Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and the border into Cambodia

IMG_20151028_204402 As per usual, when I got off the bus at 7am, I got hassled by several taxi drivers trying to scam foreigns. Luckily, I knew we were on the road we wanted as the surrounding shops had road names in.IMG_20151028_131900

The first step: find a cheap hostel. Success! After a bit of bartering, we found a dorm for the price we were willing to pay. Next: find out what I wanted to do in Ho Chi Minh. Once I connected with friends I had made along the way, we arranged to meet up for brunch before one of them was heading to a new country.

One of the English girls and I wandered around the city visiting Ben Thanh Market, HCMC Theatre, Vietnam Committee hall, Post Office, Notre Same Cathedral and The Independence Palace.

Then we stopped off for some Vietnamese coffee before strolling around the beautiful Tao Dan Park and played on the swings. We sort of arranged to meet two of the guys at the War Remnants Museum but we ended walking around without them. The museum was one of the best and extremely informative. I personally didn’t know any thing about the Vietnam was so I found it  really interesting.  Still deciding whether to do a separate post of what I learnt about this tragic event.

In the evening, we went to a roof top hostel, where a large group of us had some drinks before bar hopping. It was a great night dancing and getting to know more travellers.IMG_20151028_114459

What I needed the next day was a lie in and that’s what I got. I’m the sort of person who is constantly on the move and packing up my day. I got a well deserved sleep, removing myself from my bed at 1pm. I want planning just to mooch around but an American girl from the night before had arranged to meet the two Swedish guys to go to the Chi Chi tunnels. I ended up joining them.

The tunnels were interesting to see and to find out how the Vietnamese protected themselves in the war. The hideouts and tunnels were tiny but also cleverly made. As part of the tour, we crawled through one of the underground tunnels: it was clasophobic. Even though it was worth seeing the tunnels, it took 2 hours each way for a 1 hour tour.

By the time we returned to the main city, we were starving so we ate at a local restaurant, where the owner was also a tour guide. He showed us a book where tourists had written about him. One person paid $350 for a day tour; that’s outrageous. We ate some fried spring rolls and prawn traditional pancake with some cheap Saigon beer.IMG_20151028_132934

Ho Chi Minh is a popular place for the at amongst tourist. Both my old housemate and a fellow traveller got robbed by guys on a passing motorbike. Be warned. Don’t take unnecessary things out and don’t get them out in public especially near the side of the road.

For the rest of the night, I just chilled.

Myself and the two Swedish guys left the next day to head to Cambodia. It went pretty smoothly except for the border crossing. I have to say land crossing is not my favourite part of travelling.received_10153603742706826

When we got on the bus, they asked for our passport and $35 for our visa. As we heard of some scams before, we explain through translating over the phone that we will pay when we get to the border. OK. Exiting Vietnam was easy but I still didn’t feel at ease. The bus company had given us our luggage but no-one else. Dodgy.

Generally entering Cambodia was easy: visa, passport control, stamp. Done. However as we were paying for our visa, which was $30 (the company take $5 per person), the bus with most of the passengers drove away. Panicking, we were convinced that the bus would be waiting for us at a restaurant. Later finding out it was 2km away so had to pay for a motorbike taxi. Even as we were driving, I was worried the bus would not be there. Luckily, it was. However, they tried to raise their prices when they saw I was with two guys but we weren’t fooled. Just be aware, this happens a lot.

Nha Trang, Vietnam: Mud baths and Beaches

IMG_20151027_142746Nha Trang was a busy town, where a lot of people (especially Russians) come on holiday to relax so there wasn’t too much to do here.IMG_20151026_122913

I arrived at about five in the morning, where I followed my map to find the hostel: BackPack hostel. As there were free beds, they gave me a room to sleep for a couple of hours. When I went to reception to sort some things out I bumped into an English girl I had met in Halong Bay.It’s a kind of funny story; she met some guys on the street, who happened to be the two Swedish boys I had been hanging out with.

