Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang & Ho Chi Minh City
30.10.2010 - 10.11.2010
We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather so far. Only one day of rain up until the point we arrived in Hue. That was all about to change. We had one day of nice weather whilst we looked around the citadel but once we were onboard our boat tour the following day, the heavens opened and pretty much stayed like that until we hit reached Saigon.
Hue itself is a nice enough spot with the citadel and some quite impressive tombs but I’d be happy to skip it if I were coming again or was on a tight schedule.
Hoi An, is yet another UNESCO world heritage site (there are a lot of them about) and this one deservedly so. We had high expectations from reports of friends and other travellers and with the exception of the weather we were not disappointed. Our plan had been to spend a couple of days in town and then a few days at a beach resort but as it didn’t stop raining the entire time we were there, we spent all our time in the town.
No 1 activity in Hoi An is having tailored clothing made and there are literally hundreds of tailors in town. It’s probably fair to say that in the old town the majority of buildings house a tailor shop. W visited a few. Niamh, who for a girl, was surprisingly disinterested in the process, had a few dresses made. I had a couple of suits and a tux knocked out. Upon showing her the picture of the tuxedo I wanted our helpful assistant was a little too quick to point out that the best tailoring in the world was not going to turn me into Daniel Craig – thanks for that.
The rest of our stay in Hoi An was spent between suit fittings and coffee shops which isn't too bad a way to kill a day.
In a continuing search for good weather and the beach – we boarded our over night bus to Nha Trang. We arrived at our pre-booked hostel and found her so rude we walked out and got a place in a hotel around the corner for a fraction of the price.
Early indications were good. The sun was shining, the beach backdropped by the mountains looked spectacular. No fear though – it was raining again in no time. If the beach is not an option then Nha Trang has very little to do. We did have the option of an easy rider tour – on the back of a motorbike – but this didn’t seem like much fun in the rain so after one night we continued our journey south on another night bus to Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it used to be known, and still is in the central district).
At last we found the sun but no beaches or pool to speak of. We contented ourselves with a walking tour of Saigon and immersed ourselves in, what I am sure must be biased if not without basis, history of Vietnam’s struggles for independence and the American war. This included playing with tanks and machine guns at the War Remnants Museum and crawling though the amazing Cu Chi tunnel network (made bigger for western tourists but pretty tight all the same.) Marvelling at how the VC lived their lives and fought their war. I couldn’t help think of the US guys that had to actually go into these tunnels, not knowing their way around, facing the risk of the pretty fierce traps in place to skewer those who take a wrong turn. Not to mention the Vietnamese that actually had to live in them.
Much like Hanoi, crossing the road is perhaps the biggest adventure of all. The guidebooks tell you to put out your hand and walk across the road very, very slowly irrespective of what is heading towards you. It is one of the strangest experiences, walking out into moving traffic, the instinct is to stop or run in order to avoid all manner of cars, bike, scooters and trucks that are racing towards you. This is NOT the correct approach and will lead to your being seriously injured. The trick is to allow them to avoid you not vice versa – they see you and adjust their route accordingly – any variation on your part adds unpredictability and therefore increases risk. Walk slowly and we found it best to not even look at the traffic heading your way. I should have had an amazing piece of video to demonstrate the point, it even had balloons, however when I went to review it I realised I hadn’t taken the lens cap off.
We finished our Vietnam trip with a river tour to take us into Cambodia. At this stage we have seen quite a few rice paddies and a good bit of the Mekong River but it was still very pleasant to cruise along and watch the river communities going about their daily lives and was more than adequate to get us onto our next country.