Canyoneering In Da Lat

We traveled to Da Lat by bus, which to be honest felt more like a 4×4 driving experience. It was so bumpy and rocky. When driving into Da Lat it started really raining, and when I mean raining I don’t mean the kind of rain we get back in England, I mean full on chucking it down kind of rain. When we got off the bus it had stopped raining and although the clouds were still black we decided we would be brave and walk to our hostel as it was only a 15-minute walk. Obviously, we didn’t make it without it raining on us, so we took cover under a hotel for about 30 minutes whilst we hoped it would pass…it didn’t, so we hopped in a cab and arrived at our hostel. It was such poor weather we didn’t do much on our first day. We got talking to a girl from Brighton, and we all went out to check out the 100’s rooftop bar. It was crazy!

We wandered around the town for a while and then headed back to the hostel.

Our hostel offered a ‘family dinner’ where the guests and staff all have dinner together. So that evening we thought it would be a good idea to join and possibly meet some new people.

Polaroid CUBE

We went to the dinner and there were about 6 of us, everyone was great company, the food was delicious and the staff was great fun. They let us try their local ‘rice wine’, which tasted nothing like English wine- more like tequila. They also taught us a card game too which was great fun. We had a few cheap beers and then decided 5 of us would go back to the 100’s rooftop bar.

We had a great evening but didn’t want a late night due to being up early for canyoneering the next day.

We woke up ready to begin our busy day canyoneering, had some breakfast and jumped on the tour bus. We were shown all the equipment, got changed into appropriate clothing and began our first trial run which was practice abseiling down a hill.

IMG-20170428-WA0017

After completing the practice run, we were taken around to our first cliff. Obviously, the first time is always the hardest and scariest, but considering our nerves we both done quite well. We continued to do fantastic activities such as a cliff jump, natural water slides, lazy river and finishing off with the ‘washing machine’ (this was abseiling down a cliff into a waterfall). I didn’t do the washing machine as I didn’t like the idea of being trapped underwater and having no control, I think jumping off an 11m cliff was just about my limit for that day! The whole day walking from activities and then walking back totaled to a 5km trek. We had such a great day and it was an unreal experience – although we were shattered and ached all over it was totally worth it. We paid around £35 per person, this included a whole day’s activities, lunch, pickup and drop off from our hotel. If anyone is visiting Da Lat, we used the company www.vietchallenge.com which we would recommend using.


After our busy day, we went out for some dinner, came back to the hostel and just relaxed for the evening as we were up early the next day ready to move onto Mui Ne

Exploring Nha Trang

After both catching up on sleep, we got ourselves ready to explore Nha Trang. We walked for around 45 minutes to Po Nagar Cham Towers. These were temples built between the 7th and 12th centuries where people go to worship. This was great to see, and the views from the top were again fantastic.

We were walking around and heard music playing, after investigating we came across people singing and dancing.

The most random things happen in the strangest places, but that’s all part of travelling and we love that! After exploring the towers, we decided that we would visit the Alexandre Yersin Museum, where he was the discoverer of the bacillus responsible for the bubonic plague. We didn’t have high hopes for this but gave it a go anyway, and it turned out to be really interesting, so if you visit Nha Trang and are interested in History then definitely check this out.

There isn’t a huge amount to do in Nha Trang and most attractions are quite far out and hard to get to as there is no public transport. We headed back to a café and focused on the blog for a little while and then back to the hotel to recharge our batteries ready for our evening. After getting ready we headed out for some dinner and then went back to the hotel as we were both so tired.

The following day as there wasn’t a lot to do, we relaxed on the beach after haggling to get prices down for the sunbeds and got talking to a lovely Canadian couple. We were talking to them for ages, so long we didn’t realise the sun had moved round and was, in fact, cooking us. They seemed like great company and we arranged to meet them that evening for some drinks. Until then, we sat talking to them and then headed off for some lunch and back to our regular cafe to do some blogging.

We went for some Western dinner as we were craving familiar food, it was disappointing and didn’t taste ‘familiar’. Spaghetti Bolognese which didn’t taste like our parent’s versions (which we miss… ALOT). We met up with our new pals, played some pool and had some drinks. It was a great evening with great company.

The next day, again we didn’t get up too much but we did discover a shopping centre with an actual supermarket! Supermarkets are very rare in Vietnam so this was a pleasant surprise. We wandered around and discovered the most atrocious items of clothing.

We grabbed some food for lunch, sat on a bench and enjoyed our picnic whilst overlooking the sea. Later, we sat in another coffee shop and focused on blogging before going back to the hotel. That evening we went out for dinner and came across a restaurant where we could sit on the 1st floor and overlook the street. We ordered foot-long sandwiches which were delicious, and very cheap.

