Saigon? Ho Chi Minh City? Both the same!

Nowadays, everyone calls this city, Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC for short, instead of Saigon since the communist revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, reunited the South and North of Vietnam.  From what I heard, mostly the South Vietnamese call the city Saigon. You’ll see many Saigon names in hotels, bars, restaurants, especially in the heart of district one which is the very centre of Ho Chi Minh City. However the younger generation have been taught to call this city Ho Chi Minh City from their textbooks. (This is what I hear from the people that I have met throughout my travels in Vietnam).

Ho Chi Minh City is a very busy city, with thousands of motorbikes and scooters, beeping their horns. Thick, suffocating  exhaust fumes in my face, making me cough and splutter. The particles invade the lungs and sting the eyes . They call it “smog” but truly it is a chemical soup that can only shorten  lives. No where in the city, no matter which city you are in Vietnam. I would strongly advice getting a face mask such as in the picture below to  protect you from the fumes  in the air from breathing  and end up feeling poorly and coughing violently. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi have the worst polluted air in Vietnam. So, get a  mask, save yourself! Be safe and be healthy!

I arrived at 6:00am from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnamese are definitely morning people, no matter where I go, I always see street food vendors they open their stalls at 5am for everyone to have their breakfast before going to work, school or home. I have seen bikes that were overloaded carrying 5 or 6 hundred pound sacks  of grain, a set of chairs, 8 foot lengths of pipe (usually held by a passenger), a box of 8 ten-foot high palm trees, stacks of beer crates. I have also seen 4-5 puppies on a motorbike, 1 or 2 at the front and 3 at the back, crazy stuff! When the motorbike fails to be big enough to carry something, they improvise a hitch onto the back of the bike and attach a two-wheel cart. This country is definitely run by motorbikes!

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I stayed at Vietnam Guide Home, run by two lovely guys. They are so friendly and kind,  they let me in at 6:30am although the reception is shut they stayed in the reception, sleeping on the sofa as they were  waiting for me to arrive. They really did go above and beyond. They made my 2 nights stay very pleasant, they even went out in the morning to get some breakfast for me, a sub, a typical Vietnamese sandwich. They organized a tour to the Mekong Delta which was pretty cool they took us to the tour agency on their motorbike, I will talk about that in a minute. Also, one of the guys took us out to a vegetarian restaurant and on a walking tour. The beds were really comfortable which is a huge bonus! Best about this home, they sell one of the cheapest and biggest bottle of Saigon beer for only 12k dong! (40p)

 

There’s one thing that I have seen all over in Vietnam no matter where you are, especially in the city and popular towns/villages. There are many, many crazy electrical wiring on lamp posts to attached to each together. I am amazed how  the electrical engineers knows what to look for and repair it without getting a major power cut, or electrocuting themselves.

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Assessing the wires

Mekong Delta

What can I say about the Mekong Delta? Mekong Delta is well worth visiting, it is only a short ride from Ho Chi Minh City. I went for a day tour of the Mekong Delta with my  friend, Marley who is a Dutchie. We got to visit the Coconut Candy factory and see how it is made into everything, from candies to toothpaste  among other things……AWESOME! The tour around Mekong Delta is beautiful, there were many water coconut hanging from branches, just hanging  above  the water. Mekong Delta is such an interesting place.

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Malaysia blog is coming up next, sorry for long delayed blog post. I have been extremely busy!

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A Dream Town for Adrenaline Junkie, Dalat

Dalat is located in the central highlands of Vietnam, surrounded by pine forests, waterfalls and hills.

Do you love the water? Are you an adrenaline junkie? Do you like adventure sports? Then Dalat is the ideal place for you, whether you want to go canyoning, rafting, rock climbing or mountain biking.  Surrounded by nothing but trees, bushes, rocks and mountains.  Not suitable if you have difficulty walking as nothing is on a flat level.  There are tree roots and bark covering the canyon floor, making it interesting at times, suitable footwear is a must (no flip flops) if you want to  leave with your toes intact. the sound and smells are so extreme from the hustle and bustle of the cities and the pollution from the motorbikes and cars, there are no car horns peeping or motorbikes revving, just the sound of nature.  Birds singing water running down the mountains cascading over waterfalls, it is so tranquil, its breathtaking.  I can still taste the water from a stream, so clean clear and cold. (the best water I have ever tasted).  I find the peace intoxicating. I’m thrilled to be here in Dalat surrounded by mother nature.

CANYONINNNNGGGG TIMEEE!

Canyoning is amazing! Cliff jumps from 11metres or more, you feel like a daredevil or superman. Jumping from cliffs into lakes, swimming from point to point sliding down streams on your front or on your back (don’t worry safety gear is provided)  the adrenaline rush is amazing. This was a guided event the guides are very experienced and knowledgeable all safety equipment and instructions on how to wear it was given. It was crazy experience. The group I was with was awesome, we were a mixture of nationalities such as British, Swiss, Dutch, German and Americans, oh and Swedish! It is amazing how you meet people and learn about their culture.

