Shanghai at night

China – Shanghai Nights

Shanghai at night

Shanghai at night

I know the title almost sounds like a Jackie Chan movie doesn’t it. Well it isn’t, it is a picture taken from our hotel room, and what great nights there are in Shanghai too. Ok the days are pretty good too. We even got to the highest points in Shanghai too, the Pearl Tower that you see in the picture. We will have to put in a shot or two in the pictures section when we get a chance for you to appreciate the view from there.

It stays all lighted up until 10:30 pm and if you come here – do a river tour in the evening. They are about an hour or so but there are some amazing views from the river too. We did notice that all the tour boats have more lights on them than a Xmas tree, but the local boats / ships seem to lack any lighting. Our tour boat came up on a barge that had no lights on it. Even with repeated horn blasts the barge just lumbered along. Finally the barge moved out of the way – not by much though.

So that is the short version of Shanghai. We hope to get some time to put in reviews of the hotel and the like when we get a bit more time. So stay tuned…

Tam Coc, Vietnam

Vietnam – Tam Coc

Tam Coc, Vietnam

Tam Coc, Vietnam

OK! So the picture looks small! It is a Panorama and this was a way to give a broader idea of what this place is like. They call this place the “wet Halong bay”, go figure that one. Halong is on the ocean and this is up a river with a marsh on both sides. Doesn’t that make them both wet? Like DUH!

It was an amazingly quiet trip being rowed by this little Vietnamese lady. But, she needed an Oscar for her performance on trying to get tips. Be very aware of this on any tour there. Her hands hurt, (note she rows this same route everyday); She was thirsty, (we bought her a drink that she didn’t open and kept until the end); She had a ships container of wares to sell us, (I don’t think so); You get the idea. Just remember, no matter how sweet and friendly they are, they are searching for the best tip they can get.

It take about 2 hours to go up the river and back but it is so very much worth it. We even saw Goats up high on the cliffs too.

Halong Bay Sunset

Vietnam – Halong Bay

I know another tiny picture – but it is a Panorama. Look at it do you think you could get a sense for this place with a regular shot? I don’t think so.

After climbing up to “Tippy Top” I felt like Mount Everest would be a cake walk. There were many that turned back, to faint hearted to make the climb to the top. But fear not, this roving reporter will go to great lengths to let you know what is going on and what is worth the effort.

Even with a panorama shot this place really isn’t shown like it should be. What a pretty place it is to see.

Yes the elements were endured to stay up on top to give you a view of the sunset. I think it was worth it too.

Enuf said 🙂

You need a visa BEFORE you an travel to Vietnam – its easy to do this ahead of time. I found this place for visa on arrival. Quick and fast – but make sure you have it done before you leave.

Stairway to Heaven

Vietnam – Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

I know we haven’t been around the last few days but there have been a number of good reasons, and now that we have Internet again we can get a few updates in too. I know exciting isn’t it.

We went to the Perfume Pagoda a pleasant little jaunt outside of Hanoi; by car for an hour and a half then another hour by row boat then start climbing. It such a pretty place it is worth the trip, and as you can tell it is a trip getting there and we haven’t even gotten to the Pagoda. We took the cable car up to the Pagoda, a seven minute ride, and once we walked near to the Pagoda we were rewarded with two of the longest staircases in the entire world! You can trust me on that one for sure.

After going down, and no I am not going to describe what we saw, you will have to see it for yourself, but…By the time we came out and I reached the last staircase, you see it in the picture, like a flash the words to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” started running through my head. Low and behold I had an epiphany, I completely understood the song as I looked up the staircase you see in the picture!

Now just imagine, you are huffing and puffing after climbing up and down about 3 Gazillion stairs. On top of that you are dripping with sweat like you just stepped out of a swimming pool and you look up and see the last staircase with the warm glow of soft sunlight at the top… ok you got the picture now. Wouldn’t you have an epiphany too? Like yeah!

As I panted trying to regain my breath and when I looked at the top of the Staircase it had this almost heavenly glow like you were about to have a spiritual connection. Well ok, it could have been that I was about ready to pass out from the heat and all the climbing. But I prefer not to think about that aspect. To me it was all about the song and the spiritual connection. You believing my story so far?..

Vietnam – Enhancements to first Impressions

Dave here again using Patrice’s account. Someday I might be able to use my very own account, on my very own computer sniff, sniff…

Ok don’t expect this all the time but, I had time while we did our tour today, (more on the later), to double check what I wrote yesterday. I don’t have to worry about what I am putting in here either cuz, Patrice is out like a light and can’t be reading over my shoulder. Isn’t total freedom a wonderful thing? Oh yeah!!!

Today we did the “City tour” with 16 of our closest friends in a bus built for about 10 Vietnamese sized people, and that I am not. I can tell you first hand that the “low cost” airlines have more leg room than our van did. The good news was that we only had 10 to 15 minutes in between stops. Now on to the “enhancements” that are the subject of this little writing.

Remember when I talked about the use of 40 quart Styrofoam coolers for saddlebags? I thought you would. Well today we saw upgrades! Oh yes… they have been enhanced and worthy of a note here too. I know you are just dieing to know what the enhancement is so I will spare not a nano second to fill you in. Use tape, strapping tape seems to work best.

The key to using strapping tape on the containers seems to be to carefully over lap each piece while running each round of tape totally around the container. One does have to have a totally even work for this fashion statement. Something less might work in rural Alaska but not on the mean streets of Hanoi! Oh and don’t forget the top too. One must be thinking of “stylin'”. Ok now that you have that down, don’t forget the “green” plastic rope to strap it down. These little buddies won’t be flying away anytime soon. Am thinkin’ the reuse is way up too. These guys are always thinking for sure.

