A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam at last

overcast 20 °C

We left Nanning today at around 7:30am on the bus to Hanoi. We weren't quite sure what to expect on the bus ride or the border, but it was a pleasant experience. The bus on the way to Vietnam was really nice, they gave us free water and the seats were comfy, it took 3 hours to get to the border. When we got there, we got on a golf cart to the Chinese Exit station, this went real smoothly and was very efficient and organized. Afterwards we got another golf cart to the Vietnamese Entry office, this one was mass chaos, we had to fill out forms and put our passports in a pile, then wait for them to process it. They would call our names when they were done and we had to fight our way through the crowd to get them back. The next stop was the "health inspection", which was nothing except that they asked us for 2 RMB, then gave us a ticket saying that the price was only 2 Dong, which is like a penny! It seems that the health check was approved for whatever price you were willing to pay, the guy in front of us paid 10 RMB! Finally, we got on a new Vietnamese bus, this one totally sucked! The seat in front of me was broken so the guy sitting in that seat had his head right in my face for the next 4 hours!
But, all said and done, it wasn't too bad and now we are finally in Vietnam! The country seems super cool, its like China with so many people bustling about, but everyone is really chill at the same time. Everyone is really friendly and helpful and lots of people know English so the traveling shouldn't be too bad. Tonight we just found a hostel and wandered around the Old Quarter for a while. The environment is really relaxing, there are cafes all over the place and fresh (unsweet) bread is readily available. Nate is loving the food here, we stopped at a crappy roadside cafeteria and he even liked the food there! We went to a diner tonight and got some Bu Luc Lac, Chicken Wings and French Bread, it was all amazing and cheap!
The weather here is not sunny but its WAY warmer than in Guilin, we are down to only one layer now! We will be hanging out in Hanoi for one more day and are hoping to head to Halong Bay on Thursday for a 3 day boat cruise. I'll post some pics in the next couple of days so you guys can see what Vietnam is all about.
Hope things are going well! Talk to you soon!

Posted by heidigras 06:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

South China

rain 8 °C

Well, we made it safely to Guilin but unfortunately it was freezing cold and raining there. The scenery looked amazing, lots of egg carton like mountains and rivers, the city was quite nice too, pretty touristy but clean. Our hostel was centerally located to everything and we did a bit of wandering around despite the frigid temperatures (40s). We decided that it was too cold to really enjoy anything there so we only spent one day there and decided to skip going to Yangshuo all together. Instead, we headed straight to Nanning.

We arrived in Nanning early this afternoon and got a cheap hotel near the railway station, we purchased bus tickets to Hanoi for tomorrow morning and should arrive there around 3pm. It was a little disapointing that the Guanxi part of our trip didn't really pan out, but we are hoping to stop through here on the way back to Shanghai since it looks like it could be pretty cool.

We don't have a real definate plan for Vietnam yet but we are hoping to spend a day or so in Hanoi and then head to the northwest to a city called Sapa, its in the mountains and has a lot of oppurtunities for hiking and relaxing. We aren't sure what to expect in Vietnam yet, we are hoping that the language barrier isn't too difficult! Sorry we don't have any pictures to share yet, haven't really seen anything worth taking a picture of yet. I'll update you in a couple days to let you know how Vietnam is going!

Posted by heidigras 00:47 Archived in China Comments (0)

Moving

rain 6 °C

Hi All!

So its been a busy month since we got back from India, I (Heidi) traveled back to the States for about a week. It was great to catch up with family and friends. I ate some great food, although way too much! I am really looking forward to being able to see my family more regularly!
I got back on Monday and this week we have been packing. We are moving out of our apartment tomorrow and we were amazed at how much stuff we have accumulated over the past 20 month! Not only have we been moving but also preparing for our long anticipated SE Asia trip. We will be flying to Guilin in south China tomorrow afternoon. Our plan is to stay there for a few days, they have some beautiful mountain scenery and we have never traveled south before, we are pretty pumped. The weather is looking a little iffy, if it turns out to be too crummy, we will just pass through and head directly to Hanoi, Vietnam. We will get there by bus from Nanning, China.

Once we get to Vietnam, our plans become a bit more vague, we haven't had a ton of time to plan this part of our trip in detail, but we are quite okay with that, we want the next couple months to be leisurely and plan to just go with the flow. We will keep everyone updated on what we are doing and what we are planning. Check back soon, I'm sure we'll have some great stories!

