05.01.2012 - 16.01.2012 15 °C
Hi everyone! so sorry its been ages since we updated our blog, we've been constantly on the go for the past couple of weeks! ( we've got 5 hours until our bus leaves so now is a perfect time)
So the last blog we wrote was from Vang Vieng in Laos, we left there and headed to Vientiane to get our visas for Vietnam. 3 hours on the bus wasn't too bad ( no bags needed!). Vientiane wasn't too thrilling, it was a small city the capital of Laos. We found a cheap guesthouse and spent the first day sorting out our visas. In the evenings we found out where the market was, walked around looking at the amazing food and fruits of Laos, mike ended up getting a big bbq piece of chicken on a skewer probably the best bit of meat we've had since being away! ( the littlest things make us happy these days!). Day 2 we found a little cafe and spent most of the day planning our first leg of Vietnam then headed to the airport to catch our flight to Hanoi. The airport was great, so easy! we checked in, got some lunch, went to our gate ( our flight was delayed by about an hour but we didnt expect anything less looking back at other experiences in asia) The plane that we got on was small!.... but it was brand new and very very comfortable, we were barley in the air before we landed again! 50 minutes was all it took to get from Laos to Vietnam ( hanoi) and compared to the 30 hour bus that we would of taken we were happy we'd chosen to fly!
Hanoi was FREEZING ... 5 degrees. We'd just come from Laos where the temperature in Vientiane was mid 30's so theres us with our shorts and tshirts on, everyone else was wearing scarfs, gloves and hats! it was quite a dramatic shift but nice to not be sweating buckets. We'd booked our hotel a few days before arriving in hanoi, it got great reviews online, in the centre of the old town and was well under our budget ..... when we pulled up in our taxi "Blue sky hotel" wasn't quite what there website had told us... it was a building site! literally cement on the floors, walls half up, paint pots everywhere... what they hadnt mentioned online was that they were completely renovating the hotel. Anyway the staff were really really friendly and so kind, we didnt have the energy to say anything at that point. We went to our room ( the only room that was finished in the whole hotel) and it was actually a lovely room, the shower was just about hot and mike managed to change the settings on the air con machine to turn it into heating! perfect. That night we went into the town. It was crazy! we thought Bangkok was pretty much off the scale when it came to mad drivers and no pavements but Hanoi was something else! we literally had to walk single file through the streets ( on the curb) praying we wouldnt get knocked over by a motorbike carrying what seemed like the entire content of his home on the back! We got used to it after about an hour, realising again that youve just got to KEEP WALKING.. dont stop or wait for anyone to let you cross, just keep walking. And it worked!. We found a local restuarant got some food, a CUP OF TEA!!! finally and then wondered through the many night markets. Vietnam celebrates there new year on the 23rd Jan so everywhere was selling all sorts of decorations, music was playing and the atmosphere was crazy but quite enjoyable. Oh I also brought a pair of thermal leggings! ( they were a life saver in the days to come, a good buy.. i tried to convince mike to get some too but he wasnt having any of it ) That evening we booked ourselves a tour to Halong Bay 2 days 1 night. The bus picked us up early the next morning, with lots of other tired backpackers we headed on a 4 hour journey to Halong City harbour, making a brief stop along the way for our tour guide to try and make us buy completely over priced souvenirs ... something we'd had seen enough of in Hanoi. When we arrived at the harbour we had to wait for a while for another group to join us, then we made our way to the boat.
Halong bay was just amazing. There were about 12 of us on the boat, the first day we sailed to acave where we explored.... it was huge! unfortunatly its become a massive tourist hot spot and the cave has been installed with big brightly coloured lights that make it seem like your stepping onto a ride at disney land... something that put us off slightly. But even so, it was amazing to see. After an hour there we got back onto our boat, the scenery was like nothing we'd seen before, the water was so calm, the massive lime stone mountains poking out of the water ..everything was just so calm and quiet. The next stop on the boat was at a small floating village where we were allowed to use the kayaks and kayaked around for a good hour, we were told there was another cave we could go into but unfortunatley the tide was out that day so we werent able to go in. Turns out me and mike got the dodgy kayak though.... typical it meant that we could only turn left!!! so im sure you can imagine the scene we caused trying to get back into the boat... it was hilarious. After that we all got changed into our cosey trackies and coats and went to sit on the top deck of the boat, there wasnt much of a sunset as there were too many clouds in the sky but that didnt matter, we were heading to a small island where the boat would stop quite close to over night. We had a meal cooked for us all on board and we spent the evening playing all sorts of card games and listening to the crews choice of music ( interesting to say the least!) a really good night. The second day we woke up feeling abit stiff.... had breakfast bright and early and spent most of the day sitting on the deck of the boat reading, taking pictures...heading back to the harbour. The trip was fantastic, we're so glad we booked it even though it was short and not exactly what we were told we were going to get ( as usual) it was well worth it. When we arrived back at our hotel we got showered,checked out, managed to get a discount due to the building site we were staying in which was a bonus! and waited for our bus to take us to our next destination, Hue.
