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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Nha Trang

It's been a few weeks since I updated this and my reader will be fed up with pictures of Laos by now so here's some pictures of our latest jaunt to Nha Trang.

Beach Bar

It's a seaside town (can you tell?) about an hour away from Saigon by air and six by train. There are a few high end spa hotels and loads of very cheap and clean minihotels. Ours cost £3.50 per person and came with air conditioning, shower, clean sheets a well stocked minibar and safety advice.

Safety and security

I like to follow instructions in hotel rooms but was a little stumped by the trafficking one, however I kept my bling to a minimum and came to no harm.

Fruit vendor

Streetside and beachside the atmosphere is relaxed, the vendors are friendly without being too pushy and the usual Vietnamese habit of living life on the street prevails.

Streetside toiletry

He was loud, she was having none of it.

Culturally and historically the Cham Towers are worth a visit.
Cham Tower
The accoustics are incredible and the view over Nha Trang is worth seeing.
Altar and devotees

The man on the left of this photograph struck the bowl gong a few times and three minutes later the sound was still reverberating.

No holiday is complete without a dose of kitsch and I found plenty.

Topiary of course, always a welcome art form. Nothing nicer than taking a tree and making it look completely unnatural.
Topiary Nha Trang

Vinpearl Island is kitsch central. Arrive by cable car or ferry and you can ...


Enter Exotica Discoteque under the oxter of a giant mermaid.

Vinpearl Island Penguins

Feed the penguins. There are scores of these things all over the resort. I felt bad stubbing a cigarette out in it's gaping maw but there was sand there for the purpose.

I struck lucky though, in preparation for Tet I saw thirteen men in a tree.
Thirteen men in a tree

Ripping off the real leaves and replacing them with Tet appropriate yellow blossoms.

They seemed happy in their work.

Happy tree decorators

Vinpearl is an odd place, almost deserted, completely artificial, unnaturally clean and slightly unsettling. If ever they make a Vietnamese version of The Prisoner they should set it here.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Holiday pictures, Laos

I finally got around to uploading the remaining pictures of Laos to Flickr. There are still several hundred on the hard drive waiting to be sorted out but I thought I'd share a few here before I get back to the business of everyday life in Vietnam.

Food and Food related stuff
Woven baskets
Woven baskets for holding sticky rice, eaten with your fingers and served at most meals. It's the most substantial rice I've eaten.

River Weed collection
Collecting and processing water weed, it looks like the same bright green, fibrous stuff you see growing in rivers all over the place, I didn't know it was edible but it's sold in hanks in markets in Laos. It's deep fried before eating and the younger stuff is considered better because it's less tough.

Lunch provided
Noodle soup, part of the package on the VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. Beer Laos not included in price.

It was orange season and the air by the river smelled wonderful, even at night when the oranges were all away.

Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk cheap cheap
Tuk tuks and similar vehicles are the main form of in town transport, there's a good bus network for going further afield. Tuk tuks are cool during the day, chilly at night and dusty whenever you get out of town but they're much more interesting to ride than taxis. This was taken on New Years Day in Luang Prabang, called International New Year, Laos has it's own, Tet is celebrated by many and the ethnic minorities have their own New Year too, good place to go if you like fresh starts.

King of Bus
Sorry about the lamp post in the foreground but I coudn't get a better angle. This is King Of Bus, the VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. There are two a day and for $6 you get air conditioning, pretty good suspension, endless Lao Pop videos, water, a wet wipe, a cake and lunch. You also see some of the world's most stunning mountain scenery. I couldn't get any pictures of it because we didn't stop going through the mountains and my camera's anti shake just wasn't up to coping with it.

We were dreading a nine hour bus journey and wishing we'd got better organised to fly back down to Vientiane but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

Vespa with sidecar, Vientiane
Lots of Vespas and Piaggios around Laos, most in excellent condition. The country is landlocked so there's very little salt in the air hence little rust. I loved this one with a sidecar but couldn't imagine sitting in it in HCMC.

