On Thursday, we started our stay in Hanoi by going on the free walking tour run by the hostel. We were shown around a church, walked around the lake and told all about the legend of Hoan Kiem, the turtle and the sword. The tour also took us to Ngoc Son temple on Jade Island in the middle of the lake and then continued to the old quarter and the massive market. Unfortunately I was feeling very ill that day so I went back to the hostel to sleep.
In the evening we met Zamera, a lady that had been on our slow boat to Laos, and had dinner at the Cityview cafe (I could just about stomach some coconut ice cream) which was at the top of a tall building offering a panoramic view of the whole of Hanoi. We then went to the late showing of the Water Puppet Show - "infamous in South East Asia" and raved about in the lonely planet book! It consisted of 9 stories about the origins and culture of Vietnam shown with music and puppets. It was pretty cool and something different to do, we enjoyed it! Jess and I then got very lost again (we had got quite cocky and went out without a map) and so had to get a taxi back to the hostel.
On Friday morning we were picked up and taken to the Halong Bay port to start the Castaway cruise. Halong bay is an UNESCO world heritage site made up of thousands of limestone karsts. Unfortunately, the weather was overcast but it was still very pretty and worth visiting. As for the journey, we soon learnt that we had booked onto a booze cruise after Jess was told she had to down her coke because she had broken the 'no drinking with your right hand rule'! Luckily there was a group of us who weren't too keen on drinking (uni life seems a distant memory) and managed to enjoy the scenery. We stayed on Castaway island for the night in wooden huts on the beach with just a mattress and mosquito net; It was very like my Borneo accommodation! We then traveled back to Hanoi the following day and got the night train down to Hoi An that evening.
Overall I wasn't too keen on Hanoi. It was very busy and the constant sound of honking stressed me out a bit.
Hoi An is known for its high quality tailors, so on our first afternoon we went into town to choose a tailor and find material, and get measured for a suit. We went back the following day for adjustments at 11am and then I picked up the finished suit at 4, I can't believe that they can make something that quickly! I was very happy with it and posted it home because I didn't want to ruin it by carrying it around in a backpack for another 3 months... And it wouldn't have fit! Our hostel in Hoi An was more of a hotel and Jess and I managed to fill ourselves with pancakes at the all you can eat breakfast each morning. We also met up with a couple of Jess' friends who also went to Nottingham University and exchanged traveling stories which was fun! We definitely preferred Hoi An to Hanoi!
We caught a sleeper bus down to Nha Trang on Tuesday night and arrived at 6am. It was a short walk to the 3* hotel that we were staying in (our treat for saving money on the 24hr bus to Hanoi that I mentioned in my last post) and we dumped our bags and headed for breakfast and the beach. It was so hot that we only managed a couple of hours on the beach before returning to the hotel to check in! The room was so nice and Jess and I spent the afternoon doing girly things and watching the cable tv - what a luxury! It was also the first time that I had had really good wifi in a while so I managed to Skype home a few times over our stay. Jess and I had made a conscious decision to visit only lonely planet or tripadvisor recommended restaurants whilst in Nha Trang after being a little disappointing with Vietnamese food so far and chatting to people on our bus down. We found a couple of restaurants and were very impressed; we will definitely make more of an effort to find good places to eat in future rather than just stepping into the first restaurant outside of the hostel!
After a couple of days on the beach we got the night train down to Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) arriving in at 5am! We had booked onto the a Cu Chi Tunnels tour that day and were picked up at 8. The tunnels are the network that connect Cu Chi to Ho Chi Minh City that were used by the North Vietnamese in the war. We got the chance to go down into the tunnels which were a squish for me and some of the rest of the group had to crawl and really squeeze. We only traveled 100m and came out dripping of sweat with aching thighs; it must have been horrible to live down there!
That evening we went for dinner and sat out on plastic chairs in the street with hundreds of tourists and locals. Although Ho Chi Minh was very busy, we much preferred it to Hanoi because it seemed more spread out and there was a lot less honking!!
The next morning Jess and I celebrated Easter by going to a bakery and buying lots of chocolate pastries! We then spent 3 hours at the war remnants museum. I had not know much about the Vietnamese war previously and it was very shocking and to find out what happened so recently! It was very well done and had descriptions with every picture so you could fully appreciate it all. We caught a 7hr bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 3pm.
Lots of love xxx
Also, I have been uploading all of my photos to a Facebook album when I get to a computer and think that the link below should show the album whether you have a Facebook account or not...