China, Vietnam, Germany · 16 Days · 30 Moments · December 2018

Vietnam Adventure 2 weeks

13 January 2019

Flight no. 10 in this trip - done. Landed in Frankfurt.

12 January 2019

Off to the airport at 5:30AM. We boarded on time and arrived in China still in doubt about what we should do with our 12 hour transit time - book the airport hotel for 100 something € or go in the city while completely wrecked with 0 motivation. But that didn't last long! As we were going to immigration desks, a lady took a look at our tickets and gave us the best news ever: we were eligible for 24 hour visa and free hotel from our airline! Yay! So we got the visa, picked our hotel (yes, they gave us a list of like 10 hotels to chose from, we had no clue), got stickers with our hotel name on them and then got a shuttle bus to the location. We were there by 1PM. I fell asleep instantly. We got to eat dinner in the hotel's Japanese restaurant and then we're shuttled back to the airport. Great service!

11 January 2019

We only had the one evening in Saigon, but I can already say the city is very different then what we experienced so far in Vietnam. There is a party scene very similar to what I have seen in Cancun. Big clubs, loud music, tourists everywhere, a lot of restaurants but none really 100% appealing. We were very tired from the early start so we went for a long walk up to the river but got back to the hotel around 10:30PM because the next day we were flying off at 8AM (so wake up again at 5AM)
At 12 we checked out and waited for an hour for our taxi to the Futa bus station in the city. It was good because I still felt a bit sick so I drank some coke and enjoyed the view and tranquility of the place. We got to the bus station around 1:20PM and our bus was at 2. Once in it we got to see that we actually have a lot of space to strech our legs for the 3:30h drive (more me, Daniel not so much). The family helped us reserve the tickets for this. On the way to Saigon we got to see some interesting ways of using scooters (see pics). After we arrived we took the local bus to the center of Saigon. Bus no.2 for 5k Dong each - very very cheap and again, interesting to experience the traffic in public transportation. 1 hour later we arrived at the hostel in one of the little narrow side streets in the center - in our attempts to find it, we got a glimpse into local life as well.
Mekong Delta part 2: We jumped on another boat just to have some masterfully cut delicious pineapple. Next stop: see how rice noodle are made. It was a family business - they had their own little rice noodle atelier in their backyard. It was interesting to see the process - very basic but requires a lot of skill to do perfectly. They produce on order and sometimes work over night. We then had some time to rest and chat. Last we went to a street market, where we could see again the variety of things people sell on the street. On the boat ride home I got a bit sick so we had to be picked up by scooter on the last 20 minutes. Daniel did not want to leave me alone, so the driver came to pick us up and all 3 of us carried on on the poor little scooter on the country road. The driver was very skilled to manage the weight though. We were both very impressed. Once back I went to rest a bit and it felt like a perfect quiet summer day. I snoozed and Daniel enjoyed the hammocks on the balcony.
Mekong Delta floating market - part 1: The 2nd day we started very early, 5AM wake up call for a 5:30AM pick up to go to the Cai Rang floating market. We had in our tour 2 girls from the US as well. We started directly on boat and had a very good English speaking guide. He told us a bit about local customs, e.g. that poorer people build their houses on the river at their own risk to avoid paying land taxes. The police could come anytime and tell them to tear their place down. It took us around 40 minutes to get to the market. Once there we had breakfast on the boat! Coffee and rice noodle soup. We learned that this was a wholesale market and most people there are sellers coming with products for 4-5 days at a time. They all show what they sell on a pole on the boat and retail buyers do not usually have any favourites for specific products - they have to search & haggle every time, since the better products might come from other places each time.

