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No Hue? Yes Hue!

Just in case you didn’t get the hilarious joke in the title to this post, it refers to the fact that Hue is pronounced “whey”. (I know, I just killed the joke. I apologise.)

My time in Hue was rainy. Rain, rain and yet more rain. By this point, it was beginning to feel as though the weather in Vietnam was going to ruin my whole holiday. It was running off rooftops and the ends of our noses. It was washing clean the streets. It was leaving a grey haze over the whole city which spoiled our otherwise amazingly artistic photographs. And yet, it never dampened our spirits. Being the crazy cat that I am, I decided that this type of weather was perfect for a day of motorbiking around the city. And so I climbed on the back of a vehicle which I’m sure had seen better days and clung to my Vietnamese driver who seemed to find it hilarious that I had blonde hair, whooped a little whenever we left the ground due to his crazy driving and the fact that I was wearing a disgustingly purple poncho (hey, at least I made him laugh, unlike the rest of you with the lame title to this post).

I visited temple after temple and tomb after tomb. I stopped at a roadside workshop where they make conical hats and sticks of incense. I tried to convince myself that even though every inch of me was wet to the core, I was still euphoric. But there is one basic desire that this crazy cat cannot deny herself and that is food. As soon as hunger strikes it is the only thing I can think about. And luckily for me, my driver took me and a few of my friends to the most wonderful place I’ve ever been. Jamie Oliver’s it was not. But by that point I would have eaten road kill if it had been served with a spring roll or two. However, this place was so humbling and peaceful, it was the most charming place I’ve ever eaten in.

10 Things You Should Know Before Travelling to Vietnam

The facilities are good, use them

Before I got to Vietnam I had visions of squat toilets all over the country, like that of many other South East Asian destinations and so steeled myself for having to ‘hover’ on a regular basis.

This turned out to be a misconception and the only squat toilet I encountered was at a service station at the side of the road. Apart from this, the plumbing tends to work in much a similar way to Greece: don’t block the pipes by flushing the toilet paper down; instead use the bin provided and everything will be fine.

As with anywhere in Asia, arm yourself with plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel in case you’re caught short with no supplies. You may also be charged to use toilets if they are situated at popular tourist sites. Don’t be cheap and think you can get away with paying the minimum price unless you are male and are used to using public urinals. I made this mistake and was shown to an exposed toilet bowl with no door that could be seen from the street!

It WILL rain – there’s no best time to visit Vietnam

If you are travelling from one end of the country to the other, it will rain at some point during your trip. The seasons vary throughout the country and I encountered rain in both Hoi An and Hue. Even though it was still warm, the rain was heavy at times, but don’t let it dampen your fun.

Ponchos can be bought for a minimal price when you are there (the thinner plastic ones are good just for walking around whereas you should invest in the thicker, longer ones if you’re planning on riding motorbikes and cycles a lot).

Also, don’t bother packing an umbrella – it just adds to your baggage weight and even the lowest class of hotels tend to offer them free in the rooms. Note –  Make sure you return the umbrellas before you leave as you will be charged for them otherwise.

The trains never run on time

Once you’ve spent a few days in Vietnam you’ll realise that the Vietnamese are a laid-back people, who are never in a rush to get anywhere. This translates to their public transport system also.

Having used a few sleeper trains during my stay, it became custom to never expect to arrive at your destination at the intended time, even if you had set off within an hour of your departure time. Just go with the flow and be ready and alert to leave the train at your station when you arrive because they don’t hang around for long and you never know where you might end up if you have to stay on the train until the next stop.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia: Part 2

balloon ride over cappadocia
What I loved about our particular pilot was how he knew exactly where to dip in the valleys so that you could get close to the rock formations.

balloon ride over cappadocia

All of the holes you can see that are carved into the side of the rock were homes for pigeons, who were considered to be very valuable in the years before artificial fertilisers came to pass (pigeon poop was used as a fertiliser for crops back then. Too much information?) The entrance to some of the pigeon holes were decorated with painted symbols and drawings and we managed to get close enough to snap some photos.

Halong Bay – Paradise on Earth?

After six days of rain in Hoi An and Hue, it was like heaven to arrive in Hanoi on the overnight sleeper train and see the sun shining in the early morning. We hopped off the train as easily as we could with massive rucksacks on our backs and took a three hour bus journey to Halong City, where we were going to lay our head that night (more about this later). Down at the harbour we stocked up on some cheap beers to drink during the afternoon, as we had been told that the prices onboard the boats were highly inflated due to the number of tourists that flock to the area. Refreshments sorted, we headed onboard to begin our cruise into Halong Bay.

The boat itself was wonderful. We were served a fresh seafood lunch which consisted of tiger prawns cooked in garlic oil, spring rolls, whole sea bass cooked with tomatoes, rice, chips, fried squid and then fresh fruit to follow. Probably wasn’t the smartest idea to stuff my face right before kayaking, cave exploration and sunbathing, but who could resist such delicious food?? The captain and skippers couldn’t contain us downstairs for long, however, as we were desperate to enjoy the sun for the first time since Saigon.

When people had said to me before my trip that you can’t really explain how beautiful HalongBay is unless you have experienced it yourself, I had never imagined how true that statement could be. The limestone karsts rising out of the sea provided the most amazing backdrop to our boat journey. Even though there are lots of boats sailing around the Bay every day, I never felt as though the tranquillity was disturbed by other visitors. This was particularly true when we docked at one of the floating markets and decided to do a spot of kayaking. Me and my kayak partner Hannah navigated our way into a deserted lagoon surrounded by limestone cliffs and the silence that engulfed us was breathtaking. I can honestly say it gave me goosebumps to be there at that moment in time.