On our Second day, we thought it would be a good idea to try and check out the Notre Damme again, so we carried out the long 45-minute walk again, arrived and it was closed. We can only laugh about it now, but our poor feet were in agony. We went to the Central Post Office which is huge and located in a fantastic building right next to the Notre Damme.
After that, we took a walk back and stopped for lunch and then chilled in a cafe for a little while. We went back to the apartment fairly early so we could chill out and relax before heading off for dinner. We got hungry (doesn’t take long) and went back to the Ben Thanh Food Market for some dinner, as it was our final night in Vietnam we treated ourselves to a rib dish which went down a treat, however as we were sharing it we were still hungry. We got a beef and rice dish afterwards and sat outside whilst there was a band playing. They were really good singers and it was a fantastic way to say goodbye to Vietnam as we chilled with our beers and enjoyed the evenings’ entertainment.
We left Vietnam at around 12:30 pm the next day, got on our bus and began our journey. Our bus journey was, should I say, professional & safe. We had seat belts! They also gave us a bottle of water and even a picnic box. I don’t know if it felt like a luxury because it was, or if it felt like a luxury because of the bus experiences we have had. Regardless it was a comfortable and enjoyable journey taking us only about 7 hours. We went through security and passport control and we were officially through!
We arrived at our hotel at about 7:00 pm, put our things in our room and went out to refuel our energy.
We travelled from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh via train, it was only a 5-hour journey so was a piece of cake for us. After clambering off the train we went and sat in a cafe and had a bite to eat. We booked an apartment via Airbnb and was due to meet the owner at 5 pm. We got to the apartment around 4:45 pm and waited around for him, he arrived on time and took us up to the room, our first impressions were wow! But then we saw the owner go into his room…which was also within our apartment. So basically, we were living like uni students in a flat share. We were too excited by the free usage of a washing machine to care. Admittedly we don’t appreciate back home the luxuries of clean smelling clothes, and I felt old being excited over a washing machine! We emptied our whole bags and did a mass wash taking full advantage of this luxury. The apartment was lovely and we had a kitchen area so we thought we would find a supermarket and cook some dinner ourselves.
So after walking 25 minutes we found one, but it was absolutely rammed – it was like Tesco’s on Christmas Eve. The food didn’t work out cheap to buy and was more cost effective to just go out for some dinner, so that was a completely pointless and time-wasted journey. Instead, we stopped off at a street food stop and got some dinner, we then headed back and planned the rest of our days in Ho Chi Minh.
Our first full day in Ho Chi Minh was incredible and we survived not getting hit by any mopeds! As the weather was really hot we decided we would get up and out in good timing, we walked 45 minutes to the Notre Damme Basilica??? only to be told that we weren’t allowed in because we were dressed inappropriately as James was wearing a cropped top again. No, but on a serious note our shoulders & knees were on show and to say we were annoyed is an understatement.
We walked on towards the War Remnant Museum instead which was about the War between Vietnam and the US between 1955-1975. This was very interesting but incredibly hard to read about. They used a chemical called ‘Agent Orange’ which caused serious defects and unfortunately many people today are still suffering. There was one story about a young girl who had to be locked in a cage all her life because anything she touched she would have the desire to eat – just like a zombie. It was eye opening and made us realise that we were completely unaware of the trauma that everyone had suffered.
When we had finished the museum, we took a visit to the Ben Thanh Market where we were able to practice our bartering skills. The market is filled with food, coffee, souvenirs, tailors, clothing, jewellery stalls etc. so anything you want then the world is your oyster if you go there.
We moved onto Ben Thanh Food Market and grabbed a bite to eat. If you are travelling to Ho Chi Minh then definitely check out the street food market, it really reminded us of Camden Market in London. There were hundreds of different delicacies to choose from.
After feeding our bellies we headed back to sit in a coffee shop for a while – although I’m convinced we only sat in there for the air conditioning! We wandered back to the apartment after finally cooling down, had a nap and then got ready to go out and explore the city at night.
We went back to the Ben Thanh Food Market for dinner, we both had a kebab wrap although mine turned to mush as it all just fell apart. We then wandered around to the Backpackers Street which is just a crazy street crammed with bars and clubs. We stopped off for a cocktail and overlooked the crazy Saigon antics. We were hustled by many locals and one was a little boy probably about 12 years old and he was trying to sell us something – the guy who worked at the bar saw and pushed him away as he wouldn’t leave in which the young boy replied with “f*** off”, he got incredibly rude but eventually left. Then we were watching as a young girl around 15/16 put a tin down on the floor, took a gasp of drink (something flammable) and then started fire-breathing. It was insane because she was so young and then came around collecting money.
The children are worse than the adults, but then maybe their parents were encouraging that sort of behaviour. We decided that 1 drink each was enough so we took a stroll back to the apartment and got some sleep.
We decided that we would stop off in Mui Ne. The original plan was to spend 2/3 nights there, but when we tried to book, EVERYWHERE was sold out. There was literally nothing on any of the websites we use (booking.com / Agoda etc). We searched for the 1 night in Mui Ne and luckily, we were able to find something. We went ahead with the 1 option we had and worked out that the lack of choices was due to it being Bank Holiday weekend.
We booked a bus journey via our hostel, costing us only £4 pp. This was a very, should I say, ‘cosy’ journey. Our friend that we met also came with us, and throughout the 5-hour journey she had a broken chair which the driver tried to fix with a plastic stall and a brick, I guess it was good of him to try and the thought was there.
After the gruelling bus journey, we arrived in Mui Ne. Back to humid weather we stepped off and jumped in a taxi to our hostel. Our cab driver drove the completely wrong way, even when we tried to tell him he insisted he knew where he was going (he didn’t have a clue). He continued to drive when we told him to stop as we could tell it was completely wrong due to google maps. We clambered out of the cab, got our bags and he just lingered with us like a bad smell waiting for money. We refused to pay because he just took us further away from where we wanted to go, but then he got his phone out and was probably calling the police. We told him if he takes us to the right place then we will pay him, so he did. We got there…eventually, walked to our hostel and the owner looked shocked to see us. He had no idea we were coming even though they had confirmed the booking. He couldn’t talk a word of English and smelt like he’d been drinking for days, so as you can imagine it was quite a struggle. After reluctantly allowing us to stay there, he took us round to our room and thank god it was decent!
After freshening up we went to get some lunch and then booked our forward journey – that wasn’t simple either. All the accommodation was double as expensive due to Bank holiday weekend. By the time we had booked everything and settled in, it was too late to actually do anything.
It’s fair to say Mui Ne didn’t treat us very well, but I guess not every day is going to be a breeze and go as planned. We would recommend that if anyone is travelling Vietnam, then Mui Ne is a good pit stop to break up the long journey to Saigon or Da Lat. We have also heard that the Sand Dunes are a great place to visit, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit them. We personally wouldn’t recommend visiting Mui Ne unless you wish to escape the cultural vibe and enjoy partying. If you do plan to visit, then we would recommend our hostel which was called Dinh Ngoc Guesthouse.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.