Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hoi an

Hoi an is a small city and is very famous for its tailors so we had to of course get some dresses made! and the outcome was good! I now have two dresses (one short and one long) that I have had to press into my bakcpack with all the other stuff that I already have purchased on the trip! We have now been in asia for three weeks and there are many weeks to come so how I will have room for everything in my backpack is beyond me!
The day after our arrival it rained and it REALLY rained! So we bought some dvds and ended up spending the afternoon in our room relaxing :D
We got to experience the vietnamese new year (called tet in vietnamese) here in Hoi an and that was not the type of new years I was used to! people gathered on both sides of the river and there was a show on the bridge with singing and dancing. Many lanterens were sent down the river and some were sent up in the sky. It is fun to have experienced the celebration but it was very different! the show ended at ten or ten thirty and that was it. I was expecting more but people starting taking the instruments away from the bridge and it seemed like the show was over. we went to a bar and met some danes, some brits and some americans. it was a fun night and we joined the 2 british guys to see the fireworks at midnight. but there were none.
And I must admit that it is strange for me to hear the Abba song "HAPPY NEW YEAR" at least three times a day. I celebrated new years 27 days ago :P
We biked to the beach the next day and it took us about an hour but that was due to the condition of our bikes. We only had one gear and May-Hilde's breaks didn't work.. The beach was nice but a bit to windy..
Our next destination is nha trang which is a city by the beach which is famous for its beaches! so i am hoping for really good weather!

Friday, January 23, 2009

update from vietnam (in hoi an at the moment)

wow so i realise that i haven't written a blog in ages!
i have had internett access but my blog page wouldn't work! but anyway here it goes!
so the last time i blogged i wrote about Hanoi... and so much has happened after that!

Ha Long Bay
Halong bay was really great! we had booked this tour through a tour agency and i think we were smart to do that! because this tour company gave us two days to remember!
We had to drive for a couple of hours due to it being a little bit more north than ha noi but it was worth it! we had lunch on a boat and started driving among the limestone formations! it was really great! we also went kayaking through some grottoes and amongst the lime stone formations (google it and you will understand what this is :D pictures will come later!) that was amazing! after kayaking we relaxed on a boat that drove us towards the island that we going to stay on for the night! this island was owned by the company and it was great! for dinner the whole group that we had been on the boat with had dinner together and i got to know some really great people! when going to bed it was really cold so the only thing i would have wished for was that it could have been a bit warmer so that i could have swum in the water! but staying in the bungalow and falling asleep to the waves was great! the next day we were going to bike on cat ba island and that was a fun experience too! although i never really got the hand of my gears :P we had lunch on the island before we returned by boat and then by bus to hanoi! Mikkel, my brother had recommended this to us (and it is also mentioned in Lonely Planet) and I am very gald we did this trip!

But the trip that I am so greatful to have been on is the Sa Pa trip. For those of you who don't know what Sa Pa is, it is a place close to the border of China and it is very famous for its hilltribe villages! also recommended in the lonely planet but with good reason!
we took the night train to Sa Pa and shared our carriage with a vietnamese family. we arrived very early at Lao Cai (the train station) and we luckily we saw a guy holding a sign where it said MAY-HILDE. not many people have that name so we knew that was us! on our way up towards Sa Pa the driver put on techno music (more precisley Cascada and it made me think oif two people: Molly and Sorina :D) After getting some breakfast we met our guide So. She was wearing hill tribe clothes and she turned out to be the best guide i have ever had. we started walking down towards the town we were going to eat lunch in. other hill tribe girls and women started walking with us and talked to us. some of the girls were only twelve years old and their english wasd great! they had learnt it by talking to tourists! on the way down towards the village we walked among ricepaddies and what we saw was amazing! right before lunch we said goodbye to all the other hill tribe ladies that had walked with us and that is when the chaos started! everyone wanted to sell some hill tribe thing and all of them wanted me to buy from them! i ended up buying something from a girl i talked a lot to but i felt a bit pressured to it and it was an uncomfortable situation! but i guess that is the way they earn some money for their families! anyway the lunch was amazing! our guide made us a typical vietnamese dish called pho while all the other tourists got loaf and other things! so we felt really lucky! we countinued walking to the place where we were going to sleep. A homestay. it was arranged through a tour company but I feel it really was a homestay because we ate dinner with the whole family and it was really a nice meal! the food was great in fact the best vietnamese food I have had in Vietnam! we played cards with So and drank some rice wine. she was quite the cheater when it came to shithead (eller idiot paa norsk) but she got away with it! we played cards for a while and it was great! went to bed really early and the when we woke up we had slept for 12 hours! the second day we walked in the bamboo forest and went to another village called cat cat! for lunch we helped her make the food and once again the food was really good! it was such a great experience. so our guide was really great because she answered all our questions (even if they were about her), her english was great, she had such a great personality and she was really caring! she had a really interesting story too! at the age of 22 she had been married 3 times and the first marriage (arranged) was at 13!
we were to take a bus back to lao cai to catch the train to hanoi but the intial bus we were to take got stuck on the curb (amazing but true...) but we took a minibus instead and it was fine.
the great thing was that we were on this trip with a couple from austarila who we had gotten to know on our halong bay trip! (we actually saw them today in hoi an!)
our last day in hanoi we spent walking around and went to the prison where john mccain had been a prisoner!

