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Going back in time a few days, I still need to tell you about Halong Bay.
Me and Dean went together to Halong city with the local bus, a slow start with an hectic ride which took 5 hours instead of the promised 3,5 but we survived. After being randomly dropped of on the high way, we got a motorbike taxi to bring us to a hotel. Wow, this city is ugly! But ok, we didn’t plan to stay here longer than a night, so picked a fancy but cheap hotel.

The next day we got an a boat for 2 days and 1 night. Being in great company of 2 canadian women, we started that day with a nice but really small lunch (aka “anyone still got some food left on their plate, because than I would love to eat that as well”). Followed by a visit to a cave which was beautiful. Bummer that they’ve put neon coloured lights and fake fountains in their though. (that’s where the asians are world champions in, making everything tacky and kitschy by using fake and cheap materials).
The Bay is just stunning, with the carst mountains popping out of the sea everywhere you can look. Unfortunately it was a grey and cold day, so the view wasn’t as good as it can get and so the photo’s aren’t that great as well. But ok. After the visit to the cave we went on a small row boat to visit to ‘lakes’ in the sea, which where totally stunning! A few 100meters further I got in a kayak with Marlee to cruise around some carsts ourselves too. Ending the day with dinner, which was the same as the lunch (yes and the same amount as well), karaoke and the hilarious skills of Dean dancing and singing around on the boat. Well I thought that would be the end of the day, unfortunately it didn’t stop when I went to bed, since there was a massive rat in my bedroom. So staying up all night staring at the ceiling hoping this rat wasn’t gonna eat my stuff or worse ME, the first night sucked.
The next day was sunny, well the weather was sunny, the atmosphere on the boat wasn’t. Getting up at 7.30 (well I was still awake, so wasn’t that big of a problem) we got breakfast and had to check out of our rooms right after, which was pretty weird. Dropped some people of at Cat Ba Island, and had to say goodbye to Dean since he stayed there. Than the fighting began. The staff trying to let us pay for more drinks than we actually had, and not giving our passports back If we didn’t pay for it. People getting double rooms instead of single. RATS! Trying to skip the lunch we payed for, and so on and on. With me almost fighting the bartender who refused to give back my drive-license and insinuating to actually hit me in the face. Na-a, not gonna happen.
After getting of the boat at 12 ( yeah you wouldn’t call that ‘a full day 2’) we waited for 1,5 hour more for our lunch and bus back to Han Oi, which made us all really cranky, and forgetting about the fact that we actually were in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world!
Conclusion, Halong Bay is beautifull, seeying the flaoting villages, enjoying the landscape, kayaking, getting on row boats, but the tours just suck (unfortunately there’s now way out, since you will get lost sailing a boat yourself through this bay).

Back in Han Oi we took the bus to Ninh Bihn, to spend the night and the next day there. Did a really nice motorbike ride to a national park. After getting 5 wrong directions from local people (they rather give you a random or wrong direction, than actually admit they just don’t know) a guy on a motorbike helped us finding the way and eventually found the park, yeay! Went to see the monkey’s, and had to get back quickly before it would become dark. The landscapes we drove trough were amazing, especially with the sunset, rice fields, graveyards in the middle of the rice fields, carst mountains, cows, children playing on the streets and so on.

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© by Hyperjulia

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© by Hyperjulia

These are photo’s I made while driving the motorbike to a national park and back. We couldn’t really stay in the park itself for long because we had to get back before it turned dark because there now lights next to the road, so we only spend an hour in the national park to see some monkey (unfortunately in cages :( ) But the drive back to town was amazing with the sun descending down behind the carst mountains.

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Comfort zone.. I guess they’ve never heard of that before…

Right now, in the bus to Hoi An I’m writing this post. Just left Hué, which was a quite nice and alive city. This week the biennial took place in this town, so it was much more busy than it normally is. We’ve checked it out on the first night. It came down to folklore dancing from different countries like the abborigionals, Indian, Venezuelan and Mongolian dancing on several different stages in the ‘Imperial city’ (citadel). This royal park we visited during the day as well, which was kinda nice. Finally saw an Elephant now for the first time on this trip! Jeej, my highlight of that day.

I’m btw traveling on my own again now, left Minne and Thomas and my English friends about a week ago, to really stand on my own feet. And until now it has been great. Traveling from Halong Bay to Hue and now to Hoi An with a Danish couple, an american and a mexican who are really nice and fun co backpackers.

Yesterday me and Jess went to this market ‘ ‘, the lonely planet told us you could get anything there, so that kind of sounded good to us. We decided to take a boat to cross the river. The boat happened to be someone’s house at the same time.
Funny thing to tell btw; all the stores, hotels, stalls, everything is their work and their home at the same time. You’ll see people sleeping in front of their stuff they’re selling, little children playing and sleeping in the back of the stores, baby-beds in the middle of store or restaurants, and they even just sleep on the couch or a cod in the foyer of their hotel. So they actually don’t really have a house. Getting up around 6 in the morning they start working, and stop working when they go to bed. Pretty hardcore!
Well to get back to this market, I wouldn’t wanna have missed this for a thousand! It was really impressive, entering the market from the riverside at the seafood section, finding alive fish, crabs and shells in baskets, the floor covered with disgusting muddy liquid. Which was followed by the shoe section, fruit, vegetables, tupperware, porcelain, clothing, flowers, dried fish, herbs, and so on and on. It’s a massive market with even in the clothing section a second floor, and really really narrow pathways. Chaos, and if you don’t like people grabbing your arms and dragging you to their store asking you what you would like to pay for something, this isn’t the right place for you. Comfort zone.. I guess they’ve never heard of that before.
Think the staff of ‘men at work’ is annoying with trying to sell you clothing, well that’s nothing comparing to the way they try to help you here.

