After flying into Hoi Chi Min from Cambodia we got ourselves sorted and recovered after a heavy farewell night the night before, we met up with the new group that were joining the trip, went for a meal and then a couple of drinks. So a pretty quiet one, which after knowing how heavy the following night was going to be I was pretty glad about!
The next day we visited the floating markets around the Mekong, learnt about some traditional Vietnamese cooking methods, as well as sampling snake and banana whiskey, or ‘happy water’ as its sometimes called in Vietnam. We then hopped back on the boat into smaller boats rowed by locals that took us into the jungle where we were to be staying.
Now because there were thirty of us the homestay included staying in dorms, I ended up being an odd one out resulting in a solo room for me so I wasn’t complaining. When we arrived we were greeted by three family pets, two very friendly dogs, and a giant snake… By giant I could lift about a third of it so had its back end (unsure of the snake term) wrapped around my shoulders. We then went for a little bike ride around the local area before our competitive activity for the afternoon.
So after being split into teams we proceeded to climb in a pool of clay and mud to go fishing. Now by fishing you are chest deep in thick mud trying to catch fish with your hands… This was a lot more difficult than it looked and unfortunately our team lost as one of the guys Joe discovered he had a scarily good ability and natural talent at this! We were then hosed down, literally before dinner.
At dinner we were treated to some musical performances by the family before a delicious meal. There was also the option to try rat and snake, so I did. Rat actually just tastes like chicken, KFC watch out… But snake was pretty slimy and gross. The night finished with jungle juice, now this was a pretty lethal cocktail of vodka, red bull and orange juice that lead to is all feeling pretty horrific the next day…
After a bit of a drive we went to visit the Vietkong tunnels, this was actually super interesting and better than I was expecting. We watched a Vietnamese man squeeze into a tiny hole and one of our group try to navigate through the more realistic sized holes, he got lost and ended up where he started but got further than anyone else! I couldn’t even get my shoulders in… Also this tunnel was in the pitched black, really windy and absolutely tiny, you have to crawl on your hands and knees. So I gave the tiny one a miss. I did however crawl through the slightly bigger longer tunnel, about 100m with lights and a guide, in case it stuck! This was still about 1.2m though and bloody hot so when your six foot it doesn’t help… But the thighs made it through along with a very hot exhausted me.
Before flying to Nha Trang we visited the Vietnam war museum, or as they refer to it the ‘American Aggressive War’, this was pretty harrowing but fascinating and one of the best museums I’ve been to, it was really interesting learning the Vietnamese perspective but also pretty harrowing not once again that people can do these things to each other. Unfortunately after landing the next couple of days I came down with a pretty bad fever and felt terrible, so spent pretty much all of the two nights we had in Nha Trang stuck in my hotel room, Nha Trang was more of a beach resort owned mainly by Russians so I missed out on some mud baths and a boat/snorkelling party. Luckily both of these things I’ll be able to do later on in my trip so it wasn’t too bad! We then flew into Hoi An which was really pretty if not extremely touristy. We had a bike tour and saw the town and went to the tailors where the top gear boys got their suits made, most of our group got some custom gear. We also had another ‘cooking’ class, I say cooking lightly as most of it was putting things in rolls but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. At this point I’ll mention how insanely hot it was at this point, as in 40 degrees…. So having some chilling by the pool time was needed. The next morning we visited the My Son temples which was interesting but again insanely hot and uncomfortable in the sun.
After a couple of days in Hoi An we coached over to Hue for one night and drove across stunning scenic mountain roads, a lot of which you’ll recognise from Top Gear’s Vietnam special! When we arrived after some great 5 spice duck at a local restaurant we all got on a huge convoy of biycyle type things each powered by a Vietnamese man. Luckily mine was quite competitive so did all sorts of risky manoeuvres and overtakes (probably just for the tip, which by his disgusted face when I handed one over wasn’t big enough!), and then we left the cheeky bicycle men behind and explored Ho Chi Min’s memorial and burial spot as well as the imperial city.
Our next and final stop was to be Hanoi and Halong Bay. There were a few fragile people on the flight to Hanoi after a rather heavy night in Hue, buckets of alcohol make for fun times and then horrible hangovers… Luckily I stuck to beer on this occasion! We arrived afternoon time so got settled then explored the local markets and got some once again extremely tasty food. We also attempted to find pirate outfits for a fancy dress we were having on our boat in Halong bay, which took a while and in the end we resorted to drawing and ripping some tshirts.
So our penultimate night was to be in Halong Bay. Now I’ll let a lot of the pictures do the talking but we were staying on a boat. Now this boat was lovely, it was like a luxury hotel inside and a great way to see Halong bay. We had a kayak, visited a viewpoint a slightly exhausting hike up and then hung out on the beach. Throughout our time on the boat we were treated to fantastic seafood and meals, they even gave us brunch! So after feeling a bit spoilt we got our pirate gear on then proceeded to drink and party the night away, there may have been some karaoke going on too. The next day sadly we had to leave Halong bay, we visited some caves in the morning (which were full of slow Italians blocking the way…) and saw a erm slightly suggestive looking rock. We then drove back to Hanoi for our final meal and another party to see the trip home.
Finally a massive shout out to my Contiki Group, for anyone who hasn’t travelled in a group before I’d massively recommend it, we had some great times a lot of laughs and will always be able to remember the shared experience together. Any of you reading this you’re all awesome and I’m so glad I met so many incredible people! So next up for me it’s Singapore, I have an extra night in Hanoi tonight then it’s onwards back to the developed world and shiny skyscrapers for a week.