Category Archives: Vietnam

A quiet little Monday; Party in Malaysia for the night then head to Nepal to hike to Everest base camp.

Again, I’m free!  No more waiting or whining about the package from hell.

Today I fly to Malaysia for one night, party, snap some photo’s, take some videos, power nap it, get on plane and fly to Kathmandu, Nepal before taking a puddle jumper plane into the mountains to start the a 14 day trek to everest base camp.

Mount Everest as seen from Drukair 2 (Not Original Photo)

Couldn’t be more pumped.  Meeting up with two canadians, Brandon and Tyler, I met in Vietnam for the trek, but I’m not sure if they’ll be any fun… we’ll give them a chance though, eh?

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I at least know Tyler (on the left) has his eye on the prize.

Just pumped on life!

So my energy is still through the roof from getting my package, which waiting for was like a South East Asia prison sentence.  But I’m finally free from the oppressiveness of hot women and the beer that flows through Hanoi Backpackers!

With that I have some exciting news!…  but I’m not going to tell you, yet…

For now, all you’ll getting is this.

Castaway… I went on again.  This time as a “staff member”, or in other words a dude with a camera.  Soon all it’s amazingness will be brought to you fully cut and edited with all it’s luster.  (This is assuming my computer can handle Final Cut Pro X much longer which has been a graphics card slayer; i.e. my computers not equipped to handle the files I shoot and record in, which is why you don’t see as many videos as I would love to show you, as they’re awesome!).

Castaway Island, Hanoi Backpackers - Video Screen Shot

But get psyched… I’m back baby!

“Dick in a Box” used to just be a Justin Timberlake song

I’m literally so excited right now I can barely function!  The FU<Ke|\| package has arrived!!!

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I want to thank Mom, James, all the staff at Hanoi Backpackers, Buddah and everyone who has made this dream a reality.  The carrot at the end of the string has finally been caught and I’m eating the shit out of it!

At this point there is only one sensible thing to do.  Charge up my IPhone and film myself getting wasted in celebration with the IPhone’s camera.

Here’s all that was needed to be done to make this dream come true and send a package from the US to Vietnam using UPS’s 6-10 day delivery service;

1. Ship package from US.

2. Wait 15 days in Vietnam until visa expires narrowly avoiding a boarder crossing arrest by bribing a bus driver $15 to sit in the conductor seat up front.

3. Buy visa for Cambodia (wait 30 days).  Get email; customs has package.

3. Leave Cambodia, buy flight and required “current” visa for Vietnam.

4. Fill out customs form hostel received and get required “notarized copies of passport and visa”.  Send, “Express Mail” to customs.

5. Receive second letter that says “ha ha, you actually found someone to notarize something in Vietnam!?  Not even ‘Vietnams Notary Office’ does that.  We were just messing with you.  Please come to the customs office yourself and pick up your package.  Bring your passport and visa, jerk.”

Loose translation.  It was in Vietnamese.

It only took 54 days and probably about $1,500 dollars, but it’s here.

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This also means I can get back to traveling and filming… wait what?

Vietnam in 60 Seconds – The Backpackers Guide to Vietnam

Well maybe a few more seconds…  As with any country there’s a standard route that’s traveled.  In the case of Vietnam, it’s North to South coming from Laos, and that’s what I would recommend (over South to North).  So here we go;

Incents Burning at Den Ngoc Temple (Ngoc Son Temple) - Hanoi Vietnam

HanoiThe Smaller yet more cultural of the two major cities.  Stay at “Hanoi Backpackers”; walk the city, see a museum, and get to Sapa or Halong bay (Read below).  Staying at Hanoi Backpackers will ensure you’ll meet many of the same friends on your trek south towards Ho Chi Minh City, as they know how to unite people through beer.

Hanoi Vietnam - Den Ngoc Temple (Ngoc Son Temple)

SapaA beautiful rice step farming community that offers the opportunity to stay with a local family. You can do it on your own for cheap ($50ish), but expect a quiet, peaceful, beautiful trip.  If you’re a backpacker you probably want a quiet, peaceful, beautiful trip and good people with plenty of free rice wine to share the experience with (wink, you know who you are).  In that case, book through Hanoi Backpackers ($120ish, a lot of the extra price goes to a more expensive sleeper train ride, but it’s comfy as hell and includes a free toothbrush).  Also, don’t forget your hiking boots!  Fun Fact about Sapa; They originally applied to be an opium farm but were denied the license, so grew rice instead.

Sapa Valley Vietnam Trek, Hanoi Backpackers Tour

Sapa Valley, Vietnam - Home stay with local family (Hanoi Backpackers)

Sapa Valley Vietnam, Hanoi Backpackers Tour

Ha Long BayA beautiful bay with islands of shear cliffs rising from the ocean all round you.  Again, you can do a boat cruise for cheap through any local travel agency (they’re everywhere and will run you about $50-$100 everything inlcuded), or you can do it the backpacker way (It’s $210, very expensive! but read about Castaway and see if it’s right for you).

Halong Bay Vietnam at night with stars and cliff.  Castaway Tour Hanoi Backpackers

HueVery significant during the Vietnam War with a many relevant and popular historic sites (i.e. the Citadel).

Hue Vietnam - American Tanks, Jets, Personal, Carriers and helicopters rotting on concrete displays

Citadel Hue, Vietnam

Hoi An - Food, shopping and very pretty (I didn’t go).  Suppose to be some of the best food in all of Vietnam and great shopping.  Also, the place to go for custom suits and clothing.  Some tailors are dirt cheap and some are fixed and a little more pricey.  Ask your hostel/guest house for recommendations, as there are some very high quality tailors but plenty of ripoffs.