 

 

Dalat is known as the most whimsical city in Vietnam. it has the most famous Vietnamese work of art in the world, it is called the Crazy House this is the most whimsical attraction. Definitely a must see when in Dalat. As well as the Crazy Hour there is the Maze bar this is a must see as well (if you have ever been in a maze you will know what I mean)! Crazy house…is just crazy! Wacky, funky, unusual, it is a must visit attraction while you are in Dalat.  You can get lost easily if you drink too much alcohol and have no idea where to go. You have to think and find a way to get to the roof top, as there is a bar and a nice view overlooking the small town toward the centre, where you can see lots of bustling people trying to sell their goods from their small wooden stalls.

 

 

 

The hostel, I stayed at called Dalat Sky Hostel, which is a pretty cool hostel, with decent comfortable mattress. They host a family dinner every night for a price of 75k dong (£2.50) which is a bargain, and guess what…You can eat as much as you want until the buffet runs out! They do different dishes every day, ranging from Sweet and Sour Chicken strips, Pork in juicy white garlic sauce, Beefy Pho Bo with lots of vegetables and thick sauce (Not watery stuff), vegetarian Spring Rolls, warm crusted bread, Pumpkin soup, fried Chicken, crispy oven Tofu, Egg Salad with Green leaves, oven garlic vegetables (Carrot, Peppers, Green Beans, Onions) And many more! All of them taste so delicious and yummy. Well worth the money in my opinion. I didn’t go anywhere else for dinner. Just at Sky Hostel, because it is cheap and very reasonable and it is home cooked. (I cant decide if this is a travel blog or a food one, you decide) Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures with the food, since I haven’t got a camera with me, and my phone died!

 

I am going to try and catch up with my blog that I have not been doing for past 2 months due to no wifi’s and the keyboard decided to break down and also been on the road for nearly a month in Australia. Sorry to keep you all waiting!

 

Peace out and safe travels! And eat well!

 

Hoi An

Hoi an is a beautiful little town, an ancient town that has influences with the Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and French.  The buildings are beautifully designed and well detailed. Many of the shops look to be a hundred years old. Thousands of colourful lanterns hanging from buildings in the streets, full of energetic and vibrant activity.

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Took by Gabriel, AKA Visualize Leaving

This picture above, taken by Gabriel (a fellow traveller) who is fairly new to taking photo’s. Keep it up, you’ll go a long way! Follow his stories on his blog.

It is such a beautiful  town, especially the old town, where the lanterns are to walk on and it does make you feel peaceful apart from lots of chatting around in the area. But hey, what can you do!

Whilst i was in Hoi An I went to the two best restaurants the food was fantastic and so cheap as well.  We used the  Lonely Planet guide book and TripAdvisor and found a hidden gem, called Bale Well Gardens Restaurants, which is couple of minutes away from the main road, it is located in an alley. There are few food stalls and a hair dresser shops in the alley as well. Bale Well Gardens, is amazing! They only have a one dish menu, so you get pork skewers, spring rolls, crispy egg omelette, kimich, vegetables, green leaves, chilli sauce and rice paper wraps. Best thing about this? It cost £4.50 per person! And you get a lot! So worth it, delicious and tasty the staff who work there are kind and friendly, they showed us in what order for to load the food in the rice paper wrap.

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Bale Well Garden

Another foodie restaurant called Banh Mi Queen (Bahn My Queen) and it has the best Vietnamese sandwich I have ever tasted.  It is run by a lovely elderly lady, Madam Khanh and her family. There are limited choice, but we went for the Chicken, Pate, Egg, Egg sauce, vegetables, coriander and chilli sauce. The price? 65p, yes you read it right…SIXTY FLIPPIN’ FIVE PENCE! 65p! 65p! 65p!

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Outside of Banh Mi Queen
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Yummy sandwiches

 

On the day we went to Bale Well Garden, a lady  took us to a tailors  who  happened to be her cousin. The tailor shop called Bao Diep, one of the best in Hoi An. This town, has so many tailors and leather shops. It is cheap, cheap compared to what you get back home for me in this case it’s United Kingdom. A friend of mine, Marco brought 2 suits, 2 pants, 3 shirts, a tie and handkerchief. All of this comes to the price of $325 (£240) which is a bargain because all of these are custom made. So you just pick material, choose a style you like. Then back for 3 fittings. Voila suit made! Perfect fit as well. I didn’t get a suit but I had 2 t-shirt made with my logo on it.  The more you buy, the cheaper it is, everything takes about 3 days.

