A Travellerspoint blog


Chapter eighty one - Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon Sally

overcast 28 °C

Day 291: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 17/07/2012

A 5.45am wake up call starts the day sooner than normal and we all arrive at breakfast around half six fresh as daisies. Then to the taxis, Robin! We are all off the train station (which confusingly looks more like a post office than a railway station), where we are all told to our immense and immediate relief and thanks that our train has maintained the Vietnamese 100% strike rate of late locomotives for our trip. This one is a whole hour behind schedule and after we wait it out in the fascinating, if supremely uncomfortable waiting room, the Saigon bound engine rolls into town. And so more fun and games begin, as the upper class carriage, in dire need of a refurbishment if not just a decontaminating clean, is again a crowded, filthy and somewhat unwelcoming cabin in which to travel and needless to say is not seen in a favourable light by all members of the party.

Anyway, the journey proves to be much more comfortable than the last one, with functioning air conditioning proving to be a bit of a godsend. The journey to HCMC flies by and before long we are checking in to the Grand Saigon. We all enjoy our last day together and make it all the way across the road to the steak restaurant literally opposite the hotel lobby. I finally have the burger I have been threatening to have for weeks. We all enjoy ourselves and head back for another communal night in front of the tv.

Day 292: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 18/07/2012

We awake, break fast and head out. The parents very kindly book us flashpackers into the hotel for another night before we take a walk down by the Saigon River for a bit of perspective, where the Man-Baby befriends a sunglasses seller. We mooch around the rather upmarket part of town and visit some shops, some very upmarket ones at that.

Our last meal together is one of the Colonel's specials - zingers all round. Anne spills a drink all over Rosie. She is not apologetic, making Rosie more than irate. We all say our goodbyes as they head for the airport and the emotional wreck that is me sheds a tear. Gemma and me decide on a quiet afternoon and we try the pool out. It is cold and wet and uninviting in all honesty. A disappointing takeaway marks the end of our last day in semi-luxury.

Day 293: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 19/07/2012

I have a quick gym session and we are soon embarking on our quest to return to normality and the usual backpacker lifestyle. A very cheap cab ride takes us to the cheaper hotel district, where we find a decent hotel at a decent price and then get out to see a bit more of the city. After a quick lunch we walk round to the impressive War Remnants Museum, through some very nice green open spaces. The museum is a very poignant reminder of the atrocities of war and the long term issues that followed.

From here we go to check the cinema times and duly get caught in the middle of some of the heaviest rain we have ever seen. Escape to the nearby market, where we inspect the range of counterfeit backpacks and North Face gear, all the while listening to the rain hammering off the tin roof. We check out the other cinema a (long) walk away, only to discover that the times were the same. A bit of pizza sees the day off before bed.

Day 294: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 20/07/2012

We wake up refreshed after a good night's sleep, ready for the day ahead. Gemma is over the moon that no natural light reaches our room, the evils of sunlight being her nemesis in the morning. After a reasonably awful breakfast we have a quick mooch about, unshowered, teeth unbrushed and with remnants of omelette on my chin. The day then flies by, and we return ten hours later, with a couple of tattoos and some serious B.O. Finally shower before heading out again for a bit more exploration of the city. We find an incredible shop, selling any manner of decent outdoorsie stuff and buy a couple of things before finding ourselves with a takeaway tea and our last night in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh has been a great city to spend a few days in, some great places to explore and lots of green space and a great atmosphere. Despite Hanoi being the capital city, the best action happens down south in Saigon, where the people are friendlier and the lights are brighter. Back to Cambodia tomorrow.

Posted by tevs 19:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged city vietnam saigon ho_chi_minh Comments (0)

Chapter eighty - Nha Trang

Five star luxury

sunny 31 °C

Day 283: Nha Trang, Vietnam 09/07/2012

Up at the crack of dawn for our train trip to Nha Trang, and after our final breakfast in Hoi An, we hit the road and before long we are waiting for the train in the station waiting room. As always, an Asian railway station offers a huge amount in the way of discomfort and people watching opportunities, and is something of an eye opener for the uninitiated amongst us. Dave befriends an American dad, bonding over their common position (self appointed) as family spokesman. One of the American family is a dead ringer for Oliver Mascoll.

The train eventually arrives, in the usual tardy Asian fashion, and we are soon onto the 'upper class' carriage, where there is barely room for the bags, let alone the six of us, and amid sleeping bodies and dirty floors we find the seats we have booked. Not quite the levels of luxury I think some members of our party were expecting but should see us from A to B over the course of the next eleven to twelve hours. Some beautiful scenery and an incredible storm help keep us entertained and after a spot of lunch and a quick kip we are soon in Nha Trang.

