A Travellerspoint blog

Hanoi

and then home...


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We stayed at Little Hanoi Hotel on Hang Ga in the old quarter. Nice hotel, and always insistent on offering drinks and breakfast!

The best way to describe Hanoi is as a maze of little market streets...every street is selling something different - toilet paper, towels, toys, wedding invitations, sunglasses, dvds. the list is long, and with plenty variety! After check in we found our way to Viet Long Travel offices to pay the balance on our Heritage Cruise to Halong Bay, then went to see Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex.

We had to rush through, the complex was closed the next day for national day (or maybe to send Uncle Ho for his restoration holiday...) so just go through the gates on time. It was a bizarre experience, the body is lying in state and there are guards on patrol to ensure you are paying proper respects to Vietnam's Hero. Other parts of the mausoleum include the museum, pagoda and uncle Ho's house.
After a wee nap in the hotel in the afternoon, we tried to find Beer Hoi junction (and failed miserably) and somewhere to eat. The thing about Hanoi is that alot of sit down restaurants are scattered about the place, unlike Saigon where there are strips of restaurants. We found the best way to eat in Hanoi was to sit yourself down at a street cafe and point to something that looks good - and it usually is!

We spent the following two nights in Ha Long Bay. The cruise was a great experience. Day 1 we went to Sang Sot Cave (and got to to see what the surprise was) and then went kayaking to the most amazing lagoon. The only problem with the boat was the company...we had three other couples on board and trying to start conversations was like getting blood from a stone! Everyone went to bed at 9pm, leaving myself and Cal to tackle the bar on our own.

Next day of the cruise involved sailing to Cat Ba island and trekking in the National Park. I say trekking...but it was more like rock climbing! Luckily we had proper walking boots with us, but others were in flip flops! It didn't help that we took the "adventurous route" instead of the easier path. The view from the top was pretty good though...even if it was roasting hot! The rest of the day was a bit of a bust, we got on a bus with another tour group to head to hotels for lunch, then had about 1 hour to spend 'exploring' Cat Ba - so we went and sat in an air conditioned pub.
Another bus trip back to the harbour, where we had to wait around 1 hour to be transported back to our cruise ship. We kinda felt we spent most of the day on a bus, and hanging around. Not ideal - made us think we should just done the 1night cruise instead of 2.
When we arrived on the boat we met a new crowd of guests - the ones from the previous night were staying on Cat Ba. Luckily we managed to find good company and had a cracking night.

Day three of the cruise we sailed past a fishing village and back to Ha Long City for lunch, and another 3hr bus journey home. The cruise was great, and we recommend it - but I'd maybe go for an option that didn't involve Cat Ba Island in anyway!

On arrival back in Hanoi we had to move to Little Hanoi's sister hotel which was just up the street. The room was much bigger, though it was on the street and a little noisy when we were trying to sleep.

We eventually found Beer Hoi junction that night and enjoyed several glasses while watching the crazy traffic and chatting to other backpackers. We spent our last day in Hanoi shopping and buying gifts to take home. I think this is the best way to explore Hanoi, see where the roads take you! An early night with some drinks and tasty Pho Bo set us in good stead for a lengthy journey home.

Nobody wants to hear about the journey home - 36 hrs travelling is boring enough to experience never mind read about! So I write this from the comfort of my bedroom, enjoying a nice warm cup of Scottish Blend and thinking fondly of what has been an amazing trip. Two months is only a short time to squeeze so many places in, but I feel like we got enough of a taster of everywhere to know what we liked, and what we didn't. I hope this isn't my only visit to this part of the world - the culture shock was massive but just like anything, you get used to it. Yeah we missed home comforts, but those things will always be there at the end of your trip!

The world is just to big a place to sit back and let it pass you by!

Posted by lkane86 06.09.2010 09:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Hue

Motorbike tours are the way forward

semi-overcast 30 °C
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We arrived in Hue by bus from Hoi An, which was only 3 hours - a delight after all our long haul journeys. As we got off the bus we were pounced on by a dozen locals all asking if we were staying at their hotel, not helped by the fact that I had the LP guidebook out. I did spot a young gent waving a leaflet with the name of our hotel on it, and we got a free lift to the hotel.

We asked about getting a train to Hanoi from Hue, as cal wasn't keen for another sleeper bus, but the times were pretty rubbish and it was pretty expensive compared to the bus. So we stuck with the bus, there was only one more long journey to go!

Hue is quite a small town, and we had a full day and a half there. First afternoon we took a wander and went to the market. Pretty typical of any vietnamese market really...we spent about 30mins in a supermarket just because it was air conditioned. Cal was suffering from epic sunburn so we stopped by the pharmacy to get him some cream for his burns - the aftersun just wasn't working!

We took a stroll in the evening, went for dinner and a few drinks and ended up chatting to a couple from Vancouver. We had a great laugh, and drank lots of beer. One of the best nights we've had on the trip I think.

Next day we checked out of the hotel, and went on a Motorbike tour to the citadel, pagoda and tombs. Great way to see the place, we booked through 'Cafe on Thu Wheels' and the drivers were great.
We were surprised at how much of the citadel was in ruins, but restoration was underway. Some of the bullet holes in the wall were MASSIVE! The americans really did a job on this place in the war! The pagoda was lovely, the gardens in the surrounding area were beautiful. Then we went to Tu Duc Tomb - it's a big one! But I think at this point in the trip, we'd seen alot of ruins/tombs/temples so were a bit unappreciative of it.

You definetly don't need more than 2 days in Hue - as nice as it is, there isn't a massive amount of things to do once you've snappd pictures of the citadel etc...there are plenty more tombs and pagodas that the ones we seen, depends on your interests.

Back to the cafe for some dinner before we took the bus. We were delighted with the type of bus when it arrived, unfortunately there had been some issues with overbooking and several folk were lying on the floor for around 2hrs untill we met up with another bus and they got a bed on there. Our experiences with the open tour bus are that its a very cheap and convenient way to travel in vietnam, but not neccessarily the most comfortable or enjoyable!

Posted by lkane86 30.08.2010 18:19 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hoi An

The place to eat and dress like a King on a backpackers budget...

sunny 32 °C
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Another night bus to Hoi An - this time we knew what to expect so I didn't find it too bad, but Cal is still determined the next overnight journey we take is by train.

We arrived about 6:30am, and were fairly sure that our bus drivers were a dodgy pair - Cal is convinced someone had a look in his backpack, but luckily we keep all our valuables on us.

Again we were able to check into our room almost straight away which allowed us to have a few hours decent sleep. Staying at Thanh Van Hotel just on the edge of the old town. Hotel is lovely, staff are nice and there is a pool! Which has proved to be a good choice seeing as it has been roasting hot the last few days.

During our time in Hoi An, we've eaten like kings on a paupers budgets. Food here is incredible, and we've found beer here for 15p! It's pretty good too!
Cal had a pair of leather shoes made for $45, and I have to say we were both pleasantly surprised by how nice they turned out. I toyed with the idea of having a dress made, but I don't know what I want and couldn't see anything I really loved so decided against it. But there are plenty tailors here who will rattle you up whatever you like.
We've stopped at plenty cafes for drinks, to cool down and enjoy watching the people walking by. We did the historic sights in the old town, which has so much character. I'm not sure you have to by the tickets though....we did but met lots of people who just strolled on in.
We went to the beach where Cal got horribly sunburned - just because your in the shade doesn't mean you don't have to put suncream on! So he's spent the last two days in agony due to his very pink chest.
We loved Hoi An so much we decided to stay an extra night, today we're going to do a cooking class at Green Moss. I'm pretty sure we'll not be able to recreate the delicious food we've had here but we can try!

