Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf to become uncle again!

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

The days roll by here in the Perhentians, and the FIFA World Championship is on. For about a week I’ve been coughing and coughing to empty my lungs of the stubborn phlegm that just won’t go away.  was really cold one night, and the resulting chest cold is as stubborn as is to be expected in a tropical climate.

Most of my days are spent sitting around the shop, or out chatting to people to see if I can recruit some divers.  It’s quiet here, so I’m not diving quite as much as I’d like to. I guess it’s a combination of the economic recession going on the third year, people’s irrational fear that all of South East Asia is unsafe due to the unrest in Thailand, and perhaps some apprehension about buying expensive air tickets to Asia and then getting stuck in an airport due to volcanic ash from Iceland…  Now that the volcano has calmed down, I have high hopes for July and August, the high season here in the Perhentians!

This is an interesting place for watching international football, because there are almost always someone that has some  connection to one of both of the countries playing. As you probably know, I’m not exactly a big football fan, to put it mildly, but I have actually watched a couple of games, and that says a lot about the mood surrounding the matches! It also makes for some rather bizarre experiences, like one night in the beginning of the group play when I got up in the night to go to the bathroom, and saw two grown men and a lifesize inflatable kangaroo in Australian supporter get-up in front of the TV in the lounge…

In more important news, the oldest of my little sisters is pregnant with her second, and I will get a niece in November!! 😀 Congratulations to Jenny and Tom!

I am also really looking forward to my first visitor from home, my cousin Gaute, who I’ll go to meet after my visa run to Thailand on 6 July!

IDC part 2

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Balinese New Year Nyepi

In the week since my last post, I’ve mostly been studying, but there’s also been a rather special day here in Bali… Not much interesting to say about the studies, other than list what I’ve done. We finished the Assistant Instructor part of the course, and then we did an Emergency First Response Instructor course, which makes me qualified to teach CPR and first aid. We’ve started the Open Water Scuba Instructor part, which culminates in the Instructor Examinations a week from now. It’s all going quite well, although I had to cut our pool session short today due to a cold that plugged up my ears so I had some difficulty equalizing, and even greater difficulty when ascending from the  bottom. The reverse squeeze was never bad enough to be painful, but made me a bit dizzy, so I hope it’s improved by tomorrow morning, when we’re doing our second set of Open Water presentations in the sea.

After the IE, we’ll be doing five Specialty Instructor Courses, and then my 30 day on-arrival visa for Indonesia runs out. I haven’t bought my plane ticket yet, so I’m considering staying on for a few more weeks, maybe do an internship so I can get some teaching experience, or maybe just kick around and explore some of the dive sites around here. It would feel a bit wasted to not have done the Liberty wreck, for example…

So, for the special day here in Bali last week… It’s called Nyepi, and it’s the Balinese New Year! On the evening of March 15 there was a big parade, with some awesome statues made from papier maché or something. The night ended with a balcony party at some of my fellow instructor candidates’ homestay (guest house), and then I had to get home to my own place before they closed the streets. On the first day off the new year, the Balinese Hindus have an enforced day of rest, so the traffic is stopped, and if you’re caught out on the streets between 6am on the 16th and 6am on the 17th, you’ll get fined, or even put in jail! Lights or fire of any kind (that can be seen from the outside) is prohibited, and a few more things I can’t remember… All in all, it was a wonderful day, when I went from my bed to my porch, to the pool (a meter and a half from my porch), and back… And there was nothing to be done about it! 😀

Farewell Perhentians and Sunlight Divers

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf will travel once again! I have lived in Moonlight Chalets on Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil for two months and ten days, but tomorrow morning I head out to Taman Negara. The boat leaves the island at eight, and my bus from Kuala Besut to Taman Negara leaves at ten, and if we keep to the schedule I’ll arrive around four pm. That means that most of my birthday will be spent travelling, but that is only fitting. 🙂 I haven’t decided how long I’ll be staying in Taman Negara, but I’d like to do a proper jungle trek, so possibly a week. After that I head out to Kuala Lumpur.

