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Joc's Journeys

a travel blog by GoBlue

Business school set an incredibly high quality of life bar, but upcoming travels aren't so bad either. The greatness of 2007 continues!

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On our way!

Los Angeles, United States

After a fantastic weekend celebrating the upcoming Levy/Sullivan union, we are now on the way to Sydney! Although slightly tired, we are still basking in the memories of an excellent 48 hours spent reuniting with already-missed business school friends and getting to know other cool people in Brian and Maggie's lives. Field day games were a blast (Go Jews!), my partner Carolyn and I won the beer die tournament, and it was an all-in-all grand time. All the best to the bride and groom!!!!

Next stop: Sydney!

permalink written by  GoBlue on May 13, 2007 from Los Angeles, United States
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Sydney, Australia

Sydney is awesome - what a start to the trip! We successfully made it here on Tuesday morning (after 32 hours of travel!), catching up with my family at their hotel by 10am. We spent the day catching up with each other while jaunting out to the Blue Mountains, a national park north of the city. Beautiful forest walks and frequent meals worked relatively well staving off the jetlag, and Chris' water polo game was a fine end to the day.

Yesterday we took a walk through the Botanical Gardens - gorgeous, but also with some pretty spectacular flora and fauna, including trees with hundreds of fruit bats in them and giant spiders. We also wandered along the Harborfront to the opera house - officially one of my favorite buildings.

Family left for the airport around noon, and Carl and I indulged in a nice workout at the hotel facilities, then left the paradise of the Intercontinental and settled into backpacker mode, schlepping across the city to our hostel, which is ... not the Intercontinental. Shared bathroom, double bed with a single bed adjacent (literally, one full sleeping space - weird) and then about a foot of walk space on two sides with a little sink in the corner. An adjustment; however, we can stay here for 1 week for the same price as 1 night at the intercontinental - tradeoffs...

Last night we had dinner with my brother and his friends in China Town - good fun, ok food. The Irish pub afterwards did us all in though, and we're a little sluggish today. Agenda for the next few days: surfing, Manly beach national park, another trip to the Blue Mountains, wine country tour and more city wanderings.

permalink written by  GoBlue on May 16, 2007 from Sydney, Australia
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Happy Birthday to Me! ;)

Bali, Indonesia

Holy cow, it’s been a long time since I’ve “blogged”! At last…

First, Happy Birthday to me! ;) Yes, today (the 31st) I turn the big 3-0. While I found that yesterday I was not all that enthusiastic about it being my “last day as a twenty-something”, today I am fine – no more aches and pains than usual, and although I temporarily forgot my login password, I think it’s more the heat than senility.

Updates since my last blog:

Carl and I part II in Sydney after Mom, Dad and Theo left: Maddy, Dave, and Dave’s luggage finally arrived all in one piece, and we enjoyed some more walking around Sydney, visited the zoo, and had a few fun dinners (including homemade fajitas one night). We also hit Manly Beach, a famous one, and rightfully so. There I discovered that despite being a fairly proficient body surfer, I have no surfing talent whatsoever.

We also went on a wine tour (thanks to Chris for organizing). I think this was covered in Carl’s blog – “highlights” included our destroyed fan belt adventures (leading to driving back in the dark), some good wine tasting, and (the winner) koala and kangaroo feeding and petting. (See http://youtube.com/watch?v=CQdC4vWIxDw for a particularly entertaining clip of Matt and the roos). That was a great day. I would have liked to have had more time in Sydney (and with Chris, specifically – fun catching up with the bro). Melbourne was calling though, so we moved on…

Melbourne was fantastic, though as with Sydney, I wish we had another few days – or even a week, in this case. The climbing was fantastic, but unfortunately we only got three days of it. We stayed at the Emu Holiday Park, which was quite something in and of itself (see below), ate extremely well (fajitas, Indian curry, pasta parts I and II), and in general had a great time. Highlights of the Melbourne trip include:

Driving on the left: Quite an experience. In my opinion, definitely made easier by the fact that the steering wheel is on the right (so the whole experience is backwards), but required some verbal self-coaching (“left left left left”) at first.

Climbing: Awesome. The first day was at the Grampians, and despite arriving to find 3 groups of ~50 kids each on our target climbs, we had a great day, getting all 5 of us (Jennie had not yet arrived) up “Waxman”, a great beginner climb. We then found another nice area with another “easy” one and a ~5.8/9. The next day we returned earlier, but still didn’t beat the kids so settled on a third “instructional area” that turned out to be great – I did my first trad lead in about 5 years and quite enjoyed it.

