My three week adventure in Vietnam is unfortunately coming to an end as I get ready to fly back to Thailand on the 1st August.
This has been one of the most exciting and disastrous trips of my life. As I set off on a 2,770km journey from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi on motorbike.
Yes – A motorbike. Now any of you who don’t know me that well I will let you into a little secret. I have never ridden a motorbike in my life. What better time than here? Maybe back home where it’s safe. But unfortunately I am in Vietnam and there’s no time for that.
The bike – Betty:
So before I go any further I want to tell you a little about my bike, Betty. Probably one of my favourite vehicles I’ve ever owned but also the most useless.
She was a beauty. She had (supposedly) 110cc, electrical wires hanging out everywhere, a clutch that didn’t work, lights that only worked when you connected two random wires together. All for the great price of £155. Bargain!
On the surface the bike seemed like it would do the job however. And it did, for a short while.
Ho Chi Minh city to Mũi Né:
This was probably one of the worst and best days on the bike. It took me the grand total of 10 hours to complete what should have taken 4. Oops!
I set off on the bike at about 6.30am after wrestling with the bungee cords on the back trying to secure my bags down. The idea was to try to skip the traffic. Boy was I wrong. The traffic never stopped in Ho Chi Minh city. It was just as busy as I had ever seen it. What better way to learn to ride a bike than in the busiest city in Vietnam. Onwards and upwards I thought before setting off into the thick of it.
Now this city was literally madness to be riding through. I tried to follow the locals and hope they’d lead me out. This plan worked perfectly until I realised I’d been heading in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go for about an hour…
I corrected my route and headed on the right track. But I realised a new problem very soon after; I had started to go redder than a lobster. Yep, I forgot to put suncream on. On what was probably the hottest and sunniest day we’d had of our trip so far. I tried to salvage the situation with coating myself in factor 50. But as it would later turn out, my skin was already more fried than McDonald’s chips.
Despite the growing sunburn, the route to Mui Ne was amazing. Following the winding coast the majority of the way. I was ecstatic, grinning from ear to ear and my badly fitted helmet wobbled around on my head.
Now, I must come clean. I did tell a small porkie. I didn’t actually end up going to Mui Ne, rather just outside. Due to a rather large police scam they have going on either side of Mui Ne where you have to pay a bribe of about £100 or they’ll take your bike – I decided to avoid that.
Arriving just outside of Mui Ne was lovely though. I hunted down the hostel, checked in, ate some much deserved food and went on the look for some after-sun. Showered, lathered my burns in after-sun and hunkered down to bed to rest for the next big day.
Mũi Né to Dalat:
I think this was one of my favourite days of the whole trip if I’m honest. The scenery was like no other. I think it would have been my favourite day, if it wasn’t for a few little cracked eggs on the way…
On the climb up to Dalat, as the road winded up the mountain, I spotted a lovely little area for a picture of the scenery. Just off from one of the hairpin corners onto some light gravel. That shouldn’t be hard, I thought to myself. Then before I knew it, I had been flung to the floor in one direction and my bike in the other. I scrambled over to it to try to stand it up and turn it off. I noticed fuel pouring out of the fuel tank. Apparently the cap didn’t have a complete seal – another fantastic feature of Betty. I fought with it trying to stand it up as the bike tried to lurch forward, as holding the clutch down meant very little to Betty. She did as she pleased. Eventually I managed to get it under control, stand the bike up and turn the engine off. Relief.
However, it was now damage assessment time. A quick once over myself and I managed to escape with some small grazes and bruises. Old Betty was who I was worried about. I looked her over, everything seemed okay. Put her in neutral (the only way the damned bike would start without running off) and started her. Result! It started and everything look and sounded okay.
I carried on to my destination. Trying to beat the sunset as the lights on my bike were very temperamental to say the least. But falling off wasn’t my last hitch of the day. The hills up to Dalat were monstrous. They were steeper than anything I had ever seen before! Now I’m not sure if this was due to the recent fall off my bike sending me loopy or I really was trying to scale Mount Everest.
