Saturday, October 14, 2006

28th September - 6th October (The tropical storm)

There were a few people going to the same hotel as us as we got off the train in Hue; the older aussie couple who i'd met Monday and a young NZ couple, Oscar and Fleur. Daz and I arranged to share a car and driver to go to Vinh Moc tunnels, it cost us 10 dollars each and it was great to explore the tunnels in such a small group at our own pace instaed of being with a bus load of people in these confined spaces. Vinh Moc's tunnels are not as famous or extensive as those at Cu Chi near Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC) and they have more headroom despite not having been altered much to suit tourists (unlike Cu Chi). Some say Vinh Moc tunnels are better although having seen pictures from Cu Chi i wish i had gone there as well. In both cases, people lived for sometimes months and years underground, babies were born and raised here and resistance launched from here - it's pretty amazing to see.

On the way back, our car was stopped by police and we thought we might get a taste of police corruption and have to hand over money, we had no idea what was going on as they took our driver away for a few minutes, it turned out to be a speeding ticket.

The next morning we shared a car with the NZ couple again to visit three temples - the weather switching between baking sun, overcast, and pouring rain. We took the tourist bus to Hoi An and checked in to the hotel 'Hai au' that Declan had recommended. The Aussie and NZ couples were there as well. It was a little out of the town but the room and staff were nice. 13 dollars per room. Hoi an is famous for it's cheap tailored suits which Daz was keen to arrange, I don't wear suits as often as Daz and hadn't planned to get one but they were really cheap and looked great so I decided to replace my 'Suits You' suit that i have been wearing to all smart gatherings for the past ten years with my own tailored suit costing 45 dollars which Daz was good enough to take back to dear old blighty for me. Daz got 2 suits, one the same material as mine and we looked well smart. I hope i don't lose or gain too much weight before i go home or I'll end up looking like a sack of spuds for baby Casey's christening! During our time in Hoi an we checked out all the happening bars and restaurants and played a bit of pool. Silver tongued Daz soon got friendly with an American girl called Jess.

In the pouring rain, Daz and I took a bus to My Son, the site of ancient Cham relics from 8th to 13th centuries, temples living areas etc almost totally destroyed by US bombs which pissed me off a bit as it is something of a recurring theme! With news of a bad storm approaching, Daz and I had a nice steak and chips for lunch as there were rumours that everything would be closed later. Daz, Jess and I managed to find a bar with a generator and we stayed there until late. As we left the storm was picking up but the moped riders were still there to take us to our hotel.

The storm hit big time at about 02.00, the window shutters were banging in the wind and a little water was coming in under the balcony door. We fastened the shutters and got our bags off of the floor and with earplugs in I went back to sleep. We awoke at 08.00 with the bedroom flooded, the hotel was full of water, there was a big hole in the roof and a river running down the stair wells - there was no electric or phones. I helped the staff mop water for a while (I have a lot of training for this!) but it was pretty futile. Lots of people helped and the friendly staff were constantly smiling and helpful. I spoke to a girl who was desperate to get to her family home near the beach and was worried about her family - she later told me they were fine but there home was ruined. The hotel gave us noodles and by 11.00 it had died down enough for us to go and inspect the damage - lots of damaged roofs,

trees down and flooding but it was good to see how quickly the Vietnamese people went about sorting everything out and opening their shops again, most without electric. In the evening the hotel provided us with more free food, we went out for drinks at an excellent bar with good music and taught Daz and Jess 'shithead' which I ruled at, i also beat Daz at table footy which left him demoralised and wondering why i am so good at everything! The hotel was locked when we got back so I shouted up to Oscar's room and he came and let us in which was a relief as the streets were pretty wet!

Not surprisingly, our flight to Nha Trang was cancelled and there were no buses - we were forced to stay in Hoi An a while longer and revise Darrens carefully laid plans, booking flights to HCMC for 58 dollars each, but Hoi An is a nice place to be stranded and the sun came out for a bike ride to the beach. The sea was pretty rough and deposited loiads of storm debris on the beach in the afternoon which the locals went about sorting through and clearing up. In the evening the streets were noisier than before and all the restaurants were busy. Kids everywhere were doing the dragon dance to the sound of a loud beating drum.

At the airport check-in, the electricity generator failed and i expected massive delays to result but all was ok. We arrived in HCMC in pouring rain and flooding. The next morning Daz, Jess and I took a bus to Mui Ne beach where it was hot and sunny, we found a nice place by the sea (Hiep Hoa resort), went for a nice lunch (tuna steak), put on sun cream, poured with rain so sorted out my emails and banking. We all went for happy hour cocktails and played some doubles pool.

The next day the weather kept changing, we did boogie boarding, ate lunch by the sea (barracuda in spicy coconut sauce) and Daz tried to teach Jess and I the basics of surfing - it was hard work but we both managed to stand up on the board and i enjoyed it enough to want to try again in Oz. In the evening we went to a fantastic restaurant where i had BBQ seabass for 5 dollars. We went for happy hour cocktails and played pool doubles against some annoying drunk lads, one annoyed Daz by standing over the pocket he was aiming for so I finished off with a well cocky 'colour of money' shot staring straight at the lad - he wasn't amused.

I decided to stay a bit longer in Mui Ne, Daz and Jess were due to leave on an 09.00 bus for HCMC which was cancelled due to a breakdown. They ended up getting a 55 dollar taxi to make sure Daz could get his 14.00 flight. As soon as they left the sun came out and i had a sweltering day on the beach. Sampled some street food, stamed dough balls with a minced pork and egg filling, not bad.

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