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The Vietnam Conclusion

By on Apr 1, 2011 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam.   After three intense and chaotic weeks of travelling through Vietnam, Nic and I had made it to our last destination, Ho Chi Minh City airport for our flight home. It was with a mix of sadness that we were to be concluding such a great adventure, yet relief as my travel worn body, challenged at every corner on this overland trip, was glad to be heading home to the comforts of a clean shower and a comfortable bed. We had done it! A journey that so many dream of and a journey that will remain with me for the rest of my life. In retrospect, Vietnam is what I had always been looking for in my South East Asian adventures, rough and ready travel, chaotic Asian influences, amazing food and the chance to really get off the beaten track with no one holding my hand. Yes I nearly got Niki injured a few times, yes Giardia is not a good travelling companion and yes I was pick pocketed, however we can’t overlook the most important aspect. We had successfully travelled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for our honeymoon and Niki and I were still married by the end of it (not to mention the rules of marriage I learnt) – that tells me my marriage is as strong as Vietnamese rice wine. Wrapping up the Hello what’s your name? Blog Series, I want to share my thoughts with you on a country that is rapidly opening to tourism and some of my highlights over the three weeks. Hanoi, like an estranged lover, just as you get close it bitch slaps you and puts you back in your place. I liked Hanoi for this reason. It’s a political capital city with hard liners and a do or die attitude which more resembles China than South East Asia. I won’t lie though, I can see why this city wouldn’t appeal to everyone. It’s not relaxing, you’re constantly on edge from touts and manic traffic and you never quite feel like you’re welcome. Halong Bay. It’s touristy, it’s expensive and its one of the best indulgent activities I have ever participated in. Let’s face it, this is Halong Bay, nothing else in the world is similar! Splash out and spoil yourself with this one, its well worth it. Sapa’s uniqueness comes from the gracious Hmong indigenous people of the area who single handedly make it worth the 12 hours of train travel it will take you to get here. Its cultural vibe is rivaled by nowhere else in South East Asia as its not staged for tourists like Thailand. Well worth a trek to Ta Phin if you get the chance and the whole experience is a must when travelling to Vietnam. Hoi An is Vietnam’s tourist town and is polished, buffed and presented in a neat package. Needless to say Hoi An is popular and you’ll be surrounded by tourists from all over the world and from all walks of life. However if you’re like me and you wish you could have seen Asia in the times when Singapore was the whore of the east, Hong Kong was the opium capital and sea traders ruled South East Asia, then Hoi An can give you a glimpse into what a trading port would have looked like. No opium or ladies of the night (not that I saw) but heaps of great restaurants, relaxed nightlife, clean beaches and of course lots of lanterns. Hue! I don’t really understand where Hue fits into Vietnam. Torn apart by war, centered on its cultural history of emperors and moving forward whilst watching its back. Perhaps I was in a travel low whilst here or perhaps travel shouldn’t always be fun, sometimes it should be hard going and thought provoking – which Hue certainly is. Nha Trang is a small town and reminds me of the coastal towns of Spain – English breakfast cafes, themed pubs, tourist development, the beach and not much to do. Nha Trang was comfortable but I personally don’t know why people stop there. The beaches are better near Hoi An, there aren’t many attractions and unless you’re into getting cheaply drunk all night………ohhhh that’s why people stop there. Apparently it’s a good dive spot too! Ho Chi Minh City. I have to admit I didn’t give enough time to explore this city, only staying here for two days. Saigon as it was formerly known is just as crazy, chaotic and thrill riding as you expect it to be. It’s also very sobering with the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace giving a horrific glimpse into Vietnam’s history. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time when visiting this city and hold onto to you knickers you’re in for the ride of your life! So with that I say thank you for sticking with me over the last five months, the trip to Vietnam was life changing. I really encourage you to visit Vietnam before it starts to open to the mass western tourism that so much of South East Asia has already adopted. Vietnam isn’t a walk in the park however if you’re thinking of travelling to Vietnam, you probably already know that.  That’s it for “Hello, what’s your name?” and with that I’d like to say my name is...