Either way, Betty decided that she’d had enough and decided to stall in first gear on the steepest part of the hill. Uhhh… That turned out to be an issue. I ended up having to push all my luggage and the bike up to the top of the gigantic hill so I could start it again. It felt like it never ended. I’m sure in reality it probably only took me 10 minutes but despite that I had the Rocky montage playing through my mind the entire time trying to inspire some energy into me.
On eventual arrival at my hostel ( The Dalat Family Hostel – Highly recommend) I tried to park my half broken bike up. I was quickly greeted by the lovely staff who helped take my bags and sat me down for a big family dinner with the rest of the guests. Before even checking me in! The food was plentiful and just what a needed after a long day. Rice, chicken and spring rolls. Followed by some delicious banana pancakes for dessert. Perfection. I settled in for the night preparing myself for the upcoming ride the next day.
So I woke up the next day, still dying from my sunburn. Feeling numb all over from continuous bike riding I decided I needed to rest for a day or two. There was one issue. No one told me how cold it would be! It was getting down to 13c and I had no warm clothes. Time to catch a cold I guess.
I spent the majority of my first full day in Dalat in bed, trying to let my exhausted body recover a little. Especially with the long rides I had coming up. I adventured outside only to get beaten at many games of pool. Almost losing a game without potting any in which the forfeit was a naked run down the street. The locals got off lucky there. They might have thought Sasquatch escaped to Asia.
My days in Dalat were mainly spent recovering. With the occasional cake fight thrown in. No seriously, it was someone’s birthday and the hostel started a huuuuge cake fight. It was a fun way to let off some steam. And somewhat oddly soothing on the sunburn. Who knew icing could be so good?
I took a trip down to the local market. It was absolutely huge! You had real knock-offs of every brand you could imagine. Strange and wonderful foods all around. It was truly magnificent. However, my lack of money meant I could look but not touch. Back to the hostel and onto the next location!
Dalat to Qui Nhon:
This was another big day of driving. Once again taking waaay longer than expected. I was supposed to swing by Na trang to get lunch with a friend. However, a lazy morning meant it was pedal to the metal to get to Qui Nhon before it was dark.
The ride to Qui Nhon was absolutely stunning. The whole of Vietnam was to be honest. But coming back down from the mountains the views were incredible. There was one slight caveat when coming back the mountain. Some of the roads were under construction still. In England this means they would normally close the road off. Vietnam however do it completely differently. I was swerving in and out of lorries and road rollers. Driving over wet tarmac, mud, gravel and absolutely any other surface than happen to appear during the road making process. It kept me on my toes to say the least!
Other than dodging frequent road works, my ride to Qui Nhon was rather uneventful. The sun was starting to set and I was racing to get to my accommodation before it was too dark. My lights were hardly working and I was getting more and more worried by the minute. A quick detour from the satnav down a horribly dark, steep and winding road had me thinking that was going to be the end of me. But before I knew it there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Quite literally.
As I flew out onto the main road into Qui Nhon I was speechless. I had not seen anything like it in Vietnam so far. It looked like what I imagine the Vegas strip to look a bit like at night (Don’t hold me to it as I’ve never been). There were bright lights of every colour imaginable in the divide in the middle of the roads. The whole place was lit up like a Christmas tree! It was truly a sight to behold.
I found where I was staying just in time as it was starting to turn pitch black. I saw some bikes parked up on the pavement and put mine with them. If my bike is next to nicer bikes surely if one was going to get stolen it would be the nice ones. Right? Either way, I unhooked my bags and tried to find the building it was. All I could see was a busy restaurant… Luckily someone must have seen my confused face and pointed to some stairs at the back. Up I went, into my home stay for the next few nights. It was a lovely little place and the owners were lovely. I asked if they had any restaurant recommendations and went off to explore the town for some food.
Now, Qui Nhon was a fairly touristy place. But not for westerners. It was actually a popular spot for the Vietnamese! The only reason I found out about it was due to a lovely person telling me about it at my hostel in Dalat. I’m really glad I went there as it was nice to see somewhere out the way of the usual western tourist spots. Gosh I sound like a hipster.