 

 

 

 

There is leather shop which is pretty awesome, again  made to order perfect fit for your feet every time. But it is not just shoes, they make handbags as well as wallets. These are very skilled leather workers. I didn’t get any shoes, but Marco did, he brought a pair of leather shoes. Such a slick design!

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Marco’s shoes

 

 

 

I am going to leave it here for you to enjoy my blog post and admiring the lovely photographs. I know it is a small blog post, but I hope, in next few posts will be big!

 

 

 

Da Nang

The journey to Da Nang, was eventful to say the least….unbelievable. Why? We rode late into the afternoon, due to the fact we had spent much of the time early on in the day at the abandoned water park. We left Hue at 4:00pm hoping to avoid the rush hour.

As we set off  (the three musketeers) The weather was just perfect a little sun, a little breeze and no rain,  just perfect weather for bikers. We left a little later than we had originally planned and so decided not to use the  Ho Chi Minh Trail, as there isn’t much visibility when night has fallen, we were going to use the highway as logically this was the quickest route to get there.  but apparently the highway is closed to motorbikes overnight for safety reasons. What a blessing that turned out to be we had  to go via Hai Van Pass, what a ride WOW……. Even in the dark and the fog the bends in all the twists and turns and what must have been the smoothest road in the whole of Vietnam that i have ridden on.  ….Just wow, it was amazing to ride on, the smoothest road I have ever ridden on in the whole of Vietnam. The whole journey took us approximately 2 hours 20 minutes and around 96km (60 miles) to get to Lucky Bee Homestay. The owner of this homestay speaks excellent English and are so welcoming.

The three of us, talked about what to do the next day and we all agreed to get up at 4:45am. (are we mad) Why? Why not, we want to go back to Hai Van Pass and watch the sunrise with our own eyes. Oh my word it is the most beautiful thing I have seen in my life.  And to have witnessed such a spectacular  sunrise with 2 great friends, was breathtaking we spent a good  2 hours up there, just sitting, watching and wondering if we will ever see anything so spectacular again.  The photographs I took, are just, remarkable and unbelievable.

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The Three Musketeers!
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Chilling on a hammock, enjoying the view at the top Hai Van Pass

 

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Marco admiring the view with Jackie the motorbike
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The view from Hai Van Pass

The views are just so incredible, it was so worth it to get up very early in the morning.  You must really experience this even in the middle of the day when the sun is shinning in a clear blue sky or there are a few clouds the scenery is just so magnificent. The smoothest quietest road (apart from the occasional lorry beeping their horn to encourage you to move over so they could pass in safety).

Later on in the evening, that is where “What the hell happened in Da Nang” comes in. After the meal out with my great friends, Gabriel and Marco. We were on the way back and I am in the lead  navigating back to the home stay. No more than 3 minutes of leaving the small, Vietnamese restaurant (It was really tasty and yummy). I was about to the turn onto main road from the side road, out of nowhere, a lady driver on her Japanese Honda motorbike merged from main road to the side road, hit me from behind without breaking or using a signal to indicator to show me where she is going. I got hit badly from behind,  I hit the kerb, whilst trying to brake hard, before hitting the street light pole, but I ended up using gas, everything happened so quickly. Then I fell to the right, my leg hit the kerb, i was a bit dazed, luckily no broken bones. I also hurt my left chest badly when I hit the bikes handle bars, again luckily, no bruises or discolouring on my chest. I am so grateful to be alive and no major injuries. Just a bruise on my right leg and i felt stiff for couple of days. I was wearing a helmet and that was damaged, it now  has a big hole which I will show you later on. And the bike is not so good. The front of the bike is badly damaged, the front wheel is bent, the tyre popped. Headlight broken smashed into pieces, the speedometer fell out, hanging on the side, barely holding. being held by the electric wires on the side of the bike. The gear box is very loose. Other than that, the rest of the bike is fine and working. And I grateful to still be alive.

A local, stopped and helped us , he spoke excellent English and helped us get organised, he arranged for a truck to come,  pick me up along with my bike and put it in the back of his open truck back to the homestay.

Next day, we got a bike mechanic to come and pick up the damaged bike  to get it repaired, it  only cost £50 for a full repair and everything will be done by the next day. Shame on you United Kingdom! For any transport repairs (Cars, Vans, Motorbike) You are talking about sometimes a week or more, depending on what need doing. To wait for your transports fully repaired. In Vietnam, everything will be done within 24 hours.

Next day, we went to Packo Hostel, this is in the centre of Da Nang, a good 20 minutes away from Lucky Bee Homestay. This hostel is pretty cool,  there’s an open kitchen, so you can cook your own food, do it yourself breakfast all in with the price. They have a basketball court in the yard, spacious garden and most important of all, they have two, of the most loving, adorable and friendliest golden retrievers!  The hostel itself,  use es shipment containers to make dorm rooms, it is built under the concept of nature conserving and eco friendly.

