1/2 2007 Border Vietnam/Cambodia
Lat N 11° 04,58', Long E 106° 10,49'
Today: 82.4 °F ( 28 °C)
01 Feb 2007
61874 km

We are in Vietnam. But our poor SAAB had to stay behind, and are right now in custody of the border police.

We started out real early, since we expected a bit of hassle at the border. After a few hours of waiting for border police we had a series of confused talks with them. As usual, no one speak English. Finally we realized that we needed some documents from the Swedish Consulate in Ho Chi Minh. This document was supposed to be faxed Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ho Chi Minh. They are supposed to write a new document and send it to the province police who was to produce a Licence and plates to send to the border police – at least we think this is the routine...

Anyway, when we spoke to the Swedish Consulate they had absolutely no idea about what they were supposed to do with this. A Swedish car in Vietnam? How? Why? We spent hours trying to convince them to do something with our case at Swedish Consulate in Ho Chi Minh and Swedish Embassy in Hanoi. As soon as the embassy got involved in this it got very complicated.

Well, after some investigating they decide that they could help us out, but the process was expected to take at least three-four weeks. And we had to produce our original documents of the car in person to the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi. To make the Swedish Consulate in Ho Chi Minh to check them out, was not good enough for them, they had to see them themselves. Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi is a 1 000 kilometers trip for us!

It feels like have entered the system in a completely wrong way. We personally know one couple from France who was here eight months ago with their car and another couple from Switzerland who was here less than six months ago. They didn’t have problems like this at all.

Sure, they had to leave their cars at the border to go in to the province police station in town to get a document and then they went back to the border to bring their cars; this procedure took them four days. Why are they giving us such a hard time?

2/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 80.6 °F ( 27 °C)
02 Feb 2007
61874 km

A new day with the very trying Swedish and Vietnamese bureaucracy monster. Searched the Internet like crazy for information about how things really work here. We were going back and forth between Minstry of Foreign Affairs in Ho Chi Minh, Swedish Consulate, province police in Ho Chi Minh and some other authorities trying to find alternative ways to solve our problem.

We even discussed the option of going back to Cambodia, travel on to Laos to enter Vietnam from there instead. Our friends entered from Laos, maybe they have other routines in the Northern Provinces. This option means we loose ten days, have to travel 3000 kilometers a cost of 200 Euro for petrol 100 Euro for three new visas per person; and still we don’t know if it will do the trick.

On top of this we learnt the Swedish driver’s license, the 1 year international nor is 3 year international driver’s license valid in Vietnam. This means we have to get a Vietnamese drivers license; it is just paperwork, but still not that easy. First Swedish Consulate have to translate it in to English, the translation then have to be approved, stamped and signed by Minstry of Foreign Affairs. Then the document need to be translated by Notarius Publicus in to Vietnamese, stamped and signed. After all this is doen we can actually file an application for a license. Then it will take another 14 days to process it.

We estimate that the Vietnamese driver’s license will add up to about 100 Euro when it is finished; even though we don’t even know if we will get one…

3/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 80.6 °F ( 27 °C)
03 Feb 2007
61874 km

Saturday, all authorities are closed. We decide to go with the Swedish Embassy process and travel to Hanoi with the original documents they require. We bought a one way flight ticket for Hanoi, 70 Euro per person.

Hanoi is 1000 kilometer north and the climate is much cooler there. Our shorts and sandals is not suitable for the climate. We had to go back to our car at the Moc Bai border to get more appropriate clothes. Maybe we have to stay in Hanoi for four weeks while they are processing our documents. We have no more time to loose. We need to be at the Chinese border March 15 to cross in to China by the Friendship pass.

After making the decition we finally took some for relaxing and taking a look around in Hi Chi Minh. Since we arrived in Vietnam three days ago, our minds have been constantly working on how to solve our car problem.

4/2 2007 Gränsen Vietnam
Lat N 11° 04,58', Long E 106° 10,49'
Today: 82.4 °F ( 28 °C)
04 Feb 2007
61874 km

Today we went to Hanoi, a flight time of two hours. Hanoi is a charming city, especially Old Town where we stay.

Hanoi like Ho Chi Minh is busy, bustling and noisy and the traffic is intense. There are loads and loads of motorbikes. The ”hungry dogs” as we call them just await to run you over as soon as the traffic light turn green.

Before leaving Moc Bai border, Bert just had to try to bribe the border police, as a last chance to solve our problem. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much luck in doing this, but still it was worth a try. It could have saved us a whole lot of time, money and trubble.

5/2 2007 Hanoi Vietnam
Lat N 21° 02,10', Long E 105° 50,96'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
05 Feb 2007
61874 km

We rented bicycles today to make it easy for us traveling around town to find all necessary authorities. Started out with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we thought what the heck, we give it a try before we drag the Swedish Embassy in to this, since we already have all the required documents. But no, they didn’t even want to speak with us. They just said that we should ask the Swedish Embassy to contact them.

We jumped on our bikes again to try to find the Swedish Embassy. They took all our original documents and told us we could expect to hear from them in a day or two. It feels like we are not even close to be on their priority list…

Then we promised that we was to arrange to get the Vietnamese drivers license by ourselves. After some time we managed to find the right authority to file an application. At first they didn’t even want to file it, since our document was stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Swedish Consulate in Ho Chi Minh and now we are in Hanoi. On top of that the stamp from Consulate was in black ink instead of red… I mean that is terrible, isn’t it? After some arguing they decided to go with it and told us it would take at least a week to process it – after we had been to the Notarius Publicus to translate it in to Vietnamese.

