Vietnam with Ethan
To start our vietnamese adventure we went to the capital city, Hanoi.
The first thing I noticed about Hanoi/Vietnam was how many backpackers there were compared to some of the other Asian countries. We had a hotel in the middle of a bustling backpacker street which reminded my dad of Khao san road back in 90’s.
The area we were staying at was known as the old quarter and I could really understand why my dad loved backpacking back then.
Once we had dropped our bags at the room we went out to explore. One of the first things that we saw was a lady at the end of our street making what looked like a sandwich with french baguette with eggs, vegetables and other meat. We found out this was called ‘Banh Mi’.
We went for a walk all the way up to St Josephs Cathedral, getting lost in all the alleyways that made up the old quarter. We decided to stop for lunch and try the famous Banh Mi – I instantly fell in love with it and knew we would be having a lot of these.
Later that day we met with one of our other travelling families, the Wylds. We went to the aptly named, Beer Street and stopped to eat at a BBQ/hot pot place. Mine and Willows BBQ didn’t even work so that was a waste of time! But we had a fun night!
The next day we went to the famous Train Street in Hanoi. Train street is basically a long train track right in the middle of the city centre passing extremely close to houses, cafes and buildings. At certain times everyone has to rush inside the cafe while the train shoots past. The first time we turned up we found out that the trains only run first thing in the morning and last thing at night. So we went back at night and experienced the full rush of adrenalin as the train passed. It was crazy as the train sped past within touching distance! I thought train street was a fun activity and had a good vibe!
The next day we were going on the cruise to Halong bay, I was sooooo excited! To get to our boat we had to take a 4 hour transfer to the harbour. On the way we went to see a classic vietnamese water puppet show (way better than any puppet show I’ve ever seen).
Once we got to the harbour we met our guide for the cruise, Long. We all had a good laugh at how the bay was called Ha…long and he thought the bay was named after him – ha ha!
We set off at 1pm and we set sail for our first stop, which was a kayaking tour. It was extremely fun – we kayaked for about 5km across the ocean, picking up rubbish and taking in the views. On the kayaking tour we made our way through a small cave into a hidden gem of Bai tu Long. It was beautiful.
Back at the boat we watched the amazing sunset on the bay and then had the biggest dinner we’ve ever had in our lives! Sooooo much food! After dinner our guide, Long, went through what we were going to do the next day and he then asked Jasper and I to go to the lower deck. I had no idea what we were going down for. He handed us some bamboo sticks with fishing wire attached and said ‘Lets go squid fishing’. We sat on the stern of the boat for about an hour trying to catch a squid with no success.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep, we ate a huge breakfast consisting of Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle soup), Eggs, toast and coco pops!
We got changed and went to our next Kayaking spot. Again, we went out for another long kayak and when we returned we had the chance to do a bit of swimming in the bay. We jumped in multiple times and swam for a while. The current was quite strong and if your tried to go against it you would go nowhere.
We moved to our next stop where we would have a BBQ Lunch stop. We got on the tender and went to the small island. Long showed us the caves on the island and told the myth of how Halong Bay was created. We went back down to have lunch on the beach which again was humongous. There was prawns, pork, beef, chicken (I even tried some squid – ewww!).
We went back to the boat and started to make our way to the same sunset spot. Late afternoon we made our own viatnamese spring rolls after a demonstration by the chef.
We had another good nights slip then the next morning we went to the local floating fishing village and we also learnt how oysters make pearls. It was now time for home.
I had the most amazing time in Halong Bay and would definitely recommend it, even though it is very expensive!
After Hanoi we caught our first vietnamese train to Tam Coc – we even passed through train street! Tam Coc was what you would expect from Vietnam, Rice Paddies, tall limestone karsts and huge lotus ponds.
While we were there we hired scooters & bikes and visited lots of sites such as Bich Dong, Thai IV, Thung Nham Bird Park and Trang An.
My favourite part of Tam Coc was the beautiful rice paddy fields, especially at sunset.
Missing the train
As you can guess from the title we didn’t have the best train ride. We arrived at the train station late at night ready to catch our train. When it arrived at the platform we went to the carriage and some ladies checked our tickets and told us that we couldn’t board. The tickets were for the next day!
After about an hour in the train station another lady came over and said ‘would you like to stay at our hotel – it’s down the road’. We said ‘yes’ because we had nowhere else to go! The room was quite nice. But we ended up with a whole day in Ninh Binh, which was completely unexpected!