While still enjoying the view outside in between writing this post, I’m surprised by the way they treat the nature. In a bad way though, you see trash Everywhere. Plastic bags, bottles, wraps, everybody just trows it on the street, in the river or in the bushes.
Next to that, the bus ride is actually very enjoyable, driving past rice fields, the train-track (there’s only one that goes from the north to the south) mountains, small villages with colourful little houses and banana-tree fields.

Looking forward to Hoi An, hopefully getting to see the sea again, do some souvenir shopping and enjoy the nightlife that seems to be really good there.

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During my trip I’ve been dragging my SLR camera with me almost everywhere. I love to make pictures of the locals, especially the kids. They’re beautiful and really adorable, and they love to be photographed. They come run up to you when you enter their village, or if they’re shy, stare at from the side of the road and wave at you. And than they start posing for the camera like they’re used to it, but still impressed by the weird black thing with a glass round thing on there you’re holding in your hand and making pictures with. Trying to get it from you and try to see the pictures you just made of them, because they really want to see them before you take off.
Well, Here is a sellection of some portrait shots I took in Laos.

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© by Hyperjulia

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In my previous post I told  you I had to head to Vietnam. Well.. plans changed again, figured I had 30 days in Laos instead of the 15 I thought. So I decided to come with Minne, Thomas, Dean and Tariq to some small primitive villages. We did some boat trips to get there and if it was nice! So glad I came with them. Laos has its best view and landscapes seen from the water I think. Traveling on a slow boat with around 20 people and only 6 chairs, although not comfortable a very nice experience. 2 of the 3 villages (Muang Ngoi & Muang Khuoa) we visited didn’t have electricity during the day, only 3 hours in the evening. That means silence and pitch blackness at 11 o’clock in the evening. Played some cards together with candle light and slept in our cute little wooden huts/bungalows under our pink princes mosquito nets.

Leaving these little villages after a nice trek tour through the jungle and wandering around in a Hmong village, we’re now in Vietnam after a very funny and weird bus trip. We choose the get a sleeper bus to Han Oi in the evening. It’s a bus with only beds (made for small Asian people off course, which wasn’t very pleasant for my co-travelers hihi) but it’s one big mess. They let more people on the bus than possible (well for European rules and thoughts), 4 people on 2 mattresses (which obviously not fits, so one Hmong woman figured she could use my feet and legs as a pillow) and the floors were covered with people picked up on the way. Crazy and the smell and temperature a bus than gets.. well you can probably imagine yourself.

Getting out of the bus, we got sort of attacked by all the taxi and motorbike drivers trying to get money from you and bring you to a hotel or something. You really need to stay very friendly and have to say at least ‘no’ for 50 times before they give up. It gets quite annoying if people grab you by the arm for a taxi or whatever without actually asking or looking for anything. But guess that’s the thing you need to learn to ignore and live with.

Han Oi is a very big and chaotic city. The streets are covered with scooters, bikes and taxi’s trying to rip you off, as well as they try (and often succeed) in restaurants. The city kind of has its French/Parisian looks but the billboards with Asian commercials, karaoke bars, neon lights and bike taxi’s really reminds you of being in South East Asia.

This is my 4th week I’m traveling, and already my 3rd country! I’m planning to travel trough Vietnam a little slower and take around 2 to 3 weeks to get to the south followed by Cambodia. The homesickness is starting to disappear bits by bits every day. And the fact that it’s already almost a month I’m traveling and I only have around 2,5 left, makes it easier. That doesn’t mean I still miss you all there!

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It took me a while to actually have the guts to buy food on the streets..

So a week has pasted, and so did I already pass another border. Jup after 5 days in Thailand staying in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I’m now in Laos.
Bangkok has been quite hectic and stressful. It’s so busy, many tourists, tuktuk’s, taxi’s, scooters and people who try to sell you stuff are everywhere. So after 3 days wandering around town, visiting a massive shopping mall to get my phone fixed (which didn’t actually work after waiting for 4 hours) walking trough Chinatown and walking on and around Khao San road, I left for Chiang Mai.
Rented a bike over here, and cycled trough town visiting a lot of Wat’s (Buddhist temples). Kinda nice, because that way it’s easy to just take your own plan and end up wherever you want to. With a map and some Thai people who speak a little English you’ll find the way back quite easily. I even found some super nice second-hand/vintage stores, that are actually quite similar with the ones we have in Europe, no money and place in my bag to buy anything though haha. Massive shopping diet here!

Well now in Laos I’m with Thomas and Minne. I decided to meet op with them and skip some stuff in Thailand. I wasn’t feeling very good, because it had such an impact on me and all alone, I guess it was just to much. So meeting up with them and going to some more quite places seemed to be a good plan for me. And so it does, and was a good plan. We’re staying in Vientiane for 3 days (which is actually quite small for a capital city). Going on a scooter trip tomorrow to a Buddha Park 25km out of the city. I think that’s going to be a nice adventure :) me riding on a scooter for the first time hihihih

After a week I’m almost used to the differences here in Asia. It took me a while to actually have the guts to buy food on the streets (at the food stalls) and eat it on a small table next to the busiest roads ever as well. To get used to the toilets, and beds that feel like they’re made from wood or something, and the hygiene (that’s almost nowhere to be found). You see cats, dogs, cockroaches, rats, mice en insects everywhere! But guess you just have to ignore that and go for it. Food is quite nice though, but some western food from time to time tastes great as well! haha.

So leave vientianne in 2 days to go to Vang Vieng, and after that, I’ll still have to decide. Dom’y know yet, Han Oi or the south of Laos. Well, guess you’ll find that out in a while in my next post.

Miss you all there my friends!

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