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It's been EXACTLY a year since Sianpei and I were on this crazy ass trip, and finally, finally ,...

Around SEA in 2 months overland! (Part 1)

It's been EXACTLY a year since Sianpei and I were on this crazy ass trip, and finally, finally, our mega ass story of a trip is about to be told.

Before we went on this trip, (I'm not gonna say that "we didn't know what to expect" cos that ain't true) because me being me, I knew and wanted it to be a big ass epic trip - typical idealist. While Sianpei being the grounded one said that she didn't hope for an epic trip but one that'd allow us to learn a bit about each place and one another better.

Indeed it was a test of our friendship and I had wondered how much more of Sianpei I'd get to know since I'd already known her for a fairly good amount of time. And more importantly, whether we could stand each other for two months. They say going overseas with someone and whether you return as friends shows a lot.

So let me take you on this journey with us and touch on a few points in Part 1 and 2 of my posts:

1) What I think about backpacking / travel. Was it an authentic experience?
2) The ONE most mind-blowin' epiphany I got while travelling
3) Why I think China is gonna be the next big thing (if you don't already think it is)
4) My favourite place goes to...........
5) The next adventure?

This post will solely be about Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Will continue in Part 2.

*Long post ahead alright, brace yourselves.


HERE GOES!

An overview of our journey.
Pat on the back cos Microsoft Paint.

Sianpei and I started in Myanmar in November last year because I was based there for 4 months back in July. I managed to blog about my solo experience living and working there while I was in Yangon despite the wifi. And when we returned, I blogged about our experiences travelling in Myanmar before losing steam to write.

We travelled overland at every step of the way from Myanmar all the way till we got back to Singapore. Bus, train, and foot. The only time we took a plane was from Myanmar to Thailand cos we didn't know how safe it was and well, it was our first pit stop. Wouldn't want the whole trip to be a disaster aye?

Read our 3 weeks in Myanmar -
Part 1: Where it all began
Part 2: Motorbike fall, Cold weather and Trekking

Myanmar still holds a special place in my heart lah.

I then continued to blog about Thailand, Chiangmai. Then I stopped blogging when I got to Chiangrai. Shall we continue from where we left off?

Took a bus and arrived at Chiangrai!

We decided Chiangrai because well, not many people go there and we wanted to explore a bit of the north. I'll let our pictures tell our story.

White Temple too touristy but tourists still happy lol
Then Sianpei found the most amazing Jap-themed cafe ever - Ryokan Cafe
Interior design was beautiful
That's our beautiful scooter right there.
AND THE MOST AMAZING DOGGGGGGGG
I guess you can't leave out a dog in a jap cafe.
I LOVED HIM.
I MARRIED HIM.
And Sianpei was our witness.
That's ma dawgie dawgggg
Man, I look at myself now and one year ago, and I think I've changed. Gees, what a span of one year does to you.

Any ways, best service standards ever. And the food was good. The price was good. I don't like coffee so they replaced the coffee in hazel mocha with chocolate: F YEAH. This place was beyond anything. Right Sianpei?

Yeah, because... after we went exploring at...

A waterfall (tons of this around SEA)
A lil bit of trekking
And a lil bit of riding
(Could I just add that Chiangrai's roads were THE BEST? They had motorcycle lanes. And the roads were wide and smooth. And the drivers were courteous. That was the first time I didn't crash into anything or make anyone fall or injured. Myself included. Yay.)

WE CAME RIGHT BACK TO RYOKAN CAFE IN THE EVENING!!!!!
I just love their open-air concept. There was a big field right there.
I loved everything about the cafe...
Sun setting...

Which meant it was time to scoot off.

Went on a bit of a Chiangmai tour the next day and had a look at a temple.

I remember seeing a powerful quote left by Einstein about Buddhism:


I must admit I was bought over by Buddhism after travelling all over these SEA countries.

Popped by another cafe that Sianpei found,
(i know it sounds as if we were just cafe hopping the entire time but Thailand was sort of our rest stop after crazy Myanmar and well.. you can't really miss them if you're in Thailand right?)

Nice glasshouse concept
Whatchu reading Sianpei!
Yum yum
Double yum yum.

