After our first night in Ninh Binh we decided to head to the Station to book a train for that evening to head to Hue (12 hour journey)
. We ideally wanted to travel through the night and arrive early morning but the train was fully booked so we sacrificed a whole day and went early the next morning. We thought we had booked a soft sleeper (bed) but turned out to be the soft seats; we were dreading it!! Surprisingly the hours flew by (thanks to an audio book and a Grand Theft Auto game). The toilets on the trains are holes in the floor and are pretty gross, so needless to say I did not move for 12 hours for fear standing would make me need to go! I love backpacking so far, can't wait to stay in more hostels and be more at one with nature but the horrible toilets are just a step too far for me! As the time went by and we travelled further south I noticed that the skies were clearing and eventually they were beautiful blue skies this made us very happy indeed.
Hue was great, as soon as we got close to our hotel we knew we'd found the perfect spot right in amonst the hustle and bustle of street food vendors, bars and restaurants. Our hotel was lovely and would recommend anyone visiting Hue to check it out. We went to the Dong Ba market, walked along the huge river and visited the Citadel Gate. When we first arrived in Bangkok we saw lots of westerners (mainly backpackers) eating in 'western' restaurants and automatically both Sam and I were baffled; the Asian food is amazing and 100 times cheaper why would anyone be eating in those restaurants? Now however, we totally understand! Sometimes after eating the cuisine every single day breakfast lunch and dinner you just need some spaghetti' bolognase.
After 3 days in Hue we travelled again, by train, to Hoi An
. We've been here for two days and really like it. There is a beautiful beach about 4km away, a great market about 2 minutes walk down the road and restaurants and bars are plentiful. The general vibe here in Hoi An is just really nice, we've met a couple and a group of four all from New Zealand that have all invited us to visit them. (it's amazing how Australians and New Zealanders are so friendly and seem to invite you to stay with them after about 5 minutes of chatting to them! If only more people at home were like that!).
Today we went to a cooking class, Sam could have gone to a professional class but decided today to be the clever clogs and ace the class. It was a lot of fun and ended up leaving rather full, Sam learned quite a bit from that class and seeing as we might stay here a bit longer I'm sure he'll go to the professionals. Tonight is the full moon lantern festival; they cut the electricity and lite up the whole river with lanterns and its surpose to bring good luck. I'm really looking forward to it and hope that the rain holds off; yesterday I skyped with mum and dad and said how lucky we've been with the weather.... I spoke to soon, we walked out of the hotel for the evening and it absolutely fell down!
Anyway that's us all updated so I'm off to catch the last bit of sun!
Alex & Sam
From Hanoi we got a train (kindly booked by our hotel concierge) to Ninh Binh. We had been recommended by several people to see the 'Halong bay of the land' in Trang An. We booked two nights in a hotel that seemed to be one of the only hotels around that area. For anyone travelling or just heading to Vietnam for a holiday I would recommend just going to Trang An to see the caves as a day trip as there isn't really anything else to do in Ninh Binh itself. In the day locals mill around and it's great to watch them go about their daily lives but in the evening it's really dead and we was having to use torches to get around due to lack of street lighting (even in our hotel!). If you do decide to stay in Ninh Binh beware of your hotel trying to sell you a day trip to Trang An, they say it's $50 per person which includes transfers, lunch and even your 3 hour boat ride through the caves, but when you do a bit of research you will see that it actually only costs 100,000 dong each (£3) for the boat ride and the taxi will set you back around £10 return (maximum).