Mui Ne - Saigon (HCMC) - Mekong Delta
Mui Ne (09/06/2011 - 13/06/2011)
Back to the Beach!! Mui Ne was a chance to get back to the beach, after our short break to the high up Dalat. We arrived around mid day after a very bumpy, topsy-turvey 5 hour bus trip, the roads are definetly in need of some tarmack here! Our journey was made even more the worse by the fact that the people who worked for the bus decided to put all the Westerners crammed in at the back, leaving the much shorter locals all the room in the world at the front! Feeling very tired from our early start, hot from the mid day sun and with muscles tight from being crammed into a shoebox, we set off in the hunt for some cheap accomadation along the beach front! After enquiring in a couple, we came across these huts advertised at $6 per night, they were across the road from the beach front so not exactly what we had hoped for, but they were clean, spacious and very nice! Once checked in we spent most of the day and the next three days chilling out on the beach, watching the many kite surfers shoot across the chopy sea! I did consider doing it for a day as it does look extremely fun, but as it was a little expensive I am going to save it until Thailand! Mui Ne’s beach is a long stretch of sand, but it only goes back in deph so far, Kay and myself would always park ourselves in the same spot at pretty much the same time each day. Our break from the sun would be to go cool off in the very aggressive sea, enjoy a coconut from the local lady who would walk the long beach each day and our favourite, go down to one of the best restaraunts we have eaten at this trip. Lam Tong was a beach front restaurant with backstreet prices, yet served huge, delicious portions that me and Kay enjoyed nearly twice a day each day we were in Mui Ne, the place was that great! Around the same time in the afternoon we would walk along the shore down to Lam Tong and stay there for a couple of hours enjoying the food, sea views and playing with the two puppies that were owned by the restaurant. Fred and Big Pupp we duly named them, they were really cute and like the other dogs we have come aross since we started out, they have only enhanced Kay’s desire to get a dog when we get back! On the evenings in Mui Ne we would often take a walk along the small road checking the prices and food on offer by each of the restaurants on either side of the road, before usually taking are place at Lam Tong. We did venture off further down the road one evening to enjoy some BBQ food, which also tasted great. Kay had BBQ Tuna and I had the no surprise chicken skewers, but it was also the chance to have our fist jacket potatoes since we left home, which is something we have been craving for a bit! We would then walk back to our huts, stopping off for a few food and water supplies before I would crash out and watch a film and Kay would catch up with the blog and a few emails. One night we did manage to speak to Dave & Julie (Kays grandparents) on Skype, which was great as we were lacking a bit of motivation that day, but they soon managed to cheer us up, like they always do! - We did enjoy Mui Ne, it was quiet and it took us a while to find a daily routine, which Kay in particular likes to build her day around. But once we had established one the days seemed to flow better for us, plus the Lam Tong restaurant with Fred and Big Pupp made the place even more enjoyable! Our last beach for probably a month now, but we do have some interesting stuff coming up in Saigon and Phnom Penh that im sure will keep are days full and active!
Saigon 13/06/2011 - 16/06/2011
We arrived in Saigon around 2pm on Monday 13th June, after a 5 hour bus journey from Mui Ne. We were determined to find a reasonably cheap room after finding out in our Lonely Planet book that Saigon was a bit expensive to stay in. Once luckily dropped off right in the tourist area we made are way around the many, many hostels to find that bargain. Problem was that all the cheap places were set in theses typical Vietnamese buildings, the ones like we have earlier mentioned in Hanoi, very tall, not wide, but with huge deph. Well every cheap room that was available was in the Penthouse, right up on the 6th or 7th floor! We checked about four different buildings, each time I would have to climb up to the top floor have a look at the not so great room before thumping back down with my heavy tired footsteps to inform Kay that we still havent found that bargain! (There was no point both of us making that high climb, so I opted to do it to earn a bit of fitness!) We finally managed to find a room just off the main road, it was $10 with a fan, no aircon, it is the most expensive place we have stayed in and it is basic, but it was the cleanest one and much cheaper then the $15 that we have now heard other people have stayed in. So in a way, bargain achieved! The first full day in Saigon was spent mostly arranging are Thai visa, the Thai Consultae was a good hours walk from where we were staying, but walking there to hand in our request was a good chance to see Saigon and endure the crazy traffic! 