A very quick taxi ride to the Sheraton later and we are in our luxurious rooms, complete with huge bed, sea views and minibar. Cue scenes of unbridled jubilation as it emerges that there is a door between Gemma's and mine and Rosie and Billy's adjoining rooms. Again, small things entertain the smallest of minds. A delicious steaming bowl of pho constitutes dinner and before too long we are snuggling down in the huge beds for an early night. On this day my Alan Rickman impression is born...

Day 284: Nha Trang, Vietnam 10/07/2012

Up for the Sheraton breakfast experience and what an experience it is too! Plateful after plateful of fine food reaches our table. Bacon, eggs, sausage, toast, tomato, noodle soup, fruit platters, yoghurt, cheese. The list goes on. Pastries.

After the culinary delights of breakfast, and despite being so full we almost can't move, we take advantage of the hotel pool. Despite the water being a bit on the chilly side and the majority of the pool being in shade for most of the day we have a nice little time down there, whilst also paying a little visit to the games room found poolside. Some epic table tennis rallies and a couple of Ronnie-esque breaks on the table later me and Billy head up to the gym for a big session.

With such an action packed day behind us we head for a cocktail at happy hour in the 28th floor bar of the hotel before we go out for dinner, finding our way to the local part of the town for some serious seafood, a mountain of prawns and an even bigger mound of squid, all fresh off the barbecue. Delicious but far too much of it! Dave looks like a big child sat on the roadside on a tiny plastic stool.

Day 285: Nha Trang, Vietnam 11/07/2012

So, the theme of the Evans family holiday continues with another ridiculously big and sensationally good breakfast. After Anne and Dave head down to the beach for a while, we all go to the pool, where the Russian guests and guests of other nationalities' choice of speedo keeps us all entertained. I don't think there is ever a time or occasion they can ever be deemed appropriate.

Some poolside beers and a huge Uno session ensue mid-afternoon and not even the biggest thunderstorm of the trip can dampen the spirits from the safety of the poolside bar. After a quick shower and spruce up, we head out for dinner, which turns out to be a bit of a disaster. A bit too late and when we do find somewhere to eat it is not amazing. In fact, quite awful.

Day 286: Nha Trang, Vietnam 12/07/2012

Another belly busting breakfast sets the day up well and after a few platefuls each we all head to the beach for the first time. Very nice it is too and despite the brutal, unprovoked attack on me by a snake (maybe an eel) (but I prefer snake) we have a very pleasant day in the sun. One of the all time classic lines is uttered today as the fruit selling lady on the beach promotes her goods by shouting to each and every person on the sand. 'Lady, want pineapple? Boy, want mango?' And then we move onto her description of my father. 'Man-baby, want banana?' Gold. And the man-baby is what he will be known as from now on. In fact, 12th July will forever be known as Man-Baby Day.

After roaring at this new nomenclature we have a quiet afternoon and me and brother Billy hit the gym. The boys and Anne head for some more seafood whilst Gemma and Rosie stay for a girlie night in.

Day 287: Nha Trang, Vietnam 13/07/2012

A quiet day back at the beach with the Man-Baby and the rest of the crew. Despite yesterday's sea snake attack the sea beckons once more and I brave another serpent attack. Little to speak about other than the excellent baguettes acquired by Billy and his mummy. With it being Friday afternoon there are lots and lots of locals out and about enjoying the sand and the sea. A very decent dinner concludes an uneventful but perfectly decent day in the sun.

Day 288: Nha Trang, Vietnam 14/07/2012

A hearty Saturday morning breakfast is followed by a trip up to the central market to pick up some essentials. A new learn-to-tell-the-time watch for Man-Baby and some shorts for the rest of us. We also pick up a Man-Baby sized Vietnamese flag t-shirt for the big guy. A dead rat en route to the market causes Anne to jump out of her skin. Compelling stuff.

After all the fun of the fair this morning, the beach calls us back for a bit of sun, sea and shandy time. After this strenuous activity, we make our way out for a spot of food, calling in and sitting down at one place before realising it is awful and moving onto a place that is really quite sensational, in a much busier part of town but still at excellent prices. Myself, Gemma and the kid brother move on for a few drinkie-poos. Ends poorly.

