Day 14, 15, 16 – Travel to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay

Day 14 started with another domestic flight from Hoi An to Hanoi. Hanoi is a bigger city than Hoi An but is not as big as Saigon, in saying that, we don’t feel as safe walking around the streets in Hanoi as we did in Saigon. As soon as we got off the plane there were signs about pick pockets and fake taxi’s, the hotel staff also said not to walk around with phones in hands etc as people on bikes can grab them while you are walking down the street. That being said, we have done some walking around and although we don’t feel as safe as Hoi An and Saigon, we also don’t feel unsafe to be here.

Day 15 we travelled 3 hours by a limo van to our Ha Long Bay tour. Upon arrival we boarded a small city cat style boat which took us to the bigger vessel that would take us down to the amazing secluded bay. We went through a company called Orchid Cruises and this was the best decision of the entire trip. The cruise boat, staff, food and activities cannot be faulted, it was absolutely incredible. Read more “Day 14, 15, 16 – Travel to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay”

Day 13 – Final day in Hoi An

Today was our final day in Hoi An and it is a little bit sad that we have to leave tomorrow. We spent the extremely hot day in the old quarter markets and cafes. Due to the heat, we visited a lot of cafes today in amongst our browsing of the shops. A lot of shops have portable air conditioners but these don’t really do much for the open plan building designs and high temperatures, lots of cold drinks and sorbet are the only way to combat the heat.

We picked up our tailored clothes today, I had 2 jackets made up by Simons and M had a dress and a jacket made up by OCHE, the clothes all look great and these guys were amazing to deal with. If you want any custom clothes and you are in Hoi An, these guys are both very good.

On our walk today we visited the Japanese bridge which for some reason they try to charge you to go into, I did not see the need to pay so looked from a far. This was the last tourist attraction to see on our list so it was good that we got to see this today.

That is about all that has happened today, it was far too hot to do too much exploring so we took it nice and easy around the town. Tomorrow we fly to Hanoi where we will then transfer to Halong Bay for a night on a junk boat and some cave exploration. We are looking forward to seeing Hanoi but at the same time wish we were staying in Hoi An for another week. This is definitely a place that I want to come back to!

Day 10, 11, 12 – Hoi An

From Saigon we travelled to Hoi An. As we walked off the plan in Danang we immediately noticed the more laid back nature of this city, the airport was calmer with less people and the pollution in the air was almost gone. We took a cab to our hotel on the beach in Hoi Ann for about 400 000VND and got to begin our next part of the trip.

Our hotel we are staying at in Hoi Ann is Muong Thanh Holiday hotel. This hotel is beautiful, built in 2016 it is a modern Asian hotel with wood everywhere, an awesome pool, private cars with drivers which you can book at reception, free shuttle busses and best of all our room has views of both the ocean and the lake. The staff are extremely helpful and I would highly recommend staying at this hotel.

The markets in the town are probably the best I have ever seen. The old quarter is stunning, the old buildings are full of crafts, clothes, tailors and leather. Outside the buildings are trees with lanterns hanging from them, the day looks like a completely different place to the night. Our shuttle bus has free pickup and drop off in the town Center which is great and there are restaurants and cafes dotted throughout this area. Read more “Day 10, 11, 12 – Hoi An”

Day 8 & 9 – Saigon & Mekong

This update comes a few days late, we have been quite busy seeing the sites and I have not had time to keep the blogs up to date. I have a few more days to post up and should have these up in the next few days.

Day 8 and 9 were both based in Saigon. We did a full day walking around the city to see some key places including the Opera House, Central Post Office, Hotel Continental and Ben Thanh market.

Saigon is a very busy city, there are cars and scooters everywhere and whenever you are walking you have to be watching every direction as the scooters drive on the road and on the sidewalk. Crossing the road is an interesting process, even on a green crossing light the scooters keep coming. To cross the road you have to just walk when you see a gap, this often means crossing to the middle and waiting until another gap and then crossing the 2nd half of the road.

Shopping is not overly cheap in this city, the department stores are more expensive than Australia and the markets are very much Australian pricing. The Ben Thanh Market was an interesting experience, as soon as you walk into this market you are surrounded by 10 different people asking you to buy things. The market holders are extremely pushy and wait for you to walk away over a price to haggle. Majority of market holders will lower their prices if pushed or if you just walk away. The market is a great place for pick pockets so you have to be very careful of pockets and bags.