Nate & Heidi

Posted by heidigras 22:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

More Beach fun

sunny 28 °C

So our second day in Goa we decided to rent a scooter for the day and scoot around to other areas. Goa was settled by many Portuguese people in the 1800s and has a really strong Catholic background. We were pretty interested to see some of the old churches and some of the countryside, so we headed out to Old Goa which is in the middle of this very small state. We had breakfast at our hotel and headed out around 10:30.

We were a little nervous about driving a scooter around, the traffic in India is crazier than in China and to make matters worse, they drive on the "wrong" side of the road. That turned out to be pretty easy to remember since everyone else was doing it, but the traffic was a little scary, people pass on the inside and it doesn't matter if there is a curve in the road or a hill or whatever, they just go and blow their horn to warn oncoming traffic. I took some video that will completely terrify you all!

We didn't get too lost, suprisingly since road signs are scarce. The scenery was amazing, lots of rice fields and palm trees, and this is the dry season, I can't imagine how it looks in the rainy season! People don't really wear helmets on their scooters here, so we didn't either, I guess you are supposed to though because we got pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a helmet (just Nate, I didn't have too, weird huh?). As I said, Goa is mostly a Christian state and it is interesting to see the Hindu influence in the religion. Hindus often set up small little shrines of different gods along the roadside, and this tradition has influenced the Christians in Goa as well, all along the road there were small little "booths" with a cross or Jesus statue and people go there to pray whenever they want, sometimes lighting candles or leaving flowers, very interesting. We got to a small city, Ponda around noon and stopped for some ice cream, it was quite a hot day, like 90 in the sun. We pushed along to our next destination and arrived in Old Goa around 1:30. It was a beautiful little city and we were able to tour a few different churches including the Basillica of Bom Jesus. This is a very famous cathedral in the Roman Catholic Church as it holds the body of St Francis Xavier, the chief missionary of the Portuguese church. It was very ornate and beautiful, as were the other churches we saw. We spent a couple hours wandering around the village and then decided to head home, we didn't want to have to navigate our way back in the dark.
We made excellent time on the way back, which was a hot and dusty ride! We got back just in time to take a sunset dip and cool ourselves off. We had dinner and drinks at our hotel and did a little shopping, arranged a taxi to the train station for the next day and then (yet again!) packed up our bags for the next move.
The next morning, we got up early and waited FOREVER for our taxi which never showed up. We were getting pretty anxious and luckily we were able to flag a taxi just as panic was about to set in, we arrived at the train station about 3 minutes before the train came! This train ride was not as cool, Nate was sick with a fever and nausea and we sat by an Indian family this time, which was nice, but not as relaxing as our last ride. In typical (I am learning) fashion, our train stopped in the middle of the tracks for over one hour for reasons unknown to us. We finally got to Hospet around 5pm, about 2 hours later than we expected. Nate was still really sick so I found us a rickshaw driver to take us to Hampi (rather than mess with the bus). We had no reservations anywhere but had recieved a recommendation from a guy on our train to Goa and we headed there. All the rooms with bathrooms were sold out and I checked out the no bathroom one (dirt floor with bed on ground) and decided to look elsewhere. We found a place nearby and it was clean and cheap. Nate just rested the rest of the night and I was able to explore by myself (something I could NOT have done in most of the cities we have been in in India). The city seemed great!

The next morning, Nate was still not feeling tip top, luckily for us, all the ruins are less than 1/2 a mile from our hotel room so we spent the day exploring and coming back to the room to rest as necessary. There is also a river and lots of boulders around so we spent some time just wandering by the water. The atmosphere in this town is SO relaxed, people do things at a slow pace and it was just what we needed, especially with Nate feeling sick. The ruins are absolutely amazing and I know that all of you back home would just love exploring this area. The only complaint we have in this city is the bugs! We are in a hot and humid area right next to a slow moving river, there are flies and gnats and mosquitos everywhere (luckily our bed has a mosquito net!)

Today was a great/exhausting day. We got up early and had some breakfast at the local German bakery then rented bicycles to do some exploring just south of town. The path was just filled with interesting sights, from medieval temples to amazing boulders to banana plantations. It was really hot and dry though and we went through ALOT of water, also Nate's energy level was quick back up there so, we took it slow and lingered. It was obviously "field trip day" for all the local schools because we were bombarded with kids asking us questions, taking our pictures and shaking our hand. It was mostly fun, but a little tiresome when we just wanted to enjoy the scenery. Everyone here is so friendly though, that you can't really get mad.

