Haylong Bay, Hoi An, Mue Ne
hello again Ok, so it looks like this might be a 3 parter again, I can't stop waffling as you know and it's a wonderful country to waffle about so here's part II...
So, Halong Bay. What a wonderful place. It has to be said it can be done cheaper than the 133USD we each paid but it was soooo worth it. Spoilt to within an inch of our lives, pure bliss, esp the second night. If you're planning on doing Halong Bay, which I think you must do if you're in the north of Vietnam, definately do at least 2 nights, 1 night just isn't enough. So, we drove for about 5 hours from Hanoi with an ozzy chick and an ozzy family who were really nice. There had been a typhoon a few days previous which ended in the death of 5 people in the Bay after a boat overturned but thankfully all that bad weather had gone and everything was calm and sunny. We got onto the luxury junk boat and waited for a few other people to come and join us then sailed off through the bay. I can't tell you how fabulous Haylong Bay is and give it justice, it's just amazing. Don't think my photos quite capture it. During the first day we went to a big cave, like St Michaels in Gibraltar but waaaaay bigger and had no seats or stage for beauty pagents like Miss Gibraltar who actually won Miss World?? how mad and brilliant is that? It was an interesting cave and had the usual naughty looking staligmites and tights but there was a constant stream of tourists inside it like ants when you see them crawling up walls and along the ground or in my case all over my bed, up my legs and everywhere, I hate ants. After that we sailed to Tip Top Island which isn't where they make the creamy topping for a fruit salad but where you can see a wicked sunset and swim in the kinda dirty water cos of all of the boats but still really nice. One of the guys got his flip flops nicked tho which wasn't so good. Some of us climbed up the hill to the top and took some cheesy but fun 'holding the sun' photos then back onto the boat for dinner. It was a bit odd, like a chip each on a plate then a wee crab each then something else, by the time they stopped bringing out food we were full but it felt like we hadn't eaten anything which was fine cos at night all these women on rowing boats filled with beer, wine, pringles, biscuits and anything else you might need while on the boat float up to the side shouting 'buy something' 'we have many things' it was such a novelty although in the dead of night when you really want a chocco pie, they're no where to be seen.
The next day was really amusing, wel, for me and the other 2 who were staying a second night anyway. We had breakfast at about 7:30am I think it was, then the people that were leaving, which was everyone except me Alex and Jess the ozzy girl were told lunch was at 10:30am before being turfed off the boat. Alex, Jess and I all got onto another boat. After breakfast the people that were leaving went kayaking while the rest of us got on a boat and followed them which was odd. We said cheerio to them and sailed off on our even more luxurious boat, just the 3 of us. I even had a jaquzzi bath in my room!! Not that I could use it cos the water wasn't that hot but still... Lunch was amazing, so much food and these chilled big pear things that tasted like heaven, so juicy and cold. We then went off to a floating village and kayaked through a bat cave, I was well scared to begin with and was given the only life jacket with a whistle on it by the captain after being overheard talking about what a rubbish swimmer I am but I was fine, really enjoyed if after I got going and having Jess the life guard on the same kayak as me helped... the cave was unbelievable, the water was so still the reflection of the staligtites above looked like you could put your hand in the water and touch them like they were in the water and not above it - amazing and of course the odd bat squeaked and flew about. Dinner, cards, wine, vodka and a chat to the staff over some live stone snails which actually tasted quite good and off to bed. We had to check out so they gave us breakfast at 8:30 and lunch at 10:30!! crazy stuff. We didn't think we'd manage to eat everything and when lunch came out it didn't look like much and we had the bare face to moanabout it then he brought out a massive fish and rice and stirfry beef OMG there was masses. Having only had a big breakfast 2 hours earlier we didn;'t think we'd be able to finish but somehow we managed to scoff the lot. After packing our things we lounged about on the deck till we got back to the port. Waved goodbye to the captain and headed back to Hanoi on a bus for 5 hours. I was sat next to a very odd austrian man who was listening to the cheesiest drivel ever, very loud indeed bless him. Got back to the drift, repacked our bags and off to the train station again - next stop Hoi An
Hoi An like other places on the east coast of Vietnam had been hit heavy with the typhoon. You could see the water mark which in some places was over 5 foot high, it must have been horrific to be there when it was all going on which I know some travellers that I met were. Debri and mud all over the place but they'd tidied it up well and seemed to take it all in their stride. The train journey there however was horrendous. We went hard bed in a cabin with 4 members of a vietnamese family. The father could hardly breath but when he did it was loud and heavy like he was going into labour but that wasn't the worst of it. In Vietnam you have to be up and about by 5:30am even though the train doesn't stop till 1pm... then once you've sucessfully woken up everyone around you, you go back to sleep. They got the food on first while talking really loud, opened the carraige door so we could