A Travellerspoint blog

The Sun! The Sun!

we're at a beach again!

sunny 35 °C

We’re now in Mui Ne, as would be expected. And it’s all as it was described: white sand beach, hot weather, warm sea. The only thing negative about the place is the wind, by mid-morning it is quite strong, blowing almost perfectly down the beach, so sun-bathing usually includes a sand blasting by the afternoon. It seems the wind is always here, which is why this place is famous for Kitesurfing and Windsurfing.

In fact, it is on the Asian Kitesurfing tour, and the whole beachfront is taken up by resorts, with a Kitesurfing school attached to each one. And actually, it is advertised as a Kitesurfing mecca in all the books we read. But we were surprised at the amount of people out there doing it! On the day we got here we walked out onto the beach, and discovered around a million (slight exaggeration) kites all out at sea, towing all levels of surfers behind them.


It doesn’t seem to be a cheap sport though. But I think I will have to get some lessons and see what it’s like. :o)

The bus ride to Mui Ne from Nha Trang was uneventful and easy – a quick 4 hour, 250km jaunt down the coast road, stopping for a break after 3 hours for some reason (keep going! we’re almost there!). The village of Mui Ne is actually a number of km’s up the road, the touristy bit where we are is a stretch of coast road that has been developed on both sides – expensive resorts (with Kitesurfing schools) on the beach side and not so expensive guesthouses on the land side. We’re on the land side. :o) It’s a nice place, either really new or just refurbished, but has no amenities: no internet (have to use free WiFi in bars and restaurants, terrible isn’t it?), no breakfast, no ticket/tour booking service. Just a bunch of rooms with air con if needed (for an extra 2 USD a night? no thanks! ha ha!) and hot water, TV and fans. But they do also have electric flyswats! The BEST invention since sliced bread for killing mosquitos! If you don’t have one, go get one now!

Nearby there is not much to do: some big sand dunes are around for sand boarding and a large reclining Buddha is somewhere near. So mostly we will just sit on the beach and relax. And learn to Kitesurf. And save money (we’re a little over budget due to flights). And get our tans back.

It’s a hard life.

That’s all for now

Posted by Big.G 18:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Still Moving South

heading for the sun

semi-overcast 25 °C

The rest of the trip to Da Nang was uneventful as the beginning of it. But it was nice scenery out the window.

Da Nang wasn’t the sort of place we wanted to stay, but it is right beside an old R&R location for Americans during the war – China Beach! Which is a really nice, 30km long white sand beach, well actually a lot of different beaches. We had heard of a local ‘celebrity’ (of such) that owned a really basic guesthouse on a My An beach. His name is Hoa and he runs one of the most laid back places we’ve ever visited. It was very basic, but very welcoming and cheap! And every night there was a communal dinner for all the guests at 7pm, a great way to meet the other people staying there. And every night we were there we ended up on the beach with a bonfire and cheap rum. We spent our time there wandering up and down the beach and taking a look at the nearby ‘Marble Mountains’. These are a bunch of marble mountains (believe it or not) rising up out of the ground rather dramatically, and one of them has a bunch of pagodas and some Buddha statues on it. They sculpt a lot of stuff here, if you want a couple of two meter high lions for either side of your gate, this is the place. They used to mine the marble there, but realised that if they carried on there would be no marble left and the tourists would stop coming, so they now ship it in from China. The highlights of walking on the beach were a dead pig, some rather strange sea creatures and a ship wreck of a cargo ship only about 30 meters or so off the beach.

But the weather was not that good, so after two nights we took a short trip down to a nice place called Hoi An. It’s a UNESCO place so most of it looks very nice, and it’s quite small so there were lots of westerners about. Most people come here to have clothes made for them, and we were a little tempted but in the end we didn’t – the weather on our second morning was rainy and cool so we decided on the spur of the moment to jump ship once again and we headed back to Da Nang and caught the 1pm train to Nha Trang. This train journey was a bit longer than the last, 8 hours, and we had a mad Vietnamese woman behind us. Well, she wasn’t crazy to begin with. Right after we sat down she offered us a stick of chewing gum each – a nice gesture we thought! But an hour or so into the journey she started asking for money, or for us to buy her food.