As for the the snorkel test, I survived, although my rib came out the other end a little worse for wear… The first thing we had to do was get dressed up in clothes that were supplied by the instructors. We then had a quiz about obscure diving knowledge, where for every question not answered, or answered wrong, we’d have a shot of monkey juice. (Orang Utan, a local fortified wine) Then came some charades where the three of us were miming different fish, and competing against everyone else, with the punishment for us if the others guessed it first being another shot of the monkey. This was followed by an obstacle course on the beach, and finally the snorkelling itself. The mix was evil, but Rich spared us his home brew, so we all survived. The rib, which I’ve kept bruising when it’s just about healed, bruised up in the end of the obstacle course, where we had to wrestle our way past the instructors to get to the finish line… 😛

I love the island, and the crew here, so I’ll be back!

Diving with a cracked rib

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Approximately a week ago I was diving the Sugar Wreck, and my hand slipped while I was pulling myself up into the boat. I put a little to much weight on my chest, and there was a popping sound accompanied by a sharp pain. When I got back in the boat I tried to lift another diver’s scuba unit out of the water, and the pain was suddenly so strong I had to struggle to get the unit into the boat…

Since then I’ve been feeling quite useless, seeing as I can’t do any heavy lifting. I was also a bit curious as to whether there are any negative effects of high nitrogen levels on healing bone, but there are none, so I keep diving. For the first few days, under water was the only time breathing didn’t hurt… It got a little better, and I tried to carry some cans of fuel for the boat, and now it’s worse again… 😛

All in all, though, I’m having a great time. It’s extremely busy here now, so it’s not every day I can dive, since all our equipment is in use, or the boat is full or something similar, but it’s good to have a break from the water every now and then.

Yesterday I had a bit of spare time, so I did some research on the Sugar Wreck. What I found was quite sparse, but apparently she is the 3,500-ton M/V Union Star 17, which had run aground on Pantai Sri Tujuh, and was dislodged Dec 13 2000. She was then sent on her way to Batam in Indonesia for repairs, but she sank between 4pm and 5pm on Dec 16, six nautical miles off Kuala Besut, due to a leak. The captain and 16 crew members were rescued in their life boats by marine police. About 1,000 tons of sugar were transferred to the M/V Union Star 20. 

I have not been able to find out who owned her, but it would be cool to find someone who has blueprints. 😉

Seven hours to get cash from the ATM

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I am feeling more and more as a part of the staff here at Sunlight, and that feeling was especially strong yesterday. I ran out of cash a while ago, and while I can write everything on my tab at Moonlight, where I’m staying, I don’t have a tab anywhere else yet. Eventually I had to go get some cash, and the island I’m living on is remote enough to not have a single ATM. There’s one place where you can get some cash, but they charge 10 percent for the service, just because they can. 😉 In order to get my Divemaster license, I also needed to have a physician’s signature on a paper that says I’m fit for diving, so I really needed to take a trip to the mainland.

Yesterday I organized to not assist any dives, and off I went at eight a.m. First I have to take a taxiboat out to the speedboat, and then the speedboat to Kuala Besut on the mainland. At the jetty in Kuala Besut I found a taxi that could take me the last fifteen kilometers to Jerteh, which is the closest place with an ATM… I had my own cards to withdraw money from, and a handful of other cards from other people working here, so that when I was done, I had about 15 000 NOK in my bag. With the shopping I had to do, my visit to the doctor, and mailing the camera I’ve been using, and which has stopped working, back to Norway, I wasn’t back on Long Beach till three pm.

