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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Vietnam Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City


smallest seats in the world
Having come from the glorious heat of Singapore (airport) enjoying free movies, outdoor pool, tropical gardens and an excellent night sleep on the airport floor, we arrived at Hanoi. Immigration staff were as friendly as ever but we managed to avoid most of the scams and arrived a mere 5 minutes walk from our hotel. Considering what we had been used to sleeping in this felt like 5* luxury. We immediately set out to explore the city which is a hub of energy, activity and tiny chairs. We visited the market which only enhanced gemma's vegetarianism. Live fish are cut in half and left flapping about, frogs are skinned alive and absolutely every part of a cow and goat is on display. On the subject of death we also saw the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minn in his maselium. This was a very strange experience only outdone by the Italian tourists nearly being arrested for thoroughly un-Vietnamese queing behaviour. The city is absolutely beautiful with lakes, temples, old town walls, and trees that emerged onto the busy street through building walls.

st Josephs cathedral
Beer had now gone down to 30p a pint so we enjoyed many bottles, on chairs suitable for 3 year olds, overlooking St Joseph's Cathedral. We were only due to spend a couple of days in Hanoi but loved it so much that we decided to stay longer and help them celebrate the new year. This was a brilliant decision as the Vietnamese really know how to organise a party (even if it's not actually their new year).

rowing with feet!!!
We set off for Nim Bhin on a rickety local bus on new years day to visit the lime stone hills that emerge from the surrounding rice paddies and rivers. A couple of motorbike drivers took us around the villages to show us the sites.

The area is beautiful although the dense fog did make it a little difficult to see very far. Gemma's motorbike drive was completely mad but she thoroughly enjoyed it and couldnt help but mention how lame my driver was. We met a lovely lady who rowed us up the river in a slightly unconventional manner, using only her feet! Although we had already payed for the service we did have to bribe her to take us back again.

motorbiking in the pouring rain, amazing!!
ben's sleeping den
We Booked ourselves onto an over night sleeper bus for the journey to Hue. Being picked up last meant that we got the left over seats which were barely long enough for a child. I was stuck between the most talkative Slovenian gardener and the toilet. Gemma managed to bag herself a better bed so had far less trouble sleeping. My morning mood was only made worse by the fact that someone had stolen my iPhone. On the up side we did book ourselves into an awesome back packer lodge and met some great people who became our intermitant travel buddies the whole way down Vietnam. One of the days brought a whole lot of rain so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to try out riding motorbikes. We got absolutely drenched but enjoyed every second of it, even the huge pot holes and the crazy night time traffic in the city centre (driving the wrong way down a one way street probably didn't help!).

ben happy with his sleeper seat
hoi ann, one of our favorites
Hoi An was our next stop and it is absolutely stunning. Quaint little streets overlooked by beautiful little yellow building and a river running through the centre. Full moon brings with it a spectical of hundreds of lanterns lighting the streets and floating candles all over the river. The rain put an end to the celebrations and didn't seem like it was going to let up so we decided to head further south to a glorious 30 degrees on the Mui Nei coast. This meant another sleeper bus but this time we got good seats/beds and enjoyed a much better night sleep. We did, of course get woken up on a number of occasions being almost thrown from our seats due to the seriously crazy driving of the coach driver. Good fun though.

attempting to sand board im the one 2nd from top,

We spent the next few days sitting on the beach or next to the pool and the evenings drinking with all the Russians that appear to consider Mui Nei a second home. We went quad biking over enormous sand dunes. My driving was slightly over enthusiastic leading to us taking off at one point a d throwing Gemma off the back on another. I was fine though.

We moved on to Siagon and have really enjoyed the hustle and bustle of this city. Crossing the road is almost as dangerous as in India, but at least the vietnamese seem to want to drive around you rather than straight through you which we appreciated. We have visited a very graphic museum explaining the attrocities of the war and also spent some time crawling through the Cui Chi tunnels. Our lack of height meant that we were able to crawl through one of the genuine tunnels used by the Vietnamese cong during the war. There wwas absolutely no light so we had to feel our way through. The opening was basically the size of an A4 piece of paper (proof that I've lost some weight!) and the tunnel was only 80cm high and 60cm wide. Some parts were definitely smaller though. Gemma took the lead and got attacked by bats half way along.

The tunnel that had been widened for the tourists was much easier to get through and linked to sleeping areas, meeting rooms and cooking spaces, giving us some idea of what it must have been like.

Our next stop is Cambodia. We leave tomorrow. Neither of us can wait but will be a little sad to be leaving Vietnam. We fully intend to come back.

Keep sending random emails as we enjoy hearing what is going on back at home. It looks pretty cold;)

Write soon

Ben and gem (xx)

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