A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

sunny
View My Trip so far! on Sophfidoe's travel map.

As soon as I left Laos, at the Vietnamese border, I could straight away tell that the next few weeks were going to be quite different to what I'd experienced so far, both in terms of the scenery I was going to get the opportunity to see and the culture I was to be surrounded by. I arrived in Vietnam slightly naive as to what they had been through as a country and was keen to learn more.

As soon as you crossed the border you could notice the change in architecture, very French as a result of their colonization and the surrounding mountains were beautiful, however it was hard to relax on the bus to Hanoi for all the beeping of horns! It was unbelievable, the bus beeped every time it went past a car, another bus, pedestrian, cyclist or moped etc and there are literally hundreds of beeping mopeds!

It's not only the surrounding physical environment which is different here, the attitudes of the Vietnamese seemed somewhat the complete opposite from what I had experienced so far. Especially following on from Laos where everything is so relaxed; in Vietnam everyone is very efficient to the point of being slightly aggressive.

Due to having such strong neighbours, namely China, they can't afford to relax and are very keen to develop as quickly as possible and that's certainly what they are doing. You don't feel that you're in a communist country, far from it in fact, as so many Vietnamese have their own little business's. Apparently the country tends to concentrate on growing the economy through business and so the political situation remains on the backburner for now.

The different attitudes of the Vietnamese first became evident during the border crossing when travellers were being prevented from entering the country as their passport was either deemed fake or that it wasn't them! After the 2hr crossing (apparently that was a quick crossing) we entered what was the loudest country I've been to yet!

Hanoi

Arriving in Hanoi, the capital, a lovely lady took me to a guesthouse which was perfectly positioned right in the centre of an Autumn kids festival which was going on for a whole month! Hanoi is so busy that you have to play cat and mouse when crossing the road or is it Russian roulette? However this festival made the situation pretty impossible to say the least. The lovely ladies in the guesthouse assured me that the noise finished at 10 pm, but failed to mention that you just get knocked down by locals on mopeds who are window shopping rather than watching where they are going!

After a while I got a true feel for the city and found it to be quite European in places with locals eating late by the lake in the old town and the local markets. We were hoping to visit the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, however he makes a trip to Russia for 3 months a year for some 'retouching' so we settled for the presidential palace instead and the prison there, both of which are worth a visit. I could write about the Vietnamese history for a while, however not everyone is keen to read about the horrors or repeat their History GCSE so for now I'll miss details.

Ha Long Bay

Having had my bag slashed out in the streets and camera stolen, Ha Long Bay was a welcome relief from the busy, noisy city that is Hanoi.

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I knew that Ha Long would be a highlight of my trip and it most certainly was, it is beautiful and if you ever make it to Asia I really would recommend it. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the biggest island, Cat Ba, there but I've heard that's worth a trip too. We were treated like royalty on this 'Pirates of the Caribbean' style boat, swimming in the bay, gorgeous seafood, kayaking and more importantly the cleanest room I've had yet all for just 15pounds a day!

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Hoi An

Vietnam is a vast country and it took me 3 night buses to make it down to Ho Chi Minh so I would recommend that you have at least a month if you're planning on seeing the whole of the country.

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Sleeper Bus!

Hue and then Hoi An were the next on the itinerary. Hoi An is full of Tailors and hostels, one after the next. The Vietnamese are known for their tailoring techniques and beautiful fabrics and their speed at making items. The girls I was with had 3 piece suits made, which following the 1st fitting we thought were going to be an absolute disaster but amazingly they fitted perfectly the next day after this little Vietnamese lady had given a lecture to her right hand man with us standing there like lemons and being pushed around, they might be little but they certainly shouldn't be messed with!!!

The full moon passed as we were on the way to Nha Trang, a town on the coast. It took longer than expected to get there as in every town we passed kids dressed as dragons jumped out in front of the bus and began parading around in the road to the drivers disgust but to our amusement!

Nha Trang

After a month on the road, the beach at Nha Trang was welcomed.

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Beach at last!

The clear sea and white beaches were just what I needed. My main memory of Nha Trang though was the Vietnamese ladies who would go up and down the beach selling jewelry, watches, pineapple and lobster. The Lobster lady would carry a big pole across her shoulders, one end with the piping hot water and the other end the fresh lobster and plates. All day in the heat, fully clothed, he would walk up and down the beach cooking the lobster freshly infront of you.

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Lobster Dinner

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh was where I speant my last few days in Vietnam. The visit to the Chu Chi tunnels is most definitely worth it, giving you a great insight as to how many lived during the war. The Mekong Delta trip was also of interest but probably worth getting this trip if you are on the way to Cambodia as you can cross the border to Phom Penh here.