10 million people live in Saigon, with 5 million motorbikes out on the road and believe me it feels like more! Ha But after India and now other parts of Vietnam Kay and myself have managed to adjust and it doesnt seem to bother us anymore, the trick is to just walk at a steady pace and they will just move around you. Feels weird that you have no control over it, but if you waited for a gap, then you would never leave the side of the road! The following day we picked up are Thai Visa, 60 days of beaches, here we come!! We then made are way back to the area we were staying in to book are tour to the Cu Chi tunnels for the next day. It was an early stary to visit the tunnels, we were up at 7am to make are way to the Sinh tourist company to collect are bus. On the way we stopped off to pick up some coconut bread for 30p each, yet another bargain! Are trip to the Cu Chi tunnels was really enjoyable and a really good insight to what it was like to be part of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war. Theses tunnels were used by 12,000 Viet Cong members, including men, women and children who lived far beneath the ground throughout the war. A sad statistic was that out of those 12,000 only 3000 survived and came up from those tunnels. The tunnels stretched on for over 200km in Cu Chi alone and at its height stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. Making life for the Americans very difficult to combat these guerilla tactics. The Americans could never tell who was part of the Viet Cong and who just a local villager, the people who lived in the tunnels would intentionally wear villlage clothes, arise from different parts thanks to use of the tunnels and plant land mines aswell as support the above land soldiers. As soon as the Amercians would catch sight, they would quickly retreat back beneath to the safety of the tunnels. Another advantage for the Viet Cong was that as must of them were originally villagers of that region, they knew exactly where the Americans would be coming from. At first we watched a video on the tunnels, which like all our previous videos and trips to Vietnam museums was a drop of propaganda magic! From there we had the chance to see all the traps that were left throughout the jungle for the American troops to stumble across, again making life extremely difficult for them. We also had the chance to go down a couple of tunnels ourselves, which both Kay and myself just about managed to squeeze down. This showed us just how tiny the tunnels must have been, as the tunnels we went down have been made slightly bigger for fat western tourists! Ha - Plus we only just about squeezed down thanks to nearly 4 months of travelling and the loss of weight that has brought! Ha How people lived down there we will never know! Truely is remarkable! We finished the visit off with the opportunity to use the rifle range and use a gun. It was a little bit expensive but the chance for us to actually fire a gun would probably and hopefully not come along again! Our weapon of choice was an AK-47, I was up first and missed the target with all 5 of my bullets, good job I keep myself behind a desk for a living! Kay was up next and the gun looked huge compared to her. Watching her hold it and then be flung back a few yards as she pulled the trigger, greeting her shock with a few expletives was the highlight of my day, it was hillarious! Ha! From the tunnels we made are way back to Saigon on the tour bus, which luckilly went by the War museum we attended to visit that afternoon. Outside the museum was a collection of American weapons, tanks, hellicopters and fighter jets. It really was an impressive collection and a great chance to get a few photos next to these iconic relics. Inside the museum was a different story, all the images and stories in there showed that other side of war. After visiting the tunnels and seeing the dangerous hidden traps and impressive will power of the people who lived down them, shooting the powerful AK-47 and then the iconic American war pieces outside, now was the chance to see and read all the different, terrible stories of what war brings. Room after room had so many stories and horrendous pictures of the sufferenig the Vietnamese went through during the War, it doccumented many war crimes that the Americans committed during that time. Also how the people are still suffering today due to the Chemical bombs that were used during the war. There was a real eerie silence to the place as the many people in there, mostly western tourists went through each room and slowly read and observed each picture, it was not just the silence that accompany’s a museum but that of people who could not believe what they were reading and seeing. I found it difficult at times and Kay certainly found the whole experience upsetting. It is something that we both appreciated coming away from the place though, these are the things that you need to see to learn about what went on, it provides a good perspective of all the things that are involved in war and part of Vietnams history. That evening we did a bit of shopping as we knew this was our last day in Saigon, tommorrow we were off on our Mekong Delta River cruise, which would eventually take us across the border and into Cambodia. Kay bought a bag she had been eyeing up for a while and I got myself a typical Vietnam tourist T-shirt!
