April 2017
  • Day29

    Ha Long Bay

    April 30, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    So wowee, where do I start... the 3 days at Ha Long Bay couldn't have been more of a treat and possibly being the best place to celebrate my birthday.

    After the hefty journey to get to the castaway island, I already knew we were in for a fun few days. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide, Dan, who kept us all entertained throughout the duration of the trip. The island we were on really felt like a castaway with no Internet and contact with the outside world.

    That afternoon the activities included playing volleyball on the beach, tubing around Ha Long Bay as well as kayaking. Ha Long Bay itself is stunning and I can see why it's such an attraction. Luckily we had good weather for the duration of the 3 days meaning it looked it's best.

    The boat cruise was the day of my birthday and I couldn't have asked to spend it in a more beautiful location. Having Vietnam been so incredible up until that point I never think what I do can be topped, however I've constantly been proved wrong.

    The boat stopped at various points, the first time we all got in kayaked and went through the caves of Ha Long Bay, ending up in areas that had been used to film movies such as Avatar. The next stop was for lunch as well as swimming to a small beach off one of the island rocks.

    We got back, everyone's spirits very high, excited for the evening ahead. The evening was filled with lots of celebrations for my birthday and I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to be with.

    Waking up on the last day was a sad realisation that my time at Castaways and more importantly Vietnam was nearly over. Safe to say I've definitely fallen in love with this country and I've had some unbeatable experiences but also met some special people who I hope to remain in contact with.

    Getting back to the hostel it was time to say goodbye to everyone we had met on Castways as well as Fiona. This was a very sad depart after travelling together for 3 weeks and she is certainly someone who I will be in contact with for the rest of my life and was a big part of everything I did in Vietnam.

    However, despite being sad to depart I was ready to see what Laos has to offer and what treats would await me there.
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  • Day25

    Puluong

    April 26, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Getting up to the beautiful landscapes of Mai Chau and enjoying the breakfast at our homestay, it was soon time to leave on the bus further up into the mountains for our trekking at Puluong.

    Despite the 'roads' being quite questionable on the way up, we arrived at our next homestay and enjoyed a delightful lunch of chicken and baguettes.

    Having thought Mai Chau was stunning, I was in for a treat with what was to come. After lunch we headed off on our trek through the rice paddies. From the moment of stepping out the homestay the scenery was breathtaking and I've never quite seen anything like it. No words could do this place justice nor any picture capture how incredible it is. Every 2 minutes you are taking in new nice paddies and seeing locals a work.

    Being such an untouched area by tourists many locals look at you as though you are aliens, which in a way is quite humorous. The area was also so empty which made the experience all the more special. Our tour guide said that in 10 years time this will be the new Sapa, which makes me sad as the beauty of the place is because it's so natural and non touristy. Sitting at dinner that evening I still couldn't get over the sights I saw that day, despite being physically exhausted it's definitely been a highlight of my time in Vietnam. And I know I say many places I've been to or things I've seen are a highlight but this was on a whole new level.

    The dinner served that evening was divine, everything tasting incredible and cooked by the family we were staying with as well as our tour guide. We then got invited afterwards to sit with the family while they ate their dinner and despite the language barrier it was a precious moment.
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  • Day24

    Mai Chau

    April 25, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Having not had the time to do Sapa, we decided on a less expensive alternative, Mai Chau. It's slightly closer to Hanoi but still has the beautiful scenery and typical rice terrace look and generally more guaranteed good weather. Having not heard much about the area itself, I was excited to see what it had to offer.

    Arriving there we settled in our homestay and had lunch almost immediately. The food was honestly incredible and I'm pretty sure I ate enough food for at least 4 people. Having finished the meal, all I could think about was how good dinner would be.

    The afternoon activity was a bike ride, probably a good thing in order work off the mass of food I had just eaten. During the cycle ride we rode through the large stretches of rice paddies which were absolutely stunning. It was also a beautiful day so we were extremely lucky with our views. We made one stop at a local village that had just been open to the public a few months where they made a large range of woven cloth, all a lovely array of colours.

    Heading back to the hostel at sunset was a gorgeous backdrop to end our cycle ride. Soon after we got back it was time for dinner and yet again they delivered the goods. All different food to lunch yet as delicious.

