Europe, Asia · 28 Days · 40 Moments · October 2017

Lisa's tour through Vietnam

7 November 2017

LAST DAY! We had a nice stay at Oasis Hotel. We had the club room, so had special access to the 22nd floor, where we got snacks, and free cocktails. We visited the “Cloud Forest”. There were plants growing around a man-made mountain.Right when you walk in, you see a waterfall l, pouring down from the mountain. It was remarkable.The walked around the surreal compound in awe, admiring the bizarre bridge and the mountain from all angles. The plants that we saw, were specific to those that you would see in tropical rainforests at the height of 1000-2000m above sea level. The climate too is reproduced to match the temperature, humidity and moisture at this height. As you ascend the mountain, there are different things to explore at each level. At level 3, you can too a tree top walk, which is set at 30m above the rainforest floor. The next level is, the cloud walk, where you get really close to the waterfall. The highest level is called the “Lost World” mimicking conditions at 2000m.

6 November 2017

Today, we started off the day with an all-you-can eat buffet at Marina Bay. Yummy! We went to the “Sands casino” and we both lost :( Then, we visited “Gardens by the Bay”. They spent 1.1 BILLION dollars on this Garden which spans over 250 acres right on the water. We walked through “The Supertree Grove”. It has 18 Supertrees with over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species have been planted. At night, they have a beautiful light show. The trees measure between 25 and 50m. Then, we went into the “Flower Dome”. It replicates the cool and dry Mediterranean climate, with exotic plants from five continents. It was amazing to see. After supper, we checked into our last hotel “Oasis”.

5 November 2017

What a view!! We started the morning walking thru “The shoppes” mall attached to Marina Bay. It is the most expensive mall we’ve ever seen. It even had a Gordon Ramsay restaurant! We spent the day at our swimming Pool at Sands Sky-park. It is the worlds longest elevated swimming pool,at 200m above ground level with length of 150m! It was also the hottest day yet at 42 degrees. Sebastian didn’t leave the pool! I met a woman from Dubai named Alexandra and she invited me to drink a Mojito with her. We were talking a lot while Seb was cooling off. After the 3rd mojito round, I offered to buy the next round. I got the bill and it costed 108 SGD (102 CAD) I couldn’t believe it! The most expensive drinks I’ve ever drank! She proceeded to buy one more round for Sebastian and I.

4 November 2017

Our flight with Vietjet from Phu Quoc to Ho Chi Minh was delayed, which meant that we would miss our next flight from HCM to Singapore. We went to the help counter, and she couldn’t get us on an earlier flight off the island. The only flight leaving was one from Vietnam Airlines in 30minutes! So we had to hurry up to make a decision. We got a full refund from Vietjet and bought new tickets with Vietnam airlines(80€ more!) and were escorted thru security to make it to our gate in time. In HCM, we had a few hours before our flight to Singapore so took an UBER to “Pizza and Bia”. It was raining, and it was cool to see all the ponchos the motorcyclists were wearing. We arrived at Singapore Changi Airport at 11pm. It is the best airport in the world and we can understand why. It is phenomenal! We checked in to our hotel Marina Bay Sands, and were upgraded to city view. This hotel is amazing!

1 November 2017

Today, we checked into our new resort called Amarin. It was supposed to be a step up from Richi’s but unfortunately was a big step down. We were not really impressed by much (especially the Chinese Karaoke night). On the positive, our room had a gorgeous view, the beach and pool were nice and we continued to have nice weather. We stayed at Amarin from Nov 1st to the 4th. We went to the Hilltop Restaurant to see the city of Phu Quoc, went for dinner every night at different restaurants on the stretch, had a lot more coconuts, and we visited the resort beside us called Salinda which made really good pizza. There was also a really small cocktail bar that we stumbled upon. You just had to describe what you liked and the bartender would make some random concoction. It was fun!

31 October 2017

Today is Halloween! 🧛🏻‍♀️ Richi’s gave us a bottle of red wine for our Honeymoon and we asked if they would mix it to make a Sangria for us by the pool. 🍷 It was delicious on such a hot day! In the afternoon, we met Michelle, Nga, Jeff and Ryan from California. We went to a really nice beach bar and watched the sunset and then we went to a restaurant where they put on a Halloween show with entertainers and a buffet.

