Sunday, 10 April 2016

Wanderlust in Vietnam

From our planning, here is a travel log that contains excerpts of what me and Gary did throughout our three week travelling journey through Vietnam.  The map below illustrates the journey and transport we took.

13/14 March 2016

We had two flights one from Birmingham to Dubai then Dubai to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  We lost a day as such due to time changes.  We both watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the first leg, then stopped in Dubai for an hour or so, after which we set off to Ho Chi Minh City.  When we landed we got picked up by a taxi from our host from Airbnb place we booked.  On the way we saw the city at night.  When we got there we met the host, but lost him as he was on his scooter, but luckily he found us.  After having this long flight we just went straight to bed.

15 March 2016

The first full day we ventured out to have a look around our surroundings and the city.  Whilst out we got stopped by a guy who offered us a ride on his scooter to the nearest shop, we had food then he suggested giving us a tour.  He and his companion took us around most sites in the city on their scooter.  We went to see a temple, a war museum, a market and a nice city river.  The museum in particular was really haunting with what happened during the wars.  One of the scooter guides kept saying "you're still learning" and "just do it" which were great life reminders.  Our next destination is Mũi Né so we booked our bus there.

16 March 2016

We arrived in the tropical Mũi Né after a sleeper bus that was about 5 hours.  On the way I was reflecting on some P!nk songs.  We checked in the hotel which was really nice and got a room upgrade which was a bonus.  We spent some time swimming in the pool and laid on an outdoor bed but were eager to see the beach so took a stroll at sunset.  I collected some shells that I'll use for my display at home.  We saw a few dead jellyfish, cuttlefish and a rat!  I had a flash of inspiration that resulted in an Instagram picture that inspired others.  Our evening meal was in a beautiful forest-like restaurant.  In the early hours our alarm went off from the night before, but we checked outside and dawn was breaking so we stood on balcony together in a nice romantic moment.

17 March 2016

Today we got the local bus to Phan Phiet and then another bus to the Tà Cú Mountain.  It took an hour to get there and seemed a really quiet place.  There was a cable car up the top, I was scared of the height but the views were worth it!  We saw the different Buddha statues and the famous Entering Nirvana Buddha Statue, the buildings here were beautiful.  We spotted some monkeys that entertained us for a while.  The butterflies here are a lot larger and fly around effortlessly.  Back to the hotel and after freshening up we relaxed in the outdoor bed again.

18 March 2016

We set off early to Phan Phiet to visit the whale temple we didn't see yesterday, which housed the skeleton of a fin whale.  The next set of activities involved taking a jeep to the Fairy Stream.  We chatted to some friendly German girls who were on this outing with us before walking up the red sandy stream, we were even joined by a cow or two.  Gary attended to an injured Chinese lady who had cut her foot on a leaf which was a really kind thing to see.  We got knee deep, but for me that's waist deep, in a part of the stream.  After a short break watching hundreds of traditional fishing boats we made our way to the white sand dunes. This was such a vast area and the best way to explore it is on a quad, which was so much fun to do!  Afterwards we made our way to the red sand dunes walking and running over them and watched the sunset here, this was a beautiful romantic moment with Gary.

19 March 2016

Today we travelled up to Nha Trang on a sleeper bus.  We checked into a really swish studio that overlooked the city. This was one of those travelling days where after the journey you just want to chill so we grabbed some local food and a cocktail or two.

20 March 2016

Who doesn't love a beach day, Nha Trang had a gorgeous beach with turquoise waters and lava hot sand.  We organised our next destination and walked to book the 12 hour night bus to Da Nang.  We went up to the hotel pool for a bit, afterwards we went out for food then got cosy in a café.

21 March 2016

On this day we went to Nha Trang's Oceanography Institute, loving sea life I particularly enjoyed this as I could see live and 'pickled' specimens.  Afterwards we made our way to Ba Ho for a mini trek through the jungle and up the rocky waterfalls.  On the way we were entertained by 90s, 00s and Cher music!  There were three waterfalls, but the first was the best as, after building up the courage, we jumped off the rocks into the water.  Then we trekked back down through the jungle.

22 March 2016

This was our last day in Nha Trang and we visited the Po Nagar which was a small Cham styled temple.  After lunch we waited for the pick up bus to take us to our coach.  We had a 12 hour night sleeper bus to take us up to Da Nang.  Me and Gary struggled to get comfy at the back but on the top bunk there was space where we could lay out horizontally rather than vertically.  The bus was bumpy at times but Gary held me in place.  The moon lit up all the landscape on the journey, such great scenery.

23 March 2016

We arrived in Da Nang around 5am, a bit early than expected.  We got a taxi to the hotel but couldn't check in till 2pm.  So we freshened ourselves up and took off to the Marble Mountains.  This was a lot bigger and better than expected and had some great caves and views.  In the evening we walked to a shopping mall to get some homely vibes.  After dinner Gary bought some bits for his cabinet.  To burn off the calories from the pasta (well you can't have stir fry's every day) we walked around the city of Da Nang which was dark by then.  The city was all light up with bright colourful lights.  The dragon bridge was really impressive.