I went on an adventure to find this restaurant I had been recommended. They had put a pin on my Google maps so should have been easy enough to find.. Right? Apparently not. I explored taking in the sights and sounds. Slowly making my way to the little pin on the map. As I got closer and closer, there seemed to be less and less people. Heading down more back streets. Until I arrived at this small little place with an old man sat on a tiny stall outside listening to the radio. His attention quickly turned to me as I approached. I tried to motion eating food but apparently I made an extremely poor job as this man now looked even more confused. I whacked out the google translate on my phone. Typed in “Food?” and showed him. He laughed and pointed me in another direction. Now I was utterly lost and confused as to where this restaurant was.
So I just found the first place I saw, as I was running on fumes from not eating all day. They obviously didn’t get many westerners as the second the owner saw me she ran off. I didn’t think I was that scary looking! Turns out she figured (very correctly) that I could not converse in Vietnamese. She got her son who sat me down. I waited for a menu but nothing came. Just a simple question: “Chicken or beef?”. I stuttered out a reply for beef truly being taken back by the question. Little did I know I was about to get an amazing bowl of beef pho.
Now I must confess. I have never in my whole life eaten food with chopsticks before this point. They handed me the chopsticks and a spoon. I saved myself the embarrassment and just started having the soup with the spoon. What a mistake this turned out to be. As this was comical to them. A quick lesson on chopsticks and I was slowly getting there. Although, apparently I was also eating it wrong. It didn’t take them long to give up on the sun burnt foreigner leaving me to eat my first ever beef pho.
I wasn’t expecting this meal to leave me very full, especially since I hadn’t eaten much all day. Oh my. How wrong I was. I felt like someone would need to roll me back to where I was staying. I promptly paid and made a slow waddle back to where I was staying so I could get a good nights rest.
Over the next couple of days I mostly relaxed on the beach and explored a little. Still trying to recover from looking like a burnt lobster. But my time quickly came for my next destination: Hoi An.
Qui Nhon to Hoi An:
Now, I’ll preface this by saying: This was probably one of my most favourite journeys of the trip. Not because of any particularly stunning views as it was mostly on motorways. But actually due to what happened on the ride there. It probably lead to one of the most bizarre and surreal days of my trip.
The day started no different from any other. I set off briskly from Qui Nhon in the morning in search of a garage as Betty was demanding yet another oil change. After a short ride I found a garage and went about the usual routine of trying to convey what I needed doing. In hindsight I really should have learned some more Vietnamese. I sat down and browsed my phone while I left the mechanic to go about his business. The mechanic started my bike, I didn’t even look up as I assumed he was just testing it. Well, I wish I did because before I knew it he slowly rode past me on it, with all my luggage on the back. Crumbs. I sat there in disbelief. Had I just been robbed by a mechanic? A few quick messages were sent to some friends, hoping to get some support in return. Nope. Not at all. All I got back was laughter, I’m glad they found it amusing as I was starting to imagine my life living in a small Vietnamese village. How would I work. Where wou…. My thoughts were quickly interrupted. The mechanic pulled back into the shop – panic over. Turns out he had also fixed my clutch. Hoorah! I paid the man and gave him a nice tip. Off I set on the next leg of the journey.
With the sun beating down on me and my sunburn growing worse every second, I slammed the throttle back to gain some speed. Over the next few minutes I gradually accelerated to my top speed of what I assume to be around 45mph. In actuality I have no idea how fast I was going as my speedometer always showed 0mph. Was certainly handy for getting out of a speeding ticket! Despite my mind-blowing top speed I was making progress.
Now, a lot of you my have an issue with what I’m about to say. I got pretty bored pretty fast this day. “But Tom you’re in a beautiful country blasting around on a motorbike. How could you be bored?”. Apparently driving for hours on end on the same one road got boring quite fast. Don’t get me wrong. The sights were beautiful and I was loving every moment. However, I kept dozing off into a day dream. Which was sub optimal. During one of my day dreams I snapped back to reality as a person in front of my gave me a thumbs up. Did I really look that bored and tired? Or maybe it was the sun burn… Either way, I gave him a wave and he darted off ahead of me.
