I really liked Hoi An. It had a lot of character to it with the detailed architecture, colourful streets, an abundance of market stools, tailors and coffee shops and also the local icon – lanterns… plenty of lanterns.
It would have been nice to have spent one more day in Hoi An because it was one of my favourite places. But hey ho, this trip is designed to show you a small bit of everything so it was time to move on.
We got on the bus for a journey to a city called Hue (pronounced ‘Hway’) which used to be a very important city strategically and politically.
The bus journey was like many of the others – long and painful. However, most of us had a hangover from the night before which is entirely self inflicted but didn’t help us to enjoy the journey. Fortunately no one was sick on the bus!
On route we were driving through cliff/mountaintop roads which provided amazing views. We stopped near the peak which was cool but unfortunately in this area there was a lot of cloud and fog so we could not get any photos. The views on the way up were spectacular but it’s difficult to get a good photo through a bus window.
Once we got to the hotel in Hue we went for lunch while we were waiting for our hotel rooms to become available. Everyone was feeling pretty drained from the night before so it was a pretty low key lunch.
After getting in to our hotel rooms a few of us decided to wander around the town and see what we could find. We went to the Imperial Citadel which was pretty cool. The architecture was impressive and the citadel still looked grand, even though it was old.
Dinner was very low key. We stayed at our hotel, had a pretty light meal and called it an early night. I think I’m getting too old for drinking… the hangovers just destroy me now.
Tomorrow we are planning to hire some bikes and go on a tour around Hue by ourselves. I’m looking forward to doing a bit more exercise! Let’s hope the weather holds out.
Definitely feeling much more fresh on day two in Hoi An! In the morning I went for some coffee and a bite to eat in the town which was cool. It’s pretty chilled and the Vietnamese coffee is amazing!
Once we got back to the hotel we were given a set of push bikes to go on a cycling tour around the town. As mentioned in my last post we did this in India and it was really cool.
The weather wasn’t too bad for the cycle tour and we set off at around 2pm. The tour was due to last a few hours and included a water buffalo ride. I used the GoPro strap again which worked well before but it was a bit of a pain because I needed to continuously hold the GoPro facing upwards.
We saw so many cool sights on the trip and went to different farmers villages. As part of the trip we stopped at a village and met one of the oldest couples in Vietnam. They have been married for 70 years and the women’s smile was beaming when she came out of the house. They were quite iconic in Vietnam due to a famous photographer taking their picture a number of years ago and it becoming one of the popular postcards. It felt like a privilege meeting them.
A bit further down the road we stopped so people could ride on a water buffalo if they wanted. The buffalo was 26 years old and a female. It was very docile and used to humans. They are impressive creatures but you wouldn’t want to get hit by one at any speed because it’ll probably kill you. It was a cool experience.
After this we carried on for another 30 minutes or so and then went to a small river where we were able to get into some floating bamboo baskets and row around the river. It was very chilled and the sort of experience you’d be looking for on a trip to Vietnam.
We got a bigger boat back to the mainland for dinner in the evening. Our CEO had organised a table for us at the local street food market. The food was incredible and the inevitable happened… a night out. Again, we all drank way too much and it got very messy. It was a fun night out tho!
Big hangover to follow.
At around 4pm I left the hotel to wander in to town and have a look around. It was a pretty cool town with traditional architecture. I wasn’t overly keen on wandering too far since I was still recovering but it was good a bit of the town.
For the rest of the afternoon I sat in a coffee shop to book some more flights and hotels/hostels for the rest of my trip. I also managed to FaceTime my family back home which was good especially after a month!
In the evening me and one other member of the tour group went for dinner down by the river in Hoi An. We were both feeling like we needed a rest from the big group so it was nice just to chill.
We went to an Irish bar called the Dublin Gate. We didn’t choose it because it was an Irish bar but we chose it because it looked amazing from the outside. It was lit up like a Christmas tree and had live music. Also, you can’t really go wrong with an Irish bar – let’s be honest.
It was a nice chilled evening and actually quite nice to have one day off from being in a huge group. It sounds antisocial but being in a large group for one month solid does take a toll eventually.
On the walk back to the hotel we got to see the old town lit up at night. Hoi An is quite known for its lanterns and so it was nice to see the place at night – it looked impressive!
Tomorrow we are doing the cycling tour around Hoi An. It’ll be good to do some exercise for a few hours and see the sights. The cycling tour in India was good fun and this should be just as good!
We had a chill out day in Nha Trang which was nice. I spent most of it doing “life admin” like booking flights and putting together a plan for Thailand. It felt nice being able to organise myself for the next step of my journey.
For the afternoon we spent a bit of time on the beach before wandering back to the hotel to get on the bus for the train station. We have another sleeper train… this time for 11 hours and taking us to Hoi An.
The sleeper train was not as nice this time. We were in second class as opposed to first class which we had for the first train.
A few of us decided to sit in one of the cabins and watch a film. I got to see the film Sully, which I had never seen before, and I have to say it was incredible!
It was all going so well until we heard a massive scream from one of the other cabins a few doors down. It was one the girls in our group.
