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Our Holidays

Vietnam 2011

Arrived in Hanoi in the evening following a storm as everywhere was hot, humid and soaking.

Caught a taxi to a Intercontinental Hotel on the bank of West Lake, where I had explained that this trip was to celebrate our wedding anniversary and, as usual, hoped for some "perk".

Our room was fantastic with a view of the lake from our private balcony but no upgrade, oh well that's life.

We arrived in Danang with nowhere booked and after some resistance we gave-in to the taxi-driver and let him take us to a hotel on the front by the sea. By now the sun had set, we were tired, and wanted to relax but having checked-in we realised it wasn't the place for us and dumping our backpacks we went outside, chose a direction, and started searching for somewhere better. After over three quarters of our hour of serious walking in the heat of the evening and on the verge of loosing hope of finding anywhere better we spotted a hotel, a 5 star hotel, the Furama, who were also doing 3 nights for 2. WE booked three nights but with the luxury and the infinity pool we stayed longer. We became lazy and spent the rest of our holiday using this place as a base for our day-trips.

Another reason for changing hotels which we wouldn’t discover til sunrise the following morning as that the crazy Vietnamese were in the sea as the sun came up with plenty of shouting and screaming!!!!!!


The following day, having missed breakfast time by hours, we set off to explore Hanoi and, as is our wont, we rejected the taxis and walked to the Old Quarter. However, I'll come back to exploring Hanoi later as when we returned to the hotel in the evening our room, which was already spacious, had had the connecting door left door. Certainly not a mistake and our room was now a massive apartment.

Thank you for the upgrade!!!!

Why oh why do I keep falling for it? Today it’s “wear my hat for picture” next, feeling guilty I buy a couple of bags for probably the most expensive of bananas!!!!

Over the next couple of days we plodded around Hanoi visiting one tourist attraction after another and once we had got over the shock of crossing roads where there appears to be no control we felt safe meandering between hundreds of cycles, mopeds and rickshaws just to cross the road.

Water Puppet Theatre (Interesting Ha Ha)

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple

Old Quarter

Hanoi Opera House

Temple of Literature

West Lake

One Pillar Pagoda

Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

And in between all of the sight seeing we booked our trip to Sapa.

The journey to Sapa itself is worth a mention as it starts in a street restaurant with child sized plastic chairs and we were the only Westerners in it. Having ordered some beer and food the waitress finally served our food, she took great care in showing us how to use the rice cakes to wrap the food in before dipping it into a rich, thick soya sauce and then offering to me. I took one healthy bite before my eyes watered and my throat burnt. The locals were obviously expecting this as they all laughed and clapped in delight. Apparently, this sauce was nicknamed " Vietcong tear gas" and it certainly is an accurate name for it.

Having found the train and our berthed shared with a Vietnamese couple who insisted in making conversation in pidgeon English and also called one of their relatives, on the phone, to translate. That was hard work.

Finally, we arrived at the station and embarked on the mini-bus and started climbing and climbing up the mountains until we eventually arrived at the Chau Long Resort on a bleak and damp day. We were greeted by the locals from the M'Hong tribe and several others, their speech is amazing as they sound like birds "twittering", However, we had been advised not to buy trinklets from them.

The following day, bleak and cloudy again, our guide arrived to collect us for one of our 2 guided walks and what was amazing was that she was OUR guide and not a large group which is what we had expected. She took us uphill, downhill, across paddy fields and through several tiny villages and gave us thorough explanations during the walk. Having said the day was bleak and dreary there were many times where the clouds suddenly cleared, then the views were awesome. Across tiers and tiers of paddy fields all the way  down to the floor of the valleys.

Our two days are soon over and it's time to return to Hanoi before heading directly to Halong Bay and our next hotel on the island of Cat Ba where we had a few nights booked at the Cat Ba Island Resort.

Unfortunately, we made a mistake as the weather was always hazy we decided not to do a Halong Bay tour which, in hindsight, was stupid having travelled all that way. We did explore the island on a hired motorbike, this was the first time I had ridden on for many years so it was a little scary and, fortunately, we came away unscathed apart from burnt calves from the exhaust pipe.

From Cat Ba will were heading to Danang by ferry, mini-bus, train, plane and, finally, by taxi. Probably the most different forms of transport in one day.

Hue Imperial City


The End of our first Vietnamese Holiday