Monthly Archives: November 2011

Nov 23rd 2011 – Hue to Hanoi – Our near death experience

OK there’s one thing that ALL of asia has in common… they can’t drive! They are complete maniacs! 🙂

The plan was to take the sleeper bus from Hue and spend most of the fourteen hours fast asleep in noddy land. The reality was far from from it… but funny and terrifying at the same time 🙂 Our driver was driving so fast that when he eventually hit a pot hole he smashed the suspension on the left front side. We had to limp into a garage (or a bunch of blokes under a tarpalling smoking fags surrounded by flammable liquids and vehicle parts!).

theGarage image

The Garage

To thier credit, they actually had a brand new shock absorber and spent the next four hours jacking up the bus and replacing it!

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There's actually two blokes under there!

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Mechanic (with tool "kit")

We stood and watched (just to make sure they did it correctly 🙂

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Aye... that's right mate... nice one... champion! 🙂

Eventually we got back on the road in good condition and continued our journey. BUT and it’s a big BUT… about an hour in to this ride the bus slammed the brakes on (to avoid smashing into stationary traffic) and veered across the road (fly-over) and smashed into a truck on our right side! My life flashed before my eyes but we survived. Luckily no-one was hurt, but the truck was a bit worse for wear!

So consequently our 14 hour trip took 19 hours and was both terrifying and exciting at the same time. Couldn’t have been more glad to get to the hotel and crash out. We’ll explore tomorrow… time for sleep (again). 🙂


Nov 21st – Hue, Vietnam

For a change, an uneventful (and on time) trip brought us to Hue, a short stop before the long haul to Hanoi.

We were told not to expect much from this town, but its actually a really pleasant place to walk around and chill.  The hotel was good…..but no lifts, and we were on the top floor!  A great view over town though.

Hue has a huge  and ancient Citadel, surrounded completely by a large moat.  Jane of course insisted we walk around every inch of it, but I  was okay with this, as we kept finding on-street food stands, whereI  I could get my daily coconut fix.

Hue Coconut Drink

The Seating Area on the opposite side of the street to...

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...The Restaurant.

There’s not a great deal to Hue apart from the Citadel so 2 days was more than enough to see the whole place.

Hue Citadel image

Hue Citadel with Moat

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Jane in a bad mood... or a Guardian of the Citadel

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Gate into the Citadel

Next – Sleeping Bus to Hanoi!

Nov 18th 2011 – Hoi An

We didn’t really know what to expect here… but were extremely pleasantly surprised by it. It’s a really beautiful place,  kind of a Asian Durham City in a way with it’s “Old Town” and original traditional housing, giving a real glimpse of the past here in Vietnam.

Hoi An Old Town Bulding image

Hoi An - not sure if this is a temple or not?

Hoi An building by the river - image

Restaurant by the river

Hoi An building - image

And....another old building of Hoi An

It’s a beautiful place at night. All the shops and restuarants are illuminated by chinese lanterns, in every colour and shape. They actually pipe classical music into the streets which gives it a calming laid back atmosphere, and a great place to walk around.  The whole town is surrounded by many rivers, so lantern covered bridges are everywhere, leading onto little islands where we walked through the community villages full of kids playing in the streets.

Lantern of Hoi An, Vietnam - image

Lights and lights and lights and lights.... ooooo pretty.

We were only here for three days so we made the most of it. There’s a beach about a mile and half away so we walked it following one of the rivers past homesteads and farmlands.

Farmers of Hoi An

Oi! get orf my over populated water logged land!

It’s reminescent of Bambrough beach… clean long and not over populated by tourists. At one end is a working beach where the locals fish using Corracles. We also managed to grab a bite to eat in a great little local restaurant on the sand and away from all the tourists.

Corracle boat of Hoi , Vietnam

What a loada of Corracles! Would you go out to sea in this?

We could quite easily have stayed a little longer in Hoi An but it was time to move on for the long journey north. Next stop Hue!

Nov 17th/18th 2011 – Leaving Nha Trang

This has been a surprisingly cosmopolitan place, what with its promenades, topairy and Miami style beach – the complete opposite to the more rural Cambodian coast of Sihanoukeville – but just as enjoyable.

We spent our last couple of days checking out (as always) the less well trodden paths – just in case there was a centimetre Jane might have missed in our previous meanderings. We found an Island in the middle of the river outlet on the outskirts of town – accessed by a bridge – and it seemed we were the only ‘tourists’ there, but still were greeted by the friendly locals even though none of them spoke a word of English!

Nha Trang Port/Island image

Nha Trang Boats

We found an old temple, (nothing beats Cambodia though), a giant Buddha, and bumped into a couple who originally came from Edinburgh, but for the last 40 years have lived in the US, and are now ‘American’. After a bit of banter with them we headed for the beach, for a last lazy sunbathing session (or in my case sunburning session).

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Nha Trang Buddha

On the way back I decided to get a hair cut (yeah yeah “which one?”… I know). I passed this place (see below pic) on the way out but then thought better of it. Don’t want to attract the flys.

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Mmmmm... maybe not!

Instead I opted for… Tony & Guy’s Vietnam style!! 🙂

Tony & Guys Vietnam Style image

Tony & Guys Vietnam Style

We are sad to leave the Truong Giang Hotel.