Day 289: Nha Trang, Vietnam 15/07/2012

A few sore heads in the morning but the sun and sea work their healing powers well. We take advantage of the last few days of the Sheraton facilities and prepare for leaving the lap of luxury in a couple of days. Gemma, Billy and Rosie take advantage of the decent movie channels this evening, staying in with you guessed it, a couple of baguettes. Myself and the parents make our way to the night market where we are subjected to some excellent food at the side of the main thoroughfare. A good discovery and a very nice setting, with a lively atmosphere and a lot to see. The bed beckons nice and early and we enjoy the crisp, white sheets to make the most of our last day here tomorrow.

Day 290: Nha Trang, Vietnam 16/07/2012

A good night's sleep sees appetites restored to their former glory and the breakfast room gets the usual Evans treatment. We have yet another quiet day - I realise this blog/diary is getting less and less eventful by the entry (please don't judge us) - as we hit the beach and enjoy our last day of sea and sand together before we move on tomorrow.

Gemma and I take a stroll to the big hot air balloon at the far end of the beach whilst the storm clouds convene and the wind gathers a bit of pace. The small Vietnamese man in charge of the balloon tells us that due to current climatic conditions he regrets to inform us that safety regulations mean we cannot take a ride in the vessel. Or words to that effect ('Wind. No balloon').

And so we move onto the Cham temple, up in the seafood section of town and realise just how little of Nha Trang we have seen. A beautiful temple and a few mysterious chambers of worship, with some big, shiny idols adorned with garlands and huge burning piles of incense. The robes we don to enter these chambers are truly flattering, giving us both a slightly regal and holy look. Or an impostor nun/monk combo. You decide.

Stroll back to the hotel to find the rest of the gang at happy hour. We then have a very nice dinner back at the night market and enjoy our last night here before our next excellent train journey in the morning down to Saigon.

Posted by tevs 21:47 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach vietnam nha_trang Comments (0)

Chapter seventy nine - Hoi An

Hoi An, Hi Anne and tailors

sunny 31 °C

Day 277: Hoi An, Vietnam 02/07/2012

Another complimentary breakfast at the hotel, with me getting a beef noodle soup (good) and Gemma receiving a nice portion of dry bread and jam (not so good). Spend a little bit of time in the room watching the telly before we head out for a spot of lunch, thinking of trying the Why Not bar again. Despite having been there twice before, passing it at least fifteen times as we have walked around the town and it being literally round the corner from the hotel and with time being of the essence before our impending bus trip to Hoi An, we find ourselves hopelessly lost. We eventually plump for another place just down the road, watching the clock and panicking that our banana blossom salads would see us miss our coach and have to walk the couple of hundred miles down the coast to Hoi An.

We soon make it back to the hotel where, after panicking about missing the bus, we end up waiting about twenty minutes to be picked up. When we are summoned to the bus, Ruby the hotel manager and our bessie mate for the past two days, runs out to hug us goodbye. And so onto the bus, where the panic of being lost and potentially missing the bus subsides to the nervous energy of knowing an Evans family reunion is just a couple of hours away! We arrive in Hoi An a couple of hours later, where it is near impossible to get a taxi and seemingly more impossible to find the hotel we have been booked into. Eventually find the hotel, check in and they arrive. Gemma jumps out at Billy from around the corner of the corridor, leading to a manly scream from the little fella. It is great to see them again - travel tired Dave, Ozzy and the giddy younger sister, as well as the suave, sophisticated younger bro (haha he wishes) - and after a few drinks we skedaddle out for a bite to eat. We make it third time lucky in finding somewhere to eat, as the joys of being in a group sees us sit down at two places and leave without ordering. A nice dinner eventually ensues in Hoi An town, which is a lovely, decadent and atmospheric old place, full of history and street traders helpfully asking 'want buy something?'

Day 278: Hoi An, Vietnam 03/07/2012

Awoken at half seven by the annoying kid siblings. Make our way down to the small restaurant area and have a superb slap up breakfast - fresh baguettes, bacon, eggs, fruit and Vietnamese dishes. And unlimited portions (would love to say this was not abused but I can't). A morning round the pool follows under the intense coastal sun and very nice it is too. A bit of luxury for the world weary traveller goes a long way and despite being quite used to a bit of luxury recently, is of course much appreciated.

On Billy's instruction we head for lunch (he hates the two meals a day routine he normally 'endures' on holiday apparently). We take a stroll around the town, taking in as much history and culture as possible, supplemented by a few extortionate 4000 dong beers. Enough said I think. A decent day/evening follows and we have a great dinner, taking advantage of some generously priced set menus...

