A Travellerspoint blog

Ho Chi Minh City

The least eventful blog post so far!

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Well the bus to Ho Chi Minh City was a hassle to begin with. We got on were ordered to specific beds which were alright. Then told we should be on the morning bus, get dropped of at the office to check, get put back on the bus and then get worse beds. I was in the top middle and in the right place so that I get AC constantly blasting cold air at my face. I used the small blanket to keep my face warm like an arctic survivor.

As I woke 1 year older on the cold bus we were dropped of fairly near the hotel area. so we were able to find decent room just as the hotels were opening. Then we spent the next few hours waiting for UCAS track to load so we could find out which university we were going to go to. After several refreshes UCAS eventually loaded and I found out I had got into Liverpool (my insurance). Rob had been rejected from Cambridge and Warrick was pending (and still is!!!).

As a result my 19th Birthday and getting into Liverpool celebrations were delayed. We just had a curry and I had a couple of drinks.

Yesterday, Rob spent most the time on the computer and I just chilled around the local area of our room, the hotel internet room and the internet cafe with skype. It was very uneventful with Warrick taking their time. Eventually at 11ish we decided to get ready for bed.

Suddenly Rob got a phone call from his mum saying he had been offered a clearing place at Bath for acceptance on Monday. Coincidentally at that moment England balled Australia out.

me: "Now we have something to drink for"

Rob: "I would but you haven't got your clothes on and are in bed"

"I can put some on"

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And so we headed out at 11:30, ignoring that the hotel appeared to be closing up to GO2 rooftop bar, where we proceeded to have beer a mixer and tequila shots. We then headed to the hotel to find it had been gated and behind the looked gates were metal shutters. Eventually I found some rocks and we threw them through the gate at the shutter until we were let in.

Today was uneventful due to tiredness but we booked ourselves on a Vietnamese cooking course tomorrow morning. Tonight we will go out before 11:30 and hopefully not get locked out! :)

Posted by Yeebles 18:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged educational Comments (2)

Comments!!

For your info

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View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

Just realised I have to approve comments before they go live! I thought the nice people at travellerspoint did that for me or had a machine. Anyways thanks for all the comments, keep them coming, from now on they should go live within a day or less of posting (internet permitting)!!!

Posted by Yeebles 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged educational Comments (1)

Hoi An + Nha Trang

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On our second day in Hoi An, encouraged by my lack of crashes during the day before on the way to the beach I suggested that we rent out motorbike scooters to go to the ancient Cham ruins at nearby My Son. We managed to move off fairly smoothly entirely in the wrong direction into southern Hoi An. We then went on the wrong roads to get there. Eventually a Vietnamese woman on a motorbike suggested we go to the Marble Mountains. She then lead us there and let us park in front of her marble shop on condition we had a look inside later (although we were hardly the type to buy massive marble statues or even small ones ala James May in Top Gear Vietnam). The Marble mountains was an impressive set of pagodas and caves adorned with Buddas and Hindu idols. It also had some impressive views of the seaside.

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We then went to the marble shop and irritated the woman by not buying any marble. We then scootered in the blistering heat to the beach and chilled there. We decided we'd go to My Son later. We then drove round for a bit then returned our bikes due to fear of rain.

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The next day we woke up burnt and rented bicycles to look around the old town which currently had festivities going on. I went to an ATM which decided to give me 2 million dong in 500000 notes so I decided I would go to the tailors to get a custom made suit. I got a smart cashmere, silk lined suit for just over 1 million dong (35 pounds). After getting measured I had to wait a day.

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We wandered around the town went to the Japanese Bridge, observed a stacking game and a sack race. We also went to another beach briefly where I ordered a Coke and they misheard me and brought me a coconut. For dinner we went to the old town to look at lights. In the bakery I bumped into the strange American from Sapa who I said hello to.

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The next day we decided that we would motorbike to My Son before we got on the bus at 5. We turned up at 10 am to collect the suit. Unfortunately a power cut meant it was delayed. So we headed of on the mildly confusing route which included a brief stint on National Highway 1.

