Good Morning Vietnam

Trip Start Aug 02, 2011
Trip End Aug 30, 2011

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Monday, August 29, 2011

We arrived in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi in the north with a couple of days to spare until we met my sister, Sophie and Adam for their weeks holiday. Our first impressions were of how green it was even right around the airport with locals working in the rice paddies alongside the main road.

Hanoi:  Hmm and we thought Cambodia was hectic and busy but this was nothing compared to Vietnam.  Rush hour in the city is a sight that can only be believed when seen – it was unreal and rather hilarious!  The capital alone contains millions of motorbikes and they are everywhere, parked inside shops, parked on the pavements…..the traffic is relentless both in and out of rush hour.  There are no zebra crossings or lights so crossing the road is a matter of weaving in and out the constant motorbikes and cars, if you waited for the road to clear you would still be standing there next year! There are no rules, its every man or woman for themselves! Pavements are used as car parks so you have to walk on the roads where the traffic can sometimes literally brush by you and then you get mopeds shooting out of a shop or tiny alleyway straight in front of you towards the road.  To survive as a pedestrian in Hanoi you just have to walk, don't look, don’t think, for goodness sakes do not stop and do not weave, you let the motors weave around you!

You can’t escape the noise and hustle of the city as there is a constant buzz of motorbikes, hemmed in between the city and the coast.  Everyone pretty much starts at sunrise and continues long after sunset, it seems to be a city that never sleeps.  Despite that though there was a nice feel to the city and we didn’t feel like running to the coast the minute we arrived, like we have felt in many other Asian cities.  We stayed in the old quarter where the buildings are very tall and skinny, hence our hotel room that you certainly couldn’t swing a cat in, which was interesting when Sophie and Adam arrived with bags even bigger than ours, and the 4 of us had to get ready for the night train in our teeny tiny room.

We met Soph and Adam on a Friday morning and by Friday night we were on a 10 hour sleeper train to the North, Sapa, near the border of China.  The train was great fun and I think we just about managed to get some sleep in our little carriage with 4 small beds.  We had an amazing guide called Conn (King) who got funnier the more he drank throughout the trek.  Our time in Sapa was 3 days and 2 nights before getting back on the sleeper train to Hanoi.  We spent 2 days trekking through the most stunning countryside balancing round the edges of luminous green paddy fields, walking through little farms, swimming in the freezing river, watching kids ride past on buffalos, and tribeswoman in full dress.

We also explored the local markets where we saw chickens piled up on a motorbike, kids in buckets as a sort of playpen and a dogs head and feet, for sale, which the guy tried to sell to Andy and Adam, who seemed to weigh up the situation as if they were actually planning on buying it!!!  The tribeswomen walked with us on some of the trek and Adam made the vital mistake of saying he would buy something from them 'later’, thinking nothing of it of course……however when we got back to the hotel a day later the lady was camped outside waiting for him.  Adam then proceeded in getting a little ripped off, buying up most of her souvenirs.  You never say ‘later’ or ‘maybe’, as to an Asian seller that equals a big FAT YES and they don’t forget it!!  Something we learnt early on.

The first night was staying with a family in the middle of nowhere where us 4 slept in their loft and proceeded to play drinking games, drinking ridiculous amounts of home brewed lethal sprits and smoke pipes under the Kings more and more drunken instructions.  The second night was in a hotel in the town we started the trek in, where we could control our alcohol intake.

Once back in Hanoi, we had a day to enjoy the sights and get driven around on rick shores and drink 9p glasses of beer on the street before it was off the next morning, early to Halong Bay for 2 nights.

After a long mini-bus drive we were pleased to be on a lovely junk boat where we spent the next couple of days floating around the amazing limestones karsts in Halong Bay.  It was a great trip, the scenery was yet again stunning, the food on the boat was plentiful, we walked round huge caves deep underground, climbed a hill to look over the bay, did some fishing, sunbathing and cycling in the rain.   We were also lucky enough to have a great guide again.

Then it was back to Hanoi yet again, for a night of tapas and wine, our last evening with Soph and Adam as they were off to the airport early the next morning – what a busy week!  Never in the same bed twice, we then felt very much like we needed a holiday!  For those of you that know Soph, you will know how hectic we will have been!

So we were off that night on yet another very long sleeper train, south.  I think we were on the train for near on 18 hours and had to share our carriage with 2 locals which was better than I thought.  However the 18 hours seemed more like 88 hours to me as I had picked up flu/cold, the glands in my neck looked like golf balls so it was lucky I could hide from everyone in bed, but Andy said I missed some amazing scenery along the way.

We were headed for Hoi-an, a pretty but packed little touristy town on the coast, where you could get drunk on a pound with glasses of beer yet again costing only 9p and where high season was in full swing, so after a couple of nights and literally just missing seeing our friend Camilla who we first started with in Mexico, we were headed further south, this time on a weird sleeper bus.  The bus was so strange with an aisle down both sides and a semi type cramped bunk bed on either side and down the middle of the bus.  It took us 20 hours, 2 buses and being awake all night as there are no toilets onboard so we were constantly stopping, to get to a tiny place on the coast where we spent the next 10 days.

So our 10 days were spent in a tiny but cute German run guest house where we laid by a swimming pool most days, as unfortunately the beach was filthy and the water so littered, no one dared go in it.  There were plenty of fisherman and boats around so Andy jumped at the chance to help them pull a massive net out of the water one afternoon, which before long seemed to involve the whole community.  We also saw the most people we have ever seen on a motorbike – 6 adults!

So holiday over it was time to travel 5 hours to Ho Chi Minh city and then off on a 22 hour long journey to Dubai with 5 hours in a China airport, to stay with Soph and Adam for 2 weeks, we couldn’t wait to get some western comforts!........……
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