A Travellerspoint blog

Stop 17 - Hoi An

sunny 30 °C
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We left Hue on Anzac Day and headed down the coast to Hoi An. This time we took a private car which meant we could stop along the way and do some tourist spots. We stopped at a few look out points on our way but the big attraction was marble mountain.

There are 5 mountains that just pop out of the landscape and each is named after one of the elements.

This is all the information I have on marble mountain. I didn't even know it existed until we stopped there. Adam had heard about it which is where I learnt the above fact....but he stopped reading about it after that so we're none the wiser.

I guess the best way to describe it is a tall mountain with a series of caves, a lot of pagodas and some carvings in the marble rock faces. We took an elevator up to the top and had a wonderful but hazy view over Da Nang and Hoi An.

We stayed about 6kms outside of the Hoi An town at a homestay on An Bang beach. The majority of our time spent at the beach each day swimming and having fun in the waves. The owner of the homestay let her friends in local businesses know we were there and our first day on the beach we were greeted by all of them. One of the businesses was a spa and after being harassed by the owner I had some treatments done. I decided on a manicure, pedicure and a hair wash and blow dry. An interesting experience....halfway through the manicure I was told she'd take me on her bike to their other salon to have my hair done. Based on how they drive their bikes I was not too keen to get on the back but went anyway.

We arrived at the second salon a.k.a. a tin shed on the side of the road where I had the most bizarre hair wash I've ever experienced. It was actually one of the best but it involved a lot of slapping on my head. The blow dry consisted of her half drying my hair with the dryer and then going over it with the straightening irons. I could hear my hair singe as the irons went over. Then once done back on the bike to the original salon. I arrived back looking as though my hair had never been done but it was lovely to have some "me" time and a bit of pampering.

Hoi An has a wonderful night market and the city is lit up like a Christmas tree. We went in one night for dinner and a look around. Lots of people enjoying the river cruises and people lighting lanterns and floating them down the river. The architecture is beautiful as its all the original French and Chinese buildings. If you want clothing or leather shoes this is the place to come - all made to order. We didn't buy anything but it was great to look at what they did have on offer. Whilst there we also got one of the local donuts - they are massive sugar coated donuts that taste like oil. However it was still delicious.

Our last day in Hoi An was Adams actual birthday. The weather was pretty miserable but we walked down to the French patisserie and got cake so we could sing happy birthday. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in our room watching the footy. Carlton even had a win to celebrate his birthday.

After sun and R&R on the beach we are now energised for our next stop - Ho Chi Minh City!!

Posted by carlagregory 08:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Stop 16 - Hue

Hooray for Hue

overcast 26 °C
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Upon returning from Ha Long bay we caught the night train from Hanoi to Hue. None of us had ever slept on a train before so it was going to be a real treat!

The plan was to get to sleep early and be nice and refreshed for our early arrival in Hue. A few too many beers and some midnight mischief later Adam and I finally fell asleep and were feeling quite sorry for ourselves come morning.

One thing we did tick off whilst on board (when I say "we" I mean Adam and Lucas) was some cultural eating. Since our first trip to the Philippines Adam has been trying to get me to eat balut. Sounds nice until you learn its a fertilised egg. Whilst walking the train trying to find the food cart Adam comes across the guards eating these eggs. So he buys one and brings it back. Lucas and Adam went halves; Lucas didn't seem that impressed at the time but if you ask him now it was the greatest taste sensation ever!

Hue is a great spot, so beautiful and less chaotic than Hanoi. Lots to see and do with the majority of it within walking distance from our hotel. The weather wasn't great for our stay but it didn't stop us from getting out and walking.

We went out on a couple of walks over the perfume river (which according to James "smells like it would taste like disappointment" - I tend to agree with him on that), to visit the markets and the citadel.

The citadel is a huge site and to be honest I'm still not sure what it all was! I think a tour guide at this place is a must because there weren't a lot of English explanations for the various buildings and things. But because we're top tourists we didn't get a guide and wandered around with a very vague map. I think we saw most of it. I enjoyed what I did see and it really is quite stunning.