We were not convinced on the trip up the Mekong as we thought it would be similar to Tonle Sap in Cambodia. We were wrong. The Mekong is quite interesting and the water is a lot cleaner than the Tonle Sap. We saw floating markets, saw how the locals make coconut candy (very yummy), saw locals make rice paper and went on a San Pan boat up a small inlet of the Mekong river. We booked this one through Yolo tours and our tour guide was extremely informative. I probably would book through another tour company if I did it again though, whilst the tour guide was very informative, he stopped for breakfast on the way and we had to wake him up at one of the stops as he decided to have a sleep. He also slept he whole way home in the van, he was not as good as our previous tour guides.

Whilst in Saigon we could not figure out why we were getting sick every time we came back to the hotel, extreme coughing and difficulty breathing. Every time we came back to the hotel the symptoms came back and got to the point that M was taken to hospital with difficulty breathing, being diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection. On further investigation into what could be causing this, I noticed a huge amount of mould growing on the roof of the hotel room. All three rooms had this mould and this was consistent with the sickness that we were experiencing. Whilst the staff at the hotel were great, the rooms were disgusting and I would not recommend anyone stay at this hotel. If you go to Saigon, stay away from Townhouse 23!

Day 7 – Cu Chi Tunnels

This morning we travelled 1.5hrs to the Cu Chi Tunnels with our tour company Asianalink, these tunnels were used by the Cu Chi Gorillas or Vietcong in the Vietnam war. Majority of the people on our tour were Australian so the tour guide brought out his best Australian sayings for the day. The tour guide asked to be called by his Australian name of Slim Jim, which he obtained because he eats like a bird and smokes like a chimney. He was also recovering from a big night where fell off the wagon, but luckily this morning he was back on the wagon for the tour. He did mention that he expects he will once again fall off the wagon at happy hour tonight though.

The tour guide was great and was very interesting to listen to. He was working for the armed forces during the Vietnam war, he then became a teacher. He was able to give us first hand knowledge of what happened during the war as well as what was written in the history books. We learnt about the traps which were set (some are in the photos), the underground tunnels, how they used to cook food underground and had the opportunity to fire an M16 assault rifle.

The tunnels were very small and the Vietcong had to enter these on hands and knees. There were small concealed hatches to gain entry to the tunnels and underground rooms provided areas for the Vietcong to eat, cook and seek shelter from the bombs which were being dropped in the area. To cook underground they had a system to disperse the smoke from the fires away from the actual tunnel and up through the ground so as not to be spotted. There were also hospitals etc all located under the ground. The tunnels were built as small as possible to increase the stability during bomb strikes, the smaller the tunnel the less chance of collapse. As more and more western tourists come to the site, they have had to increase the tunnel size to allow westerners to enter. Even though the tunnels have been expanded, they are still very small. There is an opportunity to enter a 100m long tunnel and walk the whole way.

There were no AK47’s to fire today, however they did have some M16 assault rifles. To fire these there was a cost of $25 for 10 rounds. The rifle range is very loud but M did very well and hit the target at 100m.

After a sleep in the hotel this afternoon we made our way out to dinner. Trip Advisor is great for finding local restaurants with allergen friendly food. Tonight we stopped off at Asian Kitchen for some amazing Pho and curries. Mostly Australian people in the restaurant and the food was great at very cheap prices.

Another great place to check out is Ralph’s Artisan Gelato, they have a very yummy selection of home made gelato and sorbet. They also have gluten and dairy free options and the owner is a really nice guy, we have been back three times in two days (twice today) for gelato and a chat to Ralph the owner. Great gelato and great staff.

That is all for today, another big day on the road and we are all very tired. Tomorrow we are heading out for a walk around the city to see some of the key places.

Day 6 – Travel to Ho Chi Minh

Today we left the wonderful laid back Cambodia for the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. We flew in a small regional aircraft from Siam Reap to Ho Chi Minh City in about 1hr 10 mins, purchased new SIM cards and took a car to the hotel. Our hotel is extremely small, effectively a backpackers dorm room, but is in the best location to enable us to get to all of our destinations quickly.

Ho Chi Minh is busy, lots of traffic and people and it’s taking some time to adjust to the city lifestyle again after spending the 5 days in the country town of Siam Reap.

Just a quick update today as it has been mostly travel, tomorrow we are off to the Cu Chi tunnels for another history lesson.