This is where my most memorable experience begins. I later catch up to this mystery person at a set of lights. As we pull away he rides next to me. He had a full face helmet on so I had no idea what he looked like. But he was rocking a swanky new bike and a north face bag. I assumed he was a similar age to me. As he rode along side me we tried to exchange some pleasantries. Which proved very difficult due to my extremely loud exhaust and his full face helmet. We managed to exchange a few words which consisted of:
“Hoi An?” He shouted across to me.
“Hoi An!” I shouted back.
“HOI AN!” He shouted back to me while pointing at himself.
“HOI AN!” I screamed even louder back at him while also pointing at myself.
At this point I did what any logical person would. I followed him. For a good hour or so. Yes, I know it sounds very weird and yes I know it probably was not the best idea I have ever had. (Spoilers, nothing bad happened). Eventually, he dropped back alongside me. He was trying to say something to me but I had no idea what it was. So I gave him a thumbs up. Hopefully I had not agreed to be killed. I found out about 30 minutes later what I had agreed to. And that was a drink at a small little store by the side of the road. He beckoned me over to a hammock, shouted some Vietnamese then a few minutes later we had some drinks. Sugar cane drinks. These became my absolute favourite thing and I crave them even more now.
After a while longer of following my new found friend he turned off the main road and I followed. No idea where I was going now but google was rather adamant this was the wrong way. We travelled further down this little road into the middle of nowhere. There was a house coming in to view. Oh gosh, no. He wasn’t taking me home to show me off was he? My thoughts were quickly confirmed – about him taking me to his house, maybe not so much the showing me off.
I pulled up and parked next to him. His parents promptly came out and said hello to me. His father was laughing at my bike while I was crying inside because Betty was slowly breaking on me. Slowly but surely I got off my bike. My whole body had gone stiff from sitting down in the boiling sun for so long. Promptly after I got off the father walked over to me and started taking selfies. Not just one or two though. He was taking plenty. From every angle too – even the best down below double chin angle. This felt like it went on for eternity. In reality it was probably about 4 photos.
After the paparazzi shoot I sat down and spoke to the father while Tran (I only found out his name at a later date through a Facebook add. Thanks Mark Zuckerberg!) sorted out some bits and pieces. I sat with the parents who gave me some water while we made small talk. They were both incredibly friendly and absolutely lovely. They even offered my some gloves so I could keep my sunburnt blistered hand out the sun. I felt rude to take them so stuck to my trusty tea towel to keep it covered. Before I knew it Tran was beckoning me to leave. We took a photo with both our bikes. Then with the father. Then with the mother. Shortly after it was time to hit the road.
I went to start my bike so we could start the last leg of the journey. Turned the key and hit the ignition. Nothing. It just kept turning over. This was embarrassing. Tran had already left and was looking at me all confused. I tried to bump start it, still wasn’t working. The father had to push me about 20m down the road before I got poor little Betty to sputter to life. That was not embarrassing at all.
Back on the road it was rather uneventful. We made our way to Hoi An dodging a big rain cloud and making it there in decent time. Just outside the city we stopped on a bridge, had a quick pit stop. Tran took a beautiful photo to commemorate the moment.
We exchanged facebook’s and before we left he proclaimed “Dinner tonight at 7. Me and you. I pick you up. Ok?” I agreed, can never turn down someone who knows the local spots. We set off and I headed for where I was staying. A villa at a pricey £13 a night. It was pure luxury.
Fast forward to the evening. It was approaching 7pm and I felt like a young girl about to go on her first date. I was so excited. I even did my hair (something I had not bothered to do since entering Vietnam.). Donning my flip flops, my clean shorts and a semi clean shirt. This was the best I had dressed in weeks. I picked up my bike helmet and waited outside to be whisked away.
We drove into the city, parked the bike and wandered over to a restaurant. There were a couple of tourists waiting outside. This did not phase Tran one little bit. He walked into the restaurant and shouted some Vietnamese towards the staff. Next thing I knew they pulled the end of a table off the people sitting nearby us and set us up in the middle of the room. That’s one way to get things done. As our food came out the people outside were still waiting. Staring me down with every mouthful I had.
After filling our stomachs with chicken and rice Tran took me on a tour around the old city. It was absolutely beautiful and fully deserved it’s world heritage site status. He took us up to a rooftop bar and the views were amazing.
