28 January 2007

Back home

We're back from Vietnam already and had a really great holiday.

We didn't have as good seats coming back, at least not the Hanoi to Singapore leg. Although we had window seats they were right over the wing, so not much of a view. The Singapore to Brisbane leg was right up near the back, so we had a better view. I managed to get some great pics of the sun coming up as we flew over western Queensland.

I was even able to get a little bit of sleep, since we bought a couple of those inflatable cushions that go around your neck. The only thing that spoiled that leg was the inconsiderate (expletive deleteds) that sat in front of us and reclined their seats only about ten minutes into the flight.

Something I wondered about while we waited for our baggage, both here and in Hanoi. Why do people find it necessary to stand right in front of the carousel while they wait for their bags. All they do is get in everyone else's way. If everyone just stood back a metre or two they'd all have a clear view of their bag and wouldn't get hit by my bag when I drag it off the carousel.

Today was actually the first time I've ever had to open my bags for customs or quarantine. This wasn't for a search mind you, it's just that some of the stuff we brought back we weren't too sure about from a quarantine point of view, so we went through the red channel. All they looked at was the stuff we weren't sure about. These were a couple of woven straw bags that had pottery in. The cup that I'd painted in Bat Trang was in about a thousand pieces, so we left that with the AQIS officer. I wasn't too worried about that as it was a freebie, and I had an idea it probably wouldn't survive the trip anyway.

So, what are our feelings about the trip?

I've been all over Europe, I've sailed a yacht from the Gold Coast to Noumea, I've driven a motorhome around New Zealand's south island, and I've visited Beijing and Taipei. Vietnam was by far the most interesting place I've ever been to.

Apart from the people trying to sell you things you didn't want, the Vietnamese people are extremely friendly and very polite. If ever we went anywhere where the was a crowd and our way was blocked by a group, they would always be either French or Korean, not Vietnamese.

Hanoi is quite dirty, partly because there is so much exhaust smoke in the air from all the scooters. It would be impossible to keep a city like that clean, however, it's unusual to see litter in the city. Contrast that to Shepherds Bush in London when I was there years ago and it looked like there'd just been a ticker-tape parade.

A lot of Hanoi has an air about it of being very poor, with decrepit buildings and uneven footpaths. I guess that's the same with a lot of old cities, something we don't really have in Australia, being only a couple of hundred years old.

Vietnam's economy is growing at an enormous rate and it's fast becoming a popular tourist destination. At the moment it doesn't seem to have been spoiled by tourism, it will though and that's a shame. I'm just glad we got to see it now, before everyone else discovers it.

If you're looking for somewhere interesting to go for your next holiday, go to Vietnam, you certainly won't regret it.

If you do go, here's a few tips.

1) Take plenty of US dollars.

There don't seem to be many Yank tourists in Vietnam, probably because of their perception of the war (something that most people you meet there weren't even around for as they're too young). Most of the shops where you'll be buying souvenirs, the hotels and the cruises will have prices in Vietnamese dong and US dollars. You won't get a better price for dollars, but it does make things easier.

2) One week is not enough.

We didn't see everything we wanted to and we based ourselves in Hanoi the whole time, with just the overnight trip to Halong Bay. A lot of people do three week tours that cover the whole country. I can't really give an opinion on that, but friends of ours did that for their honeymoon and they said that was probably about the right length of time. Any longer than that and I think you'd start to get sick of everyone speaking a different language.

3) Think about learning a bit of the language before you go.

In my opinion it's a bit harder than Chinese to learn, but certainly not impossible. Most people you'll meet will be able to speak enough English for you to be able to get by, and some speak French as well. Knowing a bit of Vietnamese will make it just that bit more enjoyable and will make it easier to ask for a beer.

4) Don't book too much before you go.

We only booked the Hoa Binh hotel for two nights before we went and we only booked the Emeraude from home as we really wanted to make sure we could get on it. Once you're there you can decide if you want to stay in the hotel you've booked or go and stay somewhere else. The tours will be much cheaper if you book them there. Our tours were very personal, just the two of us with the guide and the driver.

5) Go there with an open mind.