We decided to file our application when we get back to Ho Chi Minh instead. We wouldn’t want to stay here more than a week just to wait for the driver’s license.

Then it was time to try to find the Russian and the Mongolian embassy. When we checked the map and the addresses they turned out to be in the same neighborhood, but that didn’t do us any good. Both had moved to new areas. We have to try to find them tomorrow, since the embassies are usually only open for visa applications in the morning.

6/2 2007 Hanoi, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 02,10', Long E 105° 50,96'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
06 Feb 2007
61874 km

Finally something seems to go our way. The Murphy guy has found someone else to point his finger too.

First we went to the Swedish Embassy to inquire about the progress of our case. Rene had done some more research about the procedures, and she indicated that maybe, but just maybe it will go a little faster than four weeks. We really hope she is right.

After that we jumped on our bicycles to go to Embassy of Mongolia to apply for a visa. We where lucky, they were only open Tuesdays and Thursdays. A very nice man greeted us with the phrase; we try to make the process quick and easy for our visitors. We could hardly believe our ears, after all the bureaucracy we been in on the past week. It is really unusual find nice and friendly people at an embassy.

The next mission was a visit to the Russian Embassy. We didn’t get our hopes up too high about a friendly reception there. But, to our surprise we got to meet a very helpful young woman. She told us that we didn’t need to take an HIV-test, at this embassy it was only required of students. Great, this saves us 100 Euro!

We also learned that we can get a emergency visa in 24 hours if we get short of time because of the hassle with the car. Expensive yes 351 $US, but it is still great to know that we have the opportunity. The normal processing time for a six months, multiple entry business visa is 6-10 workdays at the price of 227 $US per person.

7/2 2007 Hanoi Vietnam
Lat N 21° 02,10', Long E 105° 50,96'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
07 Feb 2007
61874 km

There is one important tourist attraction here Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh Complex. Ho Chi Minh is their national hero. He formed the Viet Minh Front and led the fight for independence from the French colonials.

Ho Chi Minh seems like a vise man. He realized that it didn’t do much good to be labeled as a communist. That was certainly not the best way to get the respect and trust from the rest of the world. His way of dealing with this was to lead the country with a very high moral and always have the peoples best in front of his eyes. This was the way to success he thought: to earn the respect and trust from his people and the rest of the world.

Ho Chi Minh died in 1969. Now he lie in a sarcophagus out of glass in the mausoleum. Every winter he travels to Russia for three month vacation to be re-persevered.

We also visited the Ho Chi Minh museum , a strange place. It looked more like an art museum, with its big art pieces full of symbolic meaning .

8/2 2007 Hanoi Vietnam
Lat N 21° 02,10', Long E 105° 50,96'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
08 Feb 2007
61874 km

Our friend Anneli from Sweden has arrived in Bangkok. After some SMS back and forth we decided she was to come here to Hanoi to meet us instead of in Ho Chi Minh. She will be here tomorrow morning.

Now we have our Mongolian visa, quick and easy as they promised. We also took a detour to the Swedish Embassy to collect our documents for our SAAB and check how far they had come with the process. There was no news for us yet.

Then we found a shop not selling bad copy of sports wear. There were no doubt that these where original stuff but real cheap. Catharina bought a soft and warm North Face fleece sweater for 18 Euro, an orange Columbia ski jacket with fleece lining for 40 Euro and a Mountain Hardware rein/wind jacket for 13 Euro. All a real bargain. Bert on the other hand didn’t find anything that suited his size or taste.

For just a 50 Euro cent you can buy yourself a lunch in the street. Noodle soup is the staple diet for the Vietnamese people. You find it everywhere.

In the evening we did one of our few cultural contributions. In Hanoi there is a famous water puppet theatre ensemble. The show they put on is about old Vietnamese stories, fire-drakes and so on. Very Asian. Even though we didn’t understand a thing we enjoyed it all and think it was a fun experience.

9/2 2007 Hanoi Vietnam
Lat N 21° 02,10', Long E 105° 50,96'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
09 Feb 2007
61874 km

Bia Hoi is a very popular Vietnamese institution. It is a kind of pub you find everywhere, where they serve cheap draft and food. Here you find a mix of suits and workers drinking heavily in the middle of the day.

Beer is real cheap , less than a Euro per litre. The menu was both extensive and in our eyes very exotic. They served snake, lizard, sea horse, frog, kidney, heart and some other unidentified objects. But of course they also served normal dishes like chicken, beef and vegetarian dishes.

In the afternoon Anneli showed up. After a bite to eat we spent the rest of the day doing the thing women like the most – shopping. In a very short time Anneli managed to buy a bunch of silk travel sheets, a couple of torches, a bunch of DVDs and some decorations for her water butt at home. Not bad in just a couple of hours...

10/2 2007 Hanoi Vietnam
Lat N 21° 02,10', Long E 105° 50,96'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
10 Feb 2007
61874 km

Today we went to famous Halon Bay, which is the symbol of Vietnam. It is said that if you don’t have seen Halon Bay, you haven’t seen really Vietnam. It is an archipelago of 3 000 characteristic pointed islands of steep limestone cliffs.

Unesco has appointed Halon Bay as a world heritage. And really, it is a very beautiful place. It looks like Crabi and Pangna bay in Thailand – but a 100 times. Unfortunately it was very cloudy and foggy today. We just have to hope for sunshine tomorrow.

We visited a huge limestone cave – the Sung Sot Cave. The colored lights made quite an effect on the limestone formations. But we are sorry to say that is was quite a circus, tourists and boats everywhere.

