The length of Vietnam in 21 days......

Trip Start May 11, 2003
Trip End May 10, 2004

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hi all,

We are currently in Vietnam as we have been since the 10th July. As with Cambodia, we have really enjoyed our time here. The people are as friendly, if not friendlier, and the food (which as you might have guessed is very important to us) is delicious. We leave Vietnam tomorrow to cross the border to Laos, where we will be for between 2 and 3 weeks.

The e-mails seem to have dried up a little. We really do enjoy receiving them, so please please please keep them coming, even if it just a one liner!

Wed 9th July - Go for our own cheaper version of the City Tour, which is free and done by foot. Visit the Independence and Liberation Monuments (where we get caught in the middle of a wedding photo session!), the National Assembly, the Silver Pagoda and the Wat Ounalom temple. Catch up on our e-mails and the journal to you all. Before heading out in the evening, L slips on the tiled bathroom floor and a bruise the size of a dinosaur egg (5in by 3in) appears on her right 'cheek'.

Thurs 10th July - Up early to catch our bus across the border to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). L finds it difficult to walk, let alone carry the backpack. Arrive at Moc Bai border point in the midday heat and have to wait for all formalities are complete before walking the 200 metres across No Mans Land (very strange scenario) into Vietnam. Catch the bus at the other side to HCMC and trek around the backpackers area of the city, eventually deciding to stay at "Bettys" guesthouse, which was the first one we looked at. After a nice meal, find a great CD shop where we can buy copies of the latest releases for 40 pence each.

Fri 11th July - As it is a year tomorrow since we first got together, we decide to use today planning what we are going to do tomorrow. Trek round some posh hotels (by our standards) and choose the Palace Hotel. Find a fantastic restaurant owned by a Vietnamese lady and her Spanish husband, "Espana". We book a table for tomorrow night and she promises to make it a night to remember. Happy as sand boys & girls, we stop off on the way back to Bettys for some pastries and a couple of happy hour beers.

Sat 12th July - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY - Poli is the first to congratulate us as we head over by moto to the Palace Hotel for 12pm! First stop is the open air pool on the top of the hotel (15th floor) with fantastic views of HCMC. Then we opt for a full body massage, and M nearly gets more than he bargains for, but turns it down! Have a foot massage, sauna and jacuzzi, then relax before heading out at 6pm. Have a drink near the hotel at Vietnam House, which is very plush, before catching a taxi to Espana. When we arrive there's a basket of flowers and a card waiting for us! Spend the next four hours enjoying the atmosphere, each others company, eating lots of tapas and drinking far too much Sangria.Offered free drinks by the owners and then head next door, to an Irish Bar in full swing, for midnight drinks and a sing song. A fantastic day all round.

Sun 13th July - When we treat ourselves, we do it very well. The only trouble is that we wake up with very sore heads in the morning! Have a buffet style breakfast at the hotel, before touring HCMC's museums. Visit the Revolutionary Museum, the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Decide to pop back to Espana to say thanks and end up having more tapas for lunch. Check back into Bettys and back down to earth (and our budget!)

Mon 14th July - Booked on a two day trip to the Mekong Delta in the South, so we're up early to catch the bus. Arrive in My Tho at 11am and head off by boat to an island where we sample tropical fruits and the locals perform traditional dance and music. We then board a smaller boat and cruise the narrow waterways and lunch at Phoenix Island. Next we visit a bee keeping farm, where we buy some honey wine and coconut candy. We take the bus to Can Tho where we stay overnight.

Tues 15th July - Back on a boat by 7.30am, we head for the Floating Market, where the locals sell their produce from the back of their boats, showing what they have to sell by hoisting it up the mast! Visit a rice paper and noodle making factory, then tour some narrow parts of the Delta before having lunch and heading back to HCMC. Check into Bettys (yet again!) and opt to eat at "New Delhi" Indian restaurant, which brings the memories flooding back.

Wed 16th July - Say our goodbyes to Bettys to catch our bus to the hill station town Da Lat, which is about 2,000 metres above sea level. The journey is full of winding roads and fantastic scenery and we feel the climate getting cooler as we head up the steep roads. Check into a nice hotel with hot water, which is a must for Da Lat and a luxury for us. After tea, we go to watch "Mr Bean" spoof 007 film dubbed in Vietnamese (the only film showing).

Thurs 17th July - Hire a scooter for the day and head off down the mountain roads to Lang Con Ga, or Chicken Village as it is better known. No one knows the origins or reasons behind the 5 metre high concrete cockerel, but it draws in hundreds of tourists daily! Head back up the mountain through the Prenn Pass and stop at Datanla Falls. Back in Da Lat we visit the towns train station which houses a working steam engine (two others were sold to a Swiss company in 2002) - v. interesting (L). After a near miss on the scooter and during our tour of the towns lake, we are forced to abandon the ride due to torrential rain. Later we have a drink at Da Lat's oldest bar, before splashing out on a meal at Art Cafe (6 quid some scrummy food, a G&T, beers and a glass of wine).