The restaurant was called Gecko, so if you love a foot-long then check it out. We headed back to the hotel, packed and got ready for our early morning the following day ready for the next destination.

The Dreaded Sleeper Bus

Whilst getting onto the sleeper bus we got talking to another couple from the Czech Republic. They seemed like a great laugh and they said about sitting at the back of the bus with them because there were 5 seats and one of those seats we can put all our belongings on. This seemed like a good idea at the time until the bus was full and someone required our ‘spare’ seat. There we were laying there like awkward sardines with the heat from the engine blasting away – we were now sweaty sardines.

Everyone looked cosy and comfortable and we were stupid yet again and made the wrong decision, but oh well, only 11 hours to go I suppose.

When we got onto the bus, the first thing I checked for was a toilet – which turns out it didn’t exist. No toilet on an 11-hour journey, you have got to be joking! For anyone who knows us personally, we don’t have strong bladders and when we need to go there is no waiting, we seriously NEED to go. 45 minutes into the journey and guess what we needed? Yep, the toilet…already. James went and asked the angry bus driver and he said 30 minutes until he stops. 15 minutes later he stopped, a handful of guys get up and off they go to pee on the side of the road. However, this is no place for ladies to go to the toilet, as I was pushed away by the arrogant driver, that was when I thought I was going to lose all my dignity I ever owned and pee in a bottle.

Luckily, about 20 minutes later we stopped. I’m not even going to try and put into words how much of a relief it was. The journey went fairly quickly but then I’m not surprised because his driving was horrendous. Let’s put it this way, he probably drove double the speed limit! We felt like we were part of the film Fast & Furious. I remember laying there at one point with my eyes shut and I felt like I was on a Roller Coaster! Unfortunately, we didn’t get sufficient amount of sleep so we were super tired when we arrived at Nha Trang. It was about 5:30 am when we arrived, got to our hotel and the shutters were down. Luckily, they must have heard us talking outside so they let us in and we got checked into our room – so back to bed we went

Saying Goodbye To Hoi An

Our final night in Hoi An we got back from spending our evening in the town and then heard a knock on our door to find the hotel owner asking if he could share a beer with him and his friend because it was our final night. We obviously accepted, walked over and before we knew it, we were having a picnic and a party with him. He set out a food selection for us, a few beers later and using google translator to communicate we were all having such a great evening! He got out his guitar and started to sing to us, we both felt truly grateful and realised memories like this are what travelling is all about.

After researching about what to do in Hoi An we really wanted to do some form of tour, we discovered a Bike tour which was free of charge because the people that took you out were students and wanted to practice their English. We didn’t know what to expect, but having to be up at 7 am we hoped it had better be worth it! This was the day we had to check out (usually at 12 pm), our tour was supposed to be 4 hours long and started at 8 am, so assumed we’d be back to the hotel at around 12:30 pm. We explained this to our hotel and they said not to worry that’s fine.

We used the bikes from the hotel for our tour, met up with our group and began our journey. They were all so friendly and probably spoke better English than we did! We cycled to get onto a ferry when we were slightly delayed because there was a boat race going on.

We made it to an island called Kim Bong Carpentry village where we got to see how they made their boats.

We then cycled onto the next stop which was where they made sleeping mats. It was so fascinating to see how this was done and how quickly they did it. We even got to try!

The group we were with were other Londoners, and this one guy was hilarious. The tour guide asked him to sing a song, so he sang ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams – of all the songs and all the places, why he chose this song I don’t know! He then started singing nursery rhymes, but here we were, sitting with a bunch of strangers whilst this man sang some karaoke over-watching the locals make sleeping mats – it was just insane!

We moved on, fed some cows, visited a temple and stood in a rice field. We couldn’t have fit more into tradition if we tried!

Cycling some more, we made it to a family house where we were shown how they make rice cakes/noodles. This was very interesting and gave us an insight as to how their local dishes are cooked.

We then sat outside with the tour guides, and they asked us to teach them some English whilst they taught us some Vietnamese. She handed us a notepad and asked us all to draw each other – this was the result!

