Vietnam · 47 Days · 274 Moments · February 2019

VIETNAM...22nd Feb - 10th April


10 April 2019

Another beautiful ferry ride from Phu Quoc Island to Ha Tien then a rush for the Cambodian boarder.
Today I travel from Phu Quoc Island , over the Cambodian boarder then to Kep.

9 April 2019

I arrive back at the cable car station on the main island & take the bus back to the hostel where I meet the new hostel puppies for the 1st time...sooo cute. Then I go to the night market for the last time & have a coconut ice cream.
I get a Birdseye view of the fishermen and their fishing villages.
Other cars pass us going in the opposite direction.
We soar over the pearl farms & the pearl farmers floating huts.
Breathtaking views....
Once I arrived on Hon Thom Island I just relaxed at the beach for a few hours.
The cable car goes from Phu Quoc Island to Hon Thom Island which is also known as Pineapple Island .You get amazing views of many other Islands in the archipelago.
The Hon Thom Cable Car was officially opened in February 2018.
Today I am going to ride the longest cable car in the world, it is nearly 8km long &is in the Guinness Book of Records. The cable car station on Phu Quoc looks distinctly Roman.

8 April 2019

Once home I go to the Night Market & have all this food...1x fresh spring roll, 1x lemongrass pork skewer, 1x Vietnamese pizza, 1x fried spring roll, 3x traditional palm cakes, 3x Takoyaki
The final stop is Sao Beach which is very beautiful but very busy. I manage to find a swing further down the beach to watch the jetskis & banana boat.
We board the bus and are taken to a large Fish Sauce Factory. The vats hold 3 ton of fish &1 ton of salt and are left to brew for a year....the sauce from the cottage industry next to the hostel was much nicer.
We head back to the main island , passing pearl farms and sailing under the cable car.
The water is so crystal clear and turquoise.
It's getting close to time for the boat to leave so I head back to the main beach & have a swing.
The next stop is Mae Rut Island where I go for a swim then discover a secluded bay with a hammock....this is paradise, I feel like I'm on a deserted island.
We board the boat and head out into the An Thoi Archipelago. The fishing was great fun but not very fruitful...3 tiny fish that I threw back. While we fish the crewmen start to prepare lunch. Next, we go for a snorkel off Fingernail Island, there are so many brightly coloured fish & corals... amazing.
I eat a delicious fish broth with Trang before we head out to the port.

7 April 2019

We watch the sun set on Long Beach then head out for dinner. I leave it up to Trang to order...we have Wasabi raw Oysters, Garlic Razor Clams, Garlic Morning Glory, and... a Seafood Steak &Vege Steamboat all washes down with a couple of beers, what an amazing feast. Then we go for a Bailey's Coffee in a sky bar, looking down over the night market...a really fantastic night.
The kitchen where soft noodles are made by forcing a soft rice dough through what looks like a large potato ricer. Banh Canh made with the fresh noodles....a traditional local dish.
We go for a lovely bush walk up to a waterfall which is spectacular in the rainy season, but just a trickle in the dry season.
Next we visit Suoi Trans Stream. In the grounds there is a reconstruction of a northern minority house, hĂșts made from fish sauce vats, ponds & statues depicting Chinese fables and various animals.
The Lady Buddha is 54m high and she overlooks Dam beach & stunning views out to sea.
Chua Ho Quoc Temple is the largest Temple on Phu Quoc Island. It has a jade Buddha in the entrance & a dragon staircase.
I meet Trang , she is my dorm buddy. She invites me out with her for the day on the back of her scooter.
A couple of doors down from the hostel is a small scale fish sauce factory. The lovely elderly lady said that I could climb the ladder & look in a vat and she gave me a sample of the sauce.... it was delicious. This sauce brews for 18 months & only contains salt & little anchovy sized fish.

6 April 2019

After I checked in I went to a riverside restaurant, ate fishcakes & watched the boats go by.
Walking down Phu Quoc's pier. I was greeted with fish drying outside my hostel.
The fast ferry ride was exhilarating, I really enjoyed it.
Chau Doc to Phu Quoc Island..... 3.5hr on the bus then a 1.5hr ferry trip.