Fri 18th July - Up early to catch a bus to Mui Ne on the east coast. Arrive at 1.30pm and check into "Hong Di" bungalows. We manage to rent a bungalow which is 2 metres from and overlooking the beach, where we can lie in bed and still see the sea. Spend the afternoon by the beach before walking up the road to find somewhere to eat after having Happy Hour at "Hot Rock Cafe".

Sat 19th July - Potter around the bungalow, swim in the sea and lie on the beach until late afternoon, when we have a snooze (this is the life)! Not making you jealous are we? After another few Happy Hour drinks at Hot Rock, we eat some fantastic meat and fish kebabs at "Sunset" restaurant.

Sun 20th July - After breakfast we sit and chat in the guesthouse restaurant until 12 and then have a dip in the sea and lie in the sun (again!). L manages to catch up with her best friend, Sarah (SD), on the phone before we eat at "Sunset" again - fish & shrimp Vietnamese style fondue and tuna steak. Delicious!

Mon 21st July - Catch a bus to Hoi An (halfway up the east coast) at 1pm and apart from some short stops, are on the bus until 8am the next morning.

Tues 22nd July - Hardly sleep on the bus, but decide to head out of the hotel in Hoi An as soon as we arrive. Have breakfast by the riverside and L tries the Pho Ga (chicken & veg noodle soup). Wander around the town getting our bearings and are accosted by one of the many women whose 'sister/friend/mother' has a shop making and selling clothes. Hoi An is famous for tailoring and replicating items of clothing. Find a great bar in the evening "Treats" which has Happy Hour from 4pm to 9pm (think there is a pattern forming here!).

Wed 23rd July - Today, we decided to find a tailor to make some clothes up for us. Trek around dozens trying to get a good deal and eventually end up 100 metres from the hotel. Decide to have two pairs of casual trousers copied and a shirt and two tops made. Start early at Treats Bar, where we have a skinful before tea and more after. Get chatting to a Liverpudlian guy who has been living in Hoi An for three months. He offers us some of the local Snake wine, so we give it a try - the wine comes from a big vat full of dead cobras! End the night having a pizza in true drinking session style..

Thurs 24th July - Surprisingly, we wake up feeling rough. Back to the tailors to try on our stuff, which we are really happy with, so we decide to order some more! Buy a ticket which covers all the main sights in Hoi An - the Japanese Bridge, a Chinese Assembly Hall, a craft centre with a cultural show, the oldest house in Hoi An and the Trade Ceramics museum. Collect our purchases on the way home (about three hours after we ordered them).

Fri 25th July - M buys a "Biere Larue" t-shirt and we buy a little Vietnamese hat for Poli (photo to follow). Go for a swim in the afternoon at a hotel round the corner and have three hours on e-mail. Have our last Happy Hour visit to Treats and eat at a nice Italian restaurant.

Sat 26th July - Have breakfast before catching the 8am bus to Hanoi via Hue. Arrive in Hue at 1pm and take in the Ho Chi Minh museum before visiting a Contemporary Arts museum, which is closed! Back on the bus at 6pm for our overnight journey to Hanoi.

Sun 27th July - Arrive in Hanoi at 7am, but as we are dropped 6km from the centre and the touts are out in force, its 9.30 before we arrive at the hotel of our choice (soaked to the skin). Spend the afternoon getting our bearings and finding some budget eateries, before heading back to the hotel to receive a call from L's sister, Lesley. After over an hour on the phone (!), we head out to a restaurant in the Old Quarter called "Little Hanoi", which does fantastic Vietnamese food in good sized portions - and is cheap!

Mon 28th July - Take a call from L's Mum & Dad before heading to the Laos Embassy to apply for our visas. Walk around the nearby Thien Quang lake whilst waiting for the visas. Walk across town to look at the Opera House, which is a fantastic sight. Back to the hotel to take yet another call, this time from M's Mum before heading out to treat ourselves at "La Salsa" restaurant in the French Quarter and having some fresh beer, "Bia Hoi" at 6 pence a glass!

Tues 29th July - M takes a walk in the morning and bumps into Ronnie, the Aussie we met in Sihanoukville. Later we walk to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, but find out halfway there that it is closed in the afternoons. Back tomorrow then! Eat at Little Hanoi again, have more Bia Hoi and end up at the Jazz Club, but not for long as the drinks are a bit pricey!

Hope everything is ok back home and you are all well.

Lots of love, L&M xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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