Within 48 hours, of my 1st motorbike accident…I had another accident! This again was, not my fault.  I was turning left onto a path, to park up my bike, I used signals, checked mirror twice.The guy behind me wasn’t looking where he was going, he was supposed to right, not left. So…Baaaam, got hit from behind, again! This time, my brake light and back signals don’t work. So now, I got a cut behind my left thigh, luckily no bruise or broken bones, just pain in my chest and back from the previous accident. So now, I had enough and  have decided to sell my bike and it sold within 2 days for a reasonable price. (Time for public transport!). But I will be back to Da Nang in the future and finish my Ho Chi Minh Trail for my bucket list. I WILL BE BACK!

I ended up staying there for 6 nights, because the area is decent, everything is within walking distance to beach, bars and shops. The beach is incredible, nice soft sand, clean water and many waves, only small waves but there are surfers out there that want to surf, to find a perfect wave and enjoy! And you can see the the “White Lady Buddha” from a long way off.

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White Lady Buddha in the middle

The hostel is really cheap, only 100k per night, including food. What more can you ask for? (Maybe include a towel would be huge bonus!) The staff are friendly and helpful, giving  tips on where to go for activities ranging from Lady Buddha to Marble Mountain. There are many activities!

We went to see the Lady Buddha, which is the largest Buddha in the whole of Vietnam, the entrance is free, and definitely worth doing. The Lady Buddha stands over 232 feet tall. You just have to see it, and it is incredible how it was built using the white stone, the statue, stands over 232 feet high!

 

 

Da Nang itself, is an amazing city  not to be missed! There is  a Dragon Bridge which shoots out Fire and Water at 9pm every Saturday and Sunday. We only missed that by a couple of minutes,  they have to stop the traffic for 5 minutes or so, so that the the giant man-made dragon can shoot out fire and water in the middle of the road.

I know the photos are not great, as it was last minute decision to go there as I didn’t have my camera on me for Dragon Bridge.

Next day, I made my journey towards Hoi An, but that will be another time to write!

Onwards to Hue

Yep, finally…Time to hit the road once again and conquer it with my Rocket (Motorbike). After staying and being stuck in Phong Nha due to awful weather at Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An. The worst and deadliest typhoon in Vietnam’s history for the past 16 years.

The journey was challenging since the distance was 212km (132 miles) to get there and took us 4 hours. Why was the journey challenging? Well, the three musketeers (Gabriel, Marco and I) did 3 hours 30 minutes in a pouring, heavy rain due to typhoon Damery, but at the same time it was rather fun! Least we got a bit of sun at the start, but would rather have the sun for the last 30 minutes of the journey to give us a chance to dry out a  our clothes whilst riding our motorbikes. The view is still spectacular on Ho Chi Minh Trail (when it is not raining!) I managed to take a few photo’s before it started pouring down.

My 1st night at Hue Backpackers hostel, it was crazy! we met Daniel who stopped outside our hostel in his mini bus  he was suppose to go to Hanoi from Da Nang, but we persuaded him into staying at Hue for 2 nights and it worked! It was good to see Daniel again and a great catch up. So that night, it was crazy, yes it is…For some reason Marco and Daniel went across to the clothes shop to buy some clothes and end up buying a dress each, then Gabriel and Marco’s friend Micheal brought some. Then I was  pressured into buying one, so I did! (didn’t need much persuading) And now we all dress up as ladies for the night. We sang, played games of pool, and drank good beers! It was such a good evening! As you can see the pictures from below! Ladies night rules to take the advantages of drinks offers!

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After staying 1 night in Hue Backpackers, I changed the hostel for more homely and cozy. So I went to New Life Homestay which is 1 minute drive from Hue Backpackers. The homestay is so lovely, wish I took some pictures to show you. This homestay is a proper house with a family living there. They provide free breakfast, a senior lady made a mean Banana Pancake or Fried Egg with bread. Both are really tasty. This homestay was 100k per night, which is very good, I ended up staying there for 3 more night, because the family were so lovely. The location is brilliant, with many shops and restaurants to choose from. I would definitely come back to this homestay. This has been the best homestay I have been to so far on my travels. Thick comfortable mattress, they always asked me if I am okay, etc. This family truly looks after you and you do feel a part of the family. Since I spent most of my one afternoon in bed due to not being well. When I woke up to go downstairs to get some fresh air, they asked me if I am okay. They really go above and beyond to make sure you are enjoying the stay and get anything you may need. I hope to come back in future! Sơn Lê if you are reading this…Thank you so much for looking after me during my enjoyable stay!