One thing we have noticed about people in this part of the world, well two things. One, they have no sense of queuing. It is a fight for the ticket window or in a shop, which may not sound too bad (remember, even Anita is fairly tall out here) but you just don’t feel good elbowing a 92 year old, four foot tall woman out of the way, even though she has just done that to you! The second thing is that they just do not care where they sit on transport. Even if they have allocated tickets, they will sit where ever they desire. We’ve had to ask people to move on planes, trains and buses, and I watched a local girl have great difficulty understanding where she was supposed to sit. In the end someone else on the train had to point out both the seat number on her ticket as well as the seat number on the, well, seat. But it is more interesting watching another western tourist trying to get their seat back off a local.

Anyway, train to Nha Trang. We had worked out where we wanted to stay and from the train station we got to the hotel and it turned out as good, even better, than expected! We’d read online that the place had just been refurbished in October so we had hopes that it would be nice! And it is! Most of the hotels we’ve stayed in (we’re on a budget remember) have been nice but there are always things not right: a bit of mould in a corner or the bathroom being a little skanky or dirty (foot print looking) marks 7 feet up the walls. But this place is newly painted, the furnishings are comfortable and new, the linen is new and of good quality, and there is a roof bar on the 5th floor! What more could we want!!

Nha Trang is not having the best weather at the moment either, so we’re booked to go to Mui Ne tomorrow, a small fishing village 5 hours bus ride south. The weather there is supposed to be in the 30’s! Bring it on!

That’s all for now…

Posted by Big.G 05:01 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Boats, trains and old cities

Heading South To Find A Beach

semi-overcast 25 °C

It seems that we are not only lucky, but super lucky. The day after seeing the turtle in Hoan Kiem lake, we saw it again! I’m not sure why it is supposed to be so difficult to spot the poor amphibian as it seems to come up for air every 15 mins, and the lake is flat and open. Maybe the locals just don’t look enough.

We are now on a train from a nice place called Hue to Da Nang. Since the last entry we’ve taken a two day trip around Ha Long Bay (Descending Dragon bay), an over night (sleeper) train from Ha Noi to Hue, and spent two days in Hue looking at ruins. Exciting stuff!

As an aside, the Vietnamese written language is interesting. They do not seem to write words with more than a single syllable. For instance, on western maps, Hanoi is one word. Everywhere in Vietnam it is two: Ha Noi. Sai Gon. Viet Nam. Dung cu thoat hiem (Tools for emergency). The last sentence is a sign I can see from where I am sitting on the train…

Ha Long Bay is lovely. Lots of limestone formations rising up out of the sea making it very scenic. Our two day trip consisted of a bus ride out to Ha Long City, getting on a ‘junk’ ( a beautiful boat, despite the name!), and motoring about the bay for the afternoon and next morning, visiting a large cave system and doing some kayaking along the way. The junk was lovely, exceeding our expectations and actually looking like the advertising photos of it! Our room was beautifully presented and comfortable, and the staff were friendly and helpful making the trip as good as we had dared hope it would be (preparing for the worst, as always). We spent the night at anchor in a sheltered part of the bay along with at least 40 other boats. As there were 12 people on our trip, that makes for a lot of tourists on the water, but the night was peaceful and quiet despite the large number of bodies about! (although we were able to just hear one boat partying hard in the distance if you stood on the top deck)

The day after the boat tour we got back to Ha Noi about 4:30pm and had some food while waiting to get our over night, 13 hour, sleeper train south to Hue, along the Reunification Express (goes from Ha Noi to Sai Gon and back 4 times a day – New Zealand Rail, what are you doing?). We had bought our tickets ourselves from the train station (these people have no ideas on queues – it’s a bun fight at the counter) and thought we had paid the right amount to get a first class (or ‘soft sleeper’) berth. But we didn’t have one of those. We got a ‘hard sleeper’. The difference is partly in the name, but also the soft sleeper has 4 bunks in a cabin, the hard sleeper has 6 in a cabin the same size. The soft sleepers are mainly full of tourists. The hard are all mainly locals. And kids. At the start of the journey we were more than a little p’ed off, but it was not as bad as it could have been. Nothing was stolen over night while we slept (we have heard LOTS of horror stories over the weeks) and everyone got into their bunks and went to sleep fairly early.

Hue is a nice city, a lot quieter than Ha Noi, and a lot warmer! It was the capital from about 1830 to 1945, and has a medieval citadel on the north bank of the river. So the first day we were there we wandered about the citadel (ignoring all the cyclo and motorbike taxis who were trying to get us to do a tour with them) getting hot and bothered and looking at what is really a bunch of ruins that are half heartedly and hap-hazardly being restored. The restoration seems to include getting broken china and using it as rough mosaic pieces. We even found some with English writing on it being used (one bit actually said: An Apple A Day…). They are also using green glass from bottles to help with the restoration, including the bottle neck in one mosaic. Doesn’t quite work with keeping it authentic.