Hue to Nha Trang By Train

By on Dec 28, 2010 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam.   The first three hours of our twelve hour train ride to Nha Trang was stunning as it snaked its way along the coast of the China Sea. It was also the quietest of the trip as Niki was horrified into silence by the demanding conditions of our carriage. I on the other hand thought the rough and ready approach the Vietnamese had was great and was more than happy to risk my life eating poorly handled chicken and holding on for dear life in a room that resembled something similar to a bathroom thirty years ago. Nic and I were heading for the sea side town of Nha Trang via Danang (jump off here for bus connections to Hoi An) which was a solid twelve hours by train from Hue to catch up with a good mate of ours who had spent the last three months working as a promotional rep. Or at least that is the story we are meant to tell the world, the real story involves espionage, foreign relations and pick pocketing hookers – that’s another story though. Rule No. 13 of being married – Never lie to your wife about the condition of a train to lure her onto it. She will find out that there is no such thing as tourist class,  limited food options and that the bathroom is simply a  hole in the floor – this making the next 12 hours on the train a little awkward. After passing along the coast, the train veered inland past many rural towns, small commercial hubs and remarkable landscapes. Images from the puppet show in Hanoi were coming to life as I saw many people working off the land. Every time we pulled into a town, our windows became the centre of attention as beggars tried to find a way to get by. It was hard and I felt arrogant, but I couldn’t support them. The look in the hungry children’s eyes was gut wrenching and as the conductor “shooed” them off, I thought there had to be a better way to help these people without just handing money out? Arriving into Nha Trang at about 8 .30pm, we headed to the second best hotel we stayed at in Vietnam, Ha Van Hotel. Excellent location, great service, the best breakfast and polished rooms with no cockroaches! Nha Trang had an instant feel of a tourist town similar to those the British loved to visit in Spain or Greece; full of pubs, British breakfast cafes, Italian restaurants and a slightly naughty night scene. Grabbing a bite at a local restaurant that I can’t remember the name of, so its food must not of been any good, I just happen to see my mate walking down the street chasing some women to whoo to his bar – Guava. For the sake of confidentially lets call my mate Hot Dog. My mate hails from the land of the his majesty the queen, but don’t hold that against him. Hot Dog was one of those guys that everyone lovs and was always up for a drink and a good time – I could see why he found himself in Nha Trang. After having a quick chat and arranging to meet up the next day, we headed back to the hotel for some well needed sleep. Waking up to our one and only full day in Nha Trang, we strolled around this relaxed town. Nha Trang is all about the diving , so physical attractions were on the low side. Realizing this, Niki and I decided to head down to the main beach. Unlike the beautiful beaches of Hoi An, Nha Trang’s were cluttered with rubbish, mass development, noisy speed boats and slightly polluted waters. Not to mention a great Hollywood like sign construction on an island in a distance. It had seemed all the major tourism players like the Sheraton and Novotel had come to town and were exploiting Nha Trang for its full potential. That night we grabbed a bite to eat at Lanterns, a local restaurant that supports an orphanage in the area. The food was good and atmosphere was predominantly American. Catching up with Hot Dog after dinner, we headed off to pub crawl the town. There are three main bars to hang out in Nha Trang. The first being the Red Apple Club, a backpacker haven with cheap beverages and a no mercy approach to drinking everyone under the table. The second residing on the beach is the Sailing Club, which is an institution in Nha Trang. It has a funky Asian vibe with slightly over polished décor; any local mafia wouldn’t look out of place here. The final and my personal favourite, which just happened to be the place Hot Dog was working, was Guava. A groovy lounge bar with live bands, good priced drinks and a wicked atmosphere. It’s easy to crawl between them following the vibe and the Sailing Club is open to the early hours of the morning. Nha Trang definitely has a grungy party town vibe to it, however it is a little more blatantly commercial than other parts of Vietnam. If you’re in for a laugh though, Nha Trang can provide and as Hot Dog so expertly put it – “when you stumbling home at night and a...