A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Stop 18 - Niñh Chu and journey back to China


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After a blissfully cool few days in Dalat, we jumped on a bus back down to the coast and into the heat. We were headed for Niñh Chu Beach, which was supposed to be very popular with the locals, but turned out disappointingly not to be the cleanest we'd ever seen; throughout Vietnam we have noticed a very different attitude to littering than back home. The bay was beautiful though.

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We hired a scooter for a day and with only a few, minor wobbles, drove north up the coast to the Nui Chua National Park. As soon as we hit the park the landscape got wilder and greener, and the road was incredibly quiet. We stopped off at a bay with a rocky outcrop made of moonrock (or maybe some sort of other geological formation...). Friendly locals gave us a few apples as we obviously looked like we were struggling with the heat (we were).

Driving further up the coast through the National Park, we passed a succession of beautiful beaches, driving along windy headlands. We stopped off at a very picturesque, working fishing village and for a quick dip at a beach before the heavens opened and we had an extremely soggy drive back. Soggy is a bit of an understatement...

It was a great last full day and we will definitely miss Vietnam with the amazing coffee, lovely people and crazy chaotic cities.

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The next day we embarked on a slightly ill-judged mammoth journey back to China. First, was a 27 hour train up to Hanoi followed by a few hours to eat, grab a sneaky bia hoi (daily brewed beer) and another train across the border to Nanning. This one was a mere 11 hours, but you have to lug your bags on and off the train at both the Vietnamese and Chinese borders - no visa issues for us this time! So, we were running fairly low on sleep when we arrived into Nanning, before collecting our tickets for our ~4 hour train to the city of Guilin, where we collected our tickets for our 1.5 hour train to Yangshuo, after which we got on the 20 minute shuttle bus to the town of Xingping. By this point, we were running very low on both sleep and energy and had to walk across town to the river to catch a 5 minute ferry over the river. Finally, all that was left was the 20 minute walk through the farmland to our next WorkAway destination!

Posted by Chloemillen92 01:55 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach train vietnam scooter ninh_chu nui_chau Comments (0)

Stop 17 - Dalat


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After a sweaty few weeks we decided it was time to give ourselves a break from the tropical heat and head to the Central Highlands, to a city called Dalat, famous for its eternally Spring-like temperatures. Our overnight bus from Saigon arrived alarmingly early and we decided it was best not to think too hard about how the driver had managed to shave an entire three hours off the journey time, as we slept in the surprisingly comfortable dentist chair style seats.

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One of the big attractions in the city was Bao Dai palace, the home of the last Vietnamese Emperor and his family. The outside was a good example of a piece of relatively unattractive 1930's art deco-ish architecture which wasn't quite what we had expected. Inside, although large, the palace was surprisingly simple and modest. It had also been left amazingly untouched and so was very interesting to look around and get a feel for how the occupants lived.

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Another big attraction in Dalat is 'The Crazy House'. It's name describes it pretty perfectly; we had really never seen or even imagined a building like it before. The architect, Dang Viet Nga, was apparently inspired to create the higgledy piggledy, surrealist residence by the nature surrounding the city. There were lots of tunnels, bridges, ladders, patterns and colours and practically no right angles or straight lines. The 'house' already had quite a few bedrooms (which it looked as though you can stay in) but was still being constructed which was quite cool as you could also wander around unfinished parts.

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On our final day in Dalat we decided to take a tour out of the city which was very worthwhile. We stopped off at a flower plantation, insect farm (Mike ate a cricket), silk worm farm, a weasel coffee plantation (weird and kind of sad) and a pretty spectacular waterfall called the Elephant Falls. We had fun clambering up and down the muddy, rocky paths to see the falls from different angles; the wedding party attempting to get some unique wedding photos, not so much.

Posted by Chloemillen92 08:02 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam dalat central_highlands Comments (0)

Stop 16 - Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho


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Next stop, after another night train (getting really good at them now), was Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it's otherwise known. The city is much larger than Hanoi and has many more skyscrapers and scooters!

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The Independence Palace in the city centre is an incredibly well preserved piece of 1960s architecture and interior design - the rooftop meditation space was quickly converted to a "party room" by the South Vietnamese President soon after its construction... The palace is famous for the images of a tank breaking down the perimeter fence in 1975, during the liberation of Saigon by Communist forces.

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We spent a few days checking out the sights, mainly getting around by air con taxis cause it was pretty warm. Here is the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral.

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And the extremely grand post office.

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We got caught in a huge downpour whilst exploring the Chinese temples of the Cholon area.

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Here, we said goodbye to most of our friends who had been in Vietnam for the past couple of weeks and then took a bus further south to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, with Emon and Becky. After arriving during the biggest storm I think I've ever seen, we woke up early the next morning for a tour with Linh, the young Vietnamese woman running our guesthouse. We headed out to a small village and onto the river to take a look at a small floating market. It was a wholesale type affair, so we were just watching the various boats bumping into each other, selling huge bags of fruits and vegetables and one floating cafe making Vietnamese coffee.

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After the market, we headed down into the small canals - they were incredibly beautiful and peaceful. It was a really rural area and we jumped on and off the boat a few times to explore the countryside.

