Firstly, apologies for the time it has taken for me to write this blog the last week or so in Vietnam has been pretty busy with lots of travelling around and simply I spent the time enjoying myself and sleeping on buses as opposed to finding the time or energy to keep you all updated as regularly as I would maybe like. Still, I am determined to document this journey as I know I will be grateful when I can look back on it when it’s all over. So, let’s get into it.
In the last blog, we were waiting for our train south from Da Nang to Nha Trang. The train departed at 22:40 and arrived in Nha Trang at around 08:30. The journey itself wasn’t amazing seeing as we were sat in regular seats for the night. I hate sleeping sat up so ended up sleeping on the floor of the train were the leg room for the seats were and Ollie slept over the two seats. Here I was able to get a very average night’s sleep but as you can imagine it wasn’t too pleasant. Additionally, the weather outside the train was terrible with the wind making a hell of a noise. Still, this is the part of travelling that doesn’t get posted all over social media with the horrible journeys between destinations, yet it is all part of it and always worth it when you get to your destination. The journey is always soon forgotten. When we got off the train we jumped in a taxi to our hostel, however, the car quickly got a puncture, so we then made our way to a garage where the tire was repaired. Pretty much the last thing we wanted after the 12-hour train ride. Still, the wait wasn’t so bad, and we soon arrived at our hostel in Nha Trang. Thankfully the weather here was much better than what we had experienced for the last week and luckily Nha Trang had a beach. While the 3 lads had a nap in the room I made my way to the beach to chill out here instead. The beach itself was okay, but there was rather a lot of plastic waste that kept washing up. Plus, the sea was rather rough, so I didn’t go in the water. A few hours later the boys joined me on the beach and we spent the afternoon just chilling around, I even got a little burnt after not seeing the sun for a while. Other than the beach there wasn’t much to do in Nha Trang and really, it’s just a resort for Russian holidaymakers, hence why the following day after arriving we made our way to Dalat.
The bus to Dalat was far shorter than the train ride before as it only took around 4 hours to complete the journey. The trip was also scenic over mountain ranges up into the clouds, with waterfalls cascading down the mountain. Then when we got closer to Dalat itself there were loads of greenhouses growing different crops. The first afternoon in Dalat we took it easy had some food and even went to the gym there which cost us all of 60p each. A year membership would set you back around £30! After the gym, we then headed to a cool bar in town called the Maze bar, which as the name suggests is a 5-floor bar connected by different rooms filled with crazy decorations and different compartments. We stayed for a few drinks but no more as we were worried that if we had any more we wouldn’t be able to find our way back out of the bar again as you really could get lost for hours.
The second day we all kind of done separate stuff, Fred and Ollie hired motorbikes to explore the local waterfalls, Con had a day just exploring Dalat itself and I booked onto a canyoning tour. The tour consisted of abseiling down different waterfalls, abseiling followed by a zip line, sliding down the waterfalls themselves, jumping into the water from cliff edges and generally just trekking along the canyon itself. The tour was a great laugh and worth the money. On the tour the highest abseil was down a 25 m waterfall, here the waterpower was strongest in the middle plus rather slippery. Typically, I slipped and fell here and was getting pounded by the water, unable to get back on my feet the guides just dropped and lowered me into the water, I was a little gutted as I meant I missed the best part but still it’s better than drowning haha. The rest of the tour involved less slipping and drowning and as I said was very fun. After having our day apart, we met up and headed to the night market for a bit of food and wander around.
The following day after spending 2 nights in Dalat we took a bus to a place called to Mui Ne. This is once again a beach destination but famous for its sand dunes. When we first arrived, we took a walk along the beach, but it was so windy it wasn’t that enjoyable to sit on the beach. Due to the wind though the beach was full of kite surfers, which looked fun but was a bit too expensive for us to try so gave it a miss. After spending forever trying to make our way off the beach due to the number of resorts blocking the way we went back to the hostel to chill around the pool. When we arrived, we signed up to the “pillow fight” where we could win a free tower of beer. Seeing as no one else was signed up at 5 pm when the allocated start time was there were still no other names, so we thought the tower was ours already. Just after 5 however 4 other names appeared on the board, so we were in for a fight. Basically, the pillow fight involved a pole being placed above the pool which you then slid along until you met in the middle and would then fight each other off with a small thin pillow. Initially, it started with the pillow but after a few blows, everyone resorted to grappling one another off the thin pole. Think gladiator basically. So, it was us 4 Essex lot against 4 other lads from England. One by one we beat our opponents leaving the 4 of us to fight each other. We, therefore, did Essex proud and the beer tower was ours. Pride was just left on the line and Ollie ultimately took the crown. The following day we had a tour booked around the sand dunes where we had our own private jeep to drive us around to the different places. We started at this Fairy Stream place which was a little shit really, but we strolled up and down it. After this, we made our way to the white sand dunes which were a little drive, but the drive was cool along the coast in our old jeep. The coast reminded me a little bit of the Cabo de Gata park in Spain that I’ve been to many times. It really gave off the same kind of vibe. Once at the sand dunes Fred and I paid to go on the back of a quad bike up to the dunes whereas Ollie and Con chose to walk. It was a bit pricey for what we got but after darting up and down the dunes on the way back it was more than worth it. At the top of the dunes, the views were great, you did, however, get absolutely pelted with sand, it ended up everywhere.
