Sa Pa (or ‘the Never-ending mountains’)

This post has been laying unpublised along my blog post drafts since just about the beginning of forever, so I thought now would be a good time to post it. Little bits of a trip to northern Vietnam.

After Hanoi, we wave Emily good bye after 3 months of constant companionship and off on the bus to the rice terraces of Sa Pa we go. The night bus – a splendid way to save a night’s accommodation whilst being transported to a new city, ey?

Sleep is unfortunately deprived this night, as it is tricky to meet Mr Sandman whilst being thrown from one side to another of the seat. Us farangs get the top bunks of this three-row sleeping bus. (Never have I seen such a bus layout in my life!!)
vscocam280Literally as soon as we get off the bus to have a walk around the town and look for decent accommodation, we are stalked (yes, stalked! I know of no better word to describe it) by two teeny tiny Vietnamese ladies. They want to take us to tour their village later on the same day, or eventually the day after. Having not slept a wink, we politely mumble some “we will see later” and “maybe”‘s.

… Yet they follow us all the way to, and even inside, our hostel.

… Going for lunch at the local food market a few hours later, they find us within minutes.

It seems we cannot rid ourselves of these two until we have said the magic words, and so we agree to meet them again the following morning.
Now, Sa Pa has the most beautiful of scenery, but it is also (or perhaps because of that) a very touristic place. It really makes you feel like a wandering dollar-sign and that is part of why I have a hard time to fully enjoy my time in these blue mountains.
But the scenery encountered was pretty spectacular.
Mae shows off her indigo hands.IMG_9305IMG_9306vscocam284We crossed this tiny village school and went inside as the kids were on their break. It was so interesting to see – and a really beautifully decorated place too! image_5363a9f1e087c31bf0fe2ac5image_5363aa04ddf2b35f2b702c82And these amazing buffalos(?). It does not matter how many times I google their rightful name, it literally vanishes from my mind a few seconds later.

Northern Vietnam was much colder than the tropical climates we had gotten accustomed to to, so we bunkered up in all of our clothes. Here Heidi mannequins how fabulous it looked.

PLUS we had a canopy bed!!! Childhood dream come true!

More things Vietnam:

> Good morning, Vietnam! (or ‘Hell of a Ride’)
> Quick vegan Phở-inspired soup.

Good morning, Vietnam! (or ‘Hell of a Ride’)

Over-looking the start page this seems to have turned purely into a food blog! Before I start a post on Brownies and what not (trust me I will)… Let us, in this chilly January evening, look at some photos from another time and another continent, hoping that will melt my frozen toes just a tad. Alors, Ha Noi!

I remember as a kid watching this travel report from Ha Noi on the TV. From there it seemed all crowded, chaotic traffic, and full of conical hats. That imagery remained in my head so imagine my surprise when I, over a decade later, arrive in Hanoi – and it is in fact exactly as what I remember from TV! Crazy, chaotic… and beautiful.

The expression HELL of a ride would go fairly well to describe the bus ride from the Lao capital to the Vietnamese. And not because of how all the farangs are squeezed, by Scandinavian measures, in the back of the bus. More because of the constant karaoke blasting out of the speakers at full volume. When I cautiously ask them to turn it down a bit during the night hours, it has the opposite effect. (Conversation goes something like this: “Could you perhaps turn down the music? It is too loud”, whereas the drivers look at me with question marks on their faces. “TOO LOUD”, I repeat. “Too LAO?” Oh hell no *turns volume up*.)

      26 long hours later we arrive in Hanoi…

The first night we spent on top of an art gallery…HANOI2tumblr_mx4u6zpVhL1rgqwqjo1_1280
The ultimate Hanoi-photo? Confused American tourists, a vespa swooshing by and a bike filled to.the.brim. !!! IMG_9204
The fastfood restaurants of Hanoi. Genius.
Hanoi is under a curfew in the evening. Entertainment venues such as bars and clubs are not allowed to stay open later than midnight. There is, however, not such strict regulations regarding a bia-hoi, basically an open-air bar where you are sat on tiny plastic chairs at the side of the road and they serve local draft beer (bia hoi! aka the cheapest beer in the world!). But each evening the police come out on their patrol. All of a sudden, plastic tables and people are flying everywhere. Then there is this pause where the owners pretend to not be serving beer and the guests are standing there in confusion. It is a strange phenomenon indeed. HANOI4
An afternoon I had on my own, I spent at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum ❤ IMG_9197
A simple thing such as crossing the street seemed like a matter of life and death in Hanoi. I quickly learned that it is best not to think so much, just walk (and hope to get across in one piece). It worked miraculously well.