    Later on we had a treat of Vietnamese dancers come put a show in for us. They were such sweet people and it was so nice to see how much they enjoyed performing for us. In the end all of us even joined in and I'm not sure who had more fun, them or us.

    Safe to say I'm excited to see what Mai Chau brings tomorrow.
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  • Day23

    Hanoi

    April 24, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    5am arrival in Hanoi and exhausted we headed to the hostel straight away and grabbed something to eat after our 10 hour journey. Lacking in energy I decided to have an easy morning, enjoying a nap and writing various postcards.

    In the afternoon, we showered and headed out for lunch, trying bun cha which was absolutely delicious and a typical Vietnamese dish. It consisted of noodles, BBQ pork and veggies.

    Then as a last minute decision we headed to the Women's museum before it closed, picking up various street food and goodies on the way, attempting to taste as much different food as possible. The Women's museum was extremely interesting and about different religions and how that affects a woman's worship routines, marriage riturals and bringing up kids.

    Having heard about a popular performance called the Water Puppet Show, we decided it would be fun to go. Although it was in Vietnamese it was lovely to watch and felt like a treat being able to appricate something that's so popular in their culture.

    Needing to pack for the next day, our trip to Mai Chau, we went back to the hostel. It was also good to have a catch up with Dad and nice to see a friendly face after while. Then it was time for bed, another day having flown by.
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  • Day22

    Pub with cold beer

    April 23, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Woke up and had a chilled morning with a more leisurely breakfast and decided to go exploring by ourselves around the national park.

    Hiring bikes from the hostel we headed to a recommendation known as the 'pub with cold beer'. The first 10km of the bike ride was thoroughly enjoyable however the last 5km could be referred to as hell on wheels. We managed to find ourselves on a dirt track all up hill on a steady incline. This happened just at the time where I was actually beginning to enjoy cycling, but after that not so much. We arrived exhausted, sweaty and extremely in need of a cold beer.

    Having had the bike ride from hell on the way, we chilled there for the afternoon in the hammocks provided enjoying our cold beer. However the restaurant was also famous for being able to kill and eat your own chicken. But the thought of killing our own food may have put us off our meal so we just decided to let the workers do it instead and still have an appetite. It has to be said the chicken was some of the best I've had in Vietnam yet. I'm not sure if that was because of the quality or the hunger that had brewed on the journey there.

    Realising we could take a different route back along the highway we had a much more relaxing journey. Along the way we stumbled at a duck farm and got to help herd ducks and ducklings which was hilarious and such a treat, never having an experience quite like it. Finally we arrived back at the hostel for 6pm which meant free beer.

    After having something to eat and collecting our things together it was time to get on the nightbus to Hanoi.
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  • Day21

    Phong Nha

    April 22, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    Another early start and we hit the road off into the national park of Phong Nha. The first place we visited was the 8 Lady Temple, named after the 8 women who were trapped and died in the cave as they got blocked in and starved. The temple was created in memory of them. People still go pay respect to them today.

    The main road that runs through the park used to be the passage way used by the Vietnamese in the war to transport supplies from North to South, hence the area was heavily bombed by Americans. But due to the trail being covered by a canopy of trees it made it very hard for the Americans to find it from a birds eye view.

    Next we travelled through the gorgeous scenery to Paradise Cave. There was an unexpected trek up to the cave but despite being covered in sweat it was worth it. The cave was enormous, one of the most impressive sights I've ever seen, no photography could capture the shear size of the cave. Walking through the cave it just seemed to go on forever.

    Heading through more beautiful scenery we arrived at Dark Cave. The first thing we did was indulge in a huge meal of meats, noodles and rice and oh wow did it hit the spot. Then we headed into the Dark Cave via a zip line which was such fun. Entering the cave we trekked deep into it and ended up at a mud bath. I have to say it was a strange but very cool experience and because of the thickness of the substance you floated in the mud.

    Back out of the cave we kayaked back to land and having it been raining we were all very cold but waiting for us was some rum and coke to warm us up.