we took a nightbus to hue and it was a long busride! i think we spent about 14 hours on the bus but i managed to get some sleep! the bus stopped at the wrong place in hue and we ended up walking around lookinbg for the hotel that we wanted to stay in.. luckily people asked us if we needed help and we found the hotel. we spent two days in hue and i think that was enough. hue is the ideal place to go if you want to go on the dmz tour (demilitarized zone) but we didn't want to sit on the bus that long (lots of hours on the bus start at 6am and come back at 6pm...) so we ended up taking a trip to the citadel the first day and a car trip the second day arounbd in the country side..
we went to this cafe which was recommended in my lonely planet book called cafe on thu wheels. thu the owner was a very friendly owner and somehow we ended up planning a coutry trip on motorbikes with some of her brotehrs. she had 10 broterhs. as she said: 1 cocunut and 10 bananas, a whole football team! but unfortunately we didn't get to ride motobikes because it had rained in the morning.. but the trip was still great! the highlight for me was watching munks sing in the pagoda. we also saw a tomb, some bunkers, another pagoda etc.

today we took the bus early in the morning to hoi an! we found our hotel after some wrong explanations and walked down to the old part by the lake! i like hoi an so far! we haven't done much but we went to a tailor to get some dresses made! i pointed at a dress in a catalogue and said that i wanted a dress like that, choose some fabric and they took some measurements! we'll see how it turns out!
we are going to be in hoi an for the vietnamese new year so that should be fun!

I'll blog soon! :D

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


So now we are in Hanoi!
A VERY different city from Beijing but I like it here!
Although the first night we got here we had a very scary experience! We took a late flight to Noi Bai airport (outside of Hanoi) and had read in our guidebooks that we could take a minibus from the airport. I saw that locals were taking the bus too and thought that would be safe. We were going to the Old Quarter of Hanoi where all the backpackers live. All the other locals got off at stops before us and we were the only ones left on the minibus. A guy came on the bus and said that he was a representative from the minibus company and that he was there to see that we got to our hotel safely. At the airport we had shown our driver where to go (we had chosen a hotel and pointed at it saying we had "reservations" there). The minibus stopped in front of a hotel that was closed.. And the "representative from the minibus company" said "your hotel is closed we can take you another one". The hotel that we had stopped in front of was NOT the hotel that we had pointed at and we got out of the minibus and said that we would find our own way to another hotel. He claimed that it was the rigth one and I knew that he was lying. He only wanted to get us to let him take us to another hotel and pay extra for his help (I think so at least..)
This was a very cary situation for us because we weren't at the right hotel and we had no idea where we were.. Luckily there was a cab right behind us that drove us to the hotel we wanted to go to.. But the room in the hotel we went to, the light didn't work so we had to go to another one!
A very frustrating night but the next day I read in my guidebook that exactly the same thing had happened to other people and my father said that we dealt with it exactly the way we should have.

On a more lighter note: We really enjoy Hanoi! We have been staying in the Old Quarter and have walked around and experienced this part of town! There are many motorbikes here that honk a lot (cars do too) if something is in their way but you get used to it! We haven't been to anywhere in particular of the sights but strolling around in this city is an experience in itself! Many people sit and eat outside on the street, ladies walk around with baskets, motorbikes are filled to rim with porcelain, vegetabels etc (you name it!) The vibrant life and people are just interesting to observe! I recommend going here! What is very fun too is that we see so many mroe tourists here than we did in Beijing!

Tommorow we are going to Halong Bay (which my brother recommeneded ) and then we are going to Sa Pa on saturday. Sa Pa is a place where there are many hill tribe towns and we are actually going to sleep in a hill tribe home! After these two trips (which I can't wait to start) we are going to start taking a bus down to some other cities in Vietnam!

Tam biet (goodbye in Vietnamese!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beijing part 2

Now we have finished our Beijing part of the trip and it has been amazing! We have both had some trouble with jet lag but that is not a problem anymore!
In these couple of days that we have spent in Beijing we have managed to see a lot of things:
The Forbidden City
Tianmen Square
The Pearl Market
Temple of Heaven
Summer Palace
The Great Wall of China
The Ming Tombs
2 Olympic arenas!