City crushes/Chiang Mai.

Since I got back from university just after 11am, I haven’t bothered to move from under the blankets apart from to refill the kettle every once in a while. As the sun has set outside the bedroom window, I’ve been sat reminiscing my favourite photos from Chiang Mai (all in Throwback Thursday glory..) Let’s have a look:
One of the perks of backpacking is to pick up new reads in second hand bookshops, all while “returning” your old ones. I found this cat taking a nap (keep writing “cap” – a cat nap??) on the shelves of Backstreet Books one afternoon. So cosy!!! IMG_8623IMG_8669This is the combination I love the most about this continent. Something old, something new, something borrowed and…tonnes of wires.  IMG_8717
The insta-caption for this one is like “the amount of Buddah’s I have on my phone at this point”… Too true.
Ristretto break.
Sitting on the back of a scooter driven by your Finnish partner in crime = how all christmases should be spent!
This bloody beauty. Found behind a, seemingly, abandoned hotel – so I sneaked in there one day to take a few photos (turns out it wasn’t too abandoned and I was shoo:ed away)
This man that plays all the rock classics on his self-composed drum kit.
Breakfast with my new-found friend Alice at wonderful Blue Diamond. 
This view is from the balcony of Kavil Guesthouse 2 – the only place I ever stayed in my four times visiting Chiang Mai. The owner and his adorable little chihuahua Scooby definitely influence that choice.
IMG_2161Misty morning at Doi Suthep. The whole post on this escapade can be found here –> My Week at Doi Suthep.

Making it to PENANG.

It is a good thing we ended up in Amy’s apartement there in KL. Within an hour she manages to plan our trip (that at this point in time is  very mañana mañana) a month ahead, bringing us through Malaysia, across Java onto Bali and eventually ending up in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. (All for a total amount of about 1’200 SEK. Kaching! Amy – you should start a travel agency.) So that is how we, on Tuesday morning, were found on the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. Which turned out to be quite the ride… 

In a perfect world, this trip is supposed to take four hours. This being our first bus ride on the continent – we naively believe in this. Four (six) hours on a bus that feels like it will fall apart any minute. E throws up twice before we even reach the half way stop; after which my nausea catches on. Perhaps it’s a week of too much spicy food, or my dodgy “take away”-coffee from the meal break (see photo below). Regardless – it is far from pleasant to, at every bump of the road (and believe me, there were quite a few!), feel like you’re gonna do your pants. When the driver stops to refuel at a petrol station, somewhere along the five hour and a half-mark, me and Emily are literally racing to the petrol station bathrooms. Never have I been so happy to see a squatting toilet!
At the 6th hour we finally make it into Georgetown and had thereby officially survived our first proper SEA bus ride.
Somehow this is not what I imagined when he asked whether I wanted to “take away” my coffee. A doggy bag! Perhaps my one favourite part of the trip.IMG_9528
Spending a rainy afternoon up Kek Lok Si – only the largest buddhist temple of SEA.
My future dream house *insert heart-eyed emoji*

Stills from the Old Protestant Cemetery in town.

A photo diary from pretty pretty George town can be found here. 

KUALA LUMPUR (or ‘Falling asleep at the Cinema’)

It is our first night in the Malaysian capital. We meet up with a slightly delayed Amy at the Sentral Station, go back to her place to basically just drop off our bags before we are out the door again. On the food hunt! We end up in some outdoorsy-food court. When the buffet hostess pulls a warning “spicy spicy” at the food I wish to have I just think yeah right, so said the Thai and that was fine. Well of course you were fine, you silly swede, you were at khaosan road at the time…

Let’s just say that when the malay claim something is spicy – they are not messing around. Only minutes into the meal my eyes are filled with tears. Emily claims my face turned white at some point. I try to neutralize by eating the veggies, like the haricot verts, surely they cannot be too spicy?
Turns out those green peas are not peas but green chillies. Guess you have to learn the hard way.

Us in front of the Petronas (well, a Petrona to be precise) the first evening feat. my breakfast plate.  Coffee tea-bags (how clever??) and indulging on dates and peanut butter after a week (!!!) of absence.
When Scandinavia conquers your living room. tumblr_mwtaaz14uY1rgqwqjo1_1280tumblr_mwta8wB2401rgqwqjo1_1280
View from Amy’s building in two different directions.
On our last day we go to watch Elysium at the cinema. There I was, thinking me and jet lag had broken up long ago. That I was fine. Apparently not – just seconds before the credits come on screen I abruptly wake up to the sound of the whole salon laughing. “What? What happened?”

Turns out Matt Damon died to save the world. Oh sorry, I was supposed to say spoiler alert. My bad.