A Travellerspoint blog

November 2011

Born to be Wild

Cruising out of the Vietnam tourist trap

semi-overcast 85 °F

Vietnam, we're discovering is full of easy roads. It's an organized tourists paradise. You can see the entire county via air conditioned bus for the "low" price of $(fill in the "special tourist" price here). They will even conveniently accept the US dollar everywhere. We, in fact, had to fight to get a fair exchange rate when we paid for our first night's hotel stay in Ho Chi Min City using the Vietnamese Dong.

We're discovering that it's incredibly difficult to get around if you aren't taking a "tourist" bus to see the cool sights. We booked a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels and we were left wanting more history, an understandable guide, and solitude away from the boisterous demands of several high maintenance, short holiday, travelers. We decided to give it another go with a 2 day/1 night tour of the Mekong Delta. It turned out to be a backpackers nightmare. In addition to a boat ride down the busiest floating market on the Mekong, we were given the "special privilege" of viewing the process of making of rice paper, which turned out to be a souvenir shop in disguise. Other included "special privileges" were: a visit to an fruit orchard, and a souvenir shop, lunch that provided not enough food on an island full of souvenir shops, and learning how to make coconut candy in a souvenir shop. And we can't forget the bus making convenient toilet stops along the way that would not have felt complete without souvenir shops. We slept at a home stay with a local farmer and his family at the end of day 1 with a group of about 10 other frustrated backpackers. We were happy to hear we weren't just being callous and jaded and that others shared our pain. It turned out to be the best part of the entire trip. The farmer taught us to make our own spring rolls, gave us a sunrise tour of his rice fields and fed us lots of "happy" water, aka rice wine, all evening long. Not a gift shop in sight!

Micah and I vowed not to fall into the tourist trap again and decided to move through the rest of Vietnam as independently as possible. So far, we have successfully found our way via motorbike in the cities of Mu Ni, Da Lat, Nha Trang and Hoi An. It's a wonderful freedom to have the luxury of leaving when we want, eating what we want, using a toilet when we want and not having to be herded to a souvenir shop to achieve these simple pleasures. Of course it means instead that we spend a lot of time maneuvering the language barrier and asking locals for directions and driving the wrong way for miles at a time. But it doesn't matter- we are free. In fact, Born to be Wild plays in my head every time we reach a cruising speed of 60km/hr (that's about 37mph) It's worth Micah occasionally tossing us over the handlebars. Don't worry (mom). That only happened once. We weren't going very fast and escaped with minor cuts and bruises. And it only cost us $3.50 to fix the broken break handle!

We're now heading into our last few days in Vietnam. We broke our vow and had to book a tour to see Ha Long Bay. It sounds like we've signed up for a cruise for the next 3 days. Fingers crossed there aren't any souvenir shops on our boat. We'll be sure to let you know how it pans out.

Here are a few pics our last few weeks in Vietnam. (You can reach the captions in the photo gallery.)

7IMG_7075.jpg90_83IMG_7081.jpg90_6IMG_7122.jpgIMG_7267.jpgIMG_7256.jpgIMG_7237.jpgIMG_7233.jpgIMG_7206.jpg5IMG_7157.jpgIMG_7346.jpgIMG_7326.jpgIMG_7295.jpgIMG_7437.jpgIMG_7450.jpg90_IMG_7463.jpg90_IMG_7526.jpgIMG_7546.jpg

Posted by bucketbath 09:30 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

Bucketbath takes a Mucketbath

overcast 79 °F

In true Bucketbath form, Micah and I have been moving non stop again. We got to Ho Chi Min, Vietnam on Nov 12 and in the last week and a half visited the Mekong Delta, Mui Ne, Dalat and now the city of Nha Trang.

After a morning at the National Oceanographic Museum and a visit to the Po Nagar Cham Towers, we splurged ($11.50 each!) on a visit to the Thap Ba Hot Spring Center to soak in the mineral water and mud baths.

Enjoy the video from our day below!