Mekong Delta (16/06/2011 - 18/06/2011)
Up and back at the Sinh Tourist office bright and early with bargain coconut bread in hand - were were off to Cambodia (well - making our 3day jouney there!). Arriving at the office - we realised a guy named Daniel, who we had met on our Cu Chi tunnel tour (and decided he was a bit of a doofus), was also on this tour too - he liked to talk alot to say the least - 3 days with him - wahoo!!! (In all fairness - I have to take back our initial impression of him - it was still right - but it was good to have him on the tour - he made sure everyone was involved - chatting to everyone & brought the group together - and he was a nice guy bless him!!). Our 3 day tour began with a coach full of people, mixed asian & western. We got a boat along the Mekong, enjoying the ride as our tour guide gave us some nice little facts, until we arrived at our first destination - a bee farm (which was actually a relief as we were meant to be going to a brick factory!! Ha!)! We used to dread these little stop offs that you have to do on tours, so that they can try to sell you stuff, but we have come to realise that some of them are actually pretty interesting. This one turned out to be a nice stop off too - we all sat and enjoyed tea together, which was made with some of the honey produced by the bees and a squeeze of citrus fruit - it tasted really good - but shock, Ollie didn’t like it, not the same as his good old English milk tea!! They brought round a section of the artificial hives, which was covered in hundreds of bees all busy working hard to make the honey - I quickly jumped infront for a photo - telling Ollie to hurry up before I got stung! Ha! Traditional music & singing was then played - which was a bit cringy - but hey - you have to expect it here - the asians amoungst the group seemed to love it! We then moved to our next stop by boat, which was a coconut farm - this was less fun, but still nice to try the many things they made there, including coconut candy & coconut wine - neither of which tasted very nice to be honest!! We then got to the part of the trip which we had booked for - getting a row boat down through the tiny palm canals. It was brilliant - we were only on the boat for 20mins but it was plenty of time to enjoy the ride. As we ducked under many low overgrown palm leaves, we were greeted by bright bursts of sunlight warming our backs. The scenery was beautiful. There was a girl and boy, only young, at each end of our boat rowing it along, and bless them, they could not control it at all - we all had a good laugh at being the only ones to zig zag all the way along crashing into the reeds at every opportunity - in the end we had to be towed by another boat! Very funny! After enjoying the scenery, taking many photos to prove just how lovely it was - we arrived for lunch. We ended up with a table full of people our own age, all of which were travelling to Cambodia also meaning that we would be spending the 3 days with this group. Good opportunity to get to know them, us, Daniel & his girlfriend & 2 German girls all chatted and got on well, which almost distracted us from the fact that lunch was terrible - so small with nothing to fill us up - but hey - again that is what you expect of a tour. After lunch, the sun had been hidden by some very dark clouds, and our on our boat back - it rained - it really really rained!!! With everyone desperately trying to hold the rain covers down to protect ourselves the entire journey, we finally reached the coach - just as the rain stopped - typical. The bus took us to our hotel for the night. We checked in and soon after went for food. We walked around trying to get a feel for where we can find the restaurants - all the ones we came across only had Vietnamese menus - and no pictures for us to order - and not cheap for us to risk pointing at anything and hoping for the best. Beginning to feel a little disheartened at the prospect of no tea, after a crappy lunch - we walked back up the road - and decided to try a really expensive one we had previously walked past - deciding that we would just have to pay whatever we could find, no matter the price. We asked for an English menu - wahoo they had one - good start - we looked through - all the prices were really reasonable - double wahoo! We sat down - still not ordering too much, as we expected the portions to be so poor it would cost us a fortune to eat properly. Our beef noodles & spinach & garlic turned up - IT WAS HUGE AND DELICIOUS AND CHEAP!!! I couldn’t stop talking about it all night - I was in love with the place - so much so that I begged Ollie to tip them - but he wouldn’t let us! Ha! Full bellies, we went back bragging to the German girls about our delicious meal leaving them to head out in search of the same, while we went back to the room & got an early night - needed for our many many early mornings!
