Well, we left Phnom Penh for Vietnam, decided to travel down the river again rather than bus, much nicer. Took a fast boat to Chau Doc, stopping en route to cross the border. The best boat trip so far, we actually had room on the boat with even some free seats! Chau Doc is in the Mekong Delta area and we were hoping to be able to travel right down to the sea and around to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) by boat. There was no regular service and unfortunately after an afternoon of trying to explain what we wanted to do to numerous local boatmen at the docks we had to give up and book a bus ticket. Chau Doc was a strange town, not many tourists and we spent most of the evening without power (which also meant air-con!).
After a long 7 hours in a mini bus with no aircon, packed to the roof with baggage, we arrived in Saigon really sweaty. Great city, really liked it so spent 5 days there. Met up with Jacob and Connie again (our German friends) and had a really good night out, splashed out on cocktails on the roof terrace of a fancy hotel and then on to a late night bar, we paid for it the next day though!
We visited the Cu Chi tunnels which were used in the Vietnam war for the VietCong people to hide in when under attack from the Americans. There were about 250km of tunnels dug into the ground in the area and the originals are really really tiny, about 50cm square but open out into whole rooms where the people lived for weeks on end at some points. I managed to make it into the entrance hole but wouldn't have fancied crawling through. I did make the crwl through the specially 'widened for westerners'version (Andrew felt chlostrophobic so didn't bother), and that was enough!
Also went to the War museum, Andrew was in his element with all the tanks and helicopters!
From Saigon it was on to Da Lat and cooler temperatures thank god. After the humidity of the city it was great to get up into the mountains and do a bit of exercise - both our stomachs had been getting a little porky from the unbeliveably cheap beer (about 15p for a litre for the local brew!). We hired a local guide and went on a trek up one of the highest mountains in Vietnam, Lang Vian. It was absolutely boiling at first so pretty hard going through the jungle and most of the time we were scrambling up through the undergrowth, over trees and rocks. Worth it when we got to the top though, amazing views! As soon as we set off back though the heavens opened and it absolutely chucked it down with rain. The picnic had to be abandonded and we slipped and slid our way down the mud rivers for a few hours to the bottom - soaking wet!
From Da Lat we got the bus to Nha Trang, a coastal resort that we didn't like much. Think Vietnam must be the next package holiday destination - loads of English and Germans on holiday. The beaches and sea look gorgeous from a distance but you don't really want to swim when you get into the sea and see all the rubbish floating around.
Spent a few days here sunbathing though, good to relax. Went to a beach party with Jacob and Connie, great night but ended pretty badly with Andrew getting pickpocketed on the way home by a hooker trying her luck (any man walking down the street at night isn't safe from them, even with a girl by his side, "Mister Mister, you come with me, I show you good time...!!!"). Went to police station the next day to report it but they didn't seem to care.
Then on to Hoi An, a really old town with lots of Chinese influence. Spent a few days wandering around the old buildings and along the riverside, really pretty place. Hoi An is famous in Vietnam for it's tailors and we couldn't resist having some clothes made. Andrew got a suit for 25 pounds, absolute bargain, made to measure and really good quality fabric. I had a dress made and some leather sandals.
Got the train for the first time in Asia to Hue, where we are now. It was the old capital of Vietnam and we visited the citadel, emperors palace and plenty more temples (seen enough temples to last a lifetime, no more please!).
Yesterday we hired a guide and did a tour of some of the battlefields and army bases of the Vietnam War, places Andrew's wanted to see for a long time. The guide was a Vietnamese vetran who founght with the Americans, and whilst we were at one of the bases we met an American veteran who was on a search for an old bunker that he had fought from in the war. We joined him searching through the jungle and eventually found it with some help from local minority tribes. Really interesting day and Andrew loved talking to the guys who had lots of tales to tell.
Moving on to Hanoi (the capital) on a sleeper train tomorrow.
Love Nicola xxx