For various reasons (mostly that I have been having far too much of a good time to spend time doing it) I have not updated my blog for a long time. In fact you have missed out on most of Vietnam. So, in an internet cafe which smells vaguely like arse ... it's time to update you on our shinanigans step by step.
NaTrang: We arrived in NaTrang around 6am after our first experience of a sleeper bus. Basically a normal bus with all the seats replaces with bunk beds. We found a cracking little side street called "hotel alley" (not nearly as seedy as it sounds) and booked into the "happy house hotel" (again, not seedy). After the crazy, crazy traffic of Saigon this place felt almost deserted. On out first full day there we went on an organised boat trip to do some snorkelling, as well as plenty of eating and drinking. We of course left it an hour after eating before we got back in the see so don't worry safety fans. We also got to visit the local aquarium where I got the chance to feed the sea turtles they had in a big natural pool. We also met up with two English chaps called Phi and Tony who it turned out we would meet up with in pretty much every city we would visit in Vietnam
The next day we were slightly limited to what we could do thanks to our snorkellers sun burn (back and neck). We did manage to walk across town to see that cathederal and take some photo's from it's raised platform. After just a couple of days it was time to leave and move onto our next destination, HoiAn.
HoiAn: We arrived in HoiAn after another long nite on a sleeper bus. This one made worse by the obese man we were next to doing his best impression of a walrus being gutted all nite long. I knew little about HoiAn before we arrived other than it was a much older city than most we had visited and that it was the place we would be getting our suits made. We started this process on the first day, chose our fabrics, our designs and had our measurements taken.
Again we met up with Phil and Tony we had already been in the city for a day. Spent the afternoon and evening of our first day in HoiAn with them. We sunk many 50p beers in a local street bar (plasitc chairs on the pavement) before moving on and having one of the best curries ever at a place called "ganesh's".
Our suits finished and posted home we spent our last day in HoiAn on a day trip to the ruined city of temples and buildings called "myson". The bust left early and we arrived there around mid morning. The ruins, which were destroyed by the Americans during the war are hidden away in the jungle. This was lucky as it was by far the hottest day we had in Vietnam. After the tour round the ruins we swapped the bus for a boat and started making our way back to HoiAn. Stopping on the way at a local villiage were we checked out some local crafts and trades. Our last evening was spent down the same road our hotel was on tucking into some awesome Vietnamese food. Lovely stuff.
Hue: We arrived in Hue around mid day after only leaving HoiAn a few hours earlier. After checking into our hotel we gave exploring the city a go and got lost within ten minuits. After finally finding our way back to the hotel we had a chilled out afternoon before heading out again, this time without getting lost, for dinner. On our second day we headed through the city and accross the perfume river to the old imperial city. Surrounded by moats and city walls this place really felt old and authentically Vietnamese. Much of the imperial city is as it always was. But like most places in Vietnam some of it had the crap bombed out of it by the Americans and is slowly being rebuilt. On the way back to the hotel we met an old Vietnamese teacher who was waiting to pick his family up from the airport. He took us for beers and wanton at a local place he knew. Far from trying to sell us something or grooming us for something worse. It turned into a really good afternoon. After he left I couldn't help feeling that it was as local an experience as visiting temples and ruins.
Time to be honest, the rest of the time we spent in Hue was a little less than cultural. After two weeks solid of exploring cities, ruins, temples and every other tourist activity a person can think of in Vietnam we needed a little break. We met back up with Phil and Tony (i think that's three different cities now) and spent a couple of very western days. We drank beer, we played pro evo at a playstation cafe, we had fast food (even lew) and we drank some more beer. We even went for another curry. Although it wasn't a patch on Ganesh's.
Cat-Ba Island & Ha Long Bay: And last but not least ... Cat-Ba Island. We started in the very south, and are now in the very north. From Hue we took another sleeper bus to Hanoi where we stayed one nite before rising early and getting the bus to Ha Long City, and boat to Cat-Ba. The one nite we spent in Hanoi (we are returning soon) was spent at the backpacker hostel where we found ourselves in the same dorm room as ... Phil and Tony. As we had now worked out we were basically travelling the same route anyway we decided to go to Cat-Ba as a group.
We got to Cat-Ba after a much longer journey than we expected but as soon as I set foot on the island the days travel problem were forgotten. Set to the backdrop of Ha Long Bay, Cat-Ba is a tropical island that at first glance looks all but deserted. The roads are silent other than the occasional moped. Oh, and the even more occasional dynamite blast from the teams of workman widening the roads (i have no idea why). Our hotel is in Cat-Ba town, the only built up area on the island consisting of hotels, resteraunts and travel agencies.
Our first full day on Cat-Ba was a great one for me. After a long wait we finally rented mopeds in Asia. And we took full advantage. I had the best time zipping around the island taking in the scenery. Scenery so good I will not even try to describe it. We stopped for a while at "hospital cave".The cave is dug high into one of the mountains that litter the island and was used during the war to house and treat Vietnamese soldiers. It was a stunning place and I got some great photo's.
On our second day on the island we took a boat trip out into Ha Long Bay. The maze of islands that make it Ha Long are amazing. How people navigate them is a mystery to me. We stopped at an amazing cave on one island, had lunch on board our boat and then spent the afternoon Kayaking around.
The next two days we took a little slower. We rented bikes again and explored some differnt roads on the island. We met another english guy called Rob who was also in the backpacker hostel in Hanoi and we visited the beach and wasted many an hour just sitting, watching the sun go down whilst drinking a dew Halida beers.
Well, there you have it. A crash course of our time so far in Vietnam. I hope you enjoyed it. However I have sat so long at this computer that my arse hurts and I am bursting for a nelsons riddle. So from now on I will try harder to update you as we go. Place by place and not leave it all for one days typing. Miss you all, photo's are now all up on facebook and I will update the blog again soon.
Next stop Hanoi.