A Travellerspoint blog

Hanoi: U23 Football, Escape Room, and DIY Oral 'Surgery'

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23 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

It was a rough morning as we both processed everything from the night before. We talked it over briefly, turning the discussion to how drunk and fucked up we both got last night. Terry had to work during the day, so he got ready and went off to Moose; I stayed home to get some work done.

Later in the afternoon, I began to prep everything to make ooey-gooey butter cake. I was thrilled to have finally found everything that I needed (I brought the yellow cake mix with me from France). I had to improvise when finding mixing bowls at Terry's apartment: large pots worked quite nicely. After prepping the topping and placing the base of the cake into the cake pan, I cleaned up, packed everything up and took an Uber over to Moose. Terry's oven barely work and he suggested that we use the over at Moose.

I arrived to find the restaurant packed with local Vietnamese, all watching the semi-final game of the AFC Under 23 football (soccer) game. Everyone around town was glued to their TVs to watch the game: this was a huge moment for Vietnam and they were all proud of their national team. Not finding a place to sit down, I stood at one end of the bar; I gave Terry the cake to place in the fridge until it was time to bake.

The game was exciting and being surrounded by locals only enhanced the experience: their excitement was intoxicating! Every time Vietnam would score the restaurant erupted into cheers and celebrations. The score was tied after the end of the second half, pushing things into extra time; eventually they ended up having to do a penalty shootout. Everyone was on the edge of their seats in anticipation... and Vietnam won!!

Soon the streets were filled with people celebrating, just like a few days ago. Motorbikes brought traffic to a standstill, Vietnam flags were waving all over the place, people were honking their horns, playing music, and expressing their joy over the game. There was no violence, no rioting, no looting like one sees during victory celebrations in the United States; this was a genuine display of community and happiness.

I joined Terry, Ian, and Alex at one of the tiki tables in the back, where we sat around having some drinks while we let the chaos in the streets unfold. Terry was off work by this point, so we all got to hang out for a while. We decided to throw the butter cake into the oven while we had dinner. A little while later, one of the staff came over and said the cake smelled like it was burning (though the timer still had 10 minutes to go!). I ran over and was happy to find that the cake wasn't ruined – just slightly overcooked on the sides, but still quite edible. When I served the cake to everyone at the table, they were all impressed and enjoyed it. Terry was particularly impressed with my baking skills.


Alex soon took off to try and make his way home; Terry and I decided to head home as well, though we'd have to walk. On the way, we stopped off at O'Leary's for a drink; they were preparing to close so the staff could enjoy the celebrations, but we were able to get one round of drinks. Terry's Irish friend was at the bar, so we had to stop and chat with him; he was quite drunk, but still friendly.

When we left O'Leary's, we wandered down the street to a small bar where we sat outside on the sidewalk and had a few beers each. We joked around with one another a lot: Terry put an ice cube down the back of my shirt and I then knocked over our drinks while trying to get the damn thing out. It was... embarrassing and funny. We had a few balloons as well: the first ones were good, but the second and third ones were sub-par (we were not impressed).


Leaving the bar behind, we continued our walk home, taking a route to avoid most of the congestion. The celebrations began at 18:00 and would last until the early hours of the morning. Terry said that he was hungry and so we walked over to a small restaurant that served pho. I wasn't particularly hungry at this point, so I just had a beer. Terry's “pho” turned out to be just ramen noodles, which we found ridiculous (then again, it was 01:00 and the woman was clearly about to close up shop). Once Terry had finished eating, we walked home and crashed for the evening.

24 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I spent the day quietly relaxing, getting some work done, not really doing much of anything. I went to moose for dinner and drinks in the evening. Terry and Ian were both working, so I got to chat with them. Another regular, Steve, arrived later in the evening and joined us for drinks. He ended up staying far too late – past when the restaurant closed, much to Ian's annoyance.

Terry, Steve and I all left Moose at the same time; Terry and I had planned to grab a drink or two on the way home, so he invited Steve along. Steve is a nice guy, but he talks endlessly! We opted to go to the Shitty Shitty Wine Bar, where we each had a beer before splitting a bottle of red wine. The bar had an upstairs seating area that neither Terry or I had ever seen, so we went up to explore and discovered that they have a piano. To my surprise, Terry sat down and began to play a little bit! I hadn't know that he'd had some lessons when he was younger; he was rusty, but I was still impressed as he played the opening part of Fur Elise.


We didn't stay out too late at the wine bar, but when Terry and I got home, we continued drinking, this time with vodka and coke. We took the drinks upstairs and, while I was relaxing in bed, Terry got out some scissors and knives. Unsure of what he was up to, I asked him and he said he was going to remove some of the hardware in his jaw. Years ago, he'd broken his jaw, which required a lot of screws, etc to fix. Now some of the hardware was protruding from his jaw into my mouth and he wanted to remove it. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about him doing it himself when he was drunk.

We went into the bathroom, where he sat on the sink and took several shots of vodka before cutting into his jaw. He didn't make large or deep cuts; just enough to cut away around the metal, though there was a lot of blood. I sat by his side, nervously watching and there just in case something when wrong. At one point he touched on a nerve, which caused him to double over in pain (I was concerned that he was going to have a seizure). He recovered and finished the cutting (the shots of vodka throughout to “sterilize” things caused him a lot of pain too). When he tried to unscrew the screws, he found it far more difficult than he anticipated. He wasn't able to get anything removed and he eventually gave up, leaving the bloody knives and scissors in the bathroom. I was relieved when we finally crawled into bed.

25 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I woke up this morning quite ill: similar to how Terry had felt a few days ago, I was up all night puking; it was awful. He had the day off from work, so we were able to take it easy and be lazy. I spent most of the morning in bed, resting. In the afternoon, Terry and I planned to finally do an escape room together – we'd been talking about doing one since October! First though, we had to stop in at Moose & Roo for a little bit. We then took an Uber over to the Moose & Roo Pub in the Old Quarter, where Terry had to do a little bit of work.

We were able to then walk over to where the escape room was located. We decided to do the Egyptian room, which had us trying to solve the Pharo's puzzle. Before going in, we were able to put on some themed costumes, which was fun. The puzzles in the room were challenging, but not nearly as difficult as the ones that I'd faced in the other two Hanoi escape rooms. We had to call for help a few times, but we did manage to solve the puzzles... and we escaped!! Huzzah!! We both had a great time and agreed that we'd be back to do another room.

We swung by Moose to grab some food on our way home; since I was still not feeling well, Terry was going to make some home-made soup for me. When we got home, I sat on the sofa resting while Terry toiled away in the kitchen, chopping up veggies and cooking the soup. The smells in the house were amazing – I couldn't wait to try the soup. It did not disappoint: it was delicious!! Terry is quite an accomplished chef. He can cook, I can bake. Haha


We then went up to bed, curled up together and started watching “V for Vendetta” on my laptop. We made it about 15 minutes into the film before I heard Terry start to snore; he was exhausted and so I was so. I turned my computer off and we went to bed.

26 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning Terry and I decided to take it easy, heading over to the park next to his house for a leisurely walk around. The park is quite large, fully of trees, benches, and a huge lake (there is a hut where one can rent paddle boats to take out on the lake). We walked around and stopped at a small hut for some coffee. We sat by the lake side, enjoying our coffee and chatting. When we finished at the park, we walked over to a nearby bia hoi for a few (cheap) beers before heading off to Moose and Roo.

I spent the afternoon and evening at Moose getting some work done (their WiFi was stronger and more reliable than the connection at Terry’s home). I had dinner there and a few drinks; I wasn’t feeling too good by the end of the evening, so I decided to cut down on my drinking.

Steve (from Tokyo) showed up and we spent much of the evening hanging out and chatting. He’s a really nice guy and I’m glad that we’ve become friends as we’re both such regulars at the Moose. A friend of Terry’s came in as well, so the four of us spent some time chatting for a while.

When Terry finished work, we all decided to head out for some drinks. Our plan was to go to GC first and then Long Play. Steve had to run to his hotel first, but said that he’d meet us there. When we got to GC, it was packed full of people, so we opted to head straight to Long Play instead. I ordered one beer, but decided that I didn’t want it after having just two sips. I still wasn’t feeling well, so I called it a night for me and headed back to Terry’s place, telling him to stay out and enjoy himself.

I fell asleep watching a movie and Terry got back quite late. He was behaving quite strangely. He came into the room, showered, got some things out of his “sex drawer” so I assumed that he had brought some guy back with him (which he hadn’t). He left the room, went downstairs for a bit, then came back to the room, angrily grabbed his fur blanket, slammed the door and stormed upstairs to sleep on the sixth floor. I had no clue what had happened to upset him.

Posted by Glichez 04:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi: Pampering Ourselves + Vietnam Celebrates

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17 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Terry and I went for coffee this morning at our usual coffee shop near his apartment. While we were having our coffee, I brought up the subject of when his ex was going to move out. Terry got frustrated and annoyed because this was a subject that he was hearing about from every single one of his friends: we were all urging him to get his ex out of the apartment. Terry grabbed his phone and sent him a message, telling him that he needed to be gone by the end of the day. He calmed down, I apologized for unintentionally upsetting him, and we were ok.

That evening I met up with Terry at Moose, who was having meetings with Alex, one of his wine reps. I'd met and hung out with Alex back in October with Lizzie, so I joined them at a table once the meeting was over. We proceeded to drink several glasses of wine: Terry and Alex were trying to settle an 'argument' on which bottle of red was better. I preferred Alex's bottle, but Terry favored something from Argentina that no one could pronounce and so we dubbed it Despactio. Alex ordered us a round of Negronis, which got me rather drunk. Alex once again brought up when Terry's ex was going to move out, which I could see annoyed Terry. When Terry stepped away, Alex and I chatted privately a bit: he could clearly see how I felt about Terry and sympathized; we both agreed that the ex needed to get out ASAP though – for both of their sake.

By this point the three of us were thoroughly tipsy, so Terry and I decided to head home. We stopped at the VinMart to grab a few beers; while walking him, Terry admired some of the flowers a street vendor was selling, but she wanted too much for them, so he didn't buy any.

When we got home, Terry went upstairs to see if his ex had actually moved out. He was alone upstairs for a few minutes before coming back downstairs. He stopped at the foot of the stairs, said that he'd moved out, and then he broke down crying. I gave him a hug to comfort him while he cried; I had never seen Terry so emotionally vulnerable, he's usually quite closed off.

He composed himself and we started having some drinks. We sat on the sofas downstairs, drinking beer and somewhat chatting. It was clear that the breakup had finally hit Terry, which was understandable; they had broken up in November, but until his ex moved out, it never seemed real (they still shared a bed during the interim!). He was hurting pretty bad and my hear broke for him; I wanted to wrap my arms around him and assure him that everything would be ok.

We soon ran low on beer, so I ran back down to the VinMart to get some more. On the way back, I stopped and bought some flowers for Terry (I bought the ones he was admiring). When I got home, he was sitting on the couch where I'd left him; we proceeded to start drinking the new beers. He was surprised and appreciative of the flowers that I brought him.


He cried a little bit more before going back upstairs and locking himself in his room. I heard a lot of loud crashes and banging going on – I knew he was trashing the room out of rage. I knocked on the door, asking him to let me in; I didn't want him to hurt himself. When he finally came out, he was emotionally drained and seemed to be in somewhat of a trance. We went back downstairs, where he grabbed two large knives, along with some dirt from outside that he mixed with water.

For the next hour or so he proceeded to sit on the couch, listening to music, cleaning one of the knives. I sat on another couch, making sure that he was ok and that he wasn't going to do anything foolish; we didn't really talk while he cleaned. He broke the second knife for reasons unknown. Once the first one was clean, he abruptly threw it across the room, where it hit the floor and broke.

Finally, he wanted to go to bed. When we entered the bedroom, I was shocked: the place was a disaster. He'd managed to upend the large and heavy TV stand, clothes and everything in the bathroom was strewn on the floor. We crawled into bed and he was soon fast asleep; I lay there for a while, wishing there was something I could do to make him feel better, but knowing that he's have to process this himself.

18 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning we chatted for a little bit, going over the events of the night before. Terry was much more composed and was surprised by his own actions. We hurriedly put the bedroom back together, just in case the cleaning woman came by, and hid the broken knives (they belonged to the landlord). After showering, we went out for coffee and found the cleaning woman in the kitchen. Terry explained to her that his ex had moved out, which delighted her as she had never liked him; Terry also explained that I would be staying for a little while, which she said was ok. We're pretty sure the fact that his ex was gone was the only reason she was cool with me staying.

I spent the day working at Moose and then went back home with Terry. We were shocked when we entered his bedroom: the cleaning woman had done a full cleaning of the place. New bed sheets, everything was straightened up, the bathroom had been deep cleaned, even a new shower head had been installed! She was VERY happy that the ex was gone!

Terry and I relaxed that night, laying in bed listening to music, watching videos on YouTube. We listened to “Defying Gravity” and several songs from Chicago; “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles; and many other Broadway favorites. He also played Disney songs, especially from The Lion King (his favorite Disney movie). He was clearly in a better place than he was last night, which I was glad about. We joked around and overall had a good evening together. *** ***

19 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I was up early today so I could run out to the grocery store before Terry woke up. I wanted to make him breakfast, so I grabbed some bread, eggs, and butter; I also picked up some Frosties (which is the name that Frosted Flakes goes by in Vietnam – and which Terry had mentioned was his favorite). When I got home, I made some instant coffee and brought it up to Terry, who was just waking up. He threw on some clothes and we went downstairs, where I made some “Eggs in a Basket” for breakfast. Terry had never heard of it, but he said he enjoyed it.


We decided to have a mini pamper ourselves day before he had to go to work. First, though, I had him cut my hair, which was in desperate need of being buzzed; it's simple to cut my hair as I just buzz it all off around the sides and back. He was nervous at first, but soon figured it out. Then it was time for pampering!

He had bought some facial masks a few nights ago, so we gave those a try. We kept them of for a little bit, but soon became disillusioned with them as they didn't seem to do much of anything. Terry suggested we do “black masks” using the cream that he had. He applied it to me first and then himself, all while we listened to music; “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, as well as the soundtrack to Chicago had quickly become favorites of ours. The masks stayed on until they dried and then it was time to peel them off... He had warned me that it could hurt, but it was no worse than taking off a band-aid. When the mask was completely off, my skin felt much smoother.


That afternoon and evening was spent at Moose: him working and me on my laptop working as well. After work, we went out to Long Play with Ian. While we were having some drinks and balloons, one of our Vietnamese “strays” showed up (the guy who had come home with us a week or so ago); we indicated that he wasn't coming back with us again, which seemed to annoy him. There was a German guy at the bar who kept playing angry metal music, so we decided to hop over to GC for some drinks. When we got to GC they were getting ready to close, so we had time for just one drink. We went back to Long Play for a few more rounds; the German guy began talking to us, which was annoying. We finally decided that it was time to head home.

20 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I was up before Terry this morning and went downstairs to clean up and have some coffee. While I was sitting there, I got a call form Nana, who was upset and wanted to chat with Terry. I went upstairs, woke up and told him; he said he'd call her back. He and I sat around chatting for a little bit while he charged up his phone. He called Nana back while I got ready for the day.

I went to Moose with Terry for a late lunch and then I went out to get some reading done. I was still reading “La Belle Sauvage” and I was eager to make some progress in the book. While I was at Moose, Ian and Terry walked over to the nearly (and only!) McDonald's in town (it had opened in early December too!); they brought back Big Macs for the staff; I asked Terry to bring me a chocolate shake. He also brought me a pink balloon from McDs.


I eventually got quite tired and went back to Terry's to take a nap. Nana and I had planned to meet up this evening near Tay Ho for drinks. When I left to go and meet her, I was surprised to find the streets filled with people waving the Vietnamese flag while riding their motorbikes. Everyone was celebrating something and the crowds were incredible! My Uber motorbike driver got stuck on one street for several minutes, unable to find any room to maneuver around; the streets were packed with motorbikes. I knew there was no way that I'd made it up to Tay Ho, so I had the driver take me to Moose instead. I messaged Nana to let her know, but she didn't seem very happy that I couldn't make it.

At Moose, I discovered that the Vietnamese under-23 football (soccer) team had won the quarterfinal game that evening; this was the best any team from Vietnam had ever done on the international stage. People were filling the streets to celebrate; it was awesome to get to experience their overwhelming joy and revelry. Everyone was heading towards Hoan Kiam Lake to celebrate, which made the roads around Moose jam packed.

Terry, Ian and I left Moose together that evening after close – and the celebrations were still going on. Down the street, a bus had been stopped by the crowd and people were standing on top, waving flags. We bought three headbands that were for the football team; the locals were really happy to see Westerners sharing in their joy. We walked over to the 24-hour wine bar, which we dubbed our “Shitty Shitty Wine Bar” (sung to the tune of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”). Once there, we had a few beers and then moved on to Long Island Ice Teas. We were obliterated. Terry used his red headband to tie up the pointer and middle fingers on my left hand - we dubbed this "Finger Bondage" and I amazingly kept it on the rest of the evening.


The three of us took an Uber over to Terry's, where we sat around having Vodka and Coke for a little bit. Terry had broken part of his incense burner when he trashed his bedroom, but the Shitty Wine Bar had the same things in their bathrooms; we planned to just grab them. While we were drinking, I pulled out the one I had grabbed... and Terry was shocked that I had one as he'd grabbed one too! Terry went up to bed early, leaving Ian and me downstairs chatting. Ian and I chatted for hours, about anything and everything. By the time Ian left, it was nearly 06:00! I was glad to have spent the time with him; Ian is a great listener who gives good advice. I went upstairs and crawled into bed to catch a few hours of sleep.

21 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Somehow – I've no idea how – but I was awake at 10:00 this morning. Terry had to be at work for the morning shift, but I opted to stay at home and chill during the day. I was dead tired; I said that I'd come meet him at Moose later that day for lunch. I spent the morning relaxing and napping. When I reached Moose, neither Terry or Ian were at work, which was surprising. Ian showed up after I finished eating to let me know that he'd taken Terry home as he'd started to have some seizures at work. I messaged Terry to see if he was ok; he said he was and that he needed rest.

I had dinner plans with Ami that night, but before meeting up with him, I went over to a guy named Ben's place for a little bit. Ben and I had met up once before when I had my Airbnb apartment; it was fun getting to hang out with him again for a little bit.

Ami and I had dinner at an Indian restaurant in near Tay Ho that was pretty good. We ordered a few dishes and sat around chatting for hours. I was really glad to have met Ami; he and I have become good friends and I'm excited to have another person to hang out with when I move to Hanoi. I didn't stay too late as I wanted to get back home to check on Terry.

When I arrived home (around 21:30), Terry wasn't there; I messaged him and found out that he'd gone back to work that evening! The silly fool. I hung out at home, watching Netflix for a little while. Later in the evening, Terry messaged me and invited me to meet up with him at GC. I quickly grabbed an Uber over to meet him; he was out with Ian and another coworker named Ming. When I arrived at GC, they were getting raided by the police, so I wasn't able to have a drink there. We walked around the block for a few minutes, grabbing some beer from a Circle K, while we waited for the cops to leave.

We then went to Long Play, where we hung out, drinking beer, singing along to several songs; Ming didn't want beer though, he went with Malibu rum and Coke (he only had one; I had to finish his second). It was great fun getting to hang out with Ming; all of the Moose staff know me well, but it is nice doing things with them outside of the restaurant.

Ian suggested that we go over to a different part of town where he knew of a Tam Quat... so we did. Terry and I hung out drinking beer for a little bit there. When we were all done, the four of us walked over to grab some banh my (sandwiches) at a place that Ian knew. Terry bought some (awful) rice wine and we sat down to eat; the food was good, but not the best. Ming mentioned that his mom owned her own banh my place and promised that we could give it a try sometime. When it was time to head home for the night, Terry and I dropped Ming off at his home on the way back to ours.

22 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning I was woken up by a sleepy Terry nudging me to roll over; I did and he wrapped his arms around me. We spent much of the morning snuggling together, taking turns holding one another. It was absolutely wonderful. He would take his fingers and lightly tickle my next while we snuggled. I loved every minute of it.

When we woke up, it was a rough and tired morning; we both wanted to just stay in bed that day. I joined him at Moose, where I had lunch, before heading back up to Tay Ho. I was hell-bound to find a damn cake pan today! I went to three different stores and found nothing. I then went over to the Lotte Center and, as luck would have it, I found a cake pan! Huzzah!! I also wanted to get some Amarula, which was rumored to be sold there, but they didn't have any.

I then took an Uber over to Moose, where I shared the good news about the pan with Terry. He was excited. He was off work by this point and needed the apartment keys (we only had one key to the front door between the two of us); he was meeting up with a guy that afternoon. I immediately shut down and he could tell I was upset. He left and I started drinking. A lot. I had a double rum & Coke, which I quickly downed; I followed that up with a double shot of Bailey's. I had just finished paying my bill when Steve, another regular, showed up; he could tell I was upset and offered to buy me a beer. I had a drink with him, not really going into why I was upset, but I think he figured it out (no one who has seen Terry and me together can have any doubt about how I feel towards him).

I then went over to Long Play, where I downed a couple beers and had two balloons. Since the bar was deserted, I left and walked over to GC. I had a few beers there before meeting up with a Vietnamese guy and chatting with him. I spent a little while there, getting pretty drunk, before finally heading home.


Terry wasn't home when I arrived, but he'd left the key hidden for me. I let myself in and crawled into bed. I put on Netflix and was soon asleep. Terry came home later, obliterated as well. He crawled into bed and we both went to sleep. The day had started so beautifully, but ended so poorly.

Posted by Glichez 14:11 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi: Drinking, Escape Room, and Drama

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11 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

In the morning, Xia and I moved down to Terry’s bed once his ex-bf had left for work. We slept for a little while longer before getting up to clean up our drinking mess from the night before. When it was time to leave, I went back to my apartment to get some work done and start packing up as I need to check out tomorrow.

Later in the day I met up with Terry at Moose; he was done at work around 18:00 and we planned to go grab dinner with two friends of his that night: Nana and her husband Alex. We went back to the crab place where we had gone back in November and the food was every bit as good as it was before. I enjoyed getting to know Nana and Alex; they are a fun and outgoing couple.


After dinner we wanted to get a few drinks, so we thought that going back to the Choo Choo Bar would be a good idea. We walked down the train tracks trying to find it, but to our disappointment, it was closed. Our backup option was a rice wine bar further down the tracks; we needed to take motorbikes to reach it; I rode with Alex while Terry rode with Nana.

The rice wine bar is where the night took a fun turn… and where we drank far too much. Our first bottle of wine was mango flavored, which we all agreed was not the best thing we’d tasted. For our next (and all subsequent bottles), we went with a green apple flavored rice wine. The glasses were all tiny and we downed each drink like a shot; every time a train would roll by, we had to take a drink (and there were quite a few trains during the course of the evening).


We soon took over the music playing at the bar as their selection was awful muzak. We started playing random songs like “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Let It Go” – when this song played, Alex tried to get up to change it, but I fought him off, all while singing along to the song with Terry. God knows how, but we eventually ended up dancing around to the music. I remember inviting Nana up to dance with me and then doing the same with Alex.

A group of Westerners sat down next to us and I took it upon myself to start chatting with them. They were two Dutch girls traveling together and a British guy named Joe who was hosting them via CouchSurfing. Joe was pretty cute, which is why I started talking to them in the first place. Soon they were brought into our music, dancing, drinking madness.

