Vietnam, Australia · 17 Days · 18 Moments · July 2017

The Jamon Barns Vietnam Special (2017)

22 July 2017

Day 18: I guess I can still count this as a day! It was a transit day back to Adelaide via Sydney airport. I did take the opportunity to visit the Virgin Australia lounge for a shower and some gourmet food! After a few hours in the airport, it was time to head home. The flight went pretty fast, and soon I touched down in Adelaide airport. It's good to be back, but I had a fantastic trip away and would highly recommend Vietnam. There is so much to do, I could hardly cram any more into the days I had! Thank you for reading my Journi, I hope you enjoyed my posts. I certainly enjoyed writing them! Hopefully there will be more adventures to come in the near future! All the best, Jamon

21 July 2017

Day 17: I met for breakfast today with the ones left behind one last time and had breakfast in what I called "the Melbourne embassy". This was because it was so similar to a cafe in Melbourne, just without the hefty price tag! After saying our goodbyes, I made way for the Hoa Lo prison after a recommendation was made. This gave an insight into what it was like for prisoners during French occupation, and also US POWs during the war. I then walked to KOTO, a restaurant that trained homeless youth and gave them jobs. They had visited Heathfield High School a few years ago, so I visited them (so had Julia Gillard apparently!). I then walked through the Temple of Literature, which documented Confucian ideals and served as the university of Hanoi back in 1070AD! After this, I went to the local skydeck at the Lotte complex to take some snaps. After a trip to the market for some final shopping and a puppet show, I had dinner in the city before making my way to the airport. Bye Vietnam!

20 July 2017

Day 16: Today I was on my own again and took an Urban Adventures tour to Ninh Binh, about 2 hours out of Hanoi. Usually this tour would consist of around 14 people, however I was the only one show booked, so it was a private tour for me! We drove by car to the temple, which was Vietnam's original capital 1000 years ago! I caught up with the story of the first emperor and his kids before a bike ride around the village. After a full buffet lunch, I went on a row boat trip down the Red River Delta through caves and all! The place was stunning, described as "inland Ha Long Bay", because of the mountains. The tour finished at around 3pm for me, so I had some time to walk around Hanoi a bit before catching up with the remaining group members for dinner. I then had a drink at a hostel, because this really did mark my last night in Vietnam!

19 July 2017

Day 15: It was the last day of our tour today! After a night on the boat in my quarters, I reported for breakfast. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted to Captain of the vessel for about 20 seconds and then demoted again. We then took the time to explore a cave that is said to be Ha Long's largest. Too bad my camera couldn't capture the cave properly! It was then time to farewell Ha Long as we made way for the shore and then got on the bus bound for Hanoi. The afternoon was free for us, so I decided to have a look at Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. It was pretty well guarded, and pretty intimidating! This was the tomb of Vietnam's favourite "uncle". After this, I met with some other group members and had a walk through the Old Quarter of Hanoi including the markets. It was then time for the last supper with the group. We went to a restaurant called "Ying Yang" and then to a bar overlooking the lake. It was then time to say goodbye to Bac and some other group members. The tour was over!

18 July 2017

Day 14: Off to Ha Long Bay today! We had a quick breakfast at the hotel before boarding the bus for a 5 hour trip. Bac, our guide, said that it would pay off. We arrived in the early afternoon and we were greeted by the mighty mountains of the bay rising out of the ocean! The place was absolutely incredible, but we could only see more by boat! We boarded our vessel and made way for the bay. We had lunch on the way made from local ingredients, which just added to the whole experience! We donned our bathers and went to a swimming island by means of a smaller boat we were tugging. We climbed to the very top of the mountain to take the view in before a quick splash in the crystal water (no, I don't work for Ha Long Bay tourism). We then went back to the boat and then got off again for some kayaking and cave exploration! After all this, it was dinner time. We enjoyed our gourmet food, tried to catch some squid, sang karaoke, drank a lot, ate the squid we caught and took the night in!

17 July 2017

Day 13: After a 17 hour train ride, we were in Hanoi! There wasn't much talking within the group today, and it was still raining! In light if this, we decided to go shopping at Royal City, which was a complex completely underground with it's own 3 hotels. We all decided to go and see a movie. Since no one else wanted to see "Spider Man", it was another solo trip! There was only gold class screenings for Spider Man that day, so I lashed out on the 120,000 VND ticket ($6.73) and secured my spot. Apart from being the only one in the cinema, I was also treated to someone showing me to my seat, a blanket, a beer and snacks throughout. The movie was great too! I also went to the arcade and tried a claw machine. For the first time ever, I won! You can see in the gallery the luck I had though... A bit of a boring day today, but it was just what we needed after the long trip and to prepare for Ha Long Bay tomorrow...

