HYPERJULIA

Writing from Cambodia right now, with Ben Howard trough my earphones, rain outside and surrounded by people reading books or skyping with friends and family.
Left Vietnam behind me last friday morning (27th).
3 days back I left Saigon and my backpacker friends form California, Mexico and Denmark, to visit Can Tho, a city in the Mekong Delta. I took a local bus, found a cheap guesthouse after some help from a local, and went for a walk trough the city. Had some gin-tonics in the evening with an English/Malaysian guy and an English backpacker. The next morning I got up at 5 in the morning to get on a little boat to visit the floating market, a rice noodle factory and back trough the little canals. Absolutely stunning, and really relaxing!
My plan was to take a bus from there to the border, Chau Doc, and get a boat from there to Phnom Penh, but unfortunately that was way to expensive, so took the cheaper solution and went back to Saigon for 1 more night. Although the travel and sitting in a bus is easy (but really boring without Ipod, jup lost my earplugs) it wasn’t much fun. Getting off the bus and instantly being attacked by taxi motorbike drivers is kind of normal here. Although this time it was a bit freighting. I was circled, wasn’t able to grab my backpack and put it on my back. The taxi drivers grabbed my bag and tried to get it to their motorbikes. After a while of cursing and pushing the drivers away I got to my bag. A local came up to me and yelled I had to get on some shuttle bus… jumped in and took off. Later a guy on the bus apologized and told me he was afraid of the taxi drivers as well and therefor didn’t help me when I was circled. He fixed me a cheap motorbike taxi at the next stop that brought me to the hostel.
And so from there I took the bus to Phnom Penh the next morning. And as many times said before, it never goes without flaws. AGAIN. This time trouble with money, and ended up not getting my passport back from this really stubborn and mean guy. Eventually after screaming and cursing to each other, a really nice french lady helped me out with dollars and got the passport. Wow that raised my stress level to red… Seriously fed up with the scams and corruption here! Maybe I’ll just leave sooner than my plan, and just go to Indonesia earlier, hiding on the beach and in the water from all that rubbish.
Right now I’m just hanging around in the lobby of the hostel. The rain season has started and so most afternoons are rainy. It’s kind of cozy here though with couches in the lobby and people just chilling out here, so I’m most of the time in good company.

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© by Hyperjulia

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Asian people where staring at us from the outside like we where monkeys…

We reached another busy city, just like Bangkok and Han Oi.. Saigon. The correct name for the city now is Ho Chi Minh City, named after their ‘hero’, when the war ended. But I prefer Saigon, little shorter and easier hihi.
So we arrived in Saigon 2 days back with the sleeper bus, which again was a nightmare. Shouldn’t go on an 11hr during bus ride when you’re still sick but ok. Again survived it and caught up some sleep in the morning in our 9 bed dorm (with a really nice seat, 2 showers and much more).
Saigon on a sunday is nice. Not that much traffic, not that many stalls and people on the street… But that certainly is different on normal weeks day like this monday. And so we went for a very long walk from district 1 to Chinatown, and that didn’t go without flaws. Actually the day already started off weird. I wanted to get some breakfast, but when I came down and wanted to leave the hotel, the gates where locked. No idea what was going, there wasn’t any other way to get out of the hotel, so guess I just had to wait. Asian people where staring at us from the outside like we where monkeys, and after 10 min our hotel boss (which for sure isn’t the most nicest woman) returned with a big smile on her face. She just went for some groceries, and couldn’t care about us having to go somewhere, so she just thought she could lock us in….. Well alright?!
Had some breakfast eventually and went for the walk to Chinatown as I said before. Crossing the streets here isn’t as easy as in Europe or western countries at least. They do have crosswalks, but nobody stops for them if you want to cross, even if you’re already on the middle of the street. So with millions of motorbikes and taxi’s driving like fools on the road, you have to find the perfect moment to cross, or just walk.. ‘the Amalie’ method. And that sometimes doesn’t really work. The first big flaw, were 2 guys on a motorbike trying to steal Amalie’s bag. They did grab it, but she was stronger, “M*ther f*cker”. Flaw number one. Than when we almost reached the market in Chinatown, we had to cross one more road. Amalie as the first to cross, steps on the road an instantly hits a motorbike driver, and both end up laying on the street. Well eventually, nobody was hurt or wounded and the motorbike still worked, so survived flaw number two.
Had lunch at KFC, omg my first KFC burger in my life, and the first junkfood in 1,5 month. And of course wondered around the market in Chinatown, which eventually just was another market like you have them everywhere, with pilled up shoes, clothing, towels, food… and rats.

