A Travellerspoint blog

Hoi An, Vietnam

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20.12.2011 – This morning we are catching a bus to Hoi An. We left at around 8am and arrived after lunch into the bus station. We walked from the bus station to the downtown hotel district and found ourselves a nice hotel for $10/night. Hoi An is famous for its tailor shops, you can get absolutely anything and everything made here, quickly and cheaply.

They say there are around 400 tailors in the city, so how on earth do you choose one? We had looked up some reviews and found some places that people were happy with, but when we went there we didn’t get the same feeling, or they didn’t have the right fabrics, or they were simply too expensive. Eventually we stumbled across a place called Thu Thao (32 Tran Phu Street) which had 3 lovely girls working inside providing great customer service. As we didn’t really know what it was we wanted; we probably weren’t the easiest customers but eventually we decided to order a suit and shirt for Chris and 2 silk dresses for me. We paid our deposits, were told to come back in 24 hours for our first fittings, and then left (and proceeded to worry about whether or not we had wasted our money and whether the clothes would in fact be any good!).

21.12.2011 – We need not have worried – we went back the next morning at 11am for our first fitting and our clothes were amazing! Chris’s suit fit him perfectly, only some small alterations to be made, and my 2 dresses just needed some small alterations and a change in length. We were so happy with the clothes, we ordered some more – a suit for me (Jacket/Skirt/Pants),another dress and some short and long sleeved work shirts, another suit and some more shirts for Chris, and a casual jacket. Same thing, some back tomorrow lunch time and they’ll be ready. This is great!

Now that we had dresses and suits – we needed shoes. We went to a shoe maker and flicked through some catalogues until we found what we were looking for. Black shiny heels for me, and smart leather dress shoes for Chris. They measured our feet onto a piece of paper and in 24 hours, we go back and collect them. Now we just need somewhere to wear our fancy new clothes!

22.12.2011 – We were back at the tailors again for first fittings on the clothes we ordered yesterday and final fittings for the dresses and first suits. We were really happy with everything we bought and did final fittings late afternoon and took all our goodies home. We also picked up our shoes, which we both loved! It’s so nice to have clothes that fit perfectly, colours and fabrics that you’ve chosen, for a fraction of the off the shelf price at home.

If you don’t have a lot of time in Hoi An, it’s still worth talking to the tailors. Tessa had a blazer and dress made in 4 hours on the day she was leaving, and was still so happy with the quality and workmanship of the items.

23.12.2011 – Today was our final day in Hoi An and we have a night flight to Ho Chi Minh City this evening. We haven’t really seen much of the town due to the on/off weather and our trips back and forth to the tailors, so we bought the tourist ticket and spent the day wandering through some of the sites on offer. Hoi An Old Town is actually a Unesco heritage site and our ticket allowed us to visit the Tan Ky House, Japanese Bridge, Chuc Thanh Pagoda and several other sites within the town. The old houses within the narrow streets now house museums and shops, as well as lantern factories and embroidery workshops.

It’s a beautiful little old town, and such a shame that the weather wasn’t great while we were here as there is some lovely dining down by the riverside, as well as the nearby beach which we didn’t get to visit. Cafes and restaurants here are very modern and the food can be as cheap or expensive as you like. We found some great little places a few streets back from the main old town that were half the price of those closer to the river, so it’s worth looking around.

Later that evening we took a transfer to Danang, where we are catching our flight to Saigon. Our flight was around an hour, much quicker than trying to travel it overland. When we arrived we took a taxi to the Pham Ngu Lao area, which we shared with another traveller who we met in the taxi queue. Laurence and Tessa had already been here a few days, so had thankfully told us where they were staying and what the area was like, so we took their advice and checked into the same street.

Posted by Long way home 06:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hue, Vietnam

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18.12.2011 – This morning we arrived in Hue after our overnight train journey. Unfortunately for us, the weather was rubbish, drizzly rain and grey skies. We ignored the scrum at the train station and made our way downtown to the hotel district, where we found a nice double room for $8/night and checked in. We had breakfast and it was our cheapest food yet. 2 crepes, a coffee, smoothie and fruit salad platter for less than $3. Crazy.

Determined to see something despite the weather we head into town, crossing the perfume river and making our way to the Citadel. The good thing was the rain had stopped….this at least meant we could walk around and enjoy it. The best thing was that there was no one there, as they had obviously avoided it due to the rain. We wandered around for a few hours before the rain came back and washed us back to our hotel. That night we had dinner in a little restaurant called ‘Nina’s Restaurant’ around the corner from our hotel – Nina is lovely, if you happen to find this place you should definitely go in for a drink or dinner.

19.12.2011 – Today we have booked a day trip to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) and Vinh Moc tunnels. The DMZ served as the dividing line between North and South Vietnam until 1975 and is an important part of the country’s history. The Vinh Moc Tunnels served as a hiding place for hundreds of people during the war. 18 children were born in the tunnels, and when you see the rooms they call bedrooms, it’s hard to imagine these people having the space or privacy to create children! We crawled into the tunnels for several hundred metres before crawling back into daylight and thanking our lucky stars that we didn’t have to live there for several years during the war period.