After him showing me further around the city I found out he was studying tourism at university. Maybe I was just a practice run for him? Ether way he knew so much about the city it was fantastic. My own little tour! As the night came to an end he took me back to the villa and I went to bed reflecting on what a bizarre day it had been.
Hoi An and the surrounding area:
The next morning I met up with my friend, Rhian, who I had been travelling with. We decided to take a tour on the bike for the day and headed up to Da Nang then up the mountain Tho Quang (It was more of a really big hill but still….). It was a beautiful, sunny, hot day. Great. Another day for me to get burnt. We set off to Da Nang and on the way I could tell Betty was not very happy. She had started backfiring more often. The clutch was basically non-existent at this point. But she powered on like the strong, old and reliable lady she was.
Once we arrived in Da Nang we headed straight to the beach. It was beautiful. Golden sand stretching for miles slowly being encroached by a stunning clear sea. There was not a soul in sight and we made our way towards the sand. Now, I was wearing my converse and I’m sure you know what a crime it is to go on a beach with socks and shoes on. I whipped them off and headed onto the sand. Boy, oh boy, what a mistake that was. The sun had super heated the sand to a point where it felt like it was about to melt into glass. I was hopping from foot to foot like a gecko trying to stop my feet burning. I did not last long there before heading back to cooler ground and hopping back on the bike.
After the very brief and very warm beach stop we headed up to Tho Quang. When I said this was a mountain it certainly felt like it. Poor Betty struggled with the climbs, only just making it up some of them. These climbs were made even more interesting by the fact they were laying fresh tarmac across half the road. At least the wet tar meant I had more grip.
Once at the top the views were absolutely stunning.
We stayed for a short while before making our descent back down towards Da Nang. Little did I know this would be one of my last ever rides on Betty. As we raced our way down the winding roads the clutch began to slip more and more. Betty was also backfiring more than ever. It sounded like we were trying to recreate a Vietnam war scene.
As we made our way further into our journey I began to worry more and more if we would even make it back. Every metre seemed like a blessing at this point. I luckily spotted a garage on the side of the road and darted in. They looked over it for a few minutes, took some bits apart and alas. It was a new clutch that was needed. In a moment of being tired and frustrated Betty was dying I decided I would try to ride the bike back. Sounds like it might not be too hard, right? The clutch was bad before but now the cable had been completely removed. I tried to start the bike then drop it straight into gear. What a mistake. With Rhian holding on for dear life behind me. I dropped it into first and pulled the most magnificent wheelie before dropping myself and the bike on top of Rhian. That was enough for me to call it a day with the bike. I left the bike with them, hailed a taxi and left.
Hoi An did leave me with one fantastic thing though. Something I will cherish forever. The Banana suit:
Hoi An to the Hai Van Pass:
The next day I made the journey to the garage to see how my bike was. It wasn’t in a good place. It worked to an extent and that was enough for me. I set off on the next adventure – the Hai Van Pass. With my own mini Top Gear Episode I set off on the start of an epic adventure. Or so I thought. I made it just past Da Nang when my clutch failed completely again. Pulling the throttle caused the revs to shoot up with no acceleration. I was devastated. Betty had got me so far. In that moment I decided it was time to take her to the graveyard and sell her to a mechanic. A few hours later I was a bike down and my wallet was 1 million dong heavier. Contingency plan needed.
I met back up with Rhian and a few other people I had met earlier in my travels. We all decided we wanted to do the Hai Van Pass by bike. Determined to make it happen we headed to the hire shop. We found a nifty little place that we could hire bikes from. They even sent our bags to the other side so we didn’t have to travel with them. Score! Furthermore, they were automatic scooters as well. So now I wouldn’t need to battle a dodgy clutch like on Betty. We paid for the bikes, packed our bags and dropped them off. Now it was time to sleep and get ready for the big day.