But, returning to the reason I started writing about this, feeling part of the community here; when I was going to get the boat back out to the island, I didn’t buy a ticket, and when I was stopped and asked for my National Park pass, I just said that I was working at Sunlight, and they waved me past. 😀 On the boat I paid the “local price” directly to the captain, instead of the more expensive tourist ticket at the ticket office. On the boat I also sat with the crew, and helped out a bit with loading and stuff. It was a bit weird, but a good feeling of belonging anyway 🙂

A more average day on the island starts at a little before eight, because the shop opens at eight. Just about then the first boat from the mainland comes in as well, so people start arriving. It’s quite laidback around here, so the things that need to be done in the morning are just done as people kinda feel like it. There’s sweeping sand off the floors, putting out buckets for people to wash the sand off their feet when they come in off the beach, and emptying, cleaning and refilling the pools that are used for washing the salt off masks, snorkels, fins, regulators, BCDs and computers after every dive. Then during the day, I study dive theory whenever I’m not out assisting on a dive. The shop closes at seven, and in the evenings, I spend time with students and staff, or after a day with too many dives, just lay vegetating in front of the TV in the “lounge.”

As you might see, the time for writing blog updates is limited, and even if I did have time they would probably be more of a dive log than a travel log. 😉

19 July – My first dive as assistant

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Time flies. It’s been a week since I last wrote already, and I haven’t done any diving before today. I’ve spent most of my time reading, coughing and making gurgling sounds from my lungs, except one day when I spent most of the day in bed, with short trips out to the little boys’ room. There’s a bit of a flu going around, or at the very least something that gives a bad cough and stomach trouble. I was first, and since then at least four of the others have had the same thing. The good thing is that I got a bit of a head start studying for my exams, the bad thing was that I didn’t get to do any diving with Helena before she headed out on the last leg of her adventure.

I’ve been getting to know the other people here as well. It’s a bit of a Nordic outpost here. The Sunlight divemasters, dm trainees and instructors are two Finns, two Swedes and a Dane, plus a couple that I think are Australian, a Brit and two Malays. I might have forgotten someone, but you get the picture…

I had my first full day on “duty” yesterday, and passed my three first exams. Most of it is pretty basic diving stuff, then there’s some physics and chemistry that was mostly just repetition from IB Chem and Phys, but the chapter on physiology in diving is a bit tougher on the old noodle. It’s been a couple of years since I last did any studying, but I still have the advantage of an academic’s skill in reading for exams.

Today I assisted on a dive for the first time. Shamse, one of the Malay instructors, took out three Chinese on a Discover Scuba Diving course, which means a very short introduction to safety and equipment, followed by a confined water dive. Two of the participants had never even snorkeled before, and one of them didn’t speak a word of English… Needless to say, I was pretty busy trying to keep them together while Sham was trying to get them to do some basic skills, but I had fun nontheless. I ended my dive with three meters as the max depth, as I had to swim back to shore with one diver who was unable to equalize her ears.

Tomorrow I am getting up early, as I’m assisting on the first dive at eight thirty. Before that it’s my responsibility to set up the equipment, and make sure everything’s ready. We’re going to a dive site called “Temple of the sea,” which is a rather large pinnacle we’ll swim around. From what I’ve heard, the divers out there almost always see Hector The Threelegged Turtle. Turtles are supposed to be migratory, but since this one has lost a leg, probably in some fisherman’s net, it stays put. Since he’s so easy to recognize, the divers have named him, and he’s one of the attractions of the “Temple.” Don’t ask me why he ended up being called Hector…

Boat trip to The Beach

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

For those who were wondering;I still don’t have a tattoo. I came to the conclusion that I want to try it in Henna or something before I do the real thing, to find out whether it looks the way I want on me. 🙂

On Sunday night we went to watch Farang kicking the shit out of each other Muay Thai style at the Reggae bar, and while I was sitting there, craning my neck to see the fights, my neck and shoulders started hurting. It just got worse, so I took a relatively early night, and headed out to get a massage first thing Monday morning. I was looking for a place where I could get a cheap head-neck-shoulder massage in a calm environment, so when I found a nice, quiet place with relaxing music, I asked what I’d have to pay for that kind of massage. The woman kept saying “Full Body Massage 600 Baht,” so I thought she didn’t understand me, but when the masseur came out, they quickly conferred with each other, and told me I could get it for 300. The guy started massaging my back and neck, and then reached under my belly and massaged my stomach. He said “mhm, aha” and declared that he knew why my shoulders hurt; I had gas… It might have been a trick to make me pay more, but it was true that I was a little upset in the stomach, so I decided to trust him. I had a long, painful and uncomfortable massage where he mostly was standing on me massaging with his feet, and at the end he gave me lukewarm water and a herbal laxative. It worked after a couple of hours, and the pain has not returned. 🙂 Money well spent!
I headed out to a beach bar called Sunflower, where they were supposed to have WiFi, but they didn’t, so I instead spent a few hours editing my underwater photos from my first two dives. Resetting the white balance made them look a lot more like what it actually looks like under water! That night I danced on the beach until the wee hours of the morning, and slept like a baby for a long time.

