Land of conical hats and crazy moto drivers!
10.05.2008 - 30.05.2008 31 °C
When we arrived in Hanoi we decided to stay in the Old Quarter. This is a charming part of the city with a really old colonial feel. Its a maze of narrow streets full of crazy moto drivers, cyclos and women wearing conical hats laden with shoulder poles carrying baskets full of goods mostly selling fruit and veg. We were very lucky with our guest house in Hanoi. We stayed in a really nice place that included free breakfast and internet for only $10/night less than 4euro each! The girls at reception went out of their way to help us and we stayed there for 2 nights. We booked our boat trip with them and got upgraded to the deluxe trip for free! We felt like flashpackers instead of crusty backpackers! So for 3days and 2 nights we headed off on our trip to Halong Bay with 16 others. We were totally spoilt and had 6 staff to look after us on the boat. We met up with 2 lovely guys from Sligo and a couple from Dublin so we all stuck together for the next 3 days and had a fab time sponsored by Saigon Beer! The hangovers on the boat were tough but nothing like a dip in the ocean to kill the pain! Halong Bay is quite touristy but well worth all the hype. There is around 3000 limestone peaks dotted around the bay and the photo that I uploaded doesnt do it any justice! We went kayaking around the peaks and managed to visit some caves too. We stayed on our "deluxe boat" for one night and in a hotel on one of the islands the second night. Once the tour was finished we were dropped off at our guesthouse again back in Hanoi. After saying goodbye to Minh and Linh (the best receptionists in the world!) we made our way south to Hue.
Hue previous capital of Vietnam is pronounced Whey but looks like Hughie! We only stayed in Hue for 2 nights. It is a nice city but there isnt a whole lot to do so we booked a city tour to see all the local sights in one day. By the end of the day we were "tombed out of it". We met up with a nice guy from California called Avi. The only thing was you could hear him a mile away so my ears were bleeding after hanging around with him for the day!
After Hue we got a bus to Hoi An. Only took around 5 hours so we were nt bus lagged by the time we arrived. When we got off at the bus stop our guesthouse had promised us a free pickup! We had two motorbike taxis (known as xe-om in Vietnam) waiting to pick us up. We just about managed to squee on to the back of the bike with our big backpacks and daybags! After all the swerving and racing through red lights it was really good to arrive at our guesthouse alive. I wont be getting the "free pick up" again!
Strangely enough Avi checked into the same guesthouse as us! We stayed in Hoi An for around 5 days and had a fantastic time. Its a really charming old town with a small population. The country roads were safe enough so we decided to rent a motorbike for a few days. It was so nice to have a bit of independance and come and go as we pleased on the bike. We drove out to the Old Cham ruins of My Son which was interesting but the motorbike drive was the highlight! We passed so many paddy fields with farmers wearing conical hats using water buffaloes to plough the land. Hoi An is famous for its silk tailors so after looking around in a few places we decided to get a few clothes made.
Ben s tooth was hurting like hell and he bady needed a filling so we skipped Nha Thrang and caught a plane to Ho Chi Minh. Once we arrived Ben got his tooth sorted so that was a major relief for him.
Ho Chi Minh named after uncle Ho was formely known as Saigon until it was liberated after the Vietnam War in 1975. Ho Chi Minh was crazy compared to Hanoi. I dont think I have ever seen so many motorbikes in all my life. Thousands and thousands of bikes pack the streets with cyclo drivers and bicycles. Crossing the road is really dangerous. No such thing as a pedestrian crossing! You have to walk slowly and all the traffic justs weaves around you! One day it was really bad and I was kinda nervous about taking the risk so an old Vietnamese man took me by the arm and led me across! Some people say Vietnamese people are fiery and mad for dollars but we were really lucky with all the Vietnamese people we met. They were all very good to us. Apart form the crazy moto drivers we really enjoyed Ho Chi Minh. We visited the War Remnants Museum and learnt so much about the Vietnam war. We saw so many heart breaking pictures of people that were born with severe birth defects caused by the Americans use of a defoliant known as Agent Orange. We also did a day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. These famous tunnels were where the Viet Cong hid during the war. They cover a distance of up to 200km. We only crawled through around 100m and that was enough for me way to claustrophobic! For a dollar a bullet you could pick from a number of guns and try taking a few shots. Ben decided on an AK-47 and I was terrifed but managed to look on while blocking my ears at the same time. I was going to take a shot but Ben was like a child in a sweet shop and feeling a little trigger happy so I let him off.
We travelled to Mui Ne (thanks again Carmel best advice ever!) by bus to visit the beach for a few days. Mui Ne is a really nice chilled out beach town with hugh sand dunes. We walked through the dunes and tried sand sledding. Ben gave a few dong to the local kids to use their sand boards. It was lovely to chill out by the sea and we ended up staying for 6 days. We hadnt seen a beach since India so it was nice to do nothing for a change. The sea was lovely with good waves and plenty of kite surfers. From Mui Ne it was back to Ho Chi Minh where we said goodbye to Vietnam and hopped on a bus to Cambodia.