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Curious what backpackers do in Vietnam? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • When it's 33 degrees what is the best thing to do? Hire bikes of course! It's so incredibly hot! We're not use to this after cold rainy Japan that our bodies are struggling to cope. We're about a 20 minute bike ride from the old city of Hoi An so we woke up early and set off after breakfast. After dodging all the motorbikes and some directions we made it to the old quarter where we parked up and had a wonder around. The roads are closed to motor vehicles for most of the day so it made walking and cycling around much nicer. We paid for a ticket that gave us entry to 5 different things to see in the old town. Luckily we just managed to make a showing of a traditional art performance that consisted of music and dance. It was very interesting and entertaining to see. By this point the heat was really building at we had only reached about 11am! We went to visit a temple nearby before setting our sights on a juice bar but unfortunately there had been a power cut so no juices for us. We did find somewhere with power and enjoyed a nice refreshing drink. Nick ordered a coconut and it was honestly bigger than his head! It was also ripe enough to eat some of the flesh inside. They were being cut up by our table so we saw other people being given ones half the size of Nick's so we definitely got good value for money. It seems I'm very bad in the heat. The sweat was just pouring down me all over and I even had salt crystals forming on my legs. Literally was melting but we pushed on through to see another temple that was so incredibly beautiful. Outside it had a dragon statue made from broken pottery and glass and inside the temple itself hung large coiled incense sticks which were burning with prayers hang inside. The aroma and atmosphere of the temple was lovely. We lucky walked around the edge to discover a garden at the back that it seemed no one else went to see. It again had a huge group of dragons as a statue and also small ponds and bridges. It's probably the prettiest garden we've seen. We also visited a 400 year old Bridge that also has a temple on it and a traditional Vietnamese house. After some lovely food we got on the bikes once more and headed to an island that is meant to be lovely for cycling. We stayed to the main road so didn't see many views but it was a peaceful and easy ride through quieter streets and a good experience to see where people live. The road was quite long and didn't lead to anything more than houses and the edge of a river at the end so we turned around a headed back. By this point we were so ridiculously hot so we headed for one last juice in the old town before returning back. Our plan was to get changed and head to the beach but having arrived at the beach at about 4pm it was a lot cooler than we arrived and we didn't fancy actually getting in the end. Instead we just chilled on the sun loungers and had some fruit and ice cream before heading back to restuarant we went to the night before for tea. We had a lovely day exploring, even with the heat Vietnam is so beautiful.Read more

  • We arrived in Hanoi tonight and boy has it been an experience... from the bartering with the cab/shuttle van driver to seeing our first accident where a car smoked a scooter (not surprised give the no rules crazy driving in SE Asia)...and to top it off Andrea took us to some back ally for pho for supper - which turned out to be pretty damn good despite the ambiance and having a scooter zoom by behind you every 5min.Read more

  • Today was our last day in Hoi An before we caught the sleeper train in the evening. Luckily the manager at the home stay we were staying at is lovely and let us store our luggage all day there and also arranged a moped for us to use for the day, Nick's license coming in handy once again. Mopeds and bikes are the way to get around in Vietnam for sure so it had to be done really. We made the most of the 12pm check out by getting up early and spending the morning planning and booking some of our Cambodia trip. We were given a local noodle delicacy for breakfast which wasn't fantastic but it was nice to try the local food of Hoi An. We left our luggage at the hotel and hit the road and travelled about 20 minutes to a cat cafe. Unlike the one we visited in Japan this is a cat sanctuary set up to rescue cats and kittens from the cat meat trade or from vehicle accidents. The owners took in there own stray cat called Jack who later turned out to be girl when she gave birth to kittens. The sadest part of the story is that when the kittens were 2 weeks old Jack went missing and after many weeks searching they came to realise she had probably been stolen to be killed for meat. This is when the couple decided to set up the sanctuary to not only raise and rehabilitate injured and unwanted cats and kittens but also to educate the community on the thefts of cats and how to keep their pets safe. It was a beautiful place where the cats had full roam of a large garden and indoor area. They even managed to help a cat who couldn't walk due to being hit by a motorbike accident where his spine had fused together to learn to walk again, with round the clock care. They devote their lives to these cats and it felt like we were helping just by visiting and paying the entry fee alone but we decided to also have quite a few drinks there and lunch as well, where all the profits go into the caring of the animals. Sadly it came the time to leave and we got on the bike once more and tried to find a beach that is meant to be the most popular one near where are staying. We got lost of course but just riding around in the breeze was quite liberating so we didn't mind at all. It did get a little windy on a bridge we crossed however! We eventually found a beach, not the one planned but a beach none the less and stayed for a couple of juices and a chill out on the loungers. After some dinner we headed on the bike once more so one last ride before heading back to the home stay. At this point the sun was setting so the ride was amazing as we chased a beautiful pink sunset. We looped back and headed back to shower, the owner had even offered us a shower before we went which was amazing and I couldn't imagine having to sleep the train without one! After relaxing for a bit we headed off to board our train. We booked a 4 bed cabin and hoped to have one set of bunk beds but unfortunately we are both on the top bunk and also have a baby in with us so hopefully we get some sleep, fingers crossed!Read more

  • We were awoken on the train at about 5am when the family below us decided it was time for their breakfast! We'd had 6 hours of very broken sleep and unfortunately I don't think either of us had another sleep after that point. I've developed a cold so that was keeping me up most of the night and combined with a very rocky train it wasn't the most pleasant of journies, but we made it! I was feeling rather rough indeed but we only have two days in Nha Trang so I wasn't going to let it stop us. We managed to check in earlier and got changed before heading to a water and theme park amusement island, the best in Vietnam apparently! We rode the cable car across to the island which had a very annoying women saying the same thing over and over about the island in about 4 languages. I think we know her speech off by heart now! The park was pretty cool indeed. It had some small rides, not Alton Tower standard, a water park, aquarium and various other attractions. We spent the morning on the rides thinking it'll be better to get those done and then head to the water park to cool off. It was so hot and Nick felt ill after the pirate ship, bless him, so we went for lunch instead and then hit the water rides. We mainly stuck to rides which we could go down together on a two person float which was nicer to be able to enjoy it together. Nick's favourite would of course be he lazy river! He greatly enjoyed pretending the be a pirate of a cracken and try and tip my rubber ring over. We stayed on the rides for hours before collecting our things from the locker and headed to the aquarium. Unfortunately at this point the tiredness and illness really hit me so we didn't spent too long walking round. After some much needed rest and food we decided to head back to the cable car. Luckily by chance as we were walking we saw down an alleyway a water and light show that was starting so we sat and watched the first few songs of the show. It was a pretty incredible sight even when feeling rubbish. We beat the crowds to the cable car and didn't really enjoy our windy and rocky 12 minutes ride back in the dark. It was very cool to see the Eiffel Tower inspired pillars that hold up the cable car all lit up at night. We returned to the hotel so a much needed shower and sleep with the hope of feeling better tomorrow!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

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