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Vietnam

Arrived fairly early by air from Hue and were positively surprised to find it very easy to find transport to the centre of town by a shared taxi, provided by Vietnam Airlines, and it's quite cheap as well. We head straight for Especen Hotel - it's a hotel we found on Tripadvisor, and incidentally mentioned in our guide as well - very conveniently it's only five minutes walk from where we get dropped off in the minivan taxi.

Especen Hotel is very nice, and we get a deluxe room for a much cheaper rate due to it being quiet times at the end of the Lunar New Year's holidays. The breakfast is also included in our room price, but unfortunately we don't get a chance to test it out as we're on the move too early on both mornings.  As we arrive fairly early in the morning we can't access our room yet - it's still being cleaned - so we just drop the bags off there and go out to explore the town. Hanoi is a little bit like a ghost town in places as only a handful of businesses have opened up after the holidays. Finding a place to have some breakfast is much more difficult than we'd ever imagine, and due to the very early start from Hue we're getting pretty desperate as we're nearing mid-day.

We decide to book a one day sightseeing tour to Ha Long Bay through our Hotel. It would have been nice with a two day trip to be able to spend more time on the boat around the islands but time is running out for us in Vietnam and we'll have to fly out early on the following day, leaving us only a day and a half in total in Hanoi. We spend a lot of the day walking about. The area just north of the Hoan Kiem Lake seems to be a bit busier - probably due to the density of hotels in the area, hence lots of tourists walking about. It's particularly busy around the Ngoc Son Temple which sits on a small island on the lake so we decide to have a look at what the commotion is about. The main attraction seems to be a bronze statue of a huge turtle. From here we walk down to the Lenin Park - it's teeming with life - it's got some funfair-rides and seems very popular with families. After a quick look-around we head back towards our hotel for a rest. En route to our hotel we happen upon the Hỏa Lò Prison Museum, also known as the Hanoi Hilton it was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, hence its nickname Hanoi Hilton.

[caption id="attachment_2030" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2031" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2032" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2033" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Happy New Year 2013, Hanoi. Happy New Year 2013, Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2034" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hỏa Lò Prison Museum (Hanoi Hilton). Hỏa Lò Prison Museum (Hanoi Hilton).[/caption]

In the evening we head up to a strip of bars and restaurants along Dinh Liet and Ta Hien road and have a really nice dinner at a street-kitchen with baby-sized plastic chairs and a few nice drinks in various bars along the road. This strip of bars and restaurants is surprisingly busy bearing in mind all of the rest of the city seems to be dead quiet – I wonder how it is like normally...

[caption id="attachment_2035" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hanoi night-life. Hanoi night-life.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2036" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hanoi night-life. Hanoi night-life.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2037" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoan Kiem Lake at night, Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake at night, Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2038" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoan Kiem Lake at night, Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake at night, Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2039" align="aligncenter" width="531"]Hanoi. Hanoi.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2040" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Cycling balloon man, Hanoi. Cycling balloon man, Hanoi.[/caption]

Following morning it's time for our day-trip to Ha Long Bay, it's not as early as some of our previous tours but still too early to be able to get some breakfast - it's two hungry souls that get into the taxi to take us to our tour-bus. Luckily the bus very conveniently stops at an "art and craft shop" half way towards Ha Long Bay and they serve food - it's not the cheapest place to eat of course, but it's much better than imploding. A bit more satisfied we get back onto the bus and head towards our destination.

As we're arriving at the port the weather is very grey and foggy unfortunately, we're hopeful for the weather to improve, but this is unfortunately not the case. At the port we also get presented with our boat for the day - it's fairly basic, but then that's the cheaper package that we ordered. All the boats look more or less the same though, so it's not like we're particularly lucky or unlucky with our choice. Our guide is good and he speaks English very well and that's more important than the boat looking like a floating palace. Most of the boats are setting out on the same route it seems - we keep seeing the same boats around us all during the day. On the boat we get served an excellent lunch consisting of fish and seafood of various description and on our table we're seated together with some Korean tourists which pulls out some sachets of Kimchi which complements the dishes very well. Our first stop is a huge cave called Thien Cung Grotto where there are numerous stalactites resembling anything from dragons to people. After this we get to see a floating fishing village, and next to it we get put into a canoe and sent off on a little half an hour adventure through some arches in the mountains - we manage not to capsize, but we still become a bit wet from the paddles splashing over us when they come out of the water - by the time we're back onto the boat we look like we didn't reach the toilet in time and had an accident... No reason to feel self-conscious though - it looks like everyone is in the same boat, so to speak.

