We breezed through the south of Vietnam, making only a couple of stops.
Da Lat – Another horrendous night bus journey. This one involved hours of unsurfaced roads, and pieces of dried fish between our seats. Needless to say, we weren’t feeling too perky towards the end of the thirteen hours, and then, to change our mood completely, we woke up to catch the most amazing sunrise over the mountains! Honestly the most incredible view we have ever seen.
Da Lat is a city in the mountains, meaning the temperature was a lot cooler and we saw a fair bit of rain during our two day stay. Lacking character, the city didn’t really captivate us, but we did enjoy the bakery.
On Sunday we went on a tour, visiting a Buddhist monastery, and three waterfalls – the last of which was the best. We were able to climb up on the rocks and walk through the water (they’d never let you do anything like that in England – health and safety and all that). We also rode an elephant near a lake that we stopped at – a slow but fun ride.
Ho Chi Minh City – Our one day in Ho Chi Minh was spent searching for the underwhelming ‘Notre Dame’. On the way, we found a very nice shop/cafe, and visited the market, where Emma and Rog bought some knock-off trainers. Later on, we had takeaway pizza in our hotel room – such westerners.
Hue to Hoi An
Vietnam is renowned for it’s motorbikes and even after we had heard lots of bad stories amongst the good regarding hiring bikes out, for some reason we chose to travel the next part of our journey by motorbike – without a guide or tour. It was Roseanna’s birthday so we were up for a bit of an experience and adventure.
We were told that it should take six hours from Hue to Hoi An, were given the most shocking map ever, and were on our way.
The first part of the journey was idyllic, quiet beach roads where we could get to grips with the bikes.
As it was a blazing hot day, we made sure to make stops for water and shade. At our first stop, we met a Vietnamese girl who gave us a seat and we had a little chat. The other stops along the way weren’t quite so pleasant. We’ll sum it up with dead hanging ducks covered in flies, and a rock as a toilet.
This was made up for by the insane views along the way – absolutely incredible! The oncoming traffic took our breath away a bit too. Eighteen-wheeler lorries not able to stick to their side of the road due to unfinished road works everywhere (typical Vietnamese road standards).
Before we had time to realise, we were tackling hair pin bends on a mountain road, feeling as though we were on an episode of top gear. We were sure that after six hours of travelling, we must be nearing our destination. We weren’t anywhere close.
We descended the mountain straight into city rush hour traffic. That combined with a useless map, hunger and fatigue, was the recipe for disaster of some kind. Considering our lack our bike experience, and having zero knowledge of the Vietnamese road etiquette (or lack of) we did pretty well to get away with just near-misses. The stress of the city roads caused us to pull over, close to tears and totally drained after eight hours on the road.
After only having a packet of Ritz shared between us all day, we decided food was a priority if we were going to press on. Roseanna’s birthday meal ended up being a KFC burger and some popcorn chicken shared with Emma. Staying classy since 1990. We spent a while to-ing and fro-ing with whether to give up and get a taxi the rest of the way, or whether to muster up enough courage to complete our journey.
Returning to our bikes in the dark, we chose to continue, after having heard that Hoi An was actually only half an hour away. Ha Ha. A quick answer to prayer meant that we managed to follow some guys across the bridge we needed, but couldn’t find, and we were on the road to success.
Two hours later and only one wrong turn, we finally found Hoi An, and happily returned our motorbikes. We were dirty, sweaty, hot and exhausted, but super jubilant. The sense of pride and achievement for having not died or been injured (and for generally just finding our way) was next level.
It took us eleven hours in the end. Quite a day, rounded off with a much needed birthday beverage.
We’ve spent the last 2 weeks travelling in the north of Vietnam. It surprisingly has a very different feel from the rest of South East Asia so far, which we’ve really enjoyed.
Hanoi – We arrived in Vietnam pretty late so our first experience of the manic traffic was waking up to the incessant horns in the morning. Rog’s friend Katrina just happened to be staying 5 minutes down the road (what are the chances?!) so we met up with her and her friends and had a nice afternoon together enjoying a sit down in a cafe and shop hopping in the heavy rain.
After exercising our haggling skills, we managed to get a decent price for a day trip to Ha Long Bay. There had been storms and bad weather in the north for the last 10 days, cancelling boat trips, so we were praying for good weather. We were so fortunate as the day was sunny and bright, allowing us to appreciate the views even more.
We got our first night bus (13 hours) southwards to Hue, which was quite a hideous experience. Let’s just leave it at that.
Hue – We started with an accommodation disaster – thanks to our air BnB host for double booking us. Pushing us over the edge after such a night on the bus.
The weather continued to heat up and we spent time on the beach and seeing some sights. At one of our shade and water stops, a Vietnamese man approached us trying to selling us marijuana. Despite us declining, he hung around for a chat, casually telling us about his drug dealing, his supplier, and that the bench we were sat on is usually where he sleeps. He was friendly. We stopped for lunch at a place that had been recommended to us and had some great food. Vietnamese spring rolls are definitely a new favourite of ours!
The journey to our next destination is worthy of it’s own blog post, so you can eagerly await that coming soon. Trust us it’s worth it.
Hoi An – After such an ordeal getting here, we were glad to have a solid 5 days in Hoi An to relax a little. It’s a pretty old town with lanterns everywhere and lots of tailoring shops. Emma got a matching maxi skirt and top custom made, and Rog got a leather rucksack made up.
We could use the kitchen at our ‘homestay’ so we cooked for ourselves a couple of nights, picking up our supplies at the market by the river. One evening saw us running round the lanes desperately hunting for coconut milk.
We spent some time on the beach, had a day trip to Cham Island with some underwhelming snorkelling and enjoyed a lunch where we spent ages chatting to a lovely Australian couple.