All posts by Rookie Nomads

Ha Long Bay

We woke up in good timing (too early if you ask me) and left our not-so-lovely hostel to begin our journey to Ha Long Bay. We travelled there with a coach full of people, and luckily both managed to re-charge our batteries. 4 hours later and we had arrived, we went to the port, got our tickets and boarded the boat.

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We had lunch as soon as we got on and despite requesting something other than seafood, I was presented with a table full of seafood – lovely! I resulted in eating plain rice and about 5 chunks of chicken. I was soon distracted from thinking about my hungry belly because the views were just incredible.

Whilst on the cruise we got to see various attractions. The first attraction was the floating village where we got to go on a bamboo boat and go around the rocks. This was incredibly interesting as we were able to see the formation of the rocks. This was once classed as one of the 7 wonders of the world and I can completely understand why.

We then moved onto the next attraction which was ‘The Kissing Rock’

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These rocks have been facing each other for hundreds of thousand of years, and are actually a picture on the 200,000 VND currency note over here.

Finally, we went into the Thien Cung Cave, this was also amazing. Our tour guide was fantastic, explaining all the different ‘animal’ shapes inside the cave – although I’m still convinced she was making it up as she was going along, or maybe I just have no imagination whatsoever?!

And of course, the views at the top were simply breathtaking!

If you ever travel to Halong Bay then I would definitely recommend doing a Halong Cruise – even if you are on a budget like we were, do a 1-day cruise. I can guarantee that you wouldn’t regret it.

The best cruises can be found below:

Best Cruises In Ha Long Bay

At the end of the cruise, we picked up a taxi and was dropped off in Halong City. We freshened up and wandered around to find somewhere to eat.

Goodbye Hanoi, Hello Ha Long Bay

As we said goodbye to Hanoi, it was time to move onto our next destination, Ha Long Bay. We were going to travel to Ha Long Bay via bus which would cost us around £10 each one way. We were being haggled by people trying to get us to do a boat cruise to Halong Bay which made us think, that might not be a bad idea. There are many different types of cruises and eventually, we chose a 1-day cruise.

We would have loved to do an overnight cruise, but that was quite out of our budget so we opted out.We researched all over the internet where we could get a decent cruise from, and discovered a page on the internet explaining about scams. In Hanoi there is a company called ‘The Sinh Tourist’ – however, there are only a handful of ‘real’ shops.  There are many fake versions.

These two are the real offices in Hanoi.

 

Even our hotel was claiming to be one, we googled the address of the real shop and they had put a fake door number outside the property to mislead people. Fortunately, James clocked and we realised that actually, the real head office was just up the road from where we were staying.

Overall, staying in Hanoi was an enjoyable experience. The night life was great for us youngsters who wished to go out and enjoy the music and have a few drinks. The food was above average, I didn’t seem to have much luck with my meals but James enjoyed all of his thoroughly! Whilst we wouldn’t rush back, the city has a lot to offer and is definitely somewhere you will need to tick off your list.

 

Tip: when booking trips, I would advise to always book via The Sinh Tourist Office’s and look for the office on the contact us page. These are the legitimate offices in each city. If you are going into a shop, then always make sure that the email address and address match. DO NOT book with the centres that have a Gmail email address or if the centre is not listed on the above website as it is fake!!!

First Impressions of Hanoi

We arrived at Hanoi, tired and jet-lagged but so ready to explore. It was about 18:00, an hour wait and the night market was due to start. We were so hungry and there was so much to chose from. Eventually, we sat on tiny stalls down a side street and had beef noodles and lemon chicken with rice. The food was okay but didn’t meet our expectations.

Our first impressions of Hanoi weren’t brilliant, surrounded by nothing but mopeds and locals trying to sell you things.

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We figured that it’s just something we need to get used to and that it’s just their culture, so maybe that’s why we weren’t overly impressed to start with.

After we had our dinner, we walked around and discovered an interesting looking bar, with lights and beer bottles hanging from the ceiling. We sat there for a while and enjoyed a refreshing beer whilst watching all the tourists and locals begin their night out.

Our first full day in Hanoi.  

We woke up in good time ready to start exploring. Although still jet-lagged and tired, we powered through it to see what Hanoi has to offer. We took a 20-minute walk to get to the Hoa Lo Prison, but stopping off for a Banh Mi (meat in a baguette) which was our breakfast although it was quite disappointing – so James had half of mine as well.

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We made it to the prison which was really interesting holding a lot of History which we were unaware of, it was a real eye-opener as to how the Vietnamese people were treated by the French in the early 1900’s.

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This attraction was 30,000VND (just over £1.00) and was worth the small money.

When we finished at the prison, we went to see the Ho Hoan Kiem Lake and the Den Ngoc Son Temple which was very pretty, with interesting trees.

It was very picturesque. This attraction was also 30,000VND, although we got our ticket for free from some other tourists who were unable to enter (bonus!).

In the evening, we went to a food stall where we sat and had our dinner. I had chicken cashews with rice and James had beef noodles.

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As you can tell, this was demolished

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It really is a brilliant atmosphere just watching people go past us and enjoying their Friday night out, whilst we did the same. I must also add that I’ve never seen James’ face light up so much at the fact we could get 2 beers for 25,000VND (about 90p) – miracles can happen! The nightlife was buzzing, there were street performers scattered around the place and everyone just seemed so happy.

It was a great first day in this city and although we wouldn’t rush to come back, we would still recommend it if you aren’t phased by hustle and bustle and ALOT of mopeds.

Our Journey To Hanoi

After 20+ hours of travelling, 2 flights (London to Dubai and then Dubai to Hanoi), not much sleep and already dreading the heavy bags, we finally arrived in Hanoi at about 16:00 (their time).