By this point it was after 23:00 and we’d had six bottles of rice wine; needless to say, we were all very drunk. Very drunk. Terry wanted to go home and I kept insisting that I’d get him an Uber and make sure he got home alright. The last thing I remember of him was that he was sitting on a wooden plank near the train tracks, waiting for me while I went inside to… drink more? Say goodbye? Pay the bill? All of the above? Who knows. The next thing I know, Nana and Alex are freaking out because Terry vanished and we couldn’t find him. I tried calling him via Messenger, but we never heard from him. He eventually sent a text that he was safe at home and going to bed.

I returned inside to chat with Joe and his friends some more. They ordered a fresh bottle of rice wine just before it was time for them to close, so they offered me some of the wine. Joe and I began to chug down the wine from the bottle so it didn’t go to waste. Finally, they did close and we had to leave. Nana, Alex and I were wasted. I recall standing outside, shouting for Alex as he’d gone down the tracks for some reason while Nana and I sat outside the bar. Eventually I wandered over to the street, hailed an Uber and somehow made it back to my apartment.

It was an exceedingly fun and drunken night – as is tradition.

12 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Check out day at my Airbnb and I’ve no idea how I managed to wake up at 09:00, shower, and function enough to get my shit together and move out… but I did it. I was moving into Terry’s apartment for the next few weeks, crashing in his room (there would be three of us in the room: Terry, his ex, and me). I took an Uber over to his place, let myself in with the set of keys that he gave me, and settled in downstairs to watch Netflix until Terry finally woke up.

When he did wake up, I moved my things up to his room. His ex was at work, so we spent the morning sitting in bed and chatting. We *finally* got around to him opening the Christmas presents that I had bought him: a Moulin Rouge posted from Paris, a beret from Paris, a picture frame with several photos from my last visit to Hanoi, and a hand-made necklace with the Buddhist Om symbol that I bought in Cape Town. He liked them all quite a bit.


We then showered and got ready for the day before heading out to get some coffee. I followed him to Moose & Roo in the afternoon and camped out at the bar to get some work done.

13 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Today was a big day for Terry at work: there was a major wedding party in the evening that required a lot of setup and prep work. I helped out by bringing down extra tables and chairs; Terry even suggested that he might need me to work that evening, taking out food to the buffet table, which I said I’d be happy to do if he needed.

During the afternoon, I ventured up to Tay Ho to some of the more Western grocery stores in search of ingredients for butter cake. I’d been telling Terry about butter cake ever since I returned to Hanoi and I was determined to bake it for him; I’d brought the yellow cake mix with me all the way from France with this in mind! I managed to find the powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract at the three stores that I visited.

I then stopped to pick up an air mattress for me to use while staying at Terry’s. I’d posted in WTG Hanoi in search of a place to buy one, but a kind woman from Australia (Diane) offered to lend me hers for free! She was super outgoing and friendly; the air mattress had never been used and she had all of the necessary accessories (sheets, air pump, etc).

I dropped all of the groceries and air mattress back off at the apartment before heading back up to Moose & Roo, where I spent the next few hours while I waited for Shane and Dawn to arrive in Hanoi. Their entire visa process had been hell: the eVisas hadn’t worked out at all because the Vietnamese claimed the names on the applications were wrong (they weren’t), so they had to do a rush invite letter and do visa on arrival. When they arrived at Noi Bai Airport, Shane started to message me about the visa process, which is rather ridiculous.

I walked over to their Airbnb, where I was able to let myself in and get the keys while I waited for them to arrive. By odd coincidence, they were staying at another property run by the same people who ran the Airbnb that I had just stayed at. They arrived just after 22:00 and we hung out at their apartment for a little while; they were exhausted from a long day of traveling. We went over to a Circle K to get them some drinks and then they wanted to call it a night.

I went back over to Moose to meet back up with Terry; he was done with work and we soon set off to head back home. During the night, Terry woke up several times and was rather ill, which prevented him from getting much sleep; I went downstairs to get him some fresh water at one point. Poor guy!

14 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

When I got up this morning, Terry was still not feeling well. I got him some more water and then ran out to the corner VinMart to pickup some orange juice. He’d already called in sick to work for the day and I made sure he had everything he needed before I left to go hang out with Shane and Dawn.

When I arrived at their Airbnb, I could hear them arguing as I waited in the hallway – not a good way to start the day. I went back outside and sent them a message that I had arrived; they came down to meet me shortly thereafter; no one mentioned the argument. We decided to grab some bunch at La Place; I ordered a Vietnamese noodle dish, while they each ordered a Western breakfast.

Once brunch was finished, we walked over to Moose, where we had a few drinks. We spent a few hours hanging out at Moose, far longer than I had anticipated. While we were there, we decided to book an escape room, picking one called “The Killing Joke” – based on the infamous Batman comic. When it was time to leave, we grabbed three Grab bikes to take us over to the escape room; the drivers overcharged us, but I wasn’t in a mood to haggle over the price. Dawn’s driver and mine seemed to be racing to our destination, which was rather amusing as we zipped through traffic; my driver snapped a few selfies of us as he was driving along; we won the race.


The escape room was extremely difficult! Many of the puzzles made no logical sense and those that seemed to follow a pattern turned out to have nothing of the sort! We had to call for help several times; the help we did receive was next to useless though. There was one clue we missed, which looked like some player had just scratched on the wall out of boredom. The puzzle that finally stumped us was watching a series of images through a mask to decipher a lock combination using directions. None of the images had a pattern to indicate the direction (up, down, left, right); when we failed, a guy working there came in to tell us the answers, but we couldn’t understand how he got the directions from the pictures. Nevertheless, we finished about 70% of the room, but it was frustrating to fail it!

Outside, while waiting for our Uber car to arrive, things began to unravel. Dawn started being rude and disrespectful to Shane; fed up with it, Shane left to clear his head. She and I spent some time trying to find him before grabbing an Uber; he’d connect with us later.

My plan now was to go to the grocery store, get some soup and stuff for Terry, take it over to his place and make him dinner. While en route to the store, Terry sent me a message saying that he was going to the store and asking if I needed anything. We agreed to meet up and go over together, so I had the Uber drop us off at Terry’s place. He finally got to meet Dawn, who proceeded to unload her drama bullshit onto him. While we were chatting, Shane got in touch with me; we agreed to meet up at Moose in a little bit; I was going to let the two of them chat and fix things, while Terry and I hung out that evening. Terry was planning to make dinner (despite the fact that he wasn’t feeling well!) and we were going to have a movie night.

At the grocery store, Terry picked out some veggies and steaks for us to have for dinner. I was looking forward to having a nice, home-cooked meal again! I paid for the groceries and Terry took a taxi back to his place, while Dawn and I went up to Moose. Shane was waiting for us there; I didn’t have a drink, but sat there for a couple minutes to make sure that everything was ok. They chatted with one another and everything appeared to be good; I told them to chat that night and we’d message one another later. Then I caught an Uber back to Terry’s.

Terry had begun to cook us dinner, but some of his roommates invaded the kitchen and began to make their dinners as well, preventing him from finishing up what he was doing. He got to a stopping point and we decided to go out for a few beers while we waited for them to finish up. It took us some time to find a bia hoi, but we eventually stumbled upon one up the street, where we sat and chatted for an hour or two.

When we returned home, everyone had cleared out of the kitchen and Terry was able to finish cooking our steaks. He made dinner for three (him, me, and his ex); we had steak and boiled veggies, along with a homemade soup; it was all outstanding! Terry didn’t eat a lot as he was still not feeling great, but it was good that he got to eat something.


Since Terry had cooked, I said that I would do the washing up (also so he could go up to bed and get some much needed rest). While I was doing the dishes, I got some strange messages from Shane: he was at some hotel and needed me to come and get him. It was just past 23:00; clearly something had happened in the four hours since I’d last seem him. I finished the dishes, woke Terry to tell him that I’d be stepping out for a bit, and then hailed an Uber bike to take me over to this hotel.

When I arrived, I found Shane passed out on a sofa in the hotel lobby; he was drunk and it took me some time to wake him up. Turns out that he had booked a night at the hotel, but he couldn’t check in as his passport was back at the Airbnb, which Dawn had the keys to; they’d gotten into another fight that evening. I told Shane that we’d go out for a drink, thinking to take him over to Long Play. Seeing as how Moose was just closing, I messaged Ian to see if he’d like to join us… he replied that he was “babysitting Dawn” at Hey Café… the night was getting worse.

I managed to get us into a cab and over to Hey Café, which was literally across the street from the Airbnb apartment. We found Ian and Dawn in the café; she was in a bad way, super paranoid and super angry. Ian and I left Shane and her to talk; as we stood outside, we saw her start to get physical with him, so we went in to intervene. She was ready to fall asleep in the café/bar, which was not permitted (they would call the cops), so we tried to urge her to go home, which she refused. Ian and I again went outside; somehow, Shane got her to come outside, but she sat down right outside the café door and refused to move, which annoyed the owners and customers alike. She again got violently angry, not just with Shane, but with me as well. Ian stepped in and eventually got her to agree to go up to the apartment. Shane and her went upstairs, leaving Ian and me alone... so we went back to Hey Café to have a drink!

Shane eventually rejoined us at the café to have some drinks and play pool. Dawn had freaked out upstairs and he’d left her there. We drank several rounds of drinks, played pool for a while (Ian was damn good!); a group of Vietnamese guys came up to play against Ian and Shane, which was amusing and fun to watch. When the place closed down, I told Shane that he could come back to Terry’s place with me and we’d sort things out in the morning (I didn’t know what else to do). He wanted to try one last time to get his passport, which I reluctantly agreed to. We went back to the Airbnb, climbing the stairs as the elevator was out of order now; we found a trail of things from Dawn’s purse leading up the stairs. The door to the apartment was locked and she wouldn’t answer it. I was waiting on the floor below to give them privacy, but then I noticed that the apartment door on this floor was wide open – and Dawn was asleep on the couch! Clearly this was another Airbnb that was unoccupied; I told Shane, who came down to try and take her up to the right apartment. I went outside to wait. When Shane came out, his face was scratched and bleeding, including a large cut down the right side of his face.


I ordered us an Uber over to Terry’s; once we arrived, I took Shane up to the top floor and put him to bed. When I eventually crawled into bed, Terry was awake, so I told him briefly what had happened; we went downstairs to chat properly for a little bit. It was a hellish and disastrous night. We went back up to bed shortly before 04:00.

15 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I woke up at 10:30 this morning, though Terry was still asleep. I went upstairs and found Shane wide awake. We went downstairs to have some water; I messaged Dawn to see if she was ok and I told her that Shane was on his way back to the Airbnb. I got him an Uber and went back inside.

Terry and I began to piece together what exactly had happened the night before… and it wasn’t good. They’d clearly had too much to drink at Moose, got into a fight, didn’t cause too much of a scene, thankfully. Nevertheless, they could have seriously affected Terry’s position at Moose, as well as mine as a customer, not to mention that they’re damn lucky the cops weren’t called at any point during the evening! Terry and I were less than pleased.

It was agreed that I’d go meet them for lunch so they could apologize – and I brought Terry along with me. When we arrived at their Airbnb, Terry finally got to meet Shane. They weren’t expecting Terry to be with me; I told them that we needed to have a serious talk over lunch. I suggested going to Xofa, which was walking distance away.

We began to lay out just how serious last night’s events were: they had misbehaved on grounds owned by the American Embassy, which had been observed by the security guard; they’d misbehaved in a public café/bar, where any number of local Vietnamese could have intervened (in a negative way); the cops could have been called at any point, which would have ended badly for all involved. This could have affected not only them, but anyone else associated with them: I could get on the police radar, Terry and the Moose could get drawn into their attention, etc. The seriousness of what happened really sunk in, especially as Terry laid it out and was very blunt with them; it scared them, particularly Dawn.

When lunch was finished, we agreed that it would be best to take the rest of the day, decompress, and chill. I told Shane that we’d get together tomorrow though. They apologized once again before we dropped them off at their Airbnb.

Terry was off work again today, so we went back to his place, where he went upstairs to get some rest. I stayed downstairs and watched Netflix for a little while. When he came downstairs a little while later, I’d just started watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and he was interested in watching it (he’d not seen it before). Before starting the movie over again, he showed me a clip of a standup comedienne named Anjela Johnson, who does a hilarious bit about a Vietnamese nail salon in the US.

After laughing our asses off, we hooked my laptop up to the big tv and curled up on the sofa to watch the movie. It was nice to relax and watch a movie together; this was the first time that we’d actually sat down to watch a movie! Once the movie was done (just after midnight), Terry was game for another film, so I suggested watching “Trick” – a gay film from the late 1990s.

We’d made it 15 minutes into the film when I noticed that I’d missed a call from Ian! I called him back to see what was up; he was out at a bar with some friends and his bank card wasn’t working; he needed us to come and lend him some cash until the morning. Terry and I got dressed and went to the Old Quarter to meet up with Ian. He was there with an old coworker of Terry’s; the two of them chatted for a bit while I talked with Ian; he was clearly embarrassed at having to call for help, but I pointed out to him that I felt the same way last night during the drama with Dawn. We were both happy to be able to help out one another though. It turned out that the friend he was with paid the bill, but now wouldn’t take the cash reimbursement that we’d brought (oh the drunk drama!). She soon took off, leaving the three of us alone. We decided to grab a couple beers before calling it a night.

We went to a nearby restaurant which was open late and began ordering what soon became several rounds of beer. By the end of the night, the table was covered with our empty bottles (“We’ll take another table of beer, please!”). As we drank more, we ended up ordering some food: Terry had prawns and fried rice, I went with Vietnamese rice porridge with chicken.


For a few days, we’d been trying to discern what each other’s “Darth Names” were and tonight we finally cemented it:
Ian: Darth Dirty Grandpa
Terry: Darth Puff
Will: Darth Deutsch

Terry was initially incensed at being Darth Puff, questioning the reason why he’d received that label; I just shot him a look, he laughed and said ok. I’d originally suggested Darth Furher for me, but Terry had changed it to Darth Deutsch, which is a far better name! Ian’s had been more difficult to pin down: Darth Enigma or Darth Codger had both been contenders. We then started to play our own music over the sound system, putting on our usual song ("Piano Man") as well as a few others.

After yet another late evening with an excessive amount of alcohol involved, we stumbled our way home to bed.

16 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Yet another morning spent at Moose as I had coffee and relaxed. I had been messaging with Shane and we planned to meet up for lunch today so we could hang out again before they left Vietnam; they had booked flights out to Singapore for tomorrow.

The three of us met up at the Catholic cathedral and decided to have bun cha for lunch as Shane had taking quite a liking to it (just like me!). There is a small restaurant in the square that we stopped into for lunch; bun cha was only 35,000 VND (roughly $1.25) and was quite good! It was nice to get to hang out with them again with things being a little calmer. We went walking around for a bit after eating, stopping in at Long Play for a quick drink (the place was deserted). We quickly went back to their Airbnb so they could get everything fixed up before checkout in the morning.

As evening approached, we walked over to the Old Quarter to do some wandering around. I was trying to find a cake pan to bake Butter Cake, but I couldn't find anything on the “kitchen street.” We proceeded to do a bit of shopping, with Shane buying a few inexpensive shirts for himself. I also bought a cheap shirt, decorated with bright yellow-orange melons on it; Shane had bought a similar shirt covered with bananas. Our last stop was to get some coffee and relax for a bit before heading back to their apartment.


Dinner was from a small food cart near their Airbnb; we each had a doner kebab, which was surprisingly quite good (I didn't have high expectations that Turkish food in Hanoi would be very good). We then went back to the apartment and hung out for a short bit. Shane wrote in my travel book and soon it was time for me to leave. We said out goodbyes, glad to have spent the day together after the rather wasted day yesterday.

I went back to Moose; Terry and I decided to go out for a drink after he was done at work, so we walked over to GC. The bar wasn't crowded, which was nice; we ordered a a couple beers and spent the evening playing a few games of pool. Terry led me to believe that he wasn't very good at the game, but soon he showed his true colors and resoundingly kicked my ass! It was rather amusing to me. When we were all done, Terry and I took an Uber back home for the night.

Posted by Glichez 14:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Chiang Mai: Friends, Tigers and Learning to Cook

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07 January 2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand

I woke up at 05:30 and Tyde graciously gave me a ride back to my apartment on his motorbike. I ran upstairs, quickly threw some clothes and things into my backpack, before calling a Grab motorbike to take me to the airport. Huge mistake. The guy had no idea how to drive to the airport and took the most roundabout route there possible; he also couldn’t find the place for motorbikes to drop people off at, so I had him drop me at a parking lot and I walked the rest of the way (it wasn’t too far).

My flights to Chiang Mai had me going through Bangkok and I arrived into Chiang Mai around 14:00. After checking into my hostel, which was surprisingly very nice and posh (I wish I’d stayed there on my prior visit back in September!), I took an Uber over to where my friend Shane was staying with his girlfriend, Dawn.

Shane and Dawn had been traveling through Indonesia and Thailand for the past five weeks or so; we’d mentioned trying to meet up at some point, provided our schedules meshed. Since I had to do a visa run at some point during my stay in Vietnam, I decided to head over to Chiang Mai and meet up with them. Shane is a buddy that I met in Sydney on Election Day 2016; we subsequently got drunk that night and then met up again in Melbourne, this time for drunk karaoke. Epic fun! When I was back in the States for a brief time over the holidays, I went to NYC twice to hang out with him. I couldn’t wait to see him again!

They were staying at a nice Airbnb condo complex which had a wonderful pool in the courtyard. When Shane came down, we greeted one another with a huge hug; it was amazing to get to see him again!! He then introduced me to Dawn; she and I hit it off right away. It was decided that we’d head out for some drinks before dinner; we settled into a small bar and spent some time catching up.

Dinner tonight was pizza at quite possibly one of the best pizza restaurants that I’ve ever been to. It was a tiny place with limited outdoor seating; we ordered a variety of pizzas and then decided to get wine from the shop next door to the pizza joint (they both served the same tables); the wine place offered all you can drink wine for an hour, which we eagerly took advantage of. The Russian Vodka pizza was, without a doubt, the best pizza of the night. Shane ordered an anchovy pizza, which I tried and wasn’t repulsed by, though I couldn’t eat an entire one. Between the three of us, we ate five pizzas and two appetizers, along with several glasses of wine.


Karaoke became the next plan for the evening, which proved to be far more elusive than one would think. The first place we went to was at a crappy hotel lobby bar; it wasn’t a true karaoke place though: all it consisted of was a man playing the piano with a woman singing along. It was… strange. We ordered a couple rounds of drinks before deciding to head off to another karaoke bar. The Uber dropped us off at the right address, but there was no bar (or any other business) in the area; we were in the middle of nowhere.


Giving up on karaoke, we got another Uber to take us first to 7-11 to stock up on drinks and snacks, before dropping us back at their Airbnb. We started in on more wine and munched on the snacks, but soon the night took an unexpected – negative – turn. Shane and Dawn ended up getting to a major argument, which I’m not going to go into; it ended with Dawn sleeping on the pull out sofa bed, Shane passed in the bedroom, and I slept on the floor (I didn’t feel comfortable enough to crawl into bed with either of them – haha!).

08 January 2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand

This morning had a rough and difficult start as they tried to work out everything that happened the night before. Shane went down to the pool to swim laps and clear his head; I spent time with Dawn, but equally wanted to be there for my buddy, Shane. I went down to the pool to chat with him for a bit and soon Dawn joined us. I went to swim some laps to give them time to chat. Shane was feeling shitty about what happened and wanted to skip doing the cooking class that we’d planned for the evening, a decision that I hoped he would reconsider.

By the early afternoon I needed to head back to my hostel to charge my phone, shower and freshen up. I left them to sort things about, spent about an hour at the hostel before I rejoined them. Thankfully everything seemed to have been worked out and Shane was back on board with the cooking class!

We were collected from the Airbnb at 16:30 and driven over to a local market, where we met our host and teach for the evening, an energetic woman named Mam. The three of us hadn’t eaten anything all day, so we were getting “hangry” and couldn’t be bothered to engage as we walked around the market buying the various ingredients for our food. When we got some free time, we hurriedly bought some spring rolls to munch on – a much needed snack to tide us over for the next few hours. Then the group headed over to Mam’s house, where the cooking class was hosted in the front garden.


Along with the three of us were two Dutch girls and a Frenchman, all very friendly (though the three of us provided the most personality for the evening). We relaxed upstairs with some water and a welcome snack for a few minutes before heading back outside to begin cooking. We’d preselected our dishes at the market and were now set to start learning how to make them.


The first thing we made were our spring rolls. We sliced up the veggies, put everything together and were shown the proper way to roll them up. We each made two spring rolls; I was surprised at how easy it was to made them, even more so that mine actually stayed together and looked alright!


We then took time to prep the ingredients for our pad thai, which everyone was making for their dinner. The instructor had a basket full of the ingredients that she passed around individually so we could smell them; my favorite was the lemon grass. She showed us how to prepare the various parts for the pad thai, separating everything out into groups that we would cook together or add in together in one step.

Next it was time to cook the spring rolls; there was only one cooking station to deep fry them in, so we took turns cooking our own. Shane went first, then me, then Dawn (then everyone else). We slid the rolls down the side of the pan into the oil, kept turning the over for about 20 seconds and then pulled them out. That was it! Once we were all done, we had them plated and took them upstairs to the dining room.

When then cooked up our pad thai at our individual cooking stations, which circled around a place for the instructor to walk around and monitor our progress. It was all fairly straight forward to cook: we threw in the first group of ingredients, let them cook for a bit, added the next group, cook, etc. The noodles were the final part, which we then mixed together constantly until it was finally done. We plated the finished food, topped it with some sauce and took it upstairs to enjoy with our spring rolls. The food I made (and everyone else made) was quite good!!


Up next was the curry! We started out by making the curry paste from scratch; we were teamed up based on which type of curry we had selected earlier in the evening; I was paired with the Frenchman. He cut up the ingredients while I mixed everything together in the bowl with a pestle, which was exhausting work! Once the curry paste was the correct consistency, we moved on to preparing the veggies and separating them into different groups, just like with the pad thai.


Before we cooked our curry or the soups, we first prepared the desserts. Shane made the mango and sticky rice for the entire group (one pot was more than enough for everyone). The instructor had us taste the sauce after each ingredient was added; the simplest touch changed it dramatically!


Once dessert was finished and cooling off, it was time for us to make the curry and soups. They weren’t very difficult to make: we were able to add as much (or as little, in my case) of the curry sauce as we wanted. Shane and Dawn were engaged in the First Annual Chaing Mai Curry Cook Off: they were each making the same curry and I would be the judge as to whose was best!


Back upstairs, we all tucked in to our second round of delicious food. I was again impressed that the food I made turned out so well; I have little to no cooking talent (though I can bake quite well!), so to have food like this actually turn out and taste good is fun for me! I tried Shane and Dawn’s curries and took a few minutes to think about my decision… which ultimately went to Shane. His was spicier than Dawn’s, which almost lost it for him, but the spice added more to the flavor. Both of the curries were tasty though – it was a difficult decision.


After we finished with the cooking class, we all decided to take a late night swim in the pool! The pool was illuminated underwater; Shane and I jumped right into the freezing cold water, but Dawn took some coaxing to get into the water. We didn’t spend too long swimming before we decided to head back inside. Shane and I then went to a nearby 7-11 to pick-up some ham and cheese toasties; somehow we were still hungry! A good way to end a fun evening together.

09 January 2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand

I met back up with Shane and Dawn at 09:30. We first went over to a small café for breakfast and then hired a tuk-tuk to drive us to the tiger sanctuary outside of town. This had been another activity idea of theirs and I was quite excited to see the tigers!

The tiger sanctuary housed several tigers of varying ages and types, from cubs to giant tigers to white tigers. They have all been raised around humans and have grown accustomed to human interaction. There were various packages for interactions with the tigers; we opted for one that gave us time with the cubs and the large tigers. Shane and I were seriously tempted to do the white tiger as well.