    Getting back to hostel we had a long warm shower after a busy day and a much needed early night.
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  • Day20

    Hue

    April 21, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ☀️ 37 °C

    In Hue the main attraction is the Imperial City so our plan for the day was to spend it there. This was a location that was heavily bombed by the French and a battle ground during the war. However there's been a lot of reconstruction of the place in order to see what it would have been like when it was previously built.

    Having heard that Hue was extremely hot, as its located far away from a large body of water we didn't really register this until we were wondering around in 38 degree heat. Safe to say we struggled and after 2 hours decided it was time for a cold beer and a sit down.

    After grabbing lunch at a local restaurant and a delicious milkshake from another cafe it was time for us to head back to the hostel and pack up our things in time for our bus to Phong Nha, the national park. Here, a lot of bombs were dropped during the Vietnam war and was where the main transportation route for the Vietnamese was. Its also a beautiful location with amazing scenery and lots of natural caves.
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  • Day19

    Hai Van Pass

    April 20, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    Ditching the bus, our normal transportation, we did the route from Hoi An to Hue on the back of motor bikes. I can honestly say this day was one of the most memorable experiences and one that should be on everyone's bucket list.

    Our drivers picked us up at 9.30am and we pretty much hit the road immediately. The first stop was marble mountain, which gave you a beautiful viewpoint of Da Nang and Hoi An. It was a breathtaking sight and loved all the marble sculptures at the bottom of the mountain.

    Further along the road we stopped off at a fishing beach. It was so quiet and peaceful, also an opportunity for a few photos. Heading out the city you could definitely see how the area around was becoming more scenic and less built up. Entering the mountainous area which is famously known as the Hai Van Pass, the route Top Gear did in one of their episodes and only when you are actually there can you appreciate the beauty of this country. We stopped off at another 3 points, a cove, Lang Co and a waterfall known as Elephant Falls, where you could swim in the water.

    As we got closer to Hue we were accompanied by paddy fields either side of us which created the true typical Vietnamese backdrop for our journey which were spectacular.

    Arriving into Hue it was certainly busier on the roads. We arrived at our homestay hostel exhausted but having had a great day.

    If anything could make you fall in love with Vietnam, this trip couldn't do the country more justice.
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  • Day18

    Farewell Hoi An

    April 19, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    For our last full day in Hoi An we decided to take it easy, spending the morning by the pool and enjoying the hostel we were in and catching some rays.

    However, we needed to go get our last fittings for our clothes. 3rd time round and we were all extremely happy with our purchases. Having bought so much during my time I was already having to send $40 worth of clothes back home, ooops.

    We then decided to head to the beach in time for sunset which was gorgeous. We strolled along the beach but had to finish up shortly in order to be back for the pub quiz at the hostel. Heading back we picked up a Banh Mi for dinner, which was one of our best yet! I also found myself a furry friend, a little kitten who decided to fall asleep on me... so adorable.

    Full and satisfied we joined the pub quiz, however we failed miserably, knowing very few answers to any of the questions. However, being our last night we didn't let this dampen our spirits and headed out on the pub crawl that we had joined on our first night.

    With a fun last night and having fallen in love with Hoi An it was time to say our goodbyes.
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  • Day17

    Kim Bong

    April 18, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Deciding to be slightly more touristy we joined a free tour that is run by local students who want to improve their English. Our tour guide was superb and one of the best guides I've had in my time in Vietnam.

    The tour was around a local village in Hoi An called Kim Bong Village. Our first stop was at the local boat making business which built both fishing boats and boats for tourists. The eyes on the boats are pointy to protect the boat against evils of the water and are typically found only in north Vietnam rather than the south.

    Our next stop was a local home where they make sea grass sleeping mats, all of us in turn having a go. We also went to another local home and tried rice paper cakes which were surprisingly delicious. Here, anyone who wanted could have a try at making the rice paper. It was an easy task but repetitive and can imagine it gets quite laborious after a while.
    After stopping off at a hand made crafts shop it was time for the tour to end.

    Needing to get another fitting for our clothes we stopped by the old town and then headed back to the hostel to enjoy the rest of the day's sun.

    For the evening in the hostel it was tropical themed which allowed us to wear some questionable outfits. However the evening ended up with all of us being thrown in the pool finishing the evening soaked.
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