Vietnam was certainly beautiful and I would definitely return to explore the places that unfortunately I didn't have time to visit on this trip, namely Sapa in Northern Vietnam where all the tea plantations are. Maybe to Ha Long again!

Posted by Sophfidoe 03:26 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Laos

Trekking, Tubing and Zip-lining!

sunny
View My Trip so far! on Sophfidoe's travel map.

Just as I was about to get used to the Thai way of life, after 16days, I moved east over the border at Chiang Kiong to Houy Xai, Laos. This country is known for its relaxed way of life and scenic countryside and that's certainly what I found; everything is in Laos time!

Houy Xai

I crossed the border on the Mekong River which is one of the longest rivers in the world, stretching from Tibet to the Southern tip of Vietnam. The crossing took all of 5 minutes from Thailand to Laos, probably the easiest crossing I've ever done.

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Mekong River

The plan was to get the 2 day slow boat which was to go straight to Luang Prabang, the old capital of Laos, however I met a couple from Jersey on my bus and they soon convinced me to go on the "Gibbon Experience" with them. They had heard about this trekking adventure whilst in India and the infamous 'You Tube' soon showed me what I had let myself in for!
11 of us excited travellers set off in the jeeps, however our enthusium was somewhat drained during our first days 8hr trek into Bokeo National Park. It was a perfect opportunity though to see the scenic part of Laos whilst trying to burn off all the rice I had been faced with!

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Views of Bokeo National Park

During the 3 day gibbon experience our acommodation was a tree house in the National park and the form of transport though the forest were the zip-lines between the trees. It's the most amazing feeling - I guess just like a Gibbon!

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Zip-lining around!

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Cooks taking out our food

Unfortunately we didn't see any Gibbons let alone hear them, however we did have lovely little mice eat into our rucksacks in the night.

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Our acommodation

After 3 days of walking and zip-lining the 2 day slowboat down the Mekong was most welcome! (you can do the speedboat which takes 7hrs but it's not recommended it you don't want to capsize on the rocks and the statistics for deaths in that fashion is unbelievable, it's a wonder that they are allowed to still do it but hey it's Laos!).

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Slowboat Scenery

Luang Prabang

After a brief stop in a village for a night where all the electricity goes off at 10pm I arrived at my destination. It was only Northern Laos that I visited but the highlight here has to be the old city of Luang Prabang, more like an old town really.

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Shops in Luang Prabang

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Drying the Sticky Rice

It has been known as the nicest town in S.E.Asia and so far I would agree. It's swarming with Monks, market stalls and little ladies selling tuna or peanut butter sandwichs (in addition to fried chicken heads and feet) but there is a certain calmness about the place.

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Views in Luang Prabang

One highlight for many westerners is the bowling alley which many head to after the only club in town 'stadium' which is more like an old pub with raffle prizes on a stage! once the lights come on at 12.30am everyone heads off (or staggers off) to go bowling, the only place which has a late licence. Bowling is equivalent to 90pence a game and especially with lots of ladyboys (very common in Thailand and Laos and openly so) playing it's quite amusing!

Vang Vieng

Following on from the waterfalls I headed south to Vang Vieng which is a town purely for westerners. On arrival the neon lights were in their element with each bar playing friends and family guy on repeat. In the day I realised that everyone in the town was either hungover or about to set off tubing! I hadn't really heard of tubing prior to getting to Laos, but apparently this is the thing to do in this country!
So, still apart of the 11 'Pink Gibbon' gang I got pursuaded into joining them on the tubing extravagana! We all donned very pink billabong shorts and with waterproof bag and tube hit the fast flowing river!
Not being a huge fan of water, let alone jumping from swings into the river, I had some rum with my pineapple shake and soon was joining in with the jumping off zip lines etc! I think I have overcome my fear it's safe to say!
It was a little ironic that there were local villagers working in the fields carrying out backbreaking farming work and here are over 100 tourists drinking, listening to loud music on big wooden platforms throwing themselves into the river and then diving into mudbaths and playing volleyball!
I had fun though it has to be said! One tip for those who go tubing in Vang Vieng is to note that the last bar is not walking distance to the hostels but actually a 20min float in your tube down the river in pitch black - so maybe try and finish in the light!

Vientiane

Realising that I had speant too long in Laos already I only had short stop off in the capital before getting the 24hr bus ride to Hanoi. I really enjoyed Laos, however I speant more time traveling than I had expected and due to the relaxed environment I was converting to Laos speed and forgot to stick to my schedule!

So having been away for just under a month now I was moving on to Vietnam.

Posted by Sophfidoe 03:09 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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