We had two options, to sleep on the boat or to stay in a hotel at one of the islands, we chose the boat. It was nice; we stayed in two man cabins with shower and toilet in the room. In the night the whole bay was lit form the all the boats parked.

Bert and Anneli where playing cards with Justin and Tim form Australia. The played a game called “Kings”, check out the rules , and it was all about getting drunk. They all succeeded quite brilliantly!

11/2 2007 Halong Bay, Vietnam
Lat N 20° 49,00', Long E 107° 04,00'
Today: 71.6 °F ( 22 °C)
11 Feb 2007
61874 km

Great, nice weather and sunshine! Still a bit hazy but that’s the way is this time of year. In the morning we went kayaking, a perfect start of the day to soundlessly paddle around the beautiful islands . We really recommend this two day trip, and to stay the night on the boat. We paid 23 Euro per person plus drinks.

In the evening we flew to Ho Chi Minh, we where lucky to get promotion tickets for this evening flight for only 58 Euro per person.

12/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 82.4 °F ( 28 °C)
12 Feb 2007
61874 km

Bert rented a bicycle and went to the driver’s license authorities in the morning. Nothing is simple here in Vietnam. He got sent back and forth to several places before he got leave his application at the right desk. February 28 we can collect it – hopefully! We still don’t know it we actually will get a Vietnamese drives licence.

Then we took Anneli on a tour around town and visited the Russian market and Ben Thanh market. Now and then during the day we checked the status of UPS package from Moscow. Where our Russian visa invitation going to arrive today? But no, it got stuck in Hong Kong.

13/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
13 Feb 2007
61874 km

Cu Chi tunnels are a fantastic construction. The Viet Cong guerilla used the tunnels during the Vietnam War. It is an ingenious web of 200 kilometers mil hand digged three storey tunnels.

This area in between Saigon and the border of Cambodia was the hell on earth for the American soldiers. The Viet Cong soldiers where everywhere and still nowhere to be found. Form a well hidden hole in the ground they surfaced to ambush the enemy and then disappear again.

The narrow tunnels where built like three storey buildings under ground, with levels at three, six and nine meters. In the actual tunnels we could only crawl, but in the rooms we could stand up strait. Below the ground they had dormitories, meeting rooms, offices, kitchens, storage rooms and underground wells.

It was really difficult to discover the openings on the ground. If the enemy by any chance should stumble over an opening, it didn’t do them much good; the tunnels were full of horrible traps.

When we see the complex network of tunnels, the brushy jungle and the leaf covered ground; we can understand why the successes of the Viet Cong guerilla.

After this very interesting visit we went on to the Moc Bai border to see our precious SAAB, and to swap our warm clothes for swimwear. Shortly we will escape the big noisy cities for the beach …


14/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
14 Feb 2007
61874 km

Finally our UPS package arrived. Bert went to the Swedish Consulate to collect it. With our Russian visa invitation in our hand we headed for the Russian consulate to apply for a visa. At the embassy we paid 227 $ US per person for the visas. With all the attendant costs we pay 550 Euro for both of us. That is crazy! The communists have learnt one thing – to charge a hell of a lot of money for outrageous paperwork.

We have done everything we possibly can to get a Vietnamese drivers license, to get the car in to the country and to get a Russian visa. Now, all we can do is to wait…

Today Bert also outdid Anneli shopping. He bought camera gear for 800 Euro, a Nikon 18x200 lens, a Nikon SB-800 flash a polarize filter and a UV filter. He was happy like a child at Christmas opening all packages. Bert promised that with the new gear Anneli and Catharina was going to look like move stars........NOT

15/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
15 Feb 2007
61874 km

The beach is next. Today we took the bus to the east coast and Mui Ne, a three hour buss ride from Ho Chi Minh. We where paced like sardines in the mini buss, and all of a sudden some barbarians started smoking. Catharina went nuts and started to tell everyone off. How the can they even think about smoking in an over crowded mini buss!!!

Mui Ne was not really what we expected, the several kilometers long beach was packed with resort after resort and we couldn’t even see the beach. From the road we could only see the entrances of the resorts and a few spread out restaurants. But anyway, if you are only looking for a few relaxing days at the beach it is perfect.

16/2 2007 Mui Ne, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 56,96', Long E 108° 15,51'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
16 Feb 2007
61874 km

Wow! It feels like ting are going our way for a change. Today the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi, they told us that our documents for bringing our car in to Vitenam were ready to pick up at the Swedish Consulate in Ho Chi Minh. We just left Ho Chi Minh yesterday…

But we have a small problem. We do not have our passports. They are at the Russian Embassy for another ten days. This means we will have a problem getting through the border control when we go there to get our car.

Every time we try to check in at a hotel, we have a big problem not having our passports. Showing them our passport copy and telling them that the originals are at the Russian Embassy is not even close to good enough. When we finally found a place to stay where they said ok despite of all this, we decided to stay for bunch of days.

Today it is the Chinese New Year. It is celebrated for four days. Everywhere we see yellow flowers, spring bushes, colored Chinese lanterns, dragons, gold, glitter and pigs. It is the year of the pig that is coming up!

17/2 2007 Mui Ne, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 56,96', Long E 108° 15,51'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
17 Feb 2007
61874 km

Mui Ne is known for its sand dunes. Even though we have traveled desserts in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Pakistan – we have never seen sand dunes like this.

The red sand was sizzling hot. The sand dunes was covering a just a small area. And it was kind of strange to, in out opinion see the ultimate desert, right next to the sea and surrounded by green forest. That is not really the way we have imagined the dessert sand dunes.

Of course we had to try the sand sliding, when we had the opportunity. It was not a big excitement, but still it was fun to try.

