This is PART 2 of my travel blog as I backpack around South East Asia with my sister. Click here to read my first one all about my stay in Cambodia…
After crossing the Cambodian border we stopped off in Chau Doc as we had already been traveling for over 10 hours on a bus and we were so tired. This is probably the only bad moment of the trip where I had had enough of traveling wanted to come home. We stayed with a family in this home stay community literally in the depths of the forests…
And then I had the worst allergic reaction. My face flew up like a balloon and I woke up with my skin covered in hives. The reaction was so severe that my throat also started swelling up so it felt like I was suffocating.
I still do not know what exactly caused the reaction. But I suspect it might have been the sheets on the bed which weren’t clean. There was also a lot of dust in the air. It was such a frightening experience as it happened in the middle of the night and everyone was asleep. Luckily I managed to stay breathing until morning despite my swollen throat. Then I took lots and lots of allergy tablets. Thank God for Piriton! I must have taken about 20 over the course of the day which probably wasn’t the wisest idea.
It was actually a real shame as the family we stayed with were so lovely and made a massive effort cooking us all their special local dishes.
The next day we went to Mekong Delta town to visit the floating market. I had been so excited for it! You’re basically in a boat being taken down a river and all the sellers are on smaller boats and they paddle over and attach themselves to your boat to sell you stuff. It’s really hard to explain but it was very cool.
After this we travelled to Ho Chi Minh city/ Saigon. By this point I was feeling a lot better. In the evening we went out for dinner in this really nice restaurant to say goodbye to one of the guys we had met in Thailand and travelled with with who was leaving.
There were so many activities we could have done in Saigon but we chose to visit the War Remnants museum. After learning about the Killing Fields in Cambodia, I really wanted to learn more about about the Vietnam War.
As we explored more of the museum it became increasingly emotional. Looking at the outcome of the USA’s “search and destroy” missions and the effects of Agent Orange/ Napalm chemicals was very traumatic.
Most of the photos I took are too grotesque to put in here. However, despite the shocking nature of all the information it was a great learning experience.
We then got the overnight train from Saigon to Nha Trang. This took about 10 hours. Before travelling I had been warned about the trains in Vietnam and about how dirty they would be but so far, we’ve had a great experience of them. I found the toilets hilarious! They are basically just a hole in the ground that goes directly onto the train tracks so you’re essentially having a wee on the streets!
When we arrived here me and my sister and some other friends decided to go visit this mud spa spring thing and have a treatment. First of all you have a mud bath then shower off, then walk through this jet wall, then soak in a warm bubble bath and then go into another hot tub infused with minerals.
We then spent the rest of the day swimming in the most incredible pools and cooling off in the sun. After a couple of weeks traveling, it is exactly what we needed to revitalize!
We then explored what the town had to offer by night with some other people which was so much fun! We started off in a place called “Why Not Bar” which literally just looked like the breeding ground for poor life choices! As it was getting busier we left and went to this other place called “Skylight” which was a roof top bar looking over the whole town. It looked so cool but as it was nearing closing time we didn’t get to see much.
Someone suggested we went to a club called “Zimmer”. It looked great from the outside but was really weird on the inside. First of all, girls got in for free so my sister and I were fine. But the guys we were with had to pay. This should have been a sign – because the place was full of men! Some were wearing leotards and stuff. The people we were with wanted to stay on the beach and chill but we were absolutely shattered so we went back to our hotel. Which was a blessing in disguise because it took us forever to find it! We just kept on going round and round. Turns out the hotel had been gated off so we couldn’t see it. I started internally panicking considering sleeping on the beach but luckily the security guard woke up and let us in!
The rest of our stay in Nha Trang was spent doing what we do best – eating and chilling by the beach!
From here we got the overnight train to Hoi An and we checked into what was probably the nicest hotel we’ve been in so far!
We didn’t really have much planned for Hoi An so we just grabbed a map and were proper tourists exploring by foot! We went to the central market, the Japanese bridge and visited a few temples.
After this we got horrendously lost and were walking around for hours! This allowed us to see more of the town though. People still keep stopping us and asking for pictures. I still find it a bit weird. I’m sure there are loads of random pictures of me posing awkwardly with strangers floating around the internet somewhere! We also keep getting stopped by sellers. This one lady kept begging me to buy fruit, I really didn’t want any bananas but we offered to help her out with the selling! She found it really funny and I think I definitely have a future vocation selling fruit on the streets of Vietnam…
The following morning we did a cooking class and learnt how to make all the traditional noodles. It was at this really cool local project which helps the poorest kids in orphanages and puts them on an 18 month course where they learn culinary and hospitality skills and English. After this they gain professional certificates and are found jobs 5* star hotels and resorts.
