Vietnam massive!

Upon saying goodbye to Laura and David I was planning on some earlier nights and less hungover days. This plan started off very well when I returned to Saigon. I treated myself to an Indian meal followed by some drinks with peeps from my hostel. Instead of getting on it I went for a pedicure and massage and was asleep by 11pm. For the first time in my drinking life I had a sober birthday.  Was this my new life as a 31 year old??? Am I finally going to take sensible advice from my consultant that reducing alcohol will be good for my health?

I won’t leave you guessing my birthday behavior was a blip…..a few hours after arriving at Dalat family hostel I had met the lovely Mark and Mo and was enjoying a large glass of Dalat Rum, followed by several beers… the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. However I do remember having a very funny night screaming at a local Vietnemease rock band to sing Backstreet Boys. This became a bit of a theme of Vietnam and at every opportunity we sang Backstreet boys.


Everyone loves a waterpark?!

The next day I joined Mark, Mo and our regrettable hangovers  to Nah Trang. Extremely excited we got up early and made our way to VinPearl Waterpark where  we were joined by the crew below and had an amazing day.

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10471492_846491899184_7316240214918142164_nThe slides were surprisingly amazing and we had a lot of laughs however one of the funniest moments of the day was in the sea. Being lazy we all headed to the sea for a wee rather than the 150 metres walk to the toilet. As the 8 of us walked into the sea  –  it was evident that we would be going for a group wee – this was probably pretty obvious to most of the people on the beach as we were all stood in a circle making sure that we were at least 10 metres apart. Surprisingly are explicit agreement of group wee was missed by Alberto….and as we were all doing our business Mark attempted to dare someone to put their head in the water. He didn’t get as far as shouting this as suddenly Alberto appears in the middle of the circle and jumps head first into the water shaking his face around. This was a bloody funny moment and poor Alberto was so unaware of the weeing session that he couldn’t understand why we were laughing. Even now when I think about this I cant help but laugh out loud and of course poor Alberto got just a little bit of stick! Sorry Alberto but I couldn’t not write about it.


The beautiful Hoi Ann

After a fab day I made my way to Hoi Ann and met up with the lovely Raegan, MJ, Shauna and Giadai. Little did I know that this was only half of their crew and I was soon introduced to Sia, David and Alexia on a lovely cycle to the local beach and a visit to the Marble Mountains.

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We were later joined by Mark and Mo and my favourite 18/19 year old’s the amazing Anna and Henry. Despite being 13 years older aghhhh – we got on amazingly well and I only wish I could have been quite so cool at their age…..and yes before anyone says it I know I am not now.


Hoi Ann to Hue on Motorbikes

The next day we all headed to Hue. Mj, Ragean and I made our way on motorbikes which was the most incredible day. Our lovely drivers looked after us extremely well over some crazy roads.

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Uncultured 2 days in Hue

Most of my time in Hue was spent at Hue Backpackers sleeping, eating or drinking. We had some fun nights though.

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Crazy but incredible day in the caves of Phong Nha 

A group of us rented motorbikes and made our own way to the caves.  It started off so well but after an hour we got lost and then Henry’s motorbike broke down. 10271431_861373973904634_5043843923671572168_o (1)11081067_857564147618950_2694957496771680378_n
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On the 1st try they bike guys couldn’t fix the bike so instead her pushed the bike with one leg while driving….only in Vietnam.

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We then had to wait while they tried to fix it again so naturally it was beer o’clock while we waited.

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After waiting what felt like forever the bike was fixed. Well we thought it was….15 minutes later it had broken down again. We eventually got to Paradise Cave but by the time we got there it was well after midday and we were worried that we wouldn’t have time to do the Dark cave so we then started to run to the cave which is about 3km. We looked pretty damn crazy and when we got to the cave we showed up very sweaty…..strange westerners!

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Eventually we made it to the dark cave and I am so glad we did as it was AMAZING. We zip wired to the cave. As we walked further and further into the cave it became darker and muddier to the extent that when all our torches turned off you couldn’t see anyone because everyone was head to toe in mud. We then head to Kayak out….well I say we I relaxed whilst Henry did all the work. This was pretty damn good as it was just getting dusk and the sun was setting. We then rode back to the hostel with a group of about 50 other motorcyclists just in time to get fed and showered before we hopped on the night bus to Hanoi.

