A Travellerspoint blog

Muine and Ho Chi Minh city

After Dalat we went to Muine which is like a Russian town. A lot of the shops and businesses are in Russian and there's a large community of them there, which is strange. Muine is a nice little beach town with some nice attractions near by.
We rented a room in a hotel on the beach which was nice but the room was melting hot in the night. They had a pool too, which was nice, and the beach right there. In the evenings some local Vietnamese and tourists played volleyball in front of the hotel which was fun to watch. I didn't partake as they were taking it very seriously, and i'm more of a joker when I play.
We decided to rent a moped and had it for a few minutes and then gave it back as we heard about police working with the locals to get money off tourists. Technically we weren't supposed to have them there apprarently. We walked the fairy stream to the end, which was really beautiful with all the colours. The we emerged on some highway with no vehicles and walked along it to the big red dunes. You could rent buggies and stuff there but we didn't bother. We found a very colourful cemetery in the dunes and walked through a really nice little beach town where we had lunch. Then we walked back to Muine along the main road.
After Muine we went to Ho Chi Minh city and got snapped up off the bus to stay with this local family that rented rooms. It was down some alleys but the family were great as they were all over seventy and you could tell they were delighted us being there. Probably more for the money than us haha.
We were staying in the touristy area so at night we found the street with the 4000dong beers, were we got very drunk. It was great, locals and tourists mingling on the streets with some locals performing fire-breathing and juggling for money.
The next day we went to the war remnants museum which was fantastic. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Some of the photos are amazing and terrifying at the same time. It's biased but it's still interesting to see what the vietnamese people went through during the war.
The next day we caught the bus to Cambodia and had to get a $20 visa.

Posted by derryfadman 05:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beer beach cemetery city museum stream moped war photography dunes chi ho minh fairy russian muine remnants Comments (0)

The Highlands

Pleiku - Buon Ma Thout - Dalat

After Quy nhon we headed into the highlands to meet some friends in Pleiku. According to LP Pleiku is just a transit town and not worth a stop, but in my opinion it was really nice. We stayed there for two nights and thoroughly enjoyed it.
At night in Pleiku they have a big market where they sell fruit and vegetables. I presume it lasts all night because we were there until 3am and the market kept getting bigger and busier. It was cool to see, smell, hear and taste everything that was going on there. There was a great energy in the place and everyone was really friendly even though they had hardly any English, and we couldn't speak Vietnamese. We spent $3.50 on 8 baguettes, 5 carrots and 18 avocados. Super cheap! Random buys I know, but well worth it.
During the day we walked around the town and found people relaxed and friendly. For dinner we found a cool restaurant, where we had an audience of ten people watching us as we tried to order haha. We ordered goat and ostrich. The goat was standard, but the Ostrich was quite tasty as it was cooked in a pumpkin, so it was interesting, too.
The next day our friends headed off to Quy Nhon and we went to Buon ma Thout. We were hoping to catch a connecting bus to Lak lake, but we were too late so we had a stopover in Buon. We weren't in the town for long but it seemed cool and for dinner we found a restaurant where you could make your own spring rolls.
In the morning we decided to skip Lak lake altogether and head straight to Dalat which is known as the “adventure” capital of Vietnam. It was my friends birthday so we decided to do an outdoorsy activity to use up the extra day there. At around 9pm we went into Viet Horizon tours and inquired about the canyoning. We chose option too which was a longer day and only cost $28.
At 9am the next morning we set off with our two great guides. They both had great English and were really encouraging and fun to be around. Cuong was the manager and was very relaxed and happy. Peter was a university student studying tourism. He was very chatty and enjoyed the opportunity to practice his English
We had a quick safety lesson but we had both abseiled before so we were fine. We did three abseils off smallish cliffs, about 10 metres. After that we had a spot of swimming under a waterfall where the current was just slightly too strong for me. I'm not the best swimmer haha. We also had the option of going down a waterfall which was like a natural slide , so we did that. At the bottom I had a bit of a panic as the suction is strong and then I was pushed in the wrong direction..of course. It was fine though as there are rocks to climb back out and if you're a decent swimmer, you'll be fine. They then gave the option to slide down head first, which I didn't do, but in hindsight I should have as you come up much faster that way for some reason. Then we did a free jump into a pool where you could jump from 11m or 7m. I scrambled down to the 7m and jumped....eventually.
Now comes the exciting, fun, and scary part. Here we had to abseil down a (supposedly) 25m waterfall, in the middle of the waterfall. The rocks were slippy under your feet, obviously, and the water was hitting your legs as you go down. The rope wasn't long enough for the full descent so for the last 4 or 5m you just let go and drop into the water, which sounds scarier than it was. It was great fun.
The last part was the “washing machine” waterfall. You basically have to lower yourself down the rope into the middle of the waterfall, where the water hits you everywhere and you start to spin around. Again you have to drop a little at the end. With the water all around you it's difficult to breathe so you lower yourself quite quickly. Before you let go you have to remember to take a breath but it's difficult. After you drop you come out of the water very quickly so it's fine. After that there were smiles and high-5s all around, and lunch. After lunch we headed back to the city. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
After that we rented mopeds and drove around the mountains, which was beautiful.