After our little watery adventure the boat takes us around in the bay, and we are able to enjoy the view, however restricted it is because of the fog. It still looks impressive, and the fog gives it a mystical feel. Due to our wet pants it's slightly chilly though. After some circling we head back to port and onto our bus back to Hanoi.

[caption id="attachment_2041" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2042" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay. Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2043" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay. Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2044" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay. Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2045" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay. Thien Cung Grotto, Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2046" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2047" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2048" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2049" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2050" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2051" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Canoeing in Ha Long Bay. Canoeing in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2052" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Canoeing in Ha Long Bay. Canoeing in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2053" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Canoeing in Ha Long Bay. Canoeing in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2054" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2055" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2056" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2057" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2058" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2059" align="aligncenter" width="533"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2060" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2061" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A very misty day in Ha Long Bay. A very misty day in Ha Long Bay.[/caption]

We have an early start the next day for our flight to Singapore so decide to take it easy, just a quick dinner at a restaurant around the corner - a bit unlucky we pick a bit more "stylish" one where the food is expensive and rather plain. Very little choice though as it seems everything else is closed - could be something to do with it being a Sunday, and the last day of their Lunar New Year's holidays.

Next morning we're bound towards Singapore and are in luck to find a little street kitchen next to the office of Vietnam Airways where the shared taxies leave from. It was again too early for the breakfast at our hotel, so we quickly have some nice tomato omelette in a baguette before getting into the taxi.

The journey from Hoi An is only about three and a half hours, but it could have been a more comfortable ride if they'd given us a fresh bus. It seems the bus has been travelling overnight from somewhere and we just join it at the end of its journey. This means the air in the bus is very stuffy - it's like all the oxygen has been spent and replaced by the air of cheesy feet, and as we can't open any windows we're stuck with this lovely atmosphere...

We had done some research about hotels the evening before in Hoi An and had a few options selected. As we come off the bus we get approached by a lady who's suggesting we go to Ngoc Binh Hotel with a free taxi. We usually stay well clear of touts, but this time it was a good deal we got offered. The hotel she was promoting was one of the ones on the top of the list of our favourites researched the evening before, and at the same price as we expected to pay for that hotel. I'm sure the tout still make some money on this arrangement, but had we made our own way there we'd still would have paid the same for the room plus of course an extra £8 for the taxi. As it's still a little early we have to wait a bit for our room to be ready and we head out to get a bite to eat - of course leaving too early from Hoi An we didn't have a chance to get anything to eat and by now we're imploding. Next to the hotel is a nice little bar where we sit down for a nice little meal, and while waiting for our food we have a game of Jenga.

After breakfast we go back over to our hotel but our room isn't quite finished, but we're able to put our backpacks in there. We decide to head out to explore the old citadel, a world heritage site. By foot in the scorching mid-day sun it takes us a little while to reach the entrance to the citadel, and as I'm in desperate need of more sun-cream I keep looking around to find some kind of store that would sell some. Hardly anything is open, so it's a lost cause, but this of course makes the journey to the citadel significantly slower than it should be, meaning more exposure to the hot sun, so by the time we reach our destination we're already a bit exhausted. We wander about inside the grounds admiring the architecture but learn that most of the place had been completely destroyed by the Americans during the Vietnam War.

[caption id="attachment_1994" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1995" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1996" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1997" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1998" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1999" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2000" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2001" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2002" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2003" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Inside the Hue Citadel. Inside the Hue Citadel.[/caption]

After wandering about inside the citadel we're feeling a bit parched to say the least and stop by a cafe for something to drink and rest our feet for a bit. The Lady that runs the shop tries to sell us everything between heaven and earth while trying to suck every passerby into the cafe. Normally we would get annoyed by this behaviour but found it quite amusing this time. Next door there is some sort of drunken argument happening and it's lasting for quite some time - seems to be over a girl but it's difficult to tell when not understanding a dickybird. If nothing else it's entertaining and it makes every passerby stop for a while to have a nose at the escalating spectacle.