It may well have been a different country that we were going to judging by the length of time we spent on the over night "sleeper" bus. 16 hours enough said really. little sleep. apparently the average size person in vietnam is 1.6 m and about 20 cm wide or thats what the sleeper units allow you to relax in... so after playing lets see how many packages we can deliver along the way. we must have stopped every 1 hour.. so just like a football match that should be 90 minutes plus stoppages our stoppages came to an extra 2 hours!!!! eugh. when we arrived bleary eyed and knackered in hue which is apparently pronounced hway we were welcomed with rain. kind of a nice change but not really. Hue is really small city and its the old capital where until recently the king lived. we were roped into an unbelievable deal.. at least we thought. and when something seems too good to be true it normally is *. the deal was for 10$ a double bed private ensuite, breakfast, wifi and free pool table and a local beer between 6 and 9 pm so we thought great! comming in well under budget and after seeing the rooms we were squids in. Unfortunately upon unpacking we realised that the rooms window was broken and there were moldy pillows due to severe problems with damp. not something we had really bargained for. we headed out in search of food to fix mikes rumbling stomach and all too familiar tale.. We were kindly pointed in the direction of a locals cafe serving delicious cheap vietnamese food. saving money on our meal meant we were able to indulge in a much needed hot chocolate to warm the toes up! made with condensed milk giving it an added sweetened taste. Now armed we went over a big bridge over the perfume river to the old part of the old capital. still pouring down with rain mike decided that he was going to try and embrace the rain. Probably not the best of ideas as a cold was to later follow as there was no heating in our room and no hot water as advertised.. anyway side tracking from the main story a little bit. we checked out the main local market which was at least a little bit dryer.. rows and rows of inter grated stalls trying to sell you things even if you didn't need them! after that we stumbled back over the bridge and tried to gather some heat and some much needed z's. the next day we had a slow start but cashed in on the free breakfast ( american breakfast - fried egg warm baguette two stingy sized bits of bacon and CHIPS wowzors! ) we went out in search of cheap rain jackets, ended up casually picking up 2 north face jackets for 40$ not bad. but not before mike had acquired one of the locals rain coats for 2$ (there would have been a photo had char not valued what's left of my credit back home). we then went on a mission to see a 'Contemporary Art Gallery' which mike had picked out of the guide books, to be fair one of the only few things mentioned in the book. Eventually after some reliable map reading skills for once we arrived and were pleasantly surprised. A small interesting collection of sculptures, drawings and prints from a 20th French/Vietnamese artist with apparently big recognition in europe. Then we had to re cross the river this time by a different bridge further down river to go and see the old citadel. the kings kingdom. Had we been alive in mid to late 1920's it would have been quite a sight.. 150 buildings,every need catered for with in the kings immediate life. but sadly due to natural disasters and bombing during the 2 vietnam wars the kingdom was in a serious need of repair. It made a change to some of the complete ruins of temples we had seen in thailand and laos as here they are at least trying to rebuild the citadel... one building at a time (even if it is with dodgy looking bamboo scaffolding). We had a good two hours walking around before we headed back to our hotel to pack our bags AGAIN and get ready for our journey to Hoi An.
The bus trip to Hoi An was only 4 hours and most of it was spent driving along the coast. We arrived to warm sunshine! not so blue skies but we were just so happy to be warm again! ... we managed to find a cheap hotel, dumped our bags and went for a walk ( the usual routine when arriving in a new place!) Hoi An is probably one of our favourite places in Vietnam so far ( we haven't been here long or seen that much yet but still...) It is a very small town with old rustic buildings turned into cafes and restaurants... the town is split into two with the Thu Bon River running through the middle. Hoi An seems really laid back, there are a lot of tourists all here to get their suits, jackets and shoes tailor made ( thats what hoi an is famous for) but apart from that the pace of the town is slow, something we really needed and made the most of. The first hotel we stayed in was a bit of a nightmare, so we checked out and found somewhere else on the other side of the river just in time for mikes birthday! The sun was shining and we had bright blue sky! We went for a birthday breakfast, hired a couple of bikes and headed to the beach. We hadn't heard too much about the beaches in Hoi An but we didn't want to miss out on the perfect weather that we had so we cycled 25 minutes out of town with our trusty map! The beach was perfect. White sand that stretched for 10km from one end of Hoi An to the other.. luckily we had chosen the less touristy end and managed to get ourselves 2 sunbeds and a bamboo umbrella for the day. Mike spent most of the day in the sea, the waves were big and most people were out on their surfboards so it was lots of fun.... The water was freeezing however so i went for a couple of swims not loving the fact that every time i got hit by a wave my cozzy would pretty much be down by my ankles. So i ended up watching rather than joining in! We decided that we would head back to our hotel at about 3 o'clock, Mike had chosen which restaurant he wanted to celebrate in and I had ordered a little cake that morning for us to celebrate his birthday! Thats when we skyped everyone at home, which as usual is the best part of the day especially with the little bit of news mikes sister had for us! So that was mikes birthday one he wont forget for a while!
Today we're waiting for our bus that leaves Hoi An at 5 o'clock to take us to Nha Trang, We've been sitting in a little cafe by the river for a few hours trying to update our blog as best as we can! hope you enjoy.
love you all loads
Char and Mike xxxxxxxxxxx