5 April 2019

... more Dragon Temple.
Final stop is the Dragon Temple (Huynh Dao). A Temple with amazing gardens and ponds and a large number of statues.
Tutu Duay Dayang Babuddha Temple... is dedicated to the Lady Buddha & followers come here & make offering to the Buddha including roasted whole pigs. Joc also took me to the Wundau Temple. On the way we passed several shops selling the local specialty of pickled or brined and dried fish.
There were so many different aspects to this Temple, from large meditation & gathering halls, monks quarters, small shrines, cave shrines, cliff shrines along with stunning gardens & artwork.... amazing.
Some of the shrines had water features & the views were amazing.
.... this was a really beautiful large Temple with part of it in a cave system.... the mirrored annex actually only had 9 Buddha's but it looked like 100's.
As soon as I arrived I met Joc who said he would take me for a tour for a tip. I tried to refuse but he just came along anyway (he was trying to scam me but I won out). First stop... So Do Chua Hang Buddhist Temple.
... then I take a 3.5hr bus ride to Chau Doc.
I go for a morning walk along the river....

4 April 2019

Night time down at the waterfront.
Our next stop is the Rice Noodle Factory. A rice slurry is mixed then poured onto canvas stretched over a boiling pot to partially cook before being placed on to racks to dry in the sun. The rounds are then manually put through a cutting machine.
We stop for lunch at a riverside restaurant & I have a delicious broth then our guide/captain (who couldn't speak English), shows us around the orchard. We eat all kinds of unusual fruit including lotus seeds which taste like nuts.
The reflections on the still water is majic.
Next we head down one of the smaller channels, it is so beautiful and serene.
There is a real comradery between the sellers and buyers, it had a real community feel.
We arrive at another floating market, this time with smaller boats to supply people in the surrounding communities.
The river is used by the locals for everything from transportation to laundry.
The fertile soil of the delta not only provides sustenance for the gardens but also insures that the bush around the river is beautifully lush.
Many people live in stilt houses over the river.
We carry on down the river and witness life on and beside the river.
Cai Rang is the biggest floating market on the Mekong Delta. The large boats are filled with produce from the gardens on the delta & it is often sold in bulk.
MEKONG DELTA TOUR.....Dominic, Megan & I set off with our guide at 5am for our 8hr tour. The sunrise is a beautiful way to start the day.

3 April 2019

The Can Tho waterfront caters to locals and tourists & is a hive of activity. It is the political, economic, cultural & transportation epicenter of the Mekong Delta.
As soon as I arrive I go to the amazing market, I do find the sale of baby turtles a bit disturbing though.
Today I take a 4.5hr bus ride from Saigon to Can To.

2 April 2019

I go to the War Remnants Museum, previously known as the Museum of Chinese & American War Crimes. This museum shows the brutality of war & its effects on the civilian victims. I found the photos & info on the My Lai massacre the most disturbing.
I crawled 100m along the tunnels. It took 25yrs to build 250km of tunnels across 6 provances. It contained kitchens, hospitals, weapon factories, storage facilities, command centres & wells. They enables the Vietcong to move around freely & were home to around 10,000 people for several years.
One minute you see her & now you don't. The air vents were hidden in what was made to look like termite mounds. I sample what was the staple food in the tunnels... tapioca/taro. The boobie traps were ingenious and lethal.
Today I go to the Laquour Art Factory for the Disabled where these talented people make amazing artworks using eggshells, mother of pearl & coarse sand to decorate everything from pictures to urns.... really beautiful . The proceeds go to helping people who were affected by chemicals such as agent orange & by injury from unexploded ordnance.

1 April 2019

A few of the buildings around Saigon.
The Flaura & Fauna Museum.... lots of taxidermy including some really deformed animals like the 3 horned buffalo and the 3 eyed/6 legged calf.
The Botanical Garden is part of the Zoo complex.
I love this guy, he was such a curious cassowary.
I think the animals are looking stressed.
One of the first projects undertaken by the French after establishing Cochinchina as a colony was founding the fantastic Botanical Gardens, it is also equipped with a miserable zoo.
Ho Chi Minh Square with the statue of the man himself. An army tank outside a government building. Walking street during the day, apparently it comes to life at night.

31 March 2019

Toa Nha Metropolitan, Ben Thanh Market (both sides) & Saigon Railway Building.
This was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on the 30th April 1975 when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through it's gates.
Reunification or Independence Palace... was built on the site of the former Norodom Palace in 1960 and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
I start the day by visiting Notra Dam Kathedral (I couldn't go in because they are refurbishing it), and the Central Post Office building.

