05.06.2010 - 07.06.2010 35 °C
Hello avid readers of Karla and Paula’s South East Asia Travel blog. My dear friends and co-authors Karl and Paula have kindly given me the privilege to contribute my thoughts. Firstly, introductions are a necessity. My name is Iain Logan and I was part of the Scottish contingent that boarded the flight from Glasgow to Dubai nearly a year ago to the day. Previous to Karl’s blog called ‘Goodbye Beautiful Brisbane’ I will begin by giving a brief outline of my thoughts on Brisbane and Australia. Karl is truly in love with Brisbane. He bravely took the leap from the comfort of Glasgow University and studied his junior honours year at the University of Queensland. Upon his arrival back in Glasgow we moved into a flat along with another friend Stephen. Karl would simply not shut up about Brisbane. Every time we were having a wee bevy (a mix of cheap Scottish alcohol and banter) in the flat he would load up the old Dell computer, dim the lights and the slide show of Australia would commence. Suffice to say his enthusiasm was contagious and a year in the Sunshine State was firmly planted in my immediate plans. However, as regards to Brisbane as a city I simply do not share the same level of love that the Karl possesses for her. Yes Brisbane is a fantastic City in terms of location and climate. To the north is the majestic Sunshine Coast with hidden gems like Coolum Beach and the French Riveriaesque style Noosa. To the South you have the fun and games of the Gold Coast where all your dreams can become reality if you have the required capital. Yes the climate is subtropical and for any Scotsman simply luxurious. However, Brisbane lacks one key ingredient – an edge. For me this is why Brisbane simply cannot compete on a City level to the diverse, cosmopolitan and bohemian Melbourne. If any readers have visited Glasgow before you will understand what I mean by a City having an Edge. Not in dangerous way but a place of excitement and energy. For me Brisbane did not have this. However, Brisbane is currently entering an economic and population boom period so it will be extremely interesting to visit in 10 years to see if it’s inherited this edge that Melbourne currently possess.
Moving onto Asia, the rough plan was to meet Karl and Paula in Hanoi Backpackers situated in the Old Quarter in the Social Republic of Vietnam. I was on a marathon journey from the small holiday resort of Krabi in South Thailand while Karl and Paula were on crazy 24 hour bus journey/flight from KL. Basically, we were arriving in Vietnam airport at approximately the same time after horrendous journeys. To be honest I was fairly anxious and nervous about entering Vietnam customs as I had heard so many horror stories from various backpackers. At customs I was filling in the necessary forms and suddenly my ears prickled with the unmistakable dulsic tones of a broad Kirkcaldy accent. I spotted Karl and Paula and to their detriment they didn’t notice me. Always one for a practical joke I decided to sneak up behind Karl, grab his right arm with considerable force and drag him off his feet while simultaneously shouting a concoction of made up Asian gibberish. As soon as I played this prank I felt guilty as his tanned face drained of all blood and turned a strange shade of yellow. He absolutely shat himself!!! Like I said I instantly felt guilty but could also not stop laughing at the success of the prank. So... welcome to Vietnam folks.
We managed to befriend a fellow Scot in Hanoi Airport and share a taxi to Hanoi City Centre. Wow... the most unforgettable driving experience of my life. For any Mothers or loved ones of Karl and Paula reading this I think it is best to omit certain finer details. So Hanoi... Stop. Close your eyes. Smell the petrol fumes of thousands of motorbikes. Hear the constant din of over revved engines. Open your eyes and welcome to what can only be depicted as organised chaos. I instantly fell in love with the place. If you want a City that has edge - come to Hanoi. If you have ever worked with a ‘jobsworth’ who loves rules and regulations transport them to Hanoi and watch their eyes bulge while their veins on their neck pump with blood as the physically breakdown and weep at the madness. The French have visually left their stamp of imperialism on Hanoi. This ranges from the beautiful architecture of the quaint cafes serving coffee so strong it would be illegal in any other country to the best French baguettes outside Paris. After checking into our spotless hotel with ensuite, mini-bar (which got destroyed) and satellite TV we ventured out onto the paved jungle of the Old Quarter. After 100 yards of walking like stupid sleep deprived western tourists amongst the chaos, Karl and I nearly got pick pocketed. Not for the first time in our adventure in Vietnam, Paula saved the day by scaring the pick-pocket away with a forceful slap. Fore his sake, he luckily managed to escape!
I simply cannot emphasise how beautiful Vietnam is. After a day of recovery and finding our bearings in Hanoi we booked a boat tour to the famed Halong Bay and a 3 night/2 day trekking adventure to Sapa (North Vietnam). Paula will cover these days in more detail so I will finish my post with a brief view on our current location in Ha Noi. If anybody reading this post dreams of paradise beaches with palm trees, literally servants to fulfil all your desires beach side and the cheapest tailored made clothes in the world, then cancel all your current holiday destinations and come to Vietnam. With one hundred percent certainty you will not be disappointed. From my perspective it is only backpackers that venture to Vietnam and this should not be the case. Yes it is technically a communist government and perhaps this distracts Westerns from visiting Vietnam. However, I believe this is to Vietnams’ benefit as it retains its unique culture, heritage and charm. Thailand on the other hand is like a Disney Land version of Asia compared to Vietnam. This is mainly due to Thai Government freely welcoming all Western tourists and making it extremely easy for any Western to holiday in Thailand. My advice is to be gallaus and book a flight to Hanoi and explore this wonderful country before the rest of the Western world discovers this gem with the detrimental result of driving up prices and in the worst case Vietnam becoming a replica of Thailand.