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Buffalo North Run                   

An amazing 5 days spent in the North of Vietnam. We started off in The Mai Chau Valley where we explored the area on motorbikes.

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We then made our way to the untouched mountain village of Mu Cang Chai exploring the area on foot.

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Our last stop was in Sapa where we went mountain biking,, exploreed the local vilages and went to the Herbal Tea baths.

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Chaos at Castaway in Halong Bay 

I’m not sure what to say about the 3 days we spent at Castaway. It started off quite civilised with a few beers on the beach and my first time at wake boarding. I loved it but I was terrible, I managed to stand up once but was so excited that I did I forgot what else I had to do.

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The Beautiful Halong Bay

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As we sat enjoying the sun and the incredible views the group who came the day before arrived back from their booze cruise singing and screaming at the top of their longs…..they all looked a bit feral although clearly had a great time. Later the evening drinking games had begun, we played a big group card game and if you had a certain number you had to take part in random tasks such as kissing the bar man (lucky man) and racing to perform various sexual positions….culture at its best.

If you think these games are  bit extreme it had no comparison to some of the forfeits such as making guys get naked, shot gun a beer whilst having toilet roll up their bums which was then lit. I was determined to not have to do any forfeits. In hindsight I think I would have preferred a forfeit as while running to kiss the bar man (this was a task) a rather big guy stood on my foot. Despite this I was still in a desperate frenzy to not be the last one so I continued to run while he was stood there- not one of my best decisions. The good news is that I did not have to do a forfeit -the bad news is that I could not walk.

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As the evening went on the drinks were flowing – my foot felt much better…..was it a miracle??! No of course not – reality hit when I tried climbing out of the top bunk to go for a wee in the middle of the night. On my return to Hanoi I went for an xray and was told that I had two broken toes….doh!

I was gutted as it was our turn to become feral on the booze cruise. This didn’t stop me though…I even managed to go kayaking. Sia also had a drunken foot injury so we paired up in the disabled Kayak. Good job we were fast as Henry was in his kayak trying to capsize other people. Bloody 18 year olds…haha

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Luckily all my training at BMF sent hopping came in useful as I hopped around for the next few days. As a shit dancer it worked well for me as when you dance hopping style no-one can tell….in fact people were joining in

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Definitely the first and probably the last time anyone has ever copied my dance moves. I can’t complain really as for the next few days I had offers from handsome men to carry me.
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CONSTANT CATAPLEXY

As always for me laughing and fun is a trigger for my cataplexy which means you will often find me collapsed on the floor. During the trip to North Vietnam this was a frequent occurrence and at times I was paralyzed for large periods of time as I couldn’t stop laughing.

In the first couple days of meeting this lovely lot my cataplexy was fairly controlled with  only minor attacks such as the buckling of my knee and flickering of my eye lid. This is quite common when I meet people as I am more likely to have a cataplexy attack when I feel comfortable in a situation and when I have been drinking alcohol. Apparently by day 3 I was extremely comfortable as my cataplexy had taken a turn for the worse.  I had anticipated that this was going to happen at some point so I had told most people and they  knew what to expect but what I have learnt over the last 2 years is that describing it and actually seeing it is extremely different.  But amazingly again this lovely group of people took me and my narcolepsy in their stride and after 3 attacks they were always inn a position to help me and make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I have mentioned this in a previous blog but I continue to be overwhelmed with how amazing people are about it.

During the 3 weeks of travelling with this bunch my cataplexy attacks made a regular appearance often triggered  by Emily aka Mj who is probably one of the funniest people I have ever met.

There were so many funny cataplexy moments that I would need a book if I was going to write about them all but here is a few of my top 5. I have taken such a long time to write this blog that I have probably forgotten quite a few but these are the ones that firmly stick in my mind.

1). Falling to the floor in an alleyway on several occasions thanks to MJ’s story about her friend and toothpaste. Days after if Emily just mentioned the word tooth paste it would set me off. Problematic when we were brushing our teeth in the morning.

