Posts in "Vietnam"
good bye and so long vietnam; the agreeable and not so...
we tackled vietnam backwards and traveled south to north, which we were told by numerous people was the wrong way to do it. needless to say, we now understand why we were told that and wish somewhat we had finished our time on phu quoc after the madness that was vietnam. we had a fantastic few weeks though, from bottom to top, with good and bad - so here goes...

good:

1. phu quoc was as you probably already guessed, our favorite destination in vietnam in its entirety for obvious reasons but in close second was hoi an and it's unique quaintness

2. i for one thought the food was probably the next best thing. those of you who know me well, my day seriously revolves around when and where i eat. the food, apart from once, never disappointed

3. the vietnamese people would have to be the nicest people to date. we had minimal exposure to rude or unwelcoming people. everyone seemed friendly, inviting and willing to go out of there way for you

4. hiring a motorbike and finding a deserted beach just outside of phu quoc town. not only was it beautiful and surreal, it ranks as one of the best days we have had on our trip

5. meeting some great aussies (newbies laura and ro, oldies we met in lao kate and tom) and having some of the best nights we have had while away

6. visiting the cu chi tunnels and war museum in saigon. it an educational, raw, uncensored and unforgettable experience

7. the chaos of the streets; traffic, food stalls, old couples taking five minutes to cross the road, shops and markets, flowers and meat. the hectic-ness and craziness of it all added to the appeal of saigon and hanoi

some other worthy mentions: our ha long bay cruise; the drive from cambodia to vietnam through the green rice fields, rocky barren hills and fishing villages; saigon red export beer and hanoi beer (both strong contenders for the best drop yet); seafood grilled dinners on the sand in phu quoc and lastly, cheese cake, coffee and wines which all re-appeared on menus

bad:

1. being made to feel bad because we wouldn't move hotels in hanoi half way through our stay and finding out it was all a scam a few hours later because they need the rooms to poach customers from other hostels

2. transport from place to place was never on time, always dirty and you were constantly sold something different than what you bought

3. kurt says a downer for him was getting spewed on... not that we couldn't have guessed

4. kurt taking off in the middle of the soccer riot after deciding to hop on the back of a motorbike and ride in the opposite direction to where we were headed and not finding him until an hour later

5. losing our reservation at phu quoc because we had to spend a night in stinky ha tien, which resulted in one night and two days lost and wasted in transit - however if we didn't get stuck we wouldn't have met laura and rohan, so it wasn't that bad...
good morning vietnam
hanoi is a law unto itself. granted its a fantastic city with plenty to offer and some amazing places to visit, it is however a city where anything can happen at the drop of a hat. after returning to the city from our ha long bay trip we set off to find a guest house in a 'desirable' area and explore the city. once finding a place that was ok we set off only to find ourselves quickly immersed in the culture and diversity of the old quarter. often en route to complete mundane tasks like visit the post office, we would stumble across something out of this world; it was truly the definition of where the old and new meet.

we ended up meeting with laura and rohan again and had a couple of memorable evenings on the town. the first consisting of getting stuck in the middle of a soccer-winning riot and the second being an afternoon christmas picnic around hoan kiem lake, the liquid heart of hanoi. the sights and smells of the city have left me undecided as to weather or not i would return but we had some exciting experiences and some instances we would rather forget. all in all, hanoi was the perfect way to end part one of the trip before heading into part two of the trip: china and japan.

pics. hanoi shopping street, outdoor kitchen at street stall, drinks and christmas picnic with laura and rohan, street by day and then by night (behing the boys having a beer), when you cant beat em' - join em as we joined the victory celebrations on the street.




















from ho chi minh city to ha long bay and everywhere in between…

ok, i know its long but worth a read or picture creep at least. after leaving our wonderful bungalow and heading for the ferry to mainland vietnam to see ho chi minh city (saigon) - we had another horrible trip getting from point a to point b - well at least kurt did… after breaking down in the bus and getting sold a tick on the ‘local’ ferry, with no seats effectively left for us, kurt ended up wearing the vietnamese breakfast of choice pho’ for the rest of the day. He literally wore it for the rest of the day as he got vomited on by a child who got sea sick. this incident began the day and without going into to much detail, it did not get any better.

once we arrived in ho chi minh (saigon) we found a nice little guest house in the centre of the city, located close to restaurants, shops, a big park and a wonderful coffee shop. with two days nights and one day, we had little time to waste, so we booked a day tour to the cu chi tunnels and the war remenants museum. we did a bit of reading to ensure we weren’t going in totally unaware of the happening in the area during the war and set of on a day full of surreal, depressing and astonishing experiences. the cu chi tunnels is a ‘must-do’ for anstralians and new zealanders who visit saigon, to understand the conditions our soldiers fought in during the vietnamese war. granted, it also educated us on how the vietnamese lived during the war, how they lived, fought and defeated the usa. the afternoon was spent wandering around the museum, learning about the relations before, during and after the war and glancing at first hand images taken by journalists in the firing line.

