Underground illegal rave in Vietnam..

I should probably start with explaining the title of this post. I would love to say that we spent our days in Hanoi being cultural, expanding our minds and ‘finding ourselves’ as one does when one goes travelling; when in reality all we did was find ourselves in the bottom of a beer bottle which is how we ended up one drunken night at an underground illegal rave.

Hanoi was our first stop in Vietnam and once again another first for me. I have visited Thailand twice before with my family so I had my expectations and was fully prepared for the ‘looky looky’ men bothering you and having to (and expected to) barter everything. I was very naive and knew absolutely nothing about Vietnam and its history.

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Our hostel in Hanoi was lovely and had free local beer everyday, what’s not to love?! We were right next to pub street which was a blessing and a curse. It meant we could be home in 2 minutes but it also meant just ‘going for a beer’ never ended well. I really liked Hanoi as a city, its tiny streets were packed out with shops, markets and restaurants which means your always finding gems in unexpected areas. To be honest I wasn’t a fan of  Vietnamese food but there was a lot of variety, Trip adviser was our savoir for finding nice restaurants in our budget but of course we tried a few of the local dishes.

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If you thought Bangkok’s traffic was mad then Vietnam will blow your mind. Vietnam as a whole is inundated with motorbikes, everybody has them and they will try to load as many people and things onto one motorbike as possible. It also means that trying to cross the road is an interesting experience. They have traffic lights but nobody seems to abide by them. The best piece of advice I was given by a local man was to just start crossing the road slow and steady and do not stop abruptly or run; the motorbikes will see you and avoid your route. Sounds easy but is very daunting the first time which is why we tried to cross the road with the local commuters as much as possible.

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Now to the best part about Hanoi… Beer! Beer street isn’t very big but damn is it lethal. Local beer is around 75p and buckets of spirits are pretty cheap too. I’m not sure if it’s a law, or just a general rule to keep the police off their backs, but most clubs or bars with loud music will keep their doors shut after a certain time to keep noise in. This is how we found ourselves in an underground illegal rave in Hanoi.

Walking to another bar a man opens up, what I thought was a shop front shutter, and tells us the party is through here and to get in quick before the police find out. You can hear the beat of the music in the distance but all there is is a dark alley way sloping further down into the darkness. Armed with a large Scotsman we decided to check it out. As you reach the end of this suspicious alley you open this big door to reveal a packed out club full of drunk tourists blaring thumping music. Not sure on why the police couldn’t know or why it was so secretive but my god was it a good night. It wasn’t long before the club was shutting and we were once again told to get away from the location as quickly as possible before the police arrived. Weird.

Our time in Hanoi wasn’t all partying and hangovers, we also visited the museums and the old Prison. I knew absolutely nothing about the Vietnam war prior to this and it was an eyeopener learning about it. One thing I will say, the museums and information they provide can sometimes be very biased. Luckily Dee knows so much about the Vietnam war (and history in general) so was able to fill in some of the blanks that were left out and give us a different side of the story. All I will say is if you visit museums in Vietnam be very open minded and do some research when you get home, as some (not all) were very biased.

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Chiang Mai

We headed north to Chiang Mai to stay in an Eco Resort. I know, an Eco Resort, who do I think I am? But it was colourful, welcoming and full of life; a resort more reflective of Thailand’s beauty. Chiang Mai’s walls are filled with temples, markets and restaurants with great food and live music.

 

It was nice to catch some sun and get away from the the craziness of Bangkok for a couple of days. Chaing Mai has such a dense population of temples that, even after seeing the ones recommended in the tour guide books, you end up stumbling across the smaller (older) local temples which are equally as beautiful and less packed out with loud tourists making the ambiance feel more authentic. We spoke to Monks who wanted to practice their English and asked them all the questions we had about Buddhism and how that affected their lifestyle. One of our last nights in Chiang Mai we went to watch the Muay Thai Boxing which was equally as entrancing as it was savage. Of course it wouldn’t be a true Thailand trip if we didn’t go to a Cabaret Show. As a ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’ enthusiast and lover of anything sparkly this was by far my favourite night!