On Tuesday Helena and I rented a kayak, and headed toward Monkey Beach. We saw it, but saw no monkeys, so we crossed the bay to the south, and stopped for snorkling on a small beach where we met some other kayakers. Then we headed further south, and found a big, deserted beach where we went looking for coconuts to have for lunch. It seemed to be regularly searched, though, cause we found no ripe nuts on the ground. We headed back, and got in a half hour too late, right as the sun set. After dinner, we stopped in at a bar where they were showing Iron Man. It was nice to just sit and watch a movie, it’s been a long time…

Wednesday we rented a kayak again, and this time brought the camera. We went out to the same small beach for snorkling, and stayed there until the sun went behind a pinnacle, and headed back to the bay. We stopped for sunset on a rocky outcrop in the bay, and got some nice pictures. As we were taking the kayak back in the water, I slipped and cut my right foot right under the ankle on a rock, and it was bleeding a lot. By the time we got back, the bottom of the kayak was full of blood and water, and I was making bloody tracks all the way to our room. When I was cleaning out the wound, I saw that it was about six centimetres long, pretty deep, and I could see my pulse in there… it had gone straight through all the skin, about half a centimeter, and then started skinning me up the foot a little less than a centimeter. I didn’t want to go get it stitched up, although I probably should have. Instead I bought some strips specially made for closing deep cuts, pulled the edges together, and Helena put the strips on. I closed it in with a lot of gauze and medical tape, and headed out to dinner, and then bought tickets for a sigtseeing boat trip the next day. When I came back it had bled through all the gauze and run down my foot, so I was again making blood tracks along the island… I figured there should be no more walking for me that evening, so I changed the bandage and applied more iodine gel, and we watched American Dad and Mythbusters on my laptop.

On Thursday the longtail-boat-trip started at eleven, and we went out to Monkey Beach. I’d brought the camera, so we were filming along the way. There were loads of monkeys, drinking water out of bottles, coke out of glasses and beer out of cans, and eating the bananas and bread people brought them. I must say I don’t feel quite comfortable with feeding wild animals like that, and giving them beer and coca cola is just plain wrong!

On the way to our next stop, Phi Leh Bay, we went past the so-called Viking Cave, which is off limits because they collect birds’ nests there for bird’s nest soup… We swam in Phi Leh Bay, and my bandage fell off my foot… the strips stayed on though, so the wound  didn’t open up. I took the chance of snorkling in the next bay as well, and then we stopped for an hour on The Beach, officially named Ma Ya Beach, but famous for the twenty seconds it featured in the movie “The Beach”…
Lunch was taken on The Beach, and then we stopped for snorkling on Shark Point, before we headed north to Bamboo Island. Both that Island and Phi Phi Leh, where Ma Ya Beach is, are part of the Phi Phi Marine National Park, but the park entry fee was covered by our boat ticket, so we could walk around. On the way back to Phi Phi Don, we stopped for more snorkling, and then on the tip of the island for sunset. The waves were large-ish, so it was difficult to take pictures and film, but I managed to get some good sunset shots. I now have WAY too many sunset pictures… 😉

