Saturday, 18 July 2009

Vietnam: The Route so Far

We are way behind schedule with posting our journey so far and I will sit down and get more on paper soon. This posting is a journey planner entry for anyone doing our trip in the future - the photos and superlative nonsense will follow soon. And "Hi mum, we are alive!" Just thought I would let you know!
We are currently in the very quaint and tranquil Hoi An, Vietnam. I say tranquil but maybe this is not altogether true, there are over three hundred tailors all wanting to make me a suit and the same number of motorbike taxis all wanting to ferry me to the marble mountains. But I like Hoi An, a lot. It is rustic and romantic, and very alive.
The route that we have taken so far is as follows:
Kep (Cambodia) to Ha Tien (Vietnam), a small city where not many people speak English and we actually had to actively look for a man on a motor bike to take us anywhere. Accommodation was dire in the budget range, based on the handful of places that we looked at. The place we did stay in seemed to double up as a brothel, not that I checked that is. It is close to the sea and quite refreshing in its complete lack of Western tourists. The sea was populated with modest Vietnamese swimming fully dressed, complete with jeans and polo neck shirts.
From Ha Tien we took a bus to Rach Gia (two hours) before getting a connecting bus to Can Tho (apprx two hours again from memory) the same afternoon. As opposed to what the touts may tell you, you can get your connecting tickets with in the bus station and there is no need to jump on a motorbike to go anywhere else. Rach Gia seemed to be a bustling, commercial town and may have been worth a night or two, but the thirty visa is a pain in the proverbial. Rach Gia does not seem like a tourist town and there in will lie it's attraction for some.
Can Tho is beautiful and combines a busy centre with a charming water front. The main reason for our stay here was the floating market. I went twice, leaving at 4.45am each morning to catch first light and then sunrise. It is beautiful, but it gets very hot. Early is your best bet! Later in the day you can catch up on your sleep. It is too hot to do anything else.
Our next leg took us from Can Tho to Saigon. A lot of people we have spoken to hated the big city, I found it fascinating. It's museums are great and me eyes were roved like a chameleon's with all the sights. I was there for close on a week which has seriously messed up my schedule.
After the bustle of Saigon it was time to hit the beach at Mui Ne, a beach with real waves and a slight chill to the water. Sundowners in the evening are fantastic and the cocktails are on special so it is difficult to go too far wrong. Mui Ne is also famous for it's red and white sand dunes, get there for dawn and watch the sun come up. The jeep driver may try and bully you into spending a but few minutes there but it is all part of the game. There is also a brilliant fishing village and the fairy spring, both worth investigating.
From Mui Ne we moved on to mountainous Dalat, a vertiginous drive through stunning mountains capped with clouds and a melody passengers throwing up into blue plastic bags from the serpentine bends. No trip to Dalat would be complete without getting a Easy Rider (steady on, that is the name of a company of professional guides who take you through the country by motorbike) for at least a day (US$20.00 for a day trip). They are expensive, but in terms of value for money they are worth every cent of that twenty dollars. A longer trip (eg the three day trip with them from Dalat to Nha Trang) would set you back $65.00 a day, if time was on our side we may have done this. The guides are excellent and from a photographic point of view you have all the freedom that a bus deprives you of. And the scenery is stunning. In fact if time was on our side I WOULD have done this. Next time.
We took the bus from Dalat to Nha Trang, again rich with the sound of travel sick passenger and verdant, heady scenery. Nha Trang is famous for it'sturquoise ocean and 8km beach, it also has some very cool pagodas and photographic galleries. The final leg was the eleven hour bus slog from Nha Trang to Hoi An. Next stop Hue!

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