Starting off our travels in Thailand has shown to be a very good choice. We were eased in to Southeast Asia with a country that even though it is so different to life back home, caters for the massive tourism industry they have there. Crossing the border from Cambodia into Vietnam, with our first stop being Ho Chi Minh City, we were amazed at the massive amount of bikes on the roads, all riding around with Vietnam flags celebrating the football win that night. We had heard that to cross the road you had to just walk out in a steady pace and the drivers would just weave around you. It sounded absolutely terrifying and made me think that I wouldn’t like the city. We hadn’t been fans of the big cities we had been to so far, but we both quickly agreed that it had so much charm and character and we even ended up booking another night! I think we even mastered crossing the road, that was until we got to Hanoi. We spent every morning eating breakfast in the same cafe recommended by our hostel as it was that good. The first day we had the Vietnamese iced coffee, and we ended up wandering around the War Museum on a caffeine high not being able to concentrate at all. Since then we tried to limit our intake of the crazy strong coffee in Vietnam. Jack also tried out his haggling skills at the market, even though he went in with 10% of their asking price at the start he got a very good deal in the end! After the two weeks we spent in Cambodia relaxing on the islands we were refuelled with energy to explore the cities, and Ho Chi Minh really excited us to see the rest of Vietnam.
We then travelled by bus to Mui Ne, which seemed to be made up of just one really long road stretching a few miles opposite the beach. We didn’t end up spending any time on the beach, the sea was extremely rough, as seemed to be the case everywhere along the coast. However we did book an afternoon tour to a few sand dunes, we couldn’t wait to rent a sand board as online it had looked so fun. In reality we each went down twice and it was such hard work to get back up the dunes again we gave up. And with our eyes, mouth, shoes and pretty much everywhere filled with sand we had seen enough of sand dunes!
Dalat was our next stop, and the first time we had to rummage to the bottom of our bags to wear our hoodie and jeans! We went to the Crazy House, a building with some interesting architecture and to a bar that probably would be illegal in the UK for health and safety reasons. It was called Maze Bar and you bought a drink on the way in and then had to work your way through the building up stairs and passageways, much of the time in the dark to eventually get to the bar at the top. But what made our time in Dalat was a secret tour we had booked. We had no idea what the day would entail, but while I won’t go into much detail as it is a secret it has been one of our highlights in Vietnam. Both of the tour guides were extremely informative, we were taken to a small local village outside of the city and were eventually allowed into one of their homes after lots of persuasion by the tour guide. We spent two or so hours sitting with them and being taught about their way of life. Jack was even brave enough to try some of their rat. Whilst the rest of the group looked at him like he was crazy to do it, the lady stuck in his mouth a mixture of ground up rat and chilli. And then said it had to be eaten with this gloopy rice water mixture, and proceeded to pour it into his mouth until it was completely full and he was overflowing!
We then ended up travelling to Nha Trang, we had no idea what there was to do there but I think we saw the name on a tour poster and just ended up booking it. This would be the one place I wish we missed out, the area catered towards Russians on their holidays and not to backpackers at all. The main thing we did there was go to the Vinpearl Amusement Park on a nearby island which you reach by cable car. They had lots of rides and attractions there, but overall it definitely wasn’t worth the money!
Our next stop was the beautiful city of Hoi An! We arrived from our night bus at 7am and thankfully the hotel had our room ready for us, so we managed to catch a few well needed hours of sleep! We had planned a week or so before to spend our Christmas here as it seemed that it would guarantee a festive and pretty atmosphere. And wandering around the old town at night with hundreds of lanterns certainly made it feel special. We managed to hunt down a Christmas dinner at the Irish bar, and while it was nowhere near as good as what my family back home would have had, it satisfied my need to feel festive! We even spent the day walking around in our Santa hats, and saw a few locals dress their kids up in Santa outfits on Christmas Eve! So cute!
I’ve had to split our time in Vietnam into two parts for you, I can’t believe how many places we managed to squeeze into thirty days. We mostly spent two nights in each place, which I think didn’t give us enough time to do everything we wanted, and I think we have both decided we need to go back at some point! For the second half of our Vietnam travels I think we pretty much lived in our jeans and hoodie, so look out for the second instalment to come!