30 March 2019

Today I travel 4.5hrs by sleeper bus from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City.

29 March 2019

We head into the sunset on our way back to the hostel. A fantastic day.
Next, we go to the Red Sand Dunes to watch the sunset.
A local farmers is moving his cows across the dunes as we return.
Enjoying the vastness.
Our next stop is The White Sand Dunes. We are taken to the highest point by RTV, it is so exhilarating.
We visit a fishing village, where we are offered super fresh fish, what a shame I have no kitchen...hehe. Everyone looks really relaxed, especially the lady in the hammock.
It is so cool & relaxing walking up the stream.
On the way down the stream a guy said hold this snake... so I did.
First stop.... Fairy Stream, a soft, red , ankle deep creek coloured by the red sand from the dunes & limestone that mixes in from the formations on it's shores.
This afternoon I am on a Army Jeep Tour with Tau, our guide & driver. His Jeep needs regular topping up with water, which adds to the authentic feel of the day.
I pass a fishing community on the way back. They dry their fish in the sun on racks slung on top of their little round boats.
I return from the market along the beach.
Enjoying an early morning coffee overlooking the ocean on my way to the market.

28 March 2019

Mui Ne Ocean Hostel on the top right, the main road, my local food stop on the left with the ocean over the the railing. Sunset from the deck & the back yard of the hostel.... amazing spot for around NZ$7/night.
Seafood in Mui Ne is super fresh, when you order it they take it out of the tank, kill it & then cook it for you. I have a whole red talapia in butter & garlic one night & a delicious seafood pho the next..... I'm in heaven. There are kilometers of seafood restaurants (with live fish tanks out front) along the shore.
I take the sleeper bus 5hrs from Dalat to Mui Ne. We pass over the ranges & through villages. There are miles of dragon fruit farms on the flat lands.

27 March 2019

Alleyways , stairs & secret passages may lead you to a bar, up or down (you're never quite sure as it twists) or to a dead end.
The basement has an under-the-sea theme,
There are 6 floors of fantasy maze indispersed with bars, sitting nooks & hidden coves. It is easy to make friends here as you wander around with a drink & get lost around the narrow stairwells.
Tonight I go to the Maze Bar for Tom's birthday, I met him on the tour today. This bar is a perfect complement to my visit to the Crazy House today.
I leave the Crazy House and head back to the hostel, walking down beautiful streets & through the local market.
Think Gaudi meeting Tolkien & dropping acid together.
The gardens follow the same fantasy theme.
An excess of cascading lava-flow-like shapes, wild colours, spider web windows makes it have an almost organic feel with it's swooping hand rails resembling jungle vines.
Sculptured rooms are connected by super slim bridges rising out of a tangle of greenery.
The Hang Crazy House is a joyously designed, outrageously artistic private home.
The Lonely Planet calls it "a free-wheeling architectural exploration of surrealism.
THE CRAZY HOUSE.... AMAZING, I love this place. This would be a NZ H&S nightmare - awesome.
The Weasel (Lewak) Coffee Farm.... the weasels are fed the coffee beans & then they poo them out whole where the are collected & turned into coffee for our enjoyment. This is the most expensive coffee in the world ($100/cup in Europe).
A coffee plant. The coffee beans won't be picked until they are red.
The Linh An Pagoda (1999) - the Happy Buddha is around 14m high but the Lady Buddah under construction will stand at around 54m. The small Lady Buddahs in the back garden represent all the people who have made generous donations to make this possible. A very restful place.
Elephant Waterfall... so called because this is where the locals used to wash their elephants.
The Cuong Hoan Silk Factory.... locals feed the silk works on mulberry leaves then take the cacoons to the factory where they are graded, washed and spun into thread.
Rice wine production & sampling.
On to the cricket farm. We learn about the life cycle of the cricket and how they are farmed and then get to sample some.... they taste fine, especially with the chilli sauce. There was an interesting menu if you wanted to make a meal of it.
Then we go to a minority village which is run by a matriarchal system. When the woman decides who she wants to marry, she goes with her parents to the prospective husband's house, pays a dowery, then the husband moves with her into her parents house after they marry. If the husband is lazy, she finds herself another one & kicks him out.
The DALAT COUNTRYSIDE TOUR... 1st stop - a flower farm where they grow gerberas & roses in plastic houses, very beautiful.