Marco and I went to the Imperial City, which is inside Hue, a 2nd city. It has a a walled palace within the citadel of the city of Hue. There are some temples, gardens and tombs within the citadel. It is beautify designed, but its been raining hard recently and some area had been damaged and flooded. But don’t let that stop you from visiting the place. In order to get in and explore the whole area, IT IS HUGE! You’ll have to pay 150,000 dong. Which I found to be reasonable, we spent a good 2 hours there, just walking around and enjoying the scenery and the sun. That day was so sunny which made the trip more enjoyable, well…Our trip! There is war museum ranging from world war 2 to Vietnam War.

 

In the few next few days, the three musketeers went to the abandoned water park before heading to Da Nang, this is located around 10-12 km away, just outside Hue. It is at Thuy Tien Lake. It is worth the visit to kill the time. The water park is huge. The whole place is not so abandoned. There are still people who visit the place. There are some locals and backpackers who come, visit and chill. There is a food stall there as well so you can have something to eat and drink . But still the whole place is worth a visit. And it only costs 20,000 dong to enter the water park. Lots of graffiti on the water slides, the dragon is at the centre of the water park. Inside of the dragon, there are many smashed up, what I think it is…Water tanks? Sea life Aquarium? Judge it for yourself! Overgrown grass on the steps. Lots of branches along the road, makes it dangerous for motorbike riding, but fun and challenging.

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This time, I have been using my camera! Photo’s do indeed looks better with my camera than my phone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crazy and Stressful Journey to Phong Nha

Yes, this is a crazy journey from Hoang Mai to Phong Nha, why? Well, you will find out why later on in this post. Stressful and crazy at the same time. We left fairly early in the morning after a wild night with the Vietnamese guys, eating, drinking, dancing, arm wrestling and singing. The crazy thing is, these  guys thought, Gabriel, Marco and I are gay!  We soon let them know that we were not, a lot to do  with communication barrier, but overall, it was a really good and wild night.

It did take us a while to find a petrol station to fill my  motor bike with some juice to get me to Phong Nha journey. We stopped on route for  breakfast to fill our bellies up, enough to keep us going for a 6 hour journey stretching around 300 km (186 miles) the route was boring and dull as there wasn’t much to see.  As soon we got onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the scenery changed and was beautiful. However…However, it’s got crazy as we were supposed to get to Phong Nha for 17:00pm, but we ended up getting there just after 19:00, why? That is a very good question. (Answer below).

My bike decided a double puncture would add to the days entertainment, yes you read it right, TWO TYRES in a space of an hour!  *Crying emoji* first puncture was just outside of a house in middle of nowhere, luckily a Vietnamese guy came out to see what was going on, he didn’t understand a word of English, so we pointed at the problem and he brought out a pump. So I  pumped my tyre up, but I filled too much air and it went…KABOOOOOOM. Luckily  a  guy on a motorbike stopped and rang a mechanic up for us to get new tube, after a while of waiting around and voila he came, fixed my bike up and inflated it to the correct pressure, I paid the mechanic and we were on our way again.

Now, my bike is healthy and ready to conquer the road once again! on route we met some German  backpackers along the road, Viven and Fynn with their motorbikes, they are doing the same route as we were, going to Phong Nha. An hour later, my bike couldn’t take it anymore and decided to have a second puncture on the SAME NEW TUBE! Why is this happening to me! Luckily, I was only 3 minutes from the bike mechanic shop, and I asked for a new tube and some brake pads. After a while of waiting and getting my bike back to her health, and it was good to go! Finally, we arrived at Shambalaa Hostel, Phong Nha 8 hours later! Such a crazy and stressful journey especially the last 2 hours! Iv’e never been so happy to get to the hostel and just grab the first beer of the day.

That night, we all decided to go out and celebrate the journey that we took from Hoang Mai to Phong Nha at Easy Tiger Hostel. We met Viven and Arjan there, we had a lot to drink, shots after shots, more free shots and some decent food! Gabriel went back to the hostel early, Marco and I stayed, but I retired at 2am, however…Marco fell asleep at the hostel bar down the street and woke up at 6am! Haha Marco! Overall is was a good fun filled night and I end up having a selfie with a cow in the middle of the road before going back to the hostel! Whoops!  (i don’t think we are engaged)

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Gabriel, Marco, Claudi, Bi Bi and I went to Botanic Gardens, it only costs £1.35. This is the best £1.35 I have ever spent we hiked a good 2-3 hours around the Botanic Gardens, seeing the waterfalls and such  breathtaking views, the most amazing view I have witnessed with my own eyes. It is such an incredible feeling, and I felt free with nothing around me, just my traveling companions admiring the views in front of us.

 

Not the best video, but hey its something that counts, right!