Yesterday we spent chilling out, and I was planning to not get my foot wet, but I had to give in and head to the beach, so I put a sock on my foot, and we waded out to a raft tied a little off the beach. We stayed there sleeping, reading and writing for a long time, and after dinner we took the camera around to get some good pictures of things we want to remember from the island, like Song who makes the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had, and Muzh who makes killer fruit shakes. 🙂 We were planning to take pictures of us fighting with a cute little three-year-old who lives next to Adventure Club diving… He is always around, always trying to fight Muay Thai with us, but not that night, so we’ll have to try again. He has the best hair cut ever, shaved head except from a circle in the back, where he has a whip! Aksel, a German diving instructer who Helena took her courses with, has taught him something that the thai ladies around don’t much like; if the kid is playing with a girl or woman, Aksel says “Num!” to the kid, and the cute little boy grabs a handful of boob! -I suspect num means breast in Thai- 😀
We had a lot of fun telling the kid NUM! when Helena was fighting with him. 😉 Helena is almost as tall as I am, so the kid was standing on the tips of his toes trying to reach, but I suspect with the thai women he’s even more of a nuisance, since many of them are almost a head shorter than her…

We also booked a dive trip last night, and this morning we got up early and went for two dives. The diving is still fantastic, and it was Helena’s first fun dives, so she was really eager. 🙂 On the second dive we again saw two Leopard sharks lounging on the bottom. They are magnificent creatures!

Tomorrow I am planning to book a ticket to Malaysia, and head off to Pulau Perhentian someday soon. Helena is staying a few days longer, because she’s really hit it off with Tim the German, and then she’s planning to come join me in Perhentian for some more diving. Fingers crossed that I can find a place where they need a divemaster, so I can get a job once I’m done with my course.

June 16, Snorkeling in Shark Bay on Turtle Island

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Koh Tao, the Turtle Island, is not a place you spend a lot of time if you don’t dive or snorkle… 🙂 If you do, however, you can stay here forever. Helena and I have rented scooters here as well, and driven around the island. On Sunday we headed north towards Mango Bay, but turned off the beaten path to find a way down to the only beach on the entire island that is remote enough to not have a resort yet. We wanted to see whether it was possible to go there and spend the night, but we were glad we went without supplies and everything first, because it was VERY difficult to get to, and once we finally got there, the tiny beach was full of broken glass… Not a very nice place to spend the night. It was a nice experience though, climbing through the jungle up and down the steep hills, and over rocks on the waterfront. The ride along the road was also an experience, with inclines so steep that the 125cc scooter was hardly able to pull it’s own weight up, let alone the two of us!

Yesterday we kept looking for beaches to spend a night on, but we had no more luck than the day before, even though we checked most of the beaches on the less travelled east coast. We also decided to buy some snorkling equipment, so we wouldn’t have to keep renting, but both of us had troubles with the masks we bought, as they kept leaking. We returned the masks today, and both of us got new ones that fit better.

Today we went out to Shark Bay, where we were the first evening. We snorkled around for a while, hoping to get a glimpse of a black tipped shark or a sea turtle, but it was all rather depressing. The whole bay has been a big coral reef, but now it’s basically all dead… There were some nice fishes, some colourful corals, and a quite cool car covered in corals 😉 on the bottom, but most of the reef was just underwater wasteland.

Other than that, we’ve been spending the evenings lounging by the Eazy Bar on the beach, talking to other travellers and divers, and last night we checked out the night life in Sairee beach, which was greatly exaggerated… I’ve decided against taking my divemaster certificate here, since they no longer offer free courses in exchange for working for a couple of months. There are too few tourists and too many divemasters for that nowadays, so I’ll try in Malaysia. Helena had decided to do her Open Water, but she kicked a rock on the first night, and her big toe hurts too badly to enjoy swimming around with fins on, so she’s also postponing till Malaysia. Since we’re both headed the same way, we might stick together for a while longer, as long as we still enjoy each others’ company.