The rest of our time was spent relaxing in our hotel or walking in various directions and enjoying different parts of town. We also watched a few games of footy at the pub and enjoyed the free pool table they had on offer. All in all a lovely time in a lovely city.

Next stop on the list - Hoi An!

Posted by carlagregory 07:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam - Ha Long Bay

Happy birthday to Adam!

overcast 26 °C
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One of the many things Adam has on his bucket list is to visit Ha Long Bay. So, as an early birthday present to himself we all climbed aboard the good ship Royal Wings for a 3 day 2 night 5 star luxury cruise around Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bays.

Ha Long bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is easy to see why. It is made up of thousands of limestone karsts popping up out of beautiful turquoise water - quite stunning. Its also quite strange to be sitting in your room on the boat and all of a sudden see a big rock appear in your window.

Day one - We start with a bus trip from Hanoi to the port at Ha Long bay. In a year or so I think the port will be a huge tourist attraction with resorts and the like. They are in the middle of building a huge water park, a ferris wheel and a cable car from the mainland to one of the limestone karsts close to the port.

It is on the bus we are told that there is no swimming or kayaking taking place at the moment due to a month long government crackdown due to some kayak incident (which we later found out was something to do with tourists getting ripped off and not giving the area a good name). Disappointing!!! One of the main reasons why you go there is to swim and kayak. But surely, like all rules in Asia, it is not taken seriously?! Turns out it kind of is taken seriously.

Once we arrive on board the boat we have an 8 course lunch which was quite delicious. Then we're off for some afternoon fun on the beach. By fun I mean sitting on the beach and looking at the beautiful turquoise water wishing you could swim in it. We were allowed to go in as deep as our waists. Any deeper than this and you get told off by the man with a whistle. He didn't actually come over and tell you off, just blew his whistle longer and harder. The water was icy cold. I didn't go in but Adam and the boys did.

Upon returning to the boat we had some free time before dinner where we could participate in a cooking class. Dinner was a BBQ buffet however the highlight of the dinner was the cheese. For the first time since leaving Australia we had cheese and oh my goodness it was great! (I even stole some to have on biscuits later in the evening whilst watching TV).

After dinner there was karaoke on the roof or squid fishing. Adam, James and Lucas went squid fishing and I had a bath (a rare luxury since being on this trip).

Day two - we are picked up by another boat and head to Bai Tu long bay where we met up with local fishermen and learnt how they catch fish. They dropped their net in the water and then we drove around it in the boat hitting the floor of the boat to scare the fish so they'd swim into the nets. All up we caught about 7 small fish which is apparently a good haul. They wont eat the small fish but instead take them back to their fish farm where they will wait for them to grow.

After fishing we had lunch - again it was about 8 courses and way too much food! After lunch we headed to the floating fishing village and pearl farm.

Now, depending on which guide you believe there is either 35 people living in the village or 500. I'm tipping its closer to 35. It used to be a lot bigger than what it currently is and families would live there their whole lives with children even attending school there. Recently the government has moved the majority of families out and again, depending on which guide you trust, its because a/ the government want the children to have better educations and the families to have a better quality of life or b/ the government had to do something about all the pollution they were creating in the bay. Either way the government has rehomed the families in Ha Long city free of charge and some families still come out to the bay to fish for 3-4 days then return home. Others work in the bay as tour guides. And everyone lived happily ever after...

The fishing village today is made up a handful of floating houses, an old school no longer in use and fish farms that are basically nets 8m deep in the water housing the fish they are growing for their food. Its quite interesting to see and would have looked quite impressive en masse. From here we travel through the bay to the pearl farm where they are growing, you guessed it, pearls! And now the tour ends and you're all invited to buy pearls.

Thus ends the activities for day two unless you're looking at karaoke or squid fishing. We didn't do either and retired for the evening.

Day three - An early rise so we can go on a cave walk. Every single boat tour was there at the same time so its absolute mayhem trying to enter or leave the cave. Its impressive but I was too tired and cranky to deal with people that day so I was in and out pretty quickly.

Once back at the boat we had to pack and prepare to head back to the port. Even though we were unable to swim or kayak we still enjoyed it and I'm glad we did it over the three days as we were able to relax and really enjoy the things we were able to participate in.