If you're from the west it will be a lot different to what you used to. Some of the things you'll see there may even offend you, like live pigs hog tied and strapped to the back of a scooter. Looking at our culture from their point of view, I'm sure there are things that would offend them. I didn't see a single bum crack over there, something that is so common place here you hardly notice it anymore.

I'm sure there are other things I could suggest and would be glad to help if anyone has any questions. My Dad asked the other day via a Skype video call from our hotel if we'd go there again. I'd be over there like a shot if I had the chance, there's so much more there I'd like to see. Next time though, we're flying business class.

If you're interested I've uploaded a small selection of pictures to here. All up, I took just over five hundred photos,and I'm really glad I'm shooting digital these days, otherwise it would cost me a fortune in processing costs.

If you're interested in the Emeraude cruise, their website is here.

27 January 2007

A couple of day tours

In some of the rural areas of Vietnam, traditionally when there's no
farm work to be done, the people have to find other work so they can
feed themselves.

Bat Trang is one such area. There were two main seasons when different
crops were grown, but outside of those seasons there was no work, so the
locals turned their hands to pottery. These days there isn't much
farming done in Bat Trang, most people work in the pottery or ceramics
factories, hand making some really beautiful stuff.

We visited Bat Trang as the first part of our tour on Thursday with
Ming, our guide, and Ho, our driver. Ming is a mine of information on
all kinds of things about Vietnam. At the ceramics factory (the five
story factory with no lifts), we were shown how they make the stuff they
sell and I was invited to have a go at painting a dragonfly on a cup. I
can sort of draw with a pencil, but I'm no good with a soft brush with
three or four people watching me. I got to keep the cup as a souvenir
though. I just hope it makes it back to Australia without getting broken
as it's unglazed and therefore not as strong as it could be.

The next part of the tour was But Thap pagoda, a very old Chinese style
pagoda. Even though Vietnam is communist, they don't seem to be
repressing religion here.

From the pagoda we went to another village where they make paper. We
were given a demonstration of how they hand print pictures before having
a traditional, sit on the floor and eat with chopsticks, Vietnamese lunch.

Next stop was another village with yet another speciality. All the
restaurants serve snake meat and snake wine. Not just any snakes though,
only poisonous ones are used. We did have the opportunity to try some,
but turned it down. Ming admitted that he'd only ever tried it once and
he nearly threw up.

Which reminds me of something Ming mentioned about dogs in Vietnam. Dogs
are considered lucky, so most people try to keep at least one dog for
good luck. The practice of eating dogs in Vietnam is not as widespread
as we in the west think. Sure, it's not hard to find in the markets, but
not many people eat dogmeat.

Friday was another day of touring, starting with a trip to Ho Cho Minh's
mausoleum and a look at the two houses he lived in. One in particular
was only two rooms and would have made a nice little weekender somewhere
near the beach.

From the mausoleum we headed to Tam Coc. Tam Coc is known as the inland
Halong Bay, as it has the same limestone karsts as Halong. We had lunch
in a restaurant here then took a two hour sampan ride through caves and
rice fields.

If you ever make it to Tam Coc, there's a few things you have to allow
for. You'll be expected to buy drinks for the rowers when you get to the
other end, they'll put the hard sell on you, trying get you to buy
t-shirts etc, on the way back, and they'll expect a tip. All in all
though, it was an enjoyable trip and very photogenic.

It's now the end of our last day here. Tomorrow we fly back to Brisbane.
We have window seats, but not as good as the flight here. We're just
hoping we can get a bit of sleep this time.

25 January 2007

Halong to Hanoi

When we first booked the Cruise on the Emeraude I was hoping it would be
misty in the morning so I could get some really atmospheric shots. Well
I wasn't disappointed. There wasn't much sunshine, but with the mist,
the limestone karsts that make up the bay all had different shades of
grey the further away they were.

We got up early in the morning to catch the sunrise. Well I guess the
sun came up because it wasn't dark anymore, but it's winter here at the
moment so it's overcast most of the time. Being up early, we got to
watch the Tai Chi demonstration. I don't think I've ever seen so many
uncoordinated people in one spot as the group that were trying to follow
the demonstration. Tai Chi is supposed to be graceful, a bit like Kung
Fu in slow motion. Picture one of the characters from the Thunderbirds
with a nervous tic and you start to get the idea.