I knew that Nha Trang was famous for there mud baths and as I hadn’t experienced this, five of us headed to the spa for some hot, messy businesses. From stepping into the baths to showering the mud off, the mud felt nice but also gross. We poured mud all over us as it is meant to be good for your skin (not sure how it works). After scrubbing of the remnants on my skin and bikini, we laid in a mineral bath to chill and chat. Here, we sunbathed, swam and ate lunch. One of the guys was trying to practice diving but just failed. I dived once but embarrassingly my strapless bikini came down (lesson learnt).received_10156242879475515

During the evening a big group of us from the hostel ate some street food, then drank on the balcony, while dancing and talking. One of the Swedish guys drank a little too much and vomited over the side, where I later found out that his mind had blanked this. It was a hilarious night.

IMG_20151027_120050The following day, while waiting for some people, one of the hostel workers wanted to practice his henna tattoo skills but miserable failed so another guy sorted it out, where I ended with a large tattoo on my leg. We went to the beach to soak up some blazing sun, sleep and enjoy swimming in the crashing waves.

After eating a Vietnamese curry and organising myself, I went to another travel agency to take the overnight bus to Ho Chi Minh, where without planning to, I got the same bus as the two Swedish guys.

Hoi An, Vietnam: old town, lanterns, food, beach and bicycle rides.

IMG_20151024_114016Once I got to Hoi An, I checked into a hostel, where again I bumped into people I had already met. The hostel had a pool so I lazied by it soaking up the sun and napping.

IMG_20151024_132032A group of us walked into old town in the evening to have dinner, where I had a Hoi An speciality called Mi Quang: rice noodles in soup with prawns and crispy pieces. Hoi An is a beautiful place especially at night with lights and lanterns.

I decided to return to the hostel for another early night to get rid off the cold. I was also partially scares to go out because of the horror stories I heard about the night before. Several people, who got extremely drunk, got mugged or hit or drove into by Vietnamese people after leaving this bar called ‘why not’ in the early hours of the morning. Apparently, it happens a lot here.

After a bit of a lay in and complimentary breakfast, which was a buffet of fruit, pancakes, eggs, toast and tea, I returned my bike and sorted out my bus ticket. However, when I got my big bag back, someone has been through it thoroughly. My bag wasn’t orderly. I forgot that I had left £20 plus change hidden deep with the bag. The note was gone. I suppose it could have been worst. I booked the motorbike through Google Hotel. If you want to hire a bike, don’t go through them.IMG_20151024_123145

Next I wandered old town, which was beautiful. Little, quaint, yellow building alongside the river. I met up with one of the girls from before where we visited Chinese bridge, Old Houses and Assembly Halls.The building were beautiful, sparking in the golden sun.

Old town can be a bit of a scam as they tell you, you have to buy a ticket to walk around. This is not true. You can buy a ticket for 120,000 dong and visit 5 attractions. I decided just to admire the buildings from the outside.IMG_20151024_205259

Hoi An is also famous for making suits and dresses at cheap price so there were plenty of assistant bugging me from every direction to see their shop. Due to bag space I didn’t get anything made.

A group of us, 3 from England, 1 from Ireland and an Australian had lunch along the riverside, where I ate traditional Cau Lou: noodles, tofu, vegetables. For the rest of the afternoon, I chilled at the hostel chatting to other travellers.

During the evening, we ate dinner, walked around the night market, looked at the pretty lanterns, bar hopped, played beer pong (me and the Swedish guy won) and danced around.

The next day was pretty chilled. Myself and five others (two British guys, two Swedish guys and an American girl) rented a bicycle and rode a few kilometres through the countryside to the beach to enjoy the sun and IMG_20151025_152234swim in the rough sea. I usually don’t like riding pedal bikes so this was a great achievement. Once I got back to the hostel, I sorted out my things before walking to the travel agency, where I nearly forgot my phone, to catch an overnight bus to Nha Trang. On the bus, one of the men telling us where to sit was extremely rude, shouted at several travellers and made two girls cry. I felt akward because my seat was in the middle of one of the argument matches.