After that we visited a cool canyon. It looked big until we actually entered. Then we looked like giants instead.

18/2 2007 Mui Ne, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 56,96', Long E 108° 15,51'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
18 Feb 2007
61874 km

Bert took the motorbike to go look for photo opportunities. He wanted to try out his new camera gear. Anneli and Catharina spent the day improving their sun tan at the beach.

Bye the way. We have great news from Kerstin & Marko in Thailand. Now everything is as it should be; they own their resort - again. On top of that they have gotten back their stolen car. They are pleased that this mess is finally over. This past six months has been hard on the family. The solicitor told them that they where really lucky. Usually foreigners loose in cases like this in Thai court. But not Kerstin & Marko! What will happen to the Thai crook, we don’t know yet. Prison, pay for damages or both?

19/2 2007 Mui Ne, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 56,96', Long E 108° 15,51'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
19 Feb 2007
61874 km

Today Bert found the white sand dunes we looked for a few days ago. The sights around Mui Ne are the red sand dunes, the white sand dunes and the canyon. Other than that; it is only the beach…

We just got an email from Lis & Chris with”Red Bully”. They told us that they are going to ship the car from Cambodia to Dubai today! Because of a broken gearbox, they have over stayed their visa and can not go back to Thailand. They are now considered”persona non grata” there. The plan was to ship their car from Vietnam to Vladivostok. But after hearing about all our troubles getting the car in to Vietnam, they changed their minds. Right now they are stuck in Cambodia and the only way out of South East Asia, is to ship the car from there. We are so sorry to hear about this development. We so looked forward to meet them in Russia.

20/2 2007 Mui Ne, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 56,96', Long E 108° 15,51'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
20 Feb 2007
61874 km

Today we decided to go back to Ho Chi Minh. With the terrible and over crowded mini buss ride in fresh memory, we decided to take a big bus for tourists instead. That was much better, but we didn’t get there any faster.

We took in at the same hotel as the last time we where here. Since they already had all our data, we didn’t have to explain why we couldn’t show them our passports.

21/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
21 Feb 2007
61874 km

Already before breakfast Bert went to the Swedish Consulate to pick up the documents for bringing our car in to Vietnam.

Last day for shopping before Anneli head home for Sweden. She told us she could take home some presents to our family if we liked. Great we thought, and did some shopping too.

Late afternoon we said out goodbyes. It has been great fun to have Anneli with us once again. But it felt like she just arrived yesterday, and now she is going home…

We planned to go to the border to get the car in the evening. Unfortunately the bus had stopped running for the day and we had to stay one more night in Ho Chi Minh. In the park next to where we are staying, they put on a big show for free in the evening.

22/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 46,79', Long E 106° 42,25'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
22 Feb 2007
61874 km

Great! Finally our SAAB is also in Vietnam. It is wonderful to have it back. The Vietnam we see though the SAAB window seems different from the one we have been seeing form the widow of the bus. Everything seems to be more colorful and exciting. It is the world of difference to travel in our own car than as a backpacker. We can go wherever we please, whenever we want, we don’t have to book tour group sightseeing to se what we want. It is just perfect like this!

Even though we have been working hard to get all the paperwork right to get our car in to Vietnam, and everyone agrees that we are now allowed to enter, it still took us five hours to get through the gate!

We knew they would let our SAAB in, but we didn’t actually know if they would let us in. Since we didn’t yet get our passports back from the Russian Consulate, we where a bit concerned. But it all worked our all right. We passed the check point gate at quite a speed, waving and smiling like hell. Not until we where out of sight for them we stopped, ran out of the car screaming, yes, yes, yes!

After being parked in the dust at the border our poor SAAB was dirty and sad. The first thing we did was to find a car wash to make it nice and shiny again.

23/2 2007 Cu chi, Vietnam
Lat N 11° 01,84', Long E 106° 29,60'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
23 Feb 2007
2401954 km

We spent the night in Cu Chi Minority Village. This mean we had a few hours to ourselves before all the tourists arrived from Ho Chi Minh.

In Vietnam there are 54 ethnic minorities, all with their own language and customs . Cu Chi Minority Village is created to spread knowledge about their traditional way of living. Here they make clay pots for cooking , making folklore fabrics, brew their own rice wine , grow vegetables, breed their own fish and meat in a traditional way.

Barbeque pork with bamboo cooked rice is a traditional dish they serve in the villages. We got to make our own bamboo rice, it was fun. We filled a fresh, cleaned bamboo tube with sticky rice mixed with coconut milk and salt. We closed it with a banana leaf and put a piece of sting around it. Then they put it on the fire. After about ten minutes the color of the bamboo had changed from green to brown. This indicated that the rice was ready and the bamboo could be peeled off.

In the afternoon there was a traditional song, dance and music show. The Giant Amazon Woman Catharina, took part in nearly every act – to the amusement of the locals. In the evening we went down to the Mekong Delta, to spend the weekend there.

24/2 2007 Ben Tre, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 19,65', Long E 106° 22,12'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
24 Feb 2007
62081 km

Today we took a daytrip with a German couple in the Mekong Delta. It was nice to glide through the narrow channels, in the shade of the palm leaves.

We stopped to visit a coconut farm and got to taste coconut toffee . A tooth broke for Catharina. Only a small piece went off, but still the tooth got a bit too sharp. Have to visit a dentist to grind it down.

Then we stopped at a fruit and honey bee farm. There they ha a giant boa constrictor. After some hesitation Bert and Catharina took him around their necks. The giant boa was four years old, 3,5 meters long and had a weight of approximately 20 kilo.