Day two was a tour around the outskirts of the city seeing tombs of past emperors and the odd temple and pagoda. It started off badly and our hopes of a nice tour were looking doubtful, but in the end we enjoyed it. The guide was a lovely man (how many times can I use the word lovely?). He got a bit of hassle from two ‘extremely rude and arrogant Austrians’ (quote from Anita) who were accusing him of charging us more than the ticket price to enter the various tombs and pocketing the difference! We didn’t like them much by the end of the tour, but the guide (called Hai) didn’t say a bad word, even shaking their hands when saying goodbye (although he did say it had been ‘interesting’ meeting them, rather than a pleasure – a clever use of the English language don’t you think!?).

Since we’d seen mostly all of Hue that there is to see, and our tans are fading fast (no, honestly, they are) we decided to move on and find ourselves some beaches. So we walked the 2km (or more) to the train station last night and got our tickets to Da Nang. Which takes us up to today: getting up, packing, breakfast, check out, get on the train. The journey is picturesque (or maybe lovely?! Not sure) as the train winds slowly along the coast. Lots of nice bays, mountains and islands to see.


PS This was written days ago, on the train to Da Nang. There was no internet where we were staying, so thus this is only being posted now. A further update will be coming soon!


Posted by Big.G 21:33 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)


The stuff of legend becomes reality.

sunny 25 °C

We landed in Hanoi, Vietnam last night and after dumping our bags at the guesthouse went out to get dinner and explore the city. First impressions of Hanoi were that it is noisy, smelly, dirty and full of absolutely mental drivers – our impressions have not changed at all although we have actually really enjoyed our day today despite all that!
We had a walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake and visited the Ngoc Son temple that is on an island on the lake which has the embalmed remains of a giant tortoise that lived in the lake but died in 1969. There is a tale about an emperor with a magical sword that he used to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam, a golden turtle grabbed the sword and disappeared into the depths of the lake forever. In 2004 one of them was seen on the island and so as a result the lake was drained of some of its polluted water and sludge and lots of water was brought from a bore hole to re-fill the lake with clean water. After doing a bit of research today it seems these are very rare creatures, and that only a handful exist, 2 in a Chinese zoo and one in the lake still. It is supposed to be REALLY, REALLY lucky to see the turtle as they are so rare and it is so very rarely seen at the lake. As we wandered round today we saw a crowd of people so headed over and found a gap only to see the turtle surfacing for a breathe of air! We stood there a while and it came up again! The locals were all videoing it and were very excited, so I guess we are very lucky tourists! We are now kicking ourselves that we didn’t take photos as one man has made over 100 MILLION dong selling his photos as the creature is hardly ever seen!
After that bit of excitement we went to book a 2-day tour to Halong Bay which is supposed to be stunning – we leave on Thursday morning.
Then we went to the water puppet theatre. This was a quirky, bizarre experience! Basically it was an hour of watching puppets on water dance and ‘act’ to Vietnamese music – sounds weird and dull but it was actually strangely entertaining and quite funny! After the theatre we headed to City View Café 5 floors up overlooking the lake and a very busy part of the Old Quarter for a drink. We watched the rush hour traffic with awe as a million motorbikes, the odd car, bus, balloon seller and tourist too, miraculously made it across from every direction at the same time without a single incident! It has to be seen to be believed!
We finished our evening in a lovely restaurant, Avalon, again looking over the lake. The food was lovely, the service was excellent and we even had street entertainment with a big argument between a couple which resulted in her zooming off in a taxi and him almost getting into a fist fight with another man and about 20 locals all trying to get involved! Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

Posted by bumblebum 09:22 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

A bit more...

on Laos

sunny 25 °C

It's been pointed out to me that my last post said lots of negative things about Laos: the UXO, nothing to do in Vientiane, Vang Vieng being dusty and boring, etc, etc.

I'd like to add that I really like this country! The scenery is spectacular, the people are friendly and cheeky - they love a laugh. I am already planning on coming back some day. There are a number of companies that do motorbike rentals (like a Honda XR or TransAlp or a Yamaha TTR) which I think would be the best way to see the country. It's not the cheapest way to get about, but there are not that many sealed and non-potholed roads so a good off road bike seems to be an excellent idea.

I hope that has put things right! :o)

(Thats all for now)

Posted by Big.G 20:04 Archived in Laos Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

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