A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

The end of Vietnam in 3 H's

Hue, Hanoi and Halong Bay

sunny 36 °C

A quick 4 hour bus journey was all it took to get to Hue, our next stop in Vietnam. After arriving at our hotel in the evening we dropped off our bags and headed straight out to check out the nearby nightlife. We ended up at the busiest bar we could find, named the DMZ Bar after the Demilitarised Zone which used to divide North and South Vietnam. The bar had good food, a few pool tables and offers on Fosters Draught, so needless to say we decided to get nicely drunk! :-)

The next day we were up early to go out and check on the main sights of the city, including the huge Citadel which had been built in the early 1800's. Once inside we walked through lush grounds, as well as impressive halls and chambers where the emperor and his family lived. Right in the middle of the Citadel was the Forbidden Purple City, where only the emperor resided, however a bit of imagination was needed as a lot of palace buildings had been taken out in the Vietnam War.

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Once we had finished at the Citadel we planned to go and see one of the three main pagodas the City had to offer, but after walking round the Citadel grounds all morning we made a detour back to our hotel. On our long walk back to the hotel our bellies started to rumble with a vengeance, so we decided to keep our eyes peeled for a nice cafe, but what did we see??.... a KFC. LOL. As we were particularly hungry at this point, we just had to be total tourists and get some! It has been 7 weeks after all!

With Hue only a quick stop on our trip through Vietnam, the next day we made the mammoth 14-hour sleeper bus trip up to the capital Hanoi. The journey was much better than the last sleeper we took, although we didn't manage to get too much sleep. On arriving in the city we went out to look around the Old Quarter however with the roads being so small and busy, we got pretty lost and confused by it all. We'd thought after nearly two months of being in Asia we would be used to it, but it still took us by surprise by how chaotic it was!

After some much needed rest, we headed out in the evening for some Mexican food (which was lovely) and a few drinks. The highlight of the night had to be going to the New World of Beer, which was full of locals laughing and drinking. We sat down and scanned the menu, which was full of strong beers from all over the world, and ordered a Lucifer and another we can't remember - they were very strong. The drinks were both lovely, a definite change from the usual Saigon and La Rue beers we had been drinking everywhere else (mainly because they're the cheapest lol), however what we had failed to realise was the prices of the drinks on the menu. The bar specialised in strong beers at prices 5 times that of other bars, so we ended up paying 200,000 dong, about 6 quid! That might not be much at home, but over here its quite a bit! Whoops!

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On our second day in Hanoi the weather was scorching, even the locals were telling us it was hot, so we didn't get to do much sight seeing as we were dying just walking around. We did however go to the Water Puppet Theatre, an ancient form of entertainment where puppets are controlled from behind a screen in a pool on stage. The show had a small band playing music and dialogue (in Vietnamese unfortunately) but it was quite impressive with water being fired and even puppets jumping through rings of fire.

With only 4 or 5 days of our Vietnam visa remaining, we decided to go on a 2-day / 1-night boat tour of Halong Bay to round off our stay in the country, and it was totally worth it. We were picked up early from our hotel and had a 3-hour journey to the harbour, we were then whisked by a small tour boat to our impressive junk (or boat), the Halong Pheonix Cruiser. Onboard we had a lovely double ensuite room which was pretty luxurious compared to where we had been staying over the past few weeks.

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The tour included all meals, a trip to one of the largest caves in Halong Bay, Sung Sot Cave, an hour of kayaking which was good fun and also time for swimming. We both decided to go for a swim and most of the group had a go at jumping off the top deck of the boat, which was probably about 25 - 30 feet in height (although Kayleigh was the only girl who did it - go Kayleigh!!). We had both done one jump each successfully, until Phil got out of the water and went up to do another, I'm sure you can see what's coming here. He went to jump in and slipped as the deck was wet, and with the grace of a John Smiths advert did a belly flop into the water lol! Unfortunately we didn't catch it on video (we could have made some money off You've Been Framed for sure!) but take a look at this pic of Phil's very red chest afterwards! Haha!

