A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

Saigon- Ho Chi Min City

Probably a good time to reflect on Vietnam since we leave tomorrow and I reckon Saigon might just be the the best place to sum up all the good and bad about Vietnam for a tourist. Firstly I have to say our time here has been a great experience. We loved Ha noi for the old city and the architecture, French balconies everywhere and the food was pretty good. Any one who knows Patti and I know we love food and old stuff so Hanoi got the thumbs up! As we expected the bakeries were pretty damn fine. It was our first experience of Vietnam and we found the people friendly if a little bit distant but the accommodation was good and everything is so cheap. Had a ball there and learned how to dodge traffic. The Sapa tour was awesome, highlight of the visit and definately worth re-visiting. To see people trying to live their lives as they did a thousand years ago but seeing the young ones wanting technology you have to tip your hat to them. Funny thing was hearing house music and seeing satellite dishes outside mud huts. We met people that had never been outside their immediate village area. We followed the coast and did the usual things like buying clothes and lounging on beaches but i believe we saved one of the best experiences until last.

The first thing you should understand about Vietnam is that life is hard here, not just work hard and you'll be well rewarded but work hard and you just might survive. I don't think you can grasp the the work ethic that these people have until you have seen it in action. At first you think their trying to rip you off and taking the piss but the fact is they can sum up your wealth in an instant and give you a price commensurate with that scale. Commendable but by Christ it can wear you down. When you know their trying to charge you double the price for something and then you have to haggle down it can be a little frustrating for people not used to it but it's their country , not mine so when in Rome... I find myself bartering a price for just about anything. I pity the next poor bastard I buy a car from. You just have to sharpen' up as they say. Much respect then! No problem.

Vietnam can be a little bit frustrating for independent travellers because of the severe lack of English speaking people and signs, but that's what travelling is about. I've sat with people and had a conversation without understanding a word but understanding gestures, Brenton and Matt have played shuttle cock with complete strangers and had a ball and Patti has given impromptu English lessons to young people and children in parks . All of these things make up the experience that was Vietnam. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow but always a challenge. Andiamo Cole's

Posted by mike1967 03:07 Comments (0)

Hoi An - Shopping Central

We arrived in Hoi An after our visit to Sapa. We were tired, dirty and hungry after being on the night train all night then going straight to the airport to catch a flight to Danang, then a taxi to Hoi An. We must have looked a real sight as the hotel staff immediately showed us to our room and said we could check in later!

Feeling refreshed and fed we decided to check out the town. It is a shoppers paradise. The town is full of tailors. You can get anything that you like made in a short amount of time. After seeing a couple of things that I liked I headed for the shop the next morning. This entailed trying on and getting measured, meanwhile Mike decided to take himself for a walk while I was busy. It was so easy to choose a few items and then be measured and told to come back at 6pm to try on. So off I went to sightsee and then come back for a fitting at 6pm then told to come back at 11am the next morning to try on again. Meanwhile I had found another shop that I liked their shorts so I went through the process again.

After 2 days of try on and fittings I walked away with a silk dress, a suit (don't ask me where I will wear it) 2 skirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 2 pairs of shorts and 2 summer dresses. Now came the question of how to carry these in my pack but I remembered that I had 2 big strong young men with me to do just that! After a bit of grumbling from Matt and a parcel sent home we had it sorted. If you are thinking of a trip to Vietnam Hoi An is a must destination with an empty suitcase.

There was a lantern festival as part of the Tet New Year Celebrations. We were amazed at the amount of people who had gathered to help celebrate. People were selling little paper candle holders that you took out in a boat and set on the water with your wish. There were large lanterns set up on the water. It was really busy.

We caught the 'sleeping bus' to Nha Trang from Hoi An but I will let Mike tell the story of it. Patti.

I don't feel ripped off at all. I bought a t-shirt for $4 Mike

Posted by mike1967 22:59 Comments (0)

Sapa Trekking

We spent the night on the train in a sleeper cabin that was uneventful except for the blasting of communist marching music through crackling speakers. Figured out how to turn it off just before we were brain washed to join the army. Sapa is a pretty cool town that seems to be coping well with the tourism. We headed off on our trek with our faithful guide Koo leading the way. We were followed by local tribeswoman who constantly ask you to buy craft work like bags and bracelets. It's hillarious that they follow for hours, but they think it's funny aswell and it's good practice for them trying to learn english. We spent about six hours trekking through mud and slosh and when we weren't trying to save ourselves from near disaster the scenery was spectacular. Stayed overnight in a homestay in one of the villages and had a great night on rice wine and beers. The food was sensational and all done on an open fire and a tiny double burner. Definately want to come back to Sapa but September weather would be better.

Posted by mike1967 02:22 Comments (1)

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

overcast 13 °C

A visit to Vietnam is not complete without visiting Ha Long Bay. The locals reckon the ledgend best describes the bay where a dragon spat out thousands of pearls into the ocean to protect their coastline from invaders and confusing them. That just about sums it up. The bay and surrounding bays have over 3000 islands that literally form this incredible maze of mostly uninhabited limestone outcrops. All pretty cool. Matt and Brenton decided to dive in the water from the top of the boat which started a bit of a bomb diving competition. The weather was pretty cool, down to about 12 degrees but didn't seem to bother them. As we were on an "adventure" tour we had to canoe. Convincing Pat to get out of a warm cabin into a twin canoe and paddle for 3 hours with a saturated seat took some doing. The pictures tell the story. The teeth chattering could be heard from the moon. Every now and then a small rain squall would pass over adding to her misery and making it more difficult to keep morale high. We eventually made it back to the mother ship which was smaller than the original and no shower so morale didn't improve too much however we were heading for an oasis. We made it to our overnight digs on Cat Ba island. We're in this nice resort with great showers and massive beds so all is good. Heading up to Northern Vietnam to-night for more trekking yoo hoo. Sapa is said to be beautiful but just checked the weather prediction. 13 degrees. Don't think i'll tell her. Cheers

Posted by mike1967 18:36 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bay long ha Comments (1)

Ha Noi Vietnam

sunny 24 °C

We arrived in Vietnam after a little bit of stress from the Hong Kong airport because we didn't have an ongoing ticket booked out of Vietnam. We had to sign a form saying that we would buy a ticket if requested in Vietnam before they would allow us to board the plane. On arrival in Vietnam we presented the form when picking up our visa but the guy behind the counter just waved it away. So much panic for nothing.
The trip into Ha Noi took about an hour because of the traffic, we passed no less than three broken down buses.
Hanoi has got to be the most chaotic place we've been in. We're staying in the old quarter of Hanoi with the rest of the tourists but i'd have to say it's the place to be. the place never stops. Seems to be typical of Asia that you can get anything you want within a range of 200 meters from home. I would reckon that most people who live here have lived here all their lives and have probably not travelled more than a few kilometers from home. They seem to be just caught up in surviving and making enough to cover their daily running. You can see the French influence everywhere in the buildings but the best thing is the french bakeries. The Vietnamese are great bakers. We have spent the days just wandering through the parks and streets and dodging traffic but the real highlights have been the accomodation, eats and drinks. We managed to get a couple of connecting hotel rooms with a king, queen and single beds. Of course Patti and I didn't get the King, but the after sharing one room in Hong Kong anything was a bonus. We found a great place to eat and also a great place to drink. We managed to book a couple of tours for the next week or so, firstly off to Halong bay and then off to the mountain region of Sapa for some trekking.

Posted by mike1967 05:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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