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The drive through the Vietnamese countryside was lush and provided some spectacular scenery. Out here it wasn't commercial or touristy and it was truly breathtaking. However when we got to My Son we were in for a treat.

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My Son like a few of the places we visited is a UNESCO heritage site. However, this wasn't littered with concrete, tarmac, new buildings and vendors. The ruins at My Son looked virtually untouched with some of the structures located in the middle of a jungle covered in moss and vines. There was a few bits of evidence suggesting modern society, but it was only a fence covering an archaeological dig.

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After a couple of hours we took a former US military jeep down to our bikes, had lunch and set off into the countryside. To Hoi An to collect my suit.

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In the evening we took the bus to Nha Trang. I found it fairly comfortable as there was more leg room. However, Rob had a hard time as there were loads of hard walls surrounding the feet.

When we got to Nha Trang, we took a xeom (motorcycle taxi) to a hotel where we got a decent room. Rob then rented a bicycle whilst me not wanting to bike in immense heat rented a scooter which lacked decent mirrors and had a broken speedometer and fuel gauge.

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We headed to the Cham temple towards the North which was alright, perched on the hill but nothing compared to My Son. Following this we headed to Long Son Pagoda which was a Buddhist place of worship. The pagoda was dwarfed by the lying buddah behing it which was dwarfed furthermore by the sitting buddah on the top of the hill.

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After visiting the temples we headed to a DIY BBQ style place where we had BBQ beef and fresh Squid which we cooked on our table in a charcoal hotpot sort of thing.

We then headed back towards the centre to have ice cream and book a boat tour. I then was set with the task of checking out some recommended restaurants whilst Rob went to the hotel. As I drove past one of them and began to turn around my bike took a while to start. I got to a roundabout which I would use to turn around. As I got onto the roundabout it appeared I stalled some how. I then scootered (in the foot pushing against the ground way) to the side and tried to start. I realised that I probably had run out of petrol. I managed to start it again but stopped by time I got to the end of the road. I pushed the bike on the pavement for the remaining 200m to the hotel. At the hotel a guy helped me get a litre of petrol.

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For dinner we went to the place I was going to look at. Rob interestingly had a curry served in a fresh coconut!

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On Day 2 in Nha Trang we went on a Boat Trip of the surrounding islands booked with Mama Linh. The boat was full of both Western and Vietnamese tourists. Our first stop was an island with a fantastic aquarium with loads of different sea creatures (although no jelly fish!).

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We then headed to another island where we got to snorkel. I didn't see much fish but the water was refreshingly cool. On the boat we then had lunch on the top where the sun dried us off. We then were told to go down for some entertainment.

The entertainment was surely the highlight of this trip. A 4 person band consisting of the driver, a crew member and the 2 guide had assembled on stage (the seats which folded down. They had a drum kit which was made of plastic barrels and bits and bbobs to make it truly authentic sounding even with a cymbal! They also had an electric guitarist linked to the ships PA system and 2 singers with there mics set to a bit to much reverb. They busted out a few tunes before they got to the round the world bit. In this part they selected tourists from various countries and got them on stage to sing along with them as they played and sang a song from their home country. The reportoire and knowledge of lyrics was amazing. We had songs from Australia, Italy, France, Russia and even Israel. They then turned on the Vietnamese members of the audience and dragged them on to the stage to sing famous Vietnamese songs. They then finished with an international song: Auld lang syne.

We then had a Sea bar in which a crew member on a floating ring raft had a crate of some sort of port and served people who had jumped in the sea. That was a lot of fun and all of us swiming towards him as he was dragged away by rope must have been a sight. After one more stop we then headed back to Nha Trang Harbour where we got bussed backed to the hotel. We had a fairly late dinner but had quite a lot. I then spent a couple of hours ona temperamental computer uploading all the pics up until now (check them out in the gallery).