18156889_1845727412348627_7768071091222251657_n.jpg

Again, after more laughter, it was time for us to leave. We got carried away with time, and lets just put it this way – never expect ANYTHING or ANYONE to be on time in Asia. It was now 13:00 and we were due back by 12:30 to check out and we still had a ferry to get back and a 15-minute cycle back to the hotel. We made it back by 13:45, but the Receptionist said it wasn’t an issue at all. We checked out, but they gave us a key to another room and said that we can shower before our long bus journey. We went back to our local restaurant and had some dinner, then back to the hotel as we waited around for the sleeper bus to pick us up. As we were waiting, our Receptionist had gone out and got us some baguettes for our dinner (free of charge) – another lovely gesture from a great hotel. If anyone is planning on visiting Hoi An, then 100% stay at Red House Homestay. They couldn’t do enough for us, and lots of nice gestures throughout our stay.

Arrival In Hoi An

Having done a lot of research and heard a lot of good things about Hoi An, we were both really looking forward to arriving. When driving through the city, we instantly knew that we would love it here! We clambered out of our air-conned car and walked into the Reception when we were greeted by a lovely lady from our hotel and a glass of refreshing passionfruit juice. The lady showed us various activities and attractions to see in the area and then took us round to our room.

Our room was perfect, it’s a little bungalow with our own little patio area.

For not even £10 a night for the both of us, we struck lucky and it was a glorious feeling, smiles all round! After settling into our room, we walked up the road and went into a restaurant for a Banh Mi

In every dish, they put this green vegetable/salad with the meat, and I’m not a fan – if anyone knows what this is, please comment below! So, besides the green stringy vegetable thing, it went down a treat. Whilst it was far too hot to just about breathe, we decided we would chill out in our hotel room until the hottest part of the day had passed.

It got to about 15:00 and it was still baking hot, so we took out a bicycle each which was free of charge from the hotel and cycled to the beach. After 15 minutes of cycling, we made it to the peaceful beach, we laid on sunbeds and got a coconut. This was the life…until we sipped on the monstrosity of a ‘fruit’ and tasted the warm coconut milk which, to be completely honest, tasted like a “sicky fruit smoothie” as James described it.

After relaxing for a while and watching the world go by, we headed back to the hotel. Our journey home was crazy! It was only a 15-minute bike journey but there was a huge traffic jam of bikes/mopeds and cars trying to get over the bridge.

It was crazy as I’m sure you can see from the photos, although we wouldn’t have been laughing if we were stuck like that on the Dartford Crossing back in England. That evening we decided we would go for a nice meal and some drinks as I was too unwell to celebrate our 2 years together when we were back in Da Nang. We went to a restaurant called Moon Night – and the food was unreal. We had 2 beers each, a shared starter and a main each and it still didn’t even cost us £10! I would definitely recommend visiting this restaurant if you are in the area, check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.

After some more drinks in a few different bars, we didn’t want to go overboard so headed home to get some sleep. The next day we got up reasonable time, had breakfast and got our bikes and rode into the old town again. It was so ridiculously hot I can’t even explain, I had a walking water fountain with me all the time (James) as he was constantly sweating. The temperature was only 34 degrees but the real feel was 47 degrees.

I would really advise anyone travelling in this sort of temperature if you are not used to the weather being that hot then go out when the sun has died down later in the afternoon. We sat in a bar and decided that we could not walk around when it was that hot as it would make us ill. So, we rode back to the hotel and stayed at the hotel for a while until the heat was more bearable.

At around 5 pm we went back out, stopping off for a pork baguette on the way we very intrigued by a sign at the restaurant advertising beers for 3,000VND (about 10p), we tried one and in the politest way possible it tasted (and looked) like a pee sample. Just take note, don’t get your hopes up for cheap beer unless vinegar tickles your taste buds!

We left the bar with a sour taste in our mouths and rode into the Ancient Town which was fantastic. It had so much character and culture, it was so enjoyable just taking a stroll.

There were street performers scattered along the riverside. We stopped off at a bar and had a soft drink whilst overlooking the market antics.

After wandering for a while, we rode back to the hotel and got some sleep. Unfortunately, the next day James was poorly so we were unable to go out but to be honest it was far too hot for us to go out and do anything anyway (I guess you could say he done us a favour). It got to about 4 pm and James was feeling better so we headed to the beach for an hour or two. (This gave James the opportunity to test his camera skills on his phone!)

We were back at the hotel and we got ready to go out for the evening, we went back to the Ancient Town and both ordered chicken and rice at a street food stall. It was served to us, looked fine but the chicken was stone cold and the rice was boiling hot, we obviously didn’t eat the chicken. For £1 each I wasn’t expecting a lot but I did expect it to at least be hot. Even if you are on the tightest budget, I would recommend NEVER touching cold meat, always make sure the food spot is busy and never risk eating food you aren’t sure about, it really is not worth it.

