Saturday, 6 December 2014


Arriving in Vietnam after three weeks in china was a bit of a shock to the system. What struck me immediately was how hot and humid it was, I was later to find out that the weather was mild compared to city's further south. If I thought walking around in china was hard with the stealth cyclists who would creep up on you in the road, Vietnam was a whole different ball game. There is no pavement and the only way to cross the road is to walk into the street.  cyclists will avoid you (probably because of the nuisance you would cause by being run down) in a city of 8 million people and 5 million scooters you have to embrace the madness and go for it.  In hanoi I caught up with Sandra, who I met in china and we spent our first proper night out together which resulted in a trip to the infamous lighthouse and waking up with bruises all over my feet.

Spent a few days exploring hanoi until Martina arrived and then set off to halong bay. We had the option of the castaway tour but being the granny's that we are we decided we didn't fancy a magaluf weekend in se Asia and opted for the more luxurious boat cruise.

Martina clearly can't focus but this is the only picture of me with the bay in the background

Back in hanoi we caught the night bus to phong nha.  If I thought night trains were an experience I was in for a treat with the night bus.  Started off well with the bus driver screaming at Martina for getting on the bus with her shoes on but at least he didn't force her to wash her feet as he did with others.  After an hour of waiting about and driving around in circles we set off, flashing lights and blaring eurotrash house music.  Thankfully we made friends with people on the bus and played cards and drank vodka to pass the time.  The sleeping pill I took drowned out the sound of the blaring horn, seems like you're only able to drive a vehicle in Vietnam if your hands are glued to the horn.

Night bus raver ....

Spent the day in phong nha trekking through the jungle and exploring. A couple of the caves.  What we didn't expect was that the only way to get into one of the caves was via a 30m high zip line and a kilometer trek through a narrow mud tunnel in the dark but we made it through (after much complaining and swearing in Maltese ....)

Ever the sensible one, Martina returned to our hotel to get an early night before our 5am bus to hue.  I on the other hand drank a bit too much, got stranded at another hostel and then had to break into my own hotel at 3am.  Needless to say the bus ride to hue was an interesting one....

Arriving in hue feeling a bit worse for wear we met a friendly Aussie over breakfast and decided to spend the afternoon walking around the citadel together.  Although the heat was oppressive the walk around the limited restored parts of the citadel was fun and followed up by a delicious veggie lunch costing a total of £2 per person!

A moment of panic looking for my passport which I'd put in a 'safe' place and an early night before our transfer to hoi an.

Originally we were going to hike it down to hoi an but as we only had one afternoon in hoi an decided to take a private car to save time (and there is also only so much we can take)

Hoi an was by far the prettiest city in Vietnam we have visited.  I can understand why they call it the Venice of Vietnam, fully of narrow roads, restaurants offering mouth watering meals and dozens of houses/temples and other sites to visit.  Hoi an is also a shopping Mecca known for it's hand made shoes.  we thought we would invest in a pair if shoes each, unfortunately it all went a bit wrong and included a little tantrum on my part and possibly some shoes being thrown out in the street.

From Hoi An we flew to Dalat, complete change of scenery in this city.  Dalat is a city at the top of the mountains in the central highlands.  The weather here is cool and fresh which was a welcome change!  It's proximity to Nha Trang meant that the few tourists around were all Russian day trippers.  In fact our hotel looked like something that had been transported from Russia.  It was huge and completely empty, the only reason why we booked it was that it had a gym and pool unfortunately the gym (along with 99% of the hotel) was currently being refurbished!  We spent the first day walking around town, booked a private guide and walked round the local waterfalls.  In all honesty it all felt a bit too fake and staged, what we should have done was booked a canyoning or trekking trip however we were both exhausted by this point (having been on the move every day) and made the most of the opportunity to relax and catch up on life admin.

In the eve we found a small hotel called Zen run by a German/Vietnamese couple were we had dinner and a chat with the owner.  The next day was a bit more R&R and one of the most delicious meals we have had so far including spring rolls, chilli prawns on skewers and fresh strawberry juice.  Dalat is well known for its fresh fruit & veg and beautiful flowers.

From Dalat we flew to HCMC; our hostel was a Japanese based pod hotel.  The pods were great and so much more private than your usual bunks in a dorm.  The highlight of HCMC was the war remnants museum.  The museum is based on various photography exhibitions which highlight the history of the American (aka Vietnam war).  Up until this visit i had a sketchy understanding of the background of this war (also most Vietnamese museums are not well curated).  This museum brought to life the horrors and atrocities of the American war and its aftermath which can still be seen today.  We also visited the Co Chi tunnels which were excellent although I had to back out of the tunnels as they were too hot, narrow and claustrophobic for my liking. HCMC was extremely humid, uncomfortably so, I have never felt so tired and unwilling to move in any other country.  We did get caught in a downpour which would probably explain the humidity.  We also spent one evening at the chill sky bar, every we spoke to recommended it over the Bitexco bar as its outside.  The drinks are pricey (GBP10 per cocktail) but it was nice to dress up and go somewhere which didn't feel like Magaluf in the far east.  

Notre Dame Cathedral HCMC

Torrential rain

One of the stunning photo exhibits at the war remnants museum 

Cu Chi tunnels 

Lunch in the market in HCMC

Pod at Kaiteki hotel HCMC

I can't say I am the biggest fan of HCMC and I was quite happy to leave, it felt very dirty and ominous.  We had a scary experience with a cab driver who drove off down a dark alley when we accused him of fixing the meter and we spent most of our time clutching our bags in fear of the bag snatchers everyone kept warning us about.  December 4th woke up at 5am (it is ridiculous how many early starts I have had on this trip so far.... this was meant to be a holiday) and boarded the bus to Cambodia at 6.30am with my starbucks peppermint tea in hand (probably the last Starbuck's I would have for a while ...)


At 6 December 2014 at 03:14 , Blogger Julia Orda said...




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