As I write this, we’re sitting on a beach front balcony that serves as a class room for dive courses earlier in the day, charging our electronic gadgets. For some reason our room, though nice, has no electical sockets, so we can’t get anything charged around there. It’s extremely windy tonight, so unless it calms down by the morning, we might get a rather bumpy boat ride to the mainland…

Hoi An again

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

A week ago we arrived in Hoi An for the second time, after a long journey on the bus from Ninh Binh. After checking in at a hotel around half the price of last time we were here, we rented bicycles and headed to the beach. The beach was where we spent the next four days, until sunset, or until we couldn’t take any more. 🙂 The waves were awesome for body surfing, the palm trees provided shade to retreat into when the sun got too strong, we played frisbee in the surf, read books, bought fresh mangos and pineapples from the beach vendors and enjoyed the beach life, until Saturday night…

After a long day on the beach, we splurged on a splendid three course western meal at the Cargo Club Restaurant, accompanied by a nice wine. While we were eating, it started raining, and the weather’s been gray ever since. We stopped for a Tiger and pool at Before and Now on our way back to the hotel, where we met a couple of nice travellers. We were going to show them King Kong, but when we were getting our bicycles, Annikken’s right calf touched the muffler on a moped parked next to it, and she sustained a deep second degree burn. With a burn like that you can’t go in the water, so the gray weather has been a consolation; at least we haven’t missed any beach days because of the burn!

Annikken also had to return some tops she had made, because the first time she wore one of them, the seams started coming apart. The tailor took them back, and as a matter of course double stitched the seams on all the tops. A dress that was returned for refitting turned out to be more of a problem. She had three fittings before we left Hoi An last time, and the dress was still not ok, but we had to take it, as we were leaving. After we returned, she had seven more fittings, several arguments and much frustration on both her and the tailors’ sides, before the dress turned out the way it was ordered to begin with.

On Monday morning we had cooking classes at Friendship Restaurant, which makes Annikken’s favorite clay pots. We showed up at at 9:30 in the  morning, and started out by going to the market to buy some sauces, vegetables and noodles. In the following hour and a half, we were taught how to make fresh spring rolls, Wonton and Chicken Claypot.

Last night we dined at Treat Restaurant, and spent the evening talking to a Canadian couple on their yearly three week holiday. They were extremely jealous of Annikken who could take two months off, and Gjerulf who’s travelling for a long time… 😉

Tomorrow night we’re taking a 24 hour bus ride to HCMC, and on Monday Annikken is flying home to Oslo. She is really looking forward to cooking her own food, sleeping in her own bed, baking and meeting her friends again. She is NOT, however, looking forward to returning to a place with no tropical beaches, and temperatures below 30 degrees. Gjerulf on the other hand, is still not sure what to do after Monday, except that the plans WILL involve tropical beaches and temperatures over 30 degrees, but sadly no kitchen, dark bread or tasty, fresh, cold milk. 😛

Hanoi – a city with two faces

Monday, April 13th, 2009

After 16 hours on the bus, we arrived in Hanoi the day before yesterday, at 6.30am. The bus was quite comfortable, and the trip wouldn’t have bothered us, if it hadn’t been for this one young man in the bunk behind Annikken. As he entered the bus we felt an odd aroma in the air, and when he climbed to his bed, we got a foreshadowing of what was to come. This man probably works in a Nuoc mam factory, producing the world famous Vietnamese fish sauce that stinks like rotting fish… He looked clean, but either he hadn’t washed after work, or the smell is impossible to wash out, because the reek was so strong, Annikken at one point thought she’d be sick from it, and actually considered getting off the bus to catch the next one, 24 hours later!

On arrival we spoke to a tour operator, who sent us in a taxi to a hotel he recommended. The problem was just that the taxi driver was so eager to get us in his car, that he didn’t catch which hotel we were going to, and just dropped us off at a random one. We were told we could get a room for 8 dollars, but we’d have to wait a few hours, until 12, to get it. In the mean time we were placed in a bigger room. At 1.30 we still hadn’t been moved to a different room, and when we asked, we were told we couldn’t stay there after all, but they’d fixed us a room in a different hotel, smaller room, lower standard and higher price… We said “forget it”, and walked out on the angry hotel keeper who wanted to charge us for a half day of waiting! After having trotted around half of the Old Quarter, we finally settled for a hotel, after several attempts where the staff more or less plainly tried to scam us. At one backpackers’ hostel they tried to make us pay 20000 dong for a 6000 dong can of 7Up. The first face of Hanoi was one of unfriendly people, constantly trying to rip us off.