2). Mj and her face – now before I sound incredibly mean Emily is a hottie and it is not actually her face making me laugh but she is very witty and has great comical timing so every time I looked at her it reminded me of something funny that she had said previously.  I tried explaining this during a cataplexy attack….but I could only say as much as ‘your faa’….before collapsing to the ground again.  This happened  about 15 times in a row during a 20 minute wait for the bus. At one point she actually had to walk away from me as just looking at her made me collapse. 

3). Falling out of my sleeper bus seat -there was  a big group of us on the sleeper bus to Phong Nha and to be fair we were all being a bit rowdy. However for some reason an angry lady on the bus decided to pick on Henry saying how rude he was. Any what was so funny was that her main gripe was how unintelligent he is. Henry’s response was “I think that is the meanist thing that any has ever said to me”. Luckily I had moved to the lower bunk but within seconds I collapsed and was half laying in the aisle sit.

4).  Playing volleyball in the pool – I hit the ball with extreme force which made it pop out of the water and went through a hole in the wall. This was pure accident and I would never of been able to aim this on purpose. We all found this very funny and suddenly I had collapsed and heading to the bottom of the pool. Of course this is serious but for some weird reason when my cataplexy happens in the water I seem to find it even more funny. Luckily I had Mark to my rescue and he quickly lifted me up to take me out of the water. Mark was really worried about getting me out of the water as I continued to have a few more attacks, however I was more worried about my already lop sided bikini falling off. I decided to stay out of the pool to save my dignity and to stop me from drowning.

5). Why did the chicken cross the road? Yes this is ridiculous as it sounds….I won’t say any more about this.


SAD GOODBYE

I want to say a massive big thanks to all of the Vietnam crew as we had a an amazing few weeks but particularly for being so amazing with my crazy cataplexy outbursts. I have mentioned this in a previous post but I keep being so amazed by the kindness and support given to me by people I have just met. By the evening of the first day when most of these lovely lot saw my cataplexy they were always just there when I was about to collapse. Particularly Mark, Mo and Sia who I could always here giving instructions for someone else to watch my head. Every single person in our Vietnam massive was amazing and I  was always really touched when I could hear this lot explaining to others when I was in a collapsed state. One funny time was when I could hear Giada in her angry Spanish mode telling someone to leave me alone and that I was fine.

It was unbelievably sad saying goodbye to everyone but I am looking forward to some fun reunions potentially in London, Australlia or Holland.

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Good morning Vietnam

After weeks of counting down I finally arrived in Vietnam to meet up with my lovely friends Laura and David. The plan was to meet in Nha Trang and travel to the South from there…..unfortunately due to a delayed flight, a long visa queue and falling asleep on the bus I missed my train and had to book a night bus later that evening. At the other end of the country Laura and David were having similar problems due to the Vietnamese New Year, Tet.

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We were all finally reunited in Nha Trang early the next morning at our hotel….to our surprise my cataplexy behaved itself and I stayed firmly on my feet when I first saw Laura and David, maybe I wasn’t happy to see them after all?? Only joking of course I was and we had a great 2 days in Nah Trang which first started with sun bathing on the beach,  followed by a crazy booze cruise.

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The tour started off fairly civilised with sunbathing on the deck and jumping off the boat to cool down.

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We had anticipated a party day so we were slightly gutted when most of the other people on the boat did not seem quite the party type…..we were not the only ones to notice this and were soon invited to join the other boat and shunned upstairs by the staff to join the the other “young westerners”. This is where the madness began – the crazy but lovely tour guys kept encouraging / forcing us to drink beer (well maybe force wasn’t needed). They were all very excitable and would randomly shout out sayings such as “up the bum no babies” and “up the bum, don’t tell your Mum”.  The beers flowed well accompanied by a  delicious lunch and banter with our new friends.

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After lunch we were hurried downstairs to watch the  Funky Monkey boy band. It was pretty random but there voices were not bad and they were very entertaining.

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After a few well known songs it was our time to join in…..most people were dreading this. I on the other hand was looking forward to a good singsong.

After all the singsongs the music got turned up and everyone was dancing on the tables followed by free drinks at the floating bar. By floating bar I mean a man in a  float in the middle of the sea pouring out disgusting free shots – this wasn’t quite the bar we had expected but it was free and bloody hilarious!!

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After a lot of fun in the sun we were headed to Saigon on a nightbus. The night bus was an event in itself with our bus driver being probably the most angriest Vietnamese man I have met so far. We got on the bus and he started shouting at us because we were late….and that he was going to kill us but he eventually calmed down and started laughing hysterically.