By accident we also got the see a training session in cockfighting at one of the islands. Cockfighting is prohibited ”sport” and is only done in secret. The real game is on life and death, and they attach razorblades at the rear claw. But since this is only a training session, they actually protect them from hurting themselves by covering the rear claw.

When it got dark we went looking for fire-flies. They hang around the riverfront, like some trees better than others and the ones that they liked where lit up like Christmas trees. Very beautiful! We actually managed to catch some flies with our bare hands, and the guide caught a bunch of them and put hem in a plastic bottle. We let them crawl around for watching them for a while before we let them out again.

25/2 2007 Ben Tre, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 19,65', Long E 106° 22,12'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
25 Feb 2007
62081 km

Before going back to Ho Chi Minh, we went for a drive around the Mekong Delta. The delta is huge, and crisscrossed by canals and waterways. But it is no problem to go there by car. There are a lot of bridges and car ferries everywhere.

In the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh is the Dam Sen Park, an amusement park where the families go for a good time and pick nick in the weekends. Everywhere we see huge, lit up sculptures of silk. Maybe it is more than usual because of the Chinese New Years.

The also have some hideous sculptures made out of Chinese porcelain. The sculptures are made out of serving dish, soup ladles and rice bowls. And they are extremely ugly!

We also visited the cold store house that was filled with ice sculptures. At start it was nice and cool, but just after a while it was too cold to wear flip-flops…

26/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 46,14', Long E 106° 41,62'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
26 Feb 2007
62081 km

This morning we picked up our visas at the Russian consulate. It has been quite tricky to make all the things work for us. It feels great that this is done, once and for all.

After that we went to an insurance company to get insurance for the SAAB in Vietnam. After having such a hard time in getting the car in we don’t want to mess it up by not having insurance. Since we left Turkey, one and a half year ago we have not had insurance. We have done all right up to now, but you never know…

Catharina went in to a dentist to her tooth grinded down. But doctor’s order was to make a filling instead of grind it down, and we did. The cost was only 20 $US.

27/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 46,14', Long E 106° 41,62'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
27 Feb 2007
62081 km

At the dentist again. This time to fix Catharina´s tooth that got a small crack in the beginning of our journey. Yesterday she asked the dentists second opinion. She said that the crack needs to be fixed within a year. Here we have excellent private dental care to a competitive price. Well, why not fix it at once?

Today the dentist cut off a part of the tooth, made a cast and put in a temporary crown. It took only an hour and didn’t hurt a bit, after a got the anesthetic.

In the evening we emailed Borat to ask him if he could help us with a visa invitation, so that we could visit his home country of Kazakhstan and his family. It would be great if we got a reply, and even better if he actually arranged with a visa invitation!

When we was in the mood we emailed the ”Long Way Around” guys Ewan and Charlie too. We have thinking about this for along time. Finally it happend.

28/2 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 46,14', Long E 106° 41,62'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
28 Feb 2007
62081 km

Bert arrived home raging mad after his visit to the driver’s license authorities. We have been waiting for 17 days already. And when Bert came to pick it up today, they told him he must wait another week!!! If the arrogant bitch hadn’t been behind a protecting glass window, he had for sure hit her in the face.

Furious Bert went to the Swedish Consulate to try to make them put some pressure on them. After an hour of calling different people, they sent him back to the driver’s license authorities. When he arrived there again, they could not help him since they where all going to lunch, and he had to come back again at 2PM.

He refused to take no for an answer. After fighting like hell for seven hours, he finally had the driver’s license in his hand at 4 PM.

We have found ourselves a good but rather charm less parking spot, while we are waiting here in Ho Chi Minh for everything to be worked out. We are staying at a 24 hour guarded parking in a park right in the center of town. The guards let us use their shower and toilet, and we pay only 1 Euro per day. Great! We also have a wireless Internet connection in our car, for free from the big hotel across the street.

1/3 2007 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Lat N 10° 46,14', Long E 106° 41,62'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
01 Mar 2007
62081 km

After exactly four weeks, all paperwork for Vietnam is finally done. Today we got a new 15 day visa at the Moc Bai border. Normally you just apply for a visa extension. But here in Vietnam it takes a week to arrange it. And since our passports have been hostage at the Russian Embassy for ten days, we just didn’t have time to apply for an extension before our visa days run out. Our only alternative was to make a visa run, guess where to? Moc Bai border – again!

At the border we took a chance. We got stamped out by the immigrations and just sneaked around the house to get stamped in again, by the immigrations on the other side of the house. It worked perfectly!

Normally you have to enter and exit the neighboring in this case Cambodia, to be able to get stamped in to Vietnam again. We are really pleased that we didn’t need to buy a visa for Cambodia, just to make the immigrations in Vietnam happy.

Today Catharina had her final visits to the dentist. First a short visit in the morning to try out the crown. Some adjustments had to be done for it to fit better. In the afternoon we went back to put it in place.

2/3 2007Dinh Quan, Vietnam
Lat N 11° 12,75', Long E 107° 22,03'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
02 Mar 2007
62539 km

We are now heading north, for real. All documents for Vietnam are finally done, all documents for Mongolia and Russia too. Puh! The only thing missing now is an OK from China. Even though it is less than two weeks until we are supposed to enter China, we still don’t know if we are allowed to.

To travel like us is nothing for people highly-strung or people with a strict need to be in control. The qualities needed are to work hard with all the problems that keeps occurring, manage the uncertainties, have a cool head and a strong belief that it will work out right. And the funny thing is; this far it always has worked out alright, but not always exactly as we thought it would.