We weren't all too thrifty with everything. And I'm glad we didn't starve ourselves of these tasty treats because Thailand actually has really good food. That lemon curd tart was seriously... good stuff.

In the evening...

LOY KRATHONG FESTIVAL!!!!

One helluva big erection
Lanterns drifting down and flying in the air...
Spirited Away much? It was simply magical!!



Us making our own wishes :)



Our very own lantern!!
Beautiful....

Sometimes, I think Singapore misses out on a lot of things because we ban and prohibit so much. It takes away a lot of spirit and soul. I'm always in a dilemma when it comes to these things. Perhaps I guess we've just grown complacent cos whatev the G says, whatev the G gets. And I lamented this to Sianpei and she agrees too.... Festivals aren't practical or pragmatic, but celebrations make the heart of a country. We're celebrating us as people.


The next day... We were gonna... CROSS THE BORDER TO

Laos.
Crossed over from Thailand via Huay Xai and then to Pak Beng.
Mountains on mountains on mountains...


Some crazy angmohs brought along their gigantic bikes... someday I wanna ride from the North to the South of Vietnam.

It was two long days of slow boating actually, had to stay overnight at a hostel where we met an old Malaysian couple. They were a bit kooky but I'll never forget that lil quote the uncle left us with.

"If you like a flower, you pluck it. But if you love a flower... you leave it to grow on its own"

Bam.

Of course, initially I just thought it was a lame shit quote. But after that, upon contemplation, hey, it has a pretty deep underlying message. I'll leave you to figure that out.


Soon enough... HEY HEY LUANG PRABANG!!!
I enjoyed Luang Prabang a lot actually.

Kuang Si Waterfalls.
Pretty magical blue waters~~ 
That's Sianpei jumping off and into the pool ;-)
after a lot of convincing
Lol. Girl, are you lost?
Just let me indulge in some wildlife photography okay?
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL IN OUR ENTIRE TRIPPIN'
I just had to.
With my john travolta hairdo after jumping into that pool
It's Maybelline.
You're worth it.
 Next day,

One in a series of Sianpei-is-eating photos.
One of our favourite morning breakfasts - porridge with youtiao.
We're just all the same in SEA aren't we?
You owe her money.
What's left of the French colony.

After that, we climbed Mount Phousi! Which really wasn't that difficult.

What I love about SEA...
You'd think this was Europe
Until you see a stupa...
Beautfiul eh?
Hehe that's me at the top!

But....

There's them at the top TOO.
Just look at the number of tourists with us... All there to try to catch the sunset. Seriously???!
And that's Sianpei judging them
Laos has been colonised once again.
 By this Singaporean too.
God save us all.
Was still a gorgeous sight though.....
Dinner at the market.
Doesn't this remind you of the Spirited Away scene when Chihiro and her parents were pigging out? Literally.
And it was funny how when I had that thought, some dude actually talked about it in front of us.

The next day, Sianpei and I decided to take time away from each other.
We were too sick of each other's faces.
So I went away on a cycling trip, while she walked around exploring town.

My lord, it was the MOST tiring cycling trip I had ever done. I literally used every single muscle in my legs. Everything was used butt down because of the high slopes and crazy down slopes - was reminded of downhill biking in NZ.


Luckily my companions were just as worried about completing the whole trail as me cos they're in their 50s hehe.
I respect them for doing shit like that at this age though
Crossed rivers
Seen mountains.

Came across a school too!
Reminded me so much of those Laos kids we taught during OCIP :')
Knowing a bit of Lao was helpful.
"Something's wrong with this lady's mouth"
You show em boys what you're made of.
Girl Powah in those Laotian skirts!!
What a fantastic crew : )
I still keep in contact with this German couple through email.

I've said this many times before: Germans are the best.
Haven't come across one stinkin German before. They were all amazing people - every single one we met during this entire trip. We just kept bumping into Germans time after time after time.

Ah~ I needa catch up with my German friends some day.

Common sightings in Laos.
Reunited with Sianpei after that for a night market walk before exploring more of Luang Prabang.