Today the plan was to go on this cable car which goes across the sea to this island with an amusement park on it. According to my guidebook you could take a 15 minute round trip without going to the park. However when we got there it appears they have taken that away and you have to pay 300 000 to go on the cable car with all the rides and sights included. We only wanted to go on cable car so left an chilled out today for a while in a brewery and in a cafe.

Tonight we head to Saigon by our favourite transport, sleeper bus. Tomorrow is my Birthday and results so I'm sure we should have something to celebrate.

Check out my photos in the gallery which is linked on the right. Also check out Rob's recently published pictures in the link mentioned in his post below.

Posted by Yeebles 16:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Nha Trang

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After discovering that our bus had stopped at least 1.5km from the main hotel area we accepted a lift from two xe-om drivers to a hotel in the area. The hotel was fairly cheap seemed nice and had an elevator so we decided to stay there. After we had booked our bus tickets to Saigon and Alex had posted his suit, I hired a bicycle and Alex a scooter as we headed to the Pho Nagar Cham Towers just outside Nha Trang. They were fairly interesting and offered good views back towards Nha Trang, which looks very Mediterranean from above, but compared with My Son the previous day, the crowds and the lack of extent of the ruins made them less impressive. We then crossed the river back into for a cooked at the table barbecue lunch at Lac Canh.

After lunch we headed east to the Long Son Pagoda. When you climb up the stairs to the top of the hill you see a giant white Buddha standing over Nha Trang. When we had biked back into th city we decided to visit the 6km beach 'the best in Vietnam'. However, despite looking nice from a distance when I reached the sea I found a row of plastic bags and over general rubbish floating about 5m off-shore, a swim didn't look like so much of a good idea. I guess it may have been better away from the main hotel and bar area.

On Tuesday we went for a boat trip to the nearby islands. at the first island we stopped at we visited an aquarium which was fairly good. However, at this point my camera choose to finally break having been complaining for the last couple of weeks. Now one of the lenses was out of place after the camera had struggled to close leaving the focus off and pictures very fuzzy. Next we visited a snorkeling area and I had a bit of a shock jumping off the boat to find the water, even near the surface, was much colder than at Halong Bay or even Hoi An. However, there still quite a few fish which I saw briefly in th 10 second periods my mask could handle before filling with water. Without flippers the snorkeling was quite hard work.

When we came back on the boat we had lunch and were treated to a music performance from the crew who seemed to be able to put together a song for pretty much any country people on our boat were from. Following this we jumped back in the water for a floating bar where I quite accidentally discovered the waterproof guarantee on my watch was correct. after this we went back to Nha Trang via a beach. That evening I took my camera repair shop where I was promised they could definitely fix it by morning for 200,000VND (7 pounds). However, this morning when I went to collect it my camera would no longer even turn on. I then took it to another shop that said they could fix it but that it would cost $35 to do before my bus to Saigon. Hopefully I'll have some better luck in Saigon.

This morning having done pretty much everything in Nha Trang accept scuba diving or the expensive water sports offered on the beach, we decided to head to the 3.3km gondola linking the mainland to another island. Primarily this was to go to a water park resort but was supposed to give good views of Nha Trang and the nearby islands so we decided to take a ride there and back. However, when we reached the terminal we discovered that they had now merged the water park and the gondola prices into one ticket so that was no longer an option.

This evening we catch our final overnight bus to Saigon

Posted by robbiet239 02:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Rob's Photos

all seasons in one day 32 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

To see my photos go to http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/robbiet239/

Posted by robbiet239 00:40 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (0)

Hoi An + To Nha Trang

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After having found a hotel we decided to head out to a nearby beach about 4km away. Alex hired a scooter and I hired a bike. With the bike having only one gear and the saddle a good six inches too low I was just about able to keep up through the traffic heading out of town, but for the last couple of kilometres the road was clear and I was left well behind. We arrived at the beach which was quiet and the weather was sunny. After lunch I decided to go for a swim in the water, which was almost as warm as Halong Bay. I decided to walk until I reached my depth but gave up after about 150m when the water got shallower and only came up to my knees. After this heavy clouds were moving in and we feared the third heavy soaking in as many days so we headed as quickly as possible back into Hoi An. With a storm coming there was a strong headwind and I was struggling to make progress. However, amazingly with Alex getting confused by the one way system and me accidentally going the wrong way down a one way street, not that it really matters in Vietnam, I beat him back into town. Amazingly we stayed dry.