Later that night, we crossed our fingers, that again we wouldn’t be stopped and hurray we weren’t! We then headed up to the mountainous area of Phong Nha.
From the train station we caught a local bus up to where we were staying. We arrived early that morning and hired more scooters to go to the duck stop. I loved it!
Once we go there we were greeted by young kids who gave us a plate of monkey nuts, salt and peppercorn and as it turns out was a really good mix. We had a choice of options and we decided to have the basic package, but mum and dad let me have a buffalo ride too.
First up was a ride on Donald Trump (buffalo) and as it turns out was extremely fun. I waded through a river and had some photos.
Next up was our duck leader course, which sounds stupid, but trust me it was fun! We went into a pen filled with ducks and the inductor (duck instructor) who was showing us what to do picked up a bucket of food. He took a handful, threw it in the air and then said ‘bow’ and all the ducks dropped down – it was hilarious.
Then he picked another handful and walked around and the ducks followed him wherever he went. He did the bow again and then chucked more food at our feet so that the ducks chased us and started pecking us. We had to each have a go!
Then he assigned each of us with a duck which we had to throw in the air and watch it fly.
Next on the Vietnamise adventure we took a sleeper train through the rice paddies to Hoi An and our first impression was “expensive and tourist center”. The next day we went out to see the old town of Hoi An, in the morning it is tranquil and beautiful but we quickly learned that at sunset it got too busy to handle!
When we explored we went over to the central markets and bought pieces of Jack Fruit. We had no idea what it was like but gave it a shot. As it turns out it tastes like little banana sweets! Later that night we went out for dinner and we saw the beautiful lanterns lit up the street – it was amazing. The sunset was great.
Next day we went for a cycle to An Bang beach. It was really hot and mum and dad had to do all the work as there was no kids bikes, so we sat back and relaxed! We decided we wanted to stay in the peaceful and calm area of An Bang beach instead of crazy Hoi An Ancient Town.
So the next day we moved out and enjoyed the beach life for a few days! (I got sunburnt so bad when we were there) such a pain.
After An Bang we stopped in Da Nang to enjoy the evening before we went on the train. We went to have afternoon tea with Manesha and Sharon at the top of a skyscraper, it was great there was so much food (and sweets) after we went to a game center called the Helio center and played on games for hours, then went back packed up and got on the train to Nha Trang (Jaspers birthday!!).
From what we heard Nha Trang was a Russian holiday resort but none the less I was still exited because it was going to be Jaspers birthday!!!
The first day we decided to go to the Dam market.
We walked half an hour along the beautiful waterfront to a spot where Jasper and Dad told us that they just wanted to play on the beach which was perfect for me and mum so we could get some birthday presents and I also wanted to try a custard apple (which as it turns out are great).
The next day we went to the oceanographic museum and got to see sharks moray-eels and lots of turtles which was cool but the tanks were quite small and packed.
The day after was Jasper’s birthday and mum and dad said that we would go snorkelling so we were all excited. We got picked up and taken to a public harbour (we knew it was public because there was diesel fumes everywhere) and got on the boat and went out for forty-five minutes to the snorkel spot, we saw :crabs, pufferfish, barracuda and even nudibranch. It was great and I would definitely recommend it.
Later on Jasper opened his presents and cards it was a great day. We had a beach day the next day and got the train to our final stop in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City
We arrived late that day on our final Vietnamise train. We stayed in a guesthouse down a small alleyway near a busy street (like the Cambodian pub street) with loud music and kids breathing fire.
The next day we got our Banh Mi breakfast and decided to go to the famous Cu Chi tunnels, So we got on a bus for three hours and they the tunnels were so cool (and so small) we learned that North Vietnam used them as escape routes and bunkers so basically a Vietnamise could pop up pretty much anywhere (kind of like those games where a head pops up and you have to hit it with a hammer). In all the Cu Chi tunnels are a good place to if your interested in the war.
Another place we wanted to go to was the war museum so we went out to see it. As it turns out America wasn’t playing fairly they had more weapons more troops and had a murderous secret weapon called agent orange it was an extremely flammable sticky liquid that they pored over the forests to burn it to the ground and they killed millions with it. But Vietnam still won!!
I really loved Vietnam and would recommend it to anybody, it’s a fun lively place with lots of backpackers.