Heading back to dry land we stopped for a noodle soup breakfast and had a look around the non-floating market, complete with frogs, mice and snakes.... which we obviously had to hold. Saying goodbye to Becky and Emon, we had another very chilled day in Can Tho wandering around temples and getting massages, before getting back on the bus to HCMC for one more night.

Back in HCMC, we tried to satisfy Chlo's cheese and wine cravings; success on the wine, "cashew nut cheese" less so...

Posted by Chloemillen92 07:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam saigon floating_market hcmc ho_chi_minh_city mekong_delta can_tho Comments (0)

Stop 15 - Hue and Hoi An


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After another night on the train we pulled into Hue and made our way to the friendly hostel. It was early morning and already ridiculously hot. The temperature continued to rise as we sat in a bakery eating croissants until it reached its peak at pretty much the same time as we headed out to see the the city's main attraction - the ancient citadel. Most of us spent the next few hours exploring the former home and gardens of the Emporer, whilst Emon and Greg sat stationary on a wall looking like they were going to pass out from heat exhaustion.

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It was a pretty beautiful place with some amazing old buildings, walkways and some fancy gardens where the Emporer used to throw parties.

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We also came across a very photogenic wall.

The next day we hired a car and driver to take us to Hoi An making various stops en route.

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We visited an eerie, abandoned waterpark which featured a now dilapidated dragon aquarium in the middle of a lake. It had apparently had opened before it was ready in the early 2000's which turned out to be a bad business move.

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We drove over the famous Hai Van pass and stopped for some lunch with incredible views at the top.

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Lastly we stopped off at the Marble Mountains, a group of little mountains plonked in the middle of a busy town. At the top of the one we took the lift up to, were some huge caves with shrines inside, some temples and some pretty good views.

We arrived into our hotel mid afternoon and had a very refreshing dip in the pool! The next few days were spent site seeing, cycling about, chilling and eating.

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The town itself is very pretty and famous for having hundreds of handmade lanterns.

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There are some really old buildings here, ranging from temples, to houses, to assembly halls, with elements of Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese architecture and design. We found out whilst visiting one of them, that Hoi An used to be a very important trading port but then got left behind by the times when the new trading boats of the 18th and 19th century required a deeper port. This has turned out to be a pretty good thing as otherwise many of the ancient parts would probably have been destroyed.

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Walking around in the evenings was very atmospheric with lanterns being sold and put onto the river, many people wondering around and a huge choice of buzzy bars and restaurants.

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On our final afternoon Mike and went on a bike ride to the other side of the river, away from the old town and the tourist area. The change in landscape was really unexpected. Suddenly we were cycling down little roads amongst rice paddies and local houses!

Posted by Chloemillen92 08:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hue hoi_an central_vietnam Comments (0)

Stop 14 - Hanoi and Sapa


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Coming from Hong Kong to Vietnam turned into a bit of a mammoth journey; crossing back to the mainland by metro, border control, a metro to Shenzhen train station, a bullet train to Nanning, a metro to the other train station in Nanning and finally a night train to Hanoi! All this was made slightly more complicated by the border crossing as apparently our visas were only valid when crossing by road, not by train!!! We mainly reckon this was because the crossing was pretty old school and couldn't handle our E-visas. Anyway, they let us in on a 15 day visa, which we then got extended once in Hanoi.

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Hanoi is a pretty great city, full of scooters and lacking in pavements, but a lot of fun. The roads around the lake in the picture above are pedestrianised at the weekends and it's a good spot for catching local exercise classes, or being asked for help practising English by local students.

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We really liked the water puppet show, an hour or so show of the Northern Vietnamese tradition. The puppeteers are stood up to their waste in the water, hidden behind the stage, using wooden puppets on long sticks to play out a number of stories and scenes. There's an orchestra and some great voiceovers as well. The dragons with firecracker flames were spot on!

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Hanoi was also when we met up with friends from home to travel for a couple of weeks, so we were suddenly a group of nine! Here's most of us sweating away outside St Joseph's Cathedral.

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Here is Chlo with her new fan, because it is so ridiculously hot and sweaty.

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Vietnamese food and coffee is brilliant, so we spent a morning with Linh and her sister showing us the markets and teaching us how to make egg coffees (sort of like a little meringue on top), two types of spring rolls, papaya salad and attempting to make vegetable flowers. The best part of cooking classes is always the feast you get at the end, finished off with some ghecko and snake infused rice wine this time around...

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From Hanoi, we took the night train up to the north-west to an area called Sapa - famous for its scenery, minority villages and trekking. We arrived bright and early to cloudy drizzle and started our 18 kilometre trek up and down the Vietnamese jungle paths. A lot of this was super slippy and some of us got pretty good at styling out falls. The views made it all worth it though and our guide taught us his favourite Western song (If you wanna cry, cry on my shoulder...). We stayed the night in a "homestay" in a Hmong village (sort of like a little hostel), tried some more homemade rice wine and learnt a great news card game (karate snap). The next days trek was much flatter and less in the jungle, but gave us plenty of beautiful views of the terraced rice paddies the area is famous for.

Posted by Chloemillen92 01:57 Archived in Vietnam Tagged trek trekking city vietnam sapa hanoi coffee hmong cooking_class northern_vietnam Comments (0)

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