In the evening we headed out for Indian food, and a visit to a local pub. We met up with a group of English teachers on their weekly night out, and they took us to their favorite after-hour haunt, where the cocktails were 90% booze and 10% mixers. (Which was why they liked it, appart from the fact that it’s one of the few clubs that pay the police enough money to be able to stay open after midnight) Annikken was especially glad to meet someone with whom she could discuss good wines, a Frenchman of course. An early morning was thus followed by a late night, and sleep came quickly when we finally turned in.

Yesterday we had plans of catching the early morning easter mass in St.Joseph’s Cathedral, but we were unable to get up at 4.30 in the morning to get to the 5am mass. Instead we got up rather late, started the day with a magnificent Pho Bo and Pho Ga, (Rice noodle soup with beef, and with chicken) at a street kitchen in an alley by the cathedral. Annikken’s father had recommended the Museum of Ethnology, and we had a few hours before the next mass, so we took a taxi out there. The Museum of Ethnology gives an introduction to all the major ethnic groups in Vietnam, and show everything in their every day lives, from arts and crafts to rituals and rites. In the garden they have built copies of houses in the architectural archetypes of the various etnicities. Annikken adopted a communal house as her own, with the steepest, tallest thatched roof we’ve ever seen, 19 meters from the ground up! We also saw a Water Puppet show in the museum garden while we were there, and one of the puppets brought out a rose that was given to Annikken. On our way back, the taxi had to break suddenly because of a crossing moped, with the result that another moped crashed into us from the rear. Seeing as an accident like that takes a million people and hours of arguing to settle, we just got out, and hailed another cab. Even though it was a bit of a drive out of the city centre, the visit was definately time and money well spent.

We returned to the Cathedral just in time for mass. The building is reminiscent of Notre Dame from the front, with the two square towers, but the inside is rather different from Western Catholic churches, with banners and decorations in bright colours in evidence everywhere. We stayed for a while into the mass, but the atonal chanting in Vietnamese eventually drove us back out into the bustling city.

This morning we went out to get a sandwich breakfast, which turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than expected, but we found a good place after a long walk. The places serving noodles and other traditional Vietnamese food are numerous, but getting a decent sandwich in the Old Quarter is actually quite difficult! About five hundred years ago, that part of Hanoi was divided into 36 areas, belonging to the different Artisans’ Guilds. Still today many of the streets are devoted to a particular type of merchandise. On the street where we were first dropped off, for example, all the shops were making and selling bamboo ladders, another sells diapers and towels, yet another sells sweets and cakes, but one that caught our attention was the street devoted solely to traditional medicine. Annikken went into a store, pointed at things that looked interesting or curious, and bought a bit of it. The shopkeepers didn’t speak a word of English, but they phoned for help from a shopkeeper nearby, who unfortunately was fluent in French and Vietnamese only, but spoke enough English to explain what the different things were, what ailments they target, and how to use them. So in case any of you need a cure for cancer, just contact Annikken when she gets home in May!

Since we were in the vicinity, we visited the Dong Xuan market, a massive three storey structure that covers an entire city block. The whole thing looks more than anything like a normal mall, but occupied by hordes of hawkers with their piles of goods in a blessed chaos all over the place.

The second face of Hanoi, is one of a relaxed atmosphere, friendly people, beautiful scenery and old traditions. If you ever go to Hanoi, be ready to fend off the people who want to trick you out of your money, but keep an open mind. Everything is not as it might seem!

PS:
As we’re sitting here on a bench after a nice stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake, (Breiavatnet i Hanoi, for dere Siddiser) we’re sending warm thoughts to all our readers living in colder climates, because today is the first day of summer in Hanoi, and the temperature just keeps rising. (Æda-bæda!)