fact: saigon has a population of around nine million people with four million motorbikes; which make for a lot of traffic, insane hustle and bustle when trying to cross the road and a lot of noise.

from ho chi minh we opted for a five hour bus trip, which quickly turned into seven a half, to mui ne. the closest white sand beach from saigon. it was nice however not comparable to phu quoc. we spent a few days here getting blown away by off shore winds that attract wind surfers and kite boarders from all around the world. the beach itself was nice when the wind was not encouraging sand to flick up or send learner kite boarders kites careering into sunbathing tourists. it was a nice relaxing change from ho chi minh however and we were able to spend some time wining and dining with laura and rohan in some of the local restaurants before heading north.

next was a twenty one hour bus ride (crazy, i know) from mui ne to nha trang to hoi an. hoi an was an absolute old charmer and we instantly fell in love with its old worldly buildings, river and quaint restaurants. we spent our three days lazily wandering the streets, enjoying food and absorbing the local culture and way of life. in the mornings we observed as little made their way to the local markets to buy fresh foods and flowers, how the men enjoyed morning tea in the local cafes and traditional lanterns lit up the town in the evenings. we indulged in coffee and cake most days, dinners with fellow travelers tom and kate from melbourne and kurt enjoyed the services of a local tailor and had a winter coat custom made for the grand total of forty dollars. it was a town with charisma and somewhere we would like to visit again.

rather then sit on a bus for a further sixteen hours, we purchased some cheap flights to hanoi. we justified the cost by weighing up how much our time was really worth, our sanity levels after the previous bus ride and time constraints. we arrived in hanoi at midnight, checked into our hotel and booked a tour directly to ha long bay, which departed the next morning at eight am. while we didn’t have much sleep and were not looking forward to a three and a half hour bus ride from the city to ha long city; we were excited to see one of the seven wonders of the natural world. we wound up spending our two days and one night on one of the luxury chinese ‘junk boats’ with a group of old biddies in a luxury cabin feasting on eight course seafood lunches and dinners, as opposed to fellow back packers … however, it was an amazing trip and we really loved sleeping in a traditional wooden boat. the bay itself was breathtaking and we were lucky enough to see some afternoon sun, through the winter mist.

in a quick scramble, these are the pics. scooters in saigon, art gallery featuring propoganda posters from the war in saigon, the cu chi tunnels, a b52 bomb crater, cu chi shooting range, kurt shooting an ak-47, vietnamese sniper hole from the war, war museum in saigon, mui ne beach, kite surfers at mui ne, hoi an by day and by night, locals buying and selling on the street, kurt at the tailor getting fitted kurt enjoying some coffee and cake (a little too much), the hoi an river at night, our last night in hoi an was beautiful in the rain, ha long bay, our cabin on the boat, sunset on the bay and us at ha long bay.

saigon

mui ne

hoi an

ha long bay

paradise takes shape in phu quoc island...
well we finally arrived in vietnam after a horrendous border crossing from cambodia which saw our bus brake down, us get shoved with 15 other people into a 13 seater mini-van, having to spend a night in ha tien after missing our connecting ferry and our hotel reservation getting cancelled on the island, which is not good in peak season. after trekking down the hot sand and finding another place to stay (which ended up being better than our initial place), we began our holiday on the island. ok breathe jamee... ahh... now that long winded whinge is over, i will change my tune to a more positive one and fill you in on possibly our favourite place yet.

note. phu quoc is an island off the bottom of vietnam, located in the south china sea, which - given its close proximity to cambodia is also claimed as theirs.

the white sand, palm trees, coconut cocktails and blue water were more than inviting and after the few days it took to finally get there and certainly made it all the more worth it. long beach is a beautiful stretch of sand that houses many different resorts, bungalows and guesthouses and overall seemed to have a pleasant balance between what western tourists want out of a holiday while still keeping a real vietnamese cultural vibe. we stayed in a gorgeous bungalow just back from the beach, and it was utter perfection.

after spending two days lounging on the beach (one day was had relatively sore heads due to a very social evening we had with laura and ro, a couple en route to melbourne) we opted to get out and about and see the rest of the island. we ended up getting tempted to join a day trip out on the boat, fishing, snorkelling, eating and resting. it was a great day out and so nice to be out on the ocean. it also gave us the opportunity to drive past phuc quocs infamous prison which was the site of some of vietnams most horrendous war crimes, in world war two.

our final day on the island was spent exploring on motorbike. our mission was to find a deserted beach, or as close to a stretch of sand that was not inhabited but a. other tourists or b. water buffalo and local huts. it didn't take long. we found a spot with a cute little seafood restaurant and spent the day lounging in the sun, sipping cold beers and eating tuna steak and salads. it was a surreal experience that made us feel as though we had been let in on a secret. we had to, still have to, process the fact that this is how we spend our days. it was probably one of our most memorable and i hope you can all see why in the pictures.

pics. phu quoc beach, relaxing at amigos, us on the day trip, snorkelling spot, deserted beach and the sunsetting over a local fishing boat.