24 March 2016

Hoi An is a picturesque place so we had to visit, after hopping on a local bus we arrived.  We got tickets at the town entrance that gave access to 5 historic buildings within the old town.  It really was a nice quaint village with lots of local craft shops.  We crossed the Japanese covered bridge, visited a gem stone museum, history and culture museum, an old family house and a communal building.  Today was my Grandad's funeral and I was drawn to a number of places with his name on!  I had a little moment to send some thoughts.

25 March 2016

Another place of interest is Mỹ Sơn containing the Hindu ruins of the ancient Cham people.  Me and Gary had a nice moment on the coach, I asked him to listen to OneRepublic's "I Lived", he liked it but held my hand tightly in parts.  The ruins were insanely beautiful to observe with amazing sculptures and details.  On the journey back we got a boat that travelled along a wide river which stopped at a small village with many craft stalls.  One specialised in wood carving and me and Gary made purchases there which nearly left us stranded!  In the evening we went into Da Nang to book flights for Hai Phong for tomorrow.  A funny moment happened on the way back as we both had a hover board experience from a local and failed terribly!

26 March 2016

This was another of those travelling days as we left Da Nang to fly to Hai Phong.  But before that we killed some time by stopping at a park in the city and having lunch.

27 March 2016

Hai Phong was just a stop over to get to Ha Long Bay so we took the bus there.  We checked into a nice hotel beside of a massive bridge across from the locals village.  At night this was illuminated just like the ones in Da Nang.  We had a walk around the area and started looking for a cruise around Ha Long Bay.

28 March 2016

This is our first day and night on a mini cruise in Ha Long Bay.  The cruise boat was very nice inside and out, we even got a room upgrade due to us stopping at the hotel we booked it at!  The sights of the small mountains on the calm sea were breath-taking.  It was like "welcome to Jurassic Park!"  There were eagles flying around and jelly fish in the sea.  We visited the Surprise Cave which was equally as breath-taking.  The cave got bigger and bigger as you walked around.  Then we went to Ti Top Island where there was a small beach and a steep climb to the top of the small mountain with amazing views there.  We came back to the main cruise and got involved in making some Vietnamese wraps.  After our evening dinner we went to the top of the boat and watched the night scenery and silhouettes of the mountains.  Two guys we talked to earlier in the day approached us and we chatted to them for a while.  They are married and are on a family holiday. We chatted about the locations and our travel plans.  When they left us one said about me and Gary "it's very encouraging to see".

29 March 2016

Today we returned from the mini cruise around lunch time.  We had an overall relaxing day and ventured around the hotel area.  We walked across the massive bridge at the side of us which I felt really anxious about.  But the views were great! Later that day we were the hotel bar and had a cocktail and read our travel books and magazines we brought with us.  We decided to go to Hanoi next and explore the old and new towns before getting a flight back down to Ho Chi Minh City.

30 March 2016

The bus drive from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi took longer than expected.  Later that day we explored Hanoi by night which is a really nice city.  We also found a Lego shop and like the big kids we are we spent far too much time in there!  There were many nice book shops too and the old town area had a brilliant vibe at night.

31 March 2016

Visiting Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum we unfortunately couldn't see his corpse as his marble temple was closed.  Whilst there we saw the one pillar pagoda which was surrounded by so many other tourists.  After that we walked down to the Temple of Literature.  There seemed to be a few school trips and graduation celebrations, the school kids are always cute and welcoming by saying "hello" and "what is your name".  We then took a tea break, well I did as Gary doesn't like tea.  We did a fair bit of purchasing too and found a scrap book for the travelling pictures and collections.  We ended day with very hot Thai food and an ice cream parlour to cool us down.

1 April 2016

Flying back to Ho Chi Minh City, we had to adapt to the hot temperature again!  We checked into another nice hotel which was near the first place we stopped in the Airbnb.  We walked around the city and went to the Reunification Palace (which I kept mistakenly calling rejuvenation palace) but it was closed.  Gary had an urge for a Pizza Hut.  We searched on Lego places too and one was in a toy shop in a shopping mall near Pizza Hut.  So we had a pizza date and indulged our hobbies again.  We made more purchases that evening, spending the last of our Dong.

2/3 April 2016

Our holiday is drawing to a close.  We checked out of the last hotel and had a good walk around Ho Chi Minh City and lounged in a park by the city river.  We saw more of the city than we did the first visit and had one last Vietnamese meal which was beautiful!  Later in evening we made our way to the airport and began our 14+ hour fly back home.  For the second flight back from Dubai to Birmingham, we got one of those two-tiered aeroplanes.  I was pretty excited about this as I've always wanted to go on one of those.  As with first aeroplane there were cameras from front and below to see outside, but on this one it had an additional one on the top which was a great view!

We've had such a great time and it's been great to just be in the moment of enjoying another country and culture.  This adventure has ended but it is not the last, however as Gary eloquently put;

 "Everything has to become a memory eventually."  From Gary Purdy.

Now all our memories, experiences and collections will go into their own scrapbook of our Vietnam journey.