10 January 2019

Mekong Delta: The accomodation, Green Village, is in the middle of a village next to the crazy busy city of CanTho. As soon as we arrived there was fruit prepared for us (dragon fruit, oranges and papaya) all of it sourced locally (the papaya tree was right next to us). We then got to see our bungalow and it was a nice surprise, a very tall bamboo building with a balcony with hammocks and a very thoughtfully designed bathroom. We then had a rest and decided to go for a cycle tour to catch the sunset. For dinner we were served rice, soya sauce, morning glory prepared with garlic, pork prepared with fish sauce and pumpkin soup (clear soup with pumpkin pieces). The mosquitos seemed very interested in the food as well. Afterwards they brought us a local desert with coconut. Later we thought we could stay outside on our balcony a bit longer. After spotting 2 HUGE (and super fast) spiders in our bathroom we decided to call it a night (since we had an early start anyway) - see lantern pic.
We checked out of the hotel around 11:30. I got to buy the bathrobe that I loved in the hotel (at the premium price of 500k dong but I just liked it so much). I also got to do some pictures with the cutest animal seats: the rhino and the elephant :D. We were at the airport very early so had to chill a bit in one of the cafes. Plenty of seating areas at the Phu Quoc airport as well. Our flight turned out to be in a miniature propeller plane (Daniel cannot stand up tall in it), there is a first for everything! We left on time 13:30ish and had a last view of the island. Off to the Mekong Delta!
Vietnam PhuQuoc quiz question: who has priority?

9 January 2019

Last full day in PhuQuoc, we had our usual morning routine: breakfast, balcony, beach. We were very lucky with the loungers and after moving seats 3 times we landed ones right in the front by the sea, score! In the time I spent here I became addicted to Mango beverages, particularly Mango Lassi and Mango Smoothies- I will never let them go. I always loved soups, so the addiction to Pho was already there before I even knew it existed. But I will definitely use more rice noodles in my soups from now on. And garlic! In the evening, Daniel had another encounter with a snake by the sea (2nd time now, first was in the Danube Delta) and he again nearly stepped on it. Nearly. No pictures to show it since we ran away as quickly & inconspicuously as we could. We had dinner: grilled squid, shrimps and PadThai at a very lively beach bar/restaurant. In order to avoid another snake encounter, we walked on the main street and Daniel finally bought something! Flip flops!

8 January 2019

Phu Quoc, on the way back from the night market: We decided to walk back to the hotel to enjoy the very alive scene just on the side of the main street. Sometimes there were sidewalks, sometimes not because of the parked cars or construction sites. Being on foot here is an adventure. If I think about it, being on wheels is definitely an adventure as well. We also discovered a very nice, hidden street with restaurants and stores right by our hotel, less crowded but with good atmosphere. We will probably check it out later as well. The main street was full of restaurants, bars, tourists and hotels. The honking is still a social thing that everyone just does constantly. There was also a Vietnamese football match going on so we could see this sport is a thing here because of all the screams of excitement we randomly heard from bars from time to time.
2nd to last full day in PhuQuoc, I woke up completely recovered. We went to the beach and enjoyed the really nice and calm water. I had a coconut water drink (directly from the coconut, should have really good hidration properties and here its just under 2€) and Daniel enjoyed the local beer. We went for a walk & had lunch a bit later at a very nice restaurant Phuong Binh: I had the fish soup (really good) and Daniel had grilled fish. This time we didn't stay for the stunning sunset since we wanted to catch the night market in the city. We took a taxi from our hotel and for 50k dongs we were there in 10minutes. The market was extremely busy and definitely with some of the pushiest sellers. There was a lot of sea food choice and improvised seat down places. We also saw the cuttest puppy and kitten little buddies having a nap. It was funny to see everyone's reaction once they saw them as well (the gasp, the smile and then the immediate take out of phone and photo snap!) They were a hit!