On our map there is a tomb marked off as a historical attraction and we decide to head down too it, again on foot as it's not too far away. It does however take us a bit of time to walk there as it's not the most convenient roads to walk along - it would appear we're a rare breed of tourists walking along these bustling roads as people are staring at us as if they've never seen foreigners around this part of town before - most tourist it would seem come down here by bus or taxi. After about four kilometres we finally reach this tomb and realise it's not much to write home about really, we're slightly disappointed and decide to flag a taxi to get back to the hotel. With our luck there are no taxies in sight so we start walking back in the hope that we'll find one on the way - no such luck... We end up walking all the way back to our hotel of course.

[caption id="attachment_2004" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hue. Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2005" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hue. Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2006" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hue. Hue.[/caption]

For the next day we arrange for a sightseeing tour to the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) area. It's a full day of sightseeing but most of it is time spent getting there and back - it's a fair distance from Hue. Along the way we visit the view of The Rockpile - an important US observation post and artillery base. A bridge marking the start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Battle Hills and American air-strip at Khe Sanh, Vinh Moc Tunnels, Gio Linh Graveyard. After this we return to Hue, and tired from the sightseeing we have dinner and then just relax and take an early night.

[caption id="attachment_2007" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Rockpile. An important United States Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1968. The Rockpile. An important United States Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1968.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2008" align="aligncenter" width="533"]A tribes village along the route of the DMZ tour around Hue. A tribes village along the route of the DMZ tour around Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2009" align="aligncenter" width="545"]DMZ Tour around Hue. DMZ Tour around Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2010" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The bridge at the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Hue. The bridge at the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2011" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2012" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2013" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2014" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hannah at the American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. Hannah at the American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2015" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2016" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2017" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2018" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue. The American Airstrip at Khe Sanh, Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2019" align="aligncenter" width="533"]A memorial marking the DMZ by the border between North and Souh Vietnam. A memorial marking the DMZ by the border between North and South Vietnam.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2020" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Vinh Moc Tunnels. The Vinh Moc Tunnels.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2021" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Vinh Moc Tunnels. The Vinh Moc Tunnels.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2022" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hannah in the Vinh Moc Tunnels. Hannah in the Vinh Moc Tunnels.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2023" align="aligncenter" width="545"]DMZ Tour around Hue. DMZ Tour around Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2024" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Gio Linh Graveyard, outdside Hue. Gio Linh Graveyard, outside Hue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2025" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Gio Linh Graveyard, outdside Hue. Gio Linh Graveyard, outside Hue.[/caption]

Our next destination is Hanoi and we've decided to go by air as we're running out of time here in Vietnam. It's one of those gruelling early morning starts again, so no breakfast resulting in two very hungry souls arriving in Hanoi (no restaurant at Hue Airport, only two snack-stands and several souvenir shops).

It's an early arrival in Hoi An from Da Lat with the night bus and we decide to walk over to where the cluster of hotels are rather than take a taxi. It's a really busy time in Vietnam due to the New Year’s celebrations, so it takes some time to find a place to stay. We finally find a hotel and get a room on top floor with a balcony - which is quite nice. The hotel is a bit run down though - you get what you pay for I guess - but it was adequate. Only later we read the reviews on Tripadvisor, and I don't think we would ever go near the place if we'd read them before we got here. Our experience was OK though, and the staff were nice and helpful unlike what had been experienced by the majority according to the Tripadvisor reviews. The room was also clean, although it was in a state of serious disrepair.

[caption id="attachment_1936" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Nha Trang. Nha Trang.[/caption]

Eager to have a look around we take to the streets for a little sightseeing walk. Unfortunately all of the museums and the historic houses that are normally open for tourists are closed due to the holidays. On the plus-side the temples are open, and due to the holidays, free to enter. We're instantly charmed by the interesting mix of French colonial with Chinese architecture as we walk along the historical centre, and it looks even more idyllic than normal because of all the lanterns and flower decorations for the celebration of the Lunar New Year’s. Also along the streets in town are countless of flower sellers - we've seen scores of them everywhere since arriving in Vietnam but this must be the busiest place with them so far - it's even difficult to walk in some places because there are so many of them. There are quite a few Chinese temples along our route, so many in fact that after a bit we just pass most of them by - we're gutted that the museums and open houses are closed as we'd love to have a look some of these - c'est la vie. Another popular attraction is the Japanese Bridge, so we do of course stop off by there as well.