26 March 2019

I travel by bus from Nha Trang to Dalat today. On the way we stop at a Cafe where they had snakes in jars as a display. Once in Dalat, I went to the massive night market, the avocados & strawberries were impressive, & this was only 1 of the stalls selling them.

25 March 2019

Final stop is Mot Island where I have 1 more swim before relaxing on a deck chair & having a couple of beers. Other people took the opportunity to do some other water sports like jet skiing or parasailing. Then it's home time.... a really great day with lots of laughs, awesome snorkeling & lovely people.
After lunch we are entertained by the crew, 'Boy Band & the Lady Boy'. really funny. Then each nationality had to get up & sing, unfortunately I was the only Kiwi so me & the guide sang 'Wonderwall'. Then it's time for another swim with complementary drinks from the floating bar, heaps of fun.
NHA TRANG TOURS DAY TRIP.... We head out from Cause Da Port, under the cable car and past Vinpearl Resort & Amusement Park. 1st stop - Hon Mieu Island which has an aquarium on it. 2nd stop Hon Mun Island for snorkeling, this is a marine reserve & there were some amazing fish there all the colours of the rainbow. Then lunch on the boat, what an amazing feast.

24 March 2019

The fishing village & some if the catch.
Fishing boats moored on the Cai River.
Originally the complex had 8 towers, but only 4 remain, of which the 28m high North Tower , built in AD817, is the most magnificent.
Po Nagar Cham Towers..... built between the 7th & 12th centuries, there 4 towers are still actively used by Cham, Chinese & Vietnamese Buddhists. The towers stand on a granite knoll.
Today I walk along Nha Trang Beach, past some interesting looking beach bars. Local men play some sort of checkers game & further along, play some lovely music on traditional instruments.

23 March 2019

I say goodbye to Qui Nhon & the lovely host of Rong Homestay to catch the bus to Nha Trang. The coast is very beautiful with many fishing villages & paddy fields along the way. I had great fun with this multi national bunch on my first night at Bondi Hostel.

22 March 2019

I head home walking along a disused train track & then the river bank.
The Twin Towers we're built by the Champa Dynasty between the 11th & 15th Century with Hindu art influences & embued with the Cham culture. The top of the towers are open & it looks like the alter can catch water which can run down a small channel.
The Long Khan Pagoda was founded in 1715 by a Chinese merchant & the monks who reside here preside over the town's active Buddhist community. It is Qui Nonh's primary temple & the main Buddha is 17m tall.
I carry on my walk through town past the Cathedral. Some people in the city still draw their water from a well. Then it's lunchtime. I have a mixed plate of local food....Nanh Beo Bong & Che Dau Xanh. I decided to skip the Breast milk Smoothie.
A hug from the lovely host of Rong Guesthouse then a walk along China Beach which used to be a favorite spot for the US soldiers to take R&R during the Vietnam War.

21 March 2019

I arrive in Qui Nhon after dark and go for a walk along the beach front. There is a permanent fairground , a market & many Kareoke Bars. The huge square is full of young children riding in vehicles of all kinds that the parents can remotely control. Close by there are kids riding around on musical pint sized tuktuks with bright lights... awesome.

20 March 2019

Lanterns in the streets, on the boats & the lights in the Old Town.
Hoi An by night....The Ba Mu Temple Gate & the Japanese Covered Bridge. Lau Cua for dinner, another traditional Hoi An dish made with thick cut starchy noodles, pork, sprouts & fried sheet noodle. The lantern I brought from a very old local woman & floated on the river to make a wish.
An early morning walk around the Old Town. Hoi An specialises in leather goods (including custom made shoes) & tailoring.

