Posted by: drifter,vagabond | March 21, 2011

In the city of tailors

Our mighty chariot

I take the early morning bus to Hoi An, a city famed for its tailoring industry. Having been fitted for a nice cashmere suit I became dimly aware and somewhat troubled by the fact that it would almost certainly not fit me once I returned from traveling. I found it strange that despite the fact that I was consuming about as much food on a daily basis as the average South East Asian family, I was perpetually losing weight. With several tiny Vietnamese girls crawling over me, tugging and pulling at the suit, one of them was even standing up on a stool just to reach my shoulder, I decided I`d rather just get it over with and would worry it later. After several, what would ultimately be futile, back and forths over the next two days for refittings, eventually I was presented with a fancy cashmere suit to be posted home.

The ancient city of Hue

Hoi An itself is impressible picturesque, on the banks of a river with many restaurants specialising in colonial era French cuisine. Walking back in the orange sodium lite haze to the hotel through the deserted market drove a furious scurrying of rats ahead of me. In my room I lay on the bed watching the lizards moving in their funny stop start weaving motion along the ceiling before drifting off to sleep.

Down along the river bank in Hoi An

I spend the next day wandering around the market places and the old city. My hair had become impressively dishevelled and I finally managed to get it cut. The following day myself and Swiss Andy are back on the road to Vietnam`s beach bum city of Natrang. The bus journey is predictably horrible despite managing to seize the largest bed at the back. It turned out to be a poisoned chalice anyway, it was a stinking fetid mess enseamed with the crusty filth of several decades of grimy travellers. I arrived early in the morning in Natrang with tales of roving bands of youths robbing unwary tourists with tasers ringing in my ears.

Relaxing at day`s end

The marketplace

The unwelcome guests



  1. Hey

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I think we spoke on once or twice…

    I’ll be doing a similar trip in June. Heading off for at least a year.

    Can you recommend a trans-siberian train agency to use? e.g. monkeyshrine, etc.

    Also, any other general tips such as how much cash to bring in Russia and Mongolia, that sort of thing.

    Thanks a million!

    • Hey Steve thanks for the comment.

      First of all congratulations on your decision, Im sure you will have no regrets and it will be something you will always have to look back on and remember. Scarely a day goes by for me even now when something doesnt remind me of the time I spent traveling.

      As for the practicalities of travel in Russia and Mongolia, it really depends on a lot of factors such as how much you want to do and how long you are planning on spending there. I will have a look at my bank accounts and see how much I ended up spending in those places, but from memory I believe Russia was slighly more expensive than average for my travels and Mongolia quite considerably cheaper. This is based on the approx 1000 euro per month I was spending in South East Asia and bearly pausing to consider my finances at all. I anycase its probably best not to bring too much cash, I put money onto my BOI credit card and used it as an atm card, when there is money already on it you avoid paying for cash advances I think.

      My travel in Russia and Mongolia was a bit different to traveling elsewhere because I was on a small group tour. There were good and bad aspects to this. As a complete beginner in St Petersburg figuring out how to get to Beijing alone would have been an incredbily daunting task, so Im glad I booked on the tour I have to say, were it to do it again now as an experence traveller I would go it alone.

      That said I think there are a lot of things I might have missed had it not been prearranged such as the family homestay on Lake Baikal or the proper Mongolian wilderness episode. If you are short on time and money isnt too much of an issue I would recommend the small group tour, I went with Intrepid Travel on the Russia and Beyond tour, it was good and struck a nice balance between organised stuff allowing you to do your own thing. However the time scheduale was quite tight and I would have liked to explore Russia at a more leisurely pace but you cant have everything I suppose.

      I dont know much about other agencies but whatever you decided on I would recommend you to have your Russian train tickets in advance at least, there are some site which can arrange this like monkeyshrine or something, perhaps pick up the Lonely Planet TransSiberian book too.

      Thanks again for the comment and of course feel free to ask any more questions you might have.

  2. Thanks for the reply & advice!

    I think I will go with the group tour. Although I would obviously prefer to buy the tickets myself and save myself some cash, I agree I will probably be very thankful I have an experienced guide sorting our trips for me, etc.

    I have a lot of time (quit my job) and a reasonable amount of money. The plan is to take my time and not worry too much about cash.

    Did you bother taking Malaria tablets during your trip? Injections? Any weird visa issues I need to be aware of?

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply, and for keeping this blog.


    • No problem, and thanks for your comments.

      Yes I agree about not worrying too much about the cash, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity if you are traveling for an extended period so my attitude was to throw caution to the wind, I returned home pretty much broke, but have a job now so who cares!

      As for Visas well the only ones I had in advance were those needed for the transiberian – Russia (which is a sticky one), Mongolia – got a travel agency to send off to London for that) and China – which was annoying since they insisted on a flight out of China ( I booked a cheap air asia flight from Macau to Bangkok for something crazy like 40 euros but never took it)

      As for Malaria tablets – well thats pretty much up to your particular risk preferences, seems like a big deal from all the way over in Ireland but nobody I met traveling was talking about malaria, or had met anybody who caught it. I didnt bother taking any tablets at all, and Im a serious hypochondriac!

      I met some girls on Larium who were going through the horrors.

      Malaria is really a sub Saharan Africa problem, there might be a bit in burma or part of cambodia but I didnt hear much. Some doctors will just look at the map – says Vietnam – malarial and give you a ton of antibiotics, you cant really be on them for months one end, but its up to you really. I had a really good travel doc in London who more or less implicitly said I didnt really need them. Dengue fever is more common but there is no treatment for that. I got a whole cocktail of vaccines including rabies (which the doctor told me he had never vaccinated anybody for) and japanese encephalitis (which was really over kill, you cant even get that in Ireland, got it in London)

      Pack light too, you can buy anything you need for really cheap elsewhere as you go. A compass in Kunming was the best thing I bought in all my travel.

      Any other questions feel free…….

  3. Hey

    Thanks for the detailed reply and apologies for my delay responding.

    I have decided to go a bit wild and just buy my train tickets in Russia/Mongolia as I go. The idea really is I can stay somewhere a bit longer if I like it, or get out of there sooner if I dislike it. It’ll mean I’ll probably have to sleep in non-tourists trains sometimes but surely it can’t be that bad.

    So at the moment I’m trying to get my visas. A bit of a pain in the ass really, having to arrange some of them via London.

    Did you bring many dollars/euros for use in Russia or did you just stick to rubles?

    Thanks for the advice. 🙂


    • Hi Steve,

      Good luck with your travels, Im sure you wont regret it no matter what. As for money, I didnt really bring huge amounts of cash with me as I just loaded cash onto my credit card and used it as a bank card as I needed it. The dollar is king, maybe a couple of hundred in fifties should do the trick.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: