Hanoi to Hue, Hoi An and then Ho Chi Min City (Saigon)
03/06/2010 - 29/06/2010 33 °C
Arriving in a new country at 6am isn't the most fun, but we were first on the hostel waiting list for rooms which were big n spacious, despite being in a mixed dorm of 12 beds. We'd met a couple on the train (Alex and Mirja from Sweden who are 23) travelling along our route for a bit as well as another British guy called James (23) so we all got beds in the same dorm. Louis and Perry (think back to the Trans-Mongolian blogs) were also at our hostel so we had a mini reunion with them
After sending (another) parcel back home and doing a guided walk (from our guidebook) around Hanoi, we decided it didn't really appeal to us so we researched somewhere that would be fun- Halong bay. However the tours going there were booze cruises n we wanted something of a unique experience so instead Cat Ba Island seemed the way to go. Trip Advisor came up trumps with Mr Tung, who met us off the (4.5 hr) bus-speedboat-bus from Hanoi. We met a couple (Claire and Ian, 22/23) and 3 girls (Natalia, Ags and Ash, all 18/19) on the bus to Cat Ba Island so the
12 of us all booked on a 2 day 1 night excursion which included:
Day 1: sailing around Cat Ba island, kayaking to a lagoon, seeing floating fishing villages (they're on stilts), then going to a small private beach cove to stay in our beach huts (mosquito nets provided mum) with beach BBQs (can I mention beaches anymore?!). Floating in the sea at night watching the stars in silence wondering what ppl back home were doing (working - ha ha ha ha!)...
Day 2: Sailing around somemore, visiting a famous cave for stalacmites and stalactites then kayaking through a bat cave- the latter jon and I didn't do because we had already set off to shore in a bamboo boat to go see the 'eye doctor' since I had got conjunctivitis from one of the girls travelling with us and both eyes had got infected
One eyewash that stung like hell, antibitoics and eyedrops later we decided to stay in Cat Ba until the worst had passed. And then Jon got infected in one eye but we had outstayed our welcome since it was now Friday 10th and the weekends were booked up with vietnamese holiday makers so we booked tickets on a sleeper coach to Hue
(pronounced 'Hway') further down the coast.
We fell in love with Hue and stayed there 5 nights, visiting the beach by motorbike and visiting surrounding sights. We enjoyed going on a tour of the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) and seeing and walking through the northern sections of the Vietnam Cong tunnles which was very insightful. We enjoyed a river boat ride, local cuisine and of course the beers.
After Hue we headed south to Hoi An, the land of tailors. You cannot imagine it. Street after street filled with tailor shops, restaurants and bars. Mainly tailors, who (depending on your timescales) can make clothes ready for the next day! So this is were we made our base for 7 nights. At first we tested 3 tailors but in the end plumped for a top end one since we wanted good customer service- which we got! There is a nice beach in Hoi An too, so spent a few days there recovering from all the clothes fittings etc
Leaving Hoi An by plane (the bus took 24 hrs!) to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) we were excited to meet up with our Hong Kong friends who were visiting for the weekend! So we went to the Chu Chi tunnles which were very different to the DMZ ones we'd seen earlier; alot smaller!
Afterwards we continued to the War Remnants museum which was very enlightening for a variety of reasons:
1) the propogada still used today (bad, bad Americans-no mention of southern Vietnamese fighters...)
2) the horrific photos of war crimes and aftermath
3) being in the tunnles aloes a small insight of what it might have been like for both sides, neither pretty!
We visited the local Market which was filled with everything and anything, but they are hard bargainers so we didn't buy too much..Jon celebrated his birthday by being ill Must have been the night out previously with our Trans-Mongolian mates et al since I do recall a few 'Jager bombs' being purchased along with the jugs of cocktails (in our defence they were on offer an there were 10 of us!).
7.45am set off on a 2 day Mekong Delta trip which includes us crossing the boarder to Cambodia, by boat no less, then straight to Phnom Penn. I have to say, I love Vietnam! Not for the food (which is nothing to shout about unfortunatley) but for the people, culture n feeling that there's always tomorrow, an optimism that comes from surviving the war, not to mention the stunning scenery!