We set off early. With Top Gear in my mind I was ready for a great adventure. The weather wasn’t too shabby either. We grabbed the bikes and started our journey, first stop – The petrol station. The bikes didn’t have much fuel so a quick top up and we were good to go… again. I even brought my two bottles of petrol I had been carrying since I bought Betty. Maybe I would be able to use them at last! The rest of the drive to the start of the Hai Van Pass was rather uneventful. We all whizzed through the streets, enjoying the freedom of the bikes all together. Just before the start of the route we started to feel the rain coming. A quick pit stop to put the water proofs on and we were back on our way.
The route up the hill (Mountain?) was beautiful. It was a lovely winding road and it was almost empty. The only thing spoiling the day was a slight spot of rain. However, even with the rain it was still a gorgeous journey up to the top. (Catch a quick video glimpse of the journey here.)
We made it to the top in fairly good time. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was lovely! It even had some remnants of the past up there as well, with what I could gather was some kind of fort. We stopped for a quick drink and toilet break and clambered around the ruins while taking the view in.
After our quick pit-stop we hit the road again. The way down was just as beautiful as the way up. We found ourselves snaking our way down the mountain until we hit sea level again. Even from here the ride was just as beautiful. We took a short detour to make the most of the bikes and headed down the scenic route. Only managing to get lost a couple of times we closed in on Hue. We were so close to getting there. Then disaster struck. We had a casualty. Someone had fallen off their bike. Thankfully, it was only minor while we were going slowly. Back up they got and we headed on our journey.
We made it to Hue in perfect time. Quickly we found the bike shop and picked up our luggage. Then parted ways with our friends as Rhian and I headed to our homestay for the next few days. After checking in, we dumped our belongings and headed out to find food. We met up with Sina and Claudia whom we had shared our bike ride with. They took us to a nice little restaurant that was heaving. We had our food and made plans for the next day. The idea was to hire bikes and go to see the sights around the town. Since Hue was full of so much history it was lining up to be a fantastic day.
I woke up bright and early to the relaxing sound of rainfall, ready to conquer the day. Wait, rain? That’s going to dampen the plans for the day. I’ll spare you the boring details of my morning routine but after I was ready I headed to see how bad the rain was. My gosh. I’d never seen anything like it. No one had left the homestay. There was a genuine river running outside from the rainfall. I checked my phone and Sina had sent me a video of people carrying a bike through the water as it splashed around their knees. Why don’t they hire kayaks and not just bikes? The day was a bit of a write off due to the weather. We bimbled around the city taking in what sights we could. The clouds definitely hampered the views. We spent the rest of the day worrying if our bus was going to be cancelled. We went to bed and crossed our fingers hoping the weather would clear.
The weather did not clear in the morning. However, this was not stopping the buses. We loaded up onto the sleeper bus and prepared for our journey to Hanoi. It was a rather short 12 hour coach drive leaving Hue at 3pm. We were told it was going to arrive at in Hanoi about 4am. Lovely.
These sleeper buses were not made for people of my “caliber”. The average height in Vietnam for a male is 5ft 4 inches. I’m 6ft 2 inches. Now for any of you who have not been on a sleeper bus. It’s basically a coach with three rows of “beds” with one at the bottom and on at the top. The beds themselves were basically seats you could almost lay down in with a hard plastic bit at the bottom. I did not fit at all. I spent the majority of the journey curled up in the fetal position wishing for it to hurry up and get there. The bus was absolutely packed (that or they didn’t like the so called beds either). As people ended up sleeping in the isles.
Fast forward a while and we made it to Hanoi. Bright and early for a sunrise walk through the city.
It was nearing 5am by the time we unloaded off the bus, grabbed our bags and began to figure out what we were doing. There were tonnes of taxis waiting to take us all wherever we needed. Now, I have a bit of a bugbear with taxis. I have been ripped off by them one too many times. So I try to avoid them at all costs. This meant a nice early morning walk to the hostel.
The walk itself was quite pleasant. We made our way through the park. Past some beautiful churches.
There was an oustanding amount of people around at this time. Lots of people running and others just going about their daily business. It was quite eye opening (It’s very rare I’m up at this time. Unless there’s lots of alcohol involved).