I think it's easy to get carried away in hoi an, the beautiful old houses, the cafe culture, the delicious food and the locals all make you want to stay just that little bit longer. Unfortunately we have to keep on moving and tmrw we'll be getting the bus to Hue - only a 3 hr journey. We're only there for one night before another long trip to our final desitination in Hanoi.

I think it's safe to say at this point, that Vietnam is my favourite country in South East Asia and I'm glad we kept it till last!

Posted by lkane86 27.08.2010 20:31 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Nha Trang

the night bus...and two days to recover


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So to get to Nha Trang we had to endure our first night bus experience. We were last picked up so there were no low level beds to choose from. So up to the top bunks we went. It was not the smoothest ride, and even if we'd been sitting up I'm sure we'd have found it exhausting. The beds are about 5ft 3 long, so a little short for me - and way short for cal! He managed to put his legs over the bars to the bed infront (which no-one was sleeping in)
The journey was 9 hours from Saigon to Nha Trang, the toilet on the bus didn't work so I was delighted when the bus driver stopped for toilet breaks every few hours.
We arrived in Nha Trang at 6am, and were staying at Son & Daughter guest house. Really nice place, in backpacker area. We were delighted when they told us we could go straight to our room where we enjoyed several hours of calm, stationary sleep.

When we got up we went for some breakfast and a wander around nha trang. There is not alot to see or do in Nha Trang. Yeah there is a beach...but not alot else. We walked all the way to the market in the north area of town, then got a taxi back. The rest our time in Nha Trang was spent killing time. The next day we went to see if we could get a ride on the cable car...but you can't unless you want to go to Vinpearl Land (vietnams answer to Disneyland) so that was a waste of a taxi fare. We spent the afternoon in Luisiana Brewery on the beach, they have their own micro brewery and some tasty food. Back to the hostel, to watch a DVD (interrupted by an hour long power cut) and wait on another night bus to take us to Hoi An.

Nha Trang is alright...but i'm glad we didn't spent more than one night there!

Posted by lkane86 27.08.2010 20:23 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon we love you...

rain 23 °C
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Another Mekong Express trip to Ho Chi Minh, a bit of confusion at the border - the bus company take charge of passports in a sort of organised chaos but we got thru eventually. Arrived in a very wet Saigon, and fortunately the bus stopped right across the road from our hotel - Phan Lan 2. Really nice hotel, and lovely staff who are happy to provide info and book tours. Of course you can shop around for tours, but there are millions all in competition and selling the same stuff so why bother!

We sampled our first bowl of Pho - noodle soup from a stall on the corner. Delicious! If only i hadn't put in so many chilli's! Had a few beers, from as little as 30p each. Our first night in Saigon was a huge success. Street cafes are brilliant for watching the mad traffic go by.

We went to the war remnants museum yesterday, and I was almost moved to tears by some of the images. Obviously the story is being told from one side, but even so the truth remains that the war devastated so many local people, just trying to survive the war. We then went to the Independance Palace which wasnt quite as depressing! We wandered past Notre Dame cathedral and the General Post office, had some tea while watching a barmy going on in the street which was particularly entertaining when all the bikes and traffic stopped to have a look too.
Spent the evening having a few more beers, and heading down to the market for more Pho.

Today we went to the Cu Chi tunnels. It could have been a good trip - however the rain poured down and we were soaked, even with our cheap plastic bag style ponchos on :)

Tmrw night we leave for Nga Trang on the night bus, which should be an experience. Booked the open tour bus, so we'll save a few nights accommodation by travelling at night.

I've really loved Saigon. The people here are so friendly, and eager to please yet the history is tragic. It's even harder when you think that the war ended not so long ago, and you can see evidence of those injured and the 2nd generation effects of Agent Orange chemicals. My eyes have been opened to alot of history I've never really understood, and I'm looking forward travelling North and learning much more...

Not to mention more amazing noodles and cheap beer :)

Posted by lkane86 21.08.2010 02:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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