Posted by bucketbath 07:41 Archived in Vietnam Tagged mud spa bath relaxation Comments (4)

R&R. Kind of.

Bucketbath presses on

Per our fan club's request...

Here are some photos from the last few weeks hanging out on the island of Gili Air and climbing Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island.

We spent 5 days in a beach front bungalow on the nearly deserted island of Gili Air. My big accomplishment was discovering that I can snorkel. I can't swim, but I can float and since that's all snorkeling apparently involves, I got to check out some amazingly beautiful coral reefs and colorful underwater life. We saw starfish as big as basketballs, an eel, experienced tiny stings from many microscopic jellyfish and even came face to face with a poisonous sea snake. Ok, face to face may have been 15 feet away, but that's heart pumpingly close enough. Micah had a success of his own and went on his first run since his injury around our little 3.1 mile island.

We became a little restless after all that R&R and decided to travel 20 min by boat to the island of Lombok. We did a 2 day, 1 night climb up Mount Rinjani, hiking over 16hrs in 2 days. It was the most physically taxing 2,641meters of my life. Disgustingly, my left big toenail is now black and hanging by a thread because of it! TMI?

After an exhausting 6 hrs up to the crest, we had an picture perfect view of the still smoking Baru, which last erupted from the center of Rinjani's crater lake in 2009. After an early sunset and a hot meal, we snuggled into our cramped tent to rest up for an equally difficult day 2. 6am brought on another welcoming portion of rice, eggs and tea before we hiked down to the bottom of the crater to indulge in a volcanically heated hot spring. We spent an hour resting our sore muscles in the bubbling waterfall before having to hike 2hrs up out of the crater and another 5hrs down the mountain. The journey down was treacherous as we had to endure a few hours of rain. It turned our descent into a slip n' slide of muddy rivers and slippery tree root cobwebs. Our last hour was spent in total darkness as unidentifiable jungle bugs bounced off the light from our head lamps. We reached the bottom covered in mud, smelling like dirty gym socks and too sore to take another step. I've never been more happy to take a luke warm shower in my life.

We sealed our foul smelling clothing in plastic bags and caught a flight the very next day. We're now in the buzzing city of Ho Ch Minh, Vietnam where it's been interesting to take in a biased side of the Vietnam war. It's also provoked a lot of internet research. One of the best parts of this trip is living and experiencing world history through the culture and remaining relics. We're off to explore the Mekong tomorrow.

Check out Micah's Gili Air run as well as some photos below!

Link to Gili Island Run
Screen_Sho..0_38_PM.png

Joanie getting off the boat from Bali to Gili Air

Joanie getting off the boat from Bali to Gili Air

Workers Boat on Gili

Workers Boat on Gili

Micah inspecting our dinner on Gili

Micah inspecting our dinner on Gili

R and R

R and R

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Gili Islands Lounging

Gili Islands Lounging

Waterfall in Senaru on Lombok

Waterfall in Senaru on Lombok

Joanie and Monkey's at Rinjani

Joanie and Monkey's at Rinjani

Looking at RInjani's Peak and the volcanic crater lake

Looking at RInjani's Peak and the volcanic crater lake

The Gili Islands and Bali from Mount Rinjani's Rim

The Gili Islands and Bali from Mount Rinjani's Rim

Joanie and Micah at the Rinjani Crater Rim

Joanie and Micah at the Rinjani Crater Rim

Base Camp at Rinjani - with the ocean in the background.

Base Camp at Rinjani - with the ocean in the background.

A cold night on Rinjani's Rim

A cold night on Rinjani's Rim

Joanie and Micah at Rinjani

Joanie and Micah at Rinjani

The trail to Mount Rinjani's Crater

The trail to Mount Rinjani's Crater

Posted by bucketbath 03:04 Archived in Indonesia Comments (6)

A Breath of Fresh Air

Sun rays broke over the jagged volcanic peaks scattering honey dew light onto the tropical waters and coral beaches.