Remember when I talked about the bikes yesterday? Well, what I didn’t tell you about was the cute little masks they wear over the face. Now granted these are mostly women, the men don’t seem to mind the road debris nor other flying things hitting their teeth or face. But the women, now that is totally different. They use these “totally cute” face masks. These usually cover the mouth and nose but not much more. Most, if not all seem to look like something out of an operating room with one big exception. Don’t ask I will tell you the exception. The exception is they are cute with sometimes their favorite animals or other precious things on them. One that caught my eye today was on this young lady totally dressed for an office in a suit with a helmet that looks like a baseball cap but was metal and hair pulled back and tied. Well you have to do that so you aren’t a mess when you get to work. Ok, the mask… Hers had pink edges and and the cutest Poo Bear on the side of it.

Now what would be more cuter than Poo Bear I ask you? NOTHING! But I don’t want to get into all the fashionestas that we saw today driving or we would be here all day. But I did have to get you thinking about it.

Watch out New York and Paris, Hanoi fashions are on the way! Think about it…what a market for the totally scooter crowd…Scooter fashions, “the coolest way to work”, what a slogan huh and I just thought it up too! Am sensing a copyright on that one – oh yeah!

Vietnam – First Impressions as we drive in…

This is actually Dave writing on Patrice’s computer – just so you know…

Someone once told me that you only get one chance at making first impressions. Since being told that, I have paid attention to that and found it to be true. So the following are some first impressions of Vietnam based on arriving from Bangkok and being driven into our hotel from the airport at Hanoi.

If you load a big truck, you know the kind with duel wheels and an enclosed bed with doors, maybe 20 feet or so long, with rice. I am talking rice bags, big ones, all the way to the ceiling from front to back and drive it along the highway. If you didn’t pay attention to how much the weight of the rice is, you will blow a tire or two and be alongside the road changing your tire instead of driving the rest of the way into town. Sometimes it not better to fill all the space in a truck but only put on a truck what it can carry. Go figure that one. One wonders what they would have done if it was an open truck 
However, we learned you can successfully tie to the sides of a motorbike, large Styrofoam containers and used them for saddle bags. You know the ones that will hold about 40 quarts. Well they work great but they aren’t real strong, so a word to the wise would be to be careful in heavy traffic and don’t forget you have them. They do tend to crack and can develop holes and chunks fly off while you drive. Oh and it seems particularly trendy to tie it with green plastic rope too.

An axiom they seem to go be here is if you can strap it onto a bike, be it a motor one or a pedaled one, you are good to go. Maybe it is just me, but I am not sure I would follow that one as literally as they seem to here.

Speaking of bikes… I noticed lots, and I mean lots, of motorbikes lined up in some places alongside the road. For some reason it reminded me of some of those old Motorcycle movies they used to make back in the ‘70’s. You know the ones about the Motorcycle gangs or the misunderstood outsider. Or for that matter a movie as recently as “Wild Hogs”, was another one that I got to thinking about. Here however, the movie would be about the under 125cc Motorbike crowd. While I was thinking about those movies the old Steppenwolf song, “Born to be Wild” started running through my mind. It must have been because we had to get up at 3:30 am this morning to catch the plane to Hanoi. So let me try to paint the picture that started running through my head to the tune of “Born to be Wild”.

Get your motor running – Now imagine those all too well known high pitched whines that you here when you rev a 90cc motorbike, even after you kick that electric start.

Head out on the highway – Now picture all the beeps the horns make on those little bikes and add to it the car and truck horns that are going constantly here. I swear the horn noise in New York City isn’t as bad as it is here in Hanoi.

Looking for adventure – Add to horn noise the sounds of brakes and a random sea of vehicles of all types and shapes, all surrounded by motorbikes weaving down the road. Now that is adventure.

To complete this picture; although they have lanes, they are just guidelines. If there is room and you need to go faster, make a new lane. Also we noted that headlights and tail lights can be out but God protect you if your turn signals don’t work. They turn on signals to notify that they are about to cut someone off. It really gets fun in places you would expect “round a bout”, or traffic lights too.

You see generally they don’t believe in “round a bouts”. What they do here is just make the intersection wider when they have 4 – 6 roads come together. I think they figure that the drivers will figure out how to get through it and go the way they want to go. Sometimes they put miniature round a bout in huge intersections, I think just so they can say they have them. Oh that is when 4 way flashers seem to come into play. You see when you get into one of these massive intersections; you turn on your 4way flashers to indicate you are going straight on through. They love to communicate when driving.

Another odd little rule of the road here seems to be for motorbikes. Drivers, especially female ones, seem to like to use the dashes separating the lanes for some kind of dotted line to drive on. They drive along fast or slow and are totally oblivious to all the traffic around them honking horns at them to pick a lane.

Well there you go, I know it is just a bit of a tease on driving in Vietnam but it will have to do. After all, this was just our impressions on the drive in.

Just a small addition… While I was writing this we ordered some food at the hotel. You do it by number; I ordered 27, 32 and 35. I should have stopped there though, but Patrice wanted more pillows in the room, (what is it with woman and pillows anyway), so I asked if we could get a couple more pillows delivered to the room too. The girl on the other end said, “Beer you want beer”. In a smart move I immediately backtracked on the pillows and after the girl and I repeating my order 2 more times, I got the food ordered. They delivered it in 15 minutes too. It sure was good.