It’s been a while…

Hey friends!

I got home and life took over and my blog fell by the wayside.  What’s new? well I got a new job, I hiked the highest mountain in Scotland, ran a 10k, lost 3 stone and of course took a couple of trips!

I feel like I do need to round off Asia though, after Hoi An we drove to Hue.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a big fan – anything in comparison to Hoi An was going to be anti-climatic though.  After Hue, we arrived in Ninh Binh.  Ninh Binh is on the very outskirts of Hanoi, we arrived late here.  The next day was our last day with Stray – we stopped at Trang An, where we got a boat around and I nearly fell in on more than one occasion!!

Trang An is where King Kong: Skull Island is filmed, which was pretty cool to see.  Each boat had a local doing the rowing and steering.  But we had to help too, whenever our lady thought we were getting too lazy she would give me a nudge in the back with her oar and laughed every time I had to get on or off the boat because I was so clumsy and clearly just do not have boat legs. I also want to note, each boat was big enough four only 4 westerners, but they were squeezing atleast 9 Vietnamese onto each boat  It was a great last activity before Hanoi where our tour with Stray ended.

When we arrived in Hanoi Mia (our Stray guide) took us on a walking tour and to the railway that runs through a street, she told us that this is where the poorer people live, which really makes you see the quality of life some people have. We took a walk round Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum.

 

I loved Hanoi, frankly I loved Vietnam.  I’d love to go back and revisit and stay for longer – hopefully I get to!

After Vietnam, we headed back to Singapore.  I love love love Singapore.  It’s so clean and modern and it has my one true love – Innisfree. We spent our time in Singapore at the night zoo, shopping and going to the free attractions at night – the gardens by the bay and the water show.  We also went to Universal Studios Singapore which is well worth the visit!

Singapore was the end of the road in Asia for me.  I was ready to be home though, ready to get back into a routine and stop living out of a backpack! 6 months on and I’m dying to be living out of that backpack again!!

 

Bai Xep > Hoi An

Once again, I’m well behind on my blog…  This time, I’m actually home.  Oops!

Bai Xep is a quiet little fishing village where the bus couldn’t even drive down to the “main street”.  The main street was like an alley in the UK and on either side locals were selling meat and fish.   Our guesthouse was right on the beach and was called Haven Vietnam.  This was probably our most expensive 2 nights accommodation apart from when we were on the island.  The guesthouse also owns the next door hostel called Big Tree Backpackers, this is where there restaurant was and no joke this was some of the nicest food for me on the entire trip!

We had dinner with the group that night and went to bed early because the bus journey had tired us out so much.  The next day, we thought we would walk along the beach.  The sea around us was the South China Sea and holy hell it was cold, almost as cold as the North Sea! Walking on the beach was hard going so we gave up after a little while and returned to the guesthouse and lounged on sun beds reading for the rest of the day.

In Bai Xep, the fishermen use conical boats to reach their fishing nets and row in a way which makes you think you wouldn’t be able to move far, but they do.  That night we had dinner with the group again, we got speaking to the older couple in our group – Marie and Joe who were from Canada and had done the lot pass already but had loved Vietnam so much they had come just to spend 2 months there, reliving their favourite parts.

The next morning we walked back up to the bus and hopped on to go to Hoi An,  Mia had often told us that this was her favourite stop and I was looking forward to seeing why.

Ho Chi Minh > Dalat

After issues checking out of our hotel in HCM we literally ran to meet our next Stray group. Thinking it would be all new people we were pleasantly surprised that we had been with 3 of them before!

Mia, our new guide introduced herself – she’s our first female guide on Stray and I’m so glad we’ve got her.

We hopped aboard the bus after he had decided to take down a couple of traffic cones to get to us and started our long drive to Dalat. Vietnam is such a long country that our travel days are pretty brutal. The drive to Dalat would take around 7/8 hours.

Mia introduced herself telling us that Mia is her English name and she chose it when she was younger based on her love of the Princess Diaries. She then went onto explain how she is 2 different ages. In Vietnamese culture she is 26, even though she was born in the same year as me and I’m 24. In Vietnam you are born 1 and they go by the year rather than the date. So in Vietnamese culture I would also be 26. In western culture, she would be 25.

On our drive we had a few stops for “happy rooms” and lunch and then we stopped at Datanla falls. A waterfall where you take a rollercoaster down the mountain to them. I wasn’t feeling well so decided against going down and sat in the sun at the top.

When I was sitting at the top it very much felt like Scotland in summer under the pine trees and with a much cooler temperature than what we’ve had since probably India.

When we arrived in Dalat, I could already tell it was going to be one of my favourite places and now after we’ve left I stand by that. That night Mia took the group to a restaurant called Artists Alley and it was cute and the food was absolutely delicious – best garlic bread I have ever eaten. We then went to maze bar which is literally a maze with thousands of staircases.

The next day we walked along the lake and around the town. We had a cute dinner and then sorted our stuff out for our journey to Bai Xep the next day.

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh

7.30am, Ben and I are sitting in the “Fancy Guesthouse” waiting for our pick up. Today we’re catching a public bus to Vietnam. Part of the unguided sector for Stray and we were nervous about it. Public buses in Asia can be significantly different to ones at home. In some cases they’ll put seats in the aisle (little stools not fixed to the ground) in order to make more money. Luckily this was not the case for us!

Once we had been picked up and taken to the bus station and processed. We boarded the bus and said goodbye to Cambodia.

We were given little breakfast boxes and bottles of water and kept going until the border.

First we needed to be stamped out of Cambodia, we then hopped back on the bus and stopped at a restaurant in no man’s land. The food was good and the duty free had British Cadburys so we were happy. After this we drove to Vietnam immigration, this time we had to take our bags off the bus to get them scanned before going into Vietnam – much stricter than the Lao Cambodia border! Once we had all done this we were on our way straight to Ho Chi Minh!

When we arrived in HCM there were clear differences between Vietnam and Cambodia already. In Vietnam there are mopeds and coffee shops everywhere. It already felt more developed and has been easier to find things we were used to getting at home.

After checking in at the hotel we walked ourselves to McDonald’s – a truly beautiful thing.

The next day we walked to see the independence palace and the war remnant museum. Both very interesting places. Walking round HCM, I felt very safe and the city as a whole felt a lot cleaner than anything we had seen in a while.

The next day we would be driving to Dalat!