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(Left to right) Marco, I, Bi Bi, Claudi and Gabriel admiring the view

 

 

 

 

 

Journey to the South, stopping at Hoang Mai

Hanoi

Yeah! Finally! The start of my awesome motorbike adventure to Flipside Hostel, Ho Chi Minh City from Flipside Hostel, Hanoi by doing the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Ho Chi Minh Trail…Is…Just wow, such a mind blowing, spectacular, awesome, amazing and beautiful road to go on. And it is heaven for motorbike riders and wanting to travel to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, or even anything along the way.

I bought my motorbike from such a good reputable motorbike shop, called “Hanoi Motorbike Adventure” And they have got pretty decent and reliable motorbikes either to sell or for rent. They treat you like friends, and not as a customer, which really amazed me. They are such good bunch of friendly, kind and caring people and offered you free beers which is lovely, having a good conversation with them about anything from sports to our cultures. They will also provide helmet, map of Vietnam, extended luggage rack and bike chain to secure your bike for parking. And they always will be there for you while you are traveling down south to Ho Chi Minh City, and they message me around twice a week which is a nice touch.   Hanoi Motorbike Adventure, if you are reading this, I want to say thank you!

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My motorbike

Hanoi, what can I say about Hanoi…Hanoi is an awesome city, but trying to get out of Hanoi is so crazy! I started my journey at 7am, thinking I will miss the rush hour, but I was wrong! It is sooooooooooo busy! Took me ages, approximately around 30 minutes to get out! I have witnessed two crashes, it is mainly between cars and motorbikes! So always use your horn, it is your life saver! To warn them and get them out of your way! Horn is your best friend in Hanoi or even in any major cities in Vietnam if you want to stay alive! I know I used it a few times! Always keep your eyes open! Don’t even blink!

Mai Chau

Journey to Eco Homestay, took me around 3 hours and 30 minutes from Flipside Hostel, Hanoi and it is approximately 140 km (87 miles), it is an alright drive, but nothing special about it, since I had to get onto a highway, but not on the highway itself, no motorbikes are allowed there. But there is a road right next the highway for motorbikes. It was dull driving there and boring, but afterwards when I got on QL6 road, it was a more pleasant ride, and seeing lot’s of mountains along the way and just enjoying the scenery, the wind  on my face and sun warm on my back. I went on Ho Chi Minh trail for a little while as it was faster, since, I wanted to get to Mai Chau as quick as possible and just relax.

While, I stayed in Mai Chau for 3 nights, I had a wonderful time staying there, the family who owned the homestay was so lovely, kind and caring. I ate their food, home cooked meals for 3 nights, it was such good food. It is well worth the money. You get a free breakfast for staying with them which is a nice touch along with amazing Vietnamese coffee. I met interesting people who stayed there, ranging from Colombians to Czech Republic and English,  Jarmila and Will (Sorry Colombians I can’t remember your names!)  and we played a few card games. On the 2nd day, I went for a ride around Pu Luong, seeing the views was just breathtaking and seeing the sights, and how Vietnamese people live. On that day I rode for nearly 4 hours and lost track of time because I was enjoying it so much, but needed to get back to the homestay before nightfall, driving at night can be really dangerous because sometimes you may not see potholes and no time to swerve out of the way.

On the last day, I decided to wander around the local area by walking, But you can borrow a bicycle from the family to move about easy, but I chose to walk. I was amazed to see many Rice Paddies,  Vietnamese women were working  the paddy fields, and no sight of any men . I went to a cave, called Hang Chieu, to get there, you have to climb 1002 steps! I took a few  photos while I was there, the photos unfortunately were not very clear, that’s why I haven’t put any photos up.

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Tamcoc, Ninh Binh

Journey to Tamcoc Riverview Homestay, Ninh Binh, took me a good 3 hours and 30 minutes and around 142 km ( 89 miles). It was a pretty good smooth ride all the way, a pleasant ride and sunny. Not a single drop of rain! I did not use the Ho Chi Minh Trail at all, since it will take me even longer to get there, an extra 1 hour 30 minutes.  I found it not worth the fuel and time. But the views while riding was pretty awesome and still a pleasant drive.

On the day I got to Tamcoc, I met my friend, Gabriel who I met recently at Hanoi he came from Hanoi, while I was riding from Mai Chau, we decided to ride to Da Nang via the Ho Chi Minh Trail, we arranged to meet up with Marco who joined us the next day, from Hanoi (who we all met at the Flipside Hostel). Now there are three of us, British, American and Canadian on the road around Vietnam, like top gear  (I’m obviously the good looking one) and we will be going to Hai Van Pass soon to get us to Da Nang. Along with our motorbikes.

