Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue and Hoi An

Trip Start Apr 09, 2010
Trip End Sep 07, 2010

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Friday, May 14, 2010

So after making our way to our guesthouse in Hue we went to explore the town in the sweltering heat. The heat gave birth to quite possibly one of the best quotes so far from Jen: "I think I've sweat more in the last 6 weeks than I have in my entire lifetime". While we had no way to verify this, we were certainly easy to spot by our sweaty gloss that we acquired each day, especially when bicycles were involved. We spent our second day in Hue on a pair of bikes and headed of to explore the Imperial City - the remains of the Imperial Nguyễn Dynasty. The whole city is based around the walled Citadel, with moat running around it. The Imperial City itself was in amazing condition and gave us an opportunity to practice our photography skills, albeit it in 40 degree temperatures. After a spot of lunch we settled down to watch a local football match taking place on a pitch within the city walls. It was bizarre - there was a proper ceremony beforehand, players seemed to walk onto the pitch through an imaginary tunnel, they all shook hands, lined up for team photos, and the whole thing was filmed on a massive old-school video-camera. It was like having a slice on the premiership in Vietnam, the only difference being that none of the players had boots, although they were sporting Arsenal and England shirts. After a nail biting first 20 minutes VietArsenal broke the deadlock with a superb long range effort, shortly after they doubled their lead before the VietEngland forward sprung the offside trap for what would only be a consolation goal.

The following day we moved onto Hoi An, taking a pleasant $2 bus to the coastal town famed for it's tailoring industry. We made a stop off at a fantastic lake before making it to our destination. We found a decent hotel to stay at (Nhi Trang) before gearing up for 'tailor time'. Although Hoi An itself was not massive, there were literally hundreds of tailors lining the streets with small shops where you could have pretty much anything made. Jen plumped for a blue silk dress and a coat, James deciding upon a black cashmere suit, a couple of shirts and ties and a deal-making pair of linen shorts. We got measured up and by the following morning we were able to go for our fittings. We were both amazed by how quickly they were able to make everything, one of the ladies making Jen's dress said she was able to knock up 100 garments per day - impressive. So overjoyed at our purchases (my suit, shirts, ties and shorts coming to $100) we only just managed resisting the temptation to get even more made - James really wanting a tweed hunting jacket for his return to Ashdown Forest. Alas, it was beach-time, we hit up a bike rental shop and cycled a beautiful route to an almost deserted and pristine beach. The beach had us sold and we spent the following day returning and getting in some serious tanning time, followed by an evening sampling the local cuisine and beer (Bia Hoi) which is brewed fresh everyday and is therefore super super cheap (about 20p a glass).

We have stayed at some awesome places, but Hoi An definitely was challenging for the top spot, although not culturally overwhelming, the beach, the locals along with the food and drink made for an amazing experience. The 'garms' are currently on a 3-month cruise back to the UK at a bargain price ($20) - we just hope they arrive! As for us, it was time to head back to Laos, and we book ourselves onto a bus to Savannakhet. Vietnam had treated us well - perhaps more so than we originally expected. It would have been nice to sample a few more coastal towns further south, but as always, time had beaten us, and we only had 2 weeks before we are meant to be flying into Thailand (not Bangkok), and before then we had both Southern Laos and Cambodia to contend with.

Until next time boys and girls.
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