Up early the next morning - we had breakfast which was included in tour - Ollie was OK with bread & jam, I on the other hand am trying not to eat too much bread, so I had to have the Thai breakfast, a plate full of cabbage!?! Ha! We then headed out, still early to the floating market - the second reason for booking this tour. We climbed aboard our boat and nabbed the best seats at the back. We arrived at the market - and to be honest, it was rubbish. We were aware that you have to be at the market really early to see any action - we had got there at 7.30am, which the tour guide assured us was early enough and the LP book said that you needed to be there before 9am. It doesn’t look like the pics where you seem boat upon boat crammed with bright fresh fruit of every colour. It was a little disappointing - as I wanted to get some really good pics of it - but hey - never mind! Ollie bought some food from a boat - some pastry/bread - it was OK - not the best - bit tough! Ha! After spending time at the market - we headed to an orchard which grew many types of fruit, which we got to try a sample of. The orchard looked beautiful, was so colourful to see all the bright fruits on the tree - they all look so different to what we get at home - it almost looks fake! We also got to see a pond filled with beautiful lotus flowers - which I snapped a pic of and I happily decided made up for my lack of colour at the market. We tried some of the fruits, not sure of the names of them - but we liked them all with the exception of one, which they all seem to go mad for over her - but Ollie has decided it smells & tastes like fish!! Ha! Not a fan! Next we enjoyed travelling along to our lunch stop off - the rain had started so it was a good time to be in out of the rain. We sat with the german girls again, enjoyed chatting - they are planning to go to Burma, which I am very jealous of - we have heard it is amazing and almost changed our plans to go there - so talked with them about it with envy! Lunch was good, noodles & spring rolls (Ollie almost fell out with the German girls at this point though - as we shared our srping rolls with them - but they didn’t offer him any chips back! Ha!). We then got back on the bus and went to a market - which we only had 10 mins to stop off before the group going to Cambodia separated from the group, and continue on our way (not before snapping a few pics of the beautiful bright produce of food on offer - again making up for our lack of colour earlier in the day - Ollie also made friend with the seller and she happily posed for a photo for her new friend!). The new smaller Cambodia group were all really nice, all our age, and we all got on well. The bus made its way to our last nights hotel, on the way stopping at some local temples, as we would not have to chance to seem them on our own - which was pretty cool and nice to see - nice of them to chuck in as a freebie! That night we all headed out for food together - everyone sat round - chatting - enjoying the meals (we ended up on a table of Germans, but they still all spoke English for us - which I thought was very nice!). I’m not fussy with food, but I had to order a second dish as my hotpot was not good (the German girls ordered it too and they agreed) so needing to use up the last of our Dong I splashed out on a Chicken claypot dish which was delicious - much better. Washed down with a beer - we retired back to the hotel.
Kays Top Vietnam Destinations.
1. Hoi An
2. Halong Bay
4. Mekong Delta
5. Nha Trang
6. Ho Chi Minh
7. Mui Ne
Ollie’s Top Vietnam Destinations.
1. Halong Bay
2. Nha Trang
3. Hoi An
4. Ho Chi Minh
6. Mekong Delta
7. Mui Ne
Kays Summary of Vietnam & Cambodia
Well... I think desperation for a beach contrasted with adjusting to a slower pace of life from what we have beebn used to travelling - made for a bit of a difficult time at first until we had managed to adjust. What we have both agreed is that we would not have changed anything about what we have done here. Firstly Vietnam. I loved arriving in Hanoi - it was almost like being back in India again - but not quite - there are paths here - I would say it is India with the civilisation of China! Ha! It is still a beautiful city - even with all of the mad crazy hustle and bustle and the mad roads being a near death experience to cross. The back roads smelt where fish were being gutted ready for tea that night - but still, I liked it. I had a fab time doing the sights here. Onto places like Hue and Dalat - to be honest they were somthing and nothing places really - but I’m still glad we went there - Hue was beautiful in its own right and Dalat meant that we got to see the crazy house which was cool (I had seen it before we came out here planning our trip) - it was our fault that we didn’t use it to its full potential - but hey - thats what we wanted to do! Now the beaches of Hoi An, Nha Trang & Mui Ne - I am glad we visited all of these! I fell in love with Hoi An and looking back woul dhave loved to have spent a few more nights here really! But hey - it has confirmed I def want to go to Italy on another hoiday - I think I will love it! Nha Trang & Mui Ne again I loved - more so for the food that we found there and the little routine we found visiting our favourite restaurants more than anything else - but thats good enough for me! Ha! Ho Chi Minh City - I was feeling a bit fed up at this point in myself (thanks to ladies time! Bloody ladies time! Ha!), so other than do the sights - I didn’t spend much time enjoying the city. But the sights that it offered is somthing that I am so glad to have experienced - despite how difficult it was to swallow! Learning about the Vietnam war was so interesting - and honestly deeply upsetting! I literally came out with a raw throat and stinking headache after visiting the war museum - seeing all those terrible pictures - I did a rubbish job of holding back the tears. I never truely realised what kind of a world we live in. Too sad. The opportunity to learn about this was fantastic, and I would have visited Vietnam for this alone! (So much so - I am now reading “The Girl in the Picture”) OH MY GOD - I cannot believe I almost forgot - how could I - Halong Bay - also worth going to Vietnam in its own right! Had the most fantastic couple of days on the tour boat - enjoying our first bout of relaxation and meeting some very cool and interesting people!
I wouldn’t go back to Vietnam as a holiday I don’t think - but still - I am DEF glad it was in our travel plans.