Posted by Long way home 06:28 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi, Vietnam

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17.12.2011 – This morning is our last day in Hanoi, as tonight we are catching an overnight train to Hue. We took a final wander around the chaotic streets of the Old Town before heading to the Temple of Literature and grabbing coffees and cakes at nearby KOTO. Sometimes a day just doesn’t seem to last very long, as before you know it we were on our train and waving goodbye to Hanoi, as we began our journey down the coastline of Vietnam.

Posted by Long way home 06:27 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Halong Bay, Vietnam

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14.12.2011 – This morning we are on an organised trip to Halong Bay. It was tough choosing a boat to sail on, as there were so many and the prices varied significantly. We ended up choosing a boat called ‘A-Class’ and when we finally got to Halong Bay (after an obligatory tourist stop of course) we weren’t disappointed. The boat, despite not being as new as they had said, was beautiful and our cabin was lovely (including 2 roses on the end of the bed, a fruit basket and some bottles of water). The bathroom was bigger than some of the hotel bathrooms we’ve had recently, and we’re on a boat! There are about 20 people staying on the ship tonight, but the majority of them are only staying for 1 night, and we are doing 2, so we will have another group of people when we are on the ship tomorrow.

We have lunch on-board, which was a delicious feast of several dishes including some fresh seafood, before starting our sailing around the islands. Halong Bay has between 1900 and 3000 islands, depending on whose facts you choose to read, and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s currently petitioning to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.

We sailed throughout the afternoon and transferred to a smaller boat to head out to a floating village where some people did kayaking. We were rowed around the village by a local fisherman who was lovely and let us all have a turn rowing the boat, despite us not being very good! We also saw the little fruit boats and supermarket boats that row around the village and surrounding boats selling their wares. These women seemed to have everything you could think of.

Back on-board, we had a welcome party and were taught how to make spring rolls, which we then got to eat. Yum! Later we enjoyed another feast for dinner – certainly no complaints about the food. The bartender made us a few cocktails and we enjoyed the serenity of Halong Bay before heading downstairs for some late night squid fishing.

Apparently it’s actually really difficult to catch squid, particularly as none of us knew what we were doing, but somehow or other, Chris managed to be the only person on the boat who caught one, after he began talking to the fish (‘here squidy squidy, that’s a good squid’) which quickly excited everyone into giving it another turn. We didn’t catch any more though, so he was the hero for the evening.

15.12.2011 – This morning we woke on beautiful Halong Bay and had breakfast on the boat before saying goodbye to the rest of our group. We transferred to a smaller boat and spent the day kayaking and visiting the islands with another English couple who have been teaching in China. The water was warm, but an afternoon breeze and clouds came through which put us all off swimming. Somehow I think they forgot there were only 4 of us for lunch as we still had a mountain of food come out of the kitchen!

We made our way back to the main boat where the new people had just finished up making their spring rolls from the welcome party. The group wasn’t quite as good as the night before, but it was still an enjoyable evening and another lovely dinner.

16.12.2011 – This morning we are leaving Halong Bay, after a stop through some large caves on the way back to the mainland. We took the smaller boat again and wandered through some nearby caves for nearly an hour. Eventually it was time to say goodbye to Halong Bay as we made our way back on the bus and back to Hanoi.

Hanoi has a large market in the centre of the Old Town on Friday/Saturday/Sunday, so we had dinner in one of the BBQ restaurants nearby our hotel before heading down to check out the (very over-rated!) markets. There really is a whole heap of crap you can buy if you have more money than sense.

Posted by Long way home 06:25 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi, Vietnam

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12.12.2011 - After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we took a wander around the old quarter streets. It's pretty impressive, each street has it's own speciality, metal, jewellery, silk, herbs, mirrors and even gravestones. You want it, you can probably buy it in Hanoi.

One of the first things we noticed about Hanoi is the volume of mopeds! The streets are narrow to begin with, so when you jam them with cars and mopeds, there is very little space for the poor old pedestrian. We worked out though that if you walk with confidence and own your little spot on the road, it all seems to work out. Well, fingers crossed anyway.

We wandered around the little streets for ages, just taking it all in. Grabbed lunch in a little cafe and slowly got used to the differences between China and Vietnam. It was funny buying anything, even just a bottle of water, and they would say 5000 VND, and we'd be like - what, how much! We were so used to it being 1 yuan, that 5000, despite being only 15p seemed outrageous.

Hanoi Old Quarter is based around Hoan Kiem Lake, which is really nice to walk around, especially with ice-cream :o) Hanoi is much warmer than China and today was the first day we've been able to wear shorts in months.

We grabbed dinner in the old town and enjoyed our first taste of Vietnamese food. I think we're going to like it here!

13.12.2011 – Today we wandered around the lake before making our way in towards the large Cathedral just west of the lake. It’s been a while since we saw anything religious that wasn’t a temple. We found a really cool café called JoMa and had some lunch. Chris’s beard was well and truly out of control by now (after almost 2 months without a shave!) and we both needed a haircut, so we found a nearby salon and I got a wash/cut/blowdry for $8, and Chris got a Wash/Cut/Shave for $5. Price wasn’t the factor though, we were just happy we no longer looked scruffy.

Later that evening we enjoyed a street BBQ (where you cook your own food on the street-side with all the mopeds whizzing past) before heading to the water puppet show, which was really pretty cool. The guys handling the sticks do a really good job, and the show is well coordinated to music and singing. It's only a couple of dollars and well worth it if you've got an hour spare.

Posted by Long way home 06:21 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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