16 July 2017

Day 12: I came to Vietnam to escape the Adelaide rain. Unfortunately, it finally caught up with me! Today was pretty lazy, we stayed around the hotel district in Hue and didn't venture far due to the raindrops the size of my car. I did however, pick up some very nice DVDs which came from Vietnamese JB-HiFi and went to the local bar for a drink. In the afternoon, we boarded a train for Hanoi which we were told would take 15 hours. Spoiler alert: it didn't!

15 July 2017

Day 11: We explored Hue today on a motorbike tour organised by our guide. We were each assigned a driver who took us on the back of his bike. We also had a local guide along with us to show us around. We made our way to a village outside the city where everyone was going about their daily business. From here we visited the tomb of a previous king of Vietnam. They don't actually know if he's buried there, but it was a cool temple none the less! After lunch at a pagoda with the monks, we went to the imperial citadel, Vietnam's version of Buckingham Castle. The citadel was absolutely massive, so we only had time to explore a little! After a visit to another working pagoda, we took a boat trip down the perfume river on a dragon boat, which is pretty much an emptied put houseboat with a couple of wooden dragons on front! Dinner tonight was at a local place which provided us with some raw meat and a fire...

14 July 2017

Day 10: Today we hit the road after breakfast at what became our regular haunt in Old Town Hoi An. It was a 3 hour bus trip along a very famous coast road once driven by Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson as part of Top Gear's Vietnam special. Along the way, we stopped by a mountain side pagoda still in use by monks. We climbed up the mountain to view Dha Nhang from the sky. After being enlightened, we hit the road for lunch at a servo and made our way to Hue, the original capital of Vietnam. We took a walking tour in the evening and then had dinner with a local family to have a taste of some local cuisine. Tomorrow we head to the imperial citadel of Hue!

13 July 2017

Day 9: Today was our last day in Hoi An. We took a bike ride through the countryside to the beach for a chill out session. We had some coconuts and spring rolls and a swim to take the serenity in before hitting the road again. In the afternoon, I took a walk through Old Town one last time and took some photos for this Journi! In the evening, I wore my new suit out to dinner by the river. Unfortunately, it started to rain just as we finished! I decided to hang back with some others to wait out the rain and enjoyed a drink and some chocolate mousse. Tomorrow we leave for Hue, and a mountain trek in the morning!

12 July 2017

Day 8: Waking up in Hoi An today, I had breakfast at the hotel before an early-morning bike ride around the surrounding area. We made our way on bike across the river to the other side (the more agricultural side) where we learnt where Uncle Ben gets his rice from. Of course, we had to dodge the crazy Vietnamese giving way system! We then made our way to some local sights, including a local sleeping mat maker, rice wine maker and noodle maker. All of which make just under $10 a day. We then had the afternoon off. I went to the tailor to check my suit (it looks good). Then I had a chill out before going to dinner at a local restaurant. We then went to a local bar to celebrate Eliza's birthday (one of our companions), had a bit if a dance before coming back to the hotel for a well-deserved nap (we did cycle 15kms today!).

11 July 2017

Day 7: When we arrived in Hoi An today, we noticed immediately the change in pace with the trip. We took a bus trip from Da Nang to Hoi An, with the scenery changing from a thriving metropolis to a quietly preserved town. After breakfast, we took the opportunity for an orientation walk around the old town district, where we saw about 1 billion tailors, as well as some museums documenting the history of the town. After lunch at a local cafe, we split off for tailoring. I had my suit measured up, with a waiting time of 24 hours! After another short walk around the town, I made my way back to the hotel before dinner at 6. There was a catch, apart from the other dinners we have had, this one was DIY! So we learnt how to make a traditional Vietnamese dish of restaurant quality. Watch out Masterchef! After a few drinks during and after dinner, it was home time. Tomorrow it's another day in Hoi An!

10 July 2017

Day 6: Today was another day in beautiful Nha Trang. After breakfast with the group in the morning, I set off to walk around town by myself. I found my way to the top of a skydeck and took a few photos. After this, I walked along a beach and had a beer in a deck chair, costing around $3 per imperial pint! Feeling a little "happier" as they say in Vietnam, I met the group to go to the Mud Baths. This was in a luxury hotel in the city centre. I'll hopefully have more photos to share as the guide sends them to us, but what I can say for now is that is was the weirdest most relaxing experience! After this, we had massages. I opted for a "Vietnamese massage", which made me fall asleep! All relaxed now, we went to the train station after dinner to board a train to Nha Trang. I have to say, if I ever book a ride on the Indian-Pacific or Ghan, I'll be booking my private room (for now, it's a good experience to have).