The next day after having decided to book our bus ticket to Nha Trang for the following evening, well before the one day margin we were supposed to leave, were forced to go the next day after finding that one bus was full and the other broken. Following this we set out on scooters attempting to reach the nearby ruins of My Son. However, after having gone the wrong way we met someone who was heading to the Marble Mountain's, so we decided to follow her. There we found several Halong Bay style mounds, formerly islands, with many Buddist and Hindu shrines dotted around them. After the obligatory look at the woman we had followed's marble shop we decided we would struggle to carry a massive marble lion to Bangkok and headed back to the beach in Hoi An. After having had a very good cao lau (local specialty noodles) the previous day, we decided to try the White Rose (shrimp meat dumplings) that were also very good.

The next day, when we were supposed to be looking around the old town of Hoi An, Alex decided to buy a suit from one of the 200 or so tailors after a rather anti-social cash machine gave him three 500,000 dong (about $28) notes. After he had been measured up we hired bicycles and looked around Hoi An's old town which although touristy was still good. We also saw a few events from the Japanese festival which included sack racing? That evening we went back to our hotel and as we had been forced to pay a bit more, because of other places being full, the TV in our room was showing three matches from the opening day of the premiership season. Typically at about 18.45 just as the Chelsea v Hull match was starting there was a city wide power cut, presumably because two many people were turning on TVs. Luckily though by the time of Everton v Arsenal at 23.30 the power was fine.

The next day, with me a little tired, we went back to get the final fitting for Alex's suit only to discover that it was behind schedule due to the previous evenings power cuts. We decided to come back in the afternoon and decided to get scooters again and this time actually go to My Son, 50km away. Having stopped for directions in several places we found the last 30km was a nice drive through quite rural villages and countryside. Having reached My Son we parked our bikes and caught a jeep up to the area of the ruins. The jungle scenery was very good anyway but the ruins and general lack of people with the midday heat made it pretty amazing. After lunch we headed back to Hoi An. Once Alex's suit was collected we had a very early dinner and then went to catch our bus to Nha Trang. On the face of it this bus seemed an improvement with large amounts of extra leg room under the bed in front. However, I was still too tall. There was a metal bar down in the foot well, for no good reason, which, as the enclosed bed was too narrow for me to bend my legs and rest my feet the bar, forced me to rest my now bruised ankles and shins on it. The end result was that I had 12 hours in a bed where I could neither sit properly nor vaguely comfortably lie down. However, at 06.00 we made it to Nha Trang

Posted by robbiet239 07:28 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Hue and arrival in Hoi An

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After having arrived in Hue we found a guy at the bus station hounding us to go to his hotel which was surprisingly from in my Rough Guide so we followed him and rested in our room for a bit before heading out into the city. After booking a tour of the DMZ for Wednesday we went to wander around the Citadel and the Imperial city of the Nguyen Dynasty who had Hue as their capital between 1802 and 1945. It was interesting, with both the walled citadel and various American tanks from the war sitting around, but we were both tired after our bus ride and headed back to the hotel early for dinner.

The next day after a long sleep we decided to hire bicycles and head out to explore the nearby pagodas and tombs. In the morning the weather seemed fine and sunny and we cycled the six km to Thien Mu Pagoda and back into Hue for lunch at a restaurant with deaf owners where the local food was very good. Then we set out again on the bikes with the weather still seeming fine and headed towards the tombs of the emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. When we were about 12km outside town and almost at the furthest tomb a bank of cloud that had been moving up opened and within seconds we were completely drenched as we started back towards Hue. There was a fair amount of standing water on the road but we made it back to the cafe where we had hired the bikes and stopped their for an hour. In that time the rain had eased of for about half an hour and then become heavy again. We decided to walk back to our hotel and found the streets had flooded badly with, in the worst places, the water coming up to my shins whilst I was standing on the pavement. We made it back to our hotel and a few hours later the rain had stopped and the water had gone down.

