A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

Chapter seventy eight - Hue

Hip hip Hue!

sunny 30 °C

Day 275: Hue, Vietnam 30/06/2012

Another bus journey that just does not seem to want to end...never again will I complain about a long journey again. We are due to arrive in Hue for about eight but end up arriving over four hours late, in desperate need of a shower and the toilet. With bladders bursting we search for our hotel, which is easier said than done. Turns out we haven't even booked a room here, but never fear because Ruby, the lovely lady on reception sorts a room out for us at a bargain rate.

We have a very quiet afternoon after a quick shower and enjoy a stroll out in the early evening. The people here are a bit friendlier than in Hanoi (not difficult) and there are some nice places to have a bite to eat.

Day 276: Hue, Vietnam 01/07/2012

The joys of a proper bed are not to be underestimated after another long bus ride, and despite the springs digging into us, the bed is infinitely more comfortable than the single bunk of a 'luxury sleeper'. We step out for a mooch around and bop around down by the river. This is nice enough and with the imposing figure of the citadel on the opposite bank is not a place to be sniffed at, but with the imminent arrival in Vietnam of the rabble known as my family it is difficult to settle and appreciate the town.

We book a bus ticket for tomorrow to Hoi An and a very quiet afternoon is followed by a nice dinner and a couple of drinks, before preparing for the Euro 2012 final.

Posted by tevs 06:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus vietnam hue Comments (0)

Chapter seventy seven - Hanoi to Hue

Another magical bus ride

overcast 29 °C

Day 274: Hanoi to Hue, Vietnam 29/06/2012

Another day in Hanoi, which is still not our favourite place, is spent doing not a lot as we prepare for a second epic bus journey in just a few days. We manage to buy a personalised rubber stamp from a guy at the side of the road and even manage to change the Kip to Dong before we take a stroll around the lake. This is much nicer than the rest of the city we have seen and we even see a small snake, which makes my day. Snakes always please me.

A quick tipple before we get the bus in the form of some Bia Hoi at 12p a pop. In the search for spring rolls we end up eating raw pork fat wrapped in rice paper before we find some proper ones. We have another Bia Hoi with an Aussie brother/sister duo, which results in us all pissing in an old lady's kitchen. She pointed us in there in all fairness.

We are soon on the bus for another overnighter and as always there is a wealth of really annoying fellow passengers on board. Fall asleep dreaming of throttling the annoying kiwi girl behind us...

Posted by tevs 05:10 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus vietnam hanoi hue Comments (0)

Chapter seventy six - Hanoi

Good morning Vietnam

sunny 29 °C

Day 271: Hanoi, Vietnam 26/06/2012

Welcome to the bus ride that just keeps on going. And going. And going. This is of course in the utmost discomfort as our seats in their semi-lying position do not allow me to straighten my legs. After crossing the border (and the glorious inefficiency of Asian bureaucracy) and a brief stop for breakfast (a roadside shithole with noodle soups and thousands of resident flies) we just keep on travelling.

After a couple of false hopes of arrival, we pull into Hanoi, a full 29 hours after leaving Luang Prabang and full of excitement and the hope of arriving in our ninth country of the trip we are duly ripped off by the taxi to our hotel, with its doctored meter. A nice argument with the Swedish girl we shared the cab with over how to split the bill later, we are in our room, showered and enjoying a quick dinner before passing out for a well earned sleep. First impressions of Hanoi/Nam are not great.

Day 272: Hanoi, Vietnam 27/06/2012

A decent lie in is enjoyed by all followed by a spot of breakfast. After a stroll around town we are still not blown away by Vietnam, with the people here in the capital being of a disappointingly rude, short and aloof persuasion. We try unsuccessfully to change our remaining Lao Kip, which seems to be worth less than the paper its printed on according to the local money exchangers, and then book a day trip to Halong Bay, which we had earmarked as a real highlight of the trip before we left the UK. An absolute bargain at $19 each.

For such a big city, it seems Hanoi doesn't have all that much to do, in much the same way Jakarta didn't seem to have much of a hub. Well, as we saw it anyway. We wander around and soon find ourselves in a nice square with a big church and a few bars. No prizes for guessing which of these we find ourselves in...after finishing up at confession, we soon find ourselves with a drink in our hands.

After a couple of hours watching the world go by we head over to an internet cafe near to our hotel and skype the good people of the UK in a slightly merry state. After wishing my little sister a happy prom, we pick up a donner kebab (really) and find that we are well and truly lost. Turns out we are just around the corner from the hotel.

Day 273: Hanoi, Vietnam 28/06/2012

After last night's fun and games we have a nice early start to get to Halong Bay. We have a quick spot of breakfast from the nearby bakery and are on the road by eight. Somewhere along the Vietnamese equivalent of the M62 we realise that we have not told the hotel we want to spend another night there and I start to visualise the staff throwing our stuff out into the street.