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In the evening we were treated to a gorgeous meal of fresh seafood and spent time getting to know everyone on the tour with us. We also enjoyed lots of beers on the deck of the boat under the stars, as we were anchored in the heart of the Bay.

We had intended to get up early for sunrise the next day, but as it was rather cloudy we stayed in bed until 7am when a buffet breakfast was served. Then we headed to Ti Top island, with the choice of hitting the beach or a trek to the top to check out the view. We decided to go for the trek and, much like the Marble Mountains in Danang, had the daunting task of climbing loads of steps. Once we reached the top though it was all worth it, as Halong Bay is certainly one of the highlights of our trip so far, its magical.

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On the way back to the harbour we also got a quick cooking lesson from the main chef on the boat, who showed everyone how to cook the perfect spring rolls. They turned out lovely, and we've got the recipe if anyone at home fancies having a go. All that was left of the tour was the 3 hour bus journey back to Hanoi, it had all gone so fast.

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We had originally chosen to head to Laos next, although as we have spent much more time in Vietnam than we had planned for we made the decision to go back to Thailand instead. So after a full day of travelling we are now in Phuket in the south, all it took was 2 quick flights.

We intend to be beach bums again for the next few weeks so we will be kicking back and recharging our batteries.

Speak soon,

Love Phil and Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 05:54 Archived in Vietnam Tagged thailand vietnam hanoi phuket hue citadel dmz halong_bay joyryderrtw forbidden_purple_city water_puppet sung_sot_cave ti_top Comments (1)

Heading up the coast of Vietnam

Enjoying Nha Trang, Hoi An and Da Nang

sunny 34 °C

Our next destination after Mui Ne was Nha Trang, the main beach resort of Vietnam 5 hours up the coast. We had booked a standard bus for the journey, but luckily enough we ended up on a sleeper bus with long bunk beds which was cool.

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After arriving at our guesthouse we headed out for some food and stayed out for drinks, mainly because we were staying in the main backpacker area so there were plenty of cheap bars and drinks-offers. We ended up in one place where they give you Connect4 and Jenga to play, which was fun as we were well on our way by this time! If you’re interested, Phil won Connect4 10-4 while Kayleigh won Jenga 2-0! :-)

The next day we went straight for the beach to check it out, and it was even nicer than the one at Mui Ne so we topped up our tans and cooled off in the sea. Check out Phil making the most of it…

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We also did some exploring in the evening, checking out the local market street then heading to a tapas restaurant for some gorgeous food.

Our favourite day in Nha Trang was when we went to Vinpearl Land, an island just off the coast which we had read was Vietnam’s answer to Disney Land. We had to take a 15 minute cable car ride over the sea to reach the island, and arrived to find the place pretty much deserted but for a few people here and there (as it’s low season). This was brilliant news, as it meant we had full reins to go on whatever we liked.

The island had an amazing waterpark with slides and a wave pool, an underwater world with everything from sharks to turtles, a funfair, a shopping street, a completely free-to-use arcade, a food court and a 400m stretch of perfect beach.

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In the evening we were treated to a special water / light show which was really cool, and it topped off a pretty perfect day, in fact, we think it’s one place we’d like to go back to for sure!

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We were unfortunate to have some what of an uncomfortable 13 hour bus journey to Hoi An after leaving Nha Trang at 7pm on Friday 13th – typical. We were on the top bunks of a sleeper bus, at the very back near the engine and with limited air con – it really wasn’t very fun. The trip did not go fast to say the least and we managed to get no sleep, doh!

However, on arrival in Hoi An we were made up when we spotted a driver waving an A4 piece of paper with ‘PHILIP JOY’ on (spelt correctly too lol). Amongst all the chaos of getting bags and a multitude of moto taxis and cyclos, we were whisked away by our driver in a private, air conditioned bus to our hotel - Sunflower. When we got there in our groggy state we were greeted with smiles, cold towels and a welcome drink, a fantastic start to our stay in Hoi An.