The next day we went off on a motorbike tour of the demilitarized zone 90km north of Hue. We visited several sights including 'Horrible Highway 1' , the Vinh Moc Tunnels (which were unsurprisingly not built in adequate proportions for me as I came out with both shoulders covered in mud) and a beach where the Americans landed in 1966. With our guide a war veteran we got loads of interesting information throughout the day. However, after the bikes initially seemed fun to be on I discovered that especially with my rather lanky legs that it wasn't very comfortable. This only became worse when in the last hour of our ride back to Hue the rain came and i was forced to duck behind our driver with the rain feeling like you were being pelted in the face with hail stones.

We arrived back in Hue and the next morning we were picked up for our 0.830 bus to Hoi An. However, with the late arrival of the bus from Hanoi it was 10.00 by the time the bus was emptied and 'cleaned' and we left for Hoi An. Also our open sleeper bus ticket was taken very literally with this only three hour bus ride still on a sleeper bus which was not desperately comfortable during the day. We arrived in Hoi An and after the obligatory tour of hotels we decided we could find a hotel from our books for cheaper than we had been offered. However, what we did not count on was that there was to be a Japanese cultural festival in Hoi An over the next two days and everywhere we tried was full or very pricey. Eventually having left Alex with our bags in a cafe I ended up back at the hotel we were dropped off at and luckily they still had a room free.

Posted by robbiet239 04:04 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hue + Arrival in Hoi An

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(Please note the e in Hue is meant to have an accent)
The reason there has been a lack of blogging in Hue is due to the incredulously slow internet at our hotel in Hue, which has also meant that annoyingly I haven't had anywhere to upload the rest of Hanoi and Halong Bay pics but I will try to upload all pics up til now tomorrow evening. Anyways this is how our time in Hue went.

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We took a sleeper bus to Hue which took around 15-16 hours. Unfortunately this sleeper bus was in the style of the one that we took from Kunming to the China-Vietnam border, as opposed to the Sapa-Hanoi bus. To make matters worse we were crammed in the back row with 5 people at the back (1 local, 2 other tourists) making it awkward to move around and meant there was potential to stretch and poke into each other. I slept well but felt rough in the morning as it was in an awkward position. i believe Rob barely slept at all.

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Anyways, we arrived in Hue later that expected and were met with people trying to get us to hotels. Whereas most tourists ignored them and opted to head to the expensive Hue Backpackers Hostel (as most people had been at the Hanoi version), we got out the book and the supposed dodgy person pointed his name in Rob's rough guides. It was the choice option too. We went there and got a very good room for only $10 a night.

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Anyways, enough about the journey and hotels. After a short break we headed of to Mandarin Cafe for lunch. The food was good and the owner Mr. Cu gave us a walking tour map and a postcard each which had one of his amazing photos on it (we both ended up buying a set of 12). We then took his walking tour around the Hue citadel and forbidden city which is mostly in ruins and disrepair. We also got to see some American war vehicles which had been recovered and put on display. I wasn't feeling very well so we didn't do the entire tour. We then took a very uncomfortable Cyclo back to the hotel. For dinner we had our first Indian curries since Hong Kong.