We picked up Jennie that afternoon and the following day went to Arapiles for a multi-pitch climb. “Connifer Crack” ended up being quite a bit harder than we’d anticipated (great job Jennie for getting through that rather stout “warm-up” climb after a year off of climbing!). As expected with any 6-person multi-pitch effort, we had some adventures including a rope-stuck-on-a-tree toss, one particularly difficult crux, and no obvious rappel rings. However, we got through it and in the end I really enjoyed myself. We had one short rappel on our improvised down-climb that was particularly fun – kind of like spelunking.

That was all the climbing we did, and I have to say I have the itch – can’t wait for Thailand and Vietnam!

Kangaroo Tales: Turns out to most Australians, kangaroos are like deer in the US: prevalent pests that make driving at night treacherous. They are, however, amazing animals!

Our first exposure to them happened our first night at Emu Holiday Park. Carl and I went back with Vicki, one of our hosts, to check on some linens. In the course of the walk from our cottage to the house, she told us more about her rescue efforts (they are a refuge for all local animals, except snakes (Vicki doesn’t like snakes)). She generally tries to raise orphaned roos in twos and threes so they have friends and are properly socialized, and right now she has two: Peg and Logan. Peg and Logan were the best ever! Vicki brought them out in their pillow case sacks (where they sleep and in general hang out) and we got to hold them. So cute, alert, energetic, shy…in general, captivating.
Other points of note:
• Logan is a “bag boy” – ever so much more comfortable in his pillow case sack than out of it. We approached them one morning and he and Peg saw us, freaked a bit, and started leaping giant half-circles around the group. Vicki then opened a pillowcase and called Logan, and he tumbled in head-first in a summersault at full tilt. Very funny.
• Peg was orphaned in a car accident (like them all as far as I can tell) in which her mother was killed and her right front paw was broken. She needed surgery to put some wires into it, a surgery that was quoted at up to $1600. Vicki splinted the foot as a temporary fix, then called around to try to get someone to do it for cheaper. She finally found a place on the other side of Melbourne that would do it for free, so she packed Peg into the car for the 6-hour drive there. X-rays showed, however, that Peg’s foot had mended well under Vicki’s split, so no surgery was needed – go Vicki! Peg was still pretty stressed by the trip, however, and got sick. She and Logan are now both on antibiotics, though, and doing quite well. Vicki says that all told it takes ~$400 to raise an orphaned roo until it is ready for release.
• Vicki and Alan have been doing their rescue efforts for 9 years and have never turned away an orphaned roo. (That’s what they mostly have, though they also get wallabies, emus, wombats, etc.). They have thus raised many roos, many of which come back to help with the next batch. For example, Cal and Jack, who were released a few months ago, come back about once a week and take Peg and Logan out for the night, then bring them back in the morning. When one of their roos gets pregnant for the first time, the female comes back to show their "parents", knocking on the front door with her front paws, and then when Vicki or Alan opens the door opening her pouch to show them.
• Male roos watch the little ones too, though the joey of one of their graduates was recently left with a young buck longer than the buck cared for, so he knocked on the front door with the little one in tow, and when Vicki opened it he took off and left the little one with her. Males, incidentally, can stand well over 6 feet when they’re full grown – huge!
• In the roo hierarchy, wallabies are way uncool, with the swamp wallaby being the lowest of the low; many other roos and wallabies won’t even acknowledge a swampie. Why are they so disrespected? “They fart (“faht”) a lot”, per Vicki.
• Roos are incredible animals. According to Vicki (some of these facts are so amazing that I would probably double-check them, but here they are nonetheless): the females mate once, but carry up to three embryos at one time. Male and female embryos must be kept at different temperatures in the body, and through this process the mom knows the sex of her embryos and can choose which one to have when (usually they have one at a time, but that's not a rule). The roo is the size of a jellybean when it’s born, at which point it climbs into the mom’s pouch.

The roo theme in general was a highlight of Melbourne. There were, however, some darker sides to it. The first night we had a near miss – I was driving, the road was through a national forest and very windy, and it was dusk/dark. I slowed down to about 20kph and we were all working to spot them (all told there were more than 15 sitings). One little guy nearly did it though, jumping about 3 feet in front of the passenger side bumper with no warning. Fortunately, I was “covering the brake” like we learned in drivering school and although everyone got quite a fright, no one was hurt. A few days later, however, as Carl was doing 20kph, a tour bus zoomed by us going 4 times that speed, and before its tail lights were out of site I spotted one on the side, looking strange at first, and then obviously hit a few seconds later. We make brief eye contact, and then as a group decided that we didn’t have enough information on diseases and aggressiveness to investigate in person, so we went straight to Alan and gave a report. He came back 45 minutes later with small good news: no joeys involved. However, the young male was dead when he arrived. Spread the word: Australia Adventure Tours is bad!!!!