Up first were the tiger cubs, which were kept in a large cage filled with toys and soft bedding. A tiger handler led us through the entire experience. The first cub was sleeping, but we were able to walk up behind him, sit down and pet him. It was incredible getting to pet a tiger!! We all took turns with the cub before we were usher on to the next one.


This cub was also asleep, but the handler moved it into a cat bed, which made the cub all the cuter. This time we got to lay down and snuggle with the cub; it was just like spending time with a really large kitten. As Shane said, this was the best #OrangeKittyADay moment!! The third and final cub was awake and playing around with a toy: a coconut attached to a long rope. We were each able to play around with the cub by pulling on the rope; he would grab ahold of the coconut and chew on it.


Once our time with the cubs was at an end, we left their enclosure and walked over to the large tiger pen. We’d originally thought we’d booked the giant tiger, but we were corrected when we saw “Large Tiger” on our tickets; Shane seemed bummed out to not be in with the giant tigers. Nevertheless, we were excited and nervous going into the cage. The handler pulled up the gate and we followed him inside…

The first of the large tigers was a full-grown tiger, laying down, asleep. Again, we walked up behind him and were shown how to properly pet the tigers (a firm stroke, not a light one as you do with a cat). I went first and began to pet the tiger for a minute; he stirred at one moment, which startled me, but the handler just laughed and said it was ok. Shane and Dawn both took turns petting the tiger as well.


The handler then took us over to another sleeping tiger; this one was laying more in the open, allowing us to get closer to him. We got to lay down and basically spoon with the tiger while we pet him. It was incredible to get to be so close with such a large and powerful animal. This tiger rolled around a bit in his sleep, which was rather fun.


With that, our visit with the tigers came to an end. We were all hyped up from the experience; I was giving serious consideration to spending time with the white tigers as well. We walked by their cage and saw them up, moving around, which would make for a fun and different experience. We also walked by the cages of the giant tigers, which didn’t appear to be much bigger than the large ones. The sanctuary also had a lion enclosure for people to visit. Shane and I both wanted to do the white tiger experience, but the price was rather high, thus we skipped it.


We had our driver drop us off at a nearby mall in town so we could do some shopping. Shane wanted to try and find a cord for his drone, while I was on the hunt for a turbocharger for my phone. Neither of us found what we were looking for, sadly.

For lunch, we were going to try a restaurant they had seen several times and was always busy, but we discovered that the place was closed for the next several days! Our backup was a Korean BBQ restaurant nearby. We were the only people in the place and the staff did not seem happy to see us come in. Shane and I each ordered the buffet BBQ lunch, which we both enjoyed. The staff gave us a lot of attitude and dirty looks the entire time we were there; we figured it was because they were about to eat their staff lunch, which we let them do in peace and didn’t bother them until it was over.

We then went back to their condo to relax by the pool for a little bit, finishing off the wine we’d bought a 7-11 a couple nights before. Our plans that night were to go to the night market to do some shopping; we grabbed a tuk-tuk over around 18:00 and spend the next few hours wandering around, looking at the various goods for sale. Shane and Dawn bought quite a lot: shirts, trinkets, etc. I bought Shane a new day bag and he then gave me his old one (which he’d bought only a day before I arrived in Chiang Mai). We also did a fish foot massage, which is where you submerge your feet in a fish tank and they nibble at them. It was weird and made my feet feel tingly, but it wasn’t awful; afterwards, my feet felt so smooth to the touch!


We hurriedly rushed back over to the pizza place after the night market and ordered several pizzas to go; we had a few glasses of wine while we waited for the pizzas to be made. Back at the condo, we devoured the pizzas! I then caught an Uber back over to my hostel for the night.


10 January 2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand – Hanoi, Vietnam

I was up early this morning, packed my stuff and checked out of my hostel; I went back over to Shane and Dawn’s so we could hang out for a little bit before I had to head to the airport. They were in the process of moving to a different Airbnb apartment within the same building. Once they were all packed up, we moved their stuff to the new unit and then went out for brunch. We went to the same place to eat as we did for breakfast yesterday. We all ordered the same thing to eat: an avocado BLT sandwich. It was quite tasty. We hung out at the restaurant until it was time for me to leave for the airport. I was sad to say goodbye to Shane, but we were hoping to meet up in Hanoi in a few days.

The flights back to Hanoi were quick, with a short layover in Bangkok at the shit DMK airport, where I bought two large bottles of Amarula at Duty Free. I got through immigration quickly enough and went out to get a car into the city.

Then all went to hell. The Uber driver tried to screw me over, so I got out of the car just outside of the airport. I hailed a passing taxi, which proceeded to drive to the western side of the city – the opposite direction from where I needed to go! – so he could drop off his friend in the front seat. I tried to get out and hail an Uber, but he kicked his friend out and then drove me over to Moose and Roo.

I arrived in time to have a drink with Terry and Ian, along with a Vietnamese friend of Terry’s (named Xia). We popped open on the of the bottles of Amarula and shared some with the staff, who all enjoyed it. They all jokingly tried to keep me from getting the bottle back; Terry wanted to keep it at the bar, but I refused – Amarula is too good to give away like that! Nectar of the gods!!


When the place closed down, Terry, Xia, and I all went back to Terry’s place. Once there, we sat around drinking more Amarula and then vodka Coke’s. It was very evident that Xia was into me and that I was just his type; it’s a shame that I’m just not into most Vietnamese men. We all got thoroughly drunk and then went upstairs to the top floor, where the extra bed was kept. *** ***

Posted by Glichez 13:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Hanoi: "Un pour tous, tous pour un!"

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30 December 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

I flew from Durban to Johannesburg to Hong Kong and then to Hanoi, leaving Cape Town at 11:30 on the 29th and arriving into Hanoi at 17:30 on the 30th – it was a long day of travel! The lines at immigration were short and I was out hailing my Uber within 20 minutes. I grabbed an Uber over to my Airbnb, showered and then took a motorbike over to Moose and Roo.

Terry and Ian were both working; I grabbed a bite to eat and some drinks. Once the restaurant closed for the night, the three of us went out to Long Play for a night of drinks and music. We took over the music at Long Play, putting on some of our favorite songs:
- “People = Shit” by Richard Cheese
- “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
- “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof (Terry’s choice…)

Ian declared that the three of us were the Three Musketeers: Ian was Porthos, Terry was Aramis, and I was Athos. No one wants a D'Artagnan! All for one, and one for all!

Between our many (many!) drinks, I managed to pull first Ian and then Terry up to dance with me. Ian and I danced to “People = Shit” once again, while I got Terry to dance with me to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra (a favorite of both of ours). We stayed out until the early hours of the morning before calling it a night – a wonderful “welcome back to Hanoi” for me!


Terry and I shared an Uber over to his apartment, where I got to meet his new puppy, Xena. She was only a few months old, tiny, fluffy, and full of energy. I went crazy and fell in love with her right away. We had some vodka Coke’s while hanging out (and I spent the time playing with Xena). It was great getting to catch up with Terry for a little bit.

31 December 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

I went direct to Moose this morning, where I started the day with a Vietnamese coffee, which was soon followed by several drinks and food. It was an enjoyable way to start the day, getting to chat with Terry when he’d have a moment or two break at work. I didn’t stay terribly long; I returned to my apartment in the early afternoon to get some work done.

Later in the evening, I decided to go out and find something to do for New Year’s Eve. Terry and Ian were both working the close shift this evening, but Terry had mentioned that we may go to a party after he finished work. There was a large celebration going on around Hoan Kiem Lake which I decided to check out, but instantly regretted: the crowd was massive and had to get away as soon as possible. I made my way over to Long Play, which was partially full. I had a few beers before deciding to get away.

I made my way over to Moose and made it just in time for the midnight countdown. I had a drink and celebrated the start of 2018 surrounded by my friends. Terry and Ian both came by and we wished one another a happy new year. The celebration continued for about another hour before the Moose closed. Terry was feeling somewhat down and decided to head home. Ian and I, however, chose to head over to Long Play.


As with all nights at Long Play, it was filled with drinking copious amounts of beer and playing all sorts of ridiculous music. I ordered a few balloons over the course of the evening as well. We began chatting with an American guy and his Vietnamese girlfriend. I soon began to feel quite drunk and knew that it was time for me to leave (it was just after 04:00 by this time). I said goodbye to Ian and took a motorbike back to my apartment.

01 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Once again, the Moose was my destination this morning for coffee and drinks. I didn’t stay for too long before I went out to get something to eat for lunch though (I was determined not to spend all of my time in Hanoi hanging out at Moose). For lunch, I went over to La Place, where I sat on the balcony overlooking the Catholic church.

I returned to Moose later in the evening though for some more drinks. Later that night, Terry’s friend Tyde came into the restaurant as well. We sat around having some drinks until the place closed, at which point the three of us went over to Terry’s to have a few more drinks. As soon as we arrived, I went straight for Xena so I could give her some love; Tyde was annoyed that I was paying more attention to the puppy than to him though. As it got later into the night and I got increasingly drunk, thankfully Tyde gave me a ride back to my apartment on his motorbike.

02 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I took an Uber over to Terry’s place, where Tyde was as well. The three of us walked over to the café to get some coffee, taking Xena with us. I carried her all the way over; she was so excited and curious about everything around her as we walked along. During coffee, Xena fidgeted around quite a bit and was eager to explore, but we couldn’t let her go too far as we feared that she’d wander into the street.


After coffee, Terry and I shared a motorbike over to Moose, carrying Xena with us! I sat in the middle, behind the driver, with Terry close behind holding Xena. She howled nearly the entire way over to Moose, but it was a fun and ridiculous experience.

At Moose, I had lunch and Tyde joined me at my table; Ian soon showed up and sat down with us as well. Xena was having a ball, getting to walk around and run throughout the restaurant grounds. I got her to chase me around the grassy area for a while, which soon wore her out and she napped for a few hours. Tyde, meanwhile, had curled up and fallen asleep at the table (being very antisocial). Once Xena woke up, I played around with her some more. Tyde woke up in the late afternoon and left for work.


Our plans were to go to the Intercontinental Landmark 72 for dinner, which is a high-end restaurant inside of a hotel with Ian. Terry knew the manager through Moose and was floating the idea of trying to move over to the Intercontinental (he’d given his notice at Moose in late December).

The hotel and restaurant were quite fancy and nice – Ian and I felt under-dressed, while Terry had changed clothes at home (we made a pit-stop there en route to dinner to drop off Xena). We were shown to our table, ordered our food and a bottle of red wine. The staff were all very nice, but once the manage came over to greet us – and he sent over a bottle of champagne – they were extra attentive. Before our food arrived, we took a tour of the “cheese room” – which had a large table for six with a case filled with various cheeses and meats. We considered giving the cheese room a try after dinner, but that ended up getting scrapped – but we knew we’d be back soon to do it properly. Dinner was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time (a sentiment shared by both Ian and Terry): the portions were large, the food flavorful and filling.

Once dinner was over, the manager invited us to the upstairs bar for some cocktails. We were given a tour of the various dining and bar areas upstairs, each one as upscale as the restaurant. The bar itself was quite swanky and they had a large selection of unique cocktails to choose from. The bartender was a professional mixologist and prepared each drink with a special flare. We went through seven different cocktails and were impressed with each one of them – all given to us free of charge by the manager. We were blown away by the extraordinary kindness that was extended to us during out time there.


Terry and Ian had to rush back to Moose though as they were having the staff holiday party. The party was well underway when we arrived; Terry rushed in to greet everyone and I ducked out, not wanting to crash the staff event. It was a nice evening, so I ended up walking back to my Airbnb apartment.

03 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Rather than heading over to Moose this morning, I went over to my favorite café for coffee. I had told Terry that I would gladly watch Xena during the day. Once I was finished having my coffee, I walked over to Terry’s apartment. We spent some time chilling, chatting, and just hanging out before he had to leave for work.

Xena was upset when Terry left – she whines and whimpers anytime someone leaves the house. I did my best to distract her and play with her. After a little while, we settled down on the couch: I began to watch Netflix, while Xena curled up at my feet to sleep. We spent several hours that way before a few of Terry’s housemates came home. I’d originally planned to bring Xena with me to Moose in the evening, but the housemates offered to watch her, so I took off for Moose on my own.

I spent the remainder of the evening at Moose, eating dinner and drinking beer (all the beer!). When Terry finished work just after midnight, we went out to Long Play with Ian. As is tradition, we had several beers and proceeded to take control of the music. Terry has a love for "Fiddler on the Roof" and always had us play "If I Were a Rich Man" - this time, he and Ian danced around to it. Please to enjoy:

Ian and I danced together to the song "Singin in the Rain"...

Terry then performed a 'special' song for the two of us...

After Long Play, we went back to Terry's place, where we hung out and played with Xena for a little bit. I ended up crashing at his place, curling up on the sofa to sleep.

04 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

Terry woke me up this morning by lightly poking me on the nose; I had slept until nearly 11:00, which was wonderful. We got ready for the day and chilled in the living room until it was time for him to head to work. I was going to do some laundry before heading out for the day. Xena was locked up in Terry’s room, with his ex leaving the balcony doors open for her. When I left, she was on the balcony whining and barking for attention.

I had just reached my apartment when I got a call from Terry asking me if I could go back to his place – apparently the dog had gotten out of the room and fallen down the stairs; it was feared that she’d broken her leg! I rushed back over to find one of his roommates sitting with Xena; I went over to the puppy to see how she was doing. I lifted her up, gently, but firmly, felt around her legs and paws to see if she was hurt; she didn’t cry out at anything. I think put her on the ground and watched her walk a little bit; she had a slight limp, but was otherwise fine. I put her back on the sofa so she could curl up and sleep. I then went up to Terry’s room, where I found the door closed tight; the roommates assured me that they hadn’t opened or closed the door at all… which leads to only one other option: Xena must have tried jumping down from the balcony! There’s simply no other way for her to have gotten out of the room!

I spent several hours with Xena, who improved in spirit as well as mobility. I took her upstairs to Terry’s room, where I closed the balcony doors and snuggled with her in bed. She was soon fast asleep as I lay there, playing music. Just after 13:30, I quietly left the room and went over to Moose.


Terry and I planned to get massages during his break from work that afternoon (he was working a split shift). He couldn’t find the one spa that he’d been telling me about, but we found another one in Tay Ho and set off for some relaxation. The Uber driver had a hell of a time getting to the spa (he appeared to make a few wrong turns, going down super narrow streets).

When we arrived at the spa, we found that we couldn’t get the hour-long full-body massages that we’d hoped for as they were all booked up, but they did offer neck, upper back, and foot massage treatments for an hour; we went with that package, which only cost us 150,000 VND (around $6.80). It started with a foot bath and then I sat back for the massage. My masseur was very nice and professional, adjusting the firmness of the massage to how I liked it. They did the massage over our shirts while we were sitting up, which seemed ridiculous. Nevertheless, it was relaxing. When he moved down to my feet, I was initially uncomfortable as I don’t particularly like people touching my feet, but the massage was quite nice.

Terry didn’t have as good an experience as his masseur didn’t adjust the firmness as mine did; his guy was far too aggressive. We both agreed that it was an ok experience, but that we’d have to find a different place to get a proper massage. We’d hoped to grab dinner before he had to return to work, but we’d run out of time, so we simply returned to Moose.

There were several tourists sitting at the bar when we got back to Moose: three Americans (two men and a woman). The two men were loud and obnoxious, just what I hate about Americans; the woman was very nice though and I spent quite a bit of time chatting with her. She and one of the guys was traveling together, though the second guy seemed to be trying to hit on her all night (he got wasted and proceeded to make rude comments to several women that night). I asked Terry to make me a unique cocktail: the gayest thing he could possible think of. He accepted my challenge and proceeded to make an interesting martini, sprinkling in drips of different liquors, mixing flavors into a super gay drink... that was surprisingly delicious!


Ian was chatting with the Americans a lot and, when the bar closed, everyone decided to head off to Long Play. Ian took the Americans on ahead while I waited for Terry to finish the closing process. When he was done, we both agreed that going to Long Play, especially with those Americans, was not an appealing idea. Instead, we grabbed a couple beers and drank them on the street corner. Finishing those, Terry suggested we go to the nearby wine bar (where we’d gone a few times before). When we arrived, there was a Western guy curled up in the corner trying to sleep, completely drunk. We offered to get him a taxi, but he wandered off and vanished. We had a couple drinks at the wine bar before heading back over to his place, where I crashed once again.

05 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

The day was rather uneventful: wake up, have coffee with Terry, head back to my place to freshen up and work, then head over to Moose. Nothing special was planned for the day; the night was different though.

Terry invited several of us to go back over to the Intercontinental to give the cheese room a try. Included with the group were his ex-bf, the Americans from last night, and his buddy Ami. Two of the Americans cancelled, leaving just five of us for the cheese night. Terry and I split the cost of a bottle of nice Port for the evening. We all met up at Moose and shared a taxi over to the Intercontinental.

The cheese room experience was out of this word! We ordered a cheese platter, which came with six different types of cheeses, along with several different cuts of meat; included was an assortment of bread as well. All of the food was delicious; each cheese was unique and tasty. I was soon stuffed, though I wanted to keep eating the cheese!


I had already met Terry’s ex before and this evening gave us some time to chat a bit more, which was cool. Ami and I hit it off right away: he shares a love of Broadway (we bonded over Patti LuPone!); he’s had similar back surgeries to my own; he’s an overall friendly and fun guy to hang out with. The American guy was a complete douche though: loud, making crude jokes, asking inappropriate questions; by the time we were finished eating, I was thoroughly annoyed with him (as was everyone else at the table!).

With dinner complete, we went upstairs to the cocktail bar, where we each had one drink. I could tell that Ami was getting fed up with the American – and Terry could read it in my face! We paid for the drinks and set off to go back to Moose. Terry was exhausted and went home; Ami and I decided to head out and grab another drink together though.

We first tried to go to GC’s (Hanoi’s only gay bar), but it was packed, which was hardly appealing; so we went next door to a bar called Polite. We had time to enjoy one round (I had beer, he had diet coke) and we chatted away about anything and everything: politics, history, Hanoi, travel, Broadway, etc. It was refreshing to get to chat in-depth with someone about such a wide variety of topics! When Polite closed, we went next door to Long Play, where we stayed just briefly (just one round). A drunk Vietnamese guy came to our table and wouldn’t leave us alone, so we quickly paid and left.

We walked around, trying to find somewhere else to hang out; I suggested the wine bar, which is open all night, so we walked over there. We spent quite a bit of time at the bar: I had a few drinks and we ordered some snacks (garlic bread and French fries). By the time we decided to head home, it was after 03:00! I had a great time getting to make a new friend and hang out with Ami.

06 January 2018
Hanoi, Vietnam

I spent most of the morning around my apartment, sleeping in, working, watching Netflix; basically having a chill day. Terry had received word from his cleaning lady that they couldn’t keep Xena at the house, so he was going to have to find her a new home ASAP. As I was leaving for Chiang Mai tomorrow, I messaged him and asked if I could hop over to his place that afternoon to see her one last time (she’d be at a new home before I returned to Hanoi). I thought Terry was working the morning shift and was planning to just pop over and see Xena (I had his spare set of keys), but to my surprise, he was working the evening, so I was able to hang out with him as well! We spent some time with the puppy before heading out to Moose together.

I didn’t go in to Moose when we arrived; instead I went over to do some reading that afternoon. I’ve started reading “La Belle Sauvage” (the sequel to the “His Dark Materials” trilogy) and I wanted to make some progress in the book. For dinner, I went to a restaurant near Long Play and ordered some bun cha (quite possibly my favorite Vietnamese dish). After dinner I went over to Moose (where else?!).

I ended up staying at Moose until close, as is tradition; Tyde arrived shortly before close and was very flirty with me, despite me doing my best to nicely turn him down. Once Terry was done with work, the three of us went back to his place to have some drinks and chill in the living room (again, as is tradition). Tyde was clearly upset that I wasn’t returning his attentions; he curled up on the sofa and fell asleep. Meanwhile, Terry and I sat together on the small sofa, drinking up wine and then vodka Cokes, all while listening to music. We spent a long time playing various songs (including “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “Tea and Toast”, and many others); it was magical and wonderful to get to spend good, quality time with him. Truly one of the best times that I’ve had with him since we first met five months ago.

Then Tyde brought the drama. All the drama. It was quite late by this point and I decided to crash at Terry’s once again; he suggested that Tyde and I sleep in the spare room on the top floor so as to not disturb his other roommates, which I was totally fine with. We went up and I crawled into bed; Tyde tried once again to be flirty and snuggling, but I kept rebuffing him. Terry sent me a message asking if he could use my phone charger, so I told him to come upstairs for a few minutes. When he came in the room, Tyde quickly rolled over and pretended to be asleep – trying to get our attention and to feel sorry for him. It was the final straw for both Terry and me, though I tried to keep quiet (for the most part). Frustrations were vented, all while he pretended to sleep, stayed silent, and then fake cried; I’d have felt bad if he’d simply not been creating it all on his own! In the end, Terry went back down to his room and I curled up to sleep.

Posted by Glichez 13:27 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Christmas in South Africa & Lesotho

View World Tour 2017-2018 on Glichez's travel map.

22 December 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

My rebooked flight arrived in Cape Town at 14:15 and it wasn’t too long before I was heading out of baggage claim to meet up with my friends, Hannah and Richard. I was so excited to see them again – they are the first friends from back home that I’ve seen since I was last there in January! Richard is from Cape Town and Hannah did a study abroad semester there, which is how they met. They’re married now and living in the States; this was their first visit back to South Africa in over two years!

We quickly spotted one another and greeted each other with big hugs; I was overjoyed to see them both!! We began catching up as we walked out to the parking garage, where I met Richard’s mother, Ruth, who was waiting with the car. I was going to be staying at Ruth’s place with Richard and Hannah for the next few nights, until the rest of the group from the States arrived.


When we arrived at their house, I met Richard’s step-dad Vito. Ruth and Vito are so outgoing, warmly welcoming me into their home. They had a lovely home with a fantastic courtyard in the middle, perfect for dining or relaxing with a good book. We didn’t have much time there as we were going to spend the evening with Richard’s sister Leigh and her family (Warren, Grayson, Dakota, Larkin); they live in Durban, but had flown over for Christmas and were staying at a nearby Airbnb. Richard’s other sister, Sherry-Ann, arrived with her family (Tim and Maya).

Drinks were soon poured and snacks served up; we spend the next several hours getting acquainted; I had a lovely time. Warren’s daughters were full of energy, entertaining both Grayson and Maya, as well as putting on an impromptu gymnastics show for everyone (they’ve been doing gymnastics for several years).


Before dinner it was time to open the Christmas presents! We spread a blanket out on the grass, moved the gifts outside and settled in. I loved watching the kids eagerly opening their gifts, getting so excited with each new surprise. The girls handed out gifts to everyone and, to my surprise, there were a few gifts for me to open! Richard and Hannah got me some Starbursts (my favorite candy from home that I can’t find around the world), as well as a bottle of Amarula. I was then given a gift from Ruth and Vito!! They had gotten me a beautiful picture frame with “South Africa” written on it and a rhino in one corner, along with a small elephant keychain. I was complete shocked by this incredible generosity and thoughtfulness; I wasn’t able to bring any gifts as my suitcases were already well over the weight limits, so I apologized for not having anything in return.


We were having a braai for dinner; the best way to describe a brai is that it’s a South African BBQ (but so much better!). Warren, Vito and Tim managed the food, which was delicious. We had several different types of meat, along with vegetables. By the time dinner was done, I was stuffed! I had started in on my bottle of Amarula and, by the time we went home that evening, it was nearly gone (we were all rather drunk by the end of the night).