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The next day we decided to do some bike riding around Hue. We then cycled in the hot sun to the pagoda. For lunch we went to a restaurant run by a deaf mute and had some local specialities (mine wasn't very nice in honesty). We then decided to cycle quite a bit away to some of the royal tombs. I found the constant uphills and downhills a bit challenging especially as the bike was rusty and lacked gears. We got a bit lost. I noticed the air felt moist and there were heavy clouds coming in. Knowing SE Asian rain like I do, I opted to go back to the hotel. Rob on the other hand wanted to cycle on. So we cycled towards the road and looked for the junction where I'd go back into Hue and he'd go to the tombs. As we were riding buckets of rain began to fall. Our basic anoraks were no match for the piercing, sharp and heavy rain. Rob then decided he'd head back to. It was a tough ride especially the deep puddles and the uphills with water pushing the bike down.

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Covered in water we eventually got back to Mandarin Cafe where we proceeded to have a deserved warm hot chocolate. The walk to the hotel was interesting as the roads were now canals and Hue resembled Venice. Rob ran back whilst I stopped at the ATM and proceeded to get lost due to not wanting to get the lonely planet map out of its waterproof protection. We both eventually met at the hotel, dried off, had dinner and went to bed.

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We woke up the next day to go on a motorbike tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). It was a long ride on not particularly comfortable bikes. However, we got loads of interesting facts as one of the guides was a Vietnamese war veteran. We saw the remain of a church that was ruined and full of bullet holes and with no roof due to rockets being dropped on it. Some of the fiercest fighting of the war occurred in the DMZ so besides the road there was military cemeteries, memorials, bunkers, craters from rockets and under the ground there were still millions of mines which today charities are trying to remove.

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A highlight of the trip was going to the Vinh Moc tunnels which was a tunnel network dug into the clay which had 3 floors and was used as shelter during the war for soldiers as well as civilians. Although my head and shoulders were full of mud due to the low ceilings and that it was pitch black without a torch, it was very interesting to see how people were born and lived in these tunnels. We also stopped by a memorial, a museum. the beach where the Americans landed and eventually retreated from and the bridge that went across the river dividing the north and the south.

Throughout the day it had been sunny without a cloud insight. This had helped dry my soggy converse. However, on the 2 hour journey back to Hue the rain came, worse than yesterday. The uncomfortable bike seats were now only half the problem the pelting rain was now also a factor in our discomfort. We got back to Stop & Go cafe (they ran the tour) and had a hot chocolate.

In the morning we were scheduled to catch the 8:30 bus to Hoi An. The woman came to meet us at 8:30 to take us to the bus. The bus was very late and by time it was unloaded, cleaned and reloaded it was nearly 10:00. Regardless we got to Hoi An at 1:00ish. The bus was a sleeper bus which was not very good for a short morning journey.

In Hoi An the bus tried to get us to go to 2 hotels, the 2nd one was where we got dropped off. Feeling we could get a better deal than $10-$15 a night we went to the places suggested by the guidebook. All of them were full even the Youth Hostel. We then tried hotels next to them. All of them were full or were expensive ones (most expensive $65 per night). Eventually we headed back to the one where the bus dropped us and got one of the few remaining rooms for $15 per night. Why there are no rooms is a mystery although apparently there is some sort of Japanese culture thing going on from tomorrow until the 16th.

We then decided to go to one of the nearby beaches which was around 10km away. Rob opted for a pushbike. I had a different idea. I got a scooter (automatic motorcycle) and after a minute or two of showing me how it works I drove of to the beach. Although I didn't drive very gracefully, I managed to get there and can say that I definitely would like to scooter again (possibly to Cham ruins tomorrow). At the beach we had a very late lunch. I took in the scenery whilst Rob attempted to swim in the very shallow water. However, we saw big dark clouds moving in so fearing a repeat of the last 2 days, we headed off back to Hoi An. Luckily, it was only droplets falling before the storm but the wind was quite intense. We got back to the hotel in time for the storm.