The Great Ocean Road: Although Carl deemed it in the end a “good ocean road”, it was pretty spectacular (and I think with sun instead of rain would have been “great”). One of the highlights was thunder cave (Pop, I think you would have really liked the "whomp" noise of the water).

We saw some great sites and found a nice hotel where we enjoyed a night of relaxing, wine and cards. Highlights from the sites include:

Travel Stresses: Turns out Jet Star has a weight limit of 20 kgs per person (not per bag). Upon our first check-in, Carl and I were 27kg over, subject to an additional $100 charge each time we flew! Fortunately, perhaps because of the genuine shock on our faces or because the Chapmans had just checked in 15kgs each, we were able to put a lot more weight in our carry-ons and escaped the first charge. On our way to Bali, knowing that this would be an potential issue, we split up the weight more amongst the group. At first weighing, we were 8kgs over, but we asked the woman to redo it zeroing out for the plastic bins that they put all backpacks in. She politely asserted that it wouldn’t make a difference, but it did actually remove 6kgs, and with me carrying one of my clothes bags on, we made it through. Unfortunately, however, 5 minutes later my $50 awesome leatherman and our first aid kit scissors were confiscated in security – oversights from transferring into our carry-ons weight that would otherwise have been checked. I am still mourning the loss of my knife, but am trying to get over it.

Bali: So now we are here in Bali, an obviously southeast Asia country in the sense that our backpacker area is jam packed with hawkers of various cheap wares, tons of good food, tons of sketchy food, and relentless sun. The beachfront in our area is as long as I have ever seen, and later today I look forward to finishing my book (My Sister’s Keeper, which I started about 24 hours ago – amazing read), going in the ocean and getting a massage! Happy birthday indeed…

Tomorrow we fly to Yogyakarta (a town on another island that is rumored to have incredible temples). We return Saturday night for another day and a half of beach lounging, and then it's on to Bankok and then Chaing Mai. I can tell that this trip is going to go very quickly!!!

permalink written by  GoBlue on May 31, 2007 from Bali, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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Back from Yogya!

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Quick entry to let you all know that we are back from our 1-day jaunt to Yogyakarta ('Jogja' to the locals) after 2 amazing temples, 1 great art excursion, and enough C0 emissions to make us even more worried about the world's future!

Yogya was a great contrast to Bali: very few other tourists, no beach, great temples and an active volcano overlooking the city. Pictures to come, but the temples were stunning and our guide Eddie did a great job leading us through both the ruins and the spiritual, religious, philosophical and scientific underpinnings of Hinduism and Buddhism. We got up at 4:15 this morning to catch a sunrise-ish (turns out our information was false and we had to wait an extra 40 minutes until it was open) view of one of the temples. Several wanderings later and we are back in Kuta (Bali) with 1.5 more days ahead of us.

Tomorrow is either going to be a cultural tour or a day of beach, surfing, good eating and massages. Hmmm....

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 2, 2007 from Yogyakarta, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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"I got bit by a monkey" and other adventures

Bangkok, Thailand

The monkey adventure was in Ubud, on Bali. But I am getting ahead of myself...

We arrived last night in Bankok after another great location where upon departure we wished we had a few more days. The retrospective summary on Bali was that it was beautiful, though also in the stage of development where motorcycles are everywhere and the exhaust is a little overwhelming. Although the hawkers accosted us about every three steps, we each developed several different techniques for managing these situations, and all in all the trip was great.

After returning from Yogya, we did end up opting for the cultural excursion. First stop was some Balinese dancing, which was more of a theatrical performance set to incessant cultural music. Then we hit the monkey forest. While we had been expecting to need to search for the monkeys, it turns out they were everywhere! I continue to have camera difficulties, so Viv has most of the pictures, but in short there were 1-foot tall monkeys everywhere, and they were not at all phased by our presence. In fact, several were interested in grabbing whatever you were holding (in my case, my map, which I was loath to part with given that 1) I needed it and 2) I thought the little guy would probably eat it, and I didn't think that would be good for him). So the story unfolded as follows: I tugged back a bit, which was fun, and then when he grabbed my arm with his hand, I paused to marvel at how cool and smooth his skin was - reverie interrupted when he then munched down on my knuckles, holding on as I then lifted my hand (and thus him) off the ground slightly. He didn't break the skin though (I didn't pull away too quickly hoping that he would just release, and he did). So that was that adventure - fun in retrospect, but quite unexpected. The rest of the day involved touring some crafts markets, no biting there, and a Thai massage. Very nice.