Posted by derryfadman 05:46 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam waterfall dalat highlands ostrich ma abseiling canyoning buon thout pleiku Comments (0)

Hoi An and Quy Nhon

Hoi an was a pleasant bus ride from Hue. Some of the scenery along the route was stunning, and it is an area strongly recommended for easy riders, but something we didn't do. We had our hotel booked for the first time and were picked up at the bus station which was great. Out hotel was $12 a night and decent for the price, until we learned you could get a hotel with pool for $10 haha.
It is quite a nice little town which looks really beautiful when it's illuminated at night with lots of lanterns all over the town. We wandered around looking for some “Cao Lao”, which was the local delicacy. We found some on a boat on the river, where the atmosphere was enjoyable, but the food wasn't. Thinking it must be better than this, we set off looking for a second dinner. We crossed over the bridge and turned to the left. At the end of the street, past all the restaurants, is a lane lined with picnic benches. This is where the local families who don't own restaurants, can offer their food. Every second bench is a new family. We walked past every bench until the very end and the woman there was delighted we chose her. We were glad we did too because her Caulau was delicious! The food was so good we ate with her two nights trying the pho, fried rice, caulau, wontons and white rose. All dishes were superb. I fully recommend that street if all the other families cook like that. Also, everywhere in Hoi an they have signs for “fresh beer 4,000VNO” which is a local beer. It's a local beer which was quite tasty and very cheap.
There are two beaches outside Hoi-an, a busy one to the east, and a quiet one to the north called An Bang. We rented bikes and cycled to An Bang. The beach was relatively quiet and nobody really hassled us so it was great. The weather was beautiful, the sand was white and clean, and the water was refreshingly cold. It was a nice, relaxing way to start the day. That evening we met a Polish couple who were good fun, so we hung out with them.
The next day we wandered around the town and into the local market, which sold everything. We got taken to tailor shops a couple of times as Hoi- an is famous for them. We decided not to get anything though.

After Hoi-an we went to Quy Nhon, it was toss up between there and Nha Trang and we picked Quy Nhon because we heard it was less resorty and touristy. Also, they have a leper colony there.
It was evident that this was a less visited place as cheaper hotel options were a little difficult to find. Luckily we got off the bus outside some cheap hotel right along the beach, so we stayed there. It was called Anh Vg and was $10 which was fine and the room had a sea view, from across the road.
The beach there was nice and it's pretty long and in the evening there is a market down on the left side which was quaint. They were also supposed to have an old tank half buried in the sand, but they had removed it before we got there. `
As we only had one full day there we decided to rent bikes again and tour around. We had heard there was a leper colony and that the beach around it was supposed to be beautiful, so we decided to head there for a look. The ride out there was up a steep hill for two kilometres which we had to walk as one of the bikes broke, and the chain kept coming off. Once at the top though, we had to freewheel down the other side with brakes that barely worked. As you can imagine, the bikes were rubbish.
We arrived at the place where the colony was, and headed for the beach. It was a long beach and had quite a bit of rubbish and rusty nails on it. The old area of the colony was interesting enough but I didn't get to see where they live now as Kevin was too scared to get too close to them, haha.
After a little sunbathing and nosing around we decided to checkout the other sights of Quy Nhon, which consisted of a pagoda, a big Budda, and a couple of towers.


Posted by derryfadman 20:09 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach white rose hoi an colony nha trang lao cao leper quy nhon caulau Comments (0)

