Hello everyone!We've been tempted to write "Good Morning Vietnam" as the intro to one of these bad boys, but that would be far too cliché for us, so we've decided against even mentioning it … Having mentioned it, we went for dinner tonight in a restaurant of that very name where they sat us down in front of their large TV, gave us three boxes of DVD movies, and told us to put on a film of our choice. Brilliant!
We are now in Nha Trang. A happening, yet chilled beach town. We head south again tomorrow to Dalat, so planned to see a few sights of Nha Trang today and just relax on the beach - our first and only taste of the beautiful Vietnam beach life. The plan was quickly aborted when we woke to tropical rain! It stopped there for a while, in which time we squeezed in a walk along the beach (dubbed "China Beach" by the American forces when they were here - it's kept the name, although "China Beach" is actually several beaches), and stopped for breakfast in a restaurant there before it started to pour again! It didn't stop, so we had to walk back in it in the end (photos to follow). It was actually surprisingly enjoyable getting soaked through by warm rain, whilst humming "singing in the rain" and being laughed at by the locals! Anyway, it's allowed us to have a quite relaxed day today (hence our availablity to write a blog!) so we'll be refreshed for the rest of our travels .
When we last wrote, we were in Ninh Binh. Shame. It was less a town and more of a road really. But it was worth it as the Cuc Phuong National Park was beautiful. We hired a car and driver with a Danish couple from our hotel and toured around the monkey sanctuary and forest with them. The pictures should show how beautiful it was, so I won't go into that. Some highlights:
Our guide found one of those bugs that roles up into itself when under threat, James couldn't see it so the guide threw it (underarm) the metre distance between himself and James … James dropped it, and it bounced down the steps away into the foliage. That was the end of that.For Friends fans, James is 'a dropper'.
- Another highlight (of our lives) was being led into the depths of a cave where they found the remains of a really old man (or should I say the really old remains of a really old man? anyway...). Here our guide told us to turn off our torches and, once we were in full darkness, proceeded to 'play' the stalictites. Bare in mind it was me, James, Kim and Laura, and the guide - that's it.He gave us no warning - as far as we were concerned, he'd punged us into darkness only to play a hidden set of bongos.As I'm sure you can understand we couldn't hold in our laughter (which echoed in the cave), making the whole situation even more excruciating (similar to getting the giggles in church). He offered that we could all try to find our way out of the cave in the darkness - the way the old man would have done - but we politely declined by putting on our torches!
So, after Ninh Binh, we caught the night bus down to Dong Ha. In the earlier blog, we said what a great deal our bus tickets were, which they really were, however by Dong Ha we were starting to realise that things were not quite as they seemed. For example, although we booked our tickets through Sinh Café - a reputable, established bus company here - our bus tickets are with 'Camel Travel' (Magoo haunts us even here). Dong Ha gave us our second clue, because once the bus departed, we found out that we weren't actually in Dong Ha - Dong Ha was two km down the road - we still don't actually know where we were.However, we were there to get a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and that we did so all was well.
Seeing the DMZ was really worthwhile especially as our guides fought in the war themselves (although they didn't talk about their own experiences). One of our guides was a bit strange as he was a very angry man and every so often just decided to start shouting at me and James about seemingly nothing. Suddenly he'd shout something like, "I give you a good price this morning," I'd look confused and James would say "Yes, yes, I think we're all arguing the same side," and then we'd all carry on in silence. Strange.We visited army bases, crossed what was the border between North and South Vietnam, and went through some of the Ho Chi Minh tunnels, which was just amazing. The tunnels were dug by hand with farming tools by the villagers over a period of eighteen months. The tunnels had three different levels underground - one for stores, the lower two for living. They had an emergency room, a theatre room, a toilet ... and rooms for every family. Way over two hundered people lived down there for the duration of the war, and many babies were born down there who are still alive today. I can't remember all the figures and facts now, but it was amazing to see, and like all of Vietnam, it was set in the most beautiful scenery - many of the exits of the tunnels came out right on the beach.
That evening we travelled the short distance down to Hue, where we stayed for two nights.The biggest thing to note here was the rain!It rained from about eleven pm till maybe ten the next morning. The streets where honestly like rivers (again, photos to follow), yet the Vietnamese just carried on - they cycled through it all in their flip flops, ponchos and conical hats. We had to venture out in it as it was breakfast time (the most important time of the day) and I was getting dangerously close to having to eat the soft biscuits and mushy banana in James' bag. Right across the street (river) there was a bakery with fresh croissants on display, and I could hear them calling. James, having stayed up until four am to watch the football, unfortunately had to be woken in order to escort me. Had we known that the drainage system in Vietnam was so good that the streets were clear by the time we walked back across to our hotel, I doubt my escort would have been so obliging!
After Hue was Hoi An. A real highlight.The little streets are beautiful as are the shops, galleries and restaurants that line them. Like everywhere else in Vietnam so far, we could easily have spent all our time there. Hoi An is famed for its tailors and cobblers.They can make or copy anything and have it ready for you for the next day. By the time we left Hoi An we carried the extra weight of made-to-measure jeans for James, a winter coat each, a silk dress and skirt for me, trainers and shoes for James, and leather boots for me...!Investments I'm sure you understand.All in all it came to about fifty pounds each - I hope that highlights how much damage to our budget we could have done! I'm still thinking of the items I could have had tailor-made for about five pounds a piece.
Yesterday we got the train south to Nha Trang, calling in at My Lai on the way, but I've already mentioned that on the message board, so that brings us right up to speed. Phew!Vietnam really is a great country, and well worth a visit if you ever make it over this way.We already know that it's somewhere we want to return to in the near future.We're nearing the end of our time here as soon we'll travel into Cambodia before heading to Bangkok on the tenth of May to meet up with our very own Claire McGrory. So next time maybe it'll be Claire on here making a cameo appearance, who knows!
I know we say it a lot, but thanks so much for all the messages and thoughts and love, it really does mean the world to us (ironic?!).It gives us such a buzz when we get onto the net and someone has left us a new message.Hope you're all well and happy.All our love xxx