A small mouse was roaming free in the carriages and obviously some people are not the greatest fan of small creatures. It was impossible to catch the mouse so we had to move a lot of the bags we had with food. There were also a few bugs crawling around like mini cockroaches so I helped to get rid of them. I missed the end of the film though which I was a bit gutted about. Guess I’ll have to watch it on dvd another time!
When we arrived in Danang station we had to get a connecting bus to Hoi An which was about 30-45minutes away.
This is the first morning where the lack of sleep, travelling, constantly being in a big group and probably a bit of homesickness were affecting me. I just needed a few hours to chill, alone.
After breakfast I took myself away from the group, went back to the hotel and got a few hours of sleep. It made a big difference.
Now that I’ve recovered let’s see if I can see a bit of Hoi An…
The sleeper train wasn’t too bad. I was expecting a lot worse!
Once we got to Nha Trang we went for some breakfast whilst waiting for our hostel room to become available. The only downside to this type of travelling is not being able to shower for a few hours in the morning after wearing the same clothes all night. It’s a feeling I personally hate… but when there’s no choice there is little you can do.
We were all planning to do the boat cruise which sounded like fun. We got on the boat around 9.30/10am and it turned into a bit of a party boat.
At first, we were snorkelling and jumping off the boat into the water. But it was not long before the alcohol was out and people were making cocktails. I’m all for a few drinks but this was too early for me and also we weren’t in Magalluf so I wasn’t overly keen on a party boat. With that being said, we all got involved with it and had a bit of a laugh although people got drunk pretty fast.
We stopped at lunch for the driver and his crew to cook us a BBQ lunch. It was pretty good but there was way too much food! None of us could finish it.
In the afternoon we stopped at a beach area but it was not the classic beach. It was very rocky and not the type of beach you’d imagine in your mind or see in a magazine.
One of the positives to this beach area was that they were running water sports. I went with one of the girls in our tour group to do paragliding… another bucket list item completed!
Paragliding was good fun but it was quite short. We only got 2,000metres. You go up in the air quite high but it really hurts if you’re a guy. The straps supporting all of your body weight sit on the inside of your thigh so you can only imagine the pain (if you’re a guy).
Even though we’ve had a lack of sleep it’s been an eventful day. Glad I got to tick another item off the bucket list but wasn’t overly keen on a party boat. Ah well, can’t have it all!
In the morning a small group of us went to see the Cu Chi tunnels. These were a memorial of the Vietnam war and contained some of the tunnels used by Vietcong soldiers in the war to avoid air bombing but also move around the area undetected. The tunnels were very narrow and we were told these were actually widened twice for tourists to visit.
The tunnels started pretty narrow but you could still crouch and walk through them although it made your legs ache pretty quickly. There were 4 parts to the tunnel and after each part there is the opportunity to exit the tunnel if you wanted to. I decided to stay for all 4 parts and by the end it was pretty narrow. I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get through.
It was a good experience and again another one for the bucket list. One of the other bucket list items I managed to tick off whilst at the Cu Chi tunnels complex was firing a real gun. It cost about £18 to fire a gun with 10 billets. They had all sorts of different guns ranging from an M16, AK47 to M1 Garand. As appealing as it was to go for the M16 or AK47 I decided to go old school and choose the bolt action rifle, the M1 Garand.
I have never fired a real life weapon before and never intend to but on a secure shooting range I wanted to give it a try.
The recoil on the gun was incredible. I wasn’t expecting it to recoil so much but it did. Bucket list item ✅ and I’m glad I did it!
In the evening we had our first sleeper train of the Indochina trip… we were travelling from Ho Chi Minh city to Nha Trang which takes about 9 hours.
The trains were much better than what I had experienced in India. You had two people per side on a bunk and it was much cleaner and more spacious. So here we go…
Our next destination was Ho Chi Minh City. Again, speaking with friends they have all said if you find any cities in SE Asia or India hectic then it’s nothing like Ho Chi Minh.
When we arrived I think I’d disagree. It was busy don’t get me wrong and we were stuck in pretty bad stand still traffic… but I would definitely say Delhi was more hectic for cars, people and animals on the roads.
You could be confident crossing the street and making it out alive in Ho Chi Minh but in Delhi I thought I was going to die.
Our CEO took us to a local street food market place which was amazing. There was loads of choice available and everyone in our group went for something different. After the street food we all went around the local market which was one of the main areas in the city. Again, it was a cool market place but I was expecting more. Every stool seemed to sell the same thing and there was a real lack of variety.
I went to explore a bit more of the city with one of the girls in our tour group. We walked to the Independence Palace which you couldn’t see because it was covered by a huge fence, gate and a load of trees. A bit rubbish!
We also went to the Cathedral Notre Dame which was being renovated. It was a shame because it looked like a cool building but there was a lot of scaffolding on either side which meant taking a photo was challenging. This was similar to the experience I had with the Taj Mahal… there was a lot of scaffolding there which was a shame so it took the gloss off it a bit.
In the evening we went for another night out which again got messy and resulted in a pretty painful hangover!