After a 10 hour bus journey we arrived into the busy Saigon and spent a day exploring the city dodging the hundreds of motorbikes as we crossed the road.

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In the afternoon we  visited the war remnants museum…..many photo’s with so many sad stories to tell.  We left feeling quite sombre and sad thinking about the brutality of the war and its many civilian victims but as we left we were soon uplifted by walking along the buzzing streets as the evening began.

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The next day we headed to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta – while scoping the streets for somewhere to stay we were approached by a crazy smiley Vietnamese lady. Within minutes she had won me over and we soon followed her to her guest house…..luckily it was a bloody good decision and thanks to the lovely Ms Ha we had an incredible next few days.
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Ms Ha and her lovely assistant took us on her canoe along the river for sunrise and to go to the local market.

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If it wasn’t for the photo evidence I don’t think I would believe that the sunrise really looked like this….but it did. The whole morning was incredible…..made even better by Ms Ha who is a bloody funny lady.

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By lunch time I was exhausted so my had my lunchtime nap on the boat joined by David who was also pretty shattered.

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In the afternoon we went on a epic 4 hour motorbike ride to the home of hundreds of storks at Banglang stork sanctuary.

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After an amazing but hectic few days we were off to Phu Quoc Island to relax on the beach.

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With all the time to lay on the beach during the day it was time to party in the evening and celebrate David’s birthday.

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There were lots of bars along the beach and the roadside but they were all pretty empty and quiet….untill we arrived that is! To our excitment we found a bar which allowed us to play our own music…..within the hour we were not only djing but behind the bar serving drinks too!

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Drinks flowed well and we ended up at some underground bar with the locals dancing until the early hours of the morning. It was all going well until our American friend fell over and hit his head on the side of the bar. Miss Marshall came to the rescue and glued his head together whilst standing outside the bar. Good job she did as it would of been a taxi, boat and bus ride to the nearest hospital.

In the morning we were all horribly hungover…..so while Laura sunbathed on the beach myself and David died quietly in the room.

Up until this morning my cataplexy had been suprisingly well managed and I probably was only having 1 or 2 cataplexys a day. Which is very unsual when I am in the company of good funny friends.

Maybe Laura wasn’t so funny anymore?! Ironically my cataplexy has become my indicator to how funny someone is. However this is not a valid test as it hugely depends on whether I have been looking after my body. I often and easily forget the extent that my lifestyle has on my health….with no work stress, little alcohol and regular sleep my outbursts of cataplexy are relatively low.

BUT of course my friends are in Vietnam so I wasn’t going to be a party pooper……and after large volumes of alcohol was inhaled alongside minimal sleep it was only natural that the days to come were going to compose of me laughing so much that I collapsed. For those of you who are unfamilliar with Narcolepsy it is a rare neurological condition affecting the brain’s ability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, which can cause a range of symptoms such as excessive sleepiness and cataplexy. Cataplexy attacks involve a temporary involuntary muscle weakness in response to emotions – for me this is always laughter.  The severity of my cataplexy attacks can vary from mild facial weakness to the buckling of the knees and collapse whilst still remaining conscious.

In the morning whilst the three of us disected the night before I think I had approximately 50 cataplectic attacks in 2 hours – all of which were the violence aggressive type resulting in me being completely paralysed in a variety or random and ridiculous places. Some were bloody funny such as falling in the sand right after Laura had put sun cream on my back which meant I had inches of sand stuck to my body and at least 3 when I was coming in and out of the shower wearing a towel only…..falling to the ground acting as if I was at a nudist beach. I don’t know who I felt sorry for more David who had to keep running out of the room as I lay starkers on the floor or Laura who had full view and tried to cover me up. Luckily we are good friends!

These examples were all pretty funny and entertained us for a few days…but I also had some more dangerous ones when in the sea. Again Laura and David came to the rescue, taking all my body weight to prevent me from drownning in the water. I was gutted as really wanted to go water skiing but I decided to be sensible and save that for another day.

During our last few days we explored more of the island and found paradise a perfect way to end our time on this island.

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Sadly after a wonderful few weeks with Laura and David it was time to say goodbye as they returned back to London.

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