[caption id="attachment_1937" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Japanese Bridge, Hoi An. Japanese Bridge, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1938" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Japanese Bridge, Hoi An. Japanese Bridge, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1939" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Japanese Bridge, Hoi An. Japanese Bridge, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1940" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Japanese Bridge, Hoi An. Japanese Bridge, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1941" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Japanese Bridge, Hoi An. Japanese Bridge, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1942" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lanterns, Hoi An. Lanterns, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1943" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lanterns, Hoi An. Lanterns, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1944" align="aligncenter" width="508"]Cam Pho Temple, Hoi An. Cam Pho Temple, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1945" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Cam Pho Temple, Hoi An. Cam Pho Temple, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1946" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Cam Pho Temple, Hoi An. Cam Pho Temple, Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1947" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1948" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1949" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1950" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1951" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1952" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1953" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1954" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1955" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1956" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1957" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1958" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1959" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1960" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1961" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1962" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1963" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1964" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1965" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1966" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1967" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1968" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1969" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1970" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1971" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1972" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hoi An. Hoi An.[/caption]

Another plan of ours that got squashed was to take a cooking class here in Hoi An, but again due to the holidays none of the restaurants were doing them. Many of the restaurants had even closed down completely for the New Years. The same story went for the tour companies, so we weren't able to book up any sightseeing tours either, we were just left to roam the streets and soak up the atmosphere.

On "Lunar New Year's Eve" we of course went out to have a look at the fireworks by the river. Just a minute before the show it started to rain - it was torrential and it didn't let up before after the fireworks show was over 20 minutes later. The fireworks were fantastic though even though everyone watching was drenched by the rain in seconds - I'm surprised the firework actually still worked with such a persistent heavy downpour. After the show was over we joined the very drenched-to-the-bone - but surprisingly cheerful - crowd heading back through town to get back to our hotel. Had we not been soaked we would have stopped for a couple more drinks in the centre of town.

[caption id="attachment_1973" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1974" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1975" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1976" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1977" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1978" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1979" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1980" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1981" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1982" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1983" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1984" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An. Lunar New Year's Eve in Hoi An.[/caption]

The next day there is no busses running so we have to stay put in Hoi An for another day to wait for further transport to our next destination Hue. Of course, as it's the day after all the festivities pretty much everything is closed so it's a day of just relaxing for us.

We booked our bus to Hue through our hotel just after we arrived here to be sure we would get a seat. And on the day of travel we get picked up in a van to take us the 300 meters up the road to where the bus is waiting. If we'd known it was so close we would have opted to walk up there instead of sitting waiting for this van to turn up... We're soon on our way though and the journey is fairly quick.

The approach into Da Lat is quite scenic and interesting. It seems every household has a garden where they farm various produce, whether vegetables or flowers. However small a patch they have they're growing some kind of produce. There are of course larger fields as well, and it's like nothing I've seen before - they all look very well cared for and perfectly manicured.

When we arrive we're not quite sure where to look for hotels. We'd found some places on Tripadvisor but nothing cheap, and in the end decide for firstly try one that has a good write-up in the Lonely Planet called Hotel Chau Au Europa. It turns out to be a very nice hotel with friendly staff and an excellent room with included breakfast and daily cleaning - and as a bonus it's very reasonably priced.

On our first day we head over to a travel agency called Sinh Tourist - formerly called Sinh Cafe Travel - to book a City-Tour of Da Lat and its surroundings. We also want to book a bus, but they want to charge us a small fortune, and they can't accommodate a bus on the day we want to go. We decide to ask around in some other agencies before deciding what to do. We're in luck and get a bus for the day we want with another agency, and it's much cheaper than the one Sinh Tourist could offer us - BONUS!

The city of Da Lat is set around a lake where you can hire out swan-shaped peddler boats. Hannah has an old unfulfilled dream about going on a peddler boat trip and I give in to her wishes at last. The peddler is most definitely not made for tall Europeans and we find it a little bit difficult to fit into the boat. It also turns out to be quite an exercise for our legs to get this thing moving at all. After about an hour we're back on shore - I'm by this time drenched in sweat and we both have slight problems walking after our workout. Needless to say we head straight to the nearest cafe for some refreshments.

