First off I need to correct an error on the previous blog. Apparently Amanda only paid 15 pounds for her skirts, not 20 pounds as previously stated. This, it seems, makes the skirts a bargain as opposed to merely reasonable!
We had a lovely few days in Hoi An before we left with tailor made suit and shirt in hand and got the bus to Hue, a four hour gauntlet of terrible driving and close shaves! Hue is the sight of the famous Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War
We only had time for two days here but we made the most of it. Day 1 we did our own walking tour around the citadel and through the old town and ended up in a huge market selling everything from spices to plastic chairs!
On day 2 we booked an organised tour. The morning was spent looking at the tombs of some of the emperors around the city. The tombs are immense with lakes and temples in the grounds. They're also incredibly peaceful - a welcome change from the constant honking of traffic on the roads and in the towns
In the afternoon we had a tour of the inside of the Citadel and a pagoda before a short boat ride down the river back to town
On the trip we met a 63 year old American from Idaho called David who is a professional photographer. He spends his life travelling the world and selling his photos to printers for educational text books and companies for advertising their countries - to say we were jealous was an understatement! We found out that like us he was flying to Hanoi the following day so we arranged to share a taxi to the airport
That night we went out for a couple of drinks and met a crowd of people two of which, Lindsey (American) & Dave (Aussie), were also flying to Hanoi on the same flight
The following day was my birthday. Amanda had planned an afternoon in a spa and then a meal at Wild Rice a gourmet Vietnamese restaurant recommended by Jody and James. We got to the airport to find the flight delayed by two and a half hours - this basically meant no spa
Fortunately, David fancies himself as a bit of a standup comic and preceded to entertain us! About an hour in Lindsey & Dave joined us. The four and a half hours spent at the airport flew by!
We got the flight into Hanoi and to our surprise it was absolutely freezing!!! We'd been used to summer temperatures for several months so this came as a shock!! We spent our first evening hunting for hats and socks and tights as we both only had one light jumper and I had one pair of long trousers
Undettered we set off to Wild Rice - not realising it was a 45 minute walk! It was worth it though. The food was excellent and probably about one third of the price of the equivalent in London. A nice way to celebrate my birthday
The next day was New Year's Eve. We went for a walk around the city and arranged to meet up with Lindsey & Dave in the evening. We found out that there would be a firework display at midnight so we headed to the lake to watch them. It seemed like the whole of Hanoi was there! People we're setting off lanterns into the sky which looked beatiful as they floated away. Afterwards it was so cold we went into a cafe and had a big bowl of noodle soup to warm up
The following day we went up to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum where you can see his preserved body. On the way we were crossing a railway line when two japanese girls on a moped stopped and wanted to take our picture!!!
The mausoleum was very strange. It's heavily guarded and quite an unnerving experience
The following day we were on a two day trip to Halong Bay with Lindsey & Dave. When we set off we got chatting to a kiwi girl, Alana, who was travelling alone while on her summer uni break. She'd done an Easy Rider tour where they take you off to little villages around the country - the experience sounded amazing
We got to the port at Halong Bay and were confronted with hundreds of tourists doing the same trip. We'd wondered where all the tourists were!!!
Also on the trip was another Dave (from America, on his way home from studying in Hong Kong) and Mike & Julia (Canadian). The trip was lovely (on the whole!). We visited some huge caves which were amazing and then did some kayaking - the first time we'd heard silence since leaving Australia
The night was spent on the boat and fortunately everyone got on really well. We spent the whole time chatting, drinking and teaching card tricks (thanks to 63 year old David's airport entertainment!)
A dodgy massage experience aside it was now time for us to leave Vietnam and head to Laos the following day - just two weeks to go!