We left Cambodia in a swirl of dust and fond farewells. Walking the boarder into Vietnam was hot and slow. Our bags were piled onto a trailer pulled by a motorbike fit for the scrap heap. Some of us needed to use the toilets but there wasn’t any until you got to ‘no man’s land’ after the exit of Cambodia, we ended up in a toilet that was shared by a lot of chickens. Much to Josica’s horror since she hates them with a passion.
After we got through to Vietnam we were on an air-conditioned bus to our first homestay. Up until this point we have been very fortunate with our hotels so we were all a little nervous. We got to the small village called Cần Thơ, we were greeted by a lovely man who showed us around the village, walking over tiny bridges and finding a girl singing her heart out to Karaoke. The houses are small, iron made rooms with dusty floors and corrugated iron roofs, but they still have satellite dishes and the best WiFi that we’ve come across! We enjoyed a meal cooked by clay pot fires and ate a feast full of Vietnamese specialities, like thin egg omelettes full of bean sprouts and pork. It was an early night and an early rise, the cockerel woke at 5am so everyone did!
From here we carried onto Ho Chi Minh formally known as Saigon. Mopeds rule this country, they constantly beep and swerve in and out between cars. There are very few cars and they have to pay a very high price for them. Phil let us know how to merge into the traffic when crossing, you should just walk at a steady pace and wind your way through the sea of bikes. It’s very nerve wracking but you soon pick it up and find the confidence. We visited Pho 2000, which is the best for their famous dish. Previously visited by President Clinton. Pho is a broth of chicken or cow with noodles, veggies, herbs and meat. The beef comes rare and cooks in the broth at the table. Not a great one for Emma as the veggie version just uses the meat broth, but Stuie liked it! We then took a walk around to the war museum, it was mainly full of photography of their awful struggle between the north and the south and then the USA. It was very one sided, which it would be, and the photography is horrific. It truly depicts what a long and awful battle it was. The North were pushing for Communism and the South battled against it, losing with the joint forces of America, Canada and other countries. America destroyed so much land with the Agent Orange sprays and caused hurt and destruction for many generations. We visited the Cu Chi Tunnels as well with our Vietnamese guide who fought in the war for 8 years. He worked with the South Army alongside the USA. It was a surreal place to visit, the tunnels were so tiny, Stuie even crawled through 100m of it. They have a shooting range so you can fire guns at a target, it makes for a very realistic atmosphere as you walk through the jungle. We both didn’t fancy a go at shooting.
We did visit a great street food place at night, there were lots of stalls to pick from, the best for us were the chicken and tofu buns! They had live music which made for an even better atmosphere, to Stu’s delight the guy started singing James Blunt and we sent videos to some of his biggest fans… cheers Coops and Reen…
After Ho Chi Minh we had the pleasure of our first night train. It really wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. A cabin holds 4 people, like bunk beds. There was air con and a western toilet. The night went quickly, not a great amount of sleep but it was better to lay out then a cramped bus seat. Our next destination was Nha Trang, we spent a lazy day by the sea. After a night of restless sleep we laid on hammocks and took in the sea air along with some spiced local rum. Nha Trang was a busy seaside town, we ended up just chilling out on the beach the next day as well getting ready for another night train to Da Nnag then a 4 hour bus drive to Hoi An.
Oh Hoi An. We fell in love with this town. It’s a small tourist town, full of French colonial influences. The main old street is full of lanterns and small winding roads full of shops with treasures inside. A lot of tailoring shops, which Stu took advantage of to get custom tailored shorts, obviously! There are cafes everywhere boasting beautiful cakes and ice creams. Iced coffee at every turn and beautiful temples hidden away. It felt relaxed and safe, we were lucky enough to be here for Tet, the Lunar New Year. We went for a bike ride through the countryside and see the organic farms and rice fields, took a trip on the river in wicker baskets and sang Abba on the long boat. The Abba was all Maarten and Erin’s fault, but we loved it! We took part in a cooking class called ‘Oodles of Noodles’ it’s a charity run company to help get kids off the street. They train them in English and a skill, cooking or hospitality. They have helped so many children and offer them many jobs in Vietnam in 5 star complexes. The food they served was delicious and we made My Quang noodles, which was so much fun.
We didn’t want to leave Hoi An but Phil made us. Our next town was Hue, we were here for one night only. The best bit of this trip was the tour on the back of motorbikes! It was such a great way to see so much of the town in a short amount of time. We had lunch at a Nunnery, saw beautiful views at the top of a hill, saw incense sticks being made, a beautiful temple and drove down the narrowest of streets. We also had a great night out dressed in fruit themed shirts to celebrate Tet. We ended up in a hilarious Karaoke bar, the poshest one we have ever seen! Though 20 people and 3 microphones did get a little chaotic!
Hello night train number 3… we were getting a bit bored of the lack of sleep but it did get us all the way to Hanoi. Though we did get straight on a bus for a further 5 hours to Halong Bay. We got to see the stunning views of the 1000+ islands that made up the back drop for the latest King Kong film Skull Island. It was misty on this day but it just added to the drama of the cliffs and height of the tiny islands. We got to kayak and walk about in one of the caves.
When we finally got to Hanoi the next day we left the group to go and meet our bestest Fitch! Fitch is out in Vietnam teaching at the moment and we were a mere hour and a half bus ride away for her to visit us. She travelled over with her new friend and we spent the afternoon catching up, drinking and giving her lots of hugs! We missed you Fitch. Hopefully we can meet somewhere just as exciting as we’re all travelling for a while!
Hanoi is a busy bustling city, full of brilliant street food, egg coffee and temples. Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to the Aussies of our group here. Sera, Erin and Josica, we have loved getting to know them. Erin and Josica, every time we have Ritz biscuits and Laughing Cow we’ll think of you, and also especially Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’… we’re still trying to learn the dance moves!
Food favourites; Oodles of Noodles, White Rose Dumplings, TOFU, peanut butter ice cream, Vietnamese iced coffee.
From Hanoi we headed to the Airport which took us to our next country Laos…