A Travellerspoint blog


Christmas is all around us.

sunny 30 °C


Judging by the masses of lights, decorations and skinny fake Santas, you would never guess that we are in a predominantly Buddhist, communist country. They are Christmas crazy here. Every evening hundreds of thousands of parents load all of their kids onto their motorbikes, (maximum of 3 children, two parents and a crash helmet per bike), and ride around the streets taking photos of the decorations. Hundreds stop at the gaudiest displays and line up the children for a photo op. Then they load them back onto the bike and head for the next.
The Xmas lights on Ho Chi Minh City's wide boulevards would put Oxford Street to shame, and the store windows are full of 'presents' which are well beyond the dreams of the average Vietnamese. No matter - the locals clearly enjoy the glitz.
So - here is a skinny, happy Santa on a bike, wishing you all a Very Merry Xmas from Vietnam on our behalf.

To all our families and friends around the world - Happy Christmas and thanks for keeping up with our travels.

With love from Jim and Sheila.


Posted by Hawkson 01:49 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Christmas on the Road

sunny 28 °C


We have been repeatedly flabbergasted by the incredible loads carried on bikes, cyclos. mopeds and motorbikes, and have witnessed such cargoes as: a complete construction site - including scaffolding tower, wheelbarrow, buckets, spades and bags of cement - on a tricycle; a mobile restaurant - stove, pots/pans, crockery, food, and a kitchen sink - on a bicycle, a full size wadrobe on a moped and, most improbably, a giant shop window (10 ft X 5ft) on the side of a speeding motorbike.
When we mentioned this to some of the hotel staff we were amazed to discover that the Vietnamese actually have a song about this phenomena. It is called "Me and My Moped Lover," and to our great suprise it is actually sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Try it - it's unbelievable! It could almost have been written by Sharron Bertchilde.

Me and My Moped Lover
(Traditional Vietnamese folk song - Anon.)

On the back of his moped my true love brought to me:
Twelve pigs in cages ...
Eleven dozen chickens ...
Ten wreaths of flowers ...
Nine-ty feather dusters ...
Eight-y fish-a-swimming ...
Seven bales of cotton ...
Six hundred balloons ...
Five enor ...mous urns ...
Four family members ...
Three sacks of rice ...
Two panes of glass ...
...and a kid with a Christ..mas tree.

And, yes .... We have seen all these things and much more.


Posted by Hawkson 00:19 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

The Easy Life

sunny 24 °C

The receptionists of the Hai Au Hotel, Hoi-An, Anh and Dung, have become our new best friends. Here we are in front of their Christmas Tree.


Life on the road is very easy for us. Hotels find us if we don't find them first. For instance, when we arrived in Hoi-An by bus, the tour operator phoned the hotel we had booked to say that we were at their office. Within 3 minutes Anh, the receptionist from our hotel, roared up on the back of a motorbike to welcome us and to wait with us until a taxi arrived to take us to the hotel. The hotel even paid for the taxi. Just an example of great service!
Not entirely - Tourists are gold, so bus companies offer ridiculously low fares in the hope of picking your pockets when you arrive. The bus driver had already tried to gently nudge us into two of his company's hotels before dropping us off at the office. Other hoteliers know this happens so are quick to grab their customers.
The hotel staff are generally fantastic. Nothing is too much trouble. They arm us with maps and directions and tell us what is, and what is not worth, seeing. They also suggest restaurants, stores and services that we should try. But everyone is a tout for one establishment or another. In Bangkok we saw a local wearing a T shirt saying, "NO - I don't want a Tuk-Tuk, Tailor or Thai Massage." Here in Hoi-An can be added, "Boat Trip, Cyclo, Motorbike, Shoeshine, Restaurant or Pig-shaped penny whistle."
We only have to mention to the hotel receptionist that we are considering flying or taking a tour, train or bus, and we are instantly booked. Every hotel is a travel agency and next door to almost everywhere is a laundry where we pay just $1 to get a kilo of clothes washed and dried.

A major source of amusement to us are the pseudo-english signs and menus - but we wonder how many Canadians could do better in Vietnamese. As for the spoken language; all the youngsters speak some English, although it is as if they couldn't afford the full English language course so they only took the first part - ergo they only learned the beginning of each word and didn't get as far as "R". For example: Fried Rice, fried egg and sweet milk becomes fly lie, fly eh and swee mil.

Posted by Hawkson 17:08 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Hoi-An Market

overcast 20 °C


In the 14th.and 15th centuries Hoi-An was a major trading post. Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese merchants sold silk, china and other wares to fleets of Spanish and Dutch merchantmen. Little has changed in the past 500 years. A hundred and forty tailors' shops, with an equivalent number of shoe emporiums, line the streets, and the Central Market Hall is a giant Alladin's cave. Merchandise of every kind is stacked to the ceiling leaving only a dimly lit maze of narrow passageways for the shoppers. Hundreds of stalls selling meat, fruit and vegetables spill from the market hall onto the surrounding streets, while the fishmongers are kept at arm's length on the quayside.
To our western eyes the entire market appears as chaotic as Hanoi's traffic, but the eagle-eyed Vietnamese spot every opportunity to pitch their merchandise and services. As we browse the market and walk the streets we are constantly forced to do the George Bush duck. And it's not just shoes. Clothes, cloth, peanuts, ginger,
banana fritters, and a thousand other goodies, are touted by pretty little Asian sparrows wearing conical straw hats. Sometimes the "pusher" is an ancient shrivelled granny with teeth blackened by years of smoking and chewing betel. But whoever tries to part us from our money, young or old, male or female, none of them wear glasses. None - not one - not even the frail septugenarians who embroider, sew and knit in the permanent gloom of the indoor market. An opthalmologist would be out of business in a week here. Someone should do a study to find out where we went wrong.
Hoi-An is a fascinating town with delights around every corner. We've done museums, temples and the ancient Japanese covered bridge; we've done the cafes, bars and restaurants; we've even been to cooking school. Tomorrow we will visit the ancient monuments at My Son, and then we will fly to Ho Chi Minh with the feeling that we could happily have stayed here another week.
Today we made the fourth donation on your behalf. This time to an Australian based organization that arranges for severely handicapped and sick children to receive medical care. It is called "Children's Hope in Action" and their website is www.childrenshopeinaction.org

Posted by Hawkson 21:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Rebecca's Backpack

sunny 28 °C

This is Rebecca. She is usually a very chipper Aussie. But today she is looking glum because she took the cheapie junk tour of Ha Long Bay - Crikey! What a BIG mistake Rebecca!


But this is Rebecca's backpack with Sheila and friends. Unlike glum Rebecca, her backpack looks jolly cheerful because it took the luxury cruise with us - Way to go Rebecca's backpack.


We can't be certain that Rebecca's backpack planned it this way, but while Rebecca thought her faithful piece of luggage was lounging securely in her hotel's baggage room until her return, the crafty sack slipped aboard our tour bus and came on the cruise with us to Ha Long Bay. And what a time it had - five star accommodation, superb haute cuisine, and even a visit with the captain on the bridge of our junk. It is a trip that Rebecca's backpack will never forget. Poor Rebecca. She'll only have memories of a vomit blocked toilet and fifty drunks singing "Waltzing bleepin' Matilda."

Apologies to Steve Butler of The West Australian newspaper for scooping this splash.

Posted by Hawkson 01:50 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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