28 October 2017

Our stay included breakfast. So every morning we would sit on the outdoor patio on the 2nd floor of the dinning hall, looking over the Gulf. Richi’s had a really great breakfast selection and the Chef Brian made me a delicious guacamole every morning. He was from Australia and spoke both English and German (since he lived in Austria for 11 years as well). He gave us a lot of tips about the island and told us about all the resorts going up, and all the construction. He said that this is a perfect time to visit before the island is over-developed.
Phú Quốc is a very mountainous and situated in the Gulf of Thailand, 15 km south of the coast of Cambodia. Phú Quốc is ringed with some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam, and offers the best seafood in the country! Once we reached the island, we took a cab to Richi’s resort on Long Beach, located along the western coast of Phu Quoc Island. Long Beach (Truong Beach/Bãi Trướng) is the most popular beach in Kiên Giang Province. We stayed at Richi’s from October 27th to November 1st. It is a gorgeous resort with a great pool and beach area. After the last 2 weeks of travelling, Seb and I were happy to relax on the pool bar, swim in the ocean and have some cocktails! 🍹 November marks the beginning of dry season with little rain and a calm seas. Everyday was sunny and between 28-35 degrees!

27 October 2017

We were picked up from our hotel at 6am to catch our 8:30am bus from Can Tho to Rach Gia. It took us around 2.5 hours to reach Rach Gia. We had about 2 hours before we had to board our boat, so we got a taxi to a Café and had some Vietnamese coffee. Seb wasn’t to keen on how it looked, but said it was delicious. After coffee, we went back to the docks to catch the Superdong V fast boat to Phu Quoc Island (3 hour ride). The boat had a nice outdoor area at the back, with a gorgeous view.

26 October 2017

Pictures: Jackfruit plant, papaya plant and cocoa pods (yellow are ripe), bridge with just one log is called a “monkey bridge” because you have to hold on to the top and walk across like a monkey 🐒
We were picked up at 5am in our hotel lobby by our guide Khao. We visited the biggest floating market (Cai Rang) at its trading time. Some boats had eyes painted on the front. Some say that the eyes are intended to help the boats at sea find their way back to land. Others say the eyes are meant to scare off sharks or water monsters, or are meant to bring good luck. We both got fresh coconuts and I had the typical Vietnamese breakfast (Pho soup) from a small boat. We also tried different fruits (Rambutam and Longan) After breakfast, the boat turned into a little canal. The Mekong Delta has many narrow canals, water coconut trees and a really green environment. We stopped at a cacao plantation and learned how to make chocolate from cacao beans the traditional way. It was very good! Then, we went to a local noodle factory and learned how they make rice noodles and tried their noodle pizza. On the way home, we climbed on a locals boat and she carved our pineapples for us to eat onboard.

25 October 2017

On October 25th, we were late leaving the hotel since Sebastian lost his sunglasses. Not a good start to the morning for him (😤) and consequently me (😒) The hotel was able to re-book our bus to Can Tho. We took the FUTA laying down bus to the Mekong Delta. It is like sitting in a recliner (not completely laying down) The bus ride is an experience in itself. The driver is constantly on his horn to signal to smaller vehicles to move out of the way. Once we arrived, we checked in to the TTC hotel. (Complimentary coconut water- awesome!) We went for dinner and I tried my first Vietnamese hot pot at a local street restaurant. We walked the boardwalk and Seb found new glasses at the night market.

22 October 2017

We flew with Vietjetair from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh (commonly known as Saigon). The name was changed as part of the victory of the North over the South. We stayed in HCM from October 22-25th. It is the most populated city in Vietnam and is famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It is also known for its French colonial landmarks, including Notre-Dame Cathedral, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the 19th century Post Office. Food stalls line the city’s streets, especially around bustling Bến Thành Market. We spent a lot of time at Silverland Sakyo’s pool bar. They had a really nice view of district 1, a hot tub/pool combination and great happy hour cocktails. We also visited the War Remnants Museum, the reunification palace and got lost in the busy streets. We came across street food markets without tourists, got to experience the motorbike traffic, had a couple beers for 15,000 VND from a street vendor, found a great 🌮 restaurant and much mor