We stopped for the night at a hotel in the middle of nowhere, on our way to Da Lat. When the Vietnamese woman at the hotel after a few words in broken English, switched to perfect Norwegian, we nearly fell over. Swedish and Norwegian language is very similar, and we have absolute no problem at all understanding each other. It turned out that she was married to a Norwegian man, and had lived in Norway for five years.

Right outside our car, a man was drying peppers in the hot sun at the pavement. He gave us a bag of absolutely fresh black peppers for our pepper mill, it smelled divine!

3/3 2007 Da Lat Vietnam
Lat N 11° 56,76', Long E 108° 26,40'
Today: 78.8 °F ( 26 °C)
03 Mar 2007
62742 km

We are now at Da Lat hill station, at 1500. meters. The climate is wonderful, nice, warm and sunny during the daytime and cool evenings. Just as we like it!

Rented a moped to take a look at the surroundings. There are a lot of nice, huge villas from the 30-ties, most of them in a very good condition still. But they also seem to build new villas in 30-ties style. Good idea not to destroy the old hill station atmosphere.

Made a visit to the king Bao Dai´s Summer Palace. In one of the rooms we dressed up in Vietnamese festive clothes and posed at the throne.

Found a car work shop where we could put in new shock absorbers in the front, for only 5 Euro. Anneli brought the shock absorbers from Sweden when she came to visit us a few weeks ago.

We rented a nice, clean and cheap hotel room. But in the evening we decided to stay in the car anyway. We miss staying in the car. Hotels are no fun at all, especially now, when it is nice and cool at night. Are we strange, or what…?

4/3 2007 Da Lat Vietnam
Lat N 11° 56,76', Long E 108° 26,40'
Today: 78.8 °F ( 26 °C)
04 Mar 2007
62742 km

Wow. What a cool place we visited today! It was like a crossover between Alice in wonderland and the scream by Edward Munch. This very peculiar place is a combination of an art gallery, café and a hotel. The place is called Hang Ngn Guesthouse & Art Gallery , but the locals just call it Crazy House . And it really is crazy hell!

Crazy House is created by 67 year old female architect, who is the daughter of the Vietnamese president of the 80-ties. After drawing cubistic buildings for all of her life, she has finally found time and opportunity to create her dream project. She has been drawing this in her head for decades. In 1990 she started to build her dream project, and in 2010, 20 years later it will be competed.

To stay one night in one of the guest rooms cost about 29-65 $US. All rooms are different , and all have different themes. And not one room has a strait angle, which is also significant for the whole project.

In the garden there is a gigantic spider webb. Also the animals are a bit strange here are a bit strange. Or what do you say about this funny creature ? This is for sure the most fascinating building we have ever seen. We strongly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

5/3 2007 Kon Tum, Vietnam
Lat N 14° 23,83', Long E 107° 58,50'
Today: 84.2 °F ( 29 °C)
05 Mar 2007
63186 km

We left the cool climate in the mountains to go down to Hoi An at the coast, a six hour journey. The life in the villages seems to be very similar to that in Laos. Poor farmers living in sheds.

When arriving in Hoi An, we went strait to the beach to find a place to park for the night. At a luxury hotel Bert discovered a bunch of Russian built Ural motorbikes with side car.

We stopped to see if we could rent one, since Bert would love to try one. But no, they just rented them out with a driver. But since Bert actually has a Vietnamese driver’s license, he could at least take a short test run. The engine rattled and the bike behaved like a snake on the road – but was still wonderful. Bert could die for an Ural!

After the test drive the manager Claude invited us to stay in his garden. Claude had a big house with a pool, jacuzzi and staff. Great, then we didn’t need to hunt for a place to stay. då behövde vi inte leta efter någonstans att bo!

Today we also go a discouraging message from China. The paperwork seems to go very slow. Even though we applied four months in advance, they still don’t seem to manage to get the paperwork done in time. We have still ten more days to go, and we keep our fingers crossed but he said we have to be prepared for a delay.

A delay means trouble for us. Our permit for the car and our visas run out March 15th. What do we do about that? Park the car in no-man’s-land between China and Vietnam, to wait until the paperwork gets done? Then we are stuck for sure and that seems a bit risky. Apply for an extension of our visas, and just leave the car in no-man’s-land? Or just make an over stay for us and our car? It desent really matter if we get a ”persona non grata” in Vietnam, as we leave the country. We can stay away from here. But the question is, do we dare to risk getting trouble leaving the country.

6/3 2007 Hoi An, Vietnam
Lat N 15° 55,71', Long E 108° 18,95'
Today: 84.2 °F ( 29 °C)
06 Mar 2007
63513 km

Hoi An is a lovely town with lots of charm , well known for delicious food. We can definitely substantiate that.

Claude recommended us a small restaurant by the name of Miss Ly Cafeteria 22. We were served a bunch of very tasty Hoi An specialties like white roses, wanton noodles, fresh rice rolls, fried spring rolls with chili and some other very tasty dishes. Delicious! By far the best meal we have had in five weeks in Vietnam.

We also made a half day trip to My Son, which is said to be ”one of the most stunning sights in the area”. We where not impressed. Maybe an archeologist would find it interesting, but to us it was just another pile of stone. Luckily the site at least was surrounded by a nice nature.

Cua Dai Beach is a nice beach five kilometer outside town. Unfortunately we didn’t get a day at the beach since there was cloudy. Catharina has just come to realize there will not be much sun and beach for a long time now - panic, panic panic!

There are a lot of tailors in Hoi An, actually about 200. Catharina found just the polka dot fabric she loves and ordered a dress. She thinks everything looks great in polka dot! They promised to have the dress ready already in the morning, since we are leaving Hoi An tomorrow morning.