9 July 2017

Day 5: After a peaceful night on the train, we made it to Nha Trang (the Gold Coast of Vietnam). A small group of us first went to suss out the beach before breakfast. We then went via bus to the port where our boat was waiting to give us a tour of the islands. To say Nha Trang is remarkable would be a criminal understatement. This place is absolutely stunning. The water is clear and the mountains rising from the mainland is picturesque. We visited an island village, which gave us an insight into the simple life of boating, camping and fishing! We met many people along the way, to which our local guide seemed to know very well. We then went snorkeling around the reef before lunch on the boat. We then went to a local beach to relax. After we snorkelled one last time, we headed back for some free time. I went to the local market and picked up a few oddities... We then had dinner in a small restaurant and some of us went for drinks afterwards at the sail club.

8 July 2017

Day 4: I awoke to the sounds of the Mekong Delta covered by nothing more than a mosquito net. It was only 6am and I was already too hot! I had a cold shower to wake me up before exploring the wilderness. It was great to be right in the jungle, except for the deadly falling coconuts! Breakfast was omelettes and rolls made for us. We then said goodbye to our home stay and made our way back to Ho Chi Minh City. We had lunch before exploring the city in the afternoon. We went to Chinatown, where we went to a Chinese temple and the markets. After this, we decided to split up to explore the city. Some of us went to the financial tower and went to the skydeck. I had already been, but what can I say? I love the view! I then did a solo adventure to the art museum, which showed a lot of works from the war, but also from ancient times. It was good to chill out in a place like that! I met the group for dinner before we packed and boarded the train to Nha Trang. 1 hour down, 8 to go!

7 July 2017

Day 3: Today I woke and met some others for brekky at a nearby bar in Ho Chi Minh City. After some banana pancakes, I boarded the bus for the Mekong Delta. Here, we boarded a boat and went crushing around the river system, which is something to be astounded by. We first visited a honey farm, sampling the tea which puts Lipton to shame. We also went to a coconut candy factory and learnt about the importance of the coconut to the region. We then boarded tuk tuks. About 5 were on the back tray. It was like a ute ride except really fast and there were trucks that we had to avoid. We had a relax in a local cafe and tried some local fruit and then lunch at a restaurant that was only accessible by row boat. After getting lost in the jungle, we went to the home stay along the river. We took a tour via bike before dinner. I had a lot of rice wine tonight... Being the only male bachelor on tour (#ITStudent), I was exiled to my own homestay room. No complaints! Tomorrow, back to Ho Chi Minh!

6 July 2017

Day 2: Today as part of an urban adventures tour, I spent the day at the Chu Chi Tunnels! It was here I got to imagine what it would be like fighting in the Vietnam war, on the other side. I crawled 100 metres in a tunnel on hands and knees, viewed the traps designed for Americans, and tried firing an M30 rifle! We also visited a local family and tried to make rice paper. I might just stick to coffee! After the tour, I spent my afternoon at the War Remnants Museum, the Ho Chi Minh City museum, the Ben Than Markets and the financial tower bar which had a great view! I met the group I would be touring with after this and went out for tea with them. I'm really keen to start my tour tomorrow at the Meekong Delta!

5 July 2017

Day 1: Today was the beginning of my first big solo adventure overseas! As I departed Adelaide and disembarked on the other end, I found myself in one of the most strangely exotic places that I would come to know (I had a stopover in Melbourne). After I passed on the $6 latte they were offering, I boarded my Vietnam Airlines flight to Ho Chi Minh City. 8.5 hours later I was in the airport, greeted by the warm humid air of Vietnam. I met my transfer, who had been waiting, and I made my way to the hotel. Whilst he didn't speak much English, he told me about the sights as we drove past and gave me some very helpful tips (where to get cheap beer, and how to know if the beer was actually cheap). I checked in to my room and walked around my surroundings for a bit and had dinner at a nearby rooftop bar. At 200,000 Vietnamese Dong for the meal and a beer (around $13) I think that was pretty good for a 5 star restaurant! That was my first day! Stay tuned for the Chu Chi Tunnels tomorrow!