[caption id="attachment_1883" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Tea and ice cream at Pho Hoa in Da Lat. Tea and ice cream at Pho Hoa in Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1884" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Tea and ice cream at Pho Hoa in Da Lat. Tea and ice cream at Pho Hoa in Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1885" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Swan shaped peddleboats on the lake, Da Lat. Swan shaped peddleboats on the lake, Da Lat.[/caption]

In the evening we try out the local disco club/bar where nobody is dancing despite quite a good DJ. It doesn't seem to be a tradition to dance here and people just sit around sipping their drinks. We're the only tourists in the bar when we arrive, and by the look of the staff and clientele not many tourists come here. The service is impeccable though and we don't have to open a single door ourselves, or move a single finger to order drinks - the staff is very attentive. We're not used to this kind of service - it's almost a bit too weird...

[caption id="attachment_1886" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Drinks, Da Lat. Drinks, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1887" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Drinks, Da Lat. Drinks, Da Lat.[/caption]

Next day and it's time for our City-Tour that will take us to the Bao Dai Summer Palace, the Crazy House (Hang Nga Guesthouse), a Catholic church, a viewpoint over the city with a cable cart down to a monastery, lunch back at the office in town, the Da Lat Railway Station, the Valley of Love (more like a Valley of Tacky Hell), and finally a shop for a bit of tea and wine tasting. The tea was nice but the wine seemed very fruity, a bit acidic and young - perfect if you wish for a headache. The trip was very militant and if you were one minute late back on the bus the guide would tell you off. The most memorable place would be the Crazy House - the architect I believe is the daughter of one of the princes from back when they had a monarchy. She'd studied in Russia and on her return started to build this weird set of houses. It's still not finished and they estimate it will still take quite some years to finish it all. It looks very much like she's been inspired by Antoni Gaudi, the Spanish architect who's houses can be found scattered around in Barcelona, including the huge La Sagrada Familia Cathedral - another project that is still about 15 or so years from completion. The Crazy House lacks the attention to detail as Gaudi had though, so in comparison it looks a bit amateurish, or even naive. The Bao Dai Summer Palace was also quite interesting with its Art Deco style - it was a bit rushed though and we got told off for arriving a few minutes late for the bus. We also had hoped for a journey on the train from Da Lat Railway Station, but it was only a quick stop to get to see the Art Deco style station with its lavish waiting room and the old steam engine locomotive on display.

[caption id="attachment_1888" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1889" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1890" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1891" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1892" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1893" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1894" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat. Royal Summer Palace, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1895" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1896" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1897" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1898" align="aligncenter" width="454"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1899" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1900" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1901" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1902" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1903" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1904" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1905" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Crazy House, Da Lat. Crazy House, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1906" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Da Lat. Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1907" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Overview of Da Lat from the Telpher- Starting Point. Overview of Da Lat from the Telpher- Starting Point.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1908" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat. Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1909" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat. Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1910" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat. Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1911" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat. Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1912" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat. Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1913" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat. Tuyen Lam Pagoda, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1914" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Thac Prenn Waterfall, Da Lat. Thac Prenn Waterfall, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1915" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Thac Prenn Waterfall, Da Lat. Thac Prenn Waterfall, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1916" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Thac Prenn Waterfall, Da Lat. Thac Prenn Waterfall, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1917" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Da Lat Railway Station. Da Lat Railway Station.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1918" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Da Lat Railway Station. Da Lat Railway Station.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1919" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Da Lat Railway Station. Da Lat Railway Station.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1920" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Da Lat Railway Station. Da Lat Railway Station.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1921" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Da Lat Railway Station. Da Lat Railway Station.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1922" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Da Lat Railway Station. Da Lat Railway Station.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1923" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Valley of Love, Da Lat. Valley of Love, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1924" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Valley of Love, Da Lat. Valley of Love, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1925" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Valley of Love, Da Lat. Valley of Love, Da Lat.[/caption]

Da Lat is supposed to be the honeymoon capital of Vietnam so it's no surprise to find the prices in restaurants and bars a bit higher than elsewhere, but we find a nice little restaurant called Goc Ha Thanh which is reasonably priced and with nice food, so can recommend this place if you ever come here. We can also really recommend the Hotel Chau Au Europa for a nice and reasonably priced hotel. We also quite liked the architecture in general in the town it seems to be a bit inspired by the type of houses you'd find in the Alps - it's also a hilly place, so the city has a bit of that Alpen feel to it.

