Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gooood Morrrrning Vietnam!!

Hanoi & Halong Bay 

Hi everyone, here's a quick update on our Vietnam adventures so far...

On Tuesday 19th we flew from Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to Hanoi in northern Vietnam.

Oh and the plane we flew from Laos to Vietnam was a propeller plane and we were sat right by the propeller, the flight was only 1 hour but it was sooo noisy! 

Arrived into Hanoi around 3.30 in the afternoon and the whole city had a funny 'light' to it.. like misty twighlight from all the smog. We hopped in a shared taxi unbeknowns to us that we were about to experience THE most craziest traffic system in the world!! (well, the irony is, it HAS no system!) Oh my goodness, there's just no way to describe it, so instead here's a couple of videos of Hanoi traffic.... crossing the road was like a death wish and the only way to do it was to stride out with tons of confidence and hope and pray that you didn't get hit! I was clinging on to Martin so tightly! Funnily enough, we think they must be the best drivers in the world because we didn't see one crash the whole time we were there!! 

Click for Crazy Hanoi Traffic

One thing that did strike us though was the way parents took their children on their bikes.  Usually it was the mother driving the bike with a helmet on, the baby under her arm with a little smog mask on and she's sometimes texting at the same time as navigating this crazy traffic!! Mental!

Family day out!
Funniest thing we saw on the bike was a guy with a mini basket on the back with a lid and inside were 3 pigs all squished up together!!! 

We spent 2 nights in Hanoi and explored the lake in the centre of town and found some nice places to eat (as per usual for us!), we found the most amazing ice cream place (called Fannys!), but gutted as we were two weeks away from their 'all you can eat' extravaganza! haha. Oh yeah, get us taking in all the culture! 

A wedding by the lake

We also went to a cute little bookshop and got some new books for our travels.. Mum, you would have loved it! It also had a little cookery foundation attached to it where they take kids from the street and train them up to be chef's/waiters etc, the food was gorgeous! Unfortunately on the way back to our hotel we saw a street food stall selling dog.. was pretty sad.

Iced coffee and spring roll addiction!

My Mum's idea of HEAVEN!

Our hotel in Hanoi was fantastic and once we got settled into our room they helped book us onto a Halong Bay Tour.  So on Thursday 21st we headed off to Halong Bay spending 2 nights on an old 'Junk' boat and 3 days exploring the area with the guide.  The scenery was breathtaking! and it was one of the most amazing trips either of us have ever experienced! If you get a chance to do this, DO IT!

Day One - Arrived in time for lunch on the boat, then explored a massive cave (was like something out of Star Wars), kayaked around the bay, saw some amazing floating villages and finished the day by jumping off the boat and swimming and then had a really gorgeous dinner on the boat in the evening and stayed in our little cabin!

Our boat, Amigo

Our cabin

Mart jumping off the boat


Floating village
Me in the sea

Star Wars Cave!

Our posh dining cabin

Day Two - After brekky we sailed about 2 hours to reach Cat Ba National Park, where we hired bikes and cycled around looking at the cliffs and spotted some crazy stick insects.  I also got a bug caught in my hair and the guide pulled it out, he said they call it the 'scissor bug' as it cuts with its tiny pincers and when we examined the bug after it'd been in my hair, it had lots of pieces of my hair in it's claws that it had clipped out! cheeky monkey... although mabye I should have asked him to trim my fringe?!?!  Also, all around Halong Bay there are tons of Black Kite birds, as you know, Martin is a secret twitcher at heart....so he took a few photos, they were pretty impressive to see soaring around the bay.

Black Kite

A quick lunch on the boat and then sailed to 'Monkey Island' ... yep Kate and Leanne, you monkey lovers, we hung out with some monkeys on the beach..soo cute! They made us laugh as I gave one of them an Oreo cookie and instead of eating the whole thing, he twisted it with his hands, chucked away the biscuit section and started licking the cream!! haha! We caught another drinking out of a can of coke and another one was in a hammock reading War & Peace with a cigar - ok, made up the last one!  We lazed around the beach for a while and went swimming and then headed back to the boat for our final night in our cabin.


Day Three - had great breakfast on the boat (the works.. bacon, eggs, toast mmm) then headed up to the loungers on the top deck, read our books and sailed back 3 hours to the port and then back into Hanoi late afternoon. SUCH a brilliant trip!!  We also had a fantastic group on our boat which always helps when you're with the same people for breakfast/lunch/dinner for that amount of time!

Here's a video we made from the boat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxcfcY2SSHQ

Overall we're loving Vietnam, there's so much to see and do, and again, the food is brilliant, they do these amazing fresh spring rolls with prawns and pork in them.. soo yummy and not too bad for you either!

Talking of food, we've 100% become addicted to iced coffee! Sooo good when it's hot.  

We were really lucky with the weather in Hanoi/Halong Bay, 28 degrees and sunny and not too humid either, really comfortable and the tans are looking better! We had a really hot day here in Hoi An yesterday and hit the beach, but today is rainy and hot so we're sat in a little cafe reading, drinking tea and uploading our photos :-)

Only a couple of downsides to Vietnam, the people here, are again, definitely out to scam you a little bit with prices for things changing every 2 minutes and heard a few reports of bag snatching and stuff so we're being really careful, also we've come across quite a few moody Vietnamese people, they're definitely not as friendly as in Thailand or Laos .. we're looking forward to seeing smiles again in Thailand!  The other thing that gets realllly annoying is people bothering you every 2 minutes to buy something, such as; motorbike ride, taxi, cigarettes, bracelets, fruit....dried fish anyone??

I understand they're only trying to make a living and we're always polite to them, but we nearly boiled up with rage when we were eating our dinner the other night and we had 4 people approach our table a seperate times whilst we were eating... grrrr! 

We've taken to saying 'No' to them in different accents, each of us taking a turn .. I nearly burst out laughing when Mart said to one 'No thanks guv'nor' in his cockney accent to a motorbike man... I'm pretty good at the Aussie one! 

You buy, you buy!

We spent one more night in crazy Hanoi and then on Sunday we caught a flight to Da Nang and are currently in a gorrrrgeous town called Hoi An - will update on that part in a few days time :-)

Missing you all lots
Ems & Mart 

Note: If you or anyone you know is heading to Halong Bay try and book this tour as there are SO many rip off merchants out there that promise you a fantastic boat with hardly any people on and they end up paying loads of money for a crappy boat and tons more people on the boat than it can hold.  We definitely got lucky with ours.  Here's the details if you need them:

Go to Serenity Hotel, Cua Dong Street, Hanoi Serenity Hotel  (if you want to stay here a room per night was $20 and it was a good location)
Book "Amigo Boat Tour" with them, we paid $149 each (94pounds) for 2 nights and 3 day trip (all food, transfers and accom included) 100% worth it! But you must specify that you'd like 2 nights on the boat and not stay on Cat Ba island on the 2nd night (it's pretty grotty there)

Don't need to book online before you go, just book once you get to Hanoi, it'll be cheaper.