2017. Where to begin. After Vietnam there was a mad flurry of activity. Sorting out loose ends in Jo’burg and Centurion. Finalising paperwork with The GMC, the Royal College in Edinburgh and last minute getaways with my better half. That included meeting part of la Colección in Paternoster before flying over to Glasgow in the middle of winter.
Dubai as a holiday destination. Not for shopping (as most of the world seems to consider a normal holiday activity) but rather somewherethat was halfway for each of us to travel, somewhere that was warm (did I mention Glasgow in winter?) and somewhere that had fun activities to do that weren’t preceded by ‘Mind the gap’.
Most of the people who heard that we were going to Dubai assumed that it was for shopping. Fortunately I can report back that I probably spent about three hours in shopping centres in total (and that included coffee in Starbucks un the middle of a Mosque (Ibn Battuta Mall). Pictures of that will be in the next post.
Atlantis. Sol Kerzner’s creation. Great day spent at the waterworld.
Marike found some pink fish.
Not bad for a smartphone.
High tea at the Burj al Arab – great way to start the holiday
Sunset at Jumeirah Beach on the Palm
The Burj from a moving vehicle (an open bus at night)
The Burj Khalifa – pictures in another post on what it looks like from the top.
So activities that need to be done (and I can recommend) are related to fast cars, tall buildings and good food. Photographic evidence to follow in the next installment.
The view from the world’s only 7 star hotel.
17 January Day 10
Last day on the island. Frequented the usual Pacific Coffee Company and found a new boutique coffee shop in Soho.
After allowing Johann a day to digest the magnitude of available electronics, we went shopping in Wanchai and managed not to go overboard.
The trip up to Sai Kung was longer than planned due to a route error (went to the Hung Hom MTR station instead of the closer station at Hang Hau). Minor navigation glitch. Lunch was another Dim Sum / Yum Cha sitting. Always varied and delicious.
Once the bike boxes were loaded and checked in at the in-town check in we were free for the last few hours.
Two of those hours were spend at a fight championship (E-1?). This was something of a kickboxing 101 meets WWF.
Ring girls making sure they can do their job – before the fight starts.
Flying back was uneventful and unremarkable- as one would expect when flying on the South African national carrier. There were no technical issues so that was a relief.
Discussion topic of the day: how irrational people can be.
Watching the predawn light and sun rise over the Indian Ocean was peaceful at 60 000ft. It’s good to be coming home.
Next up. Glasgow…
Walking around the bustling hub that is Hong Kong (Wanchai to Central)
An old ten floor building sandwiched between two modern and significantly taller buildings. How long will this building last before it is swept up in the modernization of the city?
Open spaces amongst skyscrapers.
Wanchai Market. Every form of fresh produce.
View of Victoria Harbour from walking up the Peak.
At the Peak.
The light show from Kowloon.
Discussion topic of the day: when philosophy supersedes financial drive.
Tomorrow either we head to Macau or Sai Kung. Both worlds apart on every level.
Blog Update Vietnam 15 January Day 8
It was incredibly easy to check in the bike bags / boxes with Vietnamese Airlines. Definitely recommend them when flying around here.
Headed back to Hong Kong: Remarkably familiar considering how long ago it was that I lived here.
Looking down on Soho
The Iron Fairy.
Blog Update Vietnam 13 January Day 6
An early but rushed start. We seem to be settling into these late Vietnam starts in the morning. Johann contemplated doing a trip to Halong Bay without any luggage. His resolution lasted until we got to the bus.
Stopped off at a tourist shop. Production workshop – manned by disabled people, predominantly due to Agent Orange. (Unverified)
1945 – 95% population unable to read.
Homeless people not visible
70% live in rural areas and subsistence farmers. Low taxes. Low unemployment.
The New Economic Foundation “Happy planet index” on Sustainable living ranked Vietnam as number two in the world in 2012.
Tour guide assured us that the Vietnamese no longer harbour any hatred to the French, Americans or Chinese (admitted that there is always conflict with the Chinese, but not hatred!). 1000 years of North domination (by the Chinese)
One party state. No weapons allowed. Expenditure issues of the central party – sounds like normal discontent that most of us have towards our respective governments. No gambling allowed for locals. Only tourists.
The sun appeared briefly when we arrived at the coast
Even with the high traffic density (90million people in 300 000sqkm) Road rage does not seem to exist here. There is constant hooting but no one seems to become irritated while driving / riding.
Kien- the talkative tour guide for the four hour trip from Swan cruises enlightened us further on the history of the area.
We crossed over the Red river delta, which flows from China. High in Aluvia which enriches the soil and accounts for the higher than average coffee and rice production which makes them the most exported products in the region.
Afternoon activities (between eating) was kayaking and trying to avoid the coral. Due to low tide the coral was visible just below the surface.
On returning to the boat for a quick swim – tourists are no longer allowed to jump of the third deck. I’m guessing some tourists managed to injure themselves doing this st dome stage.
Supper. History lesson.
Squid fishing. Beginners luck played a big role here and I managed not to get any of the ink from the squid on the deck.
Discussion topics for the day: medical treatments that have been turned on their heads due to evidence.
Discussion over dinner. Palentologist who specialises in reptiles 120 million years old. Diesel mechanic from Switzerland who had his license taken away for three months for going 34km/h over the speed limit
Vietnam 12 January Day 5
Hanoi – an assault on the senses.
Sitting in a coffee shop savouring the quiet away from the chaos that is Hanoi.
