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April, 2010:

Tiger Temple in Chiang Mai

One of the main reasons Sebastien wanted to visit Chiang Mai in northern Thailand was to go to Tiger Temple.  I believe that there are a few places, maybe two, in Thailand called the Tiger Temple.  The one we went to was about a 40 minute cab ride from Chiang Mai.

There is some controversy regarding the well being of these tigers.  They were in small caged-in areas and seemed very aloof.   My experience was that it was amazing to touch such a beautiful being but that they did looked very sad and depressed.  I also had a moment with a younger tiger and his spirit asked me to free him.

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A change in plans

For those of you who don’t know, we have had a small change in plans.  Sebastien’s rash and bumps came back after we left Vietnam.  We had gone back to Thailand and initially things got better.  However, after going from Chiang Mai (north) back to the islands (south) the rash and bumps returned.  Now we decided it was best to change our flights around so that Sebastien could be seen by a doctor.

Within two days of deciding to head home, we were on a plan back to the states.  Sebastien stopped in LA long enough to buy an IPAD and then continued on to France.  I stayed in LA to visit with Alison and Aaron.  Sebastien was seen by a doctor the day he landed and was told the same thing that the doctor in Saigon said.   Which is good news and a relief that it wasn’t something more serious.

It is somewhat surreal to be back.  I feel like our trip ended so abruptly that I didn’t really have time to say “good-bye”.  However, we were both ready to be home.

On May 10th I will be flying to France and then on the 12th heading to Greece to meet my friend Karina.  I will return to France on the 18th and spend the rest of my time meeting Sebastien’s family.  We will then return to the states on June 10th.

Now that I have sometime and consistent internet I will fill you in on the rest of our adventures.  Stay tuned.

Suited and Booted on Le Loi

Le Loi is a street in Hoi An which is known as the tailor capitol of Southeast Asia.  You can find the wealthy tourists and the broke backpackers rooming the streets getting suited and booted within the hundreds of shoe and tailor stores.  Sebastien and I spent a week in this wonderful Vietnamese city.

Since getting engaged I had high hopes of having my wedding dress made in Hoi An.  However, after several days of trying to find the perfect tailor and not knowing exactly what I wanted I lost my motivation.

However, Sebastien and I  had several suites, coats, dresses, and shirts made at many different stores.  I also had some boots and sandals custom fitted.  Sebastien’s suites came out beautifully.  Most of my stuff came out just ok.

In the evening, we enjoyed many of the different restaurants and meet some new friends.  One of our favorite places was the Mango Rooms. Great recommendation Diana.

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Vietnamese billboard

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Old French architecture is prevalent throughout Vietnam

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Took a bike cab home one night.

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A fishing boat basket on the beach near Hoi An.

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This lady is carrying fruit and wanted me to take her picture.  She told me that I could take it for free but then followed me around wanting me to buy a banana.  This was a common annoyance in Vietnam.

Halong Bay

It is one of Vietnam’s most treasured sites.  Halong Bay.  The bay includes more than 1500 islands and islets with sky scrapping limestone pillars.

We had planned on meeting Jeremy, Seb’s cousin, and his friend Romain in Vietnam and taking a cruise through Halong Bay.

To make a long story short it was a pain in the butt to schedule a boat in Halong Bay City.  Most of the tours are scheduled in Hanoi.  Our hotel, Sunlight Hotel, arranged for us to go to the dock and talk to an agent.  It was a confusing process but we were willing to pay a little more to make sure that we had a nice boat.  We should have used a website for Halong Bay.

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Riding with the locals

From Nihm Bihn we took the locals bus/van up to Halong Bay.  What an adventure!!!!

It was a 4 hour ride with spectacular views and jaw dropping bus behaviors.

Here are some of the things I noticed while on the adventure.

The van doesn’t stop.  There is someone who stands at the sliding door yelling out the van’s destination.  If someone on the street appears to want to go that way the van slows down.  The person is then pushed or pulled into the van all while we are still moving.  The best was when a mother approached the van with her young child and the bus yeller picked the child up like a sack of potatoes and put him into the van and then grabbed his mom.  Crazy.

Some people throw things on to the van, like bags of rice, and those bags are given to someone miles away.  I am not sure how they know who to give it to or if they have to pay for this transportation service.

On our flight from Hanoi to Hoi An we saw a man carrying a HUGE bag of garlic coves onto the airplane as his check in bag.  Very funny.

Its normal for people to fall asleep on strangers.

Nihm Bihn River Tour

After spending a day in Hanoi we decided to head to Nihm Bihn before meeting up with Jeremy in Halong Bay.

It was about a 3-4 hour van ride from Hanoi to Nihm Bihn.  We stayed at Thuy Anh Hotel which was recommended by lonely planet.  The town of Nihm Bihn itself had little to offer.

We searched for a restaurant and ended up in sports bar.  They didn’t speak any English but understood that we wanted food.  They brought us two plates with french fries, some salad, and meat.  Hummm… Vietnamese meat.  Earlier that day we had seen dog skinned and being sold for food.  Yes, they eat dog in Vietnam.

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2 Cities, 4 Doctors, 3 Different Diagnosis

Since being in Vietnam Sebastien has had some funky thing growing on his hands and feet.  They look like bumps filled with yellow puss.  Really gross!

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After a week in Hoi An we became increasingly concerned.  Each day there seemed to be more clusters of bumps and all the local people told us to go see their Dr.   So in between fittings we went to the local hospital, Pacific Care.

We asked to see a dermatologist and within 20 minutes saw a Dr.   The Dr. spoke little English and giggled at us but diagnosed it as dermatitis, which is basically a skin rash due to an allergic reaction to your environment.  He prescribed some lotion and some pills and said that we should see improvements within a day.   Visit- $30  Medication- $4.

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A Few Pictures From Halong Bay

I’m sure Tina will write a proper post about our experience in Halong Bay so I won’t tell anything about it. I just want to share a few pix I took with my iPhone.

This is snake alcohol. A cobra was inserted in a jar of unknown alcohol.

Picture taken from the boat. A beautiful sight.

I can’t remember the name of this cave but it was beautiful.

Tina enjoying the boat life.