As we hadn’t eaten much, we grabbed some pork skewers from a street vendor and wandered the town before heading back.

Mountains In Da Nang

We woke up and went down for breakfast which was incredibly disappointing. We then headed to the Marble Mountain which was fantastic, we walked around and took some wonderful photos.

There was even some abseiling going on there! We went into a little cave and had to do some rock climbing through the tiniest spaces, we had so much fun.

When we got to the top of the cave we could see all over Da Nang.

Polaroid CUBE

We started to walk back down to begin our journey back to the hotel and we came across 2 people singing, possibly for a music video or just for fun, we don’t know? But it was just so out of the blue, they soon had an audience of people recording. They could even be famous!

We were back at the hotel and waited for the hottest part of the day to pass and then we headed to the beach whilst we relaxed for a while. The sun went down and we were sticky, sun creamy and sandy so we walked back to our hotel. I discovered sand in places I didn’t even know was possible!

That evening, unfortunately, I was quite unwell so we didn’t make it out for dinner, not that I felt like eating. James resulted in ordering food online (basically JustEat, but their equivalent which was called Vietnammm). The next day I was feeling better but still too unwell and drained to leave the room, so again we didn’t do anything that day. Lucky enough there wasn’t much else to do in Da Nang anyway!

The day arrived when we had to leave Da Nang and begin our journey to Hoi An. This was only 30 minutes away via car so we organised a private car from our hotel.

Tip: We were buying big bottles of water which were still only costing us around 10,000VND (around 30p), but what we learnt was to buy a big drum of water and just refill the bottles rather than keep buying big bottles. We were getting through a drum of water a day, so it is more cost effective and helps to make sure you are keeping your fluids up.

We Are Off To Da Nang

We organised with our hotel in Hue the train ticket and taxi journey to the train station, costing us a total of £5 each pp. The receptionist at the hotel printed the train ticket for us and the next day sorted out our taxi journey for us. Our train was due to arrive at 9:50, and the Receptionist decided she would try and hail a taxi at about 9:20. With only a 10-minute drive we arrived at the train station and jumped on the train.

Throughout the 2.5-hour journey, we saw the most incredible views, with the most beautiful untouched beaches.

After an enjoyable train ride, we arrived in Da Nang. As there was no public transport from the train station to our hotel, we hopped in a taxi, for a 25-minute journey, it still only cost us around £4.00.

We made it to our hotel, surrounded by other hotels overlooking the beach. We paid out a lot more money for this hotel as we were celebrating our 2 years together. It was worth the money. When checking in, the Receptionist told us they had upgraded us free of charge to a bigger room with another bed (might come in handy when James is snoring). It was a fantastic view we almost felt like we were on the train again!

img-20170416-wa0001

We settled into our spacious room and then began our search for somewhere to eat, after a fair amount of walking we found street-food/restaurant where we both had noodle dishes – it wasn’t great if I’m honest, but it done the job and kept us full for a while, it was also VERY cheap because the man messed up the money charging us 80,000VND (just under £3) instead of 130,000VND. We went back to the hotel and chilled around for a while as it was too hot to go to the beach at that time.

It got to about 16:00 and we began our 10-minute walk to the beach, it was then that we realised we were the only Westerners we’ve seen the whole day. We shade-bathed for a while and sat in a bar. We saw a few westerners in the bar so we felt a bit closer to home, and then this man got out a tightrope kit – it was so random! He tied it between 2 palm trees and then began his performance, people got involved and it was great entertainment!

We were there for a while and then started to head back so we could shower and get ready to go out for some dinner. We discovered a restaurant called Burger Bros, and it was the nicest burger I’ve ever eaten, it was heaven. We finished up and walked back towards the hotel and discovered an interesting looking bar with several electronic dart boards which we could use.

We had fun in there whilst James’ horrendously beat me. We went back to the hotel and had another nice early night which was needed.

More Tales To Tell In Hue

We woke up ready to attempt our journey to the Pagoda again, had some breakfast and began our journey. Just the heat alone was a killer, let alone trying to ride a bike in it. We arrived at the Pagoda and slumped on a wall in the shade for about 15 minutes, everyone else that was there looked all glamorous and touristy, but us? No! Whose stupid idea was it to ride a bicycle in the hottest part of the day? Mine… (but James can happily take the blame).

Anyway, we cooled down and then started to look around, whilst it was a fantastic building, it definitely wasn’t worth the bike ride!

As we continued to look around, we went into a building where there was a Buddha, and bear in mind you are supposed to respect their culture, take your shoes off etc. I turned around to see James stood by the fan with his t-shirt pulled up! I instantly burst out laughing but then told him off and pulled his t-shirt down.