Anyways that has been the last few days, I will get pics up ASAP! :)

Posted by Yeebles 18:35 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Hanoi Again and bus to Hue

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After our Halong Bay tour we returned to Hanoi for another day before going to Hue. Our main task for the day was to find Alex some shoes as he had returned from Halong Bay with just one shoe and one broken flip flop. Having being directed to shoe street Alex found some shoes we went off in search of a market. Away from the main tourist area prices dropped and I was able to pick up a replacement watch, as mine had smashed in Kunming when the strap had been replaced badly. After the market turned out to be not particularly good we headed to Hoa Sua a restaurant Alex knew from ten years ago. As it was a training restaurant for disadvantaged youths we got 5 star service for a reasonable price. After that we headed back to Hanoi Backpackers for our bus to Hue.

After having been given tickets and ushered into a taxi we found our bus which was of a similar style to the one in China but significantly smaller, not good for an oversized western tourist. However, it seemed alright at first when I ended up on the back bed with four others. As I had the bed facing down the aisle I had enough room to stretch my legs, but the bed was only just as wide as my shoulders. So I spent the night being squashed by Alex, basically wedged on my back. To add to that under Alex's bed and part of mine was clearly the exhaust so the bed was heated from beneath, not nice with the asthmatic air-con. Eventually after fifteen hours we arrived in Hue pretty much in one piece.

Posted by robbiet239 04:31 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus Comments (0)

Halong Bay + Hanoi II

rain 27 °C
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We got up nice and early to get the 6 hour bus to Halong City. It was a fairly large group of 34. The bus journey was bearable compared to our other buses. We then got to the harbour, and took a small boat onto the junk where we would be staying the night. The boat looked pirate-y (so much so that a few people at the night decided to climb aboard a neighboring ship which we moored next to) it was really nice with a sun deck, a bar and decent nice rooms with a/c and showers and toilets.

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We all had a lovely lunch and when we got to a place to moor went kayaking. It was hard work as the kayaks weren't streamlined and it was a long distance. However, the views made it worthwhile. Halong Bay is such a pretty place with the thousands of islands, blue (jellyfish infested) ocean and caves. We kayaked to a cave and went inside through pitch-black tiny tunnels.

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After the kayak back we got clean had dinner. The boat had to be moved as there were styorng winds and a potential typhoon heading so we needed to be in a sheltered area. We then had a late night drinking session especially during Happy Hour (3 for 2 on mixers) with many drinking games played.

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We (well some of the boat) got up early for breakfast. Then the 20 or so of us headed on another boat to Cat Ba island where we would catch a transfer boat to the castaway island beach. It took a couple of hours to get there (bus across cat ba then boat to beach). However, it was a lush location, if a little marred by the weather. We all put our bags in the "huts" (essentially a gazebo as it had no walls) where we would sleep and got some lunch. We then went for a swim which was a great way to cool off until we saw the jellyfish. Rob went kayaking whilst I had a nap in a Hammock. At night we had a feast of local seafood as well as some western dishes. Rob wasn't feeling well so he went to bed.

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On the other hand, I was up until 2:30 DJ ing (which I was complimented on and rewarded with free drinks) and chilling with the group. One of the people on the island turned out to have a mutual friend who they had met in the arctic proving it is a small world after all. Throughout the night there was heavy rain (which helped discourage bed time) and epic lightning, which illuminated the islands in the darkness and provided the most stunning views which could not be captured on film.

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We then got up early to catch the boats and buses back to Hanoi. I lost a flip flop and a shoe on the journey. It was a worthwhile trip and definitely worth the premium of compared to the cheaper trips which are often quite dodgy.

In Hanoi we had an early night.

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Today, we got up had a large breakfast then headed off into town. I bought some converse and some Ralph Lauren Flip Flops (fakes but very high quality) for half a million Dong ($29). I also bought a microphone for my iPod so I can make skype calls from it. We then headed of south in search of a market. On the way Rob bought a replacement watch and I bought a watch too. We went to the market. It wasn't very good so we headed to Hoa Siu a restaurant which is a training facility for disadvantaged children. We both had Spaghetti Carbonara (which I used to have there 10 years ago) then headed of to Hanoi Backpackers. We catch a bus to Hue soon.

[update : now with photos!]

Posted by Yeebles 17:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

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