A Travellerspoint blog

Nha Trang & Hanoi

semi-overcast 14 °C

Nha Trang
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.
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Hanoi
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.
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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)

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Posted by Gem-Leight 23:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City & Mui Ne Beach

sunny 30 °C

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

We jumped on the bus in sihanoukville at around 7am to start the long bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City which involved two buses, one boarder crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam and approx 13 hours total travelling time. Our mood was a little down and we were not looking forward to another long and eventful bus ride. Just over one hour into the journey the events began, the Cambodian lady in the seat in front started heaving and began being sick all over the floor and all over my bag (it was at least 28oC so I will let your imagination fill in the blanks). To make it worse the bus was unlevel (obviously falling in my direction) so random bits of sick greeted me for the next 3 hours. Finally we arrived at the bus station to change buses (whoop whoop). The rest of the journey was event free with the boarder crossing pretty painless too.

We arrived in district 1 of HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) at around 8.30pm and picked up a map from a local tour office. HCMC was complete chaos with traffic everywhere. The city has a population of over 7 million and they all seemed to be driving motorbikes which follow no road rules other than do what you want (ensuring you keep your hand on the horn). Each time we crossed the road it was like a survival test where winning was getting to the other side un hurt. We checked into our hotel room which was the start to our worst night stay of the whole trip. Not boring you with too much detail but the night went something like this- two cockroach infested rooms followed by the 3rd room having ants all in the bed. The next morning we checked out and booked a bus out of the chaos to Mui Ne Beach.

Mui Ne Beach
Our bus left HCMC at around 1.30pm for a journey of around 6 hours to Mui Ne Beach. We were both quite excited to to get to Mui Ne as we had heard really good things about it. We arrived and checked into the hotel room to find our favorite room so far and mood improved. The room had a big bathroom, a sitting area and a massive clean bed along with a balcony and excellent views of the sea and beach. During our stay we really enjoyed the food, drinks and generally everything about Mui Ne. We booked a day trip to visit the sand dunes on an off-road 4x4 and had another great day, first we visited the fairy spring (Suoi Tien) which is a stream that runs through dunes and through a sand rock valley. It was good fun and Gems face when she first stepped into the stream was a real picture as the stream is brown yellow colour and you couldn't see what's in or below the water. Next stop was the white sand dunes where we hired a quad bike to explore. Excellent fun and we would recommend to anyone although I did get stuck trying to ride up to the top of the dunes. The red sand dunes was the final stop of the day where you could watch the sunset along with the sand sledging. The red sand had amazing views and we didn't realise how deep you could drop into the sand and how much hard work climbing the dunes could be. We also tried (badly) at sand sledging down the dunes which Gem did get in the end. Another random event involved a ten year old ish Vietnam boy throwing a cup of sand at us and picking up a rock as he wanted the sledge that we had paid for! We really enjoyed the tour and the guide was excellent always giving me his hat and stopping for great photo opportunities.
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Mui Ne beach is the kite surfing capital, it looked excellent fun and if the lesson involved was not so intense (over 10 hours with no definite result you even get out on the water) and the cost so high I would have loved to have tried it out. In the end I settled for my first ever try at wakeboarding, which was excellent fun and I even managed to stand up after many times of falling down and waiting for the boat to come back and pick me up.
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If we could sum up our visit to Ho Chi Minh City & Mui Ne Beach in 5 or so words/statements.

1) worst nights sleep ever
2) loved the sand dunes
3) active beach (no book required)
4) pretty amazing resort (Mui Ne Beach)
5) will 100% go back to Mui Ne Beach

Random sights/things in Ho Chi Minh City & Mui Ne Beach.

1) Having 10 year want to fight us on top of a sand dune

Posted by Gem-Leight 23:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

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