7 January 2019

The 3rd day in PhuQuoc was a bit tough. Daniel also felt a bit sick so we both had some troubles sleeping. We got up for breakfast and had some fruits but I had to go to bed again after. Around noon, Daniel got me from the pharmacy Buscopan, which worked great, because after a two hour nap the nausea was gone. So we could even go for some beach time and then dinner by the sea ( just a chicken soup for me and fish for Daniel). The island is famous for its fish, so I am looking forward to try it out as well. We could also see again a load of boats just on the horizon with some super powerful green lights. We have not figured out yet if they are fishing boats or cruises or whatever else they could be. A mistery we hope to unravel soon. From our balcony there is also a crazy building that turns on a full electronic display at night to show Christmassy pixely images. This is a very interesting part of the world.

6 January 2019

We have 5 nights here, yay! The 2nd day we woke up (without alarm!) before 9 to catch the breakfast. We got a table with sea view. We decided to stay on our balcony until noon since it is on the sunny side. The only thing that is not great is that although the hotel has beach lounge chairs, all of them get occupied quite early and they are anyway in the shadow - we are keen on a tan. Since we had a huge breakfast we decided to skip lunch and went instead for a dip in the sea. When it got too hot we had Mango smoothies and iced coffees in the shade. In the afternoon we went out again to catch the stunning sunset. Then we went for drinks and snacks at a bar next to our hotel and that is where I made a mistake and got a Pina Colada. Should have stayed with the beer for my tummy's sake. It seems it is a commonly known fact we should steer clear of ice cubes because nobody knows what sort of water they are made of. I read that only later, so the 2nd night was a bit tough with nausea.

5 January 2019

Phu Quoc: We are on the fifth floor on the corner with a view to the greenery on one side and the sea on the other. First evening we went for a long walk on the beach (recon), had a cocktail and a dip in the water. After coming back to the hotel I fell asleep but woke up in the evening to go for dinner at a lovely terasse on the beach. We love it here.
We woke up at 5:00AM to catch the taxi to the airport. The hosts again prepared for us iced coffees, 2 bottles of water and a sweet bread to have for the road. They also gave us as a present a box of tee. We arrived at the airport in time and waited for our 8AM flight to Saigon. There we had a 3 hour layover to PhuQuoc. Our flight was a bit delayed (12:30 instead of 12) but the airport had a lot of chilling possibilities. We chose to eat a Pho and have some coffee for Daniel and a coconut for me. We landed in PhuQuoc at 30 degrees!! We were disappointed to find out there is no bus from the airport although TripAdvisor comments were suggesting there is. So had to negotiate for a taxi to bring us to our accommodation which was just 5km away. We got a fair price of 110k Dong so we arrived early afternoon to the best hotel.

4 January 2019

Hoi An: One of the ancient houses we visited had for sale a "Greedy cup" or Confucius cup which can be filled up to 80%. If you fill it up to more than that, the whole content flows out, so you lose it all. It seems this was used to teach greed. We could buy it on the site, but for 18$, so a bit too expensive. We also found out that the city often has floodings so some of the ancient houses did not survive over the years in their original form. I had a dress and shoes custom made and bought a wallet too! In the evening we went to see the night market (a much more reasonable size than in Hanoi with a lot of street food options) and decided to seat down and eat at a different Morning Glory location (by the river) where we also got to light up a lantern to let float on the river from a very cute little girl in a Vietnamese outfit (also very good sales woman!). We then cycled back home because the next day we had an early start, again, at 5:30AM to get to the airport for Phu Quoc.
Hoi An: The town is impressive and covered in colourful lanterns hanging from trees and polls. There are shops everywhere mixed with the temples and ancient houses. Mainly leather and clothes shops, but also souvenirs. The 2nd day we woke up reasonably and had breakfast at the accomodation. We cycled a bit in the village to see more of the country side. Daniel continued documenting all chickens he could find. It was very quiet, people were working the fields, cows and dogs were hanging around. We then went to town to start our tour. We decided to just walk around and stop if we see something interesting. Hoi An is a busy town, we experience again the honking of mostly rushing scooters. The funny ones were the tuctuc cyclists that were just mimicking the honking sound "bee-beep, bee-beep" while trying to get through the crowds. We saw the famous Japanese bridge and some other houses and temples. For that we bought the ticket that allows you to visit 5 sites out of 22 in Hoi An