I haven’t been talking many pictures here in this city unfortunately, because I don’t feel really save walking around with my SLR on the street. So just took it with me for 1 day.

Today, we’re just going to wonder around another market again, to find some souvenirs. Saw some really nice big necklaces, where I’ve been searching for from day 1 of my trip, so really need to get myself one of those.
Leaving Saigon tomorrow morning to head to the Mekong Delta, and than have to hurry to Cambodia because my visa runs out in 5 days!

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After some quality -beach, eating, tailoring, sunbathing, sleeping and wondering around – time, we left Hoi An after 5 days. With pain in our hearts, because we all loved this town very much. Unfortunately, the rest of Vietnam isn’t like this, so we had to get back into the towns and cities stuffed with motorbikes, cars and street sellers again.
And so we took the sleeper bus to Nha Trang. Well not much sleeping for me because of the bumby roads that kept launching me in the air. But well and awake around 5 in the morning, looking out the window while the sun was rising, I’ve absolutely seen the most beautiful landscapes and scenery. Endless rice-fields, crowds of fishermen boats, small fruit markets, clouds covering the tops of the mountains, funny looking huts and so on.
I expected Nha Trang to be a village with the most beautiful beach of Vietnam and some nice bars, but it’s not. Well it does have a ‘nice’ beach and bars, but it’s big! And it has loads of hotels, skyscrapers and not that much cultural stuff to see actually.
The first day started off quite well, had some nice beach time in the morning, wondered around in the afternoon and went for drinks, where I ended up dancing and getting free drinks all night long, forgetting I had to get up again at 8 in the morning again for a ‘booze cruise’. Well a booze cruise from 8.30 to 4.30 can’t be really a ‘booze cruise’ as we expected. We did have some nice (hungover) time, snorkeling, sleeping on the beach, jumping off the boat, and getting a private concert by Asians dressed up as lady boys, and weird dancing Russian women. But unfortunately the fun ended after lunch when I was getting (sea)sick, and eventually ended up having a bad fever. So from 2 days back until now, I’m skipping the free buckets, cocktails, shots and sunbathing time and unfortunately have to trade it for eating bread with jam (yes as dinner), salads and my bunk bed from where I’m writing this right now. It wasn’t my plan to stay in Nha Trang for more than 2 nights, but didn’t think it was a good idea to get on a bus to Saigon for 11 hours this night while style having stomach aches, head aches and fever. So taking the bus tomorrow evening and just keep hanging and sleeping around here in Nha Trang and hopefully feel better tomorrow!
Found out today that I only have 9 days left on my 30 days visa (wow, my plan was to be here for 2/3 weeks, but it’s going to be almost a month eventually). So Saigon is still on the planning to visit next (had to skip Dalat as next destination) and than probably one village in the Mekong Delta and than have to move on Cambodia (yeah, looking forward to that as well!)

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Some party pics from Hoi An

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HOI AN I LOVE YOU!
Love at first sight when entering this city in the ‘old town’. Wondered around the first day to look around for some nice souvenirs, hand made and tailored clothing and food. What a great place. It’s peaceful, quite, charming, colourfull and just lovely. No busy traffic anywhere here, just a few motorbikes and some bicycles that’s all. There’s music on the street, it’s next to the sea river with cute little restaurants and boats. The beach is only a 15min bike ride away, and so we went there yesterday on our 1$ bikes with our hotel towels and banana’s. Wow, this beach must be the beach they use for the wallpapers everywhere, so white and clean, white palm-trees and bright green/blue water.
After 2 days of shopping, eating, wondering around and biking, it was time for some action and sight seeing again. So we went to the Marble Mountains.
They used to be the mountains where they got the marble stone from for the buddha statues etc, but it became popular under tourists to visit, so these days they just get the marble from China (haha, yeah cheaters). But, they made a good choice stopping to get the marble from these mountains, because it absolutely gorgeous here! On the biggest mountain, there are many buddha’s in and outside the small but beautiful caves, little temples, pagoda’s and stupas. The view from the top was just amazing! Looking out over Danang, the beach and carst mountains in the sea.
Totally saturated by everything we saw, we went back to get a bike again and hang out at the beach. Later the evening I tried out the skirt and top I got myself tailored in one of the shops here. Hope it’s going to be perfect!

*update* the skirt and top are perfect! So maybe I’ll try to get some outfit photo’s and make an outfit post soon.

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© by Hyperjulia

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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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