The morning after:

Once again, our fav breakfast food bahaha


BAMBOO BRIDGE!!!
It was really cool, the whole thing was literally made of bamboo.
Nekkid kidsss
Our really nice hostel host. She was from Vietnam.
We then travelled by van to Vang Vieng. It's around the middle of Laos, near capital Vientiane.


This was one heck of a beautiful scene...

It was also when one of the passengers, who were with us, spotted that our driver appeared suspicious while we were resting away~ He was eyeing all of our bags and prodding them. Nothin happened but yes, it took Germans to, once again, save the day hahaha.

Well, Vang Vieng wasn't much to us because we'd been there before (too many times)
So all I can say is, we were happy to have,

Our banana with nutella pancake fix,
(look at that face!!)
Hotair balloons
Damn awesome sandwiches as well,
and to have made a new friend.
Lana's Thai and she's smart and doesn't look a day older than she actually is. She's 30 man, but looks just like us wtf? Maybe cos Thailand is a lot less stressful haha?

Sent her a word of condolence after their Thai King's recent passing....

Planning our next stops - Vietnam and Cambodia
We planned as we went along. It's quite impossible to plan everything beforehand for such a long-ass trip. And that was one of those days when we sat down and took things slowly, just researching on everything Vietnam.

That was Vang Vieng for you. I don't like Vang Vieng, mostly cos it's a party town with a heck load of tourists. And the locals are just pissed off as hell. Not friendly at all. I guess I wouldn't be, when angmohs are partying everywhere and Koreans are invading my space.

So much so that, well....

This

.... says it all.

I'm not sure if we planned for our next destination in Laos beforehand or while we were travelling...

But we went back to the village in Laos that concretised - if there ever is a word haha - our friendship. I never really knew Sianpei, except for some comms mods in wkw school, before going on that volunteer trip in 2012. Going on it led to a friendship that was signed, sealed, delivered.

So we visited Naphong village, a place close to our hearts, where we had seen it in 2 separate years doing volunteer work.

Just to keep you up to speed on where we are.
Heading to Ban Na'phong!

This girl here, we recognised her in the three different years we were at Naphong village.
from a tweedly dum to a big girl
2012.
Believe me, that was her 4 years ago riding that bike with me, and 3 years on, that's the same girl.

Joy, our Laotian guard for the few days we were there.
Previously just like any ordinary young'un.
Now, a father.
Laotian homecooked meals.
Always too filling.
Then,

The hordes came,
Invasion.
Anticipation,
Confusion.
Lol.

And while I try not to have a favourite....
I can't help but say that...
She's my favourite.

And sadly for a very stupid reason. Cos she's cute. And she's quiet.
I have a soft spot for quiet people.
Not only that, our friendship can be traced back to the many years of courtship trying to get her out of her shell.

2012: when she was a wee dumpling and cried whenever girls like us swoop to find her and then swoon at her
2013: when she was a toddler and decided that I was okay becos I looked like a boy
2015: we best friends yo?!?!?
I won her heart after 3 years HEHE.

But of course, I loved the other kids just as much who had personalities that we were so BIG.



Monkeyed around with them
Honestly, it's real tiring being a parent ya know
But sometimes, you enjoy a head massage or two hahahahahahahahahah
someone's obviously enjoying it.

And it was during play time with these kids when yes...

I discovered this one huge epiphany.

It was with this boy when I discovered something...
He was playing a game with a whole bunch of girls and one other boy. Something that had to do with pretending you're blind and trying to catch the rest of the people. There was a queen bee in the group of course, who cheated and never closed her eyes and won game after game after game. All the other kids played squarely and fairly. Even this boy. So when it came down to his turn to pretend to be blind, he closed his eyes, and tried to catch as many people as he could. He tried, and tried, and tried. Then the rest started pushing him around, and they'd sometimes even kick him. I was watching the whole thing and felt helpless. Then, he started crying. In a sad kind of sobbing crying, because he had lost and everyone was making fun of him. With queen bee controlling everything. He cried and cried and cried...