Truong Giang Hotel

Our friends in the hotel... (with cakes)

The people there are really nice, we even bought them a  cream  cake each for being thoroughly decent chaps:) and its perfectly located for the bars and restaurants, but the long journey up to the north means we have to move on. Next stop Hoi An.

Nov 11th 2011 – 11/11/11!! Snorkelling Day!

Never happier than on a boat, the first thing we did was book a trip out  to experience  a new sea and the reefs around the limestone islands off shore. What a great day. Twenty people on a big local  boat guided by Bruce Lee (or so he introduced himself). It took around 45 minutes to reach the first snorkelling point, passing a floating village and being entertained by Bruce all the way, and no sooner had the boat stopped, we jumped in eager to check out the life below the surface.

Floating Village

Floating Village - note the absence of hotels and bars 🙂

Floating Village image

Unless this is the local boozer? Nightmare to get home though 🙂

The reefs here match anything we saw in the Red Sea, they are exceptional, and probably the most diverse under water life we have seen so far. The coral is extraodinary – huge platforms of  flat ‘table top’ coral  were the stars of the show, but there was every type, hosting a massive variety of fish and sea life.  And all of it pristine and undamaged, and hopefully it will stay this way as it is already protected. I think its the only time we have come out of the water, and not only seen every fish on the boat chart, but some that weren’t!!

We swam around for an hour forty minutes before moving on the the next point… which was actually about 100 yards away lol! But there were protected areas we weren’t allowed in so the boat had to take us to the next point. Much the same awaited us there! I’ve not dived in Vietnam so it was funny to see divers below us and be the one looking down at them!

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Local fishing boat and corracle

After all of this we were surved a 5 star lunch on the deck of the boat, consisting of traditional Vietnamese dishes… all of it was lush! This gave us the chance to socialise a bit (in and out of the water!) – meeting a couple from Portsmouth who we met later for dinner and a really good and entertaining night.

Now here (below) is a little bit of extra entertainment… In my head this was a beautiful swan dive with all the elegance and grace of an olympian… however the reality is much more sobering… *sniff! 😦 Feel free to point and laugh… even I thought it was ridiculously funny! Still do… Plop! 🙂

Nov 8th 2011 – Nha Trang and the South China Sea

Another night bus brought us to Nha Trang 15 minutes earlier than advertised. A first for Asia! We got to our hotel about 8 am… and to thier credit they even had a room ready for us. So we slept.

Way after lunch we surfaced in to Nha Trang for a mooch about and discovered it’s beach line was like Miami! Long sandy beaches and cultivated garden areas with walk ways and square trees!

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Square Trees!!

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Miami in Nha Trang, Vietnam!

This is a well travelled route for tourism and you can tell. The place is brimming with restaurants and hotels. And Germans. And Russians. But it has a really good vibe and the food is good and the beer is still cheap! More later once we’ve done something other than sleep! 🙂

Nha Trang beach


Nov 3/4th 2011 – Sihanoukeville to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Vietnam

We left coastal Cambodia at 7.30pm, in a coach, that had no seats but instead… beds!  We had to change to a “normal” bus in Phnom Penh and then travel the rest of the way to Bavet to go over the border, just when we really needed our beds! We had to pay an extra ten dollars each to officials at the border because we had overstayed in Cambodia by 2 days! (we made a mistake on our visas) No biggy though.

We were told we would arrive in Saigon at 7am. It was nearly 11am when we actually pulled in, but we’ve learned not to believe a word the travel agencies say.

Saigon is absolutely mental. The noise, the traffic, the pollution…but I like it! The streets are cleaner than any asian city we have been in so far (and that includes Singapore) and for a change, they have pretty good pavements, if you can get around all the parked mopeds.


Mopeds of Saigon... and this is on a quiet day!!

Our hotel is very good, small and friendly, and very cheap!! Woo Hoo!, but the food is much more expensive than Cambodia, although we did find a really cool road called Bien Vien which was very atmospheric, full of cool shops, bars and restaurants… as well as art shops with amazing paintings!

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Bien Vien by night - a cool place to hang out.

It is a really nice city to walk around apart from the crazy mopeds and no road manners. As one american said as we huddled with him at one of the zebra crossings, ‘You wonder why they waste money on white paint’. The crossings are meaningless, even with traffic lights on red, you can still be mown down. In the market areas you can be safely walked across the road by offical staff with flags and whistles, and while this does not stop the traffic, it does slow it down. The trick as one New Zealander put it is to walk out slowly onto oncoming traffic and look straight ahead… they go around you. I’ve mastered that now!

We walked the length and breadth of this city from the War Museum (wish we hadn’t bothered, very depressing) to the Notre Damme Cathedral (mmm…yes…not quite). The French influence is strong here no more so than in the main post office in town – it’s like walking into a 1930’s Parisienne movie set, with it’s hand painted maps and individual dark wood panelled phone boxes… reminds me of Indianna Jones movies for some reason.

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"Dr. Jones! no more stamps!!

Anyway, moving on in a couple of days for Nha Trang on the east coast looking out over the South China Sea… should be good.