I would like to say this day was full of adventures. I’m sorry to disappoint you all but it was mainly a day of trying to sleep on a hostel sofa. We weren’t able to check in when we arrived. So we let them know we were there and tried to catch some much needed shut eye. I struggled very much. Rhian on the other hand made it look easy. Slumped in the corner. Sunglasses on. People sat all around her. And she still managed to drift off. Rather frustratingly for me as I couldn’t quite hack it.
After we had checked in, we decided to explore for a while. The day was kept rather light as we didn’t want to tire ourselves out too much for another big-ish journey to Cat Ba tomorrow.
For dinner that night we decided to indulge ourselves in some traditional Vietnamese food. Really broaden our horizons. That was until we spotted a curry house. It was then and there Rhian and I decided that was dinner.
The curry and beer went down an absolute treat. I wonder if this shop was kept open by Brits missing curry nights back home? Either way, it filled us up ready for a good rest.
The rest of the night was rather non-eventful and we headed back to the hostel to sleep. Ready for our journey to Cat Ba the next day.
The journey to Cat Ba was not much different to most of our other coach journeys. Only a short 6 hours! What a breeze compared to our other journeys. We arrived in Cat Ba at about 4pm. We checked in and wondered what to do. We hadn’t really done much research into what to do. All we had planned was our kayak trip around Ha Long bay the next day.
A quick search on google maps showed there was an old cannon fort on the island. Perfect. It combined my weird desire for history everywhere I went with gorgeous views across the scattered islands. Perfect. I set off on the climb up the fort.
After a grueling 30 minutes climbing to the top I made it. My shirt quite literally drenched through (thanks humidity). Was definitely an attractive look. However, it was all worth it. Walking around there was so much history to look at. They had extremely well preserved gun emplacements modeled out. And loads of different artifacts. I bimbled around all the different passages enjoying myself before sunset. Here’s a few photos pre-sunset. Was just too many to choose from. There’s an absolute killer photo of the sunset. You’ll need to keep scrolling down for that one.
As the sun began to set I made my way to one of the lookout points. Or what I assume was a look out point? There were a few people gathered around watching the sun go down. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. You had the rolling green hills with the sun scattering it’s different shades of light through the clouds in front of a beautiful blue sky. All the fishing boats floating still in the water below. It was truly beautiful.
Everyone just stood in silence taking the views in. It was truly magnificent.
Once the sun had began to completely vanish I sauntered my way back down to the hostel. I got some food and hunkered down for the night. Ready for a day of kayaking, swimming and exploring Ha Long Bay.
It was a lovely day to be exploring Ha Long Bay. We got onto our tour boat and set off. The first part of the journey was lovely and peaceful. Well, maybe it would have been without the engine chugging away. Either way, the views were gorgeous. The different sized tree covered islands surrounded by a beautiful sea. It truly was breathtaking.
There was however one heartbreaking part. The amount of litter floating around was unreal. It was such an amazing place littered with plastic all over.
(Side-note. Please be conscious of your litter people! It ends up in beautiful places like this)
The boat took us to a small mooring where they had two person kayaks. Rhian and I hopped in and paddled around enjoying the scenery.
After a while of chilling in the kayak. We headed back to the boat. They had prepared us lunch. We filled ourselves up before they took us to another location. Where we all ended up jumping in the water for a swim and to cool down. Until the look of the staff on the boat changed and they looked rather worried at a few jellyfish swimming by. Their concerned looks were enough to make us all get out the water.
The rest of the the trip was rather lovely and relaxing. Watching the world roll by as we headed back to Cat Ba. The rest of the day was a mix of resting and food. Before finally going off to sleep to get ready for our return to Hanoi.
Hanoi part 2:
Now, I say there was a Hanoi part 2 but not much happened. It mainly consisted of us relaxing after an extravagant few weeks and trying to recoup some energy for when we headed back to Thailand.
We met up with some friends we had been travelling with for a drink and to say goodbye. And we also managed to find a concert going on. Where people were literally screaming and running to see whoever was playing. We had no idea who it was. But I’m going to pretend they were super famous. Pretty sure it was the Queen of England break dancing.
That about wraps it up for an abridged version of my trips through Vietnam.
After this it was back to Thailand, where more adventures awaited me.
If you made it this far. Kudos to you and thank you for reading.