Speaking of nervous, I forgot to mention in my last entry the woman on
the cruise that decided to get a pedicure. This was being done while the
Vietnamese cooking demonstration was on, so there were a lot of people
around. A word of advice, if you're ticklish, don't get a pedicure. The
more it tickled, the more she giggled. Naturally we all noticed and some
joined in, which made her embarassed and therefore made her giggle even

After the Tai Chi class breakfast was served and it was more top quality
food and great service.

I can't praise the crew of the Emeraude enough. Even though it's the
most expensive cruise on the bay, there's no snobbishness on the boat at
all. It's just a nice, relaxing, friendly couple of days. For what you
get out of the cruise, I think it's pretty good value. We visited
Milford Sound in New Zealand last year. That was spectacular, Halong Bay
is just so much more. People had told me before we visited how good it
was, but words just can't describe it. You can't describe a state of mind.

Once we got back to the harbour at Halong our driver was there waiting
for us, so were about a dozen postcard sellers. I sometimes wonder if
anyone ever actually buys the postcards. I certainly haven't seen anyone
doing so.

Something I've noticed on any tour in Vietnam or China is that you will
always end up visiting somewhere to spend your money on souvenirs. It's
probably the same everywhere and the trip back to Hanoi was no
different. Our driver apologised and said he was hungry and we pulled
into a huge warehouse kind of shop that sold everything from ceramics,
to gemstones, to silk. He didn't need to make an excuse as we
appreciated the chance to have a look around and came away with several
nice silk tappestries that were hand made on the premises.

We saw a total of three accidents on the way back to Hanoi. The first
was a truck that had gone into a ditch and lost its load of logs. The
second was another truck that had turned over in the middle of the road
and looked like it was carrying scooters. The third happened just before
we got to it. We were just coming into Hanoi and someone had fallen off
his scooter. He was still on his hands an knees as we went past, or
rather elbow and knees. Having had a motorcycle accident myself a couple
of years ago I know what it's like. I was wearing all the protective
gear, this guy wasn't. He looked like he was in a bit more pain than I was.

The room we had at the Hoa Binh hotel for the first two nights was small
and overlooked a back street. It had a lot of character, being an eighty
year old hotel. As we hadn't originally booked a room for when we got
back to Hanoi, we decided once we'd spent the first night there that we
liked it there and so we'd stay at the Hoa Binh hotel for the rest of
the time we were in Vietnam. However, we thought we'd upgrade from the
deluxe room to a suite, after all, it's only an extra ten US dollars a
night. The difference that ten bucks makes is incredible, this room is
huge and the bathroom is better than ours at home.

We booked a couple of tours that afternoon for the last two days of our
holiday. Thursday's tour was to Bat Trang village, where ceramics is the
speciality, then on to a couple of other villages, one with a pagoda,
one where they make paper, where we had lunch, and one where the
speciality is snake meat in the restaurants. Oh, and I can't forget the
furniture factory where my beard attracted a lot of attention with the
young ladies. Reminds me of a certain restaurant in Taiwan a few years
ago. But I'll tell you all about Thursday in the next installment. I
might even tell you about the restaurant in Taiwan too.

24 January 2007

Hanoi and Halong

Tuesday, we had an early rise (about 5:30) so we could finish packing
have showers and breakfast and then check out in time for our ride to
Halong Bay. Actually, 5:30 here is 8:30 in Brisbane, so it wasn't really
early for us.

We needn't have rushed. We were expecting our car to arrive at 7:30, it
was just after 8:30 by the time we left the hotel. He turned up while I
was out the front photographing the traffic.

Getting out of Hanoi was probably the first time we'd really experienced
the traffic properly, with scooters coming close enough to the car that
I could have leaned out the window and easily touched the riders. It
thinned out a bit once we got out of the city, but there was still a lot
of traffic all the way to Halong which took about three and a half
hours. After a while you get used to the sight of a car on the wrong
side of the road, coming straight at you with its headlights flashing as
it tries to overtake some slower traffic.

