Not only are we almost at the end of Vietnam, we are almost at the end of our tour with ‘Stray Asia’. I cannot believe we have been travelling for 2 months. The experiences we have had and the people we have met have been almost unbelievable and we wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Saying all this, we still have 3-4 months left to go…. Ôi chúa ơi!
Even better the further we go along our trip the more western places become – currently loving the super fast internet.
After leaving Nha Trang we visited a small fishing village ‘off the beaten track’ named Bai Xep, this was in fact where Duncan wrote our last blog post. Bai Xep is a beautiful little village with a stunning sandy beach and very strong currents! We even woke up at 5 am on the day we were due to leave to watch the sunset.
There isn’t too much to do in Bai Xep minus relaxing and DIY BBQs on the beach, however I (Melody Brammer, Sam Redding, and Myron Renet who joined us at Bai Xep) did go on a ‘snorkelling’ tour around the ‘islands’. The reason for all the quotation marks is that the water was so murky you couldn’t see anything and the second island was just a big rock. Oh well, at least we supported the locals.
Hoi An is by far one of my favourite places we’ve been. By day the old city is a historical site filled with shops, restaurants and tailors, and by night, the old city is filled with colourful lanterns and night markets.
During our stay in Hoi An it was our last day with both Vicky and Paula, we have been travelling with Vicky for 7 weeks and Paula for about 2 weeks, therefore we obviously had to give them a proper send off. We ended up in a bar that had unlimited drinks for an hour for about £3.65 – it was a pretty fun night.
The rest of our time in Hoi An was spent mostly shopping or in and out of our tailor fittings. Our new favourite phase is ‘running late, at the tailors’. It was very nice while it lasted.
Our personal tailors became two ladies named Ty and Lili from ‘Blue Eye Talior‘. They were exceptionally lovely, very talented and a little cheeky – always asking if we want a little more. However compared to other tailors we visited, we felt very comfortable and confident and never felt pushed by them. Highly recommended and we even went back for more!
Outside of our fittings we completed a Vietnamese cooking class at Green Mango where we cooked; Duck Spring Rolls, Pho Bo, Bun Ca Tim Tron, Chicken Cups and Lime Creme Brûlées. It was so much fun and we learnt so many different techniques. Wait till we are home and you can all try our new found skills.
My favourite day in Hoi An, and probably one of the top three of the holiday so far was spent on a bike. On day 5 in Hoi An, Duncan and I rented a couple of bikes and cycled to An Bang Beach. The ride, while slightly petrifying at first, was absolutely stunning through the rice fields and the local village. We even hit the village during the school rush so had a number of small children running up to us shouting ‘HELLO!’
The route we took was found on a blog by Lori and David – thank you for your blog as we never would have cycled through without reading it.
Nevertheless, Hoi An does come with it stories. Duncan and I so far haven’t had too many mishaps, but I think as we venture on our own they do seem to be starting. The first mishaps of the holiday began as we were cycling through the rice paddies, we thought we were doing really well – we didn’t get lost. However, then this happened….
…eventually we decided to go back and follow a different route. I had to cycle bare foot covered in mud.
Our final evening was spent on a sunset cruise with no sunset due to clouds. Unfortunately, this is where the second mishap happened. I hadn’t been feeling 100% all day so had been drinking a load of water to keep hydrated. This didn’t seem to agree with a two hour boat cruise and half way through I REALLY needed to pee. The driver of our boat spoke no English so using Google translate we managed to write ‘toilet’ in Vietnamese and point to land near by. He laughed and took us to the forest-y island, I am pretty certain I (and Honor) pee-d in someone’s garden! Sorry! He must have found it hilarious as he then let Kat and I drive the 12 person boat.
Alongside this, Duncan spent some time attempting to fish with some help from the locals (who then demanded a cash payment). But it was all a bit of fun and to be expected a bit out here.
Hoi An was a beautiful city and well worth hopping off our tour for a few days. The city was stunning and the sense of culture and history surrounded us. I am almost certain we will be going back.
Hue was a very quick stop for us, unfortunately we are rapidly running out of time in Vietnam due to our month long visa restrictions. In order to see Hue quickly we signed up to a motorbike tour, this time we were on the back and legal! We visited a number of religious sites but mostly just had fun driving fast across the roads and off-roading through forests!
We also popped into the Emperor’s Palace (or what’s left), however due to the pouring rain and the lack of anything physically there it was a very quick visit!
Our final destination of this post is Phong Nha (as it is where we are currently). Phong Nha is a small town in the northern half of Vietnam and the home to Phong Nha, Paradise, and the Dark Cave.
On our way to Phong Nha we visited the Vinh Moc tunnels. After the Cu Chi tunnels I promised myself I wouldn’t be doing it again, but once again I found myself 25 meters underground in a tiny tunnel. This time Duncan joined as they were a bit bigger (these were living quarters). It’s seriously hard to believe soldiers used the tunnels let alone families lived for months at a time underground.
As yesterday was Mel’s birthday Duncan and I went on the hunt for a birthday cake. Walking around the local market holding up our phones with the words ‘bánh sinh nhật’ (birthday cake) we managed to get directed to the local bakery. Again, with the owners speaking very little English we typed ‘Birthday Cake. Chocolate. 18:45 pm today’ in Vietnamese – shockingly come 18:45 pm that night a cake appears and it was beautiful, even if it ended up vanilla!
Finally, today was spent walking. After a nice long walk up a mountain and back down inside we explored Paradise Cave – well 1 km of the 31 km! The cave was pretty spectacular and well worth the long walk.
Vietnam is turning out to be pretty special. Between the cities, the caves, and the stunning countryside we are really enjoying our time here. Just wish the visa didn’t cut it short. We’ve got just over a week left so hopefully won’t be too long without an update.
On a side note… believe it or not Duncan and I (and every other western tourist) are celebrities here! Everywhere we go we have people either sneakily taking our picture or actually taking a photo with us. Even sitting here by the pool typing Duncan spotted a man taking our picture. It’s one of the very strange experiences that become the norm out here…