21 October 2017

At 7:30, we boarded small bamboo boats and drove through a cave to reach a beautiful bay. The bay was surrounded by high cliffs and we could see monkeys swinging around at the top. Then, we had a nice breakfast and drove back to the docks. We transferred back to Hanoi, checked into our new hotel „luxury old quarter hotel“, and explored Hanoi for the last time. I ate a lasagna with pumpkin sauce at “Jalus Vegan kitchen” and Sebastian had tacos, and an open faced steak sandwich at the Moose and Roo. Then, we got pizzas at Pizza 4P’s. Everything was delicious! We needed a break from the traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Tomorrow morning, we will fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

20 October 2017

After the caves, we returned to the main ship, changed into our bathing suits and picked up Sebastian. We drove the small boat to Tip Top Island. We climbed 400 stairs to catch a beautiful view of the bay and sunset. After this, we took a quick dip in the warm water and headed back to the ship for a happy hour (yummy Piña colada’s), a spring roll cooking demonstration, and dinner. After dinner, the crew surprised us. They turned off the lights, played a romantic song and carried lotus flowers made of tissue with a candle in the middle to us. One lotus was placed in front of Sebastian and one in front of me. They also made us a cake and carved “honeymoon” into a watermelon.
After arriving to Hanoi with the night train, we were picked up by bus from L’heritage hotel for a 3.5 hour drive to Halong Bay. We boarded our cruise for Aphrodite for a 2 day/1 night stay. We had the best lunch so far in Vietnam on our way to the bay. After lunch, I went alone to the Hang Sửng Sôt caves, a total of 780 steps. The cave is 3 million years old. The ceiling, they call a beach ceiling and it’s made from limestone. The walls and pillars are made from stalactites and stalagmites and are roughly 11,000 years old. Before 1990, 150 people used to live in the cave. The guests on the boat and our guide Kim were very friendly, and I explored the caves with them and Sebastian stayed on the boat to relax.

19 October 2017

The Falls are named “love falls” because of an old story. This waterfall was the bathing place of fairies from heaven. One day, a fairy was mesmerized by the flute sound of a young boy near the fall, so she spent every night listening to his melodies. Not a long time after, her parents came to know the secret, and forbade her from coming back to the falls. The passionate fairy transformed herself to a bird so that she could live with her love forever. After this, we drove down to Silver waterfall (Thac Bac), the highest Waterfall with a 300ft drop. We had lunch at ale Gecko in Sapa, showered, and drove back to Lao Cai to catch the night train (2-berth). We had a few more coconuts before the trip to Hanoi!
We drove 18km with motorbikes up the mountain to Tram Ton Pass, the highest road in Vietnam at approximately 2000m above sea level to visit the Love Waterfall. The weather was misty so the views weren’t as spectacular as the last couple of days. We hiked about 2km through a tranquil bamboo forest to reach the falls.

18 October 2017

Following breakfast, we left the village to hike another 10km. Today, was a very challenging path, we had to walk on a thin beam with a cliff to our left and climb steep muddy narrow paths. (I almost fell a few times!) This is not Sebastian’s element. He hates hiking, but he really enjoyed himself and thought it was beautiful. We both felt really accomplished once we reached the waterfall close to the top of the mountain. On our way, we passed another tribe, the Red Dao people at Giang Ta Chai. The Red Dao women have colourful red embroidery and coins on their clothing. They also wear a red scarf on their heads. They sell their handmade clothing, and are pretty annoying. They follow you like flies and ask 100x. Our guide has to tell them to go away. We continued along small paths thru bamboo forests, along the rice fields, and across the Muong Hoa River and trekked up to Su pan village where we were met and transferred back to Sapa. It felt great to have our hotel bed again!

