A Travellerspoint blog

May 2015

Hoi An

33 °C
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We arrived in Hoi An on the 19th May 2015, after a rather interesting ‘local’ bus ride. Prices for the bus trip seemed to be whatever the guy felt like at the time, and we caught up with some Canadian travellers and shared travel stories which made the trip go quite quickly. After a brief taxi ride to the hotel, we started to settle in to our new lodgings.

When we look for hotels, we consult a number of information sources. Tripadvisor is one of them and Tania’s sharp eye managed to find the Sun River Hotel, recommended for families, and what a gem it is. It sits immediately adjacent to the Thu Bon River and is about 2km from the Central Market and Old Town Area.

Our breakfasts consists of a table adjacent to the river with some amazing views.
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One of the hotel staff, Win, has taken to the boys and from day one made sure they had enough breakfast by bringing them out more food as needed. Tan has taken to the ice coffee’s but for me, it’s the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk which are an absolute dream. It’s quiet where we sit and extremely relaxing and the boys happily excuse themselves back to the room giving Tania and I 15-30minutes of time together to soak up the atmosphere.
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There is a huge range of restaurants here offering a great variety of food. Due to the location of the hotel, it involves a 5-10 minute bike ride there and back but after a few days of practice we have all pretty much mastered the bikes and it has become part and parcel of our meal routine.
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Tan and I came to Hoi An about 11 years ago and although there has been some development around the place, it’s still retained it’s charm and great vibe. The UNESCO World Heritage listing has also stopped it from being overdeveloped. The Old Town area, while looking a bit run down in areas, just has an amazing beauty to it and you can’t help soaking up the atmosphere as you walk/cycle through it.
By day...
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And by night...
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And finally, another great hotel feature is the pool. We have had some fairly humid and hot days and nothing beats a daily dip in the pool straight after schoolwork and lunch.
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Posted by tollidaytravels 07:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mui Ne and Nha Trang


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So we got to Mui Ne and realised there isn't really that much there! The whole place has been built there for the beach, but to be honest we weren't that impressed with the beach! We'd found a great little hotel run by a family with a lovey garden which we ate breakfast in every morning though, and had a very nice swim in a pool located next to the beach at another hotel.
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We decided there wasn't much reason to stay any longer, so after 3 nights we caught another bus to Nha Trang (a sleeper!). The boys always travel really well on the long bus trips (they're used to it!), and Ash and I love watching the scenery go by.
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The strongest impressions I had were of mangos, lotus flowers and cows. The landscape was surprisingly arid, I suppose I had the impression of Vietnam as being covered in jungle, but it actually has an amazing range of landscapes, like Australia. The people had turned the arid landscape into hay and rice fields, we saw farmers harvesting hay by hand/pitch fork and throwing the hay onto wooden carts pulled by oxen. For a country that's moving ahead so quickly in so many ways there are some things that are still so very traditional!

And wow, what a first impression Nha Trang made. Ash and I are very big on the feel of a place, it's amazing how you can like, or not like, a place for no other reason than the feel (or vibe!) of a place. We really liked Nha Trang straight away. Once we checked into the hotel we wandered around, as we do when we first get to a place, and checked out the beach. Beautiful!

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Nha Trang is big enough to have everything some wandering tourists could need, like stacks of restaurants and an unbelievably number of coffee houses (coffee is very important to the Vietnamese and Vietnamese coffee is great, especially iced with condensed milk, awesome.....). So we set about settling into our new place, balancing some wandering around exploring with school work, and trying to avoid the very hot humid weather. I'd see some clouds building up on the horizon some days and start hoping that a storm would come and cool everything down. So far, that has happened very rarely unfortunately, it's not the wet season yet! But a trade-off for the hot days is the lovely evenings, all the locals hang around outside from about 5pm onwards, when the sun loses it's strength. It's still very warm but pleasant, a great time to wander around.

Most of the hotels that we've been staying in don't have pools, so with the hot weather Ash and I try to work out ways to get a swim or two in somewhere. Luckily, there's a place in Nha Trang called the Louisanna Brewhouse, on the beach, where if you rent two sunbeds (for 40 000 Dong, or AUS$2) for the day, you can swim in their pool AND swim in the beach. Awesome! So we spent a day down there and it was lovely, the ocean water was just the right temperature, and when we wanted to get away from the sand we'd hop in the pool. Only problem was that apart from the umbrella over the sunbeds, there was no shelter, so despite reapplying sunscreen we all got burnt a bit. I'm happy to say this was the first time the boys have been sunburnt, and now they know what it feels like so we don't want to repeat the experience!

Cameron turned 6 early May, so the day before I was out exploring the local area for a toy store. One of the great things about Nha Trang is that it hasn't yet succumbed to the massive department store theme unlike many of it's Asian counterparts, but it would have made things a lot easier when looking for a pressie and cake! After much wandering around and asking I managed to find a LEGO (or cheap Chinese rip off) train which Cameron loved, plus an icecream cake (thanks Baskin Robbins!).

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A couple of days later, Ash woke up early in the morning with stomach cramps, which quickly degenerated into constant pain and extremely frequents trips to the bathroom. When a fever turned up the next day we decided it was time for some extra help. We visited a local hospital and after many ultrasounds and blood tests Ash was diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis and placed on antibiotics and a drip. He stayed for a couple of days but then wanted out because he'd had enough of the whole hospital thing! It took a week but he's much better now, thank goodness, and back to normal.