I am always nervous when I meet new people and get thrown into social situations, but I felt none of that with Richard’s family. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to me; I am so thankful to them all for letting me be a part of the “extended family” for the holidays this year. I knew that the rest of this part of my trip was going to be amazing.

23 December 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

Up early this morning and out the door by 08:30 so we could meet the family for a quick photo shoot. Since it had been so long since the entire family had been together, they were having a professional photographer take some family photos. We went out to a large nature preserve and they had the pictures taken in the woods.


When we were all finished, the family all split up. Ruth, Vito, Richard, Hannah and I all went into town to the Old Biscuit Mill, which is a large outdoor market that sells all manner of crafts, goods, and food. The primary focus was to eat Hannah’s favorite burger: kudu. Thankfully the burger place was still there; Richard, Hannah and I all ordered the kudu burger and got beers to go with them. The burger was every bit as amazing as Hannah had described. I’d forgotten how good African game meat tasted!


We spent some time shopping as well. Hannah bought several things, including a necklace and matching earrings that had the outline of Table Mountain. I bought myself a necklace with a rhino on it and another necklace with a Buddhist symbol on it as a Christmas gift for Terry.

On the way back home, we stopped to grab some alcohol for our afternoon plans: an engagement party braai for a friend of Richard’s sister. The party had been going for some time by the time we got there that afternoon; not knowing many of the people there, the three of us stuck together for the most part. The hours were passed drinking and chatting. When the food was served, we ended up having two rounds of food each. Sausages, potato salad, pasta salad, etc. All of it was delicious. Right before we left, we were “treated” to Jello shots that tasted more like cough syrup than anything.

That evening, we dropped Vito off at home and then drove down to the beach to watch the sunset. Ruth joined the three of us as well, which was wonderful. We spent some time walking along the beach; I got my feet in the water, which was frigid, but still somehow refreshing. The sunset itself was beautiful, though there weren’t any clouds in the sky to really make the colors pop. The sun set just to the side of Table Mountain, giving us a truly spectacular sight as the sun went down.


We had a pretty mellow evening after that and went to bed rather early. We had another busy day ahead of us tomorrow!

24 December 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

Leigh, Warren and the kids were all flying home to Durban this morning, so we needed to say a quick goodbye to them. Ruth had already driven over to see them by the time the rest of us were awake, but Richard and I took a quick trip over on our own. Everyone was hurriedly packing; we took home all of the food they’d bought so that Ruth and Vito could enjoy it. They had some things to drop off at Ruth and Vito’s, so we said our final goodbyes there. They would be joining up with Richard, Hannah and everyone for the game drive on the 29th, but that was the day I would be leaving for Hanoi, so this was it for me. I was really glad to have met them all and I hope to be able to see them again soon.

Once everyone was gone, Richard set to making us a wonderful breakfast: steak with eggs, tomatoes, and cucumber. We ate heartily and well this morning – Richard is quite a good chef. We needed a good meal to give us some energy for our afternoon plans: walking around Table Mountain!

When I was in Cape Town in October 2016, I had wanted to take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain with my friends, but the cars were closed that day due to high winds. Thus it was on the top of my list of things to do in town on this visit. Happily, Ruth and Vito joined us for this and it was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

The queue to get up was quite long, though we’d already bought our tickets the night before. It took us an hour to get through the line! The cable car was quite large and, surprisingly, the floor of it rotated around as we climbed up, allowing everyone to get a full 360-degree view!


There are multiple paths that cover the top of Table Mountain, which is absolutely massive! We picked one at random and headed off to explore. The area was quite rocky and uneven, with various plants and bushes everywhere. The views over Cape Town and the ocean were stunning! We spent about 45-minutes walking around, enjoying the great exercise, fresh air, and one another’s company. The queue to get back down took us another hour, though Hannah was rewarded when we spotted a dossier – a small animal that lives among the rocks. I have to admit that it is pretty cute.


Christmas Eve dinner was hosted at Ruth and Vito’s house; Sheriann, Tim and Maya all came over for dinner. Ruth made a delicious Gammon ham for dinner, complete with various vegetables, potatoes, etc. I couldn’t believe how good I was eating at each and every meal in Cape Town!

During dinner, Maya began to get very excited for Father Christmas to come and visit. She quickly warmed up to me and we spent a long time in the courtyard, watching the sky for signs of Father Christmas. I told her to watch the moon because he always flew across the moon – and we had to watch for Rudolph’s red nose! She so reminded me of my niece and nephew.

Once everyone had gone home for the evening, Richard, Hannah and I went into town to meet up with Richard’s friend Conlin. Ruth and Vito were very kind to drive us into town and then pick us up later. We went over to the house that Conlin and some others were renting; we found that there was a large group of people there than expected, which was disappointing. It was good to see Richard catching up with his buddy though.

Everyone soon went outside, leaving Hannah and me inside to relax. She was soon drinking wine straight from the bottle as I drank my beer. One of the roommates came back (he was rather cute and we suspected he was gay…) and offered Hannah some gin; when she tried to find a glass, the only ones in the house were dirty and in the sink. One of the girls there filled it with water, shook it around and offered it to Hannah… disgusting!! We ranted for quite a while after that. Rather than use the glass, Hannah mixed the gin and tonic in her empty wine bottle!


The last part of the evening was quite enjoyable. Conlin hung out with the three of us for quite some time; he put on some music that we either jammed out to or viciously insulted. Ruth and Vito collected us just after midnight.

25 December 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

Christmas Day! Huzzah!

Shery-Ann and Tim had us all over for breakfast; Tim’s mother joined us, as did Ruth’s parents. Tim cooked up a delightful breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast; we all enjoyed a mimosa with our meal as well. Maya was very excited to open her presents – she even snuck one into her room, opened it, and then pretended that she had just found it! It was a lot of fun to watch her open her gifts and get so excited for everything – just like my niece and nephew would be doing back in Chicago.

It was a gorgeous day, so Ruth, Richard, Hannah and I all decided to hike up Lion’s Head, which is right next to Table Mountain. The path leading up the first half of the mountain was nice and easy: a simple dirt and rock path. Hannah even got to see a family of dossies nestled amongst the rocks!


Soon the path became more and more difficult: climbing up ladders that were mounted to the rocks and the pathway became narrower. Ruth decided to turn back at one point, planning to meet us after we’d finished our climb. Hannah mentioned one particularly scary part of the path: climbing almost vertically up some rungs that had been mounted into the rocks. She’d done that once before, but had since found that there was an easier path up.


Richard and I deiced to take the scarier path (I was scared due to my fear of heights, but I knew I’d regret not doing it); Hannah went the easier way. Richard was very patient and helpful with me as we climbed; having him climbing with me helped to calm my nerves. The climb up the rungs was a bit hair-raising: aside from the rungs, there was a small chain rope near the top as the only thing to grab ahold of… but we made it!


We met back up with Hannah for the final push to the top. The pathway was less defined here, requiring us to literally rock climb and wind our way around. It was scary and exhilarating. The view from atop Lion’s Head was an ample reward for our efforts though. We had a perfect view all around Cape Town, from the city to the ocean to Table Mountain. A few people were sitting out on the edge of some of the rocks, which looked terrifying… but Richard and I soon copied them (again, had I not done it, I’d have regretted it later on). During the climb back down, Richard and I again went the harder way, which was strangely not quite as bad as coming up. It didn’t take us long to reach the bottom and meet back up with Ruth.


On the way home, we stopped off to grab some snacks and then went over to the hotel where we’d be staying the next two nights. The rest of the group from North Carolina was arriving in the early evening and was meeting us there. The three of us had a drink while we waited for them. Justin, Carmen, and Guy all arrive after 19:00, which didn’t give them much time to freshen up as we had dinner reservations at 20:00. I’d met them all through the Flying Saucer back in Raleigh, so thankfully no one was a stranger.

We took an Uber over to the restaurant where Richard had made reservations (DaVinci’s)… only to find that the restaurant was closed for the holiday! Thus our night began with a true “TIA” (This is Africa) moment. We walked down the street to try and find something else, but nothing was open. Hannah was upset because we’d had reservations at a different restaurant, but we’d cancelled those because they wanted a large deposit.

We ended up taking an Uber over to a pool bar called Stones, which is where Richard used to work when he lived in Cape Town – and it is also where Richard and Hannah first met! Stones isn’t in the best part of town, but it is a large bar with multiple pool tables and a modest bar in the center. Rum and Coke was the drink special of the night, so we ordered several rounds of those throughout the evening.

We had planned to order pizza and have it delivered at the bar; Richard even went to order it online via his phone… only to find out that the pizza place was also closed! There was nothing else around except for KFC and McDonald’s. Once again, we piled into an Uber and set off for KFC as McDonald’s was just too disgusting for us. But…. KFC was closed as well!! So we had no choice but to settle for McDonald’s, which was right across the street.

Yes, Christmas dinner was had at McDonald’s.


It was a ratchet McDonald’s too; we ordered our food to go and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the place. They screwed up Hannah’s order, which delayed our escape while they fixed it. My order was correct, except they gave me an extra cheeseburger in error (I kept the damn thing). We took our food back to Stones, where we chowed down and tried to laugh about this awful experience.


Conlin and some other friends of Richard’s soon showed up to hang out as well. We all played a few rounds of pool as we continued to drink. Richard and his friends easily beat each and every one of us at every game (cheaters!). Late into the evening (or early morning), we hailed one last Uber to take us back to the hotel… but first we had the guy stop over at a Pick ‘n Pay so we could get some meat pies as a late-night snack, which we devoured at the hotel.


26 December 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

Last night we had purchased tickets for a hop-on hop-off bus tour that included a route through the wine tasting locations around Cape Town; what we didn’t know was that all but one of the place was closed today as it was Boxing Day! We thus planned to go to the one wine tasting and then take the bus tour through the city to other locations.

Once again, Uber was our friend and took us over to the vineyard. It was another beautiful day, though I wasn’t feeling very well, which put a damper on the day (I was like a walking malaria zombie). We paid for the wine tasting, which got each of us five different tastings. Richard’s friend Zoe soon joined us as well. We spent quite a bit of time tasting the various wines (I stuck will all red wine) before going to one of the nearby restaurants for lunch.


By the time lunch was over, it was 16:30 and too late for us to do any of the bus tours. Disappointed in not having time for that, though quite pleased with the wine tasting experience, we took another Uber back to the hotel so we could get ready for dinner that night.

Hannah had booked us a table at a posh place right on the waterfront called The Grand. It was a large restaurant, with an indoor area, patio seating, and a section right on the beach. Our table was on the beach, which amazed us all. We quickly ordered a round of drinks and placed our meal order. Over the next several hours, the appetizers came and we enjoyed our drinks… well, except for Hannah. Her first drink was a margarita, which she’d warned me were not good in Cape Town. Her second drink was far worse though: pink gin, which had an overpowering floral taste to it. It was best described as the taste of your grandmother’s potpourri after it had been stuffed inside her coffin and then removed to make the drink. We all tried the drink. It was foul.


Our main courses never arrived though. Even after nearly two hours! Several other tables had been served and left in less time that we’d spent at the restaurant, which was rather strange. We couldn’t wait forever as everyone was going to a concert at 22:00 (I had planned to go, but I decided to skip as I wasn’t feeling well). The wait staff insisted the food was coming, so we paid the bill, which would let us leave immediately after eating. The only this is… the food still didn’t come. Richard finally went up to say to cancel the food as we’d waited far too long, we had to go, and asked them to cancel the charge that paid for the bill. The staff were highly reluctant to do so, offering to get us the food to go (which would have been impossible to do). It was an incredible mess. Two nights in a row with screwed up dinners!

I hopped in an Uber back to the hotel, where I relaxed. I was abruptly woken up at 00:30 when the hotel’s burglar alarm began to sound. The alarm went off for nearly 25 minutes, during which I stayed curled up in bed. I wasn’t sure if it was a false alarm or if someone was truly trying to break into the place. I heard someone running about as the alarm went off, which unnerved me as my bedroom door was unlocked (I had left it unlocked so Justin could get in when they returned). Once the alarm was turned off, I didn’t hear any other movement and I went back to sleep.

27 December 2017
Underberg, South Africa

Today we flew to Durban, on the east coast of South Africa. It was a short flight and we all went over to the rental car office as soon as we’d collected our bags. The guy at the rental car agency was overly talkative and would not shut the hell up! He would ramble on and on about the most random things, going on tangent and explaining the most obvious features that the car was equipped with:
- “This doesn’t look like a key. Don’t look for a real key. This is keyless entry!”
- “Behind your car is our camper. Taking that out is like taking your wife to the Caribbean!”
While Richard and Guy dealt with him, the rest of us relentlessly made fun of him. “How many tires does the car have?” “How big is the engine?”

We had quite a time getting all of our bags into the tiny trunk space of the SUV: it was like a game of Tetris. Poor Hannah was crammed into the back seat, with little leg room and surrounded by the bags. The rest of us all carried our backpacks on our laps. Mercifully, the drive from Durban to Underberg (where we would be staying) was only two and a half hours, which passed quickly enough.


We’d rented a house through Airbnb and Richard’s dad, Alan, had already arrived earlier in the day. The house was very nice with a great common area, perfect for drinking, eating, and playing games. Alan had brought food for a braai, so we walked over to the nearby Spaar to stock up on snacks and alcohol. Our beer nearly filled up the entire fridge when we got home!


Richard and Alan went outside to get the cooking started while the rest of us started drinking. A lot. We jammed out to music, including Toto’s “Africa” which was a must-do for us all on this trip. There was a lot – A LOT – of drinking going on this evening. We exhausted our entire stock of alcohol! The braai was another tasty meal, with a variety of meats for us to enjoy.


After dinner we played several rounds of Exploding Kittens as a thunder storm rolled in. The storm was quite intense, causing the power to flicker several times. After cleaning up, we all crawled into bed to get some sleep.

28 December 2017
Underberg, South Africa

The group of us had a rushed morning, getting ready and then heading out the door to catch our guided tour to Sani Pass and Lesotho. Hannah had arranged for this tour as it was the easiest way for us to reach the Lesotho border, where the highest pub in Africa is located!

At the tour office, two German guys joined the tour group and we piled into a safari truck. The drive to Sani Pass was quite fun and the beauty of the scenery was beyond description. The mountains and valleys were stunning. The paved road eventually ended and we were off on the rocky, bumpy dirt road (ah, it was like being back on my camping tour from 2016…).


We made several stops along the way as we climbed up Sani Pass. The road made several switchbacks and we drove quite close to the edge of the road, which made both Carmen and me rather nervous. Thankfully, we reached the top of the pass without incident! It was now time to cross into Lesotho.


The border formalities were quick and simple: our guide got our passports stamped while we snapped some photos with the “Welcome” sign. Within minutes, we were off to visit a nearby village, where we’d have some time to learn about their daily life. No one was excited about this portion of the tour – we just wanted to get to the bar and get our drink on!


The village visit was awkward and amusing at the same time. We were ushered into a hut (yurt) where a local girl recited facts about Lesotho; Hannah later described it as reciting the facts listed on a Wikipedia page. Then came the Q&A session, which was the funniest part of the entire day. A family from South Africa was there as well (they’d arrived on a separate truck); the mother asked “Is it winter here?” We were all dumbfounded. The local girl replied that no, it was summer (just like in South Africa, where this woman is from!). She then replied “When does it snow?” to which the local replied “In Winter.” Seems logical and obvious. The mother pressed on: “When is winter?” By this point my group was stifling our laughter and disgust at how stupid this line of questions was. The local girl replied that winter was in June, July and August – just like the woman’s winter in South Africa! To break the feeling of discomfort from the ignorant questions, Richard quipped “You must pack a lot of wood!” – I nearly burst out laughing.


Finally, mercifully, the visit ended and we drove over to the bar. We ordered a round of the local beer, which was decent, but nothing special. I ordered lamb for lunch and then we walked around to take some photos. The lunch break was quite relaxing and enjoyable. When we set off to drive back, the clouds had rolled in, making the drive down somewhat foggy. I was exhausted by this point and, like almost everyone else, I fell asleep.


That night we had another braai for dinner. We stopped off at the nearby Spar to get groceries, where I stocked up on my favorite goodies from Africa: Ghost Puffs, Simba Chips, etc. I wanted to share the delicious goodness with Terry in Hanoi. Dinner was, once again, delicious and fun as we sat around drinking. Afterward, we all played Cards Against Humanity; the funniest parts were when Richard’s dad had to read out some of the foul and sexual things on the cards. We made it an early night as we all had to get up early to leave in the morning.


29 December 2017
Underberg, South Africa

I was up and out the door at 06:00 this morning: Alan (Richard’s dad) was kindly giving me a ride to the Durban airport. The rest of the group was driving to a game park and thus wouldn’t be going by the airport. Alan and I chatted away during the drive back to Durban, making great time. We stopped of quickly at his house so he could grab some more clothes (he was going to meet up with everyone at the game park later). Our next stop was at Leigh’s house, where he was going to drop off his car and drive her car to the game reserve. Leigh and her family, along with Ruth and Vito, were to have left for the game reserve by this point (Ruth and Vito had driven over to Durban while we were in Lesotho).

To my great surprise, everyone was still at Leigh’s house when we arrived! It was a bit strange to arrive with Alan, Ruth’s ex-husband, but he soon left to go run an errand for Leigh. Ruth, Vito, and everyone else warmly welcomed me into the house; Ruth kindly made me some coffee and toast with Nutella. They showed me around the house while I ate breakfast: the house was quite large with a huge amount of land as well; Warren had done a lot of work on the property. They had horses, a small lake, a large treehouse, etc. It was wonderful to get to see everyone again before I left – an unexpected delight!

When Alan returned, I said my goodbyes and we drove off to the airport. I thanked Alan for his kindness and said goodbye to him as well. Now it was time for me to fly back to Hanoi!

Posted by Glichez 01:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Taking in Tunisia

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18 December 2017
Hammamet, Tunisia
Country 88

I checked out of the apartment at 11:00 this morning and slowly made my way to the airport since there was nowhere for me to store my luggage during the day. I passed the time at the airport both working and reading before I was able to catch my flight to Tunis at 17:00. I had booked myself in at a beach resort near Tunis several months ago; when I did, my friend Susan (whom I had met in Mongolia back in July) expressed an interest in joining me, which I enthusiastically agreed with! She had arrived a few days before me and had brought her friend Timothy as well.

The line for passport control in Tunis was insanely long and disorganized; I found a place and did my best not to let others cut in front of me. The two guys behind me and I struck up a conversation as we waited; they were both from Libya and spoke impeccable English. It was interesting to get to chat with them about their thoughts and opinions on world events (we shared similar views on what a disaster Trump is!).

Once I was through passport control, I collected my suitcase and went into the arrivals hall to find my friend Susan. She quickly found me in the crowd; it was amazing to get to see her again! Susan has such an incredible spirit and zest for lift; it is refreshing and encouraging. I knew the next couple of days would be non-stop fun. Her friend Timothy was equally fantastic; he had been her tour guide in Cuba and they had become fast friends.

They had rented a car, so we threw my bags in and set off for the resort. It took us an hour to get there, but we were quite impressed when we arrived. It was a very upscale, fancy hotel; we were given welcome drinks and our rooms were located near one another. After settling in, we went down to the bar, ordered some drinks, and sat outside on the terrace under a heat lamp for a couple hours, chatting away and catching up. It was fantastic!!


19 December 2017
Hammamet, Tunisia

After having breakfast at the hotel, the three of us set off on a drive around the peninsular area where we were staying. There were some ruins and hot springs that we were particularly interested in finding. First though, we stopped over at the small medina in Hamamet. The entire medina was quite small and a maze of tiny streets and alleys (as is tradition). We climbed to the top of the old city walls, where we looked out over a cemetery.


Tim paid for us to go inside the fort as well, which proved to be far more interesting than expected. We again climbed to the top of the walls and this time we got some great views over the medina and the sea. The only negative aspect of the medina was being hounded by the vendors from the small shops to buy something; with few tourists stopping there anymore, they were all the more eager for us to buy their goods.


The drive north along the coast was not quite the picturesque route we had envisioned. Instead, we drove through town after town, encountering a surprising amount of traffic; it wasn’t until much later that we finally got out into the countryside. We continued on north, following a winding road up a mountain until we reached a dead-end at the tip of the peninsula. There was a small radar station there; we parked the car near the gate and walked around.


The views were spectacular; I had not expected Tunisia to be so green and lush! Rolling hills and mountains stretched out on one side, with the sea on the other. The three of us all agreed that the long drive was well worth the effort as we marveled at the scenery before us.


We soon set off for the tiny town of Korbus, where a hot spring was located. Susan had read up about it and it sounded rather fun: the spring was located right on the coast, with two small man-made pools catching the water before emptying into the sea. The drive took us just under an hour; Korbus itself is a very tiny town, with very little to offer in the way of tourism (we were the only Westerners that I saw there). Nevertheless, it was rather charming.


Finding the hot spring proved far more difficult than we imagined. We asked several people for directions and were given different instructions each time. We were on the verge of giving up when we made one last stop outside a shabby looking restaurant. As luck would have it, the hot spring was located right behind the restaurant!

It was smaller than the pictures had indicated: the two man-made pools were quite shallow (the water was only ankle-deep). However, the true beauty was where the water spilled into the sea. Stairs led down into the water where people were swimming about right under the cascading hot water. Susan and Tim both got in the water to enjoy it.


When we got back to the hotel later in the evening, our good impression of the hotel was shattered. I first asked at the front desk after my half-board meal plan that was included with my booking; without even looking at my reservation and refusing to look at my confirmation, the man at the front desk insisted that I only had breakfast included. He refused to listen, cutting me off and telling me that I had to speak to the staff in the morning. As we went into dinner, the wait staff were very rude about the bottle of wine that we had brought with us; rather than being polite about it, they repeatedly and angrily told us that we couldn’t drink it in the dining room (which we were fine with, but their attitude was unacceptable). As we relaxed after dinner, the three of us all agreed that the hotel was not what we had originally thought.

20 December 2017
Hammamet, Tunisia

We decided to return to Korbus today, this time in search of a hamam where we could relax with a massage. We took a different route back to Korbus, making the drive much faster than the day before. Once the car was parked, we went in search of coffee, which proved to be rather elusive. We stumbled upon a small café that thankfully was open. A small funeral procession passed by outside as we sat having our coffee.

The hamam that we picked was quite nice and modern (in comparison to the others in town). We all went with the one-hour package, which included a massage, a scrub down, and time in the sauna. Susan was led off to the women’s section, while Tim and I waited in the men’s area. He was taken off to his room first and I was collected about 20 minutes later.

The masseur was friendly and, to my surprise, spoke some English! After stripping down to my boxers, I was taken to the showers where I stood at one end of a small hallway while he used a high-pressure hose to spray the thermal water on me. The pressure of the water was quite nice. Back in the room, I settled in for the massage, which lasted for about 30 minutes. He did a great job of finding the tense, knotted areas and really working the tension out. I was once again spayed down with the hot water before taken to the sauna, where I met up with Tim. We didn’t stay there too long before going back to get dressed.

Susan was waiting for us outside; she did not have as great an experience with her time in the hamam, but she didn’t regret doing it. We walked back to the car and drove back to our hotel, first stopping off at a grocery store to get some supplies for dinner (we refused to eat in the hotel restaurant after the horrible treatment we’d received the night before). We spent the evening eating in Susan’s room, chatting away until it was time for bed.


21 December 2017
Hammamet, Tunisia

Timothy and I left the hotel at 04:45 this morning to make the hour-long drive to the airport. His flight to Cairo departed at 08:30 and I didn’t mind waiting around at the airport for my flight to Cairo at 11:35. I had a long day of travel ahead of me: Tunis -> Cairo (7hr layover) -> Johannesburg (2hr layover) -> Cape Town.