The Riverview homestay is located next to the  river or lake. Is it a Lake or river? After couple of minutes having a discussion with Gabriel, we still have no idea which it is Staying at Riverview homestay is so cheap, cost around £5.35 per night, and that is included breakfast which is pretty decent. You get fried egg, cheese, bread, pancake and their homemade marmalade, that marmalade tastes so awesome. I know my late grandad, Poppas would have  loved that marmalade so much. Marmalade was my grandads favourite food, more than anything. Every morning, he used to have a really thick slice toast with lashings of marmalade for breakfast as well as supper.

So let’s get back on topic of what I did, or we did, along with Claudi and Bianca (Two lovely and kind Germans that I met at Phuket, Thailand). We went to Trang An, along with Gabriel, Marco, Pra and Thomas as well as with Claudi and Bianca also know as Bi Bi for half a day which is the “38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha” (Yes I did use that words from google) Trang An is a boat cave tour and it is cost 200,000 Dong (£6.73) if you want to do the full tour, which we did  it is well worth the money, the views are just, wow…Breathtaking and we were guided by two lovely Vietnamese women . My god, these  women are very strong, paddling the boat all day and they are not even tired. (Women power!) The tour is so breath taking. There are many wonderful, amazing sights throughout the tour and going through the caves. Seeing temples, King Kong Island (They did the movie at Trang An for King Kong) Trang An is a place  definitely not to be missed. Mother nature is beautiful in Trang An.

 

Everything we did at Tamcoc, Ninh Binh has just been amazing. Doing it with friends makes things even more amazing and sharing memories together. We also went to Hang Mua to the top of the mountain and again, the view are just…Wow and so breezy! And cost around 100,000 Dong which is £3.37

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Half way on the steps
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3/4 way on steps to the top
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At the very top

 

 

Hoang Mai

After Ninh Binh in the morning, the three of us, Gabriel,  Marco and I along with our motorbikes made our journey to the south, a little town called Hoang Mai which is right on the beach. Took us approximately 6 hours via Ho Chi Minh Trail and around 250km (155 miles) That ride was spectacular.

Once we got there, we found a hotel for a reasonable price. Gabriel went out for a smoke and asked to see where we could get a bottle of spirits, which cost us £3.31 which is pretty decent, and we quickly drank it all, but we suspected that it may have been watered down as it was a weak vodka. only 29% prof.  Marco and Gabriel decided to wander and see if they could find another bottle while I, stayed in the hotel to do my blog. Marco came back to get me as they had found a place for us to drink, once I went to the restaurant, my god, these Vietnamese guys went crazy and wild when they met us, challenging for arm wrestling and giving us food, sadly none of these dared to ask me for arm wrestle, only Gabriel and Marco. They are scared of me, haha! They have said, that bottle of vodka was supposed to cost  £1.35 for a bottle! We had been ripped off, but it was still cheap compared to the prices back home in England. Afterwards, we went to the most crazy karaoke bar I have ever seen with so many strobe lights.

 

I really need to use my camera more than my phone to take these awesome photo’s!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ha Giang, Vietnam

So, yeah Ha Giang! Ha Giang is a province in the North-East of Vietnam. It is very close to China, a cheeky cross over the boarder? Hmm, maybe, lets see! I think it is the most beautiful place in the north, breathtaking scenery, such an incredible drive through the mountains, forest and towns. I  highly recommend you to do it either with a tour group such as Flipside or buy a motorbike yourself and be your own guide. Have a look at their website, Flipside Adventure Travel

To discover the north of wonderful country, Vietnam! The trip between Yen Minh and Dong Van, and then across the Mai Pi Leng Pass to Meo Vac is quite mind-blowing and so spectacular. The most amazing road, and my, what a ride!

There are so many great passes to discover in Vietnam, Mai Pi Leng is one of them.

 

You will not regret it! It is the best thing I have done so far in Vietnam. You get to see small towns that are not properly developed for tourism, but many homestays and motels.  If you have got the time and money. I urge you to do it! I have recommended this to a few travelers in Hanoi, and they went for it and they did say. “That’s the best thing I ever did” So, don’t think…Just do it!

 

Motorbike Adventure! Vroooooom Vroooom!

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So, with this adventure, I did it with Flipside tour because:

  1. Iv’e never riden a motorbike in my life.
  2. Going with a tour guide gives you peace of mind incase of break downs or run out of fuel ( That happened to a person who went on the tour with me!)
  3. Moments you could never have.
  4. And meet new friends.

 

Did I cross over to China to have a beer? Yes I did!

 

 

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi

Hanoi is the capital city of North Vietnam and is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. And it is mainly aimed at backpackers or low budget holiday/city breaks in the old quarter.

So, when I first arrived in Hanoi it was evening  5pm on 6th of October. My goodness! It is soooooooooo busy and crazy! There are millions of scooters and motorbikes in the city alone! (no exaggeration)It is no wonder that Hanoi is the most polluted city in  South-East Asia. That is why there are many,  Vietnamese that wear mouth and nose masks to stop them breathing in the awful air pollution.