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During our stay we did a day trip to go on a ‘trek’ to see the local villages and to see and learn about traditional long neck tribes and their culture. Of course, as one does in Thailand, we got scammed. This annoying but obvious scam for this trip happened whilst in Bangkok. PSA: If you’re in any temple in Bangkok and a ‘local’ man with fantastic English tells you his name is ‘Andy’ then run! I’ll give him some credit, he had done his research , he knew his demographic. In turn he knew everything about where we lived and could even tell us the junction off the M25 to get to our borough! After your jolly old chat with ya ‘new pal’ he says he can get you a good price on a tuktuk for the day and recommends some places to visit. He also suggests to get a good deal on any trips to go to the ‘tourist information office’ which conveniently is not on our tourist map (this should’ve been our first sign but we took his kindness as genuine). To cut a long story short he is a god damn liar, they [‘tourist info office’]will scam you , they will try to make you ride elephants and feed chained up tigers (DO NOT DO THIS) and will also insist you pay today as its a public holiday/monk holiday/special price/any other excuse they can think of.

Moving on… our ‘scam trip’ was actually alright in the end, we did a 20 min walk to a waterfall, I mean I don’t think you could of called it much of a trek; or a waterfall for that matter! We then visited a tiny village where they tried to get us to buy the things they had made and then we ended up bamboo rafting, which was actually really fun and I could recommend!

Thailand, you were (mainly) good to us. We’ll see you in a month.

Bangkok madness.

Bangkok. I don’t know how to even summarise Bangkok. You can go from the most sacred Buddhist temples to getting pissed in the street on towers of Chang Beer whilst they blast Rihanna.

This is where our true backpacking travelling begun and my first experience of a hostel. I was very apprehensive about staying in a hostel in Asia, especially after all the horror stories you hear but I was actually impressed with how clean and safe our hostel was (Lub D Bangkok Siam Hostel).

It was opposite the National Stadium where they were hosting the Muay Thai World Junior Championships 2018 which was so much fun to watch.

Most of our days in Bangkok were filled with taking in their culture and learning as much as we could about Buddhism. Thailand is a Buddhist country and the amount of temples and shrines that are around is incredible.

The grand palace was so beautiful and definitely worth the money to visit. The history and importance of what the King (and previous Kings) have achieved was really interesting and clearly very important to the people of Thailand.

If you do go remember to cover up and do not bother with taxis, you’re a tourist and they will over charge you- we got a local bus around the city and boats across the river, they were cheaper (50p per bus) and your hostel can recommend a route.

Try to visit as many temples as you can, each one is different (and equally beautiful) and often each one has different meanings for worshipping there.

Although our days were spent admiring temples, eploring the city and eating noodles; our nights were spent drinking Chang beer on Koh San Road.

Anything goes in Koh San Road, the police are more prominent there now but the rules are generally flexible.

This is where you can try your scorpions and roasted spiders from a stand in the street, I wasn’t brave enough to but I’m sure after a few Changs you’ll be persuaded.

There are clubs and bars consecutively down the street but if you’re not into clubbing it’s also a great place to sit with a beer and people watch.

One of my favourite things about Bangkok was it’s sky bars and markets.

You can feel like a big baller drinking cocktails on one of the highest buildings in Bangkok to being in a market haggling sunglasses down to 50p. In the markets make sure you try some street food, you will not be disappointed.

Bangkok had everything we wanted and needed. The hussle and bustle was intense and I don’t think we’ll ever get use to the locals taking photos or videoing us.

If you do go to Bangkok check out Cabbages and Condoms- it’s a restraunt that promotes safe sex and uses it’s profits to help local issues including the 2004 tsunami. Food is great and everything is condom themed!