from Worcester, it's a small world.
We had a few beers and cocktails on the beach, Sophie suggested I get a "Happy Pizza" because the book says they are good and she had heard lots of people talking about them. Bless her, you can guess why they are called that, she didn't realise. I just went for the Fried Rice and Chicken.
We're in Phnom Penh again at the moment, going to Kratie tomorrow to hopefully see some dolphins. We are heading for Vietnam on Saturday or Sunday.
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