While we were waiting for Ash to recover, we spent a bit of time at the Lanterns restaurant nearby, where Cameron worked his charm and ended up behind the bar making fruit juices! WP_20150513_001.jpgWP_20150513_004.jpgWP_20150515_003.jpg

The boys and I headed down to the beach for a swim at about 5pm (wanting to avoid being burnt again!), and found the water full of locals that head down after work/school every day. People were swimming around fully clothed, maybe as an impromptu swim, or maybe because the Vietnamese are actually quite modest, you don't see a Vietnamese lady swimming in a bikini that's for sure! The ladies here cover themselves up completely while getting around, despite the heat, in long sleeved jackets and pants to preserve their skin and not go brown. I don't know how they do it! The boys and I were the only Westerners there, which always warrants a few stares.

Once Ash got better, we visited the Long Sun Pagoda, a 19th century pagoda that still has monks living there. We watched part of a sermon, then wandered up the stairs to the giant seated Buddha.

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We ended up staying in Nha Trang for 10 days, but decided to keep moving on and check out Danang, which is basically the gateway to Hoi An. The last time we came to Vietnam (11 years ago!), we didn't stay in Danang but passed straight through to Hoi An, so we thought we'd check Danang out a bit this time. Because the distance from Nha Trang to Danang is huge, we decided to take the sleeper train which would take about 12 hours. Another adventure! Cameron's first sleeper train which he was super excited about. Unfortunately, there were no "soft sleepers" left (better mattresses and only four per cabin), so we went for the "hard sleepers" instead, which, as you can tell by the name, had harder mattresses and six beds to a cabin. Luckily, we ended up sharing with a couple of nice Vietnamese ladies that didn't speak any English. Ash and I didn't get much sleep (perhaps due to the announcements over the loud speakers whenever the train stopped), but the boys slept and had lots of fun. We had a little bit of time before reaching Danang to look at the countryside, rice paddies with people actually ploughing using an ox!

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It turns out that there wasn't too much to see in Danang, although there was a great beach and some impressive bridges (one particular bridge was the shape of a huge yellow dragon which was very cool). We only stayed a couple of nights, then caught the local bus to Hoi An, which is about 30 minutes away. And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be the topic for our next post!

Posted by tollidaytravels 06:23 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Saigon


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I’m once again taking the opportunity of a long bus ride amongst the crazy driving to update the blog, we’ve just left Saigon (HCMC) and we’re heading over to Mui Ne on the coast. We ended up staying in HCMC for 2 weeks, which has gone by amazingly quickly. We decided to stay for the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war, or “Liberation Day” as the locals call it. The intention was to watch the marching and parades that were planned along the road that ultimately terminates at the Reunification Palace (where the Viet Cong tanks drove over the gates and took hold of the Palace, and therefore of South Vietnam) and get involved in other activities, but it turned out the whole area was blocked off and it was invitation only! We ended up watching some on TV, we were expecting various tanks and other artillery but it was just the different units of current and past soldiers and some very bored looking officials, so it turned out well in the end!

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The ANZAC ceremony was great, just a short service at one of the RMIT facilities, hosted by the Australian and New Zealand embassies. It was great to be in a place where our soldiers have actually fought for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.

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It’s been great staying in HCMC a bit longer because we’ve had the time to check out places that we would never have gone to otherwise. We worked out the great bus system pretty quickly and made our way to lots of destinations at a much cheaper rate (compared to taxis). KizCiti was one of the destinations. It was a great day out, where the kids got to try out lots of different occupations and “earn” money that they could then spend on other things. The boys were airline pilots, bankers, magicians, radio announcers, bakers, pharmacists, firemen and doctors. Plus they had a cool water activity area. We actually ran out of time, they could have had a go at being policemen and soldiers, or mechanics. Maybe next time!

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We also checked out a new shopping centre in District 7 (HCMC is split into districts rather than suburbs). They had a new kids area there with lots of hands-on activities. Yes, more kids areas. We actively look for places for the boys to blow off a bit of steam and do some normal kid stuff, it balances out all the rest of the sightseeing that we do, plus it’s a good activity for the afternoon after a morning of school work!

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Ash went on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, about an hour and a half out of HCMC. The tunnels were dug out using picks and baskets by the people of Cu Chi, 250km worth! They thought of everything, areas to cook, places for women and children to live, ventilation, booby traps for the enemy. The tunnels are so cleverly camouflaged you’d never know they were there. The people would pop out of the ground, shoot a soldier then disappear again. Imagine the state of mind you’d be in as the “enemy” you’re in the jungle, you’re comrades are being killed but no one knows how or by who. Anything the Americans did to deal with them was counteracted by another clever strategy, they were amazingly determined and inventive!

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Just like Cambodia, we’ve left some friends behind at the Blue River Hotel in Pham Ngu Lao. We were told we were family, to go into the kitchen to get drinks from the fridge whenever we wanted. Tui (the owner) made me rice porridge and ginger tea when I had a bit of a dodgy tummy, they fed Cameron and Lachlan chocolate and found some birthday music for Lachlan. There were two Tuis, and the other Tui was extremely knowledgeable on restaurants and other destinations, and was able to explain some of the Vietnamese idiosyncrasies that we were not familiar with! Lovely, lovely people. We’re always sad to leave them behind but we never know who we’ll meet next!

Posted by tollidaytravels 03:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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