Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas one and all! Josh and I are in Hoi An, and boy, what a place!!! It is truly wonderful! This small city epitomizes how most people picture Asia -traditional buildings, lanterns lighting the streets and lively, interesting locals! We love it and are having a great Christmas day.

We got an early start and roamed the streets looking at all the small art galleries along the way. There are so many artists in this city and we were able to buy a few gorgeous paintings to grace our walls some day. We also were fitted by some tailors who will whip us up some clothes by tomorrow. Hoi An is also famous for it's tailors. In the afternoon we relaxed by the hotel pool and then went back into town for dinner.

After dinner we once again roamed the lantern lit streets. We were drawn to some comotion in the street and found that it was a kind of carnival game. People were paying a small fee for the chance to walk masked toward and small, hanging clay jar. The masked individual then had one chance to swing and smash the clay jar. If they were successful, they won a prize. Josh and I watched for a while and no one was winning. I decided I wanted to try my luck too, so I handed over the little sum. I donned the mask and marched forward with my baton. I did not think I had a chance of winning, but when I took my swing, I felt a SMASH! I won! I think everyone was very surprised!!! I won a little blue silk purse. I am very proud of it, even though I probably could have bought it for about a dollar.

Well, that has been our Christmas day and now we are heading to bed! We miss all of you and think of you often!

Love Eden and Josh

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Halong Bay

Eden and I just got back from a three day tour of Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam. Yesterday we paddled kayaks for six or eight hours and are a little worn out. Good exercise and a lot of fun. It would be nice to do up in the Queen Charlottes or Powell River, but is probably horribly expensive. On the other hand, you could probably see orcas and sea otters so that would make it quite worth it. So the first night we spent on the boat and last night we spent in a hut on a small beach on a small island with eleven other travelers. Surprisingly, another traveler is a JET in Kagoshima (near Kumamoto), another girl works in Osaka, and another man lived in Tokyo about ten years ago. So in our group of thirteen, eleven of us had a connection to Japan.

Tonight we're boarding an overnight train (not my favourite) and will spend one day in Hue, before moving on to Hoi An were we'll stay for Christmas and maybe get some clothes made.
So far things are working out fairly well, things are a lot less hassle than they are in some other countries, and the weather is nice, around 22 C. Hanoi has a fantastic feel to it, and I think that a lot of people end up spending more time here than they plan on. Hope everyone is doing well, send us an email if you have time, we'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Well, Eden and I arrived safely in Hanoi late at night on December 16th. We arranged for a pick-up from the airport from the hotel we booked with, the Stars Hotel. It had a pretty good review in the Lonely Planet, so we thought we'd give them a try. However, when we got to the Stars Hotel this guy opened the car door for us and said that there were no rooms and that we should go to their "other" hotel. Given that sometimes in Asia this is a not so clever ploy to get you to go to a dodgy hotel from what is probably a fairly decent one. So Eden and I demanded to go inside and speak to the person incharge. As it turns out, Stars Hotel frequently overbooks their rooms, and then sends the people to their other hotel, the Hoa Linh. So we were rather upset, given that it was nearly one in the morning, we had already paid a deposit on the room, and it looked like they were trying to scam us. Realizing that we were at a loss, (other hotels had pulled their metal screens down for the night), we decided to check the Hoa Linh out then make a choice. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that it is a rather nice hotel! I suppose they just use the Stars Hotel to make the bookings because it has the good write up in the Lonely Planet, even though the Hoa Linh is nicer.

So the past two days in Hanoi have been rather pleasant. The old quarter is lovely, and there are loads of wonderful restaurants. Today Eden and I went to the Ho Chi Minh Masoleum and Museum and it was quite interesting. We also met up with Felicity, a girl we travelled with this summer in China. She's been living in Hanoi for the last two months and she heads back home to England this week after a year of travelling.

On Monday we will leave for a three day trip to Halong Bay, where we will do some sea kayaking and staying on a Chinese junk touring amongst the limestone cliffs. Should be rather fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Vietnam, December 16 - January 2

Eden and I will be leaving for Vietnam this Thursday. We have a rough idea of where we'll be going and we'll try to post to this blog when we're on the road. We'll be flying into Hanoi and then slowly working our way south to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Our rough itinerary is as follows:
Dec 16 - arrive in Hanoi at 10:30 pm.
Dec 17-18 - explore Hanoi. Capital of Vietnam. See Ho Chi Minh's mummified corpse, etc.
Dec 19-21 - Halong bay. Limestone cliffs. Overnight train to Hue
Dec 22-23 - explore Hue. World Heritage Site
Dec 24-26 - explore HoiAn. World Heritage Site
Dec 27 -28 - fly to Saigon, try not to be run over by cyclos.
Dec 29-31 - visit Mekong Delta
Dec 31 - new years eve in Saigon
Jan 1 - finish up in Saigon and go to the airport
Jan 2 - 1 am leave Saigon

So Vietnam is pretty much the last of the Southeast Asian countries we've really wanted to visit. If we had more time we'd like to travel around southern China and Laos as well as maybe diving in the Philippines, but you have to make choices.

Lantern festival in Kumamoto city around October 16, 2004.