A day of walking. Not cycling. Equally as exhausting. Not as relaxing.
The predictable propaganda.
The history of Vietnam is one of war.
A flame thrower and an infrared camera.
Discussions of the day: Blackwater and Quantum Satellites…
Tomorrow: Halong Bay.
Vietnam 11 January Day 4
Sapa to Hanoi
The planned route up over the mountain and down the other side (1400m vertical climb) and one 18km uninterrupted downhill section was abandoned due to mist and rain. Even though this is Sapa’s dry season… The local Intel concurred with all the electronic weather forecasts. This rain wast destined to stay for the next few days. The appeal of spending seven hours in the rain, the last three with the wind chill factor being unbearable diminished rapidly.
We opted to chang the bus booking and come back to Hanoi a day earlier – interrupted a FaceTime session with the sales guy and his girlfriend (? I think). The poor guy left his phone on the counter while changing our booking. Gave me ample opportunity to make faces at the person on the other side whose only escape was to pull the bed covers up.
We wandered through Sapa doing touristy stuff, looking at the water buffalo grazing in the. Entire of town, shopping and trying to stay relatively dry.
A neck and back massage seemed an ideal way to pass the time. The setting was very functional with no whale music / panpipes to put one to sleep.
The bus trip was uneventful. The countryside looked great. Would’ve been a good cycle in better weather.
Interesting discussion topic for the day: water bears (Tardigrades or moss piglets).
Plan for tomorrow is the Military museum in Hanoi.
Hot pot at the Red Hao.
Waiting for the pre-massage Vietnamese coffee (extra strong with condensed milk).
How to transport a 40kg gas canister.
The planned route that never was.
Blog update Vietnam 10 January Day 3
The builders of the rapidly growing hotels in the region worked late into the night. Welding went on past 11pm. Fortunately the jack hammer stopped soon after 10pm. Though after the afternoon cycle down into and then straight up out of the valley, sleep came easily.
The planned early start was unsuccessful. Even with daylight streaming in the windows and a myriad of building noises, we both almost slept past the breakfast cutoff of 08:30.
Route for the day was to climb up Fansipan (3140m) from Sapa (1500m) and stop off at the two waterfalls along the way.
Cherry blossoms being transported.
Shortly after the second waterfall, the clouds moved in bring with them a heavy drizzle and mist.
The trip back down to Sapa was slower than planned due to the wet / slippery roads and having to get off the path / road every time a big truck passed.
Arriving back at the hotel – wet and muddy smiles with the manager bringing us hot ginger tea to help counteract the cold blue lips and numbed fingers. That along with a hot shower and dry clothes was a good way to finish off cycling for the day. Now to find the advertised Hot Wine… Which will be an appropriate afternoon drink to have in this thick mist.
The long ride tomorrow might have to be abandoned due to the heavy rain. Will negotiate with the taxis tomorrow to see
Blog Update Vietnam 9 January Day 2
Ha Noi to Sapa
The early bus to Sapa – luxury bus meant that shoes were not allowed on the bus. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem. However it took about five minutes into the six hour journey for the local resident to complain to an Ozzie tourist about her smelly feet. Fortunately for me the smell did not permeate to my side of the bus.
Another guy on the bus developed a serious case of bike envy when he saw our two Santa Cruz bikes being carefully loaded into the bus.
Pics: Bus stop en route to Sapa and restaurant artwork.
The scenery is starting to improve. Less old propaganda posters and more open spaces. Smoked / steamed mielies are available on the side of the highways. The manner in which one consumes them is slightly different here: each piece is carefully picked off the cob and eaten individually. Suppose it is a good way to pass the time on a bus trip. The inflight TV entertainment is the local version of 7de Laan with a prominent picture of George W Bush in the background. Go figure. At least I could convince my neighbour to turn the sound off.
The major roads and highways are all elevated above the surrounding land. Makes sense when driving though the endless rice paddies, but not so much in town. The smog or mist seems to be pervasive. If it is smog then it probably comes from mainland China as there does not seem to be enough industry here to drive that much pollution into the air. Something else to research at some stage. But first we need to do some physical work. Legs are string to object to the extended periods of inactivity. The terrain is starting to morph into hills. The trees are taller. Mountain side agriculture.
Pics: the white fungus drink is nutritional- not only because it says so, but because it tastes like a healthy drink.
The last two hours of the bus trip entailed continuous climbing at about 40km/h through endless switchbacks and bends. It is an interesting feeling being on a bus overtaking a petrol tanker on an uphill blind switchback. (And we stalled on more than one occasion while overtaking – that caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth). This will make for good cycling later.
Currently reading a book by a former Blackbird (SR-71) pilot and he is recounting the days when he flew F-4’s over northern Vietnam, dropping Snakeye bombs and Napalm. Definitely going to find some images from that era.
After arriving in Sapa, surviving the onslaught of locals trying to sell local scarves and homestay accommodation, we cycled to a three star star hotel with a great view.
Afternoon meant cycling down into the valley, strong coffee and heading back up the mountain. Fortunately the legs performed well considering the lack of training.
Discussion topics included how insignificant and replaceable one becomes the more specialized one is and how it is virtually impossible to acquire the skills in a lifetime to harvest and create a pencil from scratch.
Enough of the ramblings. Here are some pictures.
Hard at work. Minimal protective gear.
How to pimp the local church.
Mist moving in and nighttime monuments.
Tomorrow: we go up.