Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Vietnam | The Journey from South to North

After saying goodbye to the teaching and forest volunteers we left behind in Phnom Penh, we took a short tuk tuk ride to the bus station and waited for hours for our night bus to leave - we found out later that the driver had taken a nap. To pass the time myself, Cat and Miri pulled faces, ate pringles and oreos till we felt sick, watched the other trail members attempt to sleep and contemplated taking sneaky photos (open mouths, drool and random subconscious movements...) which kept us entertained for the hours we endured on the non-air conditioned bus. Eventually we set off and reached the Cambodia-Vietnam border at 7:30am and proceeded through passport control and so forth.

The journey from the border to Ho Chi Minh City was over in no time and we arrived around lunch-time. As we sleepily plodded off the bus we were hounded by taxi drivers urging and pushing and pulling us to get in their taxi. Luckily for us, Miri knew they would only rip us off by charging too much for the distance we would need to go. But our hostel was a five minute walk away from where we had been dropped off so, naturally, we walked. By this point I was getting fairly good at swiftly hoisting my over-sized pink bag onto my back and trekking after the others towards our new home for the night. When we arrived in the hostel we were all ecstatic to be sharing a room altogether. Officially the trail was reunited and so we would begin our adventures again! We chilled in the room for a bit before heading down the road in search of food and exploring the City - we visited the huge central market, a Cathedral which was meant to look like Notre-dame and the post office.

The following day we all went on a 'Temple and Tunnels' tour. The temple we visited was a mixture of religions and had an eerie feel - perhaps due to the various images of one eye reduplicated around the place, following you around as you walked through the intricate brightly coloured architecture. The tunnels on the other hand were very interesting. In those few hours we spent there I learnt a lot about Vietnamese history and their view on the War. Some of it I found upsetting and couldn't believe the terrors they went through and strength the nation has and holds today; much like their neighbouring country Cambodia. But I also felt disturbed by certain things displayed, all of which were forms of defense against the Americans. However, I did very much enjoy the opportunity to crawl through the "euro" tunnel they have created for westerners - we being bigger an all! For the second time in my life I also relished the chance to eat cassava or taro leaf again. Yummy! ...I really liked Ho Chi Minh and definitely wished I could have spent more time here to explore and really soak up the history and culture. Alas, maybe on another trip.

Next we headed north to the town of Mui Ne which is on the coast and in my top places to visit again in South-East Asia! Here we sampled Vietnamese wine, ate freshly caught seafood in a restaurant overlooking the beach, surfed and sunbathed to our hearts content, went sand-boarding (ish) and ran, jumped, rolled and skidded down the sand-dunes and ran away from a vicious cow in a mini red sand dune canyon. We only stayed here for a few days but I was desperate to stay longer, surf more and work on my tan!

After yet another mammoth bus journey, we arrived in Nha Trang which again I loved, particularly the nightlife. I think I had some of my best ever nights out here filled with drunken hilarity and mishaps. Our first evening in this wonderful, vibrant City was spent in a lovely Indian restaurant after which we swiftly checked out the clubs we'd heard many stories about. I hadn't intended in getting so drunk, but, it happens. The next day I woke up hungover and feeling ill, knowing I was about to continue drinking on the booze cruise we had arranged for us. And so ensued two days of drunken blur and anarchy and the trail bonded EVEN more. It was really nice, after the time apart, to reconnect and I felt our friendships were stronger and banter more wild by the end of it due to this. The next day, we were all a hungover mess and cured it by visiting a Vietnamese cinema and watching films before climbing back onto a night bus and heading for Hoi An.

Hoi An is a beautiful, quaint little fishing town and is just so French! I absolutely loved cycling around and seeing the most beautiful, pristine beach I have ever seen (even more so than the beaches I visited in Fiji) as well as all the stunning French architecture of the buildings. Here we said goodbye to one of our additional trail members, Becca, who joined us in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This moment really honed in to myself, and Alex that our time in South-East Asia was also drawing to a premature close. My experience of Hoi An, although an aesthetically beautiful town, wasn't entirely pleasant and I experienced some trouble with motorcyclists attempting to grab my bag. Luckily for me I wasn't carrying one and I was with a whole group of people I knew. This slightly tainted my experience here as, for the rest of the time, I became wary of motorcyclists, particularly at night and didn't feel up for going out at night and partying like the others.
After Hoi An we moved on to Hue. We only stayed here for a night and visited the deadly Brown Eyes bar. Cheap vodka and red bull buckets and free shots every five minutes are not a good thing. Needless to say, it was very messy.

After the events in Hue we moved on to our final stop Hanoi.

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