Monday morning Carl and I rented surf boards and hit the beach. The first break of waves was 2-3 feet, the second 1.5-2 feet, the latter being on the larger side of a good step for us as beginners. We hacked around ourselves for a while while Viv watched from the beach and struck up a conversation with a fellow who eventually gave us a 30-minute lesson, which turned out to be quite helpful in that he corrected my board stance (too far back) and then pushed us into the waves so we had a few opportunites to ride waves without worrying about the challenge of catching them. We were pretty successful in the end, and it was quite a blast!

Today we did "Bangkok in one day": the Grand Palance, and three notable Wats.

Incredible. We spent the most time at the Grand Palace, learning from our guide about the architecture and meaning behind the various buildings. It's a mass of glass and gold plating that's astounding. The reclining Buddha was our second stop, also amazing, and then we enjoyed some adventures in pollution crossing the river and returning to our hotel. Next stop: another massage.

One PS on the birthday, by the way, for those of you who were tracking my 3-year long back handspring goal. Although the initial aspirations had been to "train" for the 3 years leading up to my birthday, I actually never got to try anything much more than a bridge. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go, with Carl's experienced spotting at my side. The results were effective, though not pretty and involved my head to a certain extent. Thus while according to Carl, I technically did it, it wasn't videotape-worthy. (For some reason my left arm was coming down in a weird way that caused it to buckle (without pain) whenever I hit, so I kept bopping my head slightly on that side). In terms of the original goal of proving to myself that just because I am 30 doesn't mean I am decrepit, I succeeded quite well this way - with no training, I almost did it well! Nonetheless, I am extending the goal period indefinitely at this point, until I can do them well and easily on my own. Fun times...

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 5, 2007 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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Elephants, Cliff Jumping and Rock Climbing - oh my!

Chiang Mai, Thailand

We've made it north to Chiang Mai now and are continuing to have a blast! We arrived Monday afternoon in time for some logistics and a settle-in evening. Carl and I got some great information from a local climbing company about a nearby crag called Crazy Horse Buttress. Tuesday, Carl, Viv and I headed out there to scout the climbing and had a fantastic day! We hitched a ride with two local guides and their one Finnish beginner. There were only two other people other than our group the entire day, there were no biting insects, the wall stayed shaded almost the whole day, and the climbing was fantastic. My forearms are pretty fried out from it, but it was a blast. Today the seven of us joined up for a mini trek that began with an elephant ride, involved brief tours of hill tribe villages, a 30-minute stay at the base of a gorgeous waterfall, and a 1-hour bamboo rafting jaunt the passed by a great cliff jumping spot. (Hopefully we are all parasite free after swimming in the river!). It was a great day...

Tomorrow we start our cooking class - exciting!

Hope to do more reflecting soon but need to switch over to Skype to deal with BankOne's inconveniences. Hope everyone is doing well!

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 8, 2007 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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Cooking School Graduation

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Back in Chiang Mai now after a few days at the cooking school - fantastic! I really like Thai food, and the school we chose was a great find (Vivian's friend had been there two years ago). The fellow who started the place (Sampon) is a renown cook around here, and he recently opened a resort nearby where we stayed. The school started around 11am (picked us up in the city the first day) and we cooked 5 dishes throughout the day. Each one was first demonstrated for us in an air conditioned classroom, and then we went to our own wok station and prepared and cooked the ingredients. Then we ate! (5 dishes, 4 different eating sessions - by the end I thought I was going to explode! The food was fantastic though, and I think I can replicate the recipes competently).

The resort was a great find too - it opened 3 weeks ago and wasn't quite fully complete. We were the biggest group to stay there yet, so Sompon was there the whole time to make sure it went well. He's a funny guy - doesn't smile much until he teases slightly, and then he breaks into a huge grin. I think he liked us, and we certainly were treated like royalty. He has a pool that we spent a lot of time in, the rooms were great, and when we finally were hungry (the second day I disciplined myself better and didn't nearly die of gluttony), he cooked us an amazing meal that included several local flavors we hadn't had yet. It was truly fantastic.

