Here’s where we’ve been and what we got up to during the rest of our time in Vietnam:
From Dalat next stop was the beach town of Nah Trang, we spent a couple of days on the beach enjoying the massive waves and a day at a mud spa! The spa day was great, our treatment involved sitting in a massive vat of slimy, watery mud then soaking ourselves in naturally hot spring water – very relaxing. Afterwards we got to have a swim in the cool pool and a chill in a jacuzzi!
Nah Trang has plenty of food and drink options so once again our only problem was choosing somewhere, we enjoyed a huge shawarma at a greek place one evening and massive thali meal on another, we got to try some new beer too, Larue was nice and cheap!
We got ourselves to da Nang by train and spent a blissful 10 hours enjoying the scenery and watching the new episodes of Game of thrones courtesy of the interweb and the time flew by.
Our hotel was nice, it had recently opened so our room was spotless, the only downside was that they had posted a load of fake reviews stating how wonderful the breakfast was with a huge buffet type spread which turned out to be non existent, our options were eggs or noodle soup which was fine but we felt a wee bit cheated.
The hotel was around the corner from the beach which was surprisingly quiet, we almost had it to ourselves until sunset when many local people came for a paddle. The sea was rough again so you could only swim in designated areas but it was fun getting buffeted about.
The other area of Da Nang worth a visit is the riverside area where many restaurants and bars are located as well as the fab Dragon Bridge! It only breathes fire at the weekends so we missed out on that spectacle unfortunately but we found a nice little cafe for some delicious cheap food.
A short bus journey took us to Hoi An, we had a great time there, the town itself is beautiful and it has a great beach so we spent a few blissful days lounging on the beach during the day then heading into the old town in the evening to wander the lantern strewn streets and enjoy cold beers while people watching.
We stayed at a great place called Full House Homestay, our room was lovely with a nice balcony area set in a quiet area so it was lovely and quiet at night. They provided bicycles for free and they became our main form of transport for the day, it was a 10 minute ride into the town and probably 15 to the beach via vivid green paddy fields. We really enjoyed our time in Hoi An and had only and could easily have spent another week there.
We tore ourselves away from Hoi An and took a slightly uncomfortable bus journey to Hue (pronounced H-way – like howay the lads) We’d like to say we visited the ancient citadel and did other interesting cultural things but it was just too hot to move – it hit 40 degrees at one point but with humidity my weather app was showing a real feel of 52! so we mostly esat in AC equipped coffee shops! Hue was a bust for us but we had Hanoi and the north to look forward to next.
Hanoi / Sapa / Ha Long Bay
A 1 hour flight to the capital was only slightly more expensive than a 12 hour overnight train journey so – apologies to Mother Nature – we took the quicker option.
We had 2 stays in Hanoi either side of a trip further north to Sapa and a fab boat trip to Ha Long Bay. We stayed in the Old Quarter which meant we were never too far away from tasty street food or cheap cheap fresh bia hoi, locally brewed beer available for pennies so we had a great time! We got lost wandering the narrow streets a few times and spent a few hours at an indoor waterpark which we had more or less to ourselves, we didn’t have to queue for any of the slides including one vertical drop pod type one, it was that quiet we had to wake one of the lifeguards up on one slide as he was fast asleep in a rubber ring!
Our trip to Sapa started with an overnight train which was one of the most comfortable we’ve been on so far, we shared a 4 berth cabin with a nice girl from the Philippines and A.N. Other bloke who didn’t speak or make eye contact with any of us for the entire journey – he didn’t murder us in our sleep though so that’s ok.
We had a bit of a scare when we arrived at the station at the other end as there was nobody there to meet us, after a worrying 15 minutes in the rain (forgot to mention it was cold and damp) a bloke finally arrived to whisk us off on the twisty, misty 45 minute journey to our hotel, Sapa Panorama.
The hotel lived up to it’s name as we had a splendid view from our room, we could see the mist rolling over the hills and enjoyed a view of the town.
Sapa is known for trekking trips and the local tribes that live in and around the area, our trip included 2 days of trekking, day 1 was the longer of the 2 and all in we walked around 12 kms through paddy fields and hillside paths, our guide, Maya was excellent and throughout the day we were accompanied by several local ladies who gave good advice on the muddy bits “slowly slowly slowly” multiplied by a thousand!
The scenery was breathtaking and luckily the weather was nice, it didn’t feel as though we had walked as much as we had when we got the end and we enjoyed a strong coffee and a cake as way of celebration of making it unblistered.
Day 2 trekking was a bit shorter and mainly through a more touristy village so it wasn’t as interesting as the first plus it as rainy which literally put a dampener on things, we only had until late afternoon too as we were catching the night train back that night.
After a broken nights sleep we arrive back in Hanoi at 4 am, as we’d booked through our hotel they let us use a room for the few hours before our pick up for our Ha Long Bay trip (in hindsight probably not a good idea to have booked back to back trips) and fed us brekkie whihc was welcome.
We booked a 2 night 3 day trip to Ha Long Bay, our room was surprisingly big considering it was on a boat and all meals were included, we only had to pay for (overpriced) drinks. Once we arrived we had lunch then set out for some kayaking followed by a trip to Surprising Cave, so called as it’s huuuuuge inside, after that we had some time to relax on the deck before dinner and squid fishing! One of the guests caught big one which squirted ink and water all over Ed’s head and the surrounding area!
Day 2 was very relaxing, there was just 5 of us in total (most people come for one night) so we transferred to a smaller boat for the day, we spent it kayaking, visiting a pearl farm and swimming in quiet parts of the bay and enjoying the sun as it was a glorious day.
Day 3 was a bit of a rush as we ate breakfast then headed out to see a fishing village for a couple of hours before an early lunch then back to Hanoi, in all it as a good trip and we met some nice people we’re glad to have not done a 1 night trip as it would have been a bit of a rush.
Back in Hanoi we spent a few days relaxing, drinking coffee and cheap beers, and watching the world go by. We really enjoyed our time in Vietnam, the food was a revelation, the people friendly and the beer cheap plus we saw some of the most awe inspiring scenery along the way.
That’s it for Vietnam, next on the itinerary is Malaysia and the big city of Kuala Lumpur – ta ta !