Which then made me realise 2 things:

Thing 1) Boys.. they cry too. They're just as fragile as girls, but they are socially conditioned not to display emotions or feelings as they grow up. And as men, they're assumed to do so much things. Expected to achieve so much more than women should. So they're always seen as stoic. But just observing children... boys were born to be just as emotional and vulnerable as girls are. Upon reaching adulthood, they've forgotten how to express their emotions. Even women don't want men to cry cos well, society expects them not to cos it's seen as weak. And this phenomenon also explains a lot of other things that I probably can't lay out all in one post. Bottom line, it made me realise that... men experience a lot of inner turmoil that is often not seen and is hidden away. Which explains for why depression strikes a lot of men.

Thing 2) As Sianpei and I were surrounded by so many children, not only did we have our favourite children. They had their own favourite adult as well. And I was faced by my own mortality. Gees, it sucks seeing one kid running towards Sianpei instead of me. Jesus that's so hurtful lol. But I mean seriously, interacting with children teaches you a lot of things. And I realised that.... ultimately,

Everyone just wants a sense of love and belonging.

That's it. It's as simple as that. Whatever we do, we do it for those two things. Every single thing that I saw was inextricably bound to that concept. A young man who pursues his career to achieve the greatest wealth of all is doing it in the pursuit of meeting society's expectations and maintaining an image. That's how he gets his sense of worth. Or, it could be that woman in her 50s who takes botox after botox to retain her youthful look to once again be admired for her good looks. Or a young boy who tries to do his best in sports, studies and everything so that his parents are happy.

There are so many things that we do... we do for that sense of love and belonging. Sometimes, people misinterpret love for maybe money and fame.... and in those examples I brought up... looks and grades - they give an illusion of a sense of love and belonging. But do they maketh a man? Why do people do drugs? Why do young people sometimes run away from home? They do destructive things to themselves because they've never truly felt love or been appreciated for what they're worth. But if only people could strip it down, and see what's truly worth pursuing. That sometimes, just being whatever you are and whatever you hold true to yourself - your character, talents, beliefs, values - it'll earn you a valid place in this world. There's no point proving to everyone. You be you. And the world will hum along.

This was the ultimate lesson of vulnerability for me.

And it was taught here in a village at Naphong, which Sianpei and I had traversed over the years.

But I'll be honest, sometimes I wish I never discovered that one big thing either. Because the real world isn't so kind to anyone who wishes to be idealistic in their pursuits. Often, I see through people's guises, what their desires are, the masquerades that they play. I get jaded because I wonder why can't they just see that a lot of things really don't matter. I get jaded in a world that tries to lie to itself. And the world treats that as a form of weakness.

Yet, it is a purist thought because hey, nothing can ever be black and white. Not everything is as simple as it's supposed to be. Nothing can be completely right or wrong and well, what I think may not always be right. We have different experiences and statuses of privilege. People deserve to pursue whatever they choose to believe is right. And this world is just as weird as it gets man.

As perplexing as it may seem, that has actually given me some peace. All of us wired differently.


Before I carry on rambling, let's get back to where we were..

A friendship in Na'Phong village:

2012
2013
And then in 2015,
I must say it's a friendship worth a million stars and wishes!

We then made our way down to Vientiane, where we'd head over to... THE NAM. VIETNAM.

Warning, Vietnam was 3 weeks, so it's a huge chunk to go. Get ready!

This was one country I couldn't wait to go because I'd never touched Vietnam before.

Big general map of our SEA trip to get you organised.
So we're at the third stop: Vientiane - Hanoi.

Conquering Vietnam.
Started from the north at Hanoi,  went further up north to Sapa before going all the way to the South.

Sleeper bus to go from Laos to Vietnam overnight
We took a lot of sleeper buses because you can save on a night's worth of stay, though you'd wake up groggy the next day if you didn't have a good sleep.

Oh it was also here when I first got into an argument in public with a stranger. Dude I don't even get angry with people often, so this. This has gotta be something.