For such a cheap price our hotel was amazing, with breakfast buffet included, swimming pool, free internet and….hot water! Woo. After making the most of the buffet breakfast we attempted to go exploring in the afternoon, but to be honest we didn’t get very far as the heat was exhausting and in truth we were more tired than we realised. We ended up relaxing in a bar for a while and then later that evening headed out to a local restaurant.

The next day we were up early and headed out to a recommended tailors called Peace, as Hoi An is famous for its tailored clothing. The girls there gave us the newest edition of the Next catalogue amongst many others and said "let us know what you want and we will make it". Kayleigh chose a two piece suit made from cashmere wool and a beautiful green dress, and Phil after choosing his material had two shirts made as well as two pairs of trainers made just a few doors down from Peace.

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After taking all our measurements they asked us to come back for a fitting later that day, perfect. That afternoon we went to a local café bar called Before and After, had a few drinks and played pool (Kayleigh is not happy with her continued losing streak – Phil is thrilled), had lunch by the river, visited the Japanese covered bridge and browsed a number of art and craft shops and galleries. When we headed back for the fitting at half 7 Phil’s shirts were finished and looked great, and Kayleigh’s suit was almost there as it just needed a few minor alterations. Afterwards we had tea on the river and tried four of Hoi An’s speciality dishes including white rose, deep fried wontons, their version of sticky rice and a pork and noodle dish - most of them pretty good.

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We picked up all of our tailored clothes the next day and were absolutely delighted, they are incredible. Phil saw his trainers for the first time and was over the moon…check them out. We paid under 360$ for all this....

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We spent the rest of the day in the swimming pool. In the evening we were privileged to be able to join in the local lantern festival (or full moon festival) which Hoi An celebrate on the 14th of every lunar month. We joined the locals and other tourists and took a boat out onto the river with our lanterns and put them in the river for good luck. The atmosphere was almost magical. Before heading back to our hotel we joined Padraic, who we had met on the boat, for drinks. We swapped stories about what we had done so far and advice for our upcoming adventures, Padraic is travelling similar locations to us so we may cross paths again.

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Nearly finished now everyone, we know this is a long one….

After checking out at Sunflower Hotel we rented a private taxi to take us to Danang, with a short diversion to the Marble Mountains, as they're 10km south of the city. Upon arriving the mountains were beautiful, albeit pretty tall and we had to climb a whole load of stairs to get to the top. There are five mountains altogether named after the elements – water, wood, metal, fire and earth – we know this as we eavesdropped on a school teacher explaining to her class.

We spent a number of hours exploring the tunnels, caves and pagodas until eventually we came across the very long, steap set of stone stairs that would take us to the peak of the tallest mountain, and made the decision that we couldn’t not do it. In the heat the steps to the top were gruelling, but the view as we continued to climb became even more spectacular. As we reached the top, drank some water and caught our breath we had a mini celebration and then took in the stunning sight.

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Coming back down wasn’t nearly as tough, plus we had our sense of accomplishment to keep us going. A fantastic day.

From Danang we will be travelling up the coast to Hue, then Hanoi and Halong Bay, and hopefully Sapa if we can fit it in, we only have 8 days left on our visas. Wow time really is flying by!

Hope you have enjoyed this entry, there was quite a lot to fit in. We will try not to leave it as long next time! ;-)

Lot’s of love

Kayleigh and Phil

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 00:21 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi_an danang nha_trang joyryderrtw vinpearl_land peace_tailors lantern_festival marble_mountains Comments (5)

The Vietnamese....

Our first week in 'Nam

sunny 37 °C

So, Vietnam - we love it. This is what we have been up to so far:

After arriving in Saigon at night on the 28th April, we checked in to our Guesthouse that was conveniently located about 100 metres from where we got dropped off, we dumped our bags and headed straight out for something to eat. It was an easy choice – Pho, a tasty beef noodle soup, Vietnam’s signature dish, and it was lovely. We were absolutely shattered after our bus journey and so on full bellies we went to bed.