Joanie and I are on the tiny island Gili Air, a 1.5 km wide island (and 3.1 mile circumference – this I know for a fact – I went for my first run in 6 weeks around the island) situated in the turquoise, coral filled waters between Bali and Lombok.

Today marks the two-month anniversary of our trip – eight weeks of perpetual motion via bus, train, car, shuttle and the occasional moped.

You could say we’re on a break from traveling. Getting some much needed down time before we pick up the pace in Vietnam and mainland South East Asia, where we’re heading on November 10 after – hard to believe – a month in Indonesia.

We’ve experienced the amazing and not so amazing: volcanoes, delicious foods
(snake-skin fruit, Gado Gado), disgusting foods (anything that showed up with meat or shrimp paste), poverty, sand fleas (that left a trail of bites on Joanie), breathtaking sunrises and sunsets (Mount Bromo), indefatigable hustlers and touts (Beijing and everywhere in Indonesia), to name a few.

We’ve watched each other react to our surroundings and the challenges they present. Putting aside spending 24-hours a day with your partner (at times a blessing in disguise), one of the greatest we’ve faced is pollution.

Putting aside spending 24-hours a day with your partner (at times a blessing in disguise), one of the greatest we’ve faced is pollution.

And I am afraid.

L1001750.jpgL1004461.jpg
Beijing's Olympic Village and Jakarta, Indonesia

As the cities in the developing world expand and populations become increasingly wealthy, ownership of motorized, pollution spewing vehicles (cars, mopeds, motorcycles) is skyrocketing. In one sense, this is a huge step forward for these countries development. But progress comes at a cost.

The epitome of the pollution (so far) has been Beijing and Jakarta, both sprawling metropolises with unchecked growth and little to no pollution control. At the end of a day of exploring we would return to our guest house covered in grime, light headed and coughing from their polluted air. There is no sky in these cities, only a brown haze hovering overhead like storm clouds on a gloomy day.

I’ve been disconnected from most of the campaign rhetoric flying around in the US right now, but I know for a 15 minute new cycle, the “job killing” EPA was the topic of derision.

Do these presidential candidates want to do what’s best for our country and the American people really think we would be better off without environmental protection? Is the EPA really a job-killing monster as decried?

During America’s balmy summers, who hasn’t experienced an Eco-Action day? I know from living in Bushwick, near cement factories, on a hot day after a run, I’d return home gasping for air – a mixture of pollution and a touch of asthma it likely triggered. And this is with EPA protection.

In other places like West Virginia, with it’s depressed economy and denuded landscape, mountains flatted and water poisoned with the slurry need to process the coal, could it be worse?

An alternative as proposed where anyone can do as they please in the pursuit of profit? Dump chemicals into rivers, spit sulfur into the air or doing nothing to reduce the agricultural and sewage running into the Gulf of Mexico that’s significantly contributing to Red Tide?

I don’t claim to have a panacea, but I do know that our problems need to be addressed through a careful balance of strengthening the EPA and their enforcement abilities and promoting sustainable growth. One could argue that costs will increase (ex. carbon tax) and that business (or the American people) could not afford or stomach any additional price hike.

In the developing world, increasing vehicle efficiency and especially devising a way to make mopeds and scooters less polluting would do wonders to cut back on the noxious haze. No doubt scientists are researching (at least I hope) ways to do this and reproduce the technology cheaply at scale.

One catch phrase often heard is corporate responsibility. If the companies that manufacture these vehicles: Honda and Yamaha, the most common in this part of the world, took full responsibility for the consequences of their product would they remain solvent?

Doubtfully. So it’s a balance that must be sought.

If the candidates with ambition to lead our country and arguably the world (although not in environmental protection even under the status quo) had their way with the EPA, pitting profits against American’s environment and health, who would win?

Actuaries put a value on human life and it seems the candidates have as well.

So much for sunny days.

Posted by bucketbath 06:28 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali beach indonesia travel china air gili lombok pollution fresh epa Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]