The time in the Tunis airport went fast enough, though it was quite boring. I slept during most of the flight to Cairo, but woke up as they were bringing the food around. Upon arrival in Cairo, I got my new boarding passes and was given the chance to leave the airport and have a hotel arranged for me, but I decided to skip it as I didn’t want to pay for anything like that (I didn’t mind the layover). I spent the time in Cairo getting caught up on this blog!

My flight to Johannesburg was delayed by nearly two hours, which mean that I would be missing my connecting flight to Cape Town. Thankfully, the airline paged me and rebooked me on the next direct flight to Cape Town – all without me having to ask!

Posted by Glichez 23:29 Archived in Tunisia Comments (0)

France: Paris to Nice to Marseille

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08 December 2017
Paris, France

Today I began my sightseeing around Paris in earnest. I planned to buy a 4-day Museum Pass, which would get me unlimited entry to around 60 museums around Paris. I first wanted to visit the Army Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb, but, when I arrived, I discovered that it was closed today for a special event.


I turned around and walked along the Seine and towards the Louvre, where one of the tourism offices was located; I stopped in and bought the Museum Pass and then returned to my wanderings. Nearby was the Vendome Column, which was fashioned after ancient Roman designs to celebrate Napoleon’s victories; standing atop the massive column was a statue of the Emperor himself.


Later on, I met up with my friend Ju for lunch; she and I had met at Inle Lake in Myanmar, back in September. We’d stayed in periodic touch through Facebook ever since. She suggested a local restaurant that used locally-sourced ingredients for their food. It was setup almost like a small cafeteria (the restaurant was very small!); I ordered some soup, a small sandwich, and a bowl of cold salads (half a concoction with avocado, the other half a curry of sorts). It was all delicious!! It was really nice to get to catch up with Ju: I told her all about Hanoi and she filled me in on everything that’s been going on with her since returning to France. She works with a local theatre group and they put on some very interesting plays.

After lunch, I walked over to the Louvre so I could revisit some of my favorite paintings… Can you guess who the subject of the paintings is? The line to get in was very short, but inside the museum was quite crowded. I flashed my pass and got right in. I began my hunt for the hall with paintings of Napoleon, with my primary focus on the painting of his coronation in 1804. I soon found my way to the massive hall and admired the various paintings on display: Napoleon at various battles and, nearby, the mammoth coronation painting.


I spent some time wandering around the rest of the museum, stopping briefly to see the Mona Lisa (which was surrounded by a large crowd). I found my way into the basement where I stumbled upon the Venus de Milo, which I had completely forgotten was located in the Louvre!


Leaving the museum behind, I walked back to my hostel, braving the freezing cold temperatures and the wind.

09 December 2017
Paris, France

I was up early today so I could catch the train out to Versailles; the train takes about 40 minutes to get out to the chateau from the city center. I was surprised to find a small amount of snow and frost on the ground at Versailles, when there had been none in the city center! The lines to get inside the palace were mercifully short and I was glad to get inside and out of the cold.


This was my third visit to Versailles, but I found myself underwhelmed by the palace this time (a feeling my grandmother shared when she visited many years ago). The palaces that I had visited in St Petersburg were far more grand and opulent; Versailles was not to the grand scale of those palaces (granted, Versailles is an older palace and reflects an age before the insane splendor of the late 1700s and 1800s in Russia).


The Hall of Mirrors still impresses though: the giant room, covered with mirrors on one wall that faces windows on the other. So much history had taken place in this one hall, from the end of the Great War in 1918 to the declaration of the German Empire in 1871 (during the Franco-Prussian War).


While walking to the Hall of Battles, I discovered a statue of Napoleon! If there’s a Napoleon statue or painting to be had, I’ll find it… He was dressed in his imperial regalia. In the nearby Hall of Battles, paintings covered the walls of the various battles throughout French history. One entire section was devoted to the Emperor’s victories during the Napoleonic Wars, including the masterful Battle of Austerlitz.


Having finished inside the palace, I spent a very short time walking through the grounds. The place was magical with its light dusting of snow and frost. However, it was far too cold to spend a lengthy amount of time there, so I went back to the train station and went back to Paris.


The train stopped near the Army Museum, so I decided to make that my next stop for the day. The museum is large and thoroughly covers the military exploits of France, from the Revolution through Napoleon III (a separate section covers the World Wars). My focus? Napoleon I and his conquest of Europe. They have several items of Napoleon’s on display, including his hat, his briefcase as First Consul (before he was declared Emperor), and his field tent, complete with jacket, hat, bed, etc. One hall contains a large portrait of the Emperor in his full imperial regalia, looking quite majestic.


I then walked around to where Napoleon’s tomb is located. The tomb is massive and made of red marble, sitting in the central rotunda of the cathedral. Surrounding him are the names of his major battles. To one side of the tomb is the grave of his son, Napoleon II, with a statue of his father standing watch over him.


Outside there was a large rally of some sort going on: people were waving flags and signs, though I couldn’t tell what was going on. As I walked back into the city center, I found the Champs Elysees very crowded and some sort of public event going on; I was to later learn that this was the public funeral for popular French singer Johnny Hallyday. I didn’t spend much time there as I was tired and wanted to rest that evening.

Back at my hostel, I had a new roommate from Morocco named Samad. He was studying abroad in Spain and had come to Paris for the weekend. We spent quite a while chatting and getting to know one another.

10 December 2017
Paris, France

I returned to the Arc de Triomphe this morning, intending to climb to the top (using my museum pass to get in), but it didn’t appear to be open. The guards were there, but the entrance was roped off and no one was going in. Having been to the top back in 2014, I wasn’t terribly upset. Instead, I walked across the Seine to get some coffee and warm up.


Later that morning, I went to the sewers of Paris museum. I found this to be far more interesting that I’d originally thought. The museum was contained in an older section of the sewers and related the evolution of the sewage system in Paris. Several areas opened up onto flowing sewer water… and there was even a painting of Jean Val Jean carrying Marius through the sewers!


I spent a long time walking along the Seine once again, heading over to see Notre Dame. Outside, an enormous Christmas tree and been put up. The place was crowded with tourists, so I skipped going inside (again, I’ve already been twice before).


I walked back over to the Louvre as I wanted to see the apartments of Napoleon III, which I had forgotten about during my earlier visit. I got rather frustrated at trying to find the damned apartments; when I eventually found my way into the correct wing, I followed the signs, but they soon gave out; the escalators were broken and I was tired from walking so much already.

Finally, I found the apartments and I was happy to spend a little bit of time walking through them again. Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, resided in the Louvre during his tenure first as president and then as emperor from 1848 to 1871. There are not many rooms that have been preserved, but the ones that have been are quite remarkable, especially the grand salon.


While walking back to my hostel for the evening, I did some souvenir shopping: I found a wonderful poster print of the Moulin Rouge that reminded me of Terry for some strange reason, so I bought it as a gift for him.

I met back up with Samad at the hostel and we went out for dinner together; I took him to the Vietnamese place nearby. He had never eaten Vietnamese before, but he thoroughly enjoyed his meal. I was chatting some with the Vietnamese waiter and he brought us two coffees that were similar to (though not exact) ca phe sua da (Vietnamese coffee). Samad then left to catch a train to the airport; I was really glad to have met him during my stay in Paris!

11 December 2017
Paris, France – Nice, France

Not much on the agenda for today. I caught a train from Paris to Nice (in southeast France), which took six hours. I arrived in Nice just before 16:00, got checked into my hostel, which was very nice, and I spent the evening working and reading.

12 December 2017
Country 87

My aim for today was to visit nearby Monaco, which I could reach via bus. I had breakfast at my hostel, which was slightly disappointing and simple, and then walked through the city to reach the bus stop located next to the port. I arrived just as the bus (number 100) was about to leave; the one-way ticket cost only EUR 1.50! The drive to Monaco was stunning: driving along the coast, looking out over the little towns and ports that dotted southern France.

I exited the bus near the royal palace and proceeded to walk through the city, which was far hillier than I had expected. To reach the upper part of the city, I discovered a small staircase nestled down an alleyway. Reaching the top, I was soon at the tourism office, where I got my passport stamped as proof that I had been to Monaco!


The major casinos were nearby, including the famed Monte Carlo (where several James Bond films had taken place and filmed, including GoldenEye). The Monte Carlo charged an admission fee to visitors, which I couldn’t be bothered to pay, but I did take the time to admire the exterior of the impressive building. Out front was a large holiday display, full of Christmas trees and massive dice.


I then returned to where the bus had dropped me off and began the long trek up to the royal palace. I wasn’t able to get inside the palace itself, but it was quite an impressive building. Nearby was an overlook where I was able to see the entire city of Monaco. My final tourist stop of the day was at the royal chapel, where the royal princes of Monaco were buried. Princess Grace (aka. Grace Kelly) was buried there and I got to see her grave. It was a simple church and not overly opulent.


When I returned to Nice later that afternoon, I spent the rest of the day reading and catching up on work. I had recently been bumped back up to full-time hours and was helping the useless members of my team (my former staff) to get caught up on what they’d been neglecting for months on end.

13 December 2017
Nice, France

Today had one major event planned: seeing Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi! It was opening in France two days before the US for some reason and I was thrilled to find a theater in Nice that showed it in English. The showing wasn’t until 18:30, so I had the entire day to myself.

During my time in Monaco, I remembered that Napoleon had landed somewhere in southern France when he returned from Elba in 1815. Curious as to where he landed, I was surprised to learn that it was only a short distance away from Nice (20 minutes by train), in the tiny town of Golfe-Juan. How could I pass up the opportunity to see something related to the Emperor?!

Determined to visit the site, I went to the train station early in the morning and bought a direct, round-trip ticket. The train was massively delayed by 50 minutes, but it ended up working out well. When I arrived into Golfe-Juan, I still had 90-minutes until my return train – plenty of time! I walked over to the port, passing by a mural depicting Napoleon, and set off to find the memorial marker for where the Emperor had landed. I found a pier labeled Quai Napoleon and figured it must be down there. Nope. It was a dead-end with nothing to see.


I soon found my way to the tourist office, where a kind woman indicated on a map where I could find the two important Napoleon sights: the marker where he landed and a column topped with a bust of Napoleon. Following the map, I discovered that I had walked right by the marker already! It was a small, tiled stone with the imperial eagle and 1815 written on it, surrounded by flowers. Nearby was a sign retelling the story of Napoleon’s march on Paris in March 1815, rallying the troops to his side. This was the starting point for the Route Napoleon – a walk which I have now added to my list of things I must do in my life!


I then walked into the town center to the small main street where the Napoleon Column was located. It was smaller than I had anticipated; had I not been looking for it, I could easily have missed it. At the base was the date (1 March 1815) and the bust of Napoleon was small, but he looked powerful.


For lunch, I grabbed some bread and snacks at a grocery store, eating at the train station while I waited for my train. There wasn’t much to see or do in Golfe-Juan, but it was well worth the trip out there!

Later that evening, I walked over to the movie theater in Nice and found several people outside dressed in Star Wars costumes: Princess Leia, Kylo Ren, stormtroopers, R2-D2, etc. It was exciting to see that even here in France the fans were dedicated to the film! I went into the theater, sitting as far away from anyone munching popcorn as I could, and settled in to enjoy the movie. I was filled with excitement as the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” appeared on the screen. Cheers rose from the crowd as “STAR WARS” soon followed, along with the familiar theme by John Williams.


NO SPOILERS HERE! I wish I could say that I enjoyed the film. I really wanted to like it. I loved The Force Awakens and all of the new characters that it introduced. This new film just failed to grasp who they are as characters, it was long, it was boring, and nothing was truly surprising. I left the theater hating the film; I was desperate to talk to my buddy Alan in Belfast who shares my love of Star Wars, but he wasn’t seeing it for another 24 hours!

14 December 2017
Marseille, France

This morning I walked back through Nice, this time with my luggage, to reach the bus terminal, which was located outside of the city center. We left Nice at 10:30 and arrived into Marseille just after 14:00. It was an uneventful bus ride and I was glad that it was short. I walked over to my lodging, which was an apartment rental located near the port. It was a very nice apartment with a large bathroom and well-stocked kitchen.

I did nothing of interest for the rest of the day except relaxed.

15 December 2017
Marseille, France

Today I was going to give Star Wars another chance. Several days ago (before seeing it in Nice), I had bought tickets to see the movie twice more in back-to-back showings for today. I had spoken briefly with Alan about the film the night before after he’d seen it; he was shocked that I hated it so much, but he agreed with my complaints. I was truly hoping that this second viewing would improve my opinion of the film.


It didn’t. It’s still an awful Star Wars film. I found myself getting even more bored this time around and I just wanted to walk out. I skipped the second showing that afternoon entirely; I just couldn’t bring myself to suffer through it again. I was disappointed.

Later this evening I met up with a very nice gay guy from Algeria (I’ve no clue how to spell his name, unfortunately). He was really attractive and had been living in France for five years. He spoke very good English and we hung out until nearly 03:00! I enjoyed getting to spend time with him; he was a breath of fresh air that I sorely needed. We mentioned possibly meeting up again before I leave Marseille. *** ***

16 December 2017
Marseille, France

I finally decided to do some sightseeing around Marseille today. My one “must see” was the Chateau d’If, the famed prison where Edmond Dantes was sent in “The Count of Monte Cristo”… unfortunately, the wind was far too strong today and none of the boats to the island were running. I was disappointed, but I had to concede that the wind was intense; it was so strong that I had difficulty walking into the wind at times. Needless to say, it made the already cold temperatures frigid and being outside a miserable experience.


Nevertheless, I trudged on and walked along the port and up to a nearby fort complex. From the top of the fort I could look out over the entire port, which was rather pretty. I didn’t spend much time there though as it was exposed and the wind was strongest there. I then walked up to a nearby Catholic church, which reminded me very much of Florence and Tuscany in Italy: the styles were very similar, with the black and white stripes in the archways. The interior of the church was nice, with large flags lining the walls.

I soon returned to my hostel that afternoon, happy to be in the warmth and out of the wind. For dinner, I quickly popped into a sushi place two doors down from my hostel; it was surprisingly delicious and cheap!

17 December 2017
Marseille, France

I wanted to try and do more sightseeing today as I’d give up early yesterday due to the wind. The weather today was no different though, but I was determined to stick it out as long as I could. I started the day off with coffee and reading, but was soon walking north through the city. I spotted the Arc de Triomphe nearby and decided to make a detour to visit it. It was smaller than the one in Paris, but it served the same purpose: to celebrate Napoleon’s victories.


I continued heading north through the city to reach the Palais de Longchamp, which had been built in the 1860s by Napoleon III. It was well worth the long walk in the cold and wind. The palace sat atop a small hill and was perfectly symmetrical. In the center was a large Greco-Roman statue and fountains, leading down to a pool. The building now houses museums, but I simply wanted to look around the exterior. It was a very grand building and quite impressive.


I had planned to then take the metro further into the city and climb a hill so I could visit a massive church that was built there, but the weather was just so miserable that I decided to skip it. The hill was the tallest point in Marseille, with nothing to block the wind while at the church. Given that I’ve already seen plenty of churches, I had no regrets about skipping it.

Posted by Glichez 22:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

D-Day Beaches, Paris, and London (again)

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30 November 2017
Bayeux, France

I had a five-hour layover in London this morning, so I grabbed a Full English for breakfast, which was heaven. It was filling and hit the spot. I spent much of the time working and get caught up on what I’d been neglecting during my time in Vietnam. I had intended to do so much work, blogging, studying, etc during my week in Hanoi, but I spent all of my time drinking…

I landed in Paris around 15:00 and took the train into the city, where I transferred over to the train station where my train to Bayeux left at 20:00. The train trip took three hours; it was lightly raining and freezing cold when I arrived in Bayeux at 23:00. I made the short walk over to my hotel and was soon settled into the room, where I was happy to crawl into bed and get a good night of sleep after a long 40 hours of travel.

01 December 2017
Bayeux, France

I was able to sleep in this morning, getting me caught up on rest and ready for sightseeing in the afternoon. I went for a short walk around Bayeux, which is a small and quaint town; it was very “French” and I couldn’t help but think of Beauty and the Beast as I admired the town: “Little town, it’s a quiet village…” I grabbed a small breakfast and coffee at a nearby café before heading out that afternoon.


My plan for the afternoon was to take a tour to the D-Day beaches, specifically Omaha Beach where the Americans landed in 1944. The tour left from just outside the hotel and there were eight of us on the tour. Our guide was very enthusiastic and provided a running commentary as we drove out to the beaches.

The first stop was Pointe du Hoc, which is where the Germans had positioned several pieces of artillery to defend against the Allied invasion. It was crucial for the Allies to take out the artillery and, despite several aerial bombardments, they failed to take them out, so it fell to a small group of American soldiers to land and take them out. When they landed, they discovered that the artillery had been moved and replaced with decoys!


We got to walk around the entire area, which was pot marked with holes where bombs had been dropped. The German fortifications were still there, in various states of disrepair and damage. The entire area was run by an American organization. It was very windy and freezing cold, but I still enjoyed getting to walk around. I went down into one of the gun emplacements, which looked out over the sea. Nearby was a walkway that allowed us to see the beach where the Americans landed on D-Day, along with the cliffs that they had to climb to reach the bunkers.


Leaving Pointe du Hoc, we drove over to the American military cemetery. The area reminded me of Arlington outside of DC: rows of white crossed for where the soldiers were buried. Not every soldier buried there died on D-Day, but they had all died during the campaign in northern France. We made it just in time to watch the flag lowering ceremony at 16:00. There were two flags to lower: one was done in silence and the other was done to the sound of gunfire salute and music.


The final stop of the day was Omaha Beach itself. There was not much to see at the beach as the old obstacles had been removed. What was surprising was how firm the sand on the beach was: it held firm as we walked along it; the firm sand was one of the main reasons it was picked as a landing sight. Next to the beach were two German bunkers that we were able to visit, along with a memorial statue to the soldiers who stormed the beach.


After returning to Bayeux, I had dinner at the hotel restaurant and made it an early night.

02 December 2017
Bayeux, France

I had to get up early this morning for my tour to Mont Saint Michel, which was a 90-minute drive from Bayeux. The “tour” was merely a shuttle service that drove us out there and then brought us back; the time at Mont Saint Michel was free time to explore on our own.

The shuttle dropped us off at the visitor center, where a free shuttle drove out to the sight. A footpath was also available, which I opted to take: it was a cold morning, but it was also clear and sunny, so I thought it would be nice to do the 40-minute walk. The views as I walked along were amazing: farmlands surrounded me and Mont Saint Michel rising up in front of me.


Mont Saint Michel is a walled city around a large hill, with a massive cathedral at the top. It had a very medieval feel, with narrow stone streets and stone buildings everywhere. After warming up with a coffee, I climbed up to the ramparts and made my way up to the cathedral. Our ‘tour’ included an admission ticket to the cathedral, which was nice to explore. Aside from the church itself, which was rather plain, I got to walk through the other rooms and buildings connected to it. I enjoyed wandering through the depths of the cathedral, which eventually ended in the small gardens.


Returning to the ramparts, I walked back to the center of the small city, where I stopped for lunch. The restaurants were all rather expensive, so I picked one and settled on a fixed meal: appetizer (soup), main course (pasta with bacon), and dessert (a caramel crème). I expected small portions, but each course was huge! I was so full that I couldn’t finish the main course!


After lunch I took the free shuttle back to the visitor center, where we then transferred back to Bayeux.

03 December 2017
Paris, France

I left Bayeux early this morning to head back to Paris, where I would spend the next week (minus a few days in London). The train arrived into the city just after 11:00. I dropped my bags off at the hostel and set out to walk around the city.

This was my third visit to Paris; the last time I was here was in July 2014 for Bastille Day, during which I saw all of the main sights around town. This time I would revisit some of the sights, but at a leisurely pace without any pressure to fit everything in. My priority this time was to see all things Napoleon: sights and museums that had anything to do with the Emperor.

My first stop was the Arc de Triomphe. It still impressed me, no matter how many times I see it. The massive stone arch with the names of famous battles and generals etched into it; statues and sculptures celebrating Napoleon adoring each side. My favorite statue, of course, is the massive one of Napoleon himself, in all his glory.


I then made my way down the Champs Elysees, stopping in a shop to buy a scarf and gloves as it was frigid in Paris. I walked all the way down to the Louvre museum and then decided that it was time to get some coffee and warm up for a bit.


Later, I returned to my hostel, checked in and relaxed for the rest of the night.

04 December 2017
Paris, France

I wanted today to be another fun day of wandering around Paris, so I started by walking around Montmartre, which was quite near my hostel. I walked by Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge, and found my way to the Wall of I Love You. This was one of the more interesting things that I’ve seen on my travels. An artist created a large wall covered with “I love you” written in 100 different languages. I quickly found the German version, but it took me a long time to locate the Vietnamese one in the upper left corner.


After this, I had lunch at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, run by expats from Vietnam. It was very good and warmed me up so I could continue through the city that afternoon.


My next destination was the Eiffel Tower, which I took the metro to get to. It is always fun to turn the corner and see the Eiffel Tower standing proudly along the banks of the Seine. I crossed the bridge over the river and walk around the Tower, taking some time to walk through the park that surrounds it.


Leaving the Eiffel Tower behind, I walked along the banks of the Seine, somehow finding a way to enjoy the frigid weather. I ended up back in the Tuileries Gardens, where I bought a chocolate crepe and then had a very late lunch. I didn’t do much the rest of the afternoon and evening. I packed my bag so I could head to London in the morning and went to bed.


05 December 2017
London, England

My train to London left from Gare du Nord, which was a short walk from my hostel. Check-in for the train included going through passport control and a security screening. For the first time ever, the British passport control was rather strict and thoroughly questioned me; he even demanded that I provide proof of available funds (I showed my bank balance).

The train left at 09:00 and sped across the French countryside; I passed the time watching Netflix. We arrived into London two and a half hours later, arriving at St Pancras station. I had booked myself into the same hostel that I’d used in October, which was down the street from St Pancras. I arrived too early for check-in, but I was able to use the waiting time to do laundry and get some work done.

Once I’d checked in, I went out to get dinner before meeting my friend Sam. I hopped the tube over to High Street Kensington and walked around until I found a small pub; I ordered a craft beer and a meat pie for dinner.

Sam and I met up at the High Street Kensington tube station just after 18:00. Once again, he greeted me with a hearty hello and a warm hug. We immediately began chatting away, as we do; a never-ending stream of chatter that distracts us from all else. We walked for about 20 minutes over to another tube station, where we caught the train over to Soho.

Our plan for tonight was to see “Phantom of the Opera” – a plan that we had made back in October. Sam shares my love for musical theatre and had never seen “Phantom” before, so this was a perfect way to spend the night. After picking up our tickets, we walked around a bit more to help pass the time, walking through nearby Trafalgar Square.


I related my recent adventures in Hanoi, getting Sam’s advice and input. Sam is a very good listener and incredibly helpful with his input; I always feel that I can freely open up to him, that he doesn’t offer judgement on anything. Once I finished my lengthy story, Sam told me about the latest developments with his start-up business: he and a friend are starting a ben linen business, with the product sourced from SE Asia. He had told me about his plans back in Bangkok in early August, now things were moving along and they were planning to be open for business in early 2018 (all sales done online).

The show began at 19:30… and it was every bit as amazing as I’d remembered and hoped. This was my 11th or 12th time seeing “Phantom” on stage; every time I hear the overture start, I still get goosebumps. Sam thoroughly enjoyed the show as well. Once the show was over, we walked over to the tube station so he could catch the train home (he had to work in the morning; his commute home is around 45 minutes). We made plans for dinner tomorrow and parted with a hug.

