It was a good job we didn’t hold our breath about Mui Ne as it rained the whole time we were there! We found that the beach was mostly taken up by resorts which made it virtually impossible to get on to if you were staying in a hostel! We also found it fairly dull and so we booked our onward bus journey for the very next day. This was to Nha Trang. We found Nha Trang was comparable with any slightly grubby European beach resort. The one advantage of this was that it was easy to obtain a western meal which after three weeks we were craving. We especially enjoy fish and chips at a New Zealand run restaurant called ‘something fishy’. Whilst in Nha Trang we went to a mud bath and spa which was lovely, really refreshing! Funnily enough, we felt the cleanest we had done so far! We also some time on the beach and enjoyed some cocktails in our hostel bar.
After a few days we caught a night bus to Hoi An which took about 12 hours, whilst in Nha Trang we found an iPod shop that downloads films for you very cheaply, so on our journey we enjoyed series three of the Mighty Boosh, Napoleon Dynamite and Slumdog Millionaire. Unfortunately I discovered a small family of cockroaches on the side of my bed and Alex’s bed was much smaller than the rest of the coach as he was in front of the toilet so we managed to find two more seats that we in the middle, reasonable size and cockroach free!
Once we arrived in Hoi An we got a mototaxi’s to our hotel which was just right with delicious breakfast buffet and a gorgeous swimming pool (not very backpackerey but we enjoyed it!) We really enjoyed our time Hoi An and found the town to be very beautiful, especially at night where everywhere is lit up with lanterns. The town is full of tailors and we took the opportunity to get some clothes made. I got a lovely dress and Alex got a pair of shorts and a shirt, not bad for less than 35 pounds! We also enjoyed hiring bicycles for the day and going to beach and around town.
Our next was destination was a city called Hue where we visited the Citadel in the scorching heat and so travelled back by cyclo. We went to a pagoda which housed the car of a famous Vietnamese monk who burnt himself in protest over southern Vietnam’s alleged persecution of Buddhist monks during the war. We were planning to go by bus to our next destination but thought we’d look into the cost of the trains. At the train station we waited for half an hour for the booking office to open and once it did we were so surprised at the behaviour of the Vietnamese as they were trampling all over each other the get a ticket, they were pushing and pulling and I realised I had to do the same to get our tickets! As it turned out, they didn’t have any tickets for when we wanted to go so we were stuck on the bus! As it was a Sunday many people were wanting to travel to Hanoi and so we saw the pushing and pulling of each other again to get onto the bus!
The journey was long as hell and was bumpy an noisy (especially with a man that snored very loudly the whole way there!).
When we reached our hotel it was about 6 am and neither of us had had much sleep on the bus so we had a couple hours sleep then. During that time we had a lady and a little boy walk into our room (even though we had locked it!) and another knock on the door from a man stating that the person who was in the room before us had lost something. So they came in looking through all the drawers whilst I was half asleep on the bed and Alex woke up during the search wondering ‘what’s going on?’ before turning over and falling back to sleep!
After a bit of a sleep we went out in the crazy heat and the beeping from the busy traffic and soon needed a couple of hours in a cool café! After we had cooled down we booked our tickets for the Ha Long Bay cruise for the next day and had some Bia Hoi which was 10p a glass on the popular Bia Hoi junction. Once we’d had a couple (four) we decided to go for some dinner, we choose somewhere from the guide book which supposedly was very close to where we were, however we spent the next two hours in the space of two football pitches tying to find it! By ten o’clock we gave up and ate in the closest place we could find!
The next day we got up early ready to be picked up from our hotel to Halong Bay. Whilst waiting we were told that the ‘junk’ we had booked with was no running so we would be going on a more expensive boat and we were to keep this a secret from the people that had paid the original price for it. We thought this was great news, but then started to think there might have been a mistake as once we’d got to the harbour me and Alex were taken to another group and so thought we were going on a less expensive boat! However, once we arrived on our junk we realised that we had been upgraded a couple of times and we had a lovely grand junk with big bedrooms with en-suite, lovely food and great activities lined up for the next couple of days. On the first day we had lunch on the boat whilst cruising to a ‘surprising cave’, after lunch we had a look at the cave which was very surprising with many rocks resembling many different shapes! (see pictures). As we made our way back to the boat I saw the BIGGEST spider I had ever seen, it had a red body and very long legs! It was about the size of my face! I quickly moved away and then we did a bit of kayaking and then made our way back to the main boat for lunch. We moored overnight in an area of water sheltered between the limestone casts as we were due to have a monsoon, as we travelled to where we were going to moor we enjoyed some drinks whilst sat on the side of the boat just outside our bedroom window, it was lovely.
The monsoon arrived during dinner and we went up to the top deck and got absolutely drenched! The next day there were five of us on a mini boat where we spent lots of time kayaking around the limestone casts (islands),going through arches into tranquil waters, enjoyed a barbeque lunch, saw fishing villages and jumping off the boat into the sea.
The final day on the boat was spent travelling back to the harbour where we then got a minibus back to Hanoi. That evening we enjoyed some more Bai Hoi and a tasty local dish of pho (roast beef with noodles and a broth.)
We got a flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang, Laos. It is very different to Vietnam so far in that it is much quieter, cleaner and the people seem happier. Yesterday we went elephant riding which was amazing, the was a seat on the back of the elephant but we also got to ride on the neck and feed it bananas! It was a reluctant elephant to start with but was easily bribed with bananas! We then went to Tad Sae waterfall and had a swim and then made our way back to the town for an evening of wandering through the market, some tasty food and a great chocolate and sweet milk pancake! Today we went to the main waterfall which was really beautiful, we worked our way up to the main waterfall and each pool was more beautiful than the last, yet when we reached the beginning of the waterfall we were gob smacked! It was so spectacular! We climbed through the jungle to the top of the waterfall (not advisable in flip flops!) which was a bit of a let down as we could not see anything!
Last night we found an organisation where we could make a donation to supply some books for local school, so we gave some money and took some exercise books so that we could visited a local school and deliver them ourselves. We also bought some pens to give the children and found a local village school after our visit to the main waterfall. It was a lovely experience and the children were very sweet and appreciative.
And so we are up to date! Sorry its been a biggey and we will try not to leave it so long next time!