Our first full day in Saigon we went out to explore the city, we found the local markets with plenty of bargains and then continued on to the Reunification Palace. The Palace is now a museum and an impressive landmark in Ho Chi Minh City that marks the end of the Vietnam War. We didn’t know much about the Palace on entering but were intrigued to find that it has been preserved in the same state it was found in when the War ended in 1975 – we looked around conference rooms, bed chambers, war rooms, telecommunications rooms, a cinema / threatre and even a rooftop dance floor. All very swish indeed!

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After a day of site seeing there was really only one place we were headed….to the pub, or Le Pub. We chilled with a few beers and watched the Royal wedding, we got chatting to a couple Andy and Claire then we all went out later on for some food and more drinks – altogether a really good day.

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The next day we headed to the War Remnants Museum, which focused on the Vietnam war, it was interesting to say the least. We viewed all eight different exhibition rooms which displayed various photos and evidence of war crimes carried out by America. The Museum was a definite eye opener, as there were some very graphic photographs and the topics covered were quite horrific to be honest. Having said that, it was a little bit propagandist against the US but with some shocking displays such as preserved deformed human fetuses from the effects of Agent Orange, it was fairly understandable.

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The rest of our time in Saigon we spent wandering around the city, looking in shops, parks, just being tourists really. We managed to book a bus to travel to Mui Ne Beach and accommodation for Tuesday 3rd May, which was lucky as Phil spent all day Monday in bed being very poorly sick – we are still not quite sure what caused it. He is all better now though.

The bus to Mui Ne was just 4 hours and went pretty quick. The weather has been glorious, accommodation perfect (although a tad expensive until we found somewhere better) and the bars and restaurants amazing.

Our favourite bar, and definitely the place we've spent most time, has been Sankara Beach Bar and Restaurant. The bar sits right on Mui Ne Beach and has certainly had some serious money thrown at it. We think it looks like something out of a P Diddy video, with marble floors, a perfect swimming pool, white huts with tables, chilled music playing, just perfect really.

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Its been great to just go for a dip in the pool then top up our tans, oh, and the cocktail list is pretty cool too. Phil has found his new favourite cocktail, Mojito, which he's been getting through quite easily while Kayleigh has been enjoying trying a load of different ones. Her favourite so far being a Rose Sangria, which she intends to get the recipe for before we go!

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As well as enjoying being laid back, we decided to rent a motorbike for a day and went exploring along the coast. We went through Mui Ne fishing village which had more boats than we could count and then onto the famous Mui Ne sand dunes, which look like they've been stolen from the Sahara desert. After only 15 minutes of walking up the dunes, we realised how much energy the sun takes away from you and decided to go for a drink. We'd be pretty screwed if we crash landed in a desert thats for sure!

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In the evening we took the bike and explored further along the main strip to see what kind of restaurants and bars we could find. We ended up going for a place called the Forest, which was traditional Vietnamese food in a lovely quaint setting. We decided to have their speciality Spicy Hot Pot dish, as we had seen other couples sharing a pot on the table and thought it would be worth a go. The waitress brought over a massive pot which she put onto a gas burner, egg noodles as well as a plate of uncooked fish such as prawns, squid, white fish and muscles. She then walked away, which was when we realised we had no idea what to do lol!

Luckily for us she came back and helped us out, putting all the fish into the pot and letting it boil for 5 minutes or so. Once it was cooked she served it up and it was actually very nice, plus with Phil's very poor record with shellfish, he didn't feel any after effects which was a nice change for him, haha! On the way back from the restaurant the heavens opened, the first time we had seen rain in a week or so, and we got absolutely soaked riding back. All in all, we loved it though.

We're now looking at where to go next in Vietnam, so will keep you updated on our movements.

Speak soon,

Phil and Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 23:04 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam saigon mui_ne ho_chi_minh joyryderrtw Comments (5)

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