After the white sand dunes, we then made our way to the red sand dunes to catch the sunset. Here I Grabbed a few beers and sat watching the sun going down over the bay with the backdrop of the sand dunes. The view was impressive, and the surroundings made for a good spectacle. Once back at the hostel and after showering for a very long time to remove all the sand (forgot my inner ears, future tip for anyone) we headed to the hostel bar for the pub quiz, which for once we were rather terrible at, although I did do rather well in the bonus limbo round which made up for it a little. The hostel also had beer pong tournaments and stuff but both teams did rather bad at this also. We originally planned to leave Mui Ne after two nights, but we added a third seeing as the hostel was only 90p the weather was good, and we wanted a day to chill around the pool. On the third day, that’s exactly what we did do, take it easy. We did build a floating bridge thing across the pool out of little mat things which I managed to run across achieving a round of applause by all those gathered at the pool.
After spending 3 nights in Mui Ne we then headed to Ho Chi Minh City on the 9th of January, formally known as Saigon. On the way to Saigon Con once again went through a 4 pair of trainers having left his at the rest stop we pulled into. Saigon itself is a crazy city, if you think the traffic is bad in Hanoi, Saigon is on a whole different level. Try 10 million people in the city with 8 million bikes. The streets are mental, there appears to be absolutely no rules with people driving in the wrong direction, on the pavement, the lot you name it. But somehow it just seemed to work, it’s like there are unspoken rules which the locals know and somehow everyone gets where they need to go, no matter what size vehicle or how much stuff (or people for that matter) are on the back of a motorbike. The first afternoon in the city Fred Ollie and I headed to the War remnants museum which gave details about the Vietnamese struggle for independence against the French and then Americans. It was a really good and striking museum and depicted what happened in a fascinating and thought-provoking way. There were no filters either with some horrible accounts and picture, but that’s the grim reality of what happened, and it serves as a great reminder and lesson to those in the future about the horrors of war and how it benefits no one. The following day we had booked a tour of the Cu Chi tunnel system, which was used by the supporters of the North Vietnamese army in the south of the country to fight against the Americans. We booked the tour through the hostel but the company and guide we had were great, plus there was only one other person on the tour so it made for an insightful day. We learnt about life using the tunnels, different traps and stuff that were set up and even crawled through a few of the entrances and tunnels themselves which was an experience. Finally, we made our way to the firing range where Connor and I fired an M1 Grand and Fred an M16, it was quite expensive but a unique experience regardless, with the noise of the guns being so loud and something you can’t do every day.
That evening was our final night in Vietnam what with our visa expiring on the 11th so we headed to a rooftop bar for sunset. The bar was down the famous Bui Vien street which is like Saigon’s version of Koh San Road, but a little classier. Whilst here we also met up with friends we had made on the Castaways tour in Ha Long Bay, Brian and Laura who are currently living in Saigon itself. It was great to catch up with the both of them and enjoy a night drinking beer and having a laugh. In addition to this Connors old boss also happened to be in the City on Business so also joined us for the night out. Overall the night was great fun with everyone and a great way to finish our time in Vietnam.
The one month we spent in the country has been absolutely insane with so much happening in that time. It is certainly the best country I’ve visited so far and would recommend it to anyone. It has such a diverse range of landscapes, scenery, things to do and see. The food is outstanding, and the people are the nicest most friendly people you will ever meet. After all their country has been through they always have a smile on their faces. So Vietnam thank you so so much as you’ve been truly incredible. I will be sad to leave and am eager to return one day. I just hope that with all the development and rejuvenation that is clearly occurring in the country, while great for its people, I just hope it doesn’t cause the country to lose its charm as it really is one hell of a destination.
We are now in Cambodia where we shall spend the next 3 weeks or so. I will update you about the first few days in Cambodia as soon as I can, I can only apologise that maybe this blog isn’t up to my usual standard (haven’t really checked it) and it’s taken me a little while to post, but quite simply all the amazing travelling has gotten in the way and I really couldn’t be bothered to write haha.