I walked back to my hostel from the theatre, which took me about 35 minutes. It was a nice walk through the streets of London, which wasn’t nearly as cold as Paris.

06 December 2017
London, England

I slept in and did some work this morning at the hostel. I went out for lunch and then walked over to the British Museum. I had never been to this particular museum during my previous visits; it was free to enter too! The highlight of the museum is the Rosetta Stone, which the British acquired in Egypt after the French Expedition left (the French, under Napoleon, had discovered the stone). The rest of the museum was alright: a collection of artifacts from around the world. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a showcase of the spoils of British colonialism.


I then walked my way back over to Soho, where I spent some time exploring the area before returning to my hostel. Sam and I were planning to meet at Kings Cross station around 20:00 for dinner (after a business meeting he had related to his startup). I spent the time before dinner at the hostel, working.

When I met up with Sam, he was there with his business partner, who he introduced me to. Not only did Sam greet me with a bear hug, but so did his business partner! We didn’t sit around chatting too long: it was cold and he had to catch his train home. Sam and I then tried to eat at a nearby Nandos, but we found it too busy, so we walked over to a second Nandos location, which had an open table.

Over dinner, Sam and I fell into our standard marathon talking. The great thing about Sam is that we can cover any topic imaginable, including politics and religion. Tonight we discussed religion at length, which I found fascinating; we also discussed dating and relationships.

We finished dinner after 22:00 and it was time for Sam to head home. I said that I would walk with him down to the tube station; as we were talking and walking, he luckily realized that he’d forgotten his backpack at Nandos! We rushed back and it was still sitting under our table; it was lucky he remembered it before boarding the train as his keys were in the bag. We walked back to the tube station; we snapped a few selfies before having to say goodbye.


Sam and I both remarked to one another that we felt that we’d really cemented our friendship. So many of the people you meet during travels are there for the moment, you may stay in touch via Facebook, but that’s about it. Now, having met up a couple times since meeting in Bangkok, exchanging numerous and lengthy emails, we both felt that we’d really formed a strong bond. It was nice to hear that he felt the same way. We knew that we’d be saying goodbye tonight, but that we’d see each other again soon, somewhere in the world.

With one final bear hug, we said our goodbyes.

07 December 2017
London, England

My final day in London centered around going to Postman’s Park, which is located near St Paul’s Cathedral. I had become aware of this particular park through the film “Closer” in which several important scenes take place in the park. The small park centers on a memorial wall, commemorating people who died while saving the lives of others.


The weather today was rather dismal: cold, windy, and rainy. I had planned to then walk over to the Tate Museum, but I didn’t fancy making the long walk over there. Instead, I stopped in for lunch and then walked over to Trafalgar Square. Sam had commented the other night that the view through London to Big Ben was his favorite view of the city; I went back to see it during the day and I have to agree with him (even though Big Ben is currently covered by scaffolding).


I returned to the hostel late in the afternoon, where I spent some time working before catching the train back to Paris at 19:00. I arrived into Gare du Nord shortly after 21:00; I was back at my hostel soon thereafter and crawled into bed.

Posted by Glichez 04:33 Archived in France Comments (0)

Hanoi: A Last-Minute Detour

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22 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

Arrival at Noi Bai Airport was more chaotic than my previous visit; the lines for the visa on arrival and passport control were enormous. Luckily, I had received an evisa, allowing me to skip the visa on arrival line (and avoid getting a full-page sticker visa in my passport – space is precious now!). Having made it through the line, I hopped in an Uber to take me to the Airbnb apartment that I’d rented.

I showered and changed clothes before walking down to my favorite café (the coffee shop situated about half-way between mine and Terry’s places). The first taste of the Vietnamese coffee was to die for – I had missed it so! I didn’t spent much time there; I soon hailed an Uber motorbike to take me over to the Moose & Roo.


Driving through Hanoi, the city felt more like home than anywhere else that I’ve been to on my travels. I enjoyed the chaos of the traffic, the tiny shops and cafes lining the sidewalks, all the sights and smells. I was excited to see Terry again and get to hang out; it had been almost two months since I was last in Hanoi.

I walked into Moose, sat down at the bar and shortly after Terry came out from the back office. His face lit up with a smile, he greeted me with a huge hug and a hearty “Hello handsome!” I was on cloud nine: back in the city that I love, warmly greeted by one of my dearest friends. We talked for a little bit, but he was soon pulled back into getting work done.

I sat at the bar for several hours: eating lunch, drinking beer, talking with Ian (who was working the bar as well). Terry began talking with a woman sitting at the bar who he clearly knew; she and I soon struck up a conversation and hit it off right away. It was almost as though we were old friends! He name is Elizabeth (Lizzie), she’s from Australia, but she’d spent a few months earlier this year teaching English in Hanoi; she was back for a visit now. Lizzie and I both share a love for the German language and Germany, which we were thrilled to discover! We could talk about anything: from politics to religion to silly nonsense. It was refreshing.


As the night wore down, Terry joined us for a couple drinks; two more guys joined us (one named Alex and the other’s name I forget). Alex and his friend were going for dinner, so we all joined them and hopped in a taxi to the Tay Ho area of the city. Tay Ho is where the vast majority of the expats live, but I tend to avoid. I wasn’t feeling too hungry due to my long travels and sheer exhaustion, but it was great fun to hang out with them.

After dinner, we went over to a German bar for a few last beers. While I was drinking, my buddy James video called me. He was in Bangkok for several days. We had met on the TransSiberian Railroad and had last seen one another in Valdivostok back in late June! In our drunken states, we decided that he had to come to Hanoi for a visit while I was in town… so we bought him a ticket! He would be flying in on Saturday and leaving the following Wednesday.

By this point we were all quite drunk, so Terry and I grabbed an Uber back to my apartment. He came up and stayed the night with me, which was wonderful. It was nice to get to cuddle with him again; very peaceful, calming and just what was needed.

23 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

Today was one of Moose & Roo’s busiest days of the year: Thanksgiving. Terry and I slept in as late as we could, mainly so he could get some rest before the stressful day began. We took an Uber to the restaurant from my apartment. We each had a Vietnamese coffee before he really began working. I stayed around for a while, having several drinks, talking with Ian and Terry when they had a free minute.


As the afternoon wore on, I knew they were about to get slammed with customers, so I took off and went for a walk around the lake nearby and then over to La Place. La Place is a charming cafe-restaurant that I’d discovered with Natalia when I was first in Hanoi; it has a wonderful small balcony that overlooks the cathedral square, which is where I always prefer to sit. I spent some time there, having coffee, getting a small bite to eat, and reading.


Around 23:00, I left La Place and took a lengthy stroll around the lake again. As I was walking, Terry sent me a message inviting me back to Moose as they were now much slower. They all seemed in good spirits, particularly given how stressful the day had been. Terry runs the place so well and his staff generally do a damn good job because of his leadership.

We hung out for a little bit, having a few drinks as they celebrated the success of the day. They put on “Piano Man” over the sound system, with Terry, Ian and me loudly singing along. Terry suggested we all go out to drink at a bar in Tay Ho called Nameless, but it was soon decided that we’d go to Long Play instead. Right after we arrived, the police showed up to get a bribe from the owners of the bar, so we had to leave while that got sorted out. Thankfully it was over quick and the fun could begin.

We spent several hours there, partying it up with beer and balloons of nitrous oxide. Terry put everything on his tab with Long Play (the perks of knowing the owner). I had a great time getting to know some of his staff, especially one of his bosses (her name escapes me now). Around 02:00, Terry and I grabbed an Uber; it dropped me off at mine and then he went back to his.


24 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning I got up and decided to go back to the small café for another coffee. I sat there reading for a little bit, but soon I was messaging with Terry. His shift started at 15:00, so I invited him to come join me for coffee. I can’t describe how nice it was to spend time one-on-one with Terry, where we could really chat with one another. He’s one of a handful of people that I’ve met in my life that I’ve instantly bonded with and forged a true friendship.

We couldn’t spend too much time over coffee as he did have to get to work. Guess what I did? Yep, I went back to Moose & Roo with him, where I – wait for it – hung out and drank! Shocking, I know… Lizzie soon showed up and we chatted the afternoon and evening away. We soon roped another regular customer named Todd into our conversation. He coaches basketball in Hanoi, but is from California. Terry joined us at the end of his shift for a few drinks.

What to do after work though… Oh wait, Long Play! Seeing a pattern here…? It was a typical evening at Long Play, filled with drunk shenanigans, playing whatever music we wanted, and enjoying some balloons. We were out late again; Terry and I left at 03:00 and again he went back to his.

Lizzie called me via Facebook messenger video chat once she got home and we stayed up chatting for a couple of hours. It was really wonderful to get to talk with him, open up about… everything, and to get her advice/input. Meeting her had been one of the best things about coming back to Hanoi.

25 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

My buddy James arrived early this morning, but he needed to nap before we met up. I made it a chill day for myself: I did some reading at La Place for several hours, walked around the lake again (quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to relax), etc. I spent much of the day writing a letter to Terry, telling him everything.

I met up with James around 20:00 at La Place; we stayed there for one coffee each. It was really great to see him again! We had so much to catch up on!! We then walked over to Moose & Roo so he could meet Terry. The place was slow; we’d planned to stay for one drink, but we soon found ourselves on our third… and fourth… Terry joined us for a drink and we changed the music to something more to our taste; he put on “Just Give Me a Reason” by P!nk; he and I enthusiastically sang along. Soon the three of us were heading to Tay Ho to the bar Nameless.

Nameless was a small bar with friendly staff on the second floor of an old building. We had a few rounds of drinks, together with some balloons. We were all feeling pretty good, relaxed and having a good time. Terry put on “Piano Man” and we all sang along. The three of us grabbed an Uber back to my apartment around 01:30. *** *** Terry left around 03:30, but James and I hung out a bit longer and he left around 06:00.

26 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

I’d hoped to meet up with James again today, but he spent most of the day sleeping and then went out with friends that night.

Once again I went to Moose & Roo early in the day and enjoyed a Vietnamese coffee there with Terry. I spent several hours there before heading out to wander the city for a bit. I came back later in the afternoon, where I met up with Lizzie again. She and I chatted throughout the evening. We were joined by Todd again, as well as Ian and Terry when they had the time.

Then the night took a bad turn…

I saw Terry with a Viet guy at a table (a friend of his), which made jealousy rear its ugly head. I decided to call it a night and just head home: it was past 23:00, I was drunk, I was upset. Everyone could see I was upset. I paid my bill and, just as I was getting ready to leave, Terry came back over. Naturally, my abrupt departure confused and upset him as he figured it out.

Instead of walking home, I found myself heading to Long Play. I wanted to have more to drink and to enjoy a few balloons – a good way to let off steam. I had just finished my first balloon and beer… when Lizzie and Todd came in, soon to be followed by Ian, Terry, and his Viet friend. This was not what was expected.

Things quickly deteriorated…

I could tell Terry was upset and not himself. He was quite drunk, to a point that I’ve not previously seen him. Everyone ordered a beer and some ordered balloons. I introduced myself to Terry’s Viet friend, who was named Tai. He was nice enough and friendly, even flirting with me a little (which I found strange since he clearly fancied Terry). Ian left shortly after arriving; I walked out to say goodbye to him. When I came back in, I went up to chat to Terry…. and he yelled at me. Terry was pissed that I left Moose so abruptly, angry that I got jealous of Tai. He stormed off to another seat, leaving me shocked.

Tai knew there was a problem and tried to mediate it somewhat, but Terry was too out of it. I grabbed another beer and walked over to Terry and did my best to apologize for what had happened that evening. He thought that I decided to abruptly leave when he came back over to our group at Moose, not knowing that I had paid up and had planned to leave then anyways; his joining us then was just bad timing. It didn’t seem to do much good; Terry was very angry.

Terry stumbled to his feet and said that he was leaving; I told him that I would get him an Uber, but he said to fuck off and that he’d get a taxi. Terry couldn’t stand on his own two feet. Tai and I rushed to prop him up and carry him out of Long Play. There was no way that he would get home on his own, so I ordered an Uber; Tai and I took Terry home and then returned to Long Play.

Surprisingly, Tai began to relentlessly hit on me… which I did little to discourage. I was hurting from earlier and he was being kind. He hadn’t been drinking, so when it was time to leave, we hopped on his motorbike to head back to mine.

27 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

Needless to say, this morning was not bright and happy for me. I was still stinging from last night, particularly from how angry Terry had been. I hoped that sleeping it off would help. Once Tai left for work, I hopped on my phone to message Terry; we had planned to spend much of the day together as he didn’t have to work.

Terry replied that he wanted to talk the following day. He was still pissed off, not least of all because I got jealous of Tai and then had him stay the night at mine. Terry’s last message said that he was “very nearly done” and that we needed to talk. I agreed – the plan for the day was to talk things through, even before it all went to hell the night before.

With a day to myself now, I spent some time at my apartment: thinking, processing, self-reflecting. I went to La Place once again and spent hours there, reading (currently re-reading His Dark Materials – on “The Subtle Knife” now). I also spent some time wandering around the lake, sitting on some of the benches and thinking… trying to process what had happened and figure out how to move forward. I couldn’t fathom losing Terry as a friend; the thought simply gutted me.

James got in touch with me later in the evening, just as I was going to a different café for a coffee. He met me there around 22:00 and we went over to O’Leary’s for a couple drinks. While I drank an Amarula and then a large beer, I related everything that had happened with Terry yesterday. James had reservations about Terry, but was still comforting and helpful to me.

After O’Leary’s, we went over to Long Play so he could experience it. We were worried that we could run into Terry there, but he wasn’t so we went inside to enjoy ourselves. It was empty when we first arrived, so the plan was to stay for one or two drinks and then move on. However, a crowd soon appeared and we found ourselves chatting with a lovely British couple. Over the next several hours we shared numerous beers, countless balloons, and danced around to a wide variety of music (the best thing of Long Play is that customers get to control the music, which is just YouTube videos streaming). So much beer. So many balloons. So much fun.


We closed the place down and left at 05:00. I got an Uber back to my apartment and James walked back to his hostel. Would there be a night in Hanoi when I didn’t go to bed after 05:00?!

28 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning, Terry and I messaged one another about meeting up; he was already at work, so he suggested we meet there and chat as business was slow. When I arrived, we grabbed a coffee and sat down to hash it all out…

The talk went far better than expected. He was thankfully much calmer and not as angry; we talked through what happened, I gave him the note I’d written that conveyed all of my thoughts/feelings, and we spent time really being open with one another. Happily, we ended it well and we both felt that we had strengthened our friendship and were closer now!

Terry had to get back to work, so I moved over to the bar where I ate some lunch. I ordered corn bread, which I asked to have with butter and honey. Terry had never tried cornbread like that, so I offered him a bite and he enjoyed it! I spent some time hanging out, drinking… as is tradition.

Lizzie met up with me around 14:00 and we soon set off for our afternoon adventure to the Lenin statue. She shared my interest in Lenin, the Russian Revolution, communism, and socialism. We each took a different motorbike taxi to reach the statue; we were surprised to see how busy the square was once we arrived. People were hanging out, skateboarding, and enjoying the warmer weather. We snapped a few photos in front of Lenin and then asked someone to take a video of us…


I had shown Lizzie a clip from “Family Guy” of Peter ‘dancing the dance of life’ for Lois, which we both laughed hysterically at while drinking at Moose. We decided to recreate the scene in front of the Lenin statue. Here’s the result of our madness:

We walked back to Moose and we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking. Terry was able to get off work by 19:00, so the three of us went out for dinner. Terry suggested we get crab at a small place he knew of near Xofa. They offer fresh crab, so we ordered two crabs and some fried rice. When the food arrived, Lizzie and I had Terry show his crab skills; the meat was so good and filling.

Once dinner was done, we decided to go somewhere else for one last drink (we were all determined to not have another late night). Terry led us to the train tracks nearby and suggested that we walk down the tracks; he was sure that there was a bar somewhere along the tracks. We eventually came upon a couple sitting outside their store who said the bar across the street was closed, but that they’d open it for us (they were the owners!). While we were waiting for them to get opened up, a train came by and we had to pile into the small store – the train zipped by just a couple feet from the building!

The bar was called the Railway Café and was run by a Vietnamese woman and her Western boyfriend. They served 333 beer, which she referred to as “Choo Choo” beer. She gave each of us stamps to show we’d been to the café: Lizzie and me on our wrist, Terry on his chest. She then took us up to the second floor, where they had setup a cozy seating area with a small balcony.

We spent several hours hanging out, drinking, and chatting with the owners. Several trains roared by while we were there, which was thrilling to watch from the balcony. On top of the beer, we each took a shot of rice wine, which was very strong. The owner eventually brought up some chocolate ice cream, which we all shared.


We played some of our favorite music as we sat there, including “Piano Man” which we all sang along to. Terry also played some of Tim Minchin, including his spoken word “Storm” which is hilarious. At one point, Louis Armstrong’s version of “La Vie En Rose” started playing; impulsively I stood up and asked Terry to dance. He asked me who was leading, I said I would and we attempted to dance. It was short, but nice.

This was one of the best nights I have ever had in Hanoi. Getting to spend such a relaxed and fun time with two amazing people (Terry and Lizzie) was exactly what I wanted. After the dark turn things had taken just two nights before, it was outstanding to have turned things around and spend such an incredible time with Terry.

We left the Railway Café at 01:00 (so much for an early evening!) and Terry cheekily mentioned going to Long Play, which Lizzie and I agreed with. We took a taxi over to Long Play (they driver got lost and was all around useless, but he got us there in the end); when we arrived, Terry said he was going to back out and head home (he’d nearly fallen asleep in the car). We said goodnight to him and then went into Long Play.

This was going to be an interesting evening at Long Play… Lizzie and I grabbed some beer and ended up talking to an American guy shitting next to us; he was rather a douche and really strange. He was hitting on Lizzie and thought I was her boyfriend; he said he would be down for a threesome with a guy, which came out of nowhere because we hadn’t mentioned sex! I then spoke with another American ex-military guy, who was more friendly and talkative (though it was difficult to get him to start conversation).

I went back to Lizzie and my eye was caught by a very attractive guy who walked by; he was at Long Play with two other guy friends. I went over to their table to introduce myself. They were three friends from the Czech Republic who had been traveling in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and now Hanoi. Their names were Petr, Jaroslav, and Vojtech. I spent much of the rest of the evening chatting with them, which was great fun.

Then the drama began… the American douche had received his tab, which was just over 2million VND (around $90), which he was refusing to pay. He was throwing a fit and threatening to call the cops. The owner of the bar, who I knew by this point, was having none of his shit. I went over to try and calm him down and get him to pay. I briefly went back to the Czech guys, but then saw the American heading for the door. I ran outside to make sure he didn’t leave without paying (which he was clearly trying to do); both the owner and me stopped him. I told him that if he called the cops, he would end up paying the full tab PLUS a large fee to the police. There was no way out of paying the tab. It took some time, but I finally got him to pay the tab with his credit card. As a thank you, the owner gave me a free balloon of nitrous oxide.

At 04:00 I decided it was time for me to head back to my apartment as I had to be up at 06:30 for a school assignment. I said goodbye to Lizzie, who was chatting with the American ex-military guy by this point. I crashed right away when I got home.

29 November 2017
Hanoi, Vietnam

Alas, yet another visit to Hanoi comes to an end; no matter how many times I visit, saying goodbye is never easy. My flight back to Europe left around 16:00, so I needed to leave for the airport around 13:00. I planned to, once again, spend the morning at Moose before I had to leave.

I took an Uber car over to Moose with my luggage and Terry let me store my things in the back office. We then had a coffee and chatted for a little bit, but he was soon being pulled back to work by his staff. I spent the time sitting at the bar, having some drinks and chatting with Terry as he had time.

Lizzie and Todd showed up just after 11:30 for lunch; they had mentioned that they would both try to make it in this morning to say a proper goodbye, which was very nice. Ian soon arrived as well, so the four of us spent the next 90 minutes hanging out, drinking, and eating lunch. I had each of them write a short blurb in my travel book. Terry zipped by as it was nearing time for me to leave, asked for the book and left to write his piece in it (I hadn’t thought to bother him with the book given how busy he was).

When Terry finished writing in my book, I had already asked for my tab, but he said that he’d buy me a beer. I got a Leffe and we walked over to one of the picnic tables, where we could chat alone. It was the perfect way to wrap up this visit to Hanoi; we had some ups and downs during this past week, but we managed to end on a high, bringing us closer together than ever before. Sitting with Terry, sharing the beer, and just chatting away for ten minutes was fantastic, especially since I didn’t think he’d have the time on such a busy day. He gave me a massive, long hug goodbye.


When we finished our drink, it was time for me to leave. I went back to the bar to snap some pictures with everyone and to say goodbye. With hugs all around, I said farewell to them all. I was so glad to have met Lizzie and Todd during this visit; each time I come to Hanoi, I make new and great friends.


When I turned to go to the back office, I saw Terry carrying my bags out the door for me, which was very kind. He joked about how heavy they both were (my check-in bag was 23kg, my backpack carry-on was well over 13kg). Lizzie came and joined us; together the three of us talked while we waited for my Uber car to arrive. Terry helped me carry my bags to the street as well. With one last hug with both Lizzie and Terry, I climbed into the car; as I was driving away, I saw them both look back and wave until I was out of sight.


Posted by Glichez 03:39 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Barcelona, Andorra... and a Long Day of Travel

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15 November 2017
Valencia, Spain

Today was taken up with a 12-hour bus ride to Valencia. I’ve no idea what possessed me to take this bus; it was a long and quite boring ride. I managed to get a small bite to eat during one of the longer stops in a small town.

During the bus ride I came up with a somewhat crazy idea: cutting down my time in Barcelona and Andorra, as well as eliminating my stop in Bordeaux… and spending the time in Hanoi!

16 November 2017
Valencia, Spain

Yet another do nothing day. I have no idea why I scheduled so much time in Valencia…


17 November 2017
Valencia, Spain

I decided to get out and explore today and see what sights the city had to offer. Scattered around the city were the remains of the old city gates: massive stone towers that were both imposing and impressive. I could imagine what a formidable sight it would be to come upon them and the accompanying city walls in medieval times!


The main church in the city was also rather impressive, with sculptures, statues and interesting architecture. They charged an admission fee to enter and, having been to far too many churches already, I was not compelled to go inside.


That was it in the way of sights around Valencia. I was more impressed by some of the street art that I stumbled across during my walk around the city.


I stopped for lunch in a small café near to the main church and then spent the afternoon catching up on reading….and looking into my mad idea of jetting off to Hanoi for a few days.


18 November 2017
Barcelona, Spain

I caught a bus out of Valencia at 10:00 this morning, heading off to Barcelona – my final stop in Spain. The trip lasted just over four hours. Thankfully my hostel was nearby and I was able to walk from the bus station to the hostel. I was disappointed to discover that, though check-in wasn’t until 16:00, the entire front desk was closed until then, which meant that I couldn’t even drop my bags off! I found a Starbucks nearby, where I spent the time reading.

Once I was checked in, I showered, changed, and went to meet my friend Foxy (Ashley) for dinner. I had met Foxy back in January in NYC; she was a friend of my buddy Shane (who I met in Sydney on election day 2016…). Foxy was one of the people who did the marathon escape rooms with Shane and me (we ended up doing four in one day!). She had just completed doing the El Camino walk across northern Spain and this was her last night before heading back to New York.

She found a delightful pintxos restaurant called El Pinxto de Petritxol where we met. The place served small dishes on individual plates; we simply picked up plates of the food that we wanted and, at the end, they counted up how much we’d eaten. All of the food was delicious; each one was just as good as the last. We drank several glasses of the house red wine as we ate as well. As we ate, I told Foxy about my idea for heading to Hanoi, which she supported.


