2014 was the year I have always wanted. I have discovered so much of this beautiful planet, made friends from all over the world and had experiences that most can only dream about. I am incredibly lucky to be able to travel and I will always be grateful for the year that I have had. Travelling is the most rewarding lifestyle and something I believe everyone should do. There is so much more to life than your home town. See more of your own country, see more of someone else’s. Just go explore.
Staying at Thanh Thuong Guesthouse.
We weren’t sure what to expect of the South capital of Vietnam as memories of almost being run over by motorcycles in Hanoi were still haunting us. However we were greeted by a fairly modern city and although there were still thousands of bikes, this city had discovered pavements for pedestrians.
The staff at our accommodation have been helpful throughout our trip but they were particularly helpful here, giving us a map and explaining how far it would take to walk to certain landmarks and letting us know how much a taxi would cost it we were feeling lazy.
Memories of the war are most prominent here with a large war remembrance museum and trips to the nearby Cu Chi tunnels heavily advertised.
The war museum gave us a chance to see the war from the Vietnamese’s point of view and although I knew it was going to be very one sided, I didn’t expect the pure hatred of Americans which most of the museum concentrated on. There was lots of graphic pictures which we wouldn’t see in Britain of corpses and injuries and even disabled foetuses in a jar. It isn’t a trip for those with a weak stomach. We spoke to some local people about the war and they still hold a grudge against America. Only our tour guide in the Cu Chi tunnel trip admitted that the museum is very one sided and Vietnam was at fault too.
There’s a large backpacker scene here, mostly based on the Bui Vien street which is full of restaurants, bars and market stalls. The food continued to be good and the beer continued to be cheap!
There’s a few sites to see around the city, including the Notre Dame cathedral (not kidding), the Financial tower and the Reunification Palace. All are within walking distance of each other.
We were meant to spend 5 days here but due to a mix up with our flight (me getting the dates wrong) we actually spent a week. It was an enjoyable week but 5 days would have been enough.
Next stop is Bangkok and a chance to avoid the protests!
During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City we really wanted to go visit the tunnels as the Vietnam war is one of the only things we knew about the country before we came!
We booked the trip through our accommodation and paid 131,000 dong each and then you have to pay 90,000 entry fee when you get there. This equates to about £6 each.
We were picked up and on the road by 8:30am and our tour guide, Mr Bean (not kidding), introduced himself to us. He claims to be a war veteran and fought with the American soldiers against the VietCong. He was really nice and full of stories and facts and the war but he constantly talked and asked “Do you want to hear my story?” over and over again which did irritate a few people towards the end.
The tunnels themselves were really good. At the site they have examples of the traps set to injure the American soldiers. They looked like they could impale someone not just injure them!
We were shown a sniper hole which is a narrow hole in the ground with a cover on the top to slip the gun under. Everyone had a go squeezing in it unless they thought they were too big to get out!
We also got the chance to climb through a stretch of the tunnel network. I have never been so hot and cramped in my life! It just kept going lower, whilst getting darker and hotter. I could sort of squat and waddle along but Stu literally had to crawl on his hands and knees! We were both glad when we reached the end but some people left via the emergency exits at certain points as it was very claustrophobic.
All in all a very interesting trip and worth doing if you’re ever here.
Staying at Hoa Binh Hotel.
Hoi An, you beautiful beautiful town. After the madness of Hanoi, you were a much needed breath of fresh air. It’s fair to say that Stu and I fell in love with you.
We stayed a short walk away from the heritage town which is really pretty. The buildings are all painted yellow with colourful lanterns lining the walkways. It’s a ‘walking town’ with no cars allowed and for a few hours each day, not even bikes are permitted – bliss! A river flows next to the town with an old Japanese bridge connecting the two sides of town.
There’s lots of shops and restaurants and we both made a couple of purchases. I bought a beautiful pashmina scarf and we both got our first ‘traveller bracelet’. We just need a tan now and we will be looking like proper backpackers!
A Hoi An speciality is spring rolls and Stu and I could not get enough of them! You can tell fresh ingredients were used in all the food we ate here and the ingredients are sourced from a market in the town. We’re loving Vietnamese food and are becoming pros at using chopsticks!
I’ve really enjoyed my time in Hoi An, next stop is Saigon!
Staying at Little Hanoi Hostel.
Welcome to crazy town! This is my first experience of Vietnam and what an experience… Hanoi is filled with people on motorbikes and scooters driving around beeping at each other and you just have to keep out of their way or lose a few toes. In fairness we did grow in confidence after a day or so but it goes against everything I’ve been taught to cross a road that busy!
Once you get past the crazy drivers you can start to enjoy Hanoi. We stayed in the Old Quarter of town which is filled with local restaurants and shops to enjoy. There’s plenty of parks and lakes just outside of the Old Quarter which we enjoyed even though the weather wasn’t great (I didn’t expect to wear my coat so soon!). We did see the strangest sights in one of parks… SEVEN WEDDINGS. Seven. Seven weddings?! All at different stages and having lots of pictures taken. We were literally speechless at first and then couldn’t stop laughing, especially as the couples all looked so miserable.
The food in Hanoi was good. Two places we recommend are New Day Restaurant on May Mai street and the City View restaurant which, you guessed it, gives great views of the city.
We used our time in Hanoi to plan the rest of the trip in Vietnam. As the weather is poor we have decided to give Halong Bay a miss and head to Hoi An next and then to Saigon.