19 March 2019

Cam Pho Temple & The May Well which was constructed to supply the market and surrounding town at the beginning of the 19th century.
The Japanese Covered Bridge (early 17th century), was built in the former Japanese Quarter & is now the beloved symbol of the Hoi An people.
More around the Old Town. White Rose for lunch, a Hoi An specialty. It is a translucent dough that has been rolled paper thin and filled with a spiced shrimp or pork filling, then bunched up to look like a white rose.
The Old House of Quan Thang was built over 200 years ago. The Musuem of Trade Ceramics has a collection of ceramics dating back to the 9th century when Hoi An was a thriving international commercial centre. The Old House of Phung Hung (150yrs old) ,is a beautiful 2 story house .
Hoa Van Le Nghia... a beautiful Japanese Temple.
The Minh Huong Communal House.... the Minh Huong people founded their village in Hoi An in the mid 17th century, these Chinese people obtained Vietnamese citizenship so that they could worship their heroic ancestors. Hoi Quan Phuc Kien (1697), is the Chinese Fujjian Assembly Hall.
The local market.
Walking the streets of the Old Town. There is no shortage of labour.
Chua Phap Boa Temple. Duc An Ancient House. The Ba Mu Temple Gate. The Old House of Tan Ky was built 200 years ago by an ethnically Vietnamese family &has been lovingly preserved through 7 generations. It has Chinese & Japanese influences.
In the Old Town, an incredible legacy of tottering Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples & ancient tea warehouses have been preserved & converted into stylish restaurants, pubs & winebars & a glut of taylor shops.

16 March 2019

Eating frog for the first time.... it does taste like chicken.
There are lanterns everywhere....
My first night in the Old Town . Hoi An was once a major port so it boasts the beguiling riverside setting & grand architecture that befits its heritage.
I take a local bus for an hour from Danang to Hoi An, this is a UNESCO listed Old Town. First impression... stunning.
The Pagoda is in the Son Tran Peninsula and it has great views over Danang City.
The Lady Buddha Statue is the tallest Buddah in Vietnam, standing at 67m. The bonsai trees are impressive.
I am taken by scooter to Linh Ung Pagoda ( 2010 ) as a thanks for sitting in on an English Class for an hour. It was lovely to spend time with them & have photos with them. There's even monkeys here, how cool.

15 March 2019

Danang by night.... Wow. The Han River Bridge (2000) is Vietnams only suspension bridge & it swings open every morning.

14 March 2019

A local lady wanted a photo with me.
.... and the bridges, the Dragon Bridge literally breaths fire every Friday & Saturday night.
DANANG.... a walk along the Han River. Loving the boats......
Mi Quang for lunch.
Approaching Danang..... beautiful beaches & cute little round boats.
It is a stunning trip along the coast & over the Hai Van Pass (made famous by Top Gear).
I catch a train from Hue to Danang.

13 March 2019

Bun Thit Nuong - BBQ pork with rice noodles........ yum.
The site is separated into tomb area & temple area.
The most popular & extensive tomb ... the forced labour on the construction spawned a coup that was discovered & suppressed.
Tu Ducs Tomb (constructed 1864 - 1867) was designed by the emperor to use before &after his death.
We go to a local village to make incense sticks & conical hats.
The interior is an explosion of colourful mosaics.
The Tomb of Khai Dinh is a combination of Vietnamese & European elements. Most of the exterior is covered in blackened cement which gives it a gothic air.
Around the grounds of Minh Mang Tomb.
The Tomb has a 2000m wall surrounding 15 hectares which contains 40 different structures including several temples.
Minh Mang's Tomb... Minh Mang's was the second Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty who reigned 1820 - 1841.
A delicious lunch of Hue crispy pancakes, dumplings, broth & banana leaf wrapped rice & shrimp.
The village of Kim Long has many Garden Houses which was the residential area for Mandarins & other Nobal class of the Citadel.
The surrounding garden is very tranquil.
The Thien Mu Pagodas (1844) is 21m high & has a different Buddah on each of the 7 stores.
I take a local boat up the Perfume River.

11 March 2019

Then we head back to Son Trach Village past impressive limestone kastes & then we home by bus along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The colours and shapes are amazing
This is stunning...
The boat glides silently through the cave as we observe the largest cave formations I have ever seen. Then we walk back to the entrance passing more amazing formations.
Phong Nga Cave is a UNESCO listed site. It is 7729m long & contains 14 grottos as well as a 13929m underground river. 44.5km of the cave has been surveyed but only 1500m is open to tourists.
We take a boat ride up the Son River to Phong Nga Caves. We see several locals collecting edible river weed from their boats.
The DMZ, Demilitarised Zone consists of 5km either side of the dividing line. The are many unexploded ordnance in the area so to visit a guide is essential.
The Hien Luong Bridge over the Ben Hai River represented the boarder between North & South Vietnam between 1954 & 1975.