Good morning Vietnam!!

Trip Start Jan 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 16, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  , Ha Nội,
Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day one

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. Its funny that pho should sound alot like poo because thats what it makes you do .......profusely. Poor Jen suffered the effects the following day!

Day Two

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.

Day Three

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.

Day Four

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. To fill the time we thought we would take a sunny early morning wake to the beach . The beach in Nha Trang is one of Vietnam's best....or so we had read. As we approached the beach over a promenade, we saw rubbish everywhere. The beach was filled with crap for as far as the eye could see. Good old 'Tet' had come back to haunt us. During tet the locals travel to the beach to party , drink and have picnics. Unfortunately they just leave there rubbish everywhere even if they sitting next to a bin. Afterwards they would just get up and leave , leaving rubbish, half eaten food and god knows what else, and because of tet all the litter pickers were on holiday too. With this in mind we decided not to base our day around beach activities. We decided to go to a resort called 'Vin pearl' which was an island resort which you could get to by cable car off the mainland .It was basically a massive water park and little theme park . We had loads of fun on the huge water slides and thanks to one painful roller coaster you can almost call me martina! Later we had an early night due to arriving into nha trang at six

Day Five

Day five was our day of adventure as we booked a 30 km bicycle ride around Nha trang. Our guide was a chap by the name of 'funky monkey'....should be fun! After cycling for two minutes Funky Monkey confessed to us that this was his first day on the job, he hadn't ridden a bicycle for 10 years and did not know the route. After five minutes we were lost, this would become a reoccurring theme during the whole trip and the 30 km bike ride turned into about 40 km. However we did have an unforgettable day, we explored regions that never get tourists, whole families came running out as we cycled past to shout "hello" and "what is your name?". At first this was very amusing and novel, but after the 30th kilometer and the 30,000th hello our enthusiastic responses turned in mumbles. We got to see people working in paddy fields, local fishermen, mountains and unexplored lakes. At the halfway point we had a break where funky monkey told us that he was taken around the route last night on a motorbike but was so pissed he could not remember a thing (Tet again!!!!). That night we had the best tapas food ever and then took our swollen baboon bottoms to bed , 40 km is hard on the old bottom!

Day Six

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!

Day Seven

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. Hoi an really was an amazing city and somewhere we were sad to leave, it was very easy to spend the day exploring the various shops and tailors in the old quarter, we also got back in touch with TV by watching a few films during some cloudy moments. At night The streets were lit up with traditional lanterns that only added to the ambiance of the place. My only regret of Hoi an was eating 'pho' from a street vendor! Even imodium couldn't help! We decided to book a cheap flight to Hanoi as the flight was only an hour and the train was decision ever made!!!

Day Twelve

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. Hanoi is based around a large lake. We spent the day exploring the northern capital which we enjoyed more than ho chi minh . That night we had an indulgent night of western food ribs , nachos etc..... i thought my tummy was better....wrong ! I had just fuelled myself up for five days solid of unsolid toilet trouble, two of which we were on a boat.

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! The Caves were amazing and way beyond my expectations, they were huge and had rock formations such as the elephant , the dragon and the giant erection. After the caves, we rejoined our boat and then set about kayaking around the bay which was amazing, just as the sun was setting. That night i managed a few mouthfuls of food and went to bed for a rough night. The next day we were woken at 6:45 to climb 467 steps up a hill to a view point as the sun rose at 7am. Much as i hated the steps in my feeble and dehydrated condition the view was absolutely spectacular! We gently cruised back to Halong harbour and then journeyed back to Hanoi.

Day fifteen

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.
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distant_places on

what an amazing trip! Halong looks stunning - not sure I'd fancy going down those little tunnels though :o|
Good luck with the eating!

andrewjones on

you have done a great job planning this trip martin ..well done.!

nanna & Aunty Ann on

love your photos. You are having a nice time. Enjoy the rest of your holiday! love Nanna and Aunty Ann
PS: Told you that your friend was lying about the SPIDERS!!!!!


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