Carl, Jennie and I did 2 days of it and then came back into the city for today and hired a driver to go back to the climbing area, where we enjoyed five hours of great climbing. I led a 5.10b/c cleanly (my hardest lead ever, which is pretty cool given we haven't been climbing. The power of visualization).

The Chapmans left today to fly back to the states. We'll miss them - they were a great addition to the trip! We did pick up Ben Johnson again (friend we'd last seen in Indonesia) and Aaron Verstraete (who will be doing the Bain habitat trip with me). Jennie and Christie go to Laos tomorrow, and Ben, Aaron, Viv, Carl and I are planning to rent a car and do another climbing day as well as a Wat (temple) around here. I'm looking forward to it.

Then Wednesday morning we head for Hanoi for the next country! We decided to skip Laos to be moving a little less frequently, though now we're thinking of trekking in Sapa (Northwest Vietnam, and I stop that had not previously been on the itinerary). Since we didn't end up trekking here (the minitrek didn't count) I think it would be fun to add. Then to Halong Bay, which I have been looking forward to revisiting ever since I left there 6 years ago. Very exciting.

Now, off to feast!

Hope everyone's doing well ...

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 11, 2007 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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This time, I almost got bit by a bat...I think

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Yes, the animal adventures continue. This time, I think I was almost bitten, and I think it was a bat. Here's how it goes...

Carl and I returned to the Crazy Horse Buttress crag for the third time in our Chiang Mai stays, this time again with Viv and with newcomers Aaron and Ben. We rented a car, successfully navigated our way out there, and had a great morning of climbing. Viv did her first lead ever (and did it quite well, I may add. Yay Viv!), and Aaron and Ben both learned quickly on both the belay and climbing side.

We went to lunch at the local spot (delicious, once again), and when we returned to the crag decided we were too full to climb right away, so we did some exploring. While searching for a local troupe of monkeys, we happened upon our first cool discovery: a monk hill camp, complete with monk hard at work (we left him undisturbed) (we never found the monkeys unfortunately).

Next we explored Aircon cave: a giant cavern that according to the book rises 80m above the floor! (It was very dark, difficult to verify the height). Then we returned to the wall, did one quick warm-up climb prior to the next chosen adventure: a new route up the inside of a big archway. As I descended from the warm-up, however, we noticed incredibly black storm clouds rolling in. At first glance, it seemed like we would likely get rain within the hour; 2 minutes later, it was clear it was going to be much faster than that; 5 minutes later we were huddled inside the archway marveling at the galeforce winds that were suddenly whipping through the area; 5 minutes later we were in a torrential downpour. Crazy!

We dashed back to one of the bamboo huts to see if it was going to blow through. Other than watching in awe the force of the sudden storm, the excitement there was when a giant (5-6 inches long) toad hopped up beside me. We named him Solomon (arbitrarily), and after a dramatic initial entrance, he just watched us.

The rain was relentless for about 20 minutes and then started to let up. Carl and I went to check out the archway and found it dry! So, we proceeded with the plan. Carl led the climb quite competently considering we had no route map and the light was weak with lingering storm effects. Aaron went next and for a first-ish day climbing did an awesome job. Viv then followed, and also did a great job, making it through the first 2 cruxes of the climb. In doing so, however, she had the first "bat" encounter: about 12 feet off the ground, suddenly snatched her hand back with a yelp (not falling, she would like me to note), saying that "something's in there!" We chuckled and encouraged her to forge on without using that pocket.

My turn next. I got to the same pocket, and, knowing there was someone at home, but knowing I needed the hold, I inserted just the first two "pads" (to the first knuckle) of two fingers into the pocket. Despite my care, I was immediately barked at (BAKKAW!!!!), loudly enough that everyone below heard loud and clear. Our best guess is a bat, though we never saw it. It was certainly a noise I have never heard before, with a meaning all too clear. (Footnote: I recognize that it wasn't as close to a bite as the monkey bite was, but the repeated close encounters beg for a tad of hyperbole). In the fading light, I finished the climb, which was "way cool". Aaron took pictures - hope to upload those soon.

Such great adventures! Chiang Mai has been a definite highlight so far....