7/3 2007 Hoi An, Vietnam
Lat N 15° 55,71', Long E 108° 18,95'
Today: 84.2 °F ( 29 °C)
07 Mar 2007
63513 km

In the morning we picked up the dress . Catharina loved it! The dress including a matching head band was only 13 Euro.

After that we had a delicious lunch at Kalles´ restaurant, a Swedish guy that according to Claude serves the best food in town. We asked for some traditionally Swedish food and got meatballs, creamy sauce, mashed potato, lingonberry jam and pickled cucumber. It tasted heavenly! Not at all to be compared with the concrete meatballs we have been eating along our trip at the IKEA stores. But IKEA meatballs are better than nothing.

Kalle married a Vietnamese woman six years ago and moved here. When the Swedish king and the royal family visited Vietnam for a state visit, Kalle was asked to prepare the official Swedish dinner party. It definitely tells us something about Kalles cocking skills.

After lunch we headed north. But we didn’t get as far as expected since we got stock in a three hour traffic jam. Two big trucks had an accident at a high pass.

8/3 2007 Demilitarized Zone, Vietnam
Lat N 17° 01,13', Long E 107° 06,66'
Today: 64.4 °F ( 18 °C)
08 Mar 2007
63918 km

Today we passed the former border between North- and South Vietnam. During the years of 1954 and 1975, Ben Hai River cut Vietnam in two. Five kilometers on each side of the river was named ”The Demilitarized Zone”.

The only signs still there are a concrete watch tower, Hien Luong flag tower and Vihn Moc tunnels. Apart from that there are rice paddies as long as we can see.

We had a long day on the road. We covered over 500 kilometers distance. In between Hoi An in central Vietnam and the Hanoi area in the north there isn’t much to see or do. The weather was perfect for a day on the road with cloud, cool and rain.

Yesterday it was real warm and we wore shorts and sleeveless top. Today it is real cool, only +16°C, and we need to wear a fleece sweater and pants to keep warm!

In the end we got lost on the small dirt roads in the countryside. There were no signs, it was dark and absolutely no one could speak English. It took us three hours longer than expected to cover the last 80 kilometers to Perfume Pagoda. Completely necked we stumbled in to bed at 11 PM.

9/3 2007 Perfume Pagoda, Vietnam
Lat N 20° 36,57', Long E 105° 46,72'
Today: 60.8 °F ( 16 °C)
09 Mar 2007
64513 km

Visited Perfume Pagoda today. Even though we were there already at 8.30 AM, we still we got beaten to the Pagoda by thousands of Buddhist pilgrims. It was hysterical. People were shoveling each other around and tried to sneak by the lines. Not at all what we expected from a temple ambiance.

The only way to get to the pagoda area four kilometers away, is by boat. The boats are a big business in this small town. Every single family seems to have a boat of their own.

Perfume Pagoda is famous because it is right inside Huong Tish Mountain. There are several altars and rocks inside with different meaning to the Buddhists. To some altars they carry trays of offerings. In other places they rub bills at the rock, probably dreaming about economic success.

At one place they stretch their hands high up in the air to try to catch the drops of holy water dripping from the ceiling. The ones who manage to do catch a drop smear it in their faces. Outside the pilgrims put bills on the fire, to make their dead relatives able to buy things they need, like a car or a house.

Their is a bunch of restaurants in pagoda area that serve the strangest strangest things like, wild dogs who actually look like cats, rats , squirrels and some other strange wild animals that we didn’t manage to identify.

10/3 2007 Mai Cham, Vietnam
Lat N 20° 39,27', Long E 105° 04,68'
Today: 60.8 °F ( 16 °C)
10 Mar 2007
64683 km

We spent the night in Mau Cham which is an ethnic minority village. But it is not worth going there at all; it just looked just like any village. Instead of staying we went strait to Hanoi, and parked for the night in the absolute center of town – right by the lake in the Old Quarters.

In the outskirts of Hanoi there are some restaurants that have specialized in serving dog meat. There is also supposed to be a dog meat farm there. People do not eat dogs in general; they eat dogs especially breaded as dog meat. Even though we looked long and hard for the dog farm, we only managed to find the dog meat restaurants.

The closest we came to dog meat was the dog truck that passed us. It was loaded with whining and whimpering dogs. It was awful to see them. This poor dog will soon end up at someone’s plate. No, we could defenately not eat dog meat.

Today we got an e-mail from China, the documents have finally arrived from Beijing. But this does not mean that everything is ready now. Some local authorities have to have their say in this too. This means we still don’t know it will be ready in time.

11/3 2007 Hanoi, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 01,89', Long E 105° 51,13'
Today: 60.8 °F ( 16 °C)
11 Mar 2007
64828 km

This cobra in now in our stomachs! A village north east of Hanoi is well known for its snake restaurants. Even if both of us find eating snake a bit disgusting, we just couldn’t resist trying. We mean, how do we really get a chance to eat snake at good restaurant? We ordered a ten course menu, with two schnapps – of naturally all with snake.

When we had decided what to eat, it was time to choose a cobra. The chef showed us a couple to chose from and let them crawl on the floor, while he held them so that they couldn’t run away. We picked the small one, it was only 1,60 meter long, but they promised that we would get full up with it.

Before he cut the head off, he emptied the snake of blood, bile and took out the still pounding heart. The heart pound for another ten minutes after it is taken out. Kind of barbaric, isn’t it?

Then it was time for us to go upstairs’ to eat. The first thing that was served was the schnapps”Bile in alcohol”, i.e. really bad moonshine mixed bile. Bert got extra spicy schnapps, topped with a pounding snake heart . He looks down the glas and drink it all at once. Brave isn’t it?