2nd destination in Adams bucket list ticked off!

Posted by carlagregory 07:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Stop 15 - Hanoi

so many bikes!!

overcast 26 °C
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Leaving the heat and laziness of Phu Quoc behind we headed to Hanoi. I loved Hanoi. We stayed in the old quarter on this quiet street near the St Josephs Cathedral that had everything around us. Little laneways filled with amazing food, great food carts, great coffee, shops galore and oh, did I mention the awesome food?! (Is it just me or does it seem like this blog centres itself around food an awful lot...)

Our first full day in Hanoi we headed over to the centre of the city and the lake of the restored sword or in Vietnamese Hoan Kiem lake. During the weekends all streets around the lake are blocked off from cars and become walking streets. Greatest idea ever! They have so much going on around the lake from early in the morning to late in the evening. There were groups of people playing hopscotch, others jumping rope; there was even a whole street dedicated to kids. It was filled with toy shops and book shops, they had ride on cars and hover boards that kids could use. There were a bunch of cartoon characters walking around meeting the kids. I have not seen so many people out enjoying the fresh air without any electronics or phones in such a long time. It was actually really refreshing. Lucas and James on the other hand didn't join in....boring!!

So our lap of the lake then involved shopping. Lucas wanted a new pair of shoes and James wanted a day pack. Lucas is becoming quite the haggler.

Other things to spot on your walk around the lake:

  • The Ly Thai park with its monument and bonsai trees
  • The Ngoc Son temple
  • The statue of king Le Thai To
  • Thap Rua tower

It was also Easter during our stay. Not sure how the Easter bunny found us but he did with a rather eclectic mix of chocolates including m&m's, kit kats and kinder eggs. It was the first time the boys have had chocolate since we've been gone. For James it was gone within 10 minutes of receiving it.

We didn't go to any of the museums like we had planned as guess what? they were closed!! Once again proving our super tourist skills. We did manage to watch the footy and met a lovely couple from Geelong in the process. The rest of our time was spent walking through the city and trying to avoid collisions with bikes. Fun fact Friday (on a Sunday....) there are 8 million people in Hanoi and there are 6 million bikes. The number of bikes here is insane! No one follows any road rules and they drive all over the road. I'm baffled by pedestrian crossings - there is a little green man saying I can walk but at the same time there is a green light for traffic and there heading straight for us. And just when you think you have it all figured out and you're being safe by walking on a footpath, they start driving on there too. What is going on?!? Its a game of Russian roulette any time you cross the road - basically you just walk out with confidence, keep going and prey that they have their eyes on the road not distracted by their phone, passenger, dog, something shiny in the distance...

To sum up our stay in Hanoi was short but we will definitely be back. Possibly without kids next time.

Note - Offers to look after the boys so I can have a kid free holiday will be taken as of now. Shoot me an email to express your interest. I make no guarantees that I'll come back for them though :)

Posted by carlagregory 07:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Stop 14 - Phu Quoc Vietnam

so hot right now...

sunny 33 °C
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Our first stop in Vietnam is the island of Phu Quoc. We have been here for a week now and I can say we have successfully done nothing!

The boys have found out that they like Banh Mi and at AUD1 a pop I think we all agree it is a tasty lunch time meal. By the way how good is Vietnamese bread?!?

Not much going on here except for lots of beach and pool time. There are some brilliant rock pools along the beach which we have had fun exploring. We've also been out snorkelling - loads of fish but not much coral. Not sure if I told you all but I LOVE snorkelling and if someone knows of a job where I can do it full time you should pass those details on to me. The fish are always so curious and have quite happy smiley faces.....unless they're one of those ugly brown frowning ones....but they might just be sad they're not as beautiful as the other fish.

Tomorrow we are off to Hanoi and looking forward to some cooler weather! it has been about 33 degrees here every day with no clouds or breeze. The sun is brutal!! So the 28 degrees in Hanoi will be a welcomed change.

I haven't taken any photos here so nothing to share on that front. As I said earlier we have done nothing! Its been a lovely relaxing time.

Posted by carlagregory 03:10 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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