After a fantastic few days celebrating the New Year in Phong Nha, we caught another sleeper bus and headed to Hoi An, where the weather was even more unpredictable than it is back home. When we arrived it was pouring so much that we didn’t even venture out of our room for dinner, deciding that surviving on snacks for the night would be more preferable. But then the next day we woke to beauuutiful sunshine, so grabbed some bikes and headed straight for the beach for our first hot & sunny lazy beach day (cue us turning into tomatoes). And then the third day it was bucketing down again! We didn’t really do much in Hoi An, mainly just wandering the old town & rented bikes to explore the surrounding countryside, but it was such a nice place that we didn’t feel remotely bored. We also discovered mango cakes, which were a strange mix of dumpling pastry, peanut and mango, and sO TASTY, photos really don’t do them justice.
The original plan had been to move on to Nha Trang after Hoi An, but after talking to a lot of travelers who all had fairly mediocre things to say about Nha Trang, we changed plans and headed for Da Lat, up in so, instead. So happy with this decision, as it ended up being one of the best places we visited in Vietnam. We conquered many fears during the canyoning trip (e.g. jumping off an 11 meter high cliff & abseiling down waterfalls) and met some fantastic people in our hostel (near death experiences really help with the bonding process). As we obviously required a number of drinks after canyoning related activities, our frankly crazy but hilarious hostel owner Mr Peace told us to head to a free music concert, hosted by Saigon beer, where we could find free beer (heart eyes emoji). The free beer had run out by the time we got there (eye roll emoji), but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the live music performances. My personal favourite was the guy in the green sequined and tassled suit, and the cheerleader dancer who looked like they’d stepped right out of High School Musical. We also experienced the legendary 100 rooftop maze bar, and ended up at a local bar which we were told “only closes when you stop wanting to buy drinks”. Basically the best and most dangerous words to hear on a night out. Unsurpringly we felt a little delicate when exploring the Crazy House the next day.
One of the things we loved so much about Vietnam was the total variety of things to see, and the huge contrasts from one end of the country to the other. Having started in mountainous, cold Sapa, we definitely wouldn’t have guessed that we’d end up in the white and red sand dunes of Mui Ne! Another fleeting visit, but lots of great photo opportunities.
Last stop (waaah) in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City. We’d been told that HCMC was even more crazy than Hanoi, and to basically get in and get out. But surprisingly, we actually really liked the city, and left kinda wishing we’d had another day! We spent our one full day on a trip to the Mekong Delta, which, although beautiful, was a bit of a let down. Rather than spending the day exploring the Delta by boat, we were shuttled from one ‘factory’ or shop to the next where we were encouraged to purchase local goods, with only brief periods on the water. I’m sure other tours would offer a more authentic experience, we just seemed to be quite unlucky with the one booked through our hostel!
We returned to the city in the evening, where we’d organised to meet up with some of the people we’d met in Da Lat. Given the fact our hostel offered free beer from 7-9pm, and we all ended up on Hideout Hostel’s bar crawl, let’s just say the bus journey the next day was not the most pleasant we’ve had! Being severely hungover when going through the Cambodian border is not an experience we’d recommend. I also managed to get my phone pickpocketed when standing outside the hostel… so that’s phone number 2 sacrificed to Vietnam! The night was a great way to wrap up our time in the country though, and we even managed a super quick visit (we unfortunately turned up as they were closing for lunch) to the War Remenants Museum the next day. As you’d imagine the exhibits were pretty shocking, but we felt it was an important thing to see, and really helped us to learn more about the experiences of the Vietnamese people during this horrific time.
To summarise our time in Vietnam: we saw a lot, lost a lot (RIP phones) drunk a lot and loved it a lot!
A & K