We biked all day and it seems that I can't do anything even remotely active without getting injured, on the walk (thats right not even on my bike) I totally wiped out for no reason whatsoever in front of a bunch of India people. Mostly my pride was hurt but I also got some nice shiners on my shins and scraped up my hand, I'm glad this happened on the way home. It was a long hot day, about 7 hours on our bikes, so Nate is resting while I take care of some things on the internet here. Next its time for dinner and we need to pack up again!

Tomorrow evening we will sadly leave Hampi (I could for sure spend a couple more days here) and hop on the overnight train to Bangalore, I think our tickets are 1st class this time, should be conducive to a good nights sleep. We will arrive in Bangalore at 6am (which will probably end up being more like 8am). We are just in Bangalore for the day, we need to be at the airport in the evening for our red eye flight. So we will be "homeless" for the day, from 6-10pm proabably and then its back to Shanghai! I think it will be a long day and we will probably be exhausted when we arrive in Shanghai on the 25th, but there will be no time to rest as it is Chinese New Years Eve and we have dinner plans. So this will probably be the last entry I make until we are back in Shanghai, we have alot of travels ahead of us and are sad that the time went so quickly. We can't wait to show you all our pictures and catch up on skype!

Love you guys and talk to you in a few days!

Posted by heidigras 04:44 Archived in India Comments (0)

Relaxing in India

sunny 27 °C

So, the first half of our trip was kind of a whirlwind, jumping from sight to sight and we were soo sick of that. This second half of our trip has been just what the doctor ordered!

Our last day in Mumbai, we spent on Elephanta Island, which had some old temples carved into caves, very interesing and quite leisurely. We took a one hour boat ride there and back with was also nice, although polution is a problem in Mumbai and we actually couldn't see much skyline after we left the bay. We got some sandwiches after lunch at a little cafe, we had high hopes but were a bit disapointed. So we decided that some shopping was the pick me up we needed. They have these great Gov't Emporiums in India, the prices are all fixed, the quality is guarenteed and all the stuff in it is home made in small villages, the gov't buys the stuff to support small "cottage industries" quite cool and a nicer way to shop than haggling on the street still unsure if you got ripped off. We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Alibaba's Clay oven fish curry, lamb kebabs and drinks was a perfect end to the day!

The next morning we were out of the door early to catch our 7am train to Goa. We took 3rd class on this trip, I was a little nervous but since we booked late we didn't have a choice. It was a pleasant surprise, we got seated with 4 other foreigners, all backpacking through India. It was relaxing as we exchanged stories and tips. It was nice to be able to get up and walk around without being afraid someone was going to steal your bags. We also met a group of like 20 Christains from a church in Mumbai who were going on a prayer retreat, it was really interesting to talk to them, the first Christians we met in India, we asked them alot of questions and they graced us with some songs sung acapella with drums and a tamborine. All in all a nice 13 hour ride through the lush mountains and valleys of the Konkan Railway!

We have arrived in Goa and got a taxi to COlva, we had booked a room in advance since we were worried it might be booked on a weekend. Everything went really smoothly and we got settled in. Since it was dark, we had no idea if the hotel was a good location, but we were happy to be settled and splurged on a huge dinner of Goan Pomfret (fish), cheesy cauliflower and spring rolls. All were delicious and we got to enjoy them in the cute garden restaurant, the staff was overly friendly and we had a great feeling about the place.

The next morning we slept in a bit and were really excited to discover that the beach was like 100 meters from our hotel door. We went and checked things out, there were lots of locals fishing and we were happy to find that the beach was almost completely undeveloped, no resorts, just little shacks serving food and drinks and the locals. We hadn't planned on going to the beach so we packed no swimsuits and had to go out and buy some, I got a really cute one, Nate and ok way (at least it wasn't a speedo!) for only $7! The rest of the day was spent having delicious seafood, laying out, swimming and sipping cocktails as the sun set. Really really great. We washed up and then headed back out for dinner, decided to eat on the beach again under a star filled sky. We talked with the owner of restaurant for awhile and he was pretty interesting. WE finally headed back to the room and I fell right asleep. Nate stayed up to plan the next day, we decided to rent motor bikes!

Posted by heidigras 05:33 Archived in India Comments (0)

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