We arrived in Hue after the long overnight bus journey south on the 27th. The sunny weather we also unfortunately left behind in Ha Long too as it was pissing it down in Hue. After sorting ourselves out at the hostel Ollie and I decided to head out and explore the city a little, Fred and Con didn’t brave the rain. We headed to the old city of Hue which was a short grab ride away. After getting to the entrance of the old city for a second time, as the first time, we didn’t have enough cash between us for entry we took a wander around. The old city itself was surrounded by a moat and two city walls and must have looked impressive in its hay day. Now however it’s not so amazing but was a good way to spend a few hours walking around killing some time. After the old city, we also stumbled across the war museum which documented the Vietnam war, first between the French and then the Americans. The museum was only small but had lots of interesting exhibits and it was quite unique to experience the war from a different side. There was also some old US tanks and helicopter outside which we enjoyed looking at. That evening Fred Con and I also headed to the gym for a bit of exercise. The gym was packed full of people. It was nice to do a bit of exercise though.
On Friday we had booked a tour via the hostel of different locations around the former demilitarized zone (DMZ). In the morning the tour took us to an old outpost the US positioned on top a hill only accessible via helicopter, so we viewed this from afar. We then travelled to a bridge which was a starting point for one of the old route on the Ho Chi Minh trails. We then travelled onto the former US air base of Khe Sanh which also came under heavy fire from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. There was also a museum here along with some further old US aircraft and replica bunkers.
Once again, the museum was tailored towards the North Vietnamese victory, which is clearly understandable, but it did feel a little propaganda heavy and less informative about true facts, none the less it was once again good to view the war from the opposing side’s viewpoint. After lunch we then headed to the Vinh Moc Tunnels which were used by the North Vietnamese people as cover from the bombs the US dropped on the country, people lived and used the tunnels for 6 years, babies were even born inside the tunnel system itself. In the area that the tunnels occupied the US dropped the equivalent of 7 tonnes of bombs per person living there. A quite insane number. I can’t imagine how people lived in the tunnels for such a long period of time as even the short amount of time we were down there was very grim. Finally, we visited a graveyard of over 3000 dead North Vietnamese soldiers, many of who are unidentified, which was also a very sombre experience. Overall the DMZ tour wasn’t quite what we were expecting as we spent a lot of time on the bus, but it was still very insightful to gain a first-hand account of how the war affected Vietnam and its people.
On Saturday it was probably the worst weather the whole time we were in Hue, so for some reason, we decided to travel to the abandoned waterpark just outside the city and got drenched. The waterpark has now become more of a tourist attraction than when it was open with lots of fellow travellers visiting this unique attraction. There is technically a security guard preventing you from entering, but really, he just wants you to pay him 20,000 dong (under £1) and will then leave you alone. Now I’m not surprised the waterpark shut down as it must have been terrible when open, but it was good fun to look around the old slides and aquarium which is covered by a big dragon and famous on Instagram for people taking photos on its head. After getting soaked through we then headed back to the hostel before having another night in the gym. In conclusion, Hue was a nice little place to visit but the weather wasn’t so kind to us.
Sunday we then travelled further south to Hoi An where we would see in the new year. Ollie, Fred and I had contemplated renting motorbikes to ride down from Hue to Hoi An via the coastal road made famous on the top gear Vietnam special but chose not too due to the weather most likely ruining the ride and preventing us from one seeing anything and two getting soaked once more. We, therefore, took the 4-hour bus down to Hoi An in the morning. On the bus, we even witnessed a crash between a motorbike and a car, although it seemed like everyone involved was okay. Once in Hoi An, we were staying in two separate places. Con, Fred and I were staying in Vietnam backpacker Hostel, which is a chain of hostels in the country known for its party atmosphere. We thought this perfect for New Year. Ollie, however, was adamant that he hated them and would never stay in one again so decided to stay in a hostel just down the road. Once again weather in Hoi An was terrible and rained most of the time we were there but it didn’t stop us having a good time. The first day we had a little walk around the old town and food market before going back to the hostel to make use of the free beer from 6 – 7 pm. The free beer hour then turned into a happy hour which then turned into us having a night out at the hostel bar for New Year’s Eve Eve, which wasn’t planned but good none the less. Ollie joined us at our hostel for the night seeing as his was dead, he then also checked out of his hostel the following day to join us for the remaining 2 night we had there. His plan to never set foot in a Vietnam Backpackers quite clearly failed haha.