We have not taken taxis that much and have instead used the subway (which is very easy to use here) like many Chinese people use! Many times on the train May-Hilde and I have been the only foreigners! We have gotten some looks I must admit! :P

When we were at the Pearl Market May-Hilde and I threw ourselves out into the haggling world! We managed to get half of the price that the people were saying many times and sometimes even lower! For instance when looking at some converse shoes, I thought of buying a pair and asked how much. The sales lady said the price which was REALLY overpriced and I said no no no... She continued asking how much I would pay for them and I said that I really didn't want to buy shoes anymore. When saying that she said another price which was 300 yuan less than the first price! So I guess that is another way of haggling too! May-Hilde has become a real haggler and got many good deals that day! We were very careful of not seeming too interested and talked in a monotone voice even if we wanted something really badly! And it worked really well! :D

When planning for this trip we really wanted to see the great wall of China (when in Beijing I think that is a must). when talking to the people at our hotel we had gotten to know that we could order a guide with a driver for a day but when May-Hilde read that we could take a tourist bus for half the price we did that instead! And what an experience that was! Buying the tickets was fine and we had to sit in a COLD waiting room for a while before hearing something in Chinese and seeing lots of people walk towards the buses. The two girls sitting next to us on the bus turned out to be our saviours for the day because they helped us with a form we had to fill out and some translation! We were the only 4 tourists on the bus and the rest were all Chinese! So the guide only spoke in Chinese on the way towards the Ming tombs (which i thought was a pity but oh well!) We went to the Ming tombs first followed by a lunch that was included with what we had payed! The lunch was interesting and consisted of picking and choosing what was set on the table in front of you!
The Great Wall of China was the highlight of the day in my opinion! There were no clouds in the sky so the view was amazing! BUT it was SO windy that i almost fell a couple of times! Luckily we were both wearing a lot of clothes so we didn't freeze to death but I tell you it was COLD!! But I think it was quite the experience! Being on that bus too and experiencing the tour Chinese style was great! If we had ordered the trip from our hotel we would have been the only people in the car with a guide.. So although we didn't get much explanation from the guide it was worth it!

People here in China are very helpful although they don't speak English that well. For example our room was really warm and we wanted to turn down the heat. BUT we couldn't understand how to do it due to the fact that everything was in Chinese!!!! So I talked to the reception and she had a lady come up and help us.. but she didn't manage to fix it and therefore 2 other people came.. they didn't manage to fix the air condition at the time but the next day when we came back from our day of sightseeing the room was colder!!
Also today we went to eat at this place where you chose what you eat and had to pay for it somewhere else. We chose what we wanted and were shown to the cashier not by one person but by TWO! They were very helpful and made things a lot easier for us! Maybe they also thought it was fun to help us foreigners who had no idea what we were doing?

Bejing has been great and Vietnam is our next destination! Who knows what we will experience there?

Pictures will come later!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


And so our journey has started!
Beijing is the first stop and I am really liking it!

This is only our second day here but I thought that I could write a little-something!
We flew from Oslo to Helsinki and then onwards to Beijing.. Neither May-Hilde nor I got much sleep and we were quite jet lagged yesterday.. But I was sort of expecting that to happen :D! We took a bus from the airport to a bus stop in Beijing and thought that we could walk to our hotel from there.. That was a very ambitious thought so we ended up taking a cab :P When we got to the hotel we both collapsed on our beds and fell asleep but we could only sleep for a few hours because we had to get used to the Chinese time... We walked around yesterday and ate dinner at the hotel before crashing at 20.00! For me I fell asleep at 20.00 but woke up 20.45 wide awake! That was VERY annoying! But I managed to fall asleep again and today we both woke up at 6.00 (so this will be a long day!)

The hotel that we are staying at is really central because it is right behind the Forbidden City! Yesterday we just strolled around and explored where we were staying but today we went to the Forbidden City and Tianmen Square ( den himmelske freds plass). It was amazing to see all the buildings in the forbidden city. this city is in fact 720,000 square metres!
It is very interesting to be back here in China because the last time I was here I was with my family and I didn't have to fix that much... BUT now May-Hilde and I have to arrange everything! What I find is very strange is that it is so hard to find a normal grocery store (we have been looking for one but we can't find any!!)

Being outside of Norway we have to communicate by English but it is quite frustrating that many Chinese people (or at least the people we talk to) don't understand us that well! On the other hand while we were eating breakfast this morning May-Hilde saw a couple and said "I bet these people are Norwegian" and it turned out that they were! So I guess May-Hilde has the eye for that sort of thing!

Anyway we are going to stay in Beijing for a couple of more days and we are planning to see the Great Wall of China, The Summer Palace, go to a couple of markets and something else (but I can't remember it right now...)

That's it! I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Blog

I am quite new to this whole blogging thing but I thought it would be a good idea to start one before my adventures in the big continent of Asia! I leave on Monday (the 5th of January) and I am very excited!!!
My best friend from Norway, May-Hilde is my travellingpartner and we have dreamed about going backpacking in Asia for many years! Now the time has finally come for this dream to come true and I think these three months (maybe longer ) will be months to remember!
We have planned this trip for a couple of months now and there has been a lot of stuff to think about: visas, shots, things to bring on the trip and planetickets. And I still have things to fix before I leave (don't have much time left though.... :/)

Anyway out travelling plan is the following:
We will start our journey in Beijing and stay there for a week. After that we will fly down to Hanoi in Vietnam. From there we continue travelling down Vietnam and cross the border into Cambodia. Our plan is to be in Cambodia for a couple of weeks before going to Thailand. We have only ordered a hotelroom in Beijing and the planetickets that we need. Other than that we don't have any plans and we will figure stuff on our way!

Yes I think that is what I wanted to say! I will try updating the blog during my trip!

Happy New Years!!!