Another ridiculously content heavy post for most of our time in Vietnam – I really need to get better at uploading stuff as it happens rather than watching episodes of 30 Rock, mainly so I don’t have to spend 3hrs tearing my hair out and cursing WordPress.
For around three weeks of our five in Vietnam we used Hanoi as our base; Hanoi > CatBa > Hanoi > Ninh Binh > Hanoi > Sapa > Hanoi > CaoBang > Hanoi… then Hue > HoiAn > Nha Trang > Saigon. In general all the people we met were great throughout the whole country.
Special thanks have to go to Rhiannon who was working in Hanoi and made us feel at home whenever we hung out at her place for home cooked meals, had dinner with her parents Mike and Gally when they were in town (there’s a special thanks for them coming soon) and generally being fantastic.
A couple of days or so spent getting to and around Ninh Binh, most famous for the Tam Coc boat trip that takes punters along a river and through a series of caves. The draws in our basket were the Cuc Phoung National Park, which hosts a primate centre for animals rescued from trade and mistreatment in captivity and some rad windy single lane roads for motorbiking, and the Trang An Grottoes – a similar concept to Tam Coc system but allegedly less sales touty and ‘pristine’.
Sapa is well known for its trekking and hill tribes, we spent a few days enjoying the cooler weather and quieter surroundings before heading off on a trek to Mt Fanzipan (aka Fancypants).
This group of Vietnamese youngsters rocked up to camp as it was getting dark. As we were getting ready to go to sleep one of the girls started singing amazing songs in Vietnamese and we all drifted off after twenty minutes of serenading. In true Vietnamese fashion, that lasted about 2 hrs before they were all up and chatting again.
The Ban Gioc waterfalls lay basically straddling the north-eastern border of Vietnam and China with Cao Bang as the jumping point, about a 10hr bus trip from Hanoi. On the day after we arrived we hired a motorbike to head out, realising that they were roughly 4 or 5hrs away from the town. Our guidebook had a small map with a rough direction of the road, but after exhausting our confidence in the general reckoning I stopped to ask a bunch of friendly looking guys for something more specific. We headed in the direction they indicated and were waved down by one police officer who waited until I stopped the bike and dismounted before he stood at attention and saluted me (a gesture which I returned, much to his enjoyment). Meanwhile his comrade was sitting at a card table grinning and shaking his head and after a minute of gesturing as to what they were after they waved us on and cracked up laughing.
Long story slightly shorter, the directions we got were wrong, which we found out after riding for two hours. I managed to grab a little bit of time on the way back, refuelled and set out in the right direction, but after a few more hours we were still only 40% of the way, the sun was lowering in the sky and we decided to head back.
Failing on objectives while travelling, or any time for that matter, isn’t one of my favourite things to do… but we have been lucky in that it hasn’t happened much. In this case we did miss the Ban Gioc waterfalls which was on our list from before we left home. But we had a great day driving through some amazing country and blacksmiths villages, the surreal few minutes involving the police which is enough to make it worthwhile.
Most of our time(s) in Hanoi involved eating and drinking so here’s a few food related pics. The first couple are from the Hanoi Social Club which became one of our favourite spots to spend some time
Pho from our neighbourhood Pho lady – dosing it up for heat with a great little sambal.
Ancient citadel, base for the Demilitarised Zone from the American Vietnam War, Khe Sanh and some of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Ancient trade city – which means beautiful architecture. Oh, and heaps of tailors and custom shoe makers. Culinary speaking, Hoi An is home to the Cao Lao noodle dish – which features a hokkien noodle with a subtle smokey flavour, slices of roast pork, pork cracking croutons (1cm cubed), bean sprouts, salad greens and Vietnamese herbs (basil, mint, coriander) Delicious. The noodles are prepared from well water around the town, with the smokey flavour apparently coming from using a ‘lye’ made using wood ash. I don’t know much about soap making, but when I searched what a ‘lye’ was that was what came up. I think regular smoking techniques will probably do the trick in terms of replicating back home…
Beach spot, no beach weather. That didn’t stop a ton of Russian tourists getting their Speedo’s on and trying to score some rays. Another day on the motorbike seeing the Cham temples, countryside and some of the southern beaches.
Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon
While in Saigon we caught up with our old friend Lena (who we’ve met up with every month or so since Indonesia), went out to the Cu Chi Tunnels used during the Vietnam War, achieved a bit of administration and relaxed.
GET SOME! AK47 – $1.67 per cartridge