March 24th to April 6th: Apocolypse Later - Vietnam:
So we ended our last adventure floating down the Mekong River, from the City of Ghosts - Phnom Penh, Cambodia, headed towards Vietnam. We peacefully floated down the river while sleeping on the roof using a really old beat up tire for a pillow, waking up sunburned and bleeding. (Who knew there were sharp little metal things inside of tires???) Crossing the Vietnam boarder we were instantly exposed to 1. Conical hats everywhere and 2. Communist beauracracy.
We finally entered legally into the country and continued down the river. We spent our first night in Chau Doc and Joey and I were joined by our friends Danny and Anna from England and Sylvie from Switzerland. We all met as the only passangers on our amazing wooden roof boat. We learned that Vietnamese love to yell "Hello!!!!" if they see a white person and they answer every question with the word "Yes". That said, they were extremely friendly to us.
After enjoying our stay in a place where we were the only Westerners we saw, we took our horrible Vietnamese phrases northward to Saigon. While officially named Ho Chi Minh City, if you ever go there you'll understand why it will always be "Saigon".
We had an amazing time, partying until sunrise thanks to energy drinks, whisky, and gin. We went to the completely propaganda-free "Museum of American and Chinese War Crimes"
about the Vietnam War, which they call the American War over there. Saigon has traffic like NYC, only every car turns into 8 honking motorbikes. Crossing the street you have to do the Indiana Jones walk of faith. You walk directly into 16 lanes of speeding honking bikes and they go around you. If you hestitate or try to avoid them you get wasted, you have to just keeping walking and don't stop. It was like an extreme sport but then you get used to it.
Next we headed to the beach town of Mui Ne. In this town, we spent lazy days in a bungalow or on the empty beach enjoying true tranquility at it's finest. We trekked up a stream looking for a waterfall. After we reached the waterfall, we were walking down a gorgeous river when Joey stepped on a pointed stick and began to bleed through his sandal. Then while climbing barbwire to get home, we noticed - this is like a Vietnam war movie. Then it hit us - DUDE, we're in Vietnam. Whoa!!! 420 Man!
Later in Mui Ne we rented a motorbike. It took Joey only 45 seconds to wreck the motorbike into a tree to the sounds of 15 people screaming at him in Vietnamese. (He still doesn't know where the brakes are.) Luckily for us, every single person in Vietnam can easily rebuild the clutch to a bike and in no time we were on our way again. We went to some giant sanddunes that look like the Sahara desert for some sand dune sledding and surfing. We capped the like with a long mountain bike ride to the middle of nowhere and got some rad sunset pictures while being attacked by ants as long as a human finger that had bites that felt like hornet stings. (Next time we wearing shoes)
We continued up the coast, passing conical hats and rice paddies as far as the eye can see and ecosystems of deserts turning to jungles turning to mountains, stopping here and there: Nha Trang, Hoi Ann and Hue where we crawled around the Vinh Moc tunnels for the Viet Cong's Ho Chi Minh trail. We toured the DMZ and entered into (formerly) North Vietnam.
As we went further north, we noticed more and more communist billboards, huge hammer and sickles everywhere and the bars were closing earlier and earlier. For a communist country, they are quite the entrepreneurs and openly charge "foreigner price" on menus and goods if you're not a native.
Our last stop in Vietnam was Hanoi. Hanoi was a trip, the city is a set up in an illogical French system that was really hard to navigate. The traffic was as gnarly as I've ever seen, and nothing was more fun than renting a bike to get in the middle of it all. A one speed bike can actually go faster than a motorbike if you pedal hard enough, and when you weave through that traffic on a bike passing them they get pretty excited and cheer you on. A negative incident happened in Hanoi when we were kidnapped by a man posing as a moto-taxi driver. We were taking to the wrong section of town and when he refused to stop we had to dive off a moving bike on a highway. Other than that, Hanoi was a trip - we saw the Hanoi Hilton Prison, the embalmed corpse of Ho Chi Mihn (that was a bit too surreal) , and more war museums complete free of any spin or propaganda (possible sarcasm) that depicted the Americans holding severed heads of Viet Cong soldiers. In conclusion Hanoi rocks!
Then we headed onto a train towards the Chinese boarder...
Peace, love, and the unification of gravity and the strong nuclear force,
- Albert Einstein