It was a New Zealander in his late 30s or early 40s. Who married a Vietnamese wife. He was very big in size and extremely tall as well. When he knew we were Singaporeans, he was very chatty because well, we spoke English. And it all started happy and rosy until he talked about his family and how they were against homosexuals. To be honest, I wasn't paying attention to him at the very start of our convo because it was night time and I wanted to sleep. So when he talked about being anti-gay, I didn't quite catch that until I sensed he was getting very worked up for whatever reason. And when I clarified that I was NOT anti-gay and that I have gay friends and "can you please not talk to me about this", he started to be really really rude to us. I couldn't take it and I argued back cos I don't take no shit lying down. He talked about Singapore allowing gay spas and the Government letting them happen (wow that's something new) and he started hurling racist abuse at us after I said I didn't care about what he had to say. "You Asians don't do anything. You're so apathetic. You don't stand up for yourself" Oh yeah? You want me to stand up for myself? I'll show you. So I told him off that I was being nice to him at the start and now you wanna mess around with my RACE and my HERITAGE? No. So I told him in his face that he was being racist and I will not listen to anymore of your rant because I love my friends who are gay and you need to respect my views just like how I did when I was listening to you. But he went on saying "oh I have a Vietnamese wife I'm not racist blahblahblah...."

It's douches like him who think that they can insult with impunity just because they've got an Asian wife. Really?? Go lick a tree.

Let's just say the argument ended with Sianpei telling me to let it go because there's no point. True enough, there was no point.

The Vietnamese must've been thinking it's so weird for an Asian girl challenging this big ass angmoh at the back of the bus.

I thought the fight was worth it. I stood up not just for myself, but for my gay friends as well. What a way to start border-crossing into Vietnam hahahah.
Border between Laos and Vietnam.
Always exciting to cross borders - cheap thrill
"security"
where we also had to pay 20 dong or something for "entry"
Them smokinnn
I found the pipe intriguing and the man saw us staring at him (who later became our bestfriend)
He introduced to us our first Vietnamese meal
He was super helpful lah.
That's just one of those things you encounter overseas - kindness of strangers.
We weren't there at a very good time... mostly gloomy.
By the time we reached Hanoi, it was dark.
LOVED THESE!!! OMG They're snails that you could suck out and wow, glorious....
Doubt Singapore'd ever dare have these on the streets

We were freakin happy!!
Hanoi, you were magical.

G'MORNIN HANOI!!!!
You so fancy we ready to eat all of your glorious cuisines.
Get ready for food galore!!

Bun Bo - different from Pho, which is kway teow
this is the thick bee hoon

Friendly shopkeepers
Streetside vendors
PHO!!! HELL YEAH
a funny sweet dessert thingy that looks like porridge but more of a paste with youtiao on top
Perhaps why we're accustomed to Vietnamese food cos 1) we've had them before 2) they're kinda... Chinese?

Ho Chi Minh Museum
All hail the great commander in chief of all of Vietnam's history.
But I must say I got suspicious of Uncle Ho.
I mean... not married. Loves kids? Hmm.. what is up?
Fun fact: First country he ever visited was Singapore in the Year 1911
THEN WE VISITED THE MAN HIMSELF in the mausoleum
It felt eerily like the time LKY passed away and people paid their respects inside.
Only this time, HCM's body's been there for like years and years and years.......
And he looked completely the same.


AND....

THIS
IS WHY

THEY WON THE WAR.

You could see Vietnamese, young or old, exercising and keeping a healthy lifestyle. Constantly throughout our trip, we'd go, "DIS IS WHY THEY WON THE WAR"

Against the Americans.

Now my argument with the Kiwi guy earlier on made sense... It sets the premise for the trip in Vietnam. You don't mess around with the small guys all right?


Sorry, let me indulge you in more Vietnamese treats.

TAU HUEY?!?!
Bahn Ran.
Sweet and crispy on the outside with this small ball of yam inside if im not wrong.
The bomb.
Glee with red porridge
OH THIS ONE.
This is something everybody tries when they're in Hanoi.
Bun Cha!
They're pork noodles wooooo.
And what I absolutely love is what's served alongside the main dishes.
THAT PILE OF HERBS - mint, coriander - amazing. I miss it.
Chattin up strangers
Hanoi's pretty too with a huge lake at the city centre...
Really romantic I must say Hanoi.
MAILLL TIME!!!
We just had to send postcards from Vietnam cuz cool like that.

The next day, it was 11th of December 2015.

Halong Bay time. I mean, c'mon, everybody goes there when they go to Vietnam.... right? I googled: 7 wonders of NATURE.

Expectations were... high duh. Expecting a bae.... hahah that was bad.

