After crossing the border over to Vietnam and driving for about 8 hours we finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The first thing we noticed after crossing the border was that we seemed to have left the poverty of Cambodia behind us and Vietnam was more on level with Thailand (although we both agree that Vietnam is our favourite place we've been to so far). We had 4 day in Ho Chi Minh City although we only had the afternoon of the first day what with all the driving. In the evening of the first day we had to bid farewell to our tour leader Tia and 7 of our tour companions (the best ones) and we were then left with me, Jamie and Kathryn and four others (the worst ones). Then on the evening of day 2 we met our new tour leader Kian and unfortunately only 2 more people joined (an Australian couple) we were hoping for at least another 7 to join to replace the ones that had left as there was a clear split between the group now, and our part of the group had now diminished to 3!!
On the morning of day 14 we went for a walking tour with our new tour leader and went to the Museum of War Crimes (which was a little graphic in places - there were deformed foetus's in pickle jars!!!). we also went via the Reunification Palace and the Post Office (which strangely seemed to be a tourist attraction as it was built by the same guy who built the Eifel Tower).
On day 15 we organised a half day tour to the Chu Chi tunnels where we got to fire AK47's and crawl through the tunnels (which were very small and very hot). The Chu Chi tunnels are a system of underground tunnels built by the Viet Cong and where used in the American war so they could safely hide from the regular bombings. When we got back from the Chu Chi tunnels we bumped into Kathryn who had just returned from her trip to the Mekong River and had met a British guy on the tour who worked in Vietnam for a bank and treated us to drinks as he knew we were on a budget and at the end of the evening gave Kathryn 20 USD for us to have drinks with (the result of a very good night when we got to Nha Trang). That evening we boarded our overnight train for the trip to Nha Trang (this night train was much nicer and safer than the one we had done in Thailand as we were in Cabins of 4 and were able to lock the door and also store our luggage in locked compartments which gave us peace of mind to sleep on the journey).
At 5.30 the next morning our train arrived in Nha Trang (our second beach town where we were to spend 2 days). On the first day we mainly just relaxed by the beach recovering from the night train and on our first night went out for cocktails on the money we'd been given by the nice British guy, 20 USD would probably by a round for 3 people in England in Vietnam it bought us 20 cocktails to share between us and got all of us rather drunk. So much so that we spent most of the next day hungover and spent the day recovering by the beach before boarding our next night train that night bound for Hoi An.
We arrived in a town called Danang at about 5.30am the next day and travelled by bus for a further hour (seeing the sun rise over the beach on the way) to Hoi An. Although Hoi An was only a small town it was probably one of our favourite places in Vietnam and we got to stay here for 3 days and 4 nights. It is known for it's tailoring which was apparent by their being about 10 tailor shops on every street. So on the first day me and Jamie tracked down a tailor reccommended in my guide book called Mr XE's and Jamie got measured and choose his fabric (black pinstripe) for his suit which would be ready the next day.
In the morning of the next day we hired bicycles and went for a tour around the town with the group then in the afternoon Jamie went for his second fitting of his suit and with only a few adjustments that needed to be made was told to come back the next afternoon for the finished suit. We were able to keep our bicycles for the whole day so went for a long ride around the town for the rest of the afternoon and rode to the nearby beach. We also booked a Vietnamese cooking class for the following day, we were able to pick 4 meals to cook and we choose vegetarian spring rolls, chicken and sweet corn soup, fried noodles with chicken and fried beef with chilli and lemongrass.
On our final day in Hoi An (day 20 of the trip) we hired bicycles again (as we'd had so much fun the day before with them) and we went to the restaurant to do our cooking class which was really good fun and we got to write down the receipes so that we can try them again when we get home. We were also able to eat all 4 meals that we had cooked and even if I do say so myself they were really good!!! That afternoon we picked up Jamie's suit which fitted perfectly (and for 35 GBPs was a bargain!!).
The next day we left Hoi An and travelled to the next town called Hue by bus, on the way to Hue we travelled over the Hai Van Pass which is considered one of the most scenic trips in the world!! We also stoppedat Marble Mountain on the way and got to climb up the mountain to get a better view of the sceneary, luckily it was much cooler on this day and was even raining a bit which made climbing the mountain a lot easier. We arrived at Hue in the afternoon and only spent one night in Hue which we were glad about as neither of us were that keen on the town and the locals were a bit strange. So on the following evening we left Hue to board our third and final night train to Hanoi.
We arrived in Hanoi at 5.30am and as were weren't able to get into our rooms until 11am we had to put them in a day room and then went to get breakfast. After breakfast at 7am we went on a walking tour of the old quarter (the old part of town) with the group until 10am and were then able to check into our rooms and have a much needed shower!! The rest of the day we spent looking around the shops and picking up some souveniors.
On day 25 we left Hanoi for Halong Bay where we went on a boat cruise around the limestone rocks and enjoyed a seafood buffet lunch on board the boat. We stopped on route to Cat Ba Island (our destination for that night) at some caves where we were able to go inside. We spent the night in a hotel on Cat Ba Island before getting the ferry and bus the next morning back to Hanoi.
We got back to Hanoi today and have just had our final dinner with the group. We depart Hanoi tomorrow and fly back to Bangkok where we will spend 3 nights before heading down to the islands in Thailand.
Although these entries weren't as detailed as we may have liked you are now up to date with where we are on our trip and hopefully our entries will be more frequent now that we've finished our tour.