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 12, 2007 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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The Cost of Ignorance

Hanoi, Vietnam

So far, the running tally on the cost of ignorance (defined as the amount of additional money we've spent because we didn't know better) is somewhere around $75. The first major incident was a few weeks ago in Bali, when a taxi driver accepted 3 thousand-rupiah notes from Carl, who thought they were hundred dollar notes. Too bad. The second occurred today, and was far more conniving.

We departed Chiang Mai today and flew to Bangkok, spending part of our 3-hour layover researching places to stay in Hanoi. We arrived in Vietnam armed with a phone number for our selected hotel. After a bit of wandering we found a public telephone that didn't require a special credit card and placed the call, aided by a kind gentlemen (hint 1: "kind gentleman") who helped us dial. Carl made the reservation, during which time the kind gent showed us a card for a guest house of a friend of his in the same area of town we were targeting. We took the card, thanked him, and told him we were heading to the first hotel but that if the rooms weren't good, we would check out his friend's place. Hint 2: the woman behind him made eye contact with Viv and mumbled "no good" and made a face. At that time, we didn't know whether that meant the place, the man, or the deal.

We exited the airport, heading for the Airport Taxis that the Kind Gent instructed us to take (advice that seemed verified by the other Farange's (foreigners) filing into other taxis in front of us). 30 ridiculous minutes later (driving in Vietnam appears to be one constant horn-honking fest; immediate headache), we arrived at what appeared to be the backpacker strip. At an intersection, to my recollection, suddenly the taxi driver gestured to the side, as a fellow stepped up to Carl's front seat window to tell him that while we were there, the hotel was full. All three of us were confused: the hotel he was pointing at didn't say Golden Lotus, but the driver seemed to corroborate that we were there. The man was telling us not to worry, there was another hotel owned by the same company that was just around the corner and they had room. Carl asked again where the Golden Lotus was, the man pointed again at something that didn't look like the Golden Lotus, then opened my door and asked if he could get in with us. I said no, there's no room! (There wasn't, really, and the request seemed too weird). So he then said, "ok, I meet you there" and closed the door.

We exchanged another "what's going on" as the taxi took off again, and minutes later pulled up at another hotel. As we got out of the car, our bags were being whisked inside, leaving us to catch up. They offered to show us the room; Viv and Carl went up while I watched the bags and tried to figure out where we were on the map. They returned from upstairs with a shrug, confirming that at least it was clean and seemed relatively secure. So, we booked.

At some point we mentioned we had other friends coming into the city, and the folks at the Star hotel were excited to get them lined up to. We hedged, and they then said "here's our card - you show them?". (Sinister music). It was the same card the guy at the airport had showed us of his friend's place. Duped.

Our best guess is that the "kind gentleman" from the airport called a friend of his and told him that there were three of us headed to the Golden Lotus. Said friend then intercepted our cab (somehow before we reached the Golden Lotus - either the cab driver was in on it (seemed unlikely as he was making disapproving noises when he drove us from the first to the second hotel) or we were close, and they spotted us (we do stand out)). So then we got rerouted, and hustled along enough that we never got to catch up because we were too preoccupied watching ourselves and our stuff.

Knowing that somehow we'd gotten nailed, we then went to the Golden Lotus on foot, confirmed that they were not booked and in fact had our reservation and were waiting for us. Taking a lesson my dad taught Carl a few years back, we decided to consider the $20 we had paid to the Star hotel "F@%^ You Money", checked out 30 minutes after we had checked in, and went straight to the Golden Lotus hotel, where we were greeting with sympathy and even some anger towards fellow countrymen and feel we are being treated well. Chalk it up once more as the costs of ignorance; annoying/upsetting, but in this case pretty painless in exchange for toughening us up a bit. Welcome to Vietnam!

We just booked our next two adventures, and I am very excited. We're getting the heck out of this noisy, busy city and head tomorrow night by overnight train to Sapa, in northwest Vietnam. We'll do a 25km trek over two days, staying with hill tribes both nights, and then returning to Hanoi also by overnight train. We'll turn right around that morning and head out to Halong Bay for a 3-day excursion there. I have been to both places, found them breathtakingly gorgeous and a lot of fun - looking forward to continued adventures!

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 13, 2007 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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Into the Jungle!

Sa Pa, Vietnam

T minus two hours to departure for our Sapa trek. After a sweltering overnight train ride during which we all got very little sleep, we arrived safely in Lao Cai (on the Chinese border) and then took a one-hour bus to Sapa. The countryside here is absolutely gorgeous, and I am looking forward to hitting the trails! Will check back in in a few days....

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 14, 2007 from Sa Pa, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Joc's Journeys
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