The boat we had booked for the cruise is the Emeraude. It's a replica of
one of the old French paddles steamers that used to sail around the area
back in the twenties. It's probably the most expensive cruise on the
bay, but well worth it.

We were met on the boat with cocktails,something orange and red that
tasted of pineapple. After that, and a quick safety briefing, we were
given our cabin key. Most of the people on the cruise had all their
luggage with them. As we were going back to the same hotel in Hanoi,
we'd only taken the essentials and left the rest back at the hotel. That
meant we didn't have to wait for our bags as we were carrying them.

We had lunch pretty much straight away, a huge buffet with really nice
food, accompanied by an Australian chardonnay. The service from the
staff was fantastic and very friendly.

First stop was at the cave of Hang Dau Go. For someone like myself who
is studying geology, this was fascinating. There is an interesting
stalagmite in there that resembles a part of the male anatomy. Now, I
don't mean if you squint a bit and turn your head the right way you can
imagine it looking like that. As soon as you see it you think, my god,
that's a huge dick.

After the cave visit we headed to our anchorage for the night, where
some brave souls actually went for a swim, keep in mind that it's winter

Just before dinner there was a quick cooking demonstration on how to
make Vietnamese spring rolls. I can honestly say, I didn't do too bad a
job of it when I had a go.

Dinner was another huge and delicious buffet, this time with a nice
French pinot noir which we finished up on deck, followed by tea, coffee
and a glass each of Benedictine

I'll probably repeat this over and over, but if you ever get to Halong
Bay, take the Emeraude cruise, you won't regret it. I'll add a link to
their website in my sidebar once I get back home and can access the
server properly. It seems that any website related to that big search
engine is blocked from here.

Hanoi, Day two

I'm actually typing this on day... um...it's Wednesday morning... day
four. We're in the back of a car on the way back from Halong Bay to
Hanoi. So if there are any spelling mistakes, it's because of that huge
truck coming towards us, headlights flashing, in our lane.

Anyway, back to our second day in Hanoi.

We really wanted to see the Hoan Kiem lake, the centre of the old part
of Hanoi, so after a really nice western style breakfast in the hotel,
we headed off in what we thought was the direction of the lake. We've
actually seen a lot more of Hanoi than we would have if I'd brought a
compass with us.

Once we found it, and along with it, the ANZ bank we were looking for
the other day, we wandered around to the northern end where there's a
small island with a temple (the Temple of the Jade mount, or Den Ngoc
Son) on it, reached by a very photogenic bridge called the Sunbeam
bridge. There's an entry fee to get across the bridge. It's 3000 dong,
which works out to about 25 cents Australian (probably 10p). It would
have been worth it for ten times that, partly because the touts trying
to sell you postcards and books couldn't get in. The souvenir shop on
the island was the first time I saw the little working model cyclos they
sell here. When I say working, I mean the pedals turn, it has a chain
that drives the back wheel, everything works. Just the thing for Stuart

After the lake, and having a better idea of which direction we were
heading, we found our next must-see location, the Hoa Lo prison, what we
in the west know as the Hanoi Hilton.

The prison was originally built by the French to house (and torture and
kill) political prisoners. The French named it Maison Centrale and
that's what's on the sign over the door even today. These days most of
the prison is gone, replaced by a high rise office building and hotel.
What remains has been restored and serves as a museum. It mainly shows
the part of its history when the French were using it, mentioning little
of its use during the sixties.

After the prison we ended up back at the hotel, via a market where we
saw dog meat for sale for the first time. We'll be heading back there
sometime, not for the dogmeat, but probably to buy some silk.

We had a late lunch in the hotel, some of the best fillet mignon I've
ever had and, surprisingly for hotel food, remarkably cheap. We had the
whole restaurant to ourselves as a wedding reception had just finished.

The rest of the day was spent uploading photos from my memory cards to
the laptop and packing our bags for the Halong Bay cruise.

Oh, and I discovered while doing a blog entry that day that Google blogs
can't be accessed from Vietnam and e-mails to Blogger bounce. All my
blog entries from here are going via my brother Laurie. Thanks for that

22 January 2007

Hanoi, day one, we're millionaires

Actually it's our second day since we arrived yesterday, but this is my
first post since we got here.

