So because we've done loads of stuff in Vietnam, I've had to pack quite a lot into one blog... sorry... you might need to split it over 2 lunch hours!!
So after we left Hanoi, we caught a quick flight down to a town called Hoi An.
What a beautiful, underrated town! In 1999, the riverside town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in an effort to preserve its historic architecture, a unique mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and European styles. But on the first night we soon found out that the town is known for 3 main things:
1 - amazing tailor shops that will run you up a suit/dress for 50quid in 24hours
2 - fantastic food and bakeries
3 - lanterns - they do a lantern festival each full moon, but unfortunately we missed it :-(
We went for a great meal on our first night there, garlic and ginger prawns and steamed rice..mm. We wandered around, had a few (very good and very cheap) mojito's and found a wicked little bar that we settled in for a while... hmmm funny that the footie was on in the background!
|garlic and ginger prawns...mmm|
|2.00 for a Mojito. lurrvely!|
The next morning, with fuzzy heads, we hired a couple of bikes for about 35p each for the day and cylced about 3km's to the beach and had a day being lazy, reading our books and dipping in and out of the sea. heaven.
|Mart's obligatory bird picture... this week.. a Little Egret! hehe|
|Cycling down to the beach|
|cafe by the river, on the way to the beach|
|on the way to the beach|
|oh yeah and I got a pedicure in Hanoi!|
That evening we found a brilliant restaurant, called Cargo, and had the best meal we've had since we've been travelling... fresh spring rolls and for main course tamarind prawns with steamed rice! So good!
|at Cargo, our fave restaurant in Hoi An. Mart eating Squid |
stuffed with pork - all bbq'd flavour...so nice!
The next day it was chucking it down so we wandered into the town and took a few photo's of the town in the daytime and spent the rest of the time in a little cafe typing up the blog and uploading photos and reading our books :-)
|me, blogging away|
The next morning we caught a 3 hour bus from Hoi An to Hue- we were pretty happy to find the bus had little sleeping style seats, so we settled into the ones at the back and watched a film on the laptop whlist it was stillll lashing it down with rain outside. The central coast has been hit by tons of flooding lately, so we kind of caught the tail end of it but luckily weren't one of the ones who's bus got upended into a ditch! Oh, also, I've decided that I definitely don't want to go on those sleeper bus things again.. as we were watching the film I kept seeing loads of bugs crawling around... god knows if this bus is ever cleaned - I was wrapped up in my trousers, long sleeved top and hoodie and socks so none of them would creep onto me! blurrgh! bus only cost 3.50 so what do you expect eh? I left the bus feeling itchy all over!
Arrived in Hue around lunchtime and had a really good shower! I really wasn't keen on this town mainly as it had the worst amout of street hawkers! There was a maximum of only 20 seconds silence between people asking you buy something!!! I was getting all uptight about people bugging me so often, but as usual Mart was cool as a cucumber saying 'just let it go over your head'... wish I could be more like him sometimes!
Once we arrived we headed straight for the 'Citadel'. This is where the Emperor Gia Long chose to build his palace and make Hue the capital of Southern Vietnam in 1805. The Citadel's design was to replicate the outline of the Forbidden city in Bejing. It's square in shape and has a circumference of around 10km's with 10 entrances and consisted of buildings such as the Emperor's Private Palace, Adminstrative buildings and the Royal Theatre. Less than a third of the structures inside the citadel remain. The French and US Army shelled the buildings, and removed or destroyed nearly all the treasures it contained between 1947and 1968. Despite this, it's still an impressive sight and was great to discover some history about this city that I initially didn't warm to.
The next day we decided to find out a bit more about Vietnam's war history and so we booked a DMZ motorbike tour with our hotel. We had a fantastic guide 'Nyguen' from our hotel 'Canh Tien' and also his brother in law 'Xugen' - good names eh! I went on the back of Nyguen's bike and Martin went with the brother in law - they were such sweet guys and took us to loads of places arournd the area of Hue and had great english so explained a lot to us.
|one of our motorbike stop offs near a beach|
|one of my better outfits from the trip so far I think...|
Mart said it looks like he's only holiday with his daughter as I looked about 12 that day!
|me and my driver, Nyguen|
The city of Hue is approx 70 miles from the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). This zone was created in 1954 by the Geneva Convention and it means that the area within 5 km on either side of the north/south border was chosen to be a 'De-militarized Zone' ie; Troops of both governments were barred from this area. So no Vietcongs from the North could fight with the US Forces from the south in this zone. So within the pink lines below they weren't allowed to bomb or have any kind of military activity.
However, as this was the point that the two enemies met the area outside this pink zone was the most heavily bombed.
|our local guide, he was brilliant|
Above the pink line laid a small village called Vinh Moc. The villagers of Vinh Moc spent 2 years building a series of tunnels beneath the ground to protect themselves from the excessive bombing taking place above them. The complex grew to include wells, kitchens, rooms for each family, meeting rooms, a hospital, a maternity section and an eating space for all. Around 60 families lived in the tunnels; as many as 17 children were born inside the tunnels. The tunnels were a success and no villagers lost their lives. The only direct hit was from a bomb that failed to explode; the resulting hole was utilized as a ventilation shaft. Was amazing what these people did - breathtaking..although I wouldn't fancy a tunnel lifestyle, it was pretty pokey in there and I'm sure back in the day it didn't smell to nice either!
|they sawed off bamboo so that when US forces parachuted onto the |
land by the tunnels it pierced through their bodies/boots etc
|at one of the entrances to the tunnel|
|we could only go into some parts of the tunnel as a |
lot of it is too small for 'tall' westerners
The ONLY downside to this motorbike tour was that the rain was still lashing down on us! After leaving our hotel in Hue we were soaked and I mean SOAKED within 10mins.. I got off the bike at the first stop and wrung out my trousers, water squelched out of my converse and I was shivering... as usual Martin was his usual annoying chirpy self and I was close to tears dreaming of a cup of tea, a galaxy bar and a duvet with an 80's film! Luckily the sun came out for a while and dried us off and we carried on...with saddle sore bums. Can you tell that this hasn't been a highlight of our trip so far?! Mart loved it though, so I took one for the team - I suppose I owe him from all the markets in Chiang Rai and Laos I dragged him around! y'know...searching for that perfect bangle!
