After an unnecessarily long journey (Bangkok>Hong Kong>Dubai(8 hour wait)>Glasgow) I am back home! I had a brilliant time, but it is always nice to come back to family, friends and your own bed.
Three weeks is far too much to condense into one blog post, so I'll break it up into a few and try to keep it to the highlights!
The trip got off to a bit of a shaky start as after just a few hours in Hanoi, we were in the middle of a typhoon. At first we adopted the mentality of "we're Scottish, we can handle a little rain" before realising it was more than just a little and no, we couldn't.
Sheltering for a while, we had our first taste of Pho (pronounced 'fuh') a traditional Vietnamese dish, which is a type of noodle soup. For me, it was a little watery and had too much coriander (not a fan!) but it is always good to try something new.
After waiting it out for over an hour, we realised the rain was not stopping anytime soon, so thought it best to head back to the hotel for a bit which was just 5 minutes walk away. That was, until we got to the street where our hotel was and found it flooded! I'm not talking just a little bit of water, I'm talking knee-high, and at points mid-thigh high. It was quite the experience, and left us a little shell-shocked but after just a couple of hours the water had completely drained away. Phew!
|Photo courtesy of my tour leader, Pooky, who we hadn't even met at the time. I was all too flustered to get my camera out at the time although as I suspected, I have come to regret this! I'd really like to have photographic evidence of that moment|
Next stop: Halong Bay. We weren't sure if we would be able to go, as all trips had been cancelled the previous few days due to bad weather. However, luck was on our side and we were on our way! We stayed on a Junk Boat overnight, which sailed around Halong Bay, through a working floating village before stopping to let us explore a cave and then sailed around some more before mooring for the evening. Halong Bay is beautiful in terms of the islands, however it is not being looked after properly and the water is very polluted due to rubbish being thrown into the water by tourists and some boat companies. I hope things change soon, as it would be a real shame to destroy a place of natural beauty such as this.
Then it was back to Hanoi to get ready for the night train to Hue (pronounced 'Whey' - leading to many an in joke). The night train turned out to be a lot of fun, as we had half a carriage to ourselves and were sleeping in compartments of four. Lots of noisy card games were played and one of the Vietnamese train guards even got involved - I have never seen someone so chuffed to win a round of cards. We'd been warned the train would be pretty basic, but it was much better than the night train I had been on last year to Bangkok so I was pleasantly surprised. Only downside: being woken up an hour earlier than planned by some strange Vietnamese music being played over the speakers then a man popping his head in the door to try to sell us some rice for breakfast...em, thanks, but no thanks.
Arriving in Hue early, we grabbed a quick breakfast before embarking on a moped tour of the countryside that most of our group had opted to do. I had a bit of a dilemma deciding whether to do this or not, as I know motorbikes can be risky forms of transport and that my mum would be extremely nervous if I told her I was thinking about doing it. However, after reassurances about the safety of the excursion from our trusty tour leader, and hearing how amazing it sounded I knew I couldn't turn it down. I was very glad I had made this choice after about 10 minutes: the drivers drove very carefully, we were all given helmets and it was so much fun! It really give us a chance to see the countryside and the more typical way of life than you would see in the city. We stopped at various places throughout the journey, to see demonstrations of rice production, a local market, incense production, Vietnamese hat making. It was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip!
We then toured round the tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty, and the Thien Mu Pagoda. It was all incredibly interesting, but one of these situations where you are given so much information in one go that you are desperate to retain it all but can't. Come to think of it, that happened quite a lot on this trip! Our guide for the afternoon was great, and kept coming out with a lot of sayings - my favourite being "buy a peanut, get a monkey."
In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant nearby to our hotel, where good food was followed by several rounds of Jenga (and adding a bit of personalisation to the blocks as other travellers had done before us) and an introduction to the game of piggy back pool. There could not have been a more hilarious way to end the day.
The next day, we continued with our local guide as we saw round the Imperial Citadel before starting our journey late morning to Hoi An.
Have you visited Vietnam before? More of a Pho fan than I am?