We spent our last morning in Hanoi visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in which his body lays in state for visitors to see. We then went around the buildings where he used to work and live. This was quite interesting although very hot and there was a lot of queing and many people. We spent a short amount of time in the Ho Chi Minh museum, which was ok, but not the best place I've ever visited! Quite random exhibits! In the evening we boarded the over night train to Hue. Aaron and I were in a cabin with a Spanish couple and settled into our beds quite early. Through the night there were several occassions where we thought the train had derailed! A little scary! This made for a very broken sleep and bleary eyes in the morning. It was blazing hot when we arrived in Hue and we were keen to check into our hotel and shower. We were to spend the day on motorbikes with guides on a tour around the old town We went to the Citadel first which was beautiful and very old. Our guide was very enthusiastic and a little bit eccentric, doing Tai Chi moves in the middle of paths, in the middle of sentences! He would pick fruit off the trees for us to eat too! Our bikes took us to a Pagoda next which was famous for a monk driving from there to Saigon to set himself on fire in protest of the treatment of Buddist monks. A picture of this event was later used on a Rage Against the Machine album cover.
We then went to an amphitheatre which was used for elephant and tiger fighting. We noticed big scratch marks in the walls where the tigers used to wait to be released into the arena! We stopped off for a delicious vegetarian lunch at a nunnery in the middle of nowhere! Our bikes then took us to the King's burial place which was a lovely area and very peaceful. We stopped off on the side of the road at a little stall that makes incence sticks. Aaron had a go at making one!
In the morning we boarded a rather swanky bus to take us to Hoi An. We had the best toilet stop ever at a beautiful little beach. The weather was beautiful in Hoi An as we were further south. We booked a day trip for the next day which was a boat ride to Cham Island and snorkelling. It was an early start and already roasting hot! We had a quick walk around a village on the island and then back on the boat to a place which was supposed to be a good snorkelling spot. The boat had a bout 7 snorkells between a group of about 40! The only things I could see in the water were jelly fish and it wasn't pleasant. Quickly back onto the boat! We went to a lovely beach where the boat docked. We had a big lunch and then set down to some serious relaxing. That was until I got stung by a jelly fish on the neck. Ouch!
The whole group went out that night to a bar in the town and then onto a 'beach party' where we drank vodka and red bull out of buckets! Aaron and I spent the next morning walking around the town and seeing some of the sights. I got two coats made to measure for a very reasonable price!
I was pretty sad to have to leave Hoi An as it had been beautiful weather and there was a good mix of planned activities and relaxation time. We went to the airport and got on a plane to Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived here yesterday and it has rained constantly. Our spirits have not been dampened though, and rain jackets at the ready, we have been out and about! We visited the Cu Chi tunnels today which is an underground network of 200km of tunnels big enough to fit a small Vietnamese person. When we got there we had to watch a propaganda video where the Vietnamese called the Americans crazy devils. We went down there for 100m of the network of tunnels and it was so dark and very claustrophobic! When we got back from the tunnel trip we spent a very rainy afternoon visiting some of HCMC's sights including the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon and the War Remnants Museum (former American War Crimes Museum), Reunification Palace, the old Post Office and the business district.
We have tried to upload some photos today but are having difficulty, so you'll have to wait! We leave Vietnam tomorrow to travel to Cambodia and Phnom Penh. Exciting stuff. As soon as we can upload the photos we'll get onto it. No worries!