Once we finished eating, we decided to go walk around and find a place to drink some beer. We walked through a nearby market on our way to a craft beer place that Foxy had found earlier on her visit to Barcelona. The bar was small, but served several different beers. We each ordered a flight, picking a good variety of beer to taste.


We slowly worked our way through our five different beers; I enjoyed them all quite a bit (as did Foxy). While we were sitting at the bar, I spontaneously logged into Orbitz and booked my flights to Hanoi! Foxy then snapped a picture of me, capturing my… joy? … at having booked it all.


Once we finished our drinks, we decided to call it a night. We had both had quite a bit to drink and it was time to get some sleep. I walked Foxy back to her hotel and we said goodbye, planning to meet up again in NYC when I visit in the spring. On the way back to my hostel, I drunkenly called my friend Jake in Seattle – as is tradition. I don’t recall much of the conversation, but Jake always seems to find my drunken self to be amusing!


19 November 2017
Barcelona, Spain

Now that I was going to Hanoi on the 21st, today became my last day in Spain! I decided to make the most of the time and fully explore Barcelona.

I spent most of the day walking around the city. Next to my hostel was a large park, where I began my walk. At the entrance to the park was a large, reddish arch. Throughout the park were several art installations, one of which I found quite fascinating. To one side of the park was a large pond and fountain (probably the most interesting part of the park).


As I was leaving the park, I unexpectedly bumped into Foxy! We stopped to chat for a few minutes; her flight to the US was leaving later that afternoon, so she was spending the morning relaxing and soaking in the last bits of Spain. It was nice to run into her again and get to say goodbye.

I walked over to the cathedral, which was very pretty; the area was packed with people (tourists). Again, there was an admission fee for the cathedral, so I skipped going inside. I then walked down to the waterfront, where I saw a large column topped with a statue of Christopher Columbus.


That afternoon I caught the subway out to see the Sagrada Família cathedral. Foxy had told me a lot about it the night before and it intrigued me. The cathedral has been under construction since 1882 – and it is still not complete! Progress has been slow largely due to funding, which has relied solely on private donations.

I was in awe as I stepped off the subway and got my first glimpse of the cathedral. The façade facing the subway was unique and…peculiar. The main entrance area looked like the stone was melting or that is was carved out of mud (that’s the best way I can think to describe it). Nearby were more modern additions to the building.


I walked around to the other side of the cathedral and was blown away by the stark difference it presented: the architectural style was very different and more modern. The religious statues, including a crucified Jesus, were a modernist interpretation. This side was far more complete and presentable.


Having finished with my sightseeing around Barcelona, I spent the evening at the hostel working and studying. I ran into an American guy who was staying at the hostel; he was obviously gay, but was on his way out, so we didn’t get to chat… at the time. Later that night, I was woken up when someone came back into my dorm room at 03:00 – it was the American! I’d no idea we were sharing the same room. He was pretty drunk, but we spent some time chatting. He was a really cute guy, but quite young (he was 19!). He wanted to cuddle for a bit, so we found some way to share a bed (not an easy feat in the small bunk beds!).

20 November 2017
Andorra La Vella, Andorra
Country 86

I was up at 06:00 this morning and walked over to the bus station, where I hopped on a bus to Andorra. The trip took just over three hours; en route, we stopped at the Spanish border, where I was stamped out of the EU…

I had five hours to spend in Andorra la Vella, which was more than enough time. I had originally planned to have a full day plus an afternoon in Andorra, which I realized would have been far too long! I stored my bags in lockers at the bus station and set off into the city.


The city was nestled in the mountains and it was quite cold; I was reminded of Vaduz in Liechtenstein. I walked around the city streets, enjoying the cooler weather and the quaint atmosphere of the city. I came upon a stone path leading to the top of a small hill nearby, which I climbed up. At the top was a small lookout over the valley, which was beautiful.


Andorra doesn’t offer much in the way of sights to see, but I enjoyed walking around the town. After a couple hours I was freezing cold, so I stopped in to get a coffee to warm up with. I spent some time there reading before going to get lunch.


My next bus left at 15:00, bound for Toulouse in France. Before getting on the bus, I asked the driver to stop at the French border so I could get stamped back into the EU. The French border was hardly formal: we stopped, an officer poked his head through the shuttle bus door, and we drove on. There was no formal stop – and my passport wasn’t stamped…

I began to stress about what would happen when I reached passport control at the airport in Paris the next morning: would they notice? Would it hold me up and create issues trying to leave?

We arrived in Toulouse late due to horrendous traffic in the city. It was 19:00 by this point and my train to Paris left at 20:30. I walked over to a nearby Starbucks so I could get all of my Europe travel documents together, just in case there was an issue at the airport the next morning.

The train that night was thankfully not full, so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone. I set my alarm for 06:30 the next morning – just before we were due to arrive in Paris – and drifted off to sleep.

21 November 2017
Paris, France

I was amazed to find that I slept through most of the night as I usually don’t sleep soundly while I travel. Upon arrival in Paris, I made my way to the metro so I could get out to CDG airport. I had to change trains only once and I was soon at the airport getting checked in. I couldn’t drop my bags off for a couple hours, so I found a place to chill and read.

When I finally made it to passport control, I began to stress. I asked the guy to stamp a page that already had some stamps on it (the few blank pages that remained were needed for future visas). I think this distracted and amused him, so he didn’t bother finding the missing entry stamp. He joked around with me about stamping the center of a blank page before finding a used page and sending me on my way.

I had two flights to reach Hanoi: Paris to Guangzhou, China; Guangzhou to Hanoi. The flight to China was nine hours and I managed to get some sleep (I was exhausted from traveling for such a long time). The layover in China was pure hell – as anything to do with China inevitably is. I had to wait in a long queue to get my boarding pass checked; there were only two people working, despite the queue being enormous. The airport itself was rather dull and offered nothing in the way of good food. Thankfully I was soon boarding my flight to Hanoi!!

Posted by Glichez 10:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Discovering Spain's Marvels

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7 November 2017
Madrid, Spain
Country 85

This morning I took a free walking tour of Madrid. I was met by one of the guides at my hostel and we walked over to the Puerta del Sol, where the rest of the group was meeting up. The tour lasted just under three hours; I found it interesting, but I didn’t learn as much as I would have liked.

We walked over to the opera house and then to the royal palace, which was very impressive. There were a lot of school children around the palace doing something at the church that faces the palace across the main courtyard. The huge crowd prevented us from getting to properly explore the area, so we moved on.


One of the more interesting stops was the Plaza Mayor, which was full of cafes and restaurants. Shortly after this stop, the tour came to an end. I walked back through the city and spent some time wandering about, getting a late lunch and reading.


8 November 2017
Madrid, Spain

My mission for today was to visit the royal palace of El Escorial, located about 25 miles outside of Madrid. I took a bus out to the palace just after lunch; the ride lasted about 45 minutes and soon I was walking through the small town and over to the palace.

It was an expansive building with a large courtyard in the front. I walked around to the visitor’s entrance and took an audioguide tour through the various rooms. Photos were, sadly, not permitted inside the palace. One of the most spectacular of rooms was the royal crypt where many of the kings and queens of Spain were buried. The tombs were arranged in rows along the wall, each ornately decorated.


Returning to Madrid late that afternoon, I spent time relaxing at my hostel. For dinner I found a Vietnamese bahn my place, which was very good – it hit the spot! Back at the hostel, I was drinking a beer in the common area when the guy who was staying my room came down and we started chatting. His name is Nil and he’d been living in Spain for several years, though he was from Australia. We spent a few hours talking and drinking.


9 November 2017
Madrid, Spain

Nil and I went for breakfast this morning after I got my bags packed (I was leaving Madrid by late night train). We went searching for churros and finally found a small café that served them. Nil also ordered us each a tortilla de patatas – a Spanish omelet. It was such a simple, yet gratifying and tasty meal.

Afterwards, we walked into the city center and decided to tour the royal palace. When we arrived to the palace, we were surprised to find that there was a large religious procession going on at the cathedral adjacent to the palace. We stopped to watch it for a while before heading into the palace.


The palace was spectacular! As with El Escorial, photos were not permitted inside the palace (except for the grand entrance). We spent nearly four hours exploring the palace. Our first stop was where the old armor and weapons were on display. One of our favorite pieces was a small revolver with a small axe at the end of the barrel, allowing it to serve dual functions.


The state rooms were incredibly grand and impressive. The palace is still used by the royal family for official state functions; it was interesting to see the contrast between the public modern rooms and the older rooms from centuries ago. Both Nil and I were amazed with each successive room that we entered; we had not expected the palace to be as nearly as impressive as it turned out to be.

On our way back to the hostel, we stopped to get another traditional Madrid meal: fried calamari sandwich. There was nothing else in it either: simple, yet very good. Nil then walked me over to the subway station so I could get to the train station. I was glad to have met Nil during my time in Madrid; getting to hang out with him helped made the visit that much more enjoyable.

The train to Seville only took a couple of hours. I walked over to my new hostel and then grabbed a quick dinner before calling it a night.

10 November 2017
Seville, Spain

I was supposed to have taken a guided tour to Gibraltar today, but it was cancelled because not enough people signed up. I decided to have another “do nothing day” of reading, trying to learn some Vietnamese, and working. I curled up in a café and did just that – it was very pleasant and I rather enjoyed it.

11 November 2017
Seville, Spain

Off to Cordoba today to see all that there is to see! The tour left early in the morning and I spent the ride sleeping. When we arrived into Cordoba, we were handed over to a different / local tour guide who was really outgoing and knew a lot about the history of the city.

We were taken through the alcazar area, which was rather beautiful. The water gardens were particularly amazing and we spent most of the time walking around them. There were statues of the various kings throughout, as well large statues of Ferdinand, Isabella, and Christopher Columbus. The inside of the buildings wasn’t too interesting, but parts of them were built for the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody ever expects…). There was a mural of this one Greek guy who killed his father and married his mother (“So there was this guy…”).


Our guide then took us through the many streets of Cordoba, explaining some of this history of the town. It was alright, but nothing really grabbed my interest. I was hoping that we’d eventually get to something cool… and I was pleasantly surprised.


The Mosque of Cordoba was our final stop – and the most impressive. It was a massive complex that had been built as a mosque, enlarged several times, and was eventually converted to a Catholic church during the Reconquista (when the Catholics pushed the Muslims out and reconquered the land). The interior was stunning: a vast room with columns stretching off in all directions; the columns all appeared to be the same height, but in reality they had been taken from other places and reused here; if a column was too tall, its base was buried deeper under the floor; if a column was too short, it’s base was built right onto the floor.


The Moorish architecture was beautiful and ran throughout the entire building. Archways, alcoves, wall decorations: all of it was amazing. In the center of the building was the massive Catholic altar and choir area.

Finishing up at the Mosque, we were given some free time to explore and get a bite to eat. I walked down to the riverfront and snapped some photos of the nearby bridge before having a late lunch. Later in the afternoon, we boarded the bus and made our way back to Seville.


12 November 2017
Seville, Spain

I planned today to be my full sightseeing day around Seville. My plan was to start with the Alcazar in the center of town, but when I arrive, the line was so long that I decided I would come back another morning and be first in line. Instead, I walked along the river over, stopping briefly to admire the Torre del Oro. They allowed people inside, but it didn’t catch my fancy, so I continued to walk along the river. It was a pleasant morning and I enjoyed the relaxed pace I was taking.


My next stop was the Plaza de Espana, which was far bigger than I had anticipated. Surrounding it was a park that I enjoyed walking through, but when I emerged from the park into the plaza, I was shocked. There was a massive semi-circular building along one side with terraces for people to walk along; in the center was a large fountain; and all around this was a gigantic open square filled with people.


I meandered around the area, walking through another nearby park and square before returning to the city center. I stopped for a late lunch before tucking in to do some reading and studying Vietnamese.


13 November 2017
Seville, Spain

I woke early this morning and went straight to the Alcazar in order to avoid the lines to get in. I arrived right as they opened and was pleased to find that it was not busy at all (this allowed me to get some marvelous photos!).

The Alcazar had been used as a setting for Sunspear in Dorne for the TV show “Game of Thrones” so I was particularly interested to see the place because of that. Even without the link to the show, the Alcazar is truly stunning. It was a palace complex that had been built up over time with a large garden area to one side.


I went upstairs to explore some of the state rooms, including a hall with some amazing tiles covering the walls, before heading out into the gardens. There were fountains all around, along with a wall with a walkway a top it for visitors to get a good view over the entire area. Scattered throughout the gardens were several small courtyards as well, each one a hidden gem to find.


Returning to the palace itself, I ventured into the more Moorish side and was absolutely blown away by how stunningly beautiful the central room was. The Moorish arches and ceilings reminded me much of what I’d seen in Cordoba, but this was on a far grander scale. I sat there staring up and marveling at the ceiling for several minutes. By this point the palace was getting more full of tourists and I was disappointed that I’d not come here first thing; nevertheless, I was able to enjoy the beauty.


Beneath one area of the gardens was a hidden bath, with one long pool of water beneath an arched ceiling. It was a great find to come across as most of the other tourists walked right by the entrance.


Having spent several hours at the Alcazar, I decided it was time to visit the Cathedral of Seville. I normally don’t like to pay an entrance fee to a Catholic (or any other) church, but this one was supposed to be worth the price. It was.


The interior was cavernous, though the walls were not as ornately decorated as I had expected. In the center of the church was the impressive organ, complete with carved wooden panels lining it on all sides. Nearby was the center piece of the church: the tomb of Christopher Columbus himself. His tomb was held aloft by four statues.


Continuing through the church, I walked up to the top of the tower; the path was just one long ramp that wound around and around; I was exhausted by the time I reached the top. I enjoy getting to high vantage points to look out over a city; Seville was ok to see from up high, but it was nothing truly spectacular.

I made my way back down and relaxed for the remainder of the day. Back at my hostel that night, I met a friendly woman named Maike who was staying in the same room as me. We sat around chatting for quite a while; she had been at a conference in Portugal and decided to spend a day in Seville before going back home to Germany. We decided to go out to dinner together and we had a delicious paella, along with some drinks and finishing with coffee. I was really glad to have met her; it was great getting to hang out with someone!


14 November 2017
Seville, Spain

I saved the best for last for my visit to Seville. Today I had a day tour to Granada so I could visit the famed Alhambra. This tour left early in the morning and I again slept through most of the ride to Granada. When we arrived, I discovered that we were not going straight to the Alhambra: part of the tour was going to see some other stuff, but the rest of us just had free time in the city. I was a little annoyed at this as the itinerary made no mention of it. I spent the few hours of free time walking around the city and getting some lunch.


We finally arrived at the Alhambra around 14:00 and we spent the next three hours exploring this magnificent castle complex. The Alhambra is basically a miniature city of its own, with a castle, palace, and an area for the peasants to live. We had a local guide to take us through the entire area.

The first section was the summer palace, the Palacio de Generalife, and the gardens that surrounded it. It was a small building, but the gardens and their fountains were quite serene. We didn’t get to explore much of the interior of the palace itself, so we soon walked over to the main section of the Alhambra.


We walked by the palace of Charles V, which was impressive on the outside, but nothing particularly remarkable on the inside, before making our way to the Nasrid Palaces. This was the real gem of the entire visit; each room was more and more breathtaking. I was reminded a lot of the Alcazar in Seville as the architectural style was quite similar (which also reminded me a lot of some things I’d seen in the Middle East).


When the tour through the Nasrid Palace ended, it was time to leave the Alhambra. We had spent over three hours touring around and I could happily have spent twice that amount of time there! Each day Spain has blown me away with the different and unique sights it has to offer. The Alhambra was the best of them all.


Posted by Glichez 08:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Revisitng Friends in the UK

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19 October 2017
London, England

Flying from Tangier to London proved to be far more stressful than I had anticipated. I had a layover in Barcelone, but the airline, Vueling, couldn’t print my boarding pass from Barcelona to London. When I boarded the aircraft, I found that I was in the last row and asked the flight attendants if I could be moved if there was room, explaining that I had a short layover. They said that I would have to exit through customs and re-check in for the second flight, which seemed ridiculous to me.

The flight to Barcelona was delayed, which gave me only 40 minutes to make my flight once we landed. I rushed to get off the airplane and made my way to the transfers area. I explained why I didn’t have the boarding pass and they let me through. I ran down to the gate and was just in time to make the flight! I was worried that I would miss the flight and have to spend hours in the airport waiting for another one. They didn't have a boarding pass for me, so they just wrote my name and a seat number on a piece of paper!


I landed at London Gatwick just after 14:00; the train got me into St Pancras station by 16:00. My hostel was across the street from St Pancras, thankfully. I dropped my things off and hopped the tube over to Parliament and Big Ben. I hadn’t told anyone that I was coming to the UK, so I was going to post a video to Facebook of something iconic from London to update everyone on my whereabouts.

To my disappointment, Big Ben was covered by scaffolding! I knew they were doing renovation work on it, so it was understandable. I still managed to get a quick video panning over Parliament though. I then went to Starbucks to read and get some work done – and to have my first Pumpkin Spice Latte in two years!!

20 October 2017
London, England

Today I was able to meet up with Jane, who had the day off from work. We met in the late morning at the Greenwich tube station. We spent a little time walking around the area, walking to the top of a hill to see where GMT originates from (we did not pay the entrance fee – we just looked through the gate). Heading back down the hill, we wandered around and spent a long time chatting.


We stopped for a quick beer before catching a shuttle boat up the River Thames. There were relatively few tourists on board and it was a very relaxing journey. We joked around about Blackfriar’s Bridge; I fucked up and called Tower Bridge by the wrong name (how fucking American of me?!). We got off at Blackfriar’s Bridge and headed into the Tate Museum.


The Tate has a large open area for rotating art installations that we wanted to check out. When I was in London in January, there was a strange sound show on display. The new one was far better though: swings. About a dozen or so 3-person swings had been installed all over the place. We hurriedly ran down the steps and got in line for one of them. We had tremendous fun once we started swinging: it was strangely calming and soothing. We laughed as Jane and I tried to snap photos and take videos.

After having our fill of swinging, we walked across the Millennium Bridge and around St Paul’s Cathedral. I had last been to St Paul’s in 2001 and it was nice getting to see it again. We went to the roof of a nearby mall, which afforded a phenomenal view of the cathedral and the surrounding area.


Jane found a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, so we walked over to grab a quick bite to eat. We each ordered a bahn mi and, much to my surprise and delight, Vietnamese coffees! The coffee wasn’t quite what I wanted, but it was far better than anything I’ve had since Vietnam.

By this point it was late afternoon and we needed to get Jane to the train station. However, we had time for one last beer at a nearby pub. We spent the last half hour chatting and relaxing. I mentioned to her that I was doing an escape room with my buddy Sam the following evening; we had an extra space and it would be great if she could join us; she said was definitely interested and would let me know.

Jane had to run to catch her train; we said goodbye and I hoped to see her again the following day. I spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering about Soho. I wanted to get some shopping done and the stores around Soho we perfect for that. I then relaxed with some tea and reading before heading back to my hostel for the night.

21 October 2017
London, England

I spent much of the morning reading and working at a nearby Starbucks. I was changing rooms at my hostel, so I couldn’t get into my new room until 14:00. Sam and I were planning to meet around 15:00, so I had plenty of time. Jane messaged me and said that she would be able to join us for the escape room! Once I got moved into my new room, I hurriedly showered, shaved and freshened up before heading out to meet Sam.


I met up with Sam at the South Kensington tube station. We greeted one another with a big hug; it was like meeting up with an old friend, despite the fact that we’d only met two months before and had only truly hung out for a day and a half! We had kept in touch ever since and we soon settled into our usual never-ending conversing, jumping from subject to subject. One of the things that I liked most about being friends with Sam is that we can talk about anything and everything; he’s very well educated and up-to-date on current events; we can carry on deep, thoughtful conversations about politics and then jump to lighter topics like world travel.

Sam suggested we walk around nearby Hyde Park while we caught up, which I thought was a wonderful idea. We spent the next 90 minutes walking around and talking (mostly talking). Sam had been my biggest support, confidant, and friend over the past few months as we kept in touch via email. We’d seek one another’s advice and open up to one another. Sam never passed judgement, but would provide good, sound advice (I tried to do the same for him in return).


Our walk around Hyde Park focused solely on my Hanoi adventures… and Terry. I’d kept Sam up to speed on everything that was going on, but the emails we disjointed, so now was the time to relate the entire story, from start to… well, where it currently stands. Yes, it took the entire time we were walking around.


When we wrapped up at Hyde Park, we decided to check out one of the nearby museums before heading over to the Tate (I wanted to show Sam the swings – and he’d never been to the Tate before!). Once I was done relating my recent drama, it was Sam’s turn to tell me everything that had been going on in his life. I’m not going to write about what he told me here (that’s his personal business and I’ll not break his trust in me); I will say that the remainder of the afternoon was his time to tell-all to me.

This is what makes our friendship truly unique and special: not since Beatrice had I had a friend that I can so freely, openly, and easily talk to about everything, especially deeply emotional topics. With Sam I feel like I can truly be myself and completely open up. It is wonderful to feel that way with a friend.

On our way to the Tate, we crossed the Millennium Bridge and we each got a cup of caramelized nuts the street vendors were selling on the bridge. It was the perfect snack for the cold afternoon. Sam was excited when he saw the swings – it’s like we’re both little kids at heart. We finally got on a swing and this time I had the camera ready to record before we started. It didn’t help. We nearly stumbled as we started, which was hilarious; once we got going, it was a lot of fun. Sam agreed that it was a fun and calming experience.

We didn’t have much time at the Tate as we needed to get over to our escape room by 18:00. I ordered us an Uber, which picked us up just outside the Tate (a taxi driver waiting nearby tried to block us from reaching the Uber car!). We reached the escape room location right at 18:00 and waited inside for Jane to join us. We had to run to a nearby ATM to get cash as the place only accepted cash.


The time for our escape room had come… Biohazard Room.

We were tasked with gaining access to the lab of a mad scientist and finding the cure for a deadly disease he was going to unleash upon the world. We were given flashlights, a walkie-talkie, and a scratch piece of paper. Let the hour begin!

The first room was quite tricky and difficult, yet fun. There were pieces of paper on the floor with symbols on one side and images from the room on the other. We matched them up with their locations around the room and found that the symbols formed numbers when folded in half. We had to ask for help to finish the clue: there were markings at each location that helped us make a pattern on a switchboard. Genius!!

The next room had a strange green floor on it, with a set of letters on the wall; by the door was a key pad and a number puzzle. We thought the puzzle had to do with patterns, but Jane quickly figured out that the numbers were coordinates on the set of letters on the other wall. We got the code for the door and moved into the next room.

There was a large container in the middle, with several display cases against the wall. There was also a small locked box on the ground. We first deciphered a button code to turn the central container “on” and then had to work out the next puzzle. We needed to use a joystick to do certain patterns, but we kept failing. Calling in a clue, we found that we were just holding down the button too long. We soon got the code sorted out and revealed four test tubes, which gave us the code to the near keypad.

We still needed to unlock the box. The code for the box was complex, with us having to decipher a diagram on the wall of scales and different items on each weight; the weights gave us the combination to open the box. We didn’t get there yet though…

The next and final room had the antidote for us to solve. First we needed to insert three pins in a machine; we had two from the previous room, but not the third… THE BOX! We rushed back and managed to open the box, which had the third pin! Pins in place, we turned the machine on and soon had a syringe to help us figure out the right combination for the antidote and final keypad.

Time was nearly out, but we kept working hard. Jane and I were trying to work out the final sequence when Sam managed to get the code to work! The keypad unlocked the door, which we had to push to slide back, bringing us back to the first room and the original door we entered by.

