Saturday, July 7, 2012

Oh Vietnam...

About a year ago, Air Asia (a budget airline on this side of the world) was doing a ton of promotions for the upcoming low season.  Since this area doesn't get a lot of tourists this time of year (it's soooo hot!), they were offering some really cheap tickets to lots of cool places.  We had friends book trips to New Zealand, Phuket, India, Singapore, Malaysia, etc.  I mean, how can you pass up a round trip ticket to Phuket for $25 bucks?  So...

Cheap tickets + Steven's desire to travel before we had kids = Sauders booking a trip to Vietnam!

We also managed to convince our good friends, Darin & Staci, to join in on the fun... and before we knew it, our trip was upon us and off we went to Hanoi & Halong Bay, Vietnam!

Got our visas upon arriving!

We had heard that Halong Bay was absolutely beautiful and a must-see if we were going to be in Hanoi (North Vietnam).  So, Steven booked us a 3 day boat trip around the beautiful islands surrounding the bay.  I have been known to get pretty seasick, so I was pretty unsure about the whole deal.  However, Steven assured me that our boat would be nice and that everything would be fine.  (His usual response to me when I freak out about things...)

After a 4 hour bus ride from the airport to Halong Bay, we got on this shuttle boat to take us to our "nice boat" :)

This is the picture of the boat on the website we booked through.  So naturally, that's what we were expecting!

But then we pulled up to this and my thought was:  "Oh.. surely this isn't the "nice boat" Steven promised me!"

But then we kept getting closer and closer...

And sure enough... it was our boat and we found ourselves aboard the Halong Party Cruiser
(We were booked for a boat called the Black Pearl, but the crew told us it was in for "maintenance"?  Hmmm... I smell an Asian Scam!!!!)

 Our room was rather small, the bed was on a 10 degree slope and the sheets were stained... eek!

This was the picture of the bathroom on the internet...

This was our bathroom in real life...
These bathrooms are called "wet" bathrooms and are pretty typical in Asia.  You can shower, brush your teeth and poop all at the same time!  Too bad our drain wasn't working very well and the shower water would get plugged up for a couple of hours... Oh Halong Party Cruiser, don't you know I'm not a rough-it-and-tough-it kind of girl?

But despite the boat disaster (and the fact that we had to eat fried fish, tofu and squid for every meal--not the best for a pregnant woman who can't stand the smell of fish), we did get to see some pretty beautiful scenery!

Pretty awesome, huh?

 At sunset

We kayaked one day around the different islands


First time seeing the beach since moving to Thailand!

After our 3 days on the boat, we made our way back to the city of Hanoi.  (Side note: Once we had internet again, Steven decided he wanted to do a little research on the boat we actually got.  While reading a bunch of (bad) reviews about our beloved Halong Party Cruiser, he came across one that said "I was supposed to be on the Black Pearl but got put on the Halong Party Cruiser instead.  Not only was it extremely poor quality, but the boat sank and 4 of the crew members died.  Um... what?!?!?!  Now I tease Steven that we barely escaped death.  And I'm only half kidding!)

Anyway, glad to be back on land and in a hotel... we had a great time exploring Hanoi!

 Women wear these everywhere in Vietnam!  It's not just a touristy thing...

See? :)

 One day the boys decided to do a ride up the river and a hike while the girls relaxed at a nearby pool

 Longest earth worm ever!

 At the top!

Walking around

Family of 5! Who needs a mini van when you have a moped?

One of our friends here in Chiang Mai opened this cafe in Laos and Vietnam.  We were eager to check it out... especially after all that fish and tofu!

Not only did we "check it out", we ended up eating lunch here 3 times!!!  It reminded us of Panera and we were soooo excited!!

 Visiting the "Hanoi Hilton, the POW prison during the Vietnam War

 Picture of John McCain in the prison

 More Vietnam War museums

 Stevo took these pics :)

 At Ho Chi Min's "gravesite".  His body is actually preserved in there and you can see him!  Unfortunately, it was closed when we went.

 The boys wanted to try the famous "Pho" while in Hanoi.  Our travel book said this was the best place for it!

They both said it was better than the Thai noodle soup

Ready to go out for the night

Well, Vietnam... Thanks for an eventful and unforgettable trip!  
Steven says he wants to go back again, but maybe next time me and baby Sauder will sit that one out :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thai Cultural Show

I always tell Steven how I wish he'd take me out dancing every once in awhile!  And while that has yet to happen (I'm not holding my breath...), he did surprise me one night by taking me to see a Thai dancing show!  Close enough, right?

We enjoyed a traditional Thai dinner and then watched a traditional Thai dancing show.  I have to admit that at some points it was a bit boring, but it was interesting to see the different cultural dances that have developed over the years in Thailand.  One of our Thai language teachers majored in Thai dance, so it was neat to get a glimpse into her world!

Enjoy the pics :)

 Waiting for dinner

 Traditional Thai feast

 Thai traditional dance... look at those finger nails!!!

 This dance was a little weird...

 They're dressed as roosters?! :)

 Cool knife dancing dude!

Thai women are so pretty!!! 

The show moved from traditional Thai dances to tribal dances 

The kiddos were super cute! 

 Reminds me of Vanna White :)

 Tribal rice dance