We also did a bike tour around Hoi An. For someone who has always been too scared to ride my bike on anything other than the pavement of my small town at home, I’m really proud of myself for surviving the hectic and bumpy roads of the Vietnam. I had to take the rest of the day off though as I had a really sore bum from all the cycling!
On the bike tour we went off the main roads and visited some of the village people and saw the Buffalo’s. We met this lovely old couple who showed us around their farm and they were so much fun to be around. They kept laughing, smiling and after all these years you could see they were clearly still so in love. They were definitely #relationshipgoals
They also allowed me to help them water their fields. I was definitely a natural and seriously think I’m wasted at University doing my Law degree! I feel like I should just stay in Vietnam and sell fruit or harvest the land.
We also went on two different types of boat tours. The first looked like a woven basket and you had to use paddles…
And the second was a proper boat with an engine so we could just sit back and relax. We had such beautiful views and the weather was amazing.
From Hoi An we travelled 4 hours by bus to another town called Hue. On the way to Hue we stopped of at the Hai Van pass near Da Nang and saw the most beautiful view over the town. This is the same exact location where Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear described this landscape as “a metaphor for Vietnam”.
In Hue we did a motor bike tour. We were on the back of it with a local guide so luckily I didn’t have to do any driving! This allowed us to go slightly off the beaten track and see some non-touristy stuff. I really enjoyed just seeing the everyday life of Vietnamese people in the area. No-one was putting on a “show” for us, they were just doing their own thing which was nice to see.
I also had the nicest tour guide! His name was Nhee and he drove really fast which I loved and talked to me all about his life and family. He also kept telling me I was the happiest person he had ever met!
On the motor bike tour we also stopped off at various locations. We visited the Pagoda, the Coliseum, the rice museum, the royal tombs and watched how they make their Vietnamese conical hats and incense sticks.
From Hue we got a 12 hour train through the night to Hanoi followed by a 4 hour bus to Halong Bay. Despite the long length this was actually a really fun journey, I stayed up all night with some new friends teaching them card games and playing charades. It felt like a standard Christmas day at my house!
We boarded on a private “junk” and did another boat cruise as we wanted to explore as much of the area in as little time as possible because we only had plans to stay in Halong Bay for one night only.
We were surrounded by so much beauty that I found it kind of hard to take in! Everything looks straight out of a magazine that it is almost impossible to believe we’re here. Every so often I burst out laughing because I’m just soo happy and have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!
We stopped off on the boat tour and some of our friends went kayaking but we decided just to explore on foot and then we went Caving which was such an incredible experience. There were such intricate designs on the walls and all these lights illuminating every crevice.
The only dampener to the whole day were the other tourists! There were lots of groups of Chinese people who all kept pointing at me and my sister, laughing at us and touching our hair and taking pictures. They didn’t even ask which I found really disrespectful and rude! I felt like a monkey in a Zoo.
That evening we had an impromptu hotel room party which was so much fun. About 20 of us piled into one room and a balcony with music playing and we ordered in food and drinks.
The following day we returned back to Hanoi and took a sightseeing walk around the old quarters. My allergies have started playing up again which is really frustrating. Everywhere has been pretty clean and I haven’t eaten anything out of the ordinary so I have no idea what’s causing them. So my sister and I just sat in our hotel room watching National Geographic on TV and eating pringles! Some days it’s nice to just have chilled vibes.
The next few days were spent exploring some more. My sister has a Vietnamese friend from sixth form back in England who now works in Hanoi. She took us to this fancy vegetarian restaurant and treated us to lunch which was so lovely of her. The food wasn’t really my thing but my sister is a Vegan so she was absolutely in her element and she had an amazing time! It hasn’t always been easy to find food she can eat whilst travelling as she is also lactose intolerant so today was absolute treat for her.
After that we went to visit the central market and the Hoa Lo prison. This is the same prison John McCain (Barack Obama’s right hand man) was imprisoned for 7 years. It was interesting to learn more about communism, the revolution and the western impact on the rest of the world.
In the evening we went out to see Hanoi by night. A few of the people we’d met in Thailand who have been doing a similar journey to us were going back home the following day so we used this as an opportunity to say good bye to them. This was really fun but also emotional – it’s weird how close you can get to people in just 3 weeks and I’ll be sad to see them go!
From here we are going to fly from Vietnam to Laos for the third leg of our travels.
It’s just me, Dammy, off to Laos!