Hue, Vietnam

Before we arrived in Hue, the bus stopped in dong Ha which is about two hours from Hue. Dong Ha is very close to the old DMZ (De-militarized zone) and while we were having breakfast there, the cafe owner asked us if we wanted a tour of the DMZ and then continue on to Hue on a different bus. We decided to do the trip but there was some confusion about the price which didn't become apparent until we were well into the trip. We ended up being overcharged but it was our own fault for not being clear enough at the beginning because we were tired. So if you do it, make sure you agree the price beforehand.
We went to the old DMZ where Vietnam was divided into two by the Ben Hai river. They had reconstructed the old bridge and we learned a lot about the history of the war. Then we went to the Vinh Moc tunnels which was excellent. We learned that sixty families had built two kilometers of tunnels with some being as deep as twenty five meters. They lived there on and off for six years while the war was fought and it was also one of the most heavily bombed sites by the Americans, who unsuccessfully tried to collapse the tunnels. The tunnels are mostly unchanged and I had to bend over in most of them (I'm 6ft), so my back was a little sore after roughly an hour walking through them, so I couldn't imagine being in there for six years. They had tiny rooms for each family, storage rooms, a hospital and only one toilet for six hundred people, which was a hole. Also they had limited light so they mostly lived in the dark. When I turned my flashlight off it was pitch black. Also, as far as they know, at least seventeen babies were born underground in the dark. Being there was a surreal experience and a major eye-opener.
After the tunnels we got a bus to Hue where we stayed in a great hotel called Phuong Lan for three nights. The staff were very friendly and helpful and got us a room in Hoi before we left. Great service.
That night we went to Huebackpackers and had 2-4-1 pizza, which was pretty crap. We stayed there for a while drinking and chatting, then we went to Octopussy with an English couple for a few games of pool. It wasn't great there so we went to Browneyes. It had a good crowd at the beginning but then emptied out quickly. We went for a second dinner, and then home. In general I thought the tourist strip was overpriced and the food was inferior to that in the North. They were small portions and not very tasty.
The next day we rented bikes and toured around, and outside the city. We went to the Khai Dinh tomb, which was nice. Then, after some navigational errors, we finally found Ho Quyen, or Tiger Arena. This was were the old Emperors used to get tigers and elephants to fight each other. It wasn't a fair fight though as the tigers were drugged and had their fangs broken before the fight. The Emperors wanted the elephants to win because they represented the Monarchy, and tigers represented rebellion. You could go inside the rooms where the tigers were kept and see the claw marks in the walls. These may have been real or not, but it was still sad to think about what happened there.
Next we went to the Citadel which was where the Emperors lived. There we saw a real elephant who nearly knocked out a silly woman who got too close when taking photos. That was funny. The Citadel is in a bit of disrepair and wasn't particularly amazing in my opinion. They were also setting up stages and dinner tables for some event, which detracted from the history of it all. It was the Hue festival while we were there, which was pretty cool.

Posted by derryfadman 19:57 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tunnels elephant vietnam tomb baby tiger war ho hue emperor ha arena dong citadel dmz huebackpackers browneyes quyen Comments (0)

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh was a great stop on our way south. I ended up staying 4 nights there. I stayed at the New Queen Mini Hotel, which was great. The room was decent and the staff were really friendly. They advised us about tours but weren't pushy, they rented bikes, and at the end they arranged our night bus to Hue which they got cheaper for us than the price at the station. It was super relaxed and the food was cheap and quite tasty.
While there we rented bikes and went to Tam Coc which was 12km away. It was really easy to find and the cycle was nice. We rented a boat and had a young guy rowing us who never bothered us about buying stuff. Usually it's old women and we had heard they can be quite pushy. But the best part about these boat trips is they row the boats with their feet on the oars, which is fun to watch.SNV35678.jpg
The river has rice paddies all along the sides with little limestone outcrops jutting up all over the place. It has the nickname of “Halong on the rice paddies” and after being to Halong, it's easy to see why. But in my opinion it's more beautiful. Everything is closer and more intimate. We went in April which was nice, and we had the river to ourselves most of the time.
After this, we rode our bikes around to Mua Cave where you can climb up around 200 steps to overlook the river, and it's stunning. The views around were amazing because it was such a nice day. A perfect place for taking photos.
Whilst in Ninh Binh we also got a tour with a driver to Cuc Phong National Park. We drove their on motorbikes and again, the scenery there and on the way was beautiful. Driving out of Ninh to the park is amazing for the first forty minutes or so, as the landscape is a lot like Tam Coc. After that it becomes a lot flatter. Arriving at the park the scenery changed again to more of a jungle / forest setting. It's about another thirty minute drive to the park centre along a winding road which was great, twisting back and forth. The road was covered in tress and there were thousands of butterflies on the road, so it was pretty impressive.
In the park we went to the one thousand year old tree which I wasn't super impressed with, although I do respect it's longevity. Visually it wasn't much to look at, but standing close to something so old was an interesting feeling. The trek through the forest was nice and easy, and we saw some monkeys on the road when we were driving back. This park is also quite famous for its Monkey rehabilitation centre, where they get monkeys from trappers and such and re-introduce them to the wild. What they're doing is great of course, but they're basically just kept in small cages so it's kind of like a zoo.
On the way back we took a different route along these makeshift roads which were like elevated roadways between the paddies, something like dykes in the Netherlands. Again, the scenery here was beautiful. My battery was dead at this point unfortunately, but it was really beautiful, and different. We saw more rock formations, children playing football on a makeshift pitch where they were ducking around water buffalo who were grazing on it, and we saw glimpses into the lives of the Vietnamese living here as we drove by. We also had to navigate through herds of water buffalo and cows on these narrow, and often bumpy roads, which with my questionable driving skills, was an interesting experience.
The last day we had to wait for our night bus. It was raining so we did nothing, which was great. That evening we got the night bus to Hue, which was fine. Nothing bad to report on the bus.

Posted by derryfadman 19:37 Archived in Vietnam Tagged monkeys river jungle cave tam ninh phong binh coc mua paddies cuc dykes Comments (0)

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