I'd read about the traffic in Hanoi and even seen videos of it, but it's
actually not that bad. Okay, there's lots of it, and it's noisy, but
they do stop for red lights here (most of them), contrary to what I'd
read. I'd definately rather be on foot though than trying to drive
myself or ride in it. The guy that picked us up said, "Vietnamese are
all experts at riding slowly", and I think that's the trick, slow and

We had a bit of a wander around yesterday afternoon, mainly to find an
ANZ bank ATM as we didn't have any local currency on us. Once we found
one, we became instant millionaires. One million dong is about eighty
dollars Australian. I have a wallet full of hundred thousand and fifty
thousand dong notes.

The only negative so far is the touts following you around trying to
sell you things you don't want. We had a young bloke follow us around
yesterday trying to sell us books, some of which I'd already read. He
didn't want to take no for an answer, and it wasn't until I turned to
face him and said, "look mate, I'm not going to buy anything off of
you!" that he got the message and left us alone.

The cyclo drivers will quite often call to you and ask if you want a
ride, but unlike in Beijing they generally leave you alone if you say
no. Also they don't offer to change our money for you all the time like
they do in Beijing.

Anyway, it's Monday morning now. We've just had a nice western style
breakfast downstairs in the hotel retaurant and it's time to go sight

21 January 2007

Your roving reporter in Asia

We're currently in Changi Airport, Singapore, taking advantage of the free internet access.

Both of us are really sore from the first leg. It is physically impossible to sleep in economy class seats. I think I got about 15 minutes sleep by lifting up the arm rest, putting a pillow on the end and resting my head on that.

If you fly Singapore Airlines and confirm your flight online, don't bother with printing the boarding passes. They don't work in the machines at the gate (at least not in Brisbane). They gave us proper boarding passes before they started loading us on.

We've got about another 3 hour wait here before flying on to Hanoi. Boy a bed is going to feel really good by then.

19 January 2007

Full up inside

We had a full load on the bus home yesterday.

Normally the bus has just enough passengers that everyone has a seat to themselves, or rather two seats, as in there's no-one sitting next to them. Yesterday we got to the William Street stop, which is the last stop before we leave the city, and a lot of people got on that usually don't catch our bus. It turns out that the 267, the bus that's usually in front of us, had blown it's front suspension. They'd gone round the corner at the end of William Street, there was an almighty bang, and the bus kneeled down. The air suspension had popped so to speak.

We pulled up in front of the disabled bus and heaps of passengers, some of whom I'd seen get on at my stop, all got on our bus, and a lot of them ended up standing all the way to Capalaba. And if you're wondering how Capalaba is pronounced, the emphasis is on the second "a".

The funny thing was watching them all get off at Capalaba interchange, where another bus was waiting. If you've ever seen Monty Python's Life of Brian, the scene where the People's Front of Judea's meeting gets raided by the centurions, it was just like that. I was tempted to look around to see if people were getting on at the back and then getting off at the front, then getting on again at the back. The procession seemed to go for ages.


Still on the topic of buses. I was on the way to work this morning, half asleep from staying up last night. As we got into the city, we went through an intersection and there were three pedestrians waiting to cross the road. The one in the middle was John Howard, our prime minister, out for his morning walk. I really wish I could have opened the window, I could have said something really deep and meaningful to him like, "PFFFT!!!", or "Oi, Bonsai!"


Anyway, I'm on holidays now. My next post will hopefully either be from Singapore airport or the Hoa Binh hotel in Hanoi.

18 January 2007

Booking seats

It's quarter to eleven at the moment, in the PM (and I don't mean prime minister).

I'm waiting until quarter to twelve so I can check in for our flight on Saturday night. Donna doesn't think I can make it, especially considering I have to get up at five-thirty in the morning to get ready for work.

It's just that I've done plenty of long flights before and I've accepted what ever seats they've assigned me. Now that I know I've got a choice, I'm going to try and make sure we get the best seats we can. I'm going for the exit seats at the front of the economy section. Heaps of leg room, and you get to chat to the crew when you take off and land. Failing that, I at least want seats where you have a half decent view, not obscured by a wing.

