I haven't posted for a while due to moving around a lot. Currently on a tour of East Bali I will give a brief overview of our time in Vietnam.
Hanoi is a mental place. Although Saigon is bigger, Hanoi certainly feels more hectic. After a mix of reviews and warnings about scams, we looked forward with caution about this city. Either we were lucky or rumors were false as we had only positive encounters in Vietnam. Hanoi has plenty to see. Our highlight was the old Prison nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by POWs. It had interesting images and accounts of the prison life when both the French ruled and when Vietnamese ruled over American prisoners. Needless to say it was very biased. It even had pictures of John Mc Cain being given stitches. They fail to mention he can no longer lift his arms due to them being broken so much in the jail.
I also enjoyed seeing Ho Chi Minh himself in his Mausoleum. It was an odd experience which you see him laying there. Due to the embalment process he looks plastic now, which is strange. Looking around at the Vietnamese you can tell they all realise how important he was. It made me annoyed we didnt get to see Mao as his impact was much bigger on a global and country scale.
Overall Hanoi is a great if incredibly hot place to spend some time.
Beautiful. The mountains coming out of the sea are even more stunning than I imagined. We stayed on a boat for one night, and on a private island the second. We had a superb group of people and all got on great. The trip was a busy action packed itenary but mixed with relaxing time in the sun on deck.
Our Vietnam Open Tour Bus
Without doubt one of the best things about Vietnam is the open bus tour. It's relatively cheap, only forty us dollar to get from north, hanoi, to south, saigon. It allows you to stop all along at various points. Here's where we went...
After an eventful bus journey in which our minibus pickup blew a tyre out in the pouring rain, which meant we had to run to our bus, and then later in the early hours of the morning the actual bus had mechanical issues (very uncharacteristic, and the only problem we had all trip) we arrived in historic Hue. Vanessa had found this incredible sounding hotel for only $12. It sounded too good, staff giving you food everytime they saw you etc.... surprisingly it was that good! Easily the best hotel we stayed in Vietnam. We arrived tired and they gave us a real hearty breakfast, even though we hadn't stayed that night. Whilst we ate they cranked on the AC and movie channel in our room unknown to us. It's the little things!
We convinced a veteran of our Laos to Vietnam trip, an Irish guy called Darren about this place. We travelled together for most of Vietnam and became good friends. We had an action packed day of boat trip to temples, cyclo tour and trip to the Hue Forbidden City. Hue is a place I wish we spent more time in, but being so early in our tour, we didn't think we had the time.
Hello? Suit? We declined, but Hoi An is a lovely if odd place. Best way to describe it is as a small pirate looking place that is 80% suit makers. No exaggeration. A 20minute ride by bike away is a fantastic beach. Stunning white sand, and clear water. So cheap too and with plenty of restaurants, Hoi An is a place you could spend a good week in relaxing.
This place is the opposite of Hoi An. Huge hotels, American style boulevards, it really is an odd place in Vietnam. It feels very out of place. We did do a fantastic boat trip though, with great snorkelling, floating bar, slide into the water but some horrendous karaoke.
This long stretched out mix of cheap and five star is again an odd place. Nearby are the beautiful red and white sand dunes. We took an old Jeep style car to the dunes. The white dunes are the most impressive. I randomly got surrounded by school children all wanting to shake my hand. The dunes themselves are lots of fun. I hired a piece of plastic which they call a sand board. It's fun but very hard work trying to get back up the dunes. I don't envy my friends Jim and Will doing the Marathon de Sables!
The red dunes are less impressive in size but the sunset over them was a good bonus. Again Mui Ne was an enjoyable place.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Saigon never excites like Hanoi. Its sights aren't as good but it is more the fact it is too developed. Hanoi has an unique madness which Saigon lacks. It's not a bad place by any means, was just slightly disappointing. We did have some good Mexican food though.
We did a short trip to the Mekong Delta. We went on various sizes of boats, seeing coconut candy makers and other delights. The scenery was pure Far Cry and gave me many a level idea.
Back in Saigon I got an impressive tailored shirt, whilst Vanessa got a suit. We were happy with our buys. Definitely a better idea than trawling the millions of places in Hoi An.
Vietnam was very different, and much more set up for tourists than I imagined. Because of this it was superb. There are never LOADS of tourists, but at the same time you can travel the whole country at your own pace with ease, and on a long trip, or even a short holiday, that makes for a refreshing change. The people were, despite what many people had told us, fantastic and friendly, all except the very first Vietnamese person we met, that border guard who ripped us all off holding us to ransom.. You my friend are an embarrassment to your great country.