Hue vs. Hoi An - Many try to choose one or the other, as I did… either do that based on above, or choose option three;  Start at one and do one of the motorbike tours to the other.  You can ride on the back of a motorbike or rent your own with a guide (or go all solo, but if you do, don’t tell the bike rental shop your leaving the town.  They’ll charge 4x as much).  Everyone who chose this motorbike option loved it. 

Na TrangA beach front city that has it all.  You can relax at the beach all day, go to a mud spa, or to the water amusement park for like $4, shop; whatever you want…  It’s a city with a beach.  It also has a very established backpacking culture which means booze cruises and backpacker bars.  While booze cruises are plentiful around Asia, the one’s in Na Trang do offer something a little different, making it worth it.  PS. Lots of Russian’s.

Drinking coffee and reading - Na Trang, Vietnam

Mui NeA pretty and small beach fishing community with awesome sand dunes.  Many go here to relax and see the beautiful sand dunes.  I did not go and regret it.  It’s a good stop in between Na Trang and Ho Chi Ming City;  it breaks up the bus ride and can be done in a day or two.

Ho Chi Minh CityThe Vietnam’s largest and most modern city.  Most go and see the “Cu Chi Tunnels” which were part of the underground network of tunnels used to fight America during the war (Two hours outside the city and only around $15 for a day trip).  Some take two day trips to the “Delta’s”; A river network outside the city said to be beautiful.  At night most drink in the backpacker area where there are hundreds of child sized plastic chairs crammed together and beers are 50 cents.  A fun and funny experience for a night or two.

Ho Chi Minh City at night (Saigon)

I try to keep these overviews short and sweet, but ask any questions you’d like.  For instance; what was it like being woken up at 2am by two drunk, hot, half naked girls running around the dorm room wasted (an Aussie and English).  There were two more girl’s, but they were sober and kept their bra and undies on.

Back to Viet-F’n Nam – The Package From Hell, Chapter 2

So there’s one of two theory’s here;

1.  I was naive enough to think, “Hey I should have brought my IPhone for the Wifi, and since Sovereign Bank has been bending me over every ATM and raping me with ridiculous fee’s;  I’ll simply mail my IPhone and a new bank card to Vietnam”.  Noble prize worthy like thinking, right!  Wrong.

Hue, Vietnam - US Helicopter on Display aside Tanks and Personnel Carriers

2.  Vietnam’s sending me a message;  “Hey Carl, the last month you spent being taught how your imperialist country pulled out the teeth and fingernails of every man woman and child for fun, while your American POW’s stayed at “Bed and Breakfast” like prison’s with; massage parlors, swimming pools and personal butler services… we don’t think you got the point.   So, you want your package, come back and get it… Punk!”.

Okay, I embellished on the “Punk” part.

Regardless of which theory you buy, I flew back to Vietnam yesterday.  The package that was going to take 6-10 days according to UPS, is on day 44 and counting.  Vietnam sent a letter saying they wont release the package without a copy of my passport and visa (which had long since expired).

You may be asking yourself, “is this package really worth it?”  Well, I have the dollar cost analysis, and pro’s and con’s sheet typed up; feel free to request a copy.

The good news:  Hanoi Backpackers is a great place to be stuck and I may be able to partner up with them for some filming.

Bad news:  $340 of flights, another $65 visa.  Sitting in a coffee shop in Hanoi when I should be on a beach in Sri Lanka, and Finally… I’m complaining to a bunch people who see my complaints as a good enough reason to slap me.

Na Trang, Vietnam

Editors Note:  On a serious note, these are mistakes that are easily avoidable, so I’ll write a quick post on how and why, coming up next…

A Swing and a Miss, Three Times… Kinda

One standard I’ve always tried to maintain with the Backpackers Union is a mutual expectation of transparency.  If I expect others to be honest about their stories, I had better do the same.  Here’s one of those stories I begrudgingly tell purely based off that principle…

When I was on Otres, the hippie-esque beach on the Cambodian coast, I met this hot girl.  We subtly flirted which lead to a late night ocean swim surrounded by glowing plankton and a first kiss in the corridor near the showers.  Our kiss was cut short by a door swinging open to one of the showers where she then embarrassedly scurried off.

The following day I was pissed to leave Otres knowing that would be the end of the story as my next destination was Vietnam over 400 miles away.

Na Trang, Vietnam - The Sailing Center

About half my way through Vietnam I was getting ready to catch a bus to Hue leaving the costal city of Na Trang.  I waited and chatted with group of other travelers excluding this cocky but very pretty english chick who clearly wanted to keep to herself.  She suddenly asked a question about the bus and we discovered we’d be on the same one sitting next to each other, although had different destinations.  We talked for a while and I was excited to find out that she might be heading towards Hue after Hoi An.  I even bragged to some traveling buddies, Brandon and Tyler, that all these hot chicks might be heading our way while we we’re still in Hue.

But they never came.

A few cities later and after the Tet Holiday in Hanoi (Northern Vietnam) and near the end of my Vietnam stay, we had a huge group of travelers that started to feel like a family after surviving Castaway and Sapa together.  On our last night we set out on the town determined to make it a legendary evening.  A few drinks in to the night I started flirting with this pretty blond girl sitting at a table.  Shortly into the conversation she gives me this snide look, and says, “You still don’t remember me do you”?…  “Cambodia, Na Trang…?”

Each girl I met was her…

When we were waiting for the bus she was annoyed and testing me to see if I remembered her.

Fail… fail… fail…

…I meet so many people… traveling wears you down… this project has me distracted… pick any excuse you want.  I’m still waking up in cold sweats over this…