19.01.2012 - 26.01.2012 14 °C
After another long and bumpy bus journey we arrived around 8pm in Nha Trang feeling tired and a bit sorry for ourselves. Our first job was to find a hotel in budget as we spent way above it during the stay in Mui Ne Beach. After looking at about 6 different hotels we had the usual local guy on a motorbike telling us he had a brand new hotel for a very cheap price so after several approaches from the guy I decided to take a look and was completely shocked to find a quality room which still had never been slept in (its amazing how quick your mood changes after a good shower). Nha Trang was a real clean and cool beach resort with the beach on one side of the main road and markets, shops, hotels and restaurants on the other. We didn't really do a lot other then relax and explore the resort which we really enjoyed, again we were shocked how beautiful Vietnam is. The one trip we did do was to visit Thap Ba Hot Springs for a swim in the hot springs and soaked in the mud baths (Gems idea). Ok I enjoyed it and we had a really good day. The setting was really cool and you pretty much just relaxed the whole time, they even served up cold beers.
After endless bus trips we decided to treat ourselves with a flight from Hue to Hanoi. The overnight bus journey to Hue was quite eventful with us arriving in Hoi An to be told we should have got off 2 hours before (we had no idea and we were asleep when the bus driver announced the changeover)! Luckily having stressed that we had a flight to catch the bus driver arranged for us to get on the bus to Hue but it involved a $10 taxi ride to the bus. Finally we got to Hue to find the live chicken under the bus had decided to christen leights backpack so it completely stunk. The next couple of hours went with Leight moaning and trying to clean his rucksack with shampoo and Gems perfume. We only spent one day in Hue so we didn't really do a lot other than meet a south Korean girl (whos name I couldn't say never mind spell) and have a few beers and a game of pool.
After Ho Chi Minh City we didn't have high hopes of enjoying Hanoi but we were really surprised. We arrived bang in the middle of TET (Chinese lunar New Year) which is by far the most celebrated holiday in the Vietnam calendar. Our 'robbing' taxi driver dropped us off in the old district which was a district of small streets with lots of restaurants, shops and hotels and a massive lake at the bottom of it. We spent the next hour trying to find our new base for the stay. The biggest difference from Hanoi to the rest of the trip was the temperature, it averaged around the 10-13 oC which was probably at least 15oC colder than anywhere else we had visited during the trip. I was really happy to get some English type weather in but Gem went on like it was -10oC and couldn't adapt dispite wearing two hoddies and her coat. It was quite hard to get a real feel for the city as most places were shut for the holiday. On the second day we decided to take the city walking tour which was hard work as again a lot of the city was closed, It was quite funny watching people with there maps getting lost trying to work out the next stop (us included). In the end we sat beside the lake with some fresh popcorn and watched the world go by. We did manage to find a cafe with a real good mug of tea and a fresh hot muffin which was by far Gems favourite place to chill out in from the cold outside. On the third day the city was still pretty quiet so we decided to up sticks and leave to the coast. The choice was either take a hotel arranged trip to Halong Bay or make our own journey and head for Cat Ba Island.
There was only one choice, Cat Ba it is.
We returned to Hanoi to find a completely different city full of life and action, the streets were full with street sellers, people, motobikes & markets. I really enjoyed walking around and seeing all the action Hanoi had to offer. Our new danish friend Peter joined us in our favourite cafe and for a drink to watch villa play arsenal in the Fa Cup, which at half time was going great with villa two goals up, but how 15 second half minutes can change my mood with 3 Arsenal goals! After that it was mardy Leightons bed time where sulking was the only thing on the agenda.
We both couldn't decide what was the best way for us to get to Laos with the options being the bus ride from hell (as called in our guide and all over the net) or flying. The flying option was over four times more expensive and we couldn't really afford it or on the other hand the bus journey time 30 hours plus with stories about being forced to pay more or being kicked off the bus. We left our hotel and headed for our favourite cafe to decide the next plan of action. Both routes left around 5pm and it was 1.30pm, so in the end Gem made the decision and the one hour flight option won! We quickly arranged a taxi and headed to the airport to complete our stay in Vietnam.
To date Vietnam is our favourite country we have visited and I can't wait to come back.
If we could sum up our visit to Nha Trang & Hanoi in 5 or so words/statements.
1) Happy lunar New year
2) best mug of tea (Tamarind cafe in Hanoi)
3) Our first mud bath
4) Gem complaining she's freezing (it was over 13oC)
5) would love to go back to both Nha Trang & Hanoi
Random sights/things in Nha Trang & Hanoi.
1) Leight wore trainers and not flip flops for the first time on the trip (8 weeks of non stop flip flops)
2) This picture was taken in Hanoi advertising the food in a restaurant (we couldn't believe it and no we didn't eat there)