Thursday, October 2, 2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

(PICTURE: Huyen, Ryan and PJ in our sleeper compartment)

...or in this case Trains, Automobiles and Motorbikes.

Instead of hanging around in Hanoi for the full week PJ was visiting we decided to take an adventure up to Sapa and the northwest mountain region of Vietnam. Sapa is famous for its ethnic villages and cool temperature, two nice changes from Hanoi. To see all the sights though is quite a transportation intensive trip that involves three parts:

PART 1: THE TRAIN

We took an overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. One interesting thing about the train is that it literally cuts through people's backyards. Check out this video where you can see glimpses into houses and restaurants:

video

PART 2: THE SHUTTLE VAN

Once we arrived in Lao Cai we were greeted by a shuttle van driver. The Driver was arrainged for us by the hotel Huyen booked. We all piled into the shuttle van and began the 37KM drive up along the edge of the mountain to Sapa. After about five minutes Huyen started to feel car sick. Yes, she's like a real August. For those of you who don't know my family's history I can sum it up with two anecdotes:

Anecdote 1: Every family vacation growing up involved a road trip. I don't believe we ever made it past our town border -- and definitely not our county border -- without my Dad having to pull over so my sister could puke her guts out. My brother, the lucky bastard, would then get to sit shotgun for the next six hours while I got the pleasure of sitting next to my vomiting/vomit-smelling sister.

Anecdote 2: My brother, mother, sister and I all puked our faces off on a boat somewhere in the Caribbean as my sadistic father laughed maniacally that he was the only non sick August. This story could/should be a blog entry on its own but thinking about it makes me nauseous AND my father has probably told you this story already if you've met him for more than twelve seconds.

Anyway, here's Huyen with her puke bag:

video

In the end, Huyen hung tough and didn't throw up.

PART 3: MOTORBIKES

To really see the country one needs to get on a motorbike and navigate around the dirt roads to get to the small villages. The only problem is PJ had never written a motorbike before and well...it didn't go well. It went so not well it deserves it's own entry tomorrow.