Last known location: London, England

Archive of posts about Vietnam


So Long Saigon

After returning from the Mekong Delta we spent our last couple of days in Vietnam exploring Ho Chi Minh City and visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels.  First stop was Ben Thanh market, which was a 10 minute walk from our hostel and is an indoor shopping heaven; there are stalls selling shoes, bags, clothes, jewellery, souvenirs and food.  It was VERY busy inside, and extremely hot so we stopped for a fruit shake half way through to recover!

Unfortunately, like so many cities, Saigon has a rather sad history.  We visited the Reunification Palace where tanks of the North Vietnamese forces stormed the gates in 1975.  It was a bit like stepping back in time – everything had been left pretty much exactly as it was on that day.  We saw the communication room, formal reception room and even the ballroom on the roof terrace.  Again, the heat was taking it’s toll, and the lack of air con meant
we probably rushed through a bit, just to escape
somewhere a bit cooler! Click here to read more…


The Mekong Delta

After another night in Saigon without seeing anything of the city we were up early to head south for a trip to the Mekong Delta.  The three hour bus journey (we seem to have spent a lot of time on buses recently!) took us to My Tho, which is the capital of the Delta region.  From My Thowe got a small boat to Unicorn Island where we visited a honey farm.  The owners of the farm had no fear of bees and pulled out the trays to demonstrate the honey making process – Dan and I both panicked and backed away!  Apparently they are very placid bees, but this information was not enough to persuade either of us to hold the tray and pose for a photo – sorry!  Once the bees were safely tucked away we sampled some honey tea which was very tasty, and also, somewhat bizarrely, tried some Vietnamese rice wine! Click here to read more…


Sun, Sea and Vietnamese Rum

After a few days in Hoi An we decided it was time for a trip to the beach for the first time since leaving home. Our plan was to head for Mui Ne, on the south eastern coast, one of the quieter beach resorts, and we were left with the option of either a 24 hour overnight bus ride for about £10 each, or a £16 flight with a night in Saigon. We obviously went for the flight, so after a day spent travelling, a stop for some sleep in Saigon, and a 4 hour bus ride we arrived in Mui Ne. Click here to read more…


Hoi An – Rain and Ruins

After a brief one night stay in Hue we moved further south down to Hoi An. Moving around by bus is quite easy in Vietnam – any hotel will arrange a ticket for you thanks to the kickbacks and commissions that seem to run everything in the country – anyone you ask will always be able to find you whatever you need, always with a few thousand Dong in it for them! Pickup from the hotel is always included with these bus journeys, which sounds good, but on this occasion it meant we spent an hour on a minibus going round and round the small town picking up other passengers, only to then be dropped off at a larger coach only five minutes walk from our hotel!

We seemed to strike it lucky with our hotel in Hoi An, with a huge bed and a balcony to sit on. The staff were also friendly but made a conscious effort to remember the names of every guest, so whoever we bumped into always greeted us by name which was a bit unnerving! After sorting ourselves out we went to explore the Old Quarter of Hoi An, which was built from the 15th century onwards and is quite well preserved as an old trading port with lots of original, if now slightly flaky old buildings. Our first stop was the market, where almost immediately Gem was hurried away into a small shop to have her nails done. All very cheap but the two women were trying to get us both to have all sorts of stuff done and we would have been there all day if we hadn’t managed to make our excuses and escape! The rainy season in the area has just finished, but the weather is still a bit unpredictable so all the market traders have formed temporary canopies out over their wares with plastic sheets, which are tied together in the middle. I was a bit too tall for this makeshift construction however, so i had my head poking through the gaps like a giraffe, periodically causing the rainwater puddles on top to fall onto shorter people’s heads! Click here to read more…


Pagodas and The Perfume River

We left Hanoi early on Thursday evening and took a taxi to the Mango Hotel where our hotel told us we could get our train tickets.  Seemed a bit of a bizarre set up but we got our tickets easily and then walked through the hotel restaurant and out onto the station platform!  Our train was waiting so we climbed aboard and settled in for the 13 hour journey.  The cabin was fine – 2 bunk beds, relatively comfortable.  We were sharing with a couple of Belgian guys, Wim and Dany, and spent the evening chatting with them about European politics and swapping travelling stories.

The train pulled in at 8am on Friday morning.  There was a big rush to get off – our carriage was full of Westerners so pretty much everyone was headed for Hue, a regular stop on the tourist trail.  We got a taxi to our hotel and luckily managed to check into our room, dump our bags and freshen up before heading out into the sunshine.  Click here to read more…


Hectic Hanoi and Heavenly Halong

We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, and on leaving the airport were immediately approached by loads of taxi drivers and mini bus companies.  We were fully prepared, though, and politely ignored them all whilst marching to the “Vietnam Airways” minibuses lined up, which had been recommended in the guide book.  However, we hadn’t taken into account Vietnams copy-cat culture, which means that pretty much every name mentioned in the Lonely Planet is taken on by several other businesses trying to cash in on the “brand”.  We eventually asked some Vietnam Airlines staff where we needed to go and they pointed us in the right direction.  We negotiated down to a sensible price and then sat waiting in the minibus for half an hour.  A Belgian guy was with us and when we realised we weren’t going anywhere until the bus was full, we climbed out and jumped into a taxi with him.  I was in Vietnam about 10 years ago, and it seems the traffic situation is much the same.  Thousands of motorbikes/mopeds weaving in and out of the cars and lorries, neither of which seems to understand the term “stay in your lane”.  So, it was a bit of a crazy half hour, and I spent much of it grabbing the handle on the inside of the car door and swearing a lot! Click here to read more…