Day 279: Hoi An, Vietnam 04/07/2012

A similar morning to yesterday sees everybody take advantage of the incredible breakfast on offer at the Windbell Homestay. The one difference from yesterday is rather than knocking on each other's doors we utilise the latest in modern technology and ring each other from the in-room phones. Small things.

We are poolside for most of the day and enjoy a lunch of fresh, crusty, very generously filled baguettes (the French colonialism left some good points it seems) and then enjoy an afternoon in the town, with the sights, sounds and smells of Asia again capturing the imagination, for us not for the first time, but still so new to the rest of the rabble, making it doubly exhilarating. The girls find themselves in a tailor shop, which as will become apparent, sparks the beginning of a timeless love affair.

Another excellent dinner in the town - Hoi An is a culinary hotspot - before picking some drinks up from the old lady we have befriended up the road. These accompany an epic evening of Uno. Game after game in fact.

Day 279: Hoi An, Vietnam 05/07/2012

See yesterday morning. Repeat process. Take advantage of the 'unlimited' word printed on the menu. Boyz n the hood become boyz n the beach as me, Billy and the father head to the seaside, which is a short taxi ride away. A very hot morning at the beach, which is wide, sandy, clean and very pleasant. The water is a bit colder than we have been used to in the Gulf of Thailand and the Indian Ocean. We get back for lunch time, where the girls are still in the exact same position by the pool as when we left. Tough for some...

We head to the town for the afternoon again, where the girls coerce me into the tailor they have befriended and I end up being measured up for a suit. Another huge set menu is eaten by all, and before long me and my mummy are enquiring into having a cooking lesson in the kitchen at some point this week. The evening concludes with that age old tradition of making a six person bed up in the parents room, watching a film and duly all falling asleep.

Day 280: Hoi An, Vietnam 06/07/2012

The silence of the dawn is broken at six am as the local community coffee shop sets its speakers to loud and plays some seriously bad dance music to do the neighbourhood a favour and wake everyone up. Back to the beach for the boys after another decent breakfast and yesterday's formula is pretty much repeated. Upon our return myself and Billy are sent for baguettes for lunch and return with an epic lunch.

Back to the tailor's for the afternoon and the await the suit to be run up. Rosie picks up her bridesmaid's dress and looks stunning. Gemma is also up to something...We go for another great dinner in the town and before long me and Delia are enrolled in a cooking lesson for tomorrow morning. Bargain. The evening ends with some more Uno, a classic family game for people of all ages.

Day 281: Hoi An, Vietnam 07/07/2012

The usual drill at breakfast is followed by a stint in the kitchen for mother and me, who are the only people in the kitchen to enjoy becoming the proteges of the local celebrity chef. We learn some excellent dishes and before long have mastered the chilli, lemongrass and garlic fried fish in banana leaf, stir fried squid, wantons and our very own spring rolls. Every time I tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing, I managed to make it go horribly wrong. The lesson results in some special food we take back to share with our very 'special' buddies. This goes down a treat. The food that is, not this description of my family.

An afternoon at the pool goes swimmingly, with a couple of frosty ones to help while away the time. We make another quick visit by the tailor in the early evening, where some minor adjustments are made to my suit and whatever it is Gemma has been up to that requires such secrecy and mystique...an afternoon of hush hush secret missions. For some reason Billy is chosen to accompany G for THE dress fitting.

We have a couple of beers waiting for the bride and best man before we head for tea at the place I was very close to being offered the head chef position at earlier. We avoid the things on the menu that we made earlier. Billy takes us to his favourite bar in Hoi An, one he discovered during his previous visit to Hoi An, Why Not bar. Well, I can give you a hundred reasons why not. It's expensive, it's a decent hike out of the town centre, it's poor, it was completely dead, it was rubbish. I could go on. Cheers Billy.

Day 282: Hoi An, Vietnam 08/07/2012

Our last day in Hoi An is celebrated with a breakfast before we are straight up and out and about. The girls head to the tailor for some last minute minor details and a John Cena cinematic masterpiece. After a very brief swim we all decide to go and join the girls in town, which is easier said than done, as they are not where we expect them to be. We decide to take a minute and sit down for some very cheap drinks. We eventually find the girls after taking a detour down a few alleyways on Anne's instructions to get a 'new perspective' on the town. With the girls in tow we have some lunch where nine baguettes are devoured by six hungry people.

We make our way back to the hotel and pack our stuff ready for the journey down to Nha Trang tomorrow. We head for the last supper in Hoi An, a great place to visit and one to cherish for our time with the family. An early morning awaits so an early night entails.

Posted by tevs 18:53 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food beach vietnam hoi_an tailor Comments (0)

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)

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