[caption id="attachment_1926" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Overlooking the market, Da Lat. Overlooking the market, Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1927" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Da Lat. Da Lat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1928" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Goc Ha Thanh Restaurant, Da Lat. Goc Ha Thanh Restaurant, Da Lat.[/caption]

It's time for our bus to Hoi An, our next stop. We leave Da Lat around lunch-time and the bus takes us to Nha Trang, here we have a break and have to "change bus" although it's the exact same bus that will take us on the rest of the journey to Hoi An - why we have to unload all our stuff and walk the 50 meters to the office only to load it all back on again is beyond my understanding. We're told that the bus will leave at 19:00, although it will arrive to start loading up at 18:45. We decide to go and have a look for a place to have a coffee or a beer and head down the road to find a bar. According to the lady at the bus company we have about 30 minutes before the bus will arrive to start loading up. We can't find a place for coffee in the direction we decided to walk and head back to look in the opposite direction. It's a good thing we do, because as we pass the office of the bus company we can see the bus arriving. We ask the lady whether this is our bus and the answer is yes. We grab our bags and get them loaded onto the bus and find a seat. We're under the illusion that we have plenty of time still before the bus will be leaving - it's only 18:30 and decide to go and get some snacks for the journey. But as we try to get off the bus to get to the shop we're stopped by the driver who says we can't leave. A bit confused we go back to our seats and just a few minutes later the bus leaves ahead of the scheduled time... What the??? One thing is to try to be on time, but to leave before schedule is a little bit stupid. The bus departs at 18:40, 20 minutes earlier than scheduled. Good thing we didn't find a cafe down the road and came back to look in the other direction of the office...

An early arrival with the night bus from Ha Tien, but we didn't manage to get much sleep unfortunately. In Ha Tien we had stopped by a bar called Oasis for a couple of beer while waiting for our departure to Ho Chi Minh City. The owner of the bar turns out to be an ex-pat Briton and he gives us advice about travel in the Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) - which was about to kick off - warning us it could be difficult and expensive to get transport in-between places. He also gave us advice about taxies, and that some companies could be dodgy. This advice came in handy and we got a taxi with a reputable company Mai Linh on our arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, we of course insisted on using the meter. There were no attempt from this driver to divert us to another destination or anything - we're still very much on the offensive as people have been telling us story after story about being ripped off by taxi drivers - really pleasantly surprised, we have a nice relaxing journey up to District 1 where most of the backpacker hotels seem to be situated.

On reflection we compare everything with how we were treated in India. The conclusion we come to is as follows. The horror stories we've heard about Vietnam came from people who'd obviously not been to India... because if they had they'd never let themselves be messed about like that. We'd heard similar tales about Bangkok, but again we had no problems there at all, as we could smell a dodgy tout or driver a mile off - India has changed us... Still, it's important to stay on the alert as you never know when they've thought up a new scam - you can easily be caught out no matter how street-wise you are...

All of the places we'd looked up before arriving seemed to be full, and we had to start looking at other alternatives. We finally, by chance, found Hotel Thanh Ha. A bit more expensive than we'd hoped for, but the value for money was excellent. It's a fairly new hotel and for the standard of the room you'd expect to pay double of the rate we're charged. The owners are also a really sweet elderly couple, and we're offered coffee and tea while they quickly get the room ready for us. After checking in we immediately collapse as we had very little sleep during the nightly bus-journey.

[caption id="attachment_1875" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The entrance to our lovely little hotel "Thanh Ha" in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The entrance to our lovely little hotel "Thanh Ha" in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption]

First afternoon and evening, after a good rest, we have a walkabout and visit a Hindu temple, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and the Ben Thanh Market which apparently is a bit of a tourist-trap - we're just quickly walking through it anyways though - we're not up for any shopping really. Afterwards we stop by a bar for a test of the Saigon Beer of course.

[caption id="attachment_1830" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hindu Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hindu Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1831" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hindu Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hindu Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1832" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1833" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1834" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1835" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption]

We booked two days worth of sightseeing through our hotel and the first is a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, the second is a City Sightseeing Tour.

The visit to the Cu Chi tunnels is quite interesting and we have a really nice guide who worked as a translator during the Vietnam War. There is a lot of obvious propaganda for the communist rule and ideology at the site of the tunnels but our guide can tell us a slightly more realistic version of events when we're in the bus - where no one from the outside of our guide-group can hear him, of course - and to our amusement he always finish his stories by saying "now, forget about it". We get the chance to try out how it would be to use the tunnels as a "tourist-size" replica has been constructed on the site. Even in the larger size tunnels you don't have much space at all. Not many finish the full length of the tunnels as they can be a bit claustrophobic. At some stage up front in the tunnel I hear someone sounding like they're stuck and slightly panicking up ahead... It's really humid and hot and by the end of the very short crouched walk (about 100 meters) I’m drenched in sweat and my legs are incredibly tired and aching with lactic acid.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/zCbohBb-Rwc]

After returning from the Cu Chi tunnels we head up to book tickets for the Golden Dragen Water Puppet Theatre, which was great fun to watch, regardless of not understanding a single word of the dialogue.