We arrive at Halong Bay by midday and our tour guide's camp school teacher persona and high pitched catchphrase ('correct') have us in hysterics before our boat takes us out onto the water and amongst the bewitching and mysterious limestone karsts that rise majestically out of the emerald green sea. An amazing lunch is served on the boat, incorporating fish, soup, spring rolls, mountains of veg and fried rice, which we eat with a genial old couple from Hong Kong and a younger lad from Switzerland.

The afternoon begins with us out amongst the caves and the floating villages on a kayak, before being seriously outpaced by a five year old local boy in his dad's kayak. During the rest of the afternoon our boat takes us around some more of the bay and our celebrity status - last experienced in India - is revived, with a twelve year old Vietnamese girl taking a shining to me and the Swiss boy, making us the subject of numerous photos and telling me I am 'very handsome'. My chest swelled with pride. We arrive back in Hanoi about half eight and have a quick bite to eat before heading back to the room and bed.

Posted by tevs 04:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus vietnam hanoi halong_bay Comments (0)

Chapter seventy five - Luang Prabang to Hanoi

Long, long, long

sunny 28 °C

Day 270: Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam 25/06/2012

After the two Ashleys reduced me to a late, tearful night, we have a lie in and pay for a slightly later than normal check out as we don't get picked up for the bus until six. A very lazy day spent waiting for the bus, which comes round bang on time and before we know it country number nine is looming large.

On the bus for our longest journey yet. As always the bus seems to attract more than its fair share of fricking weirdos and is designed with discomfort as the most important of priorities. Start to drift away to the sound of overprivileged, underdeveloped dingbats.

Posted by tevs 07:22 Archived in Laos Tagged bus laos luang_prabang hanoi Comments (0)

Chapter seventy four - Luang Prabang

Culture vultures

Day 267: Luang Prabang, Laos 22/06/2012

Up nice and early for another warm bacon sarnie and we are soon on our way to Luang Prabang. In the minibus with a whole host of people we recognise/have met before - the backpacking trail is a pretty small world it seems. The bus ride is ok but slightly too long to be deemed completely comfortable and we eventually roll into Luang Prabang about two in the afternoon. We take a moment or two to check the map and get our bearings and are soon checking into a nice little place run by an old man, on whom I practice my francais.

We take a shower and then potter around the town - a truly stunning, serenely peaceful riverside town, with an abundance of culture and colonial charm. There are lots of smiling faces around LP and during a quick stroll around, to a nearby temple, we some very excitable young kids playing around and a very grumpy monk taking one of these by the scruff of the neck back to his mum. Trouble for the little boy I daresay. I entertain his friends with my breakdancing skills a bit further down the road and we have an incredible tea. DIY barbecue is the order of the day, pork and glass noodle soup done over the coals on the table in front of us.

Day 268: Luang Prabang, Laos 23/06/2012

After a decent breakfast we find ourselves successfully negotiating the rental of two of the local shop's finest bicycles. We manage to take on the roundabout at the bottom of the road safely, which is no mean feat given my level of cycling proficiency and the traffic coming from the wrong side of the road.

Some sumptuous temples and some serious culture for us vultures and we enjoy an easy morning riding lazily through the streets of Luang Prabang. There is one slight problem in that our bikes don't lock and so we end up carrying our bikes up the flights of steps to the sights we want to see. Hard work but enough to keep us fit...

We check out prices/arrangements for the bus to Hanoi and it seems that it will be a twenty four hour plus journey minimum. Oh well, needs must. We see a temple/pagoda at the top of a hill and decide to take a cross country route to get there. Some serious hill work on the rickety old bike (mine feels like it might break beneath me) allows us some breathtaking views over the city and the surrounding mountains and countryside. There is a rarity on this trip as Demolition Man helps two Lao kids fix the chain on their bike not once but twice. Another superb DIY BBQ is fantastic.

Day 269: Luang Prabang, Laos 24/06/2012

A quiet day today to prepare for tomorrow's epic journey to Hanoi. After a spot of lunch and a gym session, we have a mooch about town (we have become such townies) we have a very quiet afternoon. After teaching three young local lads the game of Uno, I have a couple of hours helping one of the boys with his English, a very rewarding way to pass an otherwise quiet afternoon. The lads tell me that private English lessons cost a fortune - 150 000 kip a month (about £11) for an hour a day of private tuition. A bit humbling when you consider how keen and how enthusiastic he is about it.

We go out for the evening, stumbling across and amazing night market, where as well as some beautiful trinkets and locally produced goods, they do an amazing barbecued chicken and milkshakes. Disappointed once again by England crashing out on pennos.

Posted by tevs 07:06 Archived in Laos Tagged temples culture laos luang_prabang bbq Comments (0)

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