We waited around at the airport for about an hour and a half. We went straight to the Visa border where we handed over our Approval Forms and signed application forms, as well as our passports. We were waiting for around 20/30 minutes (however this could have been a much longer process if another plane full of people got there before us). We got our Visas and were officially through – the journey properly starts now!

As soon as we had got through all the required checks, we went to get our bags, that’s when we experienced our first moment of panic. James’ bag came out straight away, 15 minutes later and still no sign of my bag, another lot of bags from another flight started to come through and I honestly thought I was going to be wearing James’ boxers for part of my trip. Eventually, after stressing and sweating I saw my bag and can honestly say the sense of relief was the best feeling ever!

We jumped in our cab and was finally on our way to our hotel!

Pre-Planning

When travelling for this amount of time, a lot of research is required. We researched mainly via other people’s blogs and we also used Lonely Planet as it is full of useful information!

Jabs

We did a lot of research on what jabs we need, maybe a little too much! When reading online about all the jabs we needed, I was getting worried because I have quite a big fear of injections!

There were many injections our nurse told us we didn’t really require, so it is best to speak with them before doing loads of research and stressing yourself out for no reason!

When I went to see my nurse, she was using the Fit For Travel NHS website, where it will tell you lots of useful information about each country you are visiting.

We both got Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus / Polio jabs. We had TB when we were children so didn’t need to worry about that.

Tip: Make sure you speak to your nurse and make sure any injections you are required to get at a travel clinic are actually necessary. We nearly got conned into getting Yellow Fever vaccinations and paying £50 each for this when it wasn’t actually required. Please do not take this post as advice on what jabs you will need. Consult with your nurse/doctor and they will tell advise you.

Flights

We booked our Multi-city return flights from London to Hanoi, Vietnam, then to come home from Bali, Indonesia, back to London. This was booked via STA Travel. Because we are both under the age of 26, we managed to get discounted rates by purchasing a Student card with STA Travel for £12. Otherwise, Sky Scanner is also useful, even if you are looking to compare prices, if you are flexible with dates then you can search for the best prices throughout the month.

Accommodation

We booked most of our hostels for Vietnam, however, this probably wasn’t a good idea as we are now tied into fixed dates, this doesn’t allow us to be as flexible. I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way. The main reason we did it like this is to try and work out exactly what date we will be leaving Vietnam so that we can book our tickets out of the country (this is required by Immigration to prove that we are leaving the country).

For all the other countries, we are going to book the hostels a few nights in advance. We are booking our hostels with Booking.com and we are also using Trip Advisor to check that the hostels are a decent quality.

Tip: It is always a good idea to check out the location for each property, the cheapest price isn’t always the most important factor because if you are far from the main area then you will just have to pay more to get to and from that area.

Visas

For Vietnam, we have chosen to do the Visa On Arrival where you pay to get the Approval letter costing about £15 per person and then get the stamping fee when you get to the airport (approx £25 per person). The website we used for this was Vietnam Visa Pro. There is another way you can do the Visas. You can get your full Visa via the Vietnamese Embassy (costing around £70 pp). 

For a few of the destinations we are going to visit, they require us to provide 1, possibly 2 passport photos. So make sure you take plenty of passport photos with you. 

Tip: Set up a Quidco account. This is a cashback website, where we booked our flights, accommodation, online shopping etc. Just from booking our flights, we received around £50 back.

Obviously, everyone needs to carry out a bit of research before travelling, but the most important thing to remember is to not stress! The trip you are planning is going to be a trip of a lifetime and stressing is not a good start!

Just enjoy the planning, because it’s all part of the experience 🙂

What We Are Packing

When we first started thinking about going travelling, we researched a lot on what to wear.

We got most of our clothes from Primark or in the sales to keep the cost down. However, we went on a spontaneous trip to Decathlon and got a few bits from there at a good price.

We’ve tried to pack to a minimum, around 2 weeks worth of clothes. The rest we will get when we are out there because we have researched that everything is a lot cheaper in South East Asia. We got the essentials that will last us for a while, and we will worry about everything else when it comes to it.

Below are the clothes we plan on taking:

Sarah:

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3x pairs of shoes (1x comfy flip flops, 1x pair of trainers & 1x evening sandals)
7x pairs of socks
8x underwear
5x pairs of shorts (2x evening shorts, 3x comfy/sports shorts)
4x trousers (3x traveller trousers, 1x leggings)
2x bikinis
3x bras
7x tops (2x tank tops, 3x tank tops & 2 vest tops)
2x dresses
1x short playsuit
1x rain mac
1x fleece
1x jumper
1x cap

I have a VANGO Sherpa 65 Rucksack, Black, which I was lucky enough to borrow from a friend. The bag is perfect for me being 65-litres. I would advise going into a shop such as Snow and Rock and trying on some bags, even if you don’t intend on buying a bag there and then. They will show you how to properly fit the bag and try and find the best size for you.

James:

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3x pairs of shoes (1x flip flops & 2 trainers)
9x pairs of socks
8x underwear
5x pairs of shorts (1x evening shorts, 4x comfy/sports shorts)
1x pair of trousers
2x swimming trunks
9x tops (3x vest tops, 5x t-shirts & 1x shirt)
1x fleece
1x jumper
1x rain mac
2x caps

James was also lucky enough to be able to borrow a bag from his friend too. His bag is an 80-litre Quechua rucksack which was a little bigger than mine (meaning he can carry more of my bits!) Again, this bag is good quality and is suitable for him with plenty of space for all our items.

Tip: the most important factor is to not overpack and don’t worry about being glamorous! It is also a good idea to swap half of your clothes around so that if one case goes missing, you haven’t entirely lost all your clothes. I would also advise putting tape on all your liquid bottles, this will prevent anything leaking and ruining your clothes before you even get there!