[caption id="attachment_1842" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1843" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Making Sandals out of old tyres at the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Making Sandals out of old tyres at the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1844" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1836" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1837" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1838" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Water Puppy Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Water Puppy Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1839" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Water Puppy Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Water Puppy Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption]

Second day of sightseeing is the City Tour - a fully packed day which includes a Chinese Temple, War Museum, Coffee tasting (weasel coffee) in Chinatown, South Vietnam's largest market in Chinatown, Lunch, President's residence, Notre Damme and finally the old Post Office. To our surprise when we get picked up from our hotel we see a familiar face as we enter the bus - it's Natasha which we met on our adventure trekking in Chiang Mai, Thailand - it's a small world sometimes, and it's nice to have a catch-up and hear stories of what she's been up to (although her experience with Don Det is very different from ours, and not in a good way). Our guide Chi was really good, he's full of jokes and good stories. He confesses to learn much of his English from watching Only Fools And Horses and idolises Del Boy - this of course makes for some comical language. His commentary was very non-communist, something that has apparently given him quite a few brushes with the police. He also contained most of his anti-communist commentary to when we're in the bus - to limit the police visits to a minimum I guess. The most memorable part of the tour must be the War Remnants Museum with its exhibitions about the effects of the Agent Orange and other dirty chemical warfare that was used, and photos and stories of the atrocities that happened here.

[caption id="attachment_1846" align="aligncenter" width="545"]War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1845" align="aligncenter" width="545"]War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1847" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1848" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1849" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1850" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1851" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1852" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1853" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Chinese Temple, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1854" align="aligncenter" width="533"]South Vietnam's Largest indoor market, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). South Vietnam's Largest indoor market, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1855" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1856" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1857" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1858" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1859" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Workshop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1840" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hand Craft Shop near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Shop near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1841" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hand Craft Shop near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Hand Craft Shop near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1860" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1861" align="aligncenter" width="533"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1862" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1863" align="aligncenter" width="533"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1864" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1865" align="aligncenter" width="533"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1866" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1867" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1868" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1869" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1870" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1871" align="aligncenter" width="545"]President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1872" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the rooftop of the President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). View from the rooftop of the President's Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1873" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Notre Damme, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Notre Damme, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1874" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Outside of Notre Damme, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Outside of Notre Damme, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).[/caption]

We were initially planning on taking a night-bus to our next destination Da Lat after our City-Tour, but due to some miscommunications this had not been booked for us, so we stay one more night in our lovely hotel and then leave the morning after. The owner of the Hotel is very sweet and escorts us to the bus agency - he arranges the pre-booked tickets and waits for the bus with us to make sure we get on the right bus to Da Lat. What wonderful service?

As we had heard many other travellers slating Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam in general, we were a bit on the offensive as we arrived. However we find Vietnam to be really lovely with very friendly people, and we love the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. From the very beginning of our stay we start talking about coming back to Vietnam again some time.

It feels very sudden, despite months of preparations, but it's now less than a day before we head off for what will be a very big adventure. Tomorrow the flight will take us to the first stop on our journey, New Delhi. We're braced for a bit of a culture shock but more and more excited for each hour that passes. A quick outline of our trip: India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, Singapore, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Mexico. We've been trying to catch up with as many of our friends as possible before heading off. But alas, some we have not had the chance to meet up with. We'll be sure to get around to see everyone on our return in five months time. We're feeling very humbled by all the well wishes from everybody - and we had a most wonderful leaving-party (sorry neighbours). One of the highlights must be the cake by Lauren http://cookingbakingandallthingsfood.blogspot.co.uk Absolutely amazing! We've been repeatedly stabbed by various doctors/nurses and injected with many concoctions to vaccinate us against what felt like every disease known to man... Everything (almost) is now packed and today we're sorting the very last details out. Soon we'll not have any more time for more details and what has not been sorted just won't be - tough luck... This reminds me I have to get started. We're off!!!