3 January 2019

In Hoi An, after checking in ( we were again offered tea and a short intro to what we could do around town and where we could go for food), we took a shower and went to see the town. The 25 degrees were definitely a nice change. However it was raining so we had to wear our ponchos. Also the part of the city by the river was flooded so we could not go there. We went for food to a recommended place, Morning Glory, and had a very nice experience. We had for starters the White Rose dumplings ( typical to the area, they are with shrimp and the name "white rose" comes from the description a French man gave to the cook when he was trying to explain what he ate without knowing the actual name of the dish, he compared the appearance of the spring rolls to a white rose) and the Crispy pancake (deliciousness!!). We then had the Cao Lau (noodles with marinated pork) and the My Quang (noodles with sea food). They were both delicious. We also had for drinks the local beer (Larue) and Mango Lassi.
From Ha Long Bay (descending dragon bay :) ) we took the very expensive 50$ taxi to the Hai Phong airport for our flight to Da Nang airport (next stop : Hoi An). We reached Hoi An by taxi from Da Nang airport arranged by the hotel for 16$. Our accommodation was a bit further from the center than we were expecting but they offered bikes for free so in the end it was quite nice to be able to cycle through the village/town.
I really wanted to catch the Tai Chi class in the morning at 6:15, but it was cancelled due to bad weather so we enjoyed the view from the upper deck for a while then we went down for breakfast. The next activity was visiting a fishing village and a pearl farm. Our guide first told us a bit about the people living in the Bay in the fishing village and how although they have been there for a very long time, the great majority moved to town after the Bay became UNESCO heritage site, because they were endangering it with their customs (e.g. with the way they burried the dead that contaminated the water) but also because they had very little opportunities for proper education. People from the fishing community brought us on smaller boats in their village. The scenery was very peacefull. There were a lot of doggies. At the pearl farm the guide showed us how pearls are made. Next we came back on the boat and had a cooking class:Vietnamese spring rolls. We packed & were off the boat by noon.

2 January 2019

The cruise handled everything super fast afterwards. They brought our big luggages on the boat directly to our room and they've done a little introduction before getting us to the cruise. Once on the boat we were very impressed with the finish and how smooth the sailing was. The scenery is absolutely impressive, I have seen nothing like it. We started directly with lunch and they've randomly seated us at a table with one lovely Irish couple, Charlotte and Stephen. Then we went to a cave ( can't really remember the name now) and we got a short introduction to Ha Long Bay. In the cave we could see some walls were shiny (sand stone) and some not (lime stone). As next activity they were offering kayaking but since we were cold and tired we decided to take a rest and go on the upper deck for a coffee with egg ( and whiskey as we found out later), a typical Vietnamese drink. Daniel also particularly liked the egg biscuits. Later we meet again with the couple and had dinner.
The trip to Ha Long Bay was an adventure. We left earlier than planned (bus was supposed to pick us up at 7 but at 6:30 we heard knocks on our door - the bus was already there). So we got ready in a rush. The family prepared some delicious coffees for us but we didn't have time to drink. Also they gave us some snacks for the road (2 chocolate cookies and some rice crackers) There was no real indication if this is the right bus or not. We drove for 20min then the guy told us to get out to wait for another bus, again we had no clue what to expect or when. Then a bigger bus came and the guys at the stop told us to get it. We kept mentioning the name of our cruise but they were just agreeing with us with no sign they understood what we were asking for. In an approx. 3 hour trip we had a stop for toilet and snacks. Thankfully we had Google Maps so we sort of knew we are on the right track. We finally got to the pier where everyone was embarking and we found the Paloma office.