On New Year’s Eve day Ollie and I took a little trip to the beach in Hoi An, we hired a free bike, but were only able to get one so Ollie peddled, while I sat on the luggage hold thing at the back which was rather uncomfortable, but Ollie was a good driver and it saved us walking the 20 minutes from hostel to beach. Once at the beach neither of us had any intentions of going into the sea, mainly because it was once again rather grim weather, but also it was very choppy. After the beach, we headed back to get ready for the new year. Now Ollie and I had special items we had to wear which we got from our secret Santa’s which we need to wear on NYE. I had a bamboo hat which I in fact left in Hue but some lovely lady from the Netherlands brought it with her too me on NYE during the day as she also travelled from Hue to Hoi An (so grateful as it saved me an eyebrow slit). I also had a floral shirt to wear and finally the speedo pant things, but luckily, I could wear shorts over these. Ollie got the short straw and had to wear a fitting dress, which really showed off his figure. This has now also started a tradition between the 4 of us whereby every year the 4 of us do secret Santa to buy our recipient an outfit which they have to wear for NYE, so this is one to watch in the years to come.
We started our NYE in the hostel with the free beer and a few drinks until around 22:30 where we left for the old town of Hoi An. Once here it was absolutely packed with people spilling out of all the bars onto the street. However around 23:30 with not even a word to us Connor slipped off back to the hostel for some reason and left the 3 of us on our own for the night (Cheers Con, hope you enjoyed NYE). At around 23:56 the bar started a countdown to the new year which was way too early, so we held back until the proper time and initiated the countdown with everyone in the bar itself. As the clock struck 12 fireworks were set off across the river which we went to view. Now, this wasn’t anything like the ones in London or another major city, but they were still very impressive and a nice addition to the night. After the fireworks, the 3 of us continued to party the night away and it is probably one of the best NYE parties I’ve ever been too all the streets and bar were jammed packed with people and everyone was having such a great time. The music was amazing as well. At one point the 3 of us were up on stools controlling the large crowd in front of us to jump to the music. It was a pretty unique moment. There was also a little Vietnamese boy around 7 years old who was also out partying with his parents, for some reason he really reminded me of my cousins son back home (obviously not looks wise), I think for this reason I enjoyed a good 10 minutes or so mucking around, dancing and partying with the young lad, even had him up on my shoulders at one point haha (don’t worry I asked his parents and everything first so didn’t just steal this child haha). Toward the end of our NYE party, there was even a big dance-off with a few locals, but they were amazing! Best dance off I’ve ever witnessed. Overall our NYE was such a great night, one of the best I’ve had, and certainly made up for a quieter Christmas. Around 3:30 we made our way back to the hostel where it was dead, so we are very glad we went out into Hoi An instead of staying at the hostel to party. Fred and I did wake at 7am which was midnight at home to see in new year back home but the bar was dead so just had a new years breakfast!
New Year’s Day we awoke pretty fresh so headed out for a final look around the city with an Aussie girl we had met. She wanted to go and try out some Hoi An dumpling dish, which I also then tried (wasn’t that great) before we walked around the old town which was very quaint and pretty, once again the weather sucked though. We then also went to get banh mi (basically a French baguette sandwich) from a famous place in the city where we had to queue up for a good 15 minutes or so. I must admit it was probably just about worth the wait as it is one of the better ones I have eaten. Glad I didn’t have to queue much longer though as I don’t think it’s worth more than 15 minutes of my time waiting. In the evening we all took it easy and had an early night.
This morning now the 2nd of Jan, we checked out of the hostel, but also onto a tour of the Ba Na Hills Sunworld resort (pretty ironic as we certainly saw no sun). This was about an hour and a half ride from Hoi An north towards Da Nang. At the Ba Na Hills which are 1500 m high, there is the newly opened Golden Hands Bridge, which offers great views of the city and coast below. Unfortunately, the weather was once again very bad, so we could barely see from one hand of the bridge to the other, let alone the view below. There were also a few other things at the resort such as some gardens, an amusement park and a French village thing. Overall it was very touristy, and the only real good part is the golden bridge, but I really wouldn’t recommend going unless the weather is good and clear as otherwise, it’s pretty pointless. The cable car ride is also pretty cool seeing as it’s 5.2 km long and takes around 20 minutes (once again our view was heavily obscured by mist and cloud over the mountains).
On the way back from the tour we were dropped in Da Nang as we are catching a train from here tonight further south to Nha Trang. The train departs around 22:30 and arrives at 8 in the morning. Due to us booking it last minute there were no sleepers left so we just have regulars seat for the 11-hour journey. Hopefully, the journey isn’t too bad, and the weather down south is a little better. I’ll let you know in the next blog. Until then Happy New Year to you all I hope 2019 is as amazing for you as 2019 is hopefully going to be for me and the boys on the trip!