Good morning Vietnam!!
Trip Start Jan 16, 2010
23Trip End Aug 16, 2010
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We arrived in Ho Chi Minh and the first thing that hits you is the mopeds and the traffic (almost literally!). The moped drivers are suicidal, a family of four and a dog on one moped driving the wrong way down the road on the pavement. Yep they drive up the pavement! They go the wrong way down the street , cut across round abouts and weave in and out unpredictably. Its something you read about but never quite expect! We checked into a great little guest house called the 'Bich Duyen' where the receptionist had a strange fake american accent ?! We decided to go to a Vietnamese eatery to try the native dish of pho
It was not until we reached Vietnam that we learnt that it was actually Chinese new year (Tet), this meant everything was closed and not due to reopen for the next few days, as the locals took a holiday. The next day we set about exploring, and guess what .......everything was closed, the war museum, markets, shops. We spent the day pottering in the heat and decided to go for a Mexican at night time to celebrate valentines. Afterward I treated Jones to one cocktail on the 23rd floor of the 'sherritan hotel', ridiculously expensive, hence why we only had the one drink! It was well worth it though as we enjoyed the excellent view over the city and got to see the new year celebrations going on below. Luckily on our return to the hotel, we managed to book the last 2 tickets on the overnight train to Nha Trang. This is a very popular holiday destination for the people of Vietnam therefore we had previously thought we were trapped because of Tet.
On day three we organised to go to the Cu Chi tunnels before the overnight train journey . The Cu Chi tunnels are where the Vietcong based themselves during the war. There is three levels of claustrophobic tunnels, jungle filled with booby traps and a captured American tank as a reminder of their famous but costly victory . After lots of Thai noodles we were delighted to be able to still get down into a tiny sniper post. We then got to crawl through the largest of the three layers of tunnel, we managed 20 meters in cramped conditions and by Vietnamese standards I'm quite tall! I'm not claustrophobic but decided to duck out at 20 meters. We felt a bit short changed as this was the only part of the tunnels we explored. That night we caught the crowded but bearable night train to get to Nha trang . We shared a cabin with a Vietnamese family with an excitable little boy who i played rock, paper, scissors with, and Jen tried, but failed to test out the phrasebook on. They found whatever she said very amusing. Luckily he fell asleep quite quickly so we nodded off too.
Before we knew it we were waking up arriving to nha trang we made our way to our hotel, which we booked the night before, but we could not check in for a few hours
Day five was our day of adventure as we booked a 30 km bicycle ride around Nha trang
We arranged to go to thap ba hot springs, where we enjoyed a hot mud bath followed by a steaming hot mineral bath and a full body massage. Lovely!
Our last day in Nha trang was spent pottering, it was a cloudy day and we basically filled the time (not on the crap filled beach) before we caught on overnight bus to Hoi an as we continued our journey north
Day Eight ,Nine , Ten and Eleven
The bus journey was quite horrific, bumpy is not even the word and the constant beeping of horns drove us mental!! We made a scheduled toilet stop at a questionable service station in the middle of nowhere. On our return to the bus, just as we were settling back into our chair/beds, we could hear the engine failing to turn over. The bus driver herded all the men off the bus and instructed us to to push whilst they attempted to bump start the bus, a thick plume of black smoke covered us as the bus sprung into life and we jumped back on board and continued our journey to Hoi an, needless to say there were no more toilet stops! The journey may not have been restful however we were more than platicated by the beautiful Hoi an! The old quarter was streets full of french colonial and traditional Vietnamese buildings , spotlessly clean and very charming. Hoi an is the tailoring capital of the world!!!! Within an hour of being there Jen had two dresses on order and I had a suit at primark prices! Jen floated from tailor to tailor high on the prospect of designing tailor made clothes. Our three day trip turned into four,as we were not ready to leave
We arrived in Hanoi at about midnight and scuttled into a taxi to take us to any cheap hotel in the centre of town. Unfortunately we chose the taxi driver that spoke no english whatsoever apart from 'i take you'. With the help of the phrasebook and the map he dropped us at 'the prince hotel' in the ancient quarter of the city which luckily had a room available. The hotel was ok but this was the only night we stopped. The next day we booked a two day boat cruise of the historic halong bay, we also moved hotels to a cheaper, cleaner and more convenient hotel
Day Thirteen & Fourteen
We set off for halong bay early that morning. We got to the boat about 3 hours later and thank god our room on the boat had a toilet! The room was actually better that most we had stopped in. I Went up to the top deck to take up a foetal position on a sun lounger. After about 30 minutes cruising we managed to run aground! Another ship was radioed to try and pull, shunt and push us free. After about two hours we boarded another ship to take us to some caves further up the bay whilst our boat waited for the tide to rise. The guide had done the trip 10,000 times and this is the only rime it has happened . As we sailed through the limestone formations it was easy to see how Halong has become a world heritage site. This is one place that does not fail to live up to expectation and has to be experienced if you can
Our last day is Vietnam was a short one as we left at 11am to catch our flight to Singapore. Vietnam was hugely different to Thailand , in terms of beaches , culture and people . Although we enjoyed the chilled out Thailand probably more than Vietnam, we did enjoy our time here and especially in the north . Vietnam is rich in history and the countryside can be spectacular. Although we were ready to leave Vietnam when we did, we experienced so much , experiences that will always stay with us and we felt we were beginning to understand differences between eastern cultures. Onwards to Singapore where i will hopefully be farting with confidence again soon.