1 January 2019

Ninh Binh: We decided to go for 3 sites - full day trip: first the viewing point on top of a limestone at the Hang Mua Cave site, then the Trang An boat tour and then the 2nd largest temple in the world: Bai Dinh. We rented a scooter from the family for the day - really cheap and with gas and helmets. The first stop was the hike, challenging because of the high stairs but totally worth it for the view on top. It took us about 2 hours in total- to get there, climb & take loads of pictures. We then went to the Trang An boat tour. We chose to have a boat by ourselves and had to pay the value of 3 tickets instead of 2. We chose tour 3.We visited some temples, the site where King Kong was filmed and went through some very low caves (Daniel had to literally sit on the floor of the boat to fit). Last on the tour was the temple complex. The whole site was very well taken care of with amazing bonsai trees. We also got to see the view from a 15 floors tower. Once back we had a delicious hotpot.

31 December 2018

We arrived at the train station in Ninh Binh late afternoon and our hosts picked us up to get us to the accomodation. As we arrived they served us tea made fresh from leaves from trees from the region ( did not get to find out which trees exactly) and gave us an amazing map of all attractions close by. They also advised us on what we should proritize since we only had one full day there. Luckily it was what we were planning to do as well. We then had a very nice dinner on their roof top open terasse: vegetarian and chicken spring rolls+pho bo. Since it was very cold outside (we found out later they just had their coldest day there in many years) we suffered a bit until the warm food came, then it was all fine:). We also had some rice wine with lichi made by the father. Everyone was very friendly and communicated to us either directly or through the Google translate voice app. We found out from the daughter that the North is famous for their tea and the South for their coffee.
in the train to Ninh Binh. our hotel arranged for the tickets for the train. we are aware we paid a premium ( 21 dollars for both of us with seat reservation) but it was a no hassle deal. the hotel is 15 min walk from train station, so really easy access. the train was mainly full with locals. it was very interesting to see on what the locals snacked on the approx. 3 hour trip: boiled eggs, corn, something wrapped in banana leaves ( we assume rice cakes)
Today was our last day in Hanoi. We had again an amazing breakfast and really can recommend Blue Hanoi Inn as a great place to stay in Hanoi. We visited a place of worship, Dinh Nam Huong, with an impressive set up ( such as the dragon staircase in the pics). We then just walked in the old center and really, there are so many local habits to observe that you can spend a week just drinking coffee and looking at people, motorcycles, shops and buildings on the streets.

30 December 2018

We started the 2nd day in Hanoi quite late. We had a delicious breakfast at the hotel in the rooftop terasse and could catch a look at the town and it's quircky houses - they tend to be very tall and narrow because of the expensive and limited ground space. We started at the Hoàn Kiếm lake with the tour Lonely Planet recommended for Old town but we didnt get to finish it. We crossed the red Huc Bridge to the Ngoc Son temple but we didn't visit the site. On P. Ma May the tour took us to a Heritage House, an old merchant's house with an impossible to sleep on wooden bed and lovely garden. We had coffee with milk while watching a huuuge train pass at not even 1m distance (a must see). I was tricked by a street food vendor too (i guess part of the Vietnam experience). In the evening we watched a water puppet show and had a behind the scenes intro with the puppet masters. Last we had a Pho Bo on the street on tiny table & chairs and had a glimpse at the night life after midnight. Yay

29 December 2018

Hanoi: We arrived at the hotel around 5:30PM after many hours/days of very little sleep so we were quite confident we will go directly to bed. However since the hotel is in the heart of the old city and the atmosphere was so vibrant, we decided to go out for a short evening walk. Hanoi has 6-7 million inhabitants so it can get overwhelming sometimes. We got some tips from our hotel receptionist and then we were out. First thing we got some winter jackets since it was much colder then we expected (10 degrees with a breeze) and we were freezing with our hoodies.
First stop from Frankfurt was actually Paris where we got the flight from China Southern to Guangzhou. We arrived in China at local time 6:20AM, German time midnight. Our flight to Hanoi was delayed in Guangzhou by 1 hour, so after 7 hours of waiting we are super super tired and extremely cold. The airport is freezing. The hot noodle soup and the matcha latte helped.