We escaped with just a couple minutes to spare!! Huzzah!!


We posed for a quick photo before deciding to grab a bite to eat for dinner. We walked over to Kings Cross Station via the nearby canal and decided to grab burgers for dinner. We went to a nearby burger restaurant called Honest Burgers. We were seated in the basement and were served by a delightful French waiter. I ordered the bacon burger, which came with a bacon gravy sauce – delicious!!

It was great getting to hang out with my two wonderful friends from London. It was funny to hear Jane refer to me as “Ryan” and Sam refer to me as “Wilhelm” – the names that I had introduced myself to them by. When I’d met Jane, I’d not yet committed to being “Wilhelm” permanently, but by the time I met Sam, it had become my new name.

Jane had to run to catch her train home once dinner was done, so we said a quick goodbye. It is always wonderful to see her; Jane is so delightful, funny, and just as mischievous as I am! Truly one of the best people I’ve met on my travels.

Sam and I had a few more minutes together. I asked him to write a blurb in my travel book, which he said he’s be more than happy to do. I took the idea from James (whom I met in Russia): the people I meet during my travels that have truly meant something to me each write an entry in the book; as little or as much as they want; they can write anything that they want. It is a fantastic way to remember so many of these great travel buddies I meet – and one of the best souvenirs I can think of.

We walked over to the tube station, where we stopped to listen to a street performer play the guitar. Sam studied music and plays the guitar as well; he clearly enjoyed listening to the guy play (he was quite good!). We snapped a quick selfie before getting onto the train: Sam was going back to stay at his brother’s, while I was going to stop over near Big Ben for a walk. We were soon engrossed in conversation (as is tradition) and I nearly missed my stop! We said a quick goodbye, knowing that we’d be hanging out again in early December.


The past two days in London were spectacular in every possible way. I had been able to spend time with some great friends, relaxing and having a great time – totally forgetting that I was still traveling. This was what I needed from my time in the UK and I had no regrets about skipping Morocco for this.

22 October 2017
London, England

Today I was taking the bus from London to Edinburgh: it left around 10:00 and arrived into Edinburgh around 21:00. It was to be a long, long day… but it was the cheapest way to get to Scotland on such short notice.

To help me get through the long drive, I had downloaded a podcast that Jane had recommended over dinner the night before: My Dad Wrote a Porno. A guy’s father had literally written “erotic literature” which he was now going to read and provide running commentary on, along with his two friends. Before I was half way through the first episode, I was dying with laughter!! The porno was called “Belinda Blinked” and the running commentary was absolutely hysterical!!

When I wasn’t laughing my ass off listening to the podcast, I was sleeping to help pass the time. The ride wasn’t nearly as bad as many buses that I’d taken in Asia (looking at you, Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai… bus ride from hell…).

When I arrived into Edinburgh, I was overjoyed to see all the familiar sights and buildings. There is something about the city and Scotland that I really connect with; it feels like a home away from home to me. I was soon checking into my hostel – the High Street Hostel, the same one I’d stayed at back in February. Dropping my bags off, I went out for a quick walk around and to grab some snacks at the nearby Tesco.

23 October 2017
Edinburgh, Scotland

This morning I spent working and studying Vietnamese before meeting up with Pip for lunch. She and Stephen were heading to Mexico later in the week, so we didn’t have time to properly hang out, but it was nice to grab a bite to eat on her lunch break. We went to a small pub across from Parliament; I had a delicious (and filling!) bangers and mash.

Saying goodbye to Pip, I set off to walk through town and revisit some of my favorite places. I made a quick stop at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard to see Voldemort’s grave (a pity that I wouldn’t be in town over Halloween as people “duel” over his grave every year). I also stopped for a cup of tea at a wonderful café in New Town (a place I had discovered back in February).

That evening I hopped the tram and went out to see Kevin. I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to see him, given how last-minute my visit to Scotland was (he’s usually quite busy with work and his girlfriend). Thankfully, we had plenty of time to hang out this week. We grabbed a few beers at Tesco (Innis & Gunn!) before grabbing food and heading back to his place to geek out. His dog, Jess, remembered me and was very happy to see me again (she had apparently begun barking at men she didn’t know since I was last in town, so Kevin wasn’t sure if she’d know me or not; he was really surprised that she did).

We both re-subscribed to Warcraft and spent the evening reacquainting ourselves with the game. I had not played WoW since the spring and a lot had changed; we had fun running around being ridiculous, bad players in groups… all while watching “’Family Guy” on Kevin’s second monitor. It was so much fun to spend hours being complete nerds again.

24 October 2017
Edinburgh, Scotland

I had a leisurely morning and didn’t leave the hostel until quite late. I wandered down to a café, where I spent some time reading before heading to my favorite Chinese place in town for lunch. They had some amazing sesame chicken, which I had been craving for quite some time.

After lunch I walked back through New Town, taking the path around the base of the castle (one of my favorite walks in town). I planned to have a very quiet day; Kevin and I were meeting up again this evening, this time with his girlfriend Hannah as well (the first time I’d be meeting her!).


Kevin and Hannah drove into town and met me in New Town. Hannah was wonderful and I instantly took a liking to her. She was funny and had the same sense of humor that both Kevin and I had. We went out to eat and then to have some drinks at a fantastic pub called Panda & Sons.

Panda & Sons resembled an old speakeasy from the 1920s. The exterior of the place was done up to look like an old fashioned barber; going down the stairs to the basement, we had to pull open the “secret” door in the bookcase to gain entrance to the bar. The drink menu was rather extensive and each one was quite unique. My first drink was delivered in a Chinese to-go box (the drink had soy sauce in it, which gave it an interesting flavor). Hannah’s drink came covered by a glass dome, which was filled with smoke inside; the reveal was quite spectacular. All of the drinks were quite good and we spent a couple hours there before it was time to call it a night.


25 October 2017
Edinburgh, Scotland

I had a relaxing and late start to the morning, which I spend at the hostel. I spent some time having coffee, working, studying, and doing some Vietnamese studying. For lunch, I went to Oink and enjoyed a delicious, fresh pulled pork sandwich. Mmmm, yum!


After lunch, I went over to New Town and did some shopping. I needed some new underwear, an umbrella, and I wanted a new hat. Thankfully I found all of them in one store and paid very little for everything.


In the late afternoon I took the tram out to Kevin’s again. We met at the Tesco store, where we bought some beer, along with a bottle of Amarula and a couple boxes of the caramel sweets that Kevin and I are addicted to. For dinner, Kevin cooked a couple of frozen pizzas. We spent the evening as we always do: playing video games. His sister, Michelle, came home early and I was able to chat with her for a little bit, which was quite nice.


I wouldn’t see Kevin again before I left the UK, so we snapped a quick selfie before he dropped me back at the tram later that night. It is hard to believe that Kevin and I have been friends for 10 years now, with the majority of that time being spent living in separate countries! So many good times in Bellevue, WA though… and now so many great times in Scotland!


26 October 2017
Belfast, Northern Ireland

An early start to the day saw me leaving for the airport at 04:30; the tram was not running this early, so I took the airport bus. I ate avocado toast for breakfast at the airport. My flight to Belfast left shortly after 07:00 and landed less than an hour later (though I slept through the short trip).

I met up with my friend Alan right outside of the terminal. Alan and I have been friends for six years now – coincidentally, six years ago this week we met! We met in Beijing during the orientation meeting for our tour to the DPRK (North Korea). During the intervening six years we’ve hung out in Washington DC; Edinburgh, Scotland; Durham, England; and now Belfast, Northern Ireland. We’ve spent collectively less than two weeks together, but I still feel as though he’s one of my best of friends.

Alan drove us to his apartment near the city center and we spent the long drive chatting away. Alan and I can get into deep political discussions; this drive allowed us to delve into the bullshit of Trump. Alan had to work today, so he dropped me off at his apartment, where his girlfriend, Kim, was hanging out.

Kim and I spent some time catching up and chatting. She had only recently moved over to Belfast and was currently job hunting; she had a phone interview this morning. When she was done, we went out to grab some lunch and do some shopping. For lunch, we stopped at an American-style place (it was a British restaurant done in what they call “American”). We each had a burger and it was quite good.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the city center, which I found to be rather charming. I had visited Belfast briefly in March 2016; it was nice to get to see more of the city this time. I needed to find a new backpack as my current one was nearly broken, but we couldn’t find anything that was affordable. We then stopped into a bookstore so I could grab a few Christmas gifts for some friends.

Returning to the apartment, Kim and I settled in to watch some Netflix until Alan returned home from work. We watched some Archer, Teen Wolf, and Rick and Morty. Alan brought some beer and wine back with him, which we immediately began drinking. We sat around chatting for a long time as we drank, eventually getting uber nerdy when Star Wars was brought up. He and I are both huge Star Wars fans, so we had to watch/discuss the trailer for “The Last Jedi” as well as continue to discuss “Rogue One” more. Kim couldn’t care less about Star Wars though.

Alan made us spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, which was very good. I had no idea that Alan could cook! We switched over to drinking wine and somehow started discussing national anthems (our chats are always all over the place). Kim soon went to bed, but Alan and I stayed up a while longer, watching clips from “Rogue One” until it was time for bed.

27 October 2017
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Alan had to work only part of the day, so Kim and I spent our time hanging out at the apartment. I needed to get some work done, so the down time was perfect. When Alan got back from work, we got ready to head out for some drinks.

We went to a couple different bars before settling into one bar for several hours. The bar was cozy, but the bathrooms were awesome: the stall doors had Star Wars posters on them! For beer, I ordered a stein of Erdinger, not realizing that it mean a proper German one-liter glass stein! It was nice to have a decent beer again. We were later joined by some of Alan’s friends, including a few Americans; the group of us had several more rounds of drinks and I got quite drunk.


Much later that night, Alan and I decided to go see “Thor: Ragnarok” at 22:30; Kim was tired and went back to the apartment. By this point, we were rather drunk and I wanted something to eat; Alan got me some popcorn at the theater. However, before we got there, one of the funniest moments of the visit happened: I was walking over to an escalator when I tripped and fell flat on my face! I hit the pavement rather hard and my knees were sore, but I carried on and we made it to the movie on time. Sadly, I fell asleep during parts of the movie, so I can’t really recall much of it. What I did see was… unimpressive, with both Alan and me agreeing that it was a sub-par film.


We walked back over to his apartment, where we had to wake Kim up so we could get through the security gate. Alan and I downed several glasses of water to prevent hangover the next morning; he graciously wrote in my travel book (the first “drunk entry” to be made so far), and then it was time for bed. Alan had ordered me a taxi for 06:15 to take me to the airport the next morning, so we had to say our goodbyes before bed.

I had a wonderful time visiting Alan in Belfast; I’m glad that I was able to squeeze the quick trip into my time in the UK.

28 October 2017
Edinburgh, Scotland

I left Alan’s flat at 06:00 this morning and met my taxi to the airport. The driver was very Irish with a strong accent; he was friendly and we chatted during the entire drive, though I found him difficult to understand at times.

The flight arrived into Edinburgh around 09:00 and I was soon heading back into town. I took the tram, but got off at the stop we I usually meet Kevin. I needed to get a new backpack and there was a Decathalon store at the tram stop. It took me some time, but I finally found one that would work and was affordable.

Back in the city center, I walked up a path to reach the castle. I had never noticed the path during my prior visits to town, but it was a really nice walk up to the top of the hill. I stopped into Oink again for lunch (how could I not?!) and then checked into my new hostel, which was down the road from where I’d stayed earlier in the week.


I spent the afternoon walking around town one last time, stopping in at the museum for a brief visit. I then grabbed a tea so I could spend some time reading and trying to learn some Vietnamese. It was a nice and relaxing day. I went to bed early as I had to be up for yet another early flight the next morning.

Posted by Glichez 10:10 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Portuguese Antics

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29 October 2017
Lisbon, Portugal
Country 84

When will I learn to not book early flights?! I mercifully had a direct flight from Edinburgh to Lisbon, getting me to my hostel shortly before noon. I took the metro into the city from the airport, which was clean and efficient. The staff at the hostel were very friendly and helpful.

I spent the afternoon exploring some of the city. I was still rather tired from two days of early flights, so I took a leisurely pace around parts of the city center. My plans were to do a full day of sightseeing tomorrow, so I didn’t feel rushed whatsoever.

30 October 2017
Lisbon, Portugal

This morning I slept in before heading out into the city to do some sightseeing. I first stopped off in one of the main squares,


I had intended on walking up to the castle of Sao Jorge, but I abandoned that idea when I stumbled upon a nearby overlook that allowed me to see both the entire city and the castle. The castle looked quite impressive, but I couldn’t justify the entrance fee.


I then walked down to the city center proper, walking down to the water front at Comercio Square. On the way I passed through the Arco da Rua Augusta, which lined one side of the square. I intended on checking out the Santa Justa Lift, but I was rather disappointed when I saw it. It is an old elevator from 1902 to the top of a tower; I’d enjoyed the city panorama from earlier so much and I knew this couldn’t come close to matching it.


I met my friend Joana for coffee at 13:00. I had met Joana on my African safari trip in 2016 and today marked one year since we had last seen one another in Cape Town. She was now working in Lisbon, so we had a quick coffee while she was on break from work. It was so nice to see “mi amor” once again!

31 October 2017
Lisbon, Portugal

I took a all-day tour outside of Lisbon today, visiting Fatima, Nazarre, and Obidos. The process of getting paired up with a tour guide was chaotic: the large group of tourists was waiting outside of the Hard Rock Café and the tour guides would come up, take four to six people with them. My guide was surprisingly attractive, which helped make the day just a little more enjoyable…

The first stop was Fatima, where we visited the famous Catholic pilgrimage site. There was a large cathedral and a smaller chapel where the Virgin Mary is alleged to have appeared in 1917. The complex had a massive square, with a tile path along one side that people would follow while on their knees, praying. It was an ok visit, but I was not too interested in the Catholic sights.


Nazarre was a much more interesting stop. We first drove to the top of some cliffs that overlooked the small town, which was situated right on the coast. The beach was large, though empty due to the colder weather. We then drove into town, where we stopped for lunch. I ate at a small pizza place and spent the remainder of the time wandering about the streets.


The final stop of the day was the best by far: Obidos. This was a very small town that was surrounded by the old stone city walls. We were given free time to explore on our own. Soon after entering through the main gate of the city, I discovered the stairs that led to the top of the city walls. I climbed up and was pleased to find that one could walk the entire length of the walls!


On one side was the top part of the city wall, but on the inner part of the path there was nothing: no guard rail, nothing to prevent one from falling off. The path wound over to a large tower, which I also climbed up and was rewarded with a stunning view over the old city. I continued to follow the path atop the city walls for quite a while, though at times the path became somewhat narrow and my fear of heights kicked in. The path itself was made of stones and full of ruts; one could easily trip and fall! It was a lot of fun!

Not having enough time to go all the way around the walls, I climbed down near the main castle and then made my way through the streets, back to the bus. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in Obidos; it was the highlight of the day and I wished that we’d had more time to spend there!

1 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

This morning I caught the metro over to the main bus station of Lisbon, where I boarded my bus to Porto. The bus left at 10:00 and we arrived into Porto shortly after 14:00. I was instantly in awe as I walked through this new city: it had far more charm than Lisbon.

After dropping my things at the hostel, I went out for a walk through the city. I walked along the waterfront and then climbed up a long staircase to the top of the main hill, where a large cathedral stood. I walked back down into town and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.


2 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

I had one goal whilst in Porto: to get my visa for Mozambique. Porto was one of the few cities that had either an embassy or consulate from Mozambique. My friend Rafa met me at the consulate at 09:30 to help me out as they didn’t speak English there.


I met Rafa in Africa in 2016 as well; she was friends with Joanna and they had traveled there together. It was refreshing and exciting to see my other “Mi Amor” again! We greeted one another with a big hug and went in to deal with the embassy. The wait time wasn’t too long and soon Rafa was chatting away in Portuguese with the woman working there. Sadly, they would not issue me a visa: only an embassy/consulate in a person’s home county would do that. I began to panic as I wasn’t going to be returning to the USA before going to Mozambique for New Year’s. Thankfully, friends on Facebook came through for me and found that I would be able to get one at the border crossing (we hope – stay tuned for that blog post in the future!).

Rafa then drove us over to a small indoor market which was full of various food stalls. She bought herself a concoction with granola, acai, banana, and chocolate. I got a pastel de nata, which is a traditional custard pastry from Portugal. It was quite delicious!


We drove around for a little while longer, making a stop so I could meet her mother as well. I instantly noticed the similarities between the two of them! We then drove over to Rafa’s apartment, where she made us lunch and we relaxed for a while. Neither of us were feeling too good, so it was nice to do nothing.

Later in the afternoon we walked over to a chocolatier and I ordered a dark hot chocolate that was to die for!! We spent some time there, chatting and hanging out before it was time for me to catch the metro back to my hostel.

3 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

Today was a “do nothing” day – I needed to study for an exam in one of my courses that was coming up over the weekend. I hermited myself away at the hostel and spent hours reading the text book and watching the lecture videos. It was all quite boring. I went out later in the afternoon to get a coffee and the weather was gloomy and rainy as well. It was the perfect “do nothing” day.


4 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

The Schatzeseses arrived today! I spent the morning doing my exam (and doing terribly at it), before meeting them at a nearby metro station around 14:00. It was great to see them again – I’d last seen them during my time in Munich in March. We set off to a nearby restaurant, where Rafa and Joana were meeting us (Joana had come up from Lisbon for the weekend).

Rafa had picked out a local place that served Francesinha, which is a dish from Porto: a sandwich with ham, sausage, covered in melted cheese and a thick tomato-beer sauce. The sandwich was massive, but very tasty!


After lunch we all set out for a walk through the city. We first stopped at the hostel so Svenja and Chris could check in (they were staying at the same hostel as me). We then went down to the waterfront and walked across the bridge, climbed up the hill on the other side. At the top of the hill was a nice park area that was full of people; the area looked out over all of Porto, which was beautiful in the afternoon sun.


We soon crossed back over the bridge and made our way to a terrace restaurant where we all shared a couple bottles of red wine. After sitting around drinking our wine for a couple of hours, we walked back into the city center, where we stopped for one quick drink before heading off to do… an escape room!


Rafa and I had planned out the escape room while we hanging out on Thursday; the room was supposed to be form an abandoned orphanage, which we thought would be rather creepy. The five of us (Chris, Svenja, Rafa, Joana, and me) set about trying to solve the puzzles. Some of them were easy, while others were quite difficult. We got a few helpful hints from the people working there, but in the end we managed to escape!

We ate a late dinner at a nearby restaurant and went out for another few drinks. I decided to call it a night around midnight and went back to the hostel. The rest of the group stayed out for a little while longer.

5 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

This morning I was focused on completing the second half of my exam, which I finished around noon. Chris and Svenja met me as I was finishing up. We then walked over to an outdoor bar, where we met up with Rafa and Joana. After having lunch, we walked around for a bit more, stopped for a couple more drinks. Soon it was time for Joana to leave to head back to Lisbon. Rafa left to go home then as well; she had an early start the next morning.

The Schatzeses and I stopped in at a local bookstore that had helped inspire the bookstore from the second Harry Potter film. The store was huge, with an intricate wooden staircase in the center that wound its way to the second floor. We had to pay a small admission to get into the store, but they gave discounts to people if they bought a book (which we didn’t, though we tried to find one).


For dinner, Chris, Svenja and I went to an amazing tapas restaurant called The Wine Box. We ordered six different tapas dishes and shared an amazing bottle of Shiraz wine. Spending time with them is always so wonderful; I wish we lived closer so we could see one another more often. They had brought a bottle of Amarula with them from Germany, so we sat around the common area of the hostel drinking it after dinner. We order nachos with guacamole to go with it. We finished the entire bottle between us that night!


6 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

Chris, Svenja and I spent this morning shopping at some of the stores around the main square. I bought a new sweater/jacket and a long-sleeved shirt; Chris bought a new hoodie; Svenja bought a sweater. We were all winners!

Collecting my bags from the hostel, we hopped on the metro and went out to where Rafa lives. We met her at a nearby Chinese restaurant, where we had lunch (I was craving Chinese food and this place did not disappoint).

Afterwards, Rafa drove us over to a nearby beach where we enjoyed a coffee while watching the intense waves crashing against the shore. We were all in awe of the waves – I’d never seen anything like them. Rafa told us that these were small waves; they would get bigger during the winter season! We went for a short walk along the beach so we could take some pictures.

That afternoon I had a short phone “interview” with the TEFL certification course that I want to take in Chicago. We stopped in at a local library so I could take the call in peace and quiet. The call lasted only 15 minutes and went quite well. Afterwards we had to head back off to the metro: I had a flight to catch!


It was sad to say goodbye to everyone. It had been such an amazing reunion weekend. It was almost like we were back together in Africa, raising hell and having fun. Hopefully it won’t take us a year to get together again!

My flight left Porto just after 19:00 and landed in Madrid a short while later. I took the metro into the city center; the station was a short walk from my hostel. I quickly checked in and went to bed.

Posted by Glichez 10:27 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

36 Hours in Tangier

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17 October 2017
Tangier, Morocco
Country 83

Leaving the hostel at 05:00 this morning, I walked to the main square to catch the bus to the airport. It was the cheapest and fastest way to get to the airport at that time of the morning. I had a long travel day ahead of me: Athens to Paris and then Paris to Tangier. I booked two one-way flights as it was considerably cheaper.

Arriving into Paris, I collected my luggage and made my way over to the terminal where my next flight would depart from. I grabbed a small bite to eat and spent the next several hours working on this blog, as well as watching some TV shows.

When I arrived in Tangier, I was disappointed to find that the driver I had arranged through my hostel was not waiting for me. My phone didn’t work in Morocco, so I couldn’t call them. I grabbed a taxi, which was the same price as the transfer that I’d arranged through the hostel.

The hostel was located next to the Kasbah, but it was difficult to find as they had no signage anywhere. The guy who ran the place was very friendly and helpful though. By the time I arrived, it was nearly 20:00, so I didn’t go out to do anything around town.

18 October 2017
Tangier, Morocco

Today was my one day to explore and sightsee around Tangier. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating at all: it was a downpour all day long! I ate breakfast at the hostel, which was surprisingly good: breads with jam and honey; coffee; and mint tea.

I eventually braved the weather and went out during a lull in the storm. I walked down through the city, but it wasn’t long before the rain returned. I hurriedly sought shelter beneath an awning and waited for the rain to die down. I needed a new umbrella, but I couldn’t find anywhere that was selling one.


When the rain let up again, I continued my walk around the city. I walked along the waterfront before stopping for a bite to eat for lunch. I then hailed a petit taxi to drive me to the train station, where I bought my ticket for Casablanca for the following day.

I’d hoped to find a café where I could have some coffee or tea, and do some reading, but everywhere I saw was dark, gloomy and depressing. I found myself becoming easily irritated and annoyed with everything that I saw around town.


At the hostel that night, I decided that I’d had enough. I was burned out from traveling for so long; I needed time to relax, rest and recharge in familiar surroundings. If I continued my time in Morocco, I knew that my mood would only worsen and that would ruin the experience for me (plus it would spill over into Portugal, Spain, etc). I resolved to go to the UK, where I could spend the time with my friends in both London and Edinburgh.

I bought a ticket to fly to London the following morning at 08:00 and then hurriedly booked hostels in both London and Edinburgh, before then cancelling everything that I’d booked for Morocco. I emailed Sam and let him know that I was heading to London rather suddenly, and I reached out to Jane as well. I made plans to see them both during my brief time in London.

I went to bed feeling more calm and contented than I’d felt in a long time. Morocco would always be there; I needed some time for myself.

Posted by Glichez 13:13 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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