here the local radio blaring out some kind of torchurous music that was so loud it was unbearable and if that wasn't bad enough, I was in the middle bunk and the woman below kept standing up and tucking me in with her big long jaggy finger nails digging into my back cos my duvet was hanging over a bit, while the father coughed up a lung and the granny gave out a big sigh every 10 mins. I was not thanked by my travel buddy for taking the cheaper option. Hoi An is definately influenced by french arcitechture and food, you can get a baguette any time of the day haha. The buildings are beautiful and the colours are fabulous. The old town was particularly great and we spent most of our time there. The only thing I didn't like about Hoi An was the constant stream of women wanting you to buy something, on and on at you grabbing at your arm which I personally hate to the point of be willing to hip toss them onto the ground and put them in some kind of UFC strangle grip. I do not want a manicure, I do not want a pedicure and I definately do not want you going anywhere near my eyebrows, arms, legs or bikini line with a thread in the middle of the market place. You couldn't go through the market without fending them off then being talked about when you said no. I have to agree with other travellers when they say the people in the south of Vietnam are a lot nicer than the ones in the north. Anyhoo we went to the old town and had some clothes made. I got a japanese silk dress and a cotton skirt made for about 20USD which is great although I did have some trouble with the neckline of the dress. I also got some boots made for next to nothing. I did another cookery course in Hoi An with Alex. We didn't do much of the cooking really but it was good fun and the food tasted amazing esp the won ton salsa and the stuffed fish. I almost bought a grater cos it was well cool and made out of an old can but thought better of it. We went shopping for souvineers and I was looking at scarves. Each shop we went into I was asked if I wanted to try it on... try a scarf on... No sorry, it doesn't quite fit me, do you have anything a bit longer..? made me giggle Next stop Mui Ne..
We got a night bus from Hoi An which was totally bizarre. I've been on a night bus before but never one with beds so I didn't really know what to expect. I've seen pictures but not of the bus we went on. I headed for the top back section by the window of the futuristic spaceship they called a bus and Alex got the next seat where the gap is if you know what I mean... Anyway it was basically a fake leather seat in lie down mode, a wee slippy pillow and a blanket that god knows how many people had used before me. Alex had to keep her seat belt on cos if she didn't she'd have flown to the front of the bus during a sharp break or at least onto the people below. There were people sitting in the aisle below us so if you had to go to the loo you had to walk over them, very strange indeed. It was hard to sleep for a few reasons including the bed thing being for little people so you couldn't move around, just lie on your back with your feet inside the back of the seat in front. The TV was blaring a local show worse than anything I've seen on GBC, people were hacking back pleghm and of course the snoring and the perpetual beeping of the horn. Why oh why did I forget to charge my ipod?? Just as I got comfy we stopped for food. One guy on the bus bought a load of dried fish which is a quality snack apparently. Anyway he was so chuffed with his purchase that he held it aloft like He-Man would his sword then brought it back down and gave the packet a big kiss... We got to Na Trang and waited about an hour for another bus to take us to Mui Ne. I went on the hunt for some breakfast and brought back some rice pancake things layered up with garlic and spring onions in oil with a side of orange chilli sauce, it was lush!! Onto Mui Ne on another sleeper bus even though it was now morning. 5 hours, 1 stop, a banana and a bunch of grapes later we were settled into our lovely hotel with pool and beach access for much cheapness. Mui Me has lots of sand dunes so we hired a scooter and went to see the red ones first then the white ones. We went looking for Red Canyon but couldn't find it. The dunes were really cool. We spoke to some kids that were trying to get us to surf down the dunes on a bit of plastic. I let one of them take some photos with my camera but started to get nervous when she started edging away slowly backwards so I nabbed it back off her. She took some good photos tho. That night we had a traditional hot pot for dinner, it was nothing like Betty's from corrie not that I've had one of those, it was a sea food one although you could get meat if you wanted. You get given a pot of hot steaming and spicy stock and a plate of raw fish, prawns, scallops, crab meat and noodles and a big pile of veg then cook it yourself in the stock over a hot plate or coals, it was lush!! Next day we had the morning to do something so we got on our trusty steed and ventured out to find the salt plains. After about an hour and nothing but loads of traffic we stopped for petrol. I went off to the loo and left Alex it to it, came back and theres loads of folk round our bike and a small boy with what looked liked like his arm trapped under our seat. It wasn't till I got to everyone that Alex confessed that she'd somehow managed to lock the keys inside the seat... doh!! lucky enough, the wee boy was skinny enough to grab the keys and pull them out and off we went, gave the bike back, had a swim and hopped on the bus to Saigon waking up an Irish lad laid on the floor at the back of the bus. Gave him a banana and he went back to sit with his mate. Next stop Saigon - HCMC