I guess I'm a bit spoiled as far as flying is concerned. I've had views from aircraft that people would pay a fortune for, and I got it for free. I've flown an Antonov AN2 from both sides of the flight deck. I've been up in an Agcat doing banner tows, a Tiger Moth, a Yak 52 doing aerobatics. When you get stuck in an aisle seat up the back for an fourteen hour flight between Singapore and Heathrow it's very depressing. Especially when you have difficulty sleeping sitting up like I do.

Incidentally, all those aircraft in the pics are the actual aircraft I've been up in, although the Yak has been repainted and then crashed since I last went up in it. When I did a Google search for VH-UVB the Tiger Moth, I actually came up with my own photos. Try it yourself.

Anyway, it's now quarter past eleven, so I'm going to sit here for the next half an hour and wait.


An update at midnight.

We didn't get window seats for the Brisbane to Singapore leg, but then it's an overnight flight, so that's not too bad. For the Singapore to Hanoi leg we've got window seats in the second row of economy, which means we should have a view over the wing.

The link to the picture of the Yak-52 isn't actually the one I went up in, although it has the same registration. The one I went up in was re-registered and when Barry Hempel, the owner of the one I went up in, bought another one, he registered it as VH-ULT. As I said earlier, if you google VH-UVB you'll find some of my own pics taken ages ago.

Night all.

15 January 2007

Duty free

I've been trying to find out what the duty free limits are for Vietnam.

Now you'd think that would be a simple task, and it probably would be if we were only taking booze with us. But Donna rolls her own cigarettes and every site I look at has a different amount that's allowed. Some say 100 grams, some say 250 grams which is the amount you can bring into Australia. One site even says 500 grams, that's 10 pouches of tobacco. The official Vietnam Customs website says the amount is only 50 grams, but I can't help thinking that's a typo as 50 grams is only one pouch. I think you can only buy duty free tobacco in 250 gram packs anyway.

I might have to tell Donna it's time to give up the cigarettes. She can smoke my cigars if she likes.

Speaking of the trip to Vietnam, my brother Laurie and his family are in Taiwan at the moment. Actually they'll probably be reading this entry from Singapore. Laurie told me by e-mail yesterday that frequent flyer members can check-in via the internet up to 48 hours before the flight. Laurie didn't know this before they flew to Taiwan and the Singapore Airlines changed their flight at the last minute so they ended up with the worst seats and had to sit seperately.

Going on Laurie's advice, I'm staying up until 11:45 on Thursday night to make sure we get the best seats we can on the Brisbane to Singapore leg. When I get to work the next morning (if I'm not still asleep) I'll be checking in for the Singapore to Hanoi leg.

13 January 2007


At last, our air-conditioning was installed yesterday.

It's a ducted system, so there are no ugly units hanging off the wall or sticking through windows. There's just round vents that you hardly notice in the ceiling in each room.

Not that we really needed to, but we had it on in the bedroom last night (the air-con that is, stop sniggering up the back). It is so quiet. All you can hear is a slight breeze blowing under the bedroom door.

It's just a pity that we're having such a mild winter this year. We don't really need the air-conditioning on. Normally in mid January I'd be sitting here typing this shirtless, with a pedestal fan blowing on my back. I'm in a t-shirt at the moment and the fan is silent.

11 January 2007

Driving test, take two

I was going to bore you with a long description of how the test and the lesson before it went, but I don't think I'll bother.

I'll just tell you I passed.

I was still crunching the gears every now and then before the test, but not enough that it was making me nervous. I had the same examiner for this test, so I knew what to expect there. One less unknown to worry about.

For the first eighty percent of the test I was going really well, my gear changes were just about perfect. The latter part of it there were a few crunches, but not quite enough to fail me.

The one time where I thought I may have failed was going up a steep hill. I was like the little engine that could. We were in seventh gear, the revs were dropping and I was thinking I should change down to sixth, then the hill leveled out a bit. I though, beauty, we're accelerating, I don't need to change yet.

