9. Sure enough, the next morning we woke up to the rain! You really couldn't make this up! Da Nang, famous for its beach and on the whole being the start of the real Vietnamese heat and it was pouring down! All in agreement, we drove right past the beach and onto the Marble Mountains. This was another strange little place. Everyone was desperately trying to sell you marble charms, ornaments, statues etc. I felt very traveller as I bought a couple of bracelets just to keep a local happy. We wandered round the caves and 'mountains' (decent sized hills) for the next couple of hours before continuing to Hoi An, a city famous for its beauty, shopping and luxury tailored suits. The next couple of days were gonna see the travelling budget go out of the window!!
8 February 2017
6. That night we met two girls, Tash and Lottie, who were from Cheltenham, the closest we'd met to home so far! We booked the night bus with them for the next day which gave us a day to bike around the area and take in some more of the incredible scenery. Again, pictures just couldn't do the place justice. There were paddy fields as far as the eye could see. Buffalo just wandered down the road, one was being ridden by a kid who couldn't have been more than 4. Whole families squeeze themselves onto one moped. Locals try and sell you little charms and things they'd made as you go past. It felt more like what I imagine a tiny Nepalese village would be like, but I guess I'll find that out for myself pretty soon!
5. What a difference a night makes! The next day we woke up to beautiful sunshine. Thank god, cos while going for a walk the day before I had fallen into the river purely due to being a big kid, jumping across the rocks! All my warm clothes were either soaked or seriously smokey from drying above the fire. Suddenly we realised why people made the trip up here! The views were absolutely stunning and we were so happy we'd decided to take them in from a home stay and not have to travel out each day from a Hostel. A group of us were joined by a group of tiny little local ladies and we trekked for about 6 hours through the countryside. We were treated to lunch in their home, complete with 4 shots of home made rice whiskey. Horrendous!
2. Both of us had started to get fairly used to getting off a bus and having no idea where we had been dropped by this point. We had arrived in Ha Long at about 6pm with no Hostel booked, no idea where's best to stay, no tours arranged etc. We just put our bags on and walked until we found the Happy Hostel, perfect. After dinner we booked an afternoon boat trip for the next day to take us around the sights. Ha Long Bay, the picture perfect area of Vietnam, used on all the travel brochures.....and the sun had disappeared! You couldn't even see the giant rock formations until you were next to them! Saying that, once we were able to see them, they really were a spectacular sight. The boat took us round for a few hours stopping at the floating villages along the way. Me and Glutes even jumped into a canoe and paddled ourselves round for an hour which was really cool until we went full speed into the side of a locals tour boat. The Vietnamese guy was not happy at all!!
8. Due to the weather reports showing a turn for the worst coming, we decided to only spend the one night in Hue and set off to drive the Hoi Van Pass the next day. We rented mopeds from a shop that also took our bags to the next destination for us which felt like a disaster waiting to happen! For the next 7 hours we drove, taking in the sights, losing Dan along the way and generally being amazed by the Vietnamese countryside. The Hoi Van Pass was incredible. As with many things, the pictures just couldn't do it justice at all. We were all gutted that it wasn't longer as none of us wanted it to end. Eventually we made it to Da Nang just in time for rush hour. I've never driven on roads like that! There were so many bikes and traffic's just going everywhere in every direction. We managed to find Dan and park our bikes up for the night, ready for day 2 of driving, this time in the rain!
7 February 2017
7. After a day on the bikes, we were back on a night bus heading South back to Hanoi. We'd arranged to meet Isaac in his Hostel and then head further South with him the next day. The bus got us into Hanoi by 4.30am and was gone! Myself, Glutes, Tash and Lottie all decided to go to the Hostel anyway where luckily they were fine with us sleeping on the sofas in the common room. We found Isaac, spent the day taking in the street markets and got back on another night bus, this time heading the 12 hours to Hue. While the buses are seriously cramped, they are so cheap and do save you money on a nights accommodation. Not many people braved consecutive nights on the night bus though!! We arrived in Hue at 7am, checked into our Hostel and enjoyed a day in the sunshine walking around the old capital.
3 February 2017
4. We'd been told so many amazing things about Sapa. Originally we hadn't planned to go, but decided we had to. After travelling all night via 4 buses, we eventually made it to the madness of Sapa centre. I wish I could describe how bad the fog was, pictures couldn't do it justice. We'd arrived in what was supposed to be the most beautiful spot in Vietnam and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face! Haha, you couldn't make it up! We'd booked a home stay out in the sticks with the intention of getting bikes and driving the 6km ourselves, however common sense prevailed, we gave in and got a taxi to do it for us. Both feeling miserable by this point, we went on to have a few of the best days so far. The home stay that night was awesome. A few other travellers our age were there, sat round the fire in Miko's house with her family. She made us all hot chocolate and cooked us dinner. We all ate together and then went to bed in the attic, listening to the rain outside. Very cosy 👌
2 February 2017
3. Ha Long was a strange place. On one hand you had this spectacular natural beauty with locals living a very simple life on the water. The street food was all fish, squid, mussels etc from the days catch and the shops all very basic. On the other hand, very fancy hotels were popping up all over the place. A casino had just been built and a theme/water park was being built along the beach which had clearly had a lot of work to try and make it more touristy. It was weird, it was as if it was being built for the inevitable future tourists however we had the whole place to ourselves! That afternoon we took the highest cable car in Vietnam up to the 'sky wheel', which I bottled and sent Gluten up with the camera! In the evening we decided what the hell and went into the half finished theme park to ride our own personal rollercoaster. That night I took my first ever night bus to Sapa. Let's just say they're not built for people over 6ft! Another hilarious 'experience'.
30 January 2017
1. After a very dodgy bus journey crammed with a lot of locals for 4 hours, we made it to Vientiane Airport and then safely into Hanoi by the afternoon. We checked into our hotel and pretty much slept two days solid. We had actual comfy beds, a tv and hot water. Hot water!! Dan was especially excited to be able to have a proper shower. Day two in Hanoi we decided to take in some of the cities sights. Walking around Hanoi is definitely an experience. We'd arrived in Vietnam a couple of days into Tet, so the New Years celebrations meant that most shops were closed and streets were quiet. The roads however were still mental. Everybody goes everywhere by bike and there really are no rules. Crossing the road is hilarious and terrifying at the same time. Overall Hanoi wasn't anything special, but it was a good couple of travelling 'cheat' days as we recovered and got back to full health. We figured out the local buses, paid the equivalent of about $4 and took the 5 hour trip to Ha Long Bay.