The next one was another round of bad moonshine spiced up with snake blood. Didnt look very nice, but just had to try it. Disgusting! Thank good for the Swedish schnapps ”Skåne” and ”OP”.

After that it was time for the menu. Därefter Every single part of the snake was prepared in some way. The menu was: ” Snake in brown fat ”, ” Fried snake ”, ” Snake roll ”, ” Dry pancake ”, ” Grilled snake ”, ” Fried rice in snake fat ”, ” Crispy fried snakeskin ”, ” Flower coated snake ”, ” Snake liver omelet ” and ” Snake soup”. Our favorites was the” Grilled Snake”, ”Snake roll” and ”Crispy fried snakeskin”, which tasted like a mix of fried bacon rind and crisps.

You can tell by the price tag, that snake is considered a delicacy in these parts of the world. We paid 27 Euro for this meal. It is nothing we would like to eat everyday, but it the timing is right we could try it again sometime.

12/3 2007 Mau Son Hill Station, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 50,93', Long E 106° 55,04'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
12 Mar 2007
65034 km

After many, amny kilometers of narrow and winding roads we arrived late at Mau Son Hill Station, at 1 100 meters. We had to go very slow, since the fog was real thick and we couldn’t see more than ten meters ahead. During our journey up there we didn’t meet a single person what was around us.

At the top there were a few small hotels. But we didn’t see that until we woke up this morning. Also today the fog is thick. This hill station has a kind of scary move feeling around itself.

According to the photos it seems to be a fantastic view from here when the weather is clear. But we didn’t think it was going to happen in the near future, and we decided to go down to the border town again.

13/3 2007 Lang Son, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 51,76', Long E 106° 45,39'
Today: 55.4 °F ( 13 °C)
13 Mar 2007
65034 km

We are going to stay here a couple of days to clean our car inside and outside and to prepare for entering China. We still don’t know if all the documents will be ready in time, even though it is only two more days to go.

We had a big load of laundry to be washed. But it was not that easy to find a place to get it done. Usually there is laundry service everywhere. But here we had to ask around for hours. Finally we came in contact with an old man who took care of it all for us. He asked a lot for doing it for us, but after some negotiation we agreed on a reasonable price per kilo.

The weather is depressing, raw, cloudy, foggy, rainy and muddy. It has been like this since we reached Northern Vietnam a week ago. It is cold, no heating even in hotels and restaurants. People wear caps , quilted jackets and thick sweaters indoors to keep warm. We are wet and cold as hell…

14/3 2007 Lang Son, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 51,76', Long E 106° 45,39'
Today: 62.6 °F ( 17 °C)
14 Mar 2007
65034 km

At 9 PM we got an SMS telling us that our Chinese guide had landed in Nanning, about 100 kilometers from the border. So far, so good!

We cooked ourselves a fine dinner in the car, which was parked in the hotel garage. For a starter we had gambas pil-pil, the fresh shrimps melted as we put hem in our mouth. Absolutely delicious! As the main course we had Thai spicy squid salad.

When we bought the shrimps and the squid the woman gladly peel and cleaned it all for us. It is a pity that we didn’t realize until now how easy it is to cook sea food. When we don’t have to do the messy cleaning, it is no problem at all cooking it. And it is cheap too, less than 3 Euro for three squid and a handful of peeled shrimps.

15/3 2007 Border, Vietnam-China
Lat N 21° 51,76', Long E 106° 45,39'
Today: 68 °F ( 20 °C)
15 Mar 2007
65034 km

Nothing is simple in Vietnam! Not even to leave the country. When we arrived at the Vietnamese border to check out, the frontier guard said, ”No, I will not let you over the border to China, since you don’t have an Chinese visa in your passport.

This was just too much for Catharina, who got very angry and told him about the Chinese procedure to bring a private tourist car in to China. Bert got worried this would end up in a terrible mess, sent the furious Catharina out to the car.

After a while the frontier guard came out telling us that one of us had to walk across to China to get the visas stamped in our passports.

We tried to get hold of our Chinese guide, who had all our documents and visas. But he didnt answer mobile phone or SMS. Bert went over the border anyway hoping to find him there, but no. All we could do was to for him to contact us.

At 1.30 PM our guide called to tell us he was at the Chinese border. We told him they would not let us out of Vietnam, without the Chinese visa, he crossed the border to address the problem. Arriving he realized he didn’t have a visa for us, only the necessary documents for the car.

We couldn’t believe our ears ?! In our first mail to the Chinese travel agent we clearly asked them for help arranging all necessary documents and permits for us, and to drive our car through China. And they answered; “No problem. We can arrange this. It will cost you 2 800 Euro”.

”All necessary documents and permits for us” definitely include a visa – at least in our world. And during our four months of contacts they have never ever mentionend we need to arrange the visa by ourselves.

Anyway! We just have to fix the problem – real fast. We drove like crazy back to Hanoi to apply for a visa. We arrived late in the evening.

16/3 2007 Hanoi, Vietnam
Lat N 21° 01,97', Long E 105° 50,10'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
16 Mar 2007
65322 km

We where at the Chinese embassy already when they opened in the morning. When we got much relived when we realized that if we paid 30 $US extra for an express visa – we could collect it 4.30 PM the same day! This means we don’t have to stay in Hanoi waiting for a visa all weekend.

Unfortunately we didn’t arrive in time to the border, even though we drove like crazy. We have to wait to cross the border until they open again tomorrow morning. We feel it is definitely time to leave Vietnam. It really has been a struggle for us here.