Then we rounded a bend and it got really steep. I got it into sixth, but because we lost so much momentum I was already too slow and had to go for fifth. There was no way it was going to pull in fifth on that steep a hill from that speed, so I stopped and demonstrated my hill start instead.

Col admitted afterward that he wanted to tell me to change down because he knew it was going to get steeper, but if he had it would have been an instant fail.

So, now my license has a purple border around it instead of a yellow one. I think it looks better that colour.

09 January 2007


I've just added a couple of weather banners in my sidebar from Weather Underground. As you can see, one is for Brisbane and one is for Hanoi.

It doesn't seem right. It's winter in Hanoi at the moment and summer here in Brissy, so why are the temperatures almost the same?

Remember I mentioned it warmed up yesterday? Well it cooled down again today. It's actually quite pleasant.

08 January 2007


We've been having a pretty mild summer so far. In fact, I heard the other day that this is the coldest summer we've had in Brisbane for the last 25 years.

Because it's been so mild, and because my desk at work has more than its fair share of air conditioning vents, I'm still wearing long sleeved shirts and singlets (vests, or undershirts for the non-Aussies) to work. Our air-con wasn't working for about the first hour and a half this morning, so I was fully expecting to go home this afternoon smelling a bit. I was starting to think that some of my clothing was going to have to come off.

Luckily the A/C started to work around 9am because there was no way I was going to the toilet just to remove my singlet. I was ready to get bare chested at my desk.

Now I don't mind that it's finally warming up here, but I am a bit pissed off at the timing. It could have waited another two weeks. We fly out to Hanoi on the 20th and it's winter over there. By the time we go, we're going to be acclimatised to the hot weather and we'll have to get used to the not-so-hot weather of North Vietnam.

07 January 2007

Another driving lesson

I had another driving lesson yesterday.

It was a different instructor this time, Frank, and a different truck. This one didn't have the little switch on the side of the gear stick like the other trucks I've driven. This means it didn't have the intermediate gears. In other words, only eight forward gears and not sixteen.

I'm still crunching the gears occasionally, but at least I'm not coasting to a stop at roundabouts with the thing in neutral, which is why I failed the test last time.

Anyway, the test is this Thursday and it looks like I'll be tested by Col again. I'm glad about that as I know what to expect. One less thing to worry about. I must admit, I'm a lot more confident this time around.

05 January 2007

Hanoi traffic

As we're going to Hanoi for holidays in a couple of weeks, I've been doing a lot of googling on things to see while there.

I came up with this video of the traffic in Hanoi. It's not the best quality, but it gives you a good idea of what we're in for.

Scary stuff.

02 January 2007

Counting down to the holidays

It's now 18 days until Donna and I head off to Vietnam.

As part of the trip we've booked an overnight cruise on the MS Emeraude on Halong Bay. to get an idea of what we're looking forward to have a look at Brent and Larry's blog and follow the link to their pictures on Flickr.

It's funny the way things have changed now with holidays. When I was a kid you'd go away on holidays and your parents would maybe take a camera. If it was somewhere special they'd use slide film. Once you got back home they'd put the film in those little yellow envelopes and send it off to get it processed and you'd probably get it back about two weeks later. While you were on the actual holiday, Mum would probably be writing postcards to everyone. And this was just a holiday to Clacton or Walton-on-the-Naze, from Hertfordshire.

Fast forward about ten years and you'd most likely be using print film, which you could take to the chemist and go and pick up the prints about a week later. You'd still be sending postcards though.

Another ten years and you'd drop the films off at a one hour place close to work during morning tea and pick the photos up at lunch time, but you still might be sending postcards.

At the moment, my brother Laurie, his wife Jessica, and the kids Chelsea and Alicia, are in Taiwan, where Jessica comes from. We get regular e-mails from them and Laurie's posted a few pictures on Google Web Albums.

My oldest stepdaughter Jessica (popular name in this family) and her fiancee Brett are doing a bit of a road trip in New South Wales at the moment. They spent new years eve at Thredbo. They're keeping us updated via e-mail and SMS and uploading pictures to Brett's Flickr account.

I'll hopefully be updating this blog while we're away and posting a few pics for you.

I'd hate to be in the postcard business these days.