The Head of the Herd
Stephen takes the lead while taking elephants down for a bath in the river. I'm at the back right stepping out of line on the biggest elephant of them all. They were incredible creatures and while we didn't get anywhere near controlling them they and the mahouts were very indulgent and let us believe we were in charge.

We spent the night in a little hut on stilts and at dawn took ourselves and the elephants for a morning bath, then we got to take off the silly mahout suits.

Vientiane domestic departures
We flew Air Loas to Luang Prabang in a plane I've never heard of with the most garish upholstery and seats that flipped forward to let people in and out. This picture makes domestic departures look quite swish, it's not but it's efficient and got us where we were going.


Finally some random images of things I saw and liked.

Light up time Vientiane

Orange candles


Young monks

Young Monks



Tad Sae Waterfall

Tad Sae Waterfall

Images of Buddha

Buddah low light

Golden hand

If you get a chance, go.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008


We had an amazing trip to Loas flying into Vientiane from Saigon via Cambodia. We liked it so much that we left a lot unseen as it's fairly obvious we're going to go back.

Gilded Buddha

The architecture and statues are stunning, I filled two memory cards on the camera. If you want to see them all (and frankly I can't think of a better way of spending four hours than looking at someone elses holiday pictures) click on any of the pictures to go to Flickr.

Food is fresh and tasty, there are a lot of higher end restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang but we honestly didn't have one bad meal no matter where we ate. Well, there was the weird sweet curry in Vientiane but that was par for the course because it was Stephens birthday and he always gets a dodgy curry on that day.

There were men in santa hats.
Men in santa hats 1

Around every corner was a classic image.

Honest Tourist Attraction notices
Patuxai Monument, the vertical runway

Honest, Patuxai
and we even found a bar dimly lit enough to feel seedy

Samlo Bar

The lasting memory though has to be spending two days with elephants. More on that in a later post. Meanwhile here's my elephant having a snack.


Monday, 7 January 2008


I found the link to this when checking my spam box on gmail. I nearly vomitted the deep fried spring rolls filled with potato salad and pineapple that was served up for lunch

Categories: Main dish
Yield: 8 servings

1 pk Frozen french fry potatoes,
-thawed (20 oz)
2 c Shredded Cheddar cheese
2 c Sour cream
1 cn Condensed cream of chicken
-soup (10 3/4 oz)
1 cn SPAM Luncheon Meat, cubed
-(12 oz)
1/2 c Chopped red bell pepper
1/2 c Chopped green onion
1/2 c Finely crushed corn flakes

Heat oven to 350'F. In large bowl, combine potatoes, cheese, sour
cream, and soup. Stir in SPAM, bell pepper, and green onion. Spoon
into 13x9″ baking dish. Sprinkle with crushed flakes. Bake 30-40
minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Friday, 4 January 2008

What I did on my holiday

Laos, a lovely country for a holiday and the Beer Laos is damned fine at about 50p for a 650ml bottle. Here's our first bottle:
Dinner 1
Beers, dry grilled beef, papaya salad and sticky rice for under three pounds on the river front in Vientiane on Christmas Eve.

We stayed in a nice guesthouse, incredibly clean and at £10 for a room including breakfast and airport transport very good value for money. We had a standard room for our first stay because there weren't any superior rooms available at Aroon Residence and particularly enjoyed the room decor. It reminded me of the painted hotel in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Decor, Aroon Residence

And now unobstructed by furniture:
Kitsch mural

We returned to Aroon Residence for our last night and got a superior room without murals, very tasteful.
Aroon Residence Superior Room
Just a few dollars more.
Aroon Residence, external
It's a guesthouse, not a hotel so no bar, but there are no restrictions on bringing your own in. The manager is very efficient and responds to emails quickly.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Holiday Snaps

We've been in Laos over Christmas and New Year. Lots more pictures to follow but here's one from Buddha Park near Vientiane to start.