The old quarter is affordable,  you can get a decent sized sandwich  for less than $1.20. Phở Gà which is a Chicken Noodle Soup and Phở Bo which is Beef Noodle soup. These soups are traditional noodle soups of Vietnam. It is one of the most famous street food all over the world, and it is cheap! Cost around $1.10-$2.20 (20k VND- 50k VND) You see lots of commuters riding their scooters/motorbikes in the morning, parking alongside the cafe and slurping down a bowl before they continue on to work. And it is not just mornings, you can have them for lunch and/or tea. These famous dishes, are the first things I tried before tasting anything else. It is really tasty, you can add lime juice and chilies to make it spicy. These Vietnamese chilies are very spicy!

Pho Ga
Phở Gà

Bia Ha Noi

Many beers, famously “Bia Ha Noi” is the worlds cheapest beer. Not only is Bia Hoi the cheapest beer in the world, but it is also the freshest! Bia hoi is a very light beer, not strong at all. Bia Hoi is made in Hanoi every night and delivered to drinking establishments early every morning. Each day you’ll see men and women driving motorbikes with 4-6 kegs strapped onto their motorbike delivering the beer or removing empty kegs. I have been told, it is the freshest beer because it is made without any preservatives and must be drunk within 24 hours of production. For this reason, Hanoi and its surrounding areas are the only places you can find Bia Hoi. After 24 hours, it have to be thrown away.

Beer Corner is located at Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Although it is referred to as “Beer Corner” or “Bai Hoi Corner” it has become such a popular drinking spot for locals, expats and backpackers. It is also one of the busiest street in Hanoi where everyone gets together and drink away! So, drinking Bia Hoi is a great way to start the evening!

 

 

 

Flipside Hostel

If you are looking for  a good lively atmosphere, I recommend staying at Flipside Hostel.Flipside Hostel is a Kiwi owned and operated hostel in Hanoi as well as in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the staff are very friendly and speak excellent English. Bare in mind I have not been to Saigon yet, but I am planning to stay there when I get to Saigon.  Flipside Hostel  is  affordable and provides free breakfast to give you a good start to your morning! This hostel is based in the old quarter within walking distance to Bai Hoi corner, Ho Hoan Kiem Lake and many others. They are many activities, for example,  Happy Hour and Pub Crawls. But the best thing I ever did so far in my travels in Vietnam is the “Northern Motorbike Adventure” which I will tell you about on my next blog post. Not to be missed!

A quote from Flipside hostel on Hostel World. “It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a cheap, comfortable, clean dorm bed for you and your friends to rest your weary heads, or if you’re looking for a private room for a slice of peace and luxury that we all need from time to time – we have you covered! And they all come with a yummy free breakfast! More reason to join at Flipside Hostel and it crew. They also have an awesome rooftop bar where you can meet the travelers from all over the world and drink awesome beers!

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Nice beer!, possibly one of my

 

Train Track

I  found a little place, near Flipside Hostel, where there are train tracks running  between narrow houses, and it is so incredible how they build the houses around the train tracks. And also the houses look like they are blending into one. It is one of the most unique places to visit in Vietnam, not to be missed! It is really easy to find, and I was shocked not to see many tourists, I only saw a handful of tourists! Many Vietnamese live there on these streets, next to train track! They have a house on one side, they have to cross the track to get to other side of the  for the bathroom. It is a residential street. It is such a crazy place to live, but  they are so friendly. I even offered to help a Vietnamese lady in her early 20’s to move goods from her motorbike to the shop! Every little helps and make their day! Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture with a group of Vietnamese to prove that I had helped them! Oh well, I’ll remember for next time!

Before you say something, I have asked for their permission to take photographs of them. All is well!

 

 

 

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Panoramic view, as you can see it is a narrow street!

If you want to know whereabouts this track is in the Old Quarter, I have provided a map for you. It is on the left side of the map with 2 markers in between.

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Lotte Centre Hanoi 

Lotte Observation Deck is approximately 15 minutes drive from the centre of Old Quarter. And it is the 2nd tallest building (272m) in Hanoi after Landmark 72 which is 328m. Lotte Centre is a pretty cool building! You will  also walk over the clear glass and see below! when you get on a lift from the ground level to 65th floor, it takes just fifty seconds. Really fast! I could feel my ear my ear drums popping! It was that fast! It is also the first ever  Sky Walk built in Southeast Asia. The best time to visit is just before sunset to see the changing skies. on my visit it was 7pm and it was cheaper than going during the day.  the views are breathtaking, as you can see from the pictures below. (not for the faint hearted).

 

 

As you can see, I tried my best to take few decent pictures but you know…Glass windows reflection! Grr! I need to learn about my camera and how it works! Haha!