Rachel and Matt’s World Tour
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Category — Vietnam

Vietnam Part 2

Hello everyone.

From Hue we took a short (for Vietnam) 4hr bus trip south to Hoi An. The old centre of Hoi An is a very pretty place with lots of small alleys between the 200 year old buildings, and lots of lantern shops lighting up the river at night. It is also the tailor capitol of Vietnam. There are literally hundreds of tailor shops in the town, offering excellent custom made clothing for bargain prices. Both Rach and myself had a few bits made, which we were very happy with.

We took a half day trip to My Son, which is an area dotted with temples from the Cham era. Unfortunately the US bombed the area during the war and destroyed much of the temples, so there weren’t many left to see.

After a few days in the sweltering heat of Hoi An, we took an overnight bus down the coast. We had started to think that rainy season in Asia was a myth, but it tipped it down as soon as we got to the beach resort that is Nah Trang. Our snorkeling trip was canceled due to the bad weather, so we didn’t really do much there to be honest.

Next stop was Mui Ne. A big stretch of beach, with great swimming and restaurants. Again the weather wasn’t really suitable for beach bumming but we did manage to get out on a scooter to the sand dunes a short ride away from our hotel. 

They were massive and not something you’d expect to find in Vietnam. We had a great laugh sliding down the dunes on plastic sheets. The same evening we went out for an Indian and had the best curry since leaving home!

Our last stop in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon. We had a great hotel right in the middle of the action. First day we took a walk to the Reunification Palace. The palace was left in the same state as when the North Vietnamese captured Saigon, so the interior is very 70’s retro, and from the outside it looks like an office block. The same day we also visited the War Remnants Museum. This was particularly harrowing as it included very graphic photos of the war, though with very one-sided descriptions of the action.

The next day we went to Cu Chi Tunnels on a day trip. Our guide Joey, was very unintentionally funny with his controversial comments relating to race, gender, sexual preference, you name it. The tunnels were a 200km+ network of tunnels built by the Vietcong from 1954 and used to fight the French and Americans. Most are inaccessible due to the booby traps still present but the ones we climbed through were still very dark and claustrophobic. We also got to see a selection of very medieval looking traps designed to kill American troops who dared to investigate the tunnels. I also got to fire a real AK-47 on the shooting range. The noise was unbelievably loud and took Rachel by surprise. Oddly, a woman nearby couldn’t seem to stop laughing (see video page)!

That rounded off our 3 weeks in Vietnam. We both agree that it is a fantastic country with great scenery and culture, though the second half wasn’t as good as the first. The food and drink were also superb and we didn’t see a single McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut or Starbucks!!

Till the next time…

August 10, 2009   3 Comments

Vietnam Part 1

Good Moooooooorning from Vietnam!

We are 11 days and 3 towns into Vietnam, and so far so great. ‘Nam is
gorgeous. We stayed in Hanoi for 5 nights as there is not a huge amount of tourist sights but it has a really good ‘feel’. It’s bustling and friendly and we enjoyed wondering around the markets and Hoen Kiem Lake in the old quarter. Paddy bought a conical hat, he says he wants to blend in with the locals. I reminded him he is an 8inch tall bear. Matt is enjoying a new adrenaline sport – road crossing. A slow, confident stride across is usually sufficient to part the tide and increase the heart rate. I’m too much of a wuss for this sport and am usually left trembling in Matt’s wake. In Hanoi we visited the Ngoc Son temple on the lake (see photo of gant stuffed turtle?!), the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum complex (see photos of his house, no photos allowed of stuffed man), and the temple of literature; a nice garden/temple area to wander round in the heat of the day.

From Hanoi we took a side trip to Halong Bay. We stayed on a chinese junk and cruised around some of the 2,000 limestone islands and caves for 2 days. We kayaked around the fish farm, where the families that live on the small boats here never go back to the mainland! In the evening we drank beers on deck, watched the sunset and talked under the stars until bedtime, the whole group avoiding our guides pleas to come downstairs and sing karaoke – man they love it here.

The next night we stayed on Cat Ba Island but after a morning climbing up what felt like a mountain in extreme humidity, we were far too tired to explore the beaches, so it was a social drink in the evening then straight back to bed.

Our next stop was Ninh Binh. From here we hired bicycles and toured the surrounding area. We visited Tam Coc for a trip in a row boat which they all seem to row with their feet! Tam Coc has to be some of the most gorgeous scenery we have seen on our whole trip; a peaceful river drifting through cave tunnels, surrounded by rice paddies and limestone cliffs. We also visited Bich Dong, a temple set in a cliff, which was worth the visit for the journey there alone. We cycled through picture postcard Vietnam; ladies working in the rice paddies, water buffalo cooling in the streams, local villages with kids tearing around on their bicycles and shouting hello.

On day two from Ninh Binh we cycled to the ancient citadel at Hoa Lu, there were a couple of temples but not much else as it has mostly been destroyed.

We are now in Hue, but leave today for Hoi An. Hue is a great town for very different reasons than Hanoi. For a start it is much more sophisticated! It is clean, and there are parks filled with sculpture all along the river, which is bridged by modern structures. We walked around the huge citadel, where the walled inner courtyards of the King are now open to all. Much was destroyed by wars and typhoons but they are busy restoring and the new builds are almost as gorgeous as the old crumbling ones. Yesterday we took a boat trip along the ‘perfume river’ (I don’t know why it’s named that – it doesn’t smell nice). Many Kings are buried in tombs along the banks and we visited a few of the most impressive of these, and the Thien Mu Pagoda where many monks still live. In ’63 one of them burned himself alive to protest the policies of the then president!

That’s all for now. Sorry it’s a long one but I expect you can tell I’m very taken with Vietnam already, hence the enthusiasm.

Laters x

PS. After hearing so much about the Top Gear Vietnam special from fellow travellers we watched it online. Apart from being hilarious it accurately portrays the Vietnam experience.

July 26, 2009   5 Comments