.... ain't yer bay-yoo-tifulll
i tried. applaud. 
Still woke up early to see the gorgeous bay
I was amazed people lived on boats at Halong Bay
Kayaking or canoeing?
Dunno the diff.
We were there at a bad time, no blue skies.
There was a haunting effect about it though...
which was in itself quite charming actually 
Tourist 1
Tourist 2
Our friends - the Chinese and Spanish man
We helped the Chinese man out a lot because we were the only ones on deck who could speak Mandarin while he couldn't speak a word of English. He gave us two boxes of premium green tea by the end of the whole journey haha. The power of Bilingualism.

The Spanish left me with an important piece of advice knowing that I was gonna enter the workforce soon: Read. Just keep reading. Read about your country, everything. I've never forgotten that one piece of advice because I believe in it. Once you're out of school, there's not a constant influx of knowledge. You need to do the work to keep yourself informed.

Ciao ciao Halong Bay.
Probably never coming back lol.
We weren't impressed.
 Back to Hanoi.

Mochi... the closest thing to home. Love anything steamy
These shopkeepers are extremely... i can't find the word for it.
Scheming? Cunning? Resourceful?
they're really good at persuading you to buy their stuff.
a lot of imitation goods here, which i daresay are almost as good as the real deal.

Next, we were off to SAPA to trek. We had to take a train up to the tip of Vietnam. It's the closest to China you can ever get. And cold too. Lucky we bought jackets at Hanoi before heading up.

Btw, this was the most magical train ride...

Don't be fooled by its rusty exterior...
here's from the outside
at the railway station
INSIDE!!!!!!!
It was so much like the train to Hogwarts!!!! I didn't take enough pictures of the train's alleys but it was just freakin fantastic!!!! The ticket didn't come cheap either, maybe 80 bucks? But so worth it. Two other Thai girls were in the same cabin as us, shared soju heh, which was really awesome. Though we were wishing that we'd had the whole cabin to ourselves before that HAHA.

Guys, let me introduce to you the most wonderful market EVER.

It's the... Sunday market at Lao Cai. It's near Sapa, and we decided to head there as well after our wonderful AirBnb host suggested it to us. I think its Sunday market not Monday market or whatever.


No tourists, check.
Locals
Selling cows
Selling puppies
Selling babies
Just kidding. Isn't she adorbs?
We found these two with long hair inseparable.
One blonde (which really intrigues me) and the other Brunette,
They need to start an American show
Couldn't resist getting a snap!
The blondie looks like Sianpei's sister. The other two are mine.
Shopping for H&M and Zara
I hate to say this but... they were exotic. I know, I know, I hate to use that word. But to see the natives in their garb, without the gimmick, was an eyeopener. They were untouched by modernism, and it was quite fascinating when all I've ever known is modernism.

Our experience there was also tainted with a bad encounter. You can read it here, when I blogged about our "Worst travel experience so far" right at that time when we experienced it a year ago. You can feel the drama and the angst + emotions haha.

After that, we took a bus to get to the centre of Sapa.

Again, I couldn't help but be fascinated by the people. I was seated next to a lady who was wearing a traditional headpiece, which was round in circumference and had beads all over. Like Huang Zhu Ge Ge - that Chinese show every primary school girl adored back in the day.

Didn't wanna be rude but at the same time I couldn't help but feel intrigued so I took this photo!

A glimpse of that astonishing headpiece
And you can tell that they're not used to sitting in modern forms of transport like a bus because she kept making gurgling noises and she puked out the window, spitting pieces of vom at least three times.

Interesting eh? I'd rate this market the best out of the whole trip. - Bac Ha market (got the name right after re-reading that post)

Anyway, we made our way down to Sapa - the trekking heaven.

Lucky to have had good weather~
struck lottery cos the past days were raining and just real shitty weather
Went on the route to Cat Cat village with our newfound friends~

It was a walk in the park
Hipster photo of Sianpei haha
Imma goddess.
It really was quite beautiful
But not as beautiful as I had imagined. We were there during winter time so it wasn't at all rice harvesting season
Still cool for city kids to see some rice being grown

Oh and we were told by our AirBnb host that what's special about the rice grown here is that... THEY'RE GROWN ON ROCKS. Jesus. It really shows the might of the Vietnamese. Their ingenuity and their will to survive. Rice was never meant to grow in these highlands and on rocks.... But they made it happen.