The next morning we caught a train from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).. a nice little train journey... for 21 hours!!!!! Luckily this has been one of the better journeys as we had little bunkbeds in a cabin that slept 4 people and the people below us were non-snorers (yes!!! punched the air) so we ended up having quite a nice time.. played cards, read our books, watched films on the laptop, had a few beers and then rocked to sleep by the train.. the loo's weren't that nice, but none of them are here, so I'm used to it now (Mart said he feels for me when he see's the loo's which are sometimes holes in the ground here)
|Mart making us a Pringle baguette for lunch |
(and the we had the same for dinner!)
Mum, thanks for the Spork! v.handy!
Ho Chi Minh
We arrived in Hoh Chi Minh city bright and breezy (well not quite) around 9am and went straight to a little hotel in the backpacker district. The district was sooo busy as it was Halloween and all the bars were getting ready for the big night to come. We had a great day exploring the city, we liked it a lot more than Hanoi - not as much beeping going on from the traffic and lots of wide pavements - so much easier to get around and loads of pretty parks. We visited the War Remnants Museum during the day, it was very very interesting and very sad to see all the atrocities of the Vietnam war - however, it is obviously biased towards Vietnam so it's tricky as you don't get to hear/see the US side of the story and the torture that they also went through. It did leave us feeling pretty shocked and sad - even though Martin was pretty impressed with some of the vehicles and aircraft at the front of the museum... too much Call of Duty I say! haha.
|cages they called 'Tiger Cages'. They held 3-5 prisoners in the small one (at the front) |
and held 5-7 prisoners in the larger one at the back
That evening we found a really cool little bar and got quite tipsy whilst watching all the Vietnamese and backpackers dressed up for Halloween - was fun, although we missed dressing up with all our mates :-( - Carson we were thinking of you! hope you had another cracking outfit this year!?!
The following day we took an hours flight to Phu Quoc island for a week of relaxing and to enjoy some beach time for Mart's birthday!
We decided to take the trip to Phu Quoc for a couple of reasons, the main one being that Phu Quoc had SUN forecast whereas the rest of Vietnam was still getting tons of rain and the 2nd reason was that we thought it'd be good to be by the beach for Mart's birthday. So, we arrived in Phu Quoc around lunchtime on Sunday 31st and we definitely weren't disappointed with the weather, it was hot and the sun was out.. yipee!!
We hadn't booked anywhere to stay so we walked along the beach with our bags and grabbed a good deal at a little resort for 23quid a night - a little bit more than we've been paying lately but as it was Mart's birthday week we thought treat ourselves to the acomm and go easy with food and not have anything too expensive. Plus, we got brekky included, so each day we loaded up on brekky, had 30p mango and pineapple for lunch on the beach and then in the evening grabbed some noodles/rice for about 1.20 each. eeeeasy life!
|the massage 'block' as Mart calls it|
On Mart's birthday we woke up, had a lovely breakfast, and spent the rest of the day on the beach reading and drinking cocktails, went for a long walk along the beach in the afternoon and then out for gorgeous dinner at sunset and a few beers and a game of pool in the evening (not sure Mart would call it a 'game' but I tried!!!). Ooh and as I didn't bring him a present with me, I tottered off with 20quid in Saigon before we went to Phu Quoc and bought him a few bits and pieces to open up on the day :-) he loved the day ... well I suppose who wouldn't with those surroundings eh?
The rest of the week we spent basically doing the same, but on Wednesday we hired a moped and headed out to explore the island a bit more... most of the journey was enjoyable, but we (it's always us eh!) managed to stumble across Phu Quoc's residents building their equivalent of the M1 on a stretch of road that lasted about an hour... the bumps were painful! but glad we did it though and so many friendly people on Phu Quoc, lots of waving little kids too, very cute.
|what a beast of a moped we had!|
|love this pic!|
|the M1!! for an HOUR!!|
|this is Mart catching me in the act... reading a 2nd hand copy |
of 'A Royal Duty' by Paul Burrell that I picked up in the hotel!! Haha I love a bit of trash
We arrived back in Saigon this morning, staying for one night tonight. We've just done a little shop for all our toiletries that we've run out of.. hope we've bought the right things as it's all in Vietnamese!?! Then we're flying to Thailand tomorrow morning and will be in Thailand for 1 month before heading to Sydney on 7th December.
In Thailand we're mainly concentrating on the west coast as it's still meant to be rainy on the east coast. So we'll be hitting places such as; Koh Phi Phi, Railay, Khao Lak, Khao Sok National Park and Ko Lipe - if anyone has any other suggestions (of non-rainy places!), please send them our way as we haven't got a plan set in stone yet and are still researching.
Oh one highlight in Thailand is that we're meeting up with our really good mates Gemma and James, who'll be on their honeymoon whilst we're there in Krabi - can't wait!! Party time people!
Missing you all!!
Love Ems & Mart
ps. oh and now only 2 days til my sisters due date.. I'm checking my emails like a crazy person at the minute! Big hugs to you Clare! love you lots