17 October 2017

After lunch in Lao Chai, we walked another 4km to Ta Van. We stayed at a families home in this village. Our hosts are So (daughter in law) and Tru (mother in law). They cooked us a nice meal. We were joined by our guides husband and 4 year old daughter and So’s husband. We tried rice wine which was more like rice schnapps (ew). Unfortunately, at night I woke up with food poisoning again and spend the night running back and forth to the washroom 😕. After waking up, I felt unrested and weak but managed to complete the challenging hike.
This family has dried bamboo hanging in front of their house. This means the family had bad luck like someone passed away or the parents were sick and then the kids. So a Sherman comes to the house to purify it and the family stays in the house for 3 days. When people see the bamboo they know they are not allowed in the house.
CON’T On the way, Zu told us a lot of the tradition here. Starting at 16, they are allowed to marry. When a man likes a woman he can go to her and talk. But she is never allowed to speak first with a man. If he likes her, he can gather his friends and kidnap her (if she wants to be or not) to marry her. But, you can only kidnap within your tribe. If a man were to take a woman from a different tribe, they would call the police! He takes her to his family, and they make a celebration. They take a chicken by the leg and spin it around her head about 5 times as they bless her with many children. After 3 days, at his home, they both go back to her family to tell them. The woman here carry their infants on their backs until 1.5 years everywhere they go. The women must also make the money, cook and take care of the family while the man sits around and drinks (good life!) At New Years is their only holiday and they all take two weeks to sit, relax and drink the rice wine.
At 9:30am, we were picked up at Sapa Horizon by our guide Zu. It was raining, so we got rainboots for the muddy trails. Sapa is so beautiful. We started at 1,600m in Sapa and went up and down along the mountains. It was challenging but worth it. From Sapa to Lao Chai (1200m), we trekked 7.5 km. The rice fields, in the picture, have already been harvested (in August). In each tribe they speak a different language but learn Vietnamese in school. Dung is Hmong and grew up in Lao Chai. They grow Hemp to make the clothes and indigo to make the colour green and blue. (My hands are stained green from holding it) They hang the red and gold banner at all the entrances, in the pig house, and everything they use like their motor bike to bring good luck with the harvest, no accidents etc. And every year they change them. The other picture is the kitchen, with the kettles on the floor. On top is the rice and wood to dry it.

16 October 2017

The night train dropped us off in Lao Cai and a representative from our tour company was standing with a sign. We took another hour drive to reach Sapa. On our drive, there were lots of little kids walking on the side of the narrow, winding roads as buses and motorcycles drove closely past them. Starting at 5-6 years of age they have to walk alone up and down the mountains around 4-5 km to School! In Sapa, we checked in with our tour company “Trekking Sapa” and went over our itinerary for tomorrow. Then, we had free time so we walked around Sapa. There is a lot of construction everywhere, so I don’t find it pretty. But, we are only staying to refresh from the long day of travel yesterday. Tomorrow, is when we see the real Sapa region (The gorgeous mountains surrounding this town) The hotel we are staying at “Sapa Horizontal” came to our room with 2 dozen roses 🌹for our honeymoon! Wow! And, they left a bunch of new fruits in the room for us (me) to try! Dinner: Susu

15 October 2017

Aphrodite Cruise cancelled l!!!!! 😐😭 We left Hanoi this morning and drove 3.5 hours to Halong Bay only to find out that our cruise was cancelled due to a typhoon! 🌨🌨🌨 What a bummer!! We had lunch onboard the docked boat and Seb learned how to use chop sticks, now we are being sent back to Hanoi so another 3.5 hour drive. Great.. this all took from 7:30 am to about 7pm... On very short notice, Sapa tour allowed us to change our schedule around because we don’t want to miss out on Halong Bay. We booked Halong Bay again for October 20th and now we are leaving for Sapa tonight! So when we arrived back in Hanoi, we went for a quick bite to eat at the “Apron”. I had the glass noodles, very good. We got picked up from a representative and he brought us to the train station and helped us find our 4-berth bunk for the night. The train ride to sapa is about 9 hours long. When we wake up in the morning 5am, we will be in Lao Cai. *pic: 4-bed and our neighbours. Bumpy
We received a message from a Halong Bay tour that our boat would not be able to run tomorrow due to a tropical storm that may cause flooding. Luckily, I was able to move the cruise to today! We were just picked up from our hotel in a nice luxury bus and now we have a 3.5 hour bus ride to the bay!