THIS IS WHY THEY WON THE WAR.

We weren't impressed by Sapa though. You can read why, from that angst-filled post again cos well, it was just touristy as hell and not impressive at all.

Here's the link once more - "Worst travel experience so far"

It's not like I don't like doing touristy things. It's just... touristy beyond the point of touristy. That the locals become dependent on tourist revenue so much so that sometimes, they're out to exploit tourists. Which explains my dilemma about visiting Bac Ha market. Like I want to be there yet I wish it stays untainted.

Lucky day in Sapa
 I mentioned this before and I'll mention it again -

The local tribal women are impressive.
They tout and tout and tout with all their might with the thickest hide of skin. It didn't matter if those caucasians towered over them. They were brave as hell. Their command of the English language was hugely impressive. Better than some Singaporeans I dare say. I was annoyed by them yet deep down, very impressed by their will to pick up the language and use it for their own survival. They learnt the language simply through communicating with tourists. I STILL can't believe it, or get my head around that.

I dunno what to call them. Scheming? Or just born with sheer determination, wit and resourcefulness. Gotta give it to them.

THIS IS WHY THEY WON THE WAR.

Alright, moving on.

The next day, hell broke loose on us in Sapa and the temperature dropped like crazy and it was freezingggg. My face started to break out cos it was so dry.

Christmas trees on fire
Not really. But look at the mist... it was really really early in the morning at maybe 5am and we were tryna catch our bus to get back to Hanoi. Where things were a lil more sane.


Favourite sleeper bus again!
To get this bus ride at a cheaper price, we bargained with the Vietnamese because we were with our Caucasian friends. And wah, angmohs really know how to bargain. BUT the Vietnamese also really know how to put their foot down.

They know how to deal with Caucasians, unlike the rest of Southeast Asia. Kena colonised like what only. Whereas the Vietnamese rose up to their French rulers and fought against the Americans.

THIS IS WHY THEY WON THE..... ok lah, let me stop being annoying already.

The moment we touched Hanoi, we went straight to the train station to get to Hue.

Let me bring up the map of Vietnam again to get you sorted.

Moving to Hue, middle of Vietnam
Train was quite clean and comfortable
What was outside
Reached in the evening.

Time to eat. Again. haha.

Meow
To be honest, the timeline in my head is kinda wonky now. It's been a year. So I've to look at the photos to be transported back in time again.

I remember Hue's weather was pretty dreadful too. And so, it was raining cats and dogs the next day.

We didn't do much.

But eat.
One in the many Sianpei in shot photos
Finally, HUE Bun Bo
Original beef noodles from the city of Hue.
Vietnamese Hue delicacies!
We were honestly really full but we just... had to try haha.

Eh wait, there were photos in my iPhone too..

On that rainy day, we walked around the city of Hue. I believe Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam a long time ago and boasts rich history. I got a sense of the cultural roots of Vietnam in this city and we both agreed that we liked Hue.

Alas, the weather.

I would like to think that it would've looked really majestic inside
But we decided against going inside since we had to pay a fee and well, it was dreadful weather anyways.
Huge ass brolly.
I took this photo to remember that I was impressed with the Vietnamese and their handwriting back in the day.
French influence perhaps? Romanticism as well. Because in the museums we went to, there were a lot of love letters written by Vietnamese prisoners to their lovers that had beautifully crafted handwriting!

It was just one day in Hue before....

We were to head to Danang!
BY TRAIN OF COURSE!!
It was here at the train station when we met a funky China man who talked to us....
Seeing that we looked Chinese, (heck we ARE chinese), he spoke to us in Mandarin asking if there was any way to get from here to.... Bangkok. And we're like, yo bro, this is Vietnam yo. Bangkok is in Thailand farther South, do you know where in the world you are?