We were walking around and some Vietnamese students collared us asking if they can ‘interview’ us to practice their English for a project they are doing, so we did. We had finished wandering around and then decided because of how the sun was shining, the trees provided a little bit of shade on the side of the road we would be riding – survival techniques aye?

The hottest part of the day, both wearing our hats and stopping for multiple drink break, it seemed to never end. We were pouring our cold water inside our hats to keep our heads cool!

We made it home and I jumped in the ice-cold shower to cool myself down whilst James went to get us more drinks. He did the same when he got back. We laid on the bed and just laughed, anyone else surely would have learnt from the first incident that it was a ridiculous idea, but it created us with memories and something to laugh about forever.

After our days’ adventure, we had no energy to do much, we went out for some dinner, came back to the hotel and had an early night ready for our train journey the next day.

Havoc In Hue

Before we arrived at Hue, we agreed we would increase our budget for accommodation a little as we started to feel sorry for ourselves because of the previous hostels and the trauma they had put us through (only joking- but they were shocking!). Our Hue hotel was £35 for 3 nights for 2 of us – such a bargain for such small money. We have a proper shower and a floor that we can walk on without resulting in black feet!

Polaroid CUBE

From the second we arrived the staff were so helpful and provided us with a free drink after our trek. They then told us that tea and coffee were free for our entire stay, anytime we want one we can ask and they will provide for us. We walked into our room and both just looked at each other and smiled. This is just what we needed, it boosted our moods instantly. After not showering for 24 hours and being on a sweaty train we didn’t smell too good so we had a shower straight away and got ready to explore Hue.

We popped out and grabbed some lunch in a family run restaurant and then headed out and visited the Citadel. The Citadel (also known as the Imperial City). is a large city where the Emperor of Vietnam ran the country as Hue was the Capital of Vietnam until 1945.  It was very humid and started to rain, so we got out our rain macs and continued to explore!

This cost around £5 each. Whilst we aren’t crazy about History we still wanted to check it out. We were there for about 1.5 hours, but it was a massive attraction we could have easily spent 4/5 hours. We decided to head back to our lovely hotel and relax for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening we went across the road to the same family restaurant, I ordered Satay Chicken and rice and James had Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs. The waitress warned me that my dish was slightly spicy, but I felt brave so I still had it. It is fair to say the lady was right, it was spicy, and when they say ‘slightly’, they don’t mean slightly. My mouth was on fire, so I just had to wash it down with a nice cold beer!

That evening we were quite tired so headed back to the room to get a good night sleep so we could make the most of our next day in Hue.

Our first day

Our first full day in Hue was nothing but a failure, but still enjoyable and created memories. I’m not too sure where to even start?! We thought it would be a good idea to hire a bicycle (less than £1 each for the whole day) so we could ride to the Pagoda which we were told was only a 20/30-minute cycle. We hopped on our bikes, and considering I haven’t ridden a bike in about 10 years it didn’t come naturally, to say the least. I rode it more like a scooter! With the rush of motorbikes and cars, we got 20 minutes away and I heard a massive bang – turned around and James’ tyre had completely burst. We didn’t know what to do, until a man in a van passing us realised what happened and pointed us in the way of a tyre shop. We walked our bikes to the shop and he tried ripping us off, so we said no and started to walk back to our hotel.

What was a 15-minute bike journey turned out to be a 45-minute walk back! Eventually, we made it to the hotel at around 13:00 sweating through our eyes and explained what happened and the hotel staff couldn’t apologise enough.

We decided as we were shattered from the long walk and heat, that we would attempt to ride to the Pagoda the next day. That evening we walked further into the town where we ate at a slightly more expensive restaurant. I ordered Chicken Stir Fry and James had Crispy Fried Beef Noodles.

20170414_200256

We also ordered some frozen Strawberry Daiquiri which went down a treat.

As we were walking around in the town we were handed a leaflet to a club called Brown Eyes Bar, the TripAdvisor reviews were brilliant so we thought we would try it out. We walked in and although it was very quiet, we still enjoyed our time there because the staff were just so friendly and welcoming. I was taught how to make my hands look like crabs, that’s everyone’s goal in life, right?

We played pool and then James played with another traveller from The Netherlands. We got ourselves a vodka and coke bucket for less than £5, and as drinks were flowing we started to dance with the locals and we made some more friends from Australia.

 

That night will definitely be a night that we will look back on and remember for the rest of our lives. At this point, I felt like I was properly travelling and felt truly grateful I could experience it.