14 October 2017

We walked thru the night market. The people here are really small compared to North America and Germany. Seb is the biggest size 7XL! And, the seatbelt didn’t fit him in the van. After shopping around, we went to the Hanoi Taco Bar. The drinks were so small and so were the tacos. But, they were delicious (🌮) On the way back we went through the busy street food/bar area where seb tried his first street food (Vietnamese bread) and we sat on the little plastic stools!
Forgot to mention earlier I got a mani/pedi for 8$! 200,000VND. After eating, we walked around the lake and got lost in the streets. Around the lake, they closed off the streets for pedestrians. Little kids were driving around in little cars, and playing all over. There were a group of kids, and the parents asked us if we would spend 5 minutes to help them learn English. It was really fun to speak with them. My little girl was so cute, Seb and his boy were both so shy to speak to one another! 😂 We stopped at a bar (Quán Bia Minh) to look down on the crazy life below us. In the picture, with my Saigon beer you can see the electrical poles and the traffic on the street below.
Exploring more of “The Old Quarter” today. It is an old merchant area of the city where the layout and many of the streets have been preserved over decades. This part of Hanoi is what gives Hanoi the charming, old world feel. It is a mish mash of French colonial and ancient Vietnamese architecture, manic streets with thousands of motorbikes, power lines above head that resemble giant birds nests, narrow merchant streets with shops selling the most random things, and other unique characteristics that make this area so lovable. The streets in this part of town are named “Hang _____”, meaning something pertaining to selling. We are staying on Hang Ga! We started out the day with a coffee at Drew’s. They didn’t have soya milk, so the lady went to buy some for me and came back! The Vietname are so nice! Now, we are on Hàng Bông street which is known for its silk. I just got a pair of glasses with my prescription for 700,000 VND (25€). And now we are out to eat at Buon Dua Le Café
Sebastian and I got our first impressions of Hanoi tonight. There are so many motorbikes on the streets! The Vietnamese people all sit on little plastic stools to eat and drink. The sanitation is definitely compromised here. Things are very cheap! Seb tried the Hanoi beer which was 20,000VND which is about 1.10 CAD. Food is also very reasonable and I’ve already drank 3 coconut waters 🥥 that they opened fresh. Yumm They have a night market here that opens on Friday-Sunday after 7pm. It’s very interesting to see! We ate at Green Farm Restaurant. They had a whole menu just for vegetarians/vegans.

13 October 2017

After 27 hours of travel we arrived to L’Heritage hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam. I finally feel better! From the airport, someone asked if we needed a ride, and we said yes to go to his taxi. We followed him and were loaded on a golf type cart and driven to his car. Which turned out not to be a taxi. Probably what you SHOULD NOT do! But, he brought us in a nice car (nicer then the taxis) and charged us 18USD. The traffic here is insane. There are absolutely no rules for driving and looks like a herd of bikes and cars. Once we arrived to the hotel, they welcomed us with a drink and showed us a map of what to do in the area. We are staying in Old Quarter which is the touristy area of Hanoi. We just slept for 6 hours and are now going to go grab something to eat! Tomorrow, we will explore the city.

12 October 2017

We arrived in Singapore after a 12 hours flight. The first half of the flight went really well but then I started to feel nauseous and had stomach pains. I ended up in the washroom 4 times throwing up. I hope this passes! We are now waiting to catch our final flight to Vietnam. The Singapore airport is huge and very clean! They’ve also built a few beautiful gardens. There are so many shops and food options. I ate my first Pho soup. So far, we’ve been travelling for 23 hours. Update: we boarded our last flight Singapore to Vietnam. Singapore airlines service is amazing. I ended up using the air sickness bags 3 times on this flight (there goes that Pho soup 😐🤦‍♀️). I feel bad for Sebastian, right when he got his food, I had to use the bag, so he couldn’t eat anymore 🙄) They kept checking in on me, gave me medicine and brought me hot lemon water for my throat.
Up bright and early! Just took an airport taxi shuttle to the Prague airport. Our flight is at 6:00 am to Frankfurt! Seb is such a morning person 😂🤦‍♀️

11 October 2017

After one hour in the hotel room, Sebastian finally found a restaurant that he could eat at. (HE IS SOOOOO PICKY). I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in Vietnam 🙈 We walked around a bit, and I bought a postcard and a key chain. This is our 3rd time here and I kept forgetting to get one. We are eating at Restaurance MINCOVNA. Seb ordered the duck and I ordered a salad with roasted veggies (not many vegan options). And, we are having a dark Kozel beer. After dinner, we stopped for our favourite ice cream!
October 11 Backpack are ready to go! Said bye to Riley and Kato and set off to catch our Bus in Amberg at 14:10. The Flix Bus ( only 15€ each!) took us from Amberg to Prague. We brought a beer with us, it’s allowed in Germany :) We arrived in Prague at 18:00 and walked with our heavy bags 1.5km to our apartment. We had a little bit of trouble finding it. Seb booked it through and didn’t realize we had to meet someone out front. But, after 5 times walking up and down the street looking for a sign, a lady called out “Sebastian” and we were let in. It’s a nice little place, close to the centre of Prague.