Turned out, he didn't. He had NO CLUE where he was. We had to tell him that he was in Hue, which is in the middle of Vietnam. After talking to him for a while, we became suspicious of where this guy came from. No bagpack, no PASSPORT (he had no freakin passport), and for god's sake, probably even no wallet. WHAT is this guy?!?! I can't........ So when we asked, how in the world he got here from China, especially since it's the MIDDLE of Vietnam and China is up north. He said, "走". Wtf? Did the man say ZOU? ZOU???? After I clarified with him with a bewildered look, he reiterated "对啊,走"

HE WALKED. THE MOFO WALKED FROM CHINA TO VIETNAM. For a few days if I remember correctly, Sianpei please corroborate. I don't mean to be rude for calling him a mofo, but I was just gobsmacked because if he was telling the truth......... and I actually do think he was telling the truth because here's what happened next.

We didn't want to give up on this man. We wanted to help him find his way to Neverland aka Bangkok-land haha. So, we told him that he needed to get a ticket to Ho Chi Minh, at the least, and fly by plane to Thailand thereafter. But he facepalmed himself and exclaimed, "飞机?? 哇好贵!" "Wah, airplane? So expensive!) Sianpei and I exchanged looks cos dude, of course you HAVE to. Unless you wanna follow Sianpei and I to get to Bangkok together? (lol, hell no) So we pointed to the ticket counter and told him to get a train ticket. But guess what??? GUESS WHAT???

He put a finger to his lips and said "shh.." and pointed to the train.

Yes all of us normal citizens waiting to board a train.



But he. He slippin' inside bro. He da MVP. He just breakin' all the rules.
One minute he was talking to us. The next minute we lost him. No shit. He slipped into one of the carriages or tanks carrying goods. As we slowly walked towards our own carriage, I told Sianpei, I want to keep an eye on that man. But we lost sight of him and that was it.

Our theory was that he somehow managed to escape the system and found his way from China all the way to Vietnam by foot and through these trains by very dubious means. Sneaky fella this one.

A very funny + queer encounter indeed. I hope he found Bangkok eventually. Cos he told us he wanted to find work there. Maybe that was why we felt the need to help him, he was a wanderer looking for a place to settle.

Back to our train ride to Danang,

Everyone facing one another.
I took this photo because everyone - tourists and locals were all sharing a moment watching Just for Laughs on that television screen. Laughter is universal.
Gorgeous sea view :-)
Sianpei was reading a book about a man who travelled round the world and he took this train route to get to Danang too.
Hello Danang!

Danang is quite developed, and feels like the industrial land of Vietnam or something. It has a whole lot of wholesale shops. And I think it had a lot of resources too like Jade.

Hiked a bit at the Jade mountains~



The top! With the ocean behind us :D
Champions
Happy_gal_92
(with torn jeans from motorbike fall in myanmar heh)

are we outta the woods?
It was here where we encountered a family of Singaporeans. Parents with two young children - they were massively protective of them young ones. "Didn't I tell you that you must hold my hand? You cannot let go. Why you let go? How many times must I tell you?"

Asian parenting... But then again I guess they're being extra cautious since they're out of the country.

Steamboat for dinner!!!!!
DAMN SHIOK. THIS WAS... I dunno if it was the best but steamboat in cold weather always works fine and dandy with me

We also walked a whole lot~ cos Danang boasts quite a nice night view...



That's Dragon Bridge.
No kiddin.
As you can tell, I'm very amazed by the bridge
The hostel at Danang was really clean and nice - I forgot what it's called but it's the nearest one to the train station. We try to stay at places close to where we arrive so that we save on transport costs and makes it easier to locate them without wifi.

I'm about to finish the first part of our SEA trip, but just before that.... A little teaser for Hoi An ;)

Here's Hoi An! (Everyone says it's amazing so doh we had to go there~)

Food first of course. This was their version of chee cheong fun

Lovin these markets

Sianpei leading you round the bend to a mystical place....

BALE WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When people knew we were heading to Hoi An, they said THIS was a must-try.
And try we did.....
It's super yums! Something like popiah but better. Like popiah, you've to make it yourself with veges and taogeh and stuff but this one has meat on sticks - like from satay then you transfer  And worth the moolah. Although it's super touristy, I thought it was really worth it because it's not like they didn't give a lot?

Night scene...


And I'll leave you now. Wait up for the second post ;-)

The adventure isn't over yet....

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