Motorbiking from Hue to Hoi An: Da Nang, Marble mountain and beaches

IMG_20151023_103934Renting a motorbike is a common thing to do in this area as the ride from Hue to Hoi An is a popular drive because Top Gear made it famous. I could rent a bike here then drop it off in Hoi An, which saved me from driving it back and they take your bag, kind of as a guarantee.IMG_20151022_160302

I decided to drive to Da Nang and have a night there.

First, I cruised out to Thuan An beach and followed the coast road through small fishing villages and cemeteries all the way down to Cua Tu Hien IMG_20151022_161956where I crossed the new bridge and turn right to follow the road to take you down to Highway 1. Unfortunately, there were road works on this road so swerving pass pot holes and slow truck was part of the journey.

At the Highway, I toik a left and started my ascent of the Phuoc Tuong Pass before following a straight stretch of Highway, where I came to the Phu Gia Pass. As I descended on the other side of this pass I saw some beautiful views out of Lang Co.IMG_20151022_190532

Once I passed through Lang Co, I started my ride up the legendary Hai Van Pass. The views were a little disappointing but I think it was due to the fog. At the top, there were old lookout turrets used by both the French and the Americans in war time.IMG_20151022_191127

Then I glided down the other side into Da Nang. It took several hours so by the time I got there, I hit rush hour traffic, which is just insane but an exhilarating experience. Weaving in and out trying not to crash or get hit by any other vehicle.

IMG_20151023_100212The hostel recommended this fish noodle soup for dinner and then I ventured out at night to see the neon dragon bridge and the colourful skyline, which looked beautiful in the river’s reflection. As I was trying to sleep a Korean guy came in to share the dorm and he just wanted to chat to me. Then these two others were placed in the same dorm late at night, who were making a huge racket. It was so frustrating.IMG_20151023_100726

Waking up to my alarm, I went to have the hostel’s Vietnamese breakfast: red, gooey rice (a little like hot rice pudding) and fresh fish piece. One bite and I put down my spoon. It was disgusting, not worth waking up for.

After sleeping a little more, I motorbiked along Da Nang’s beaches, admiring the view and visiting the lady Buddha.IMG_20151023_120022

On the route to Hoi An, I stopped for lunch then climbed Marble Mountain, which had several pagodas and temples to see as well as caves.

Hue, Vietnam: speciality food, blind massage and Citedal

IMG_20151021_121508The next day at 4am, I woke up early to catch a bus to Hue. I hadn’t booked a place to sleep but just stayed at the hostel where I got dropped off. After showering and organising washing, I explored Hue. Hue is a small city with no much going on. I walked around the imperial city and Citadel area, seeing different gates and palaces. One thing that is starting to annoy me about Vietnam is the bike drivers and other seller constantly pestering me. I’m saying ‘No, thank you’ but they just keep following me. It’s driving me insane.IMG_20151021_114649

For lunch, I ate Hue speciality food: rice flour rolls filled with tofu and vegetables and a peanut dipping sauce.

During the afternoon, I decided to search out a blind massage place. There are little rooms where a blind person does an hour full body Vietnamese massage for 60,000 dong (£2) and the proceeds help them. It was a mission to get to and difficult to find but it was totally worth it. I was such a good massage. However, it was slightly awkward as I didn’t know if I needed to remove my clothes and I didn’t understand that she wanted to sit up with the lack of English.IMG_20151021_120527

I enjoyed a Vietnamese coffee before relaxing at the hostel. Later on, I met up with one of the English girls I met in Laos for dinner, where I consumed more Hue specialities: crispy egg pancake and rice flour with shrimp paste cooked in a banana leaf.

As I was feeling exhausted and a cold was setting in I had an early night.IMG_20151022_100419

The following day, I caught up with an American girl I met in Phong Nha. The one thing I love about travelling is that you meet loads of people, most doing similar routes so you just bump into them in different cities. In Vietnam, traveller are either going north to south or vice versa.

IMG_20151022_101301We got recommended to go around this market, which was a huge disappointment. It had random things like raw meat, pots and even live chickens in cages. It was dirty and more of a local market. After, we relaxed in a coffee shop with a mango shake before hiring out a motorbike.

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