Day 1: Ho Chi Minh-
Hostel: Boholand Hostel (highly recommend for solo travellers!)
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh this morning and was immediately amazed by the energy of the city. Everything was new to me from the moment I stepped off the plane and I had absolutely no idea where I was going. If I’m honest I’ve been confused from the second I’ve been here. Firstly, I got a taxi to my hostel from the airport and was given many strange looks as I attempted to use the Vietnamese dong. (Haha) I had absolutely no idea how to use it so just kind of improvised by handing money over and waiting for various different facial expressions to work out whether I had given too little or too much. When I arrived at my hostel (which was down a random alley on the creepiest street I’ve ever seen) I spent approximately 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get in until I realised it was a sliding door with a ginormous sign on the front with a left facing arrow, reading ‘slide to open’. Once I had eventually made it inside the owner Ana showed me a map of the city and explained which places to go to and taught me all of the secrets of the city. So I dumped my bags (napped) and went straight out! I then attempted to walk to the war museum where I got harassed by a man on a bike who kept shouting ‘my tour best tour all round city’ and so figured I was lost so may as well go with him on a tour. I’ve honestly never been so terrified but in an exciting and terrifying kind of way at the same time. First things first, the traffic here is horrendous and no rules apply whatsoever and so I think I must have counted at least 1000 near death experiences as we plunged out in between thousands of motorbikes catapulting at this bicycle crawling it’s way across the road. Once I arrived (alive) the war museum was absolutely incredible and really gave me an insight into just how awful the Vietnamese war was and is an absolute must when visiting Ho Chi Minh. Once I had finished here my guide took me to the Vietnamese post office where I sent a postcard back home. Next to this was the Vietnamese Notre Dame where I asked a lady to take a photo and I think she got every possible angle she could have (some not the most attractive). Down the road from here was ‘Book street’ which is famous for its book shops and the quirky coffee shops inside. At this point I realised I was starving as I hadn’t eaten since the meal on the plane!! However my tour was not yet finished so we continued to explore the city. We stopped off at the famous pagoda of Ho Chi Minh (have absolutely no idea what it was called) where my driver of the 3 wheel bike stopped for a BEER! Increasing my fear level by at least 20%. The Saigon river was opposite the pagoda and so wandered down there to view the city from a distance which was lovely until an old man started trying to sell me raw fish :). The last stop for the day was the Saigon Skydeck. I arrived here around 5:30pm to see sunset and I stayed up at the top of the tower for about 2 hours until it went completely dark to see the transition of the city from day to night. The lights were absolutely incredible and so beautiful. From this height I saw so many things including walking street which had the famous cafe apartments. I STILL hadn’t eaten so I spent some time (a very long time) looking for somewhere to eat and as my sim wasn’t working on my phone I had absolutely no idea where I was so did start to panic a bit and ended up buying about 4 unnecessary iced drinks just to use the WIFI in the shops. However I found a restaurant and had some vegetable noodles before I went back to the hostel after a really long day.
Day 2: Mekong Delta
Today I had a tour booked to do a full day on the Mekong Delta. I walked miles in the wrong direction to begin with (oops) but still made it on time for my bus tour. It was about 1 and a half hours to the Mekong river and we stopped at a rest stop on the way which was the strangest rest stop I have ever seen! It was almost like the gardens of a fancy hotel. I bought a banana smoothie here and then we continued on the bus journey. Before we stopped at the port we stopped at the Vinh Trang Pagoda and then we arrived at the port and got off of the bus and made our way onto the boat to go along the Mekong river.
The water is completely brown which Is because of the mud below it and is apparently really good for growing plants! My tour guide explained that the coconut trees along the river are different to those inland, the coconut shell is brown instead of green and there is no coconut water inside the coconuts that grow on the river! Our tour guide then explained that the toilet was called the ‘happy place’ (found this out after I had walked straight into the men’s toilets). We then went to a restaurant where they gave us lunch and I sat on a table with 2 people from Taiwan and 2 people from the Philippines and got to know them and a bit about their culture! After lunch we went to the coconut candy factory where we learnt how they make the candy which was so interesting and I bought some to take home with me (it’s delicious! ) we also got chance to try a shot of alcohol called snakebite which was the strongest alcohol I’ve ever had!!! Everyone was laughing at my reaction. From here we went on the rowing boat along the Mekong delta the traditional way which was absolutely incredible!
We were rowed in between the coconut and palm trees and is a fantastic way to get a glimpse of the more rural way of living. We then got to try the honey tea from the bees that they have there and I also held one of the bee trays!! (Scary). When we arrived back in the city I needed to get the hang of how to cross the roads (I.e. just run and hope for the best). On my way to find dinner 2 girls my age came up to me and asked if they could practice their English on me and I said yes (but I did get scared it was a pickpocket tactic and then became very aware of my belongings. It wasn’t, they were just being nice) I ate in a local cafe and got dinner for only £3.50!! From here I went to the night market which was good but quite expensive and so didn’t buy anything, and then I decided to make my way back to the sky tower to find the Cafe Apartments again where I had a coffee on the top floor and this was so amazing. I FaceTimed mum and stayed up there for about 2 hours before I got a taxi back to my hostel. It was a nice way to just sit and watch the Vietnamese city life and relax after a long day.
Day3: Flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Hostel: Siem Reap Chilled Backpackers. (Good location and amazing for transport and booking cheap tours!)
I came downstairs for breakfast and the owner said ‘sit down I bring you breakfast!’ So I sat down and she brought this amazing breakfast that consisted of the traditional Vietnamese pancakes with sugar coated passionfruit and green tea before I left for the airport. I got a taxi from my hostel to the airport and checked in for my flight to Siem Reap. The plane was like a toy plane! Was so old and was so small I was a bit worried at first. It had propellers and I genuinely didn’t think it would get off of the ground!! Was quite rocky but it was all fine and I arrived in Cambodia to 36 degree weather! Probably not my smartest idea to dress in all black for the journey! I got a SIM card in the arrivals hall and then got a taxi to my hostel where I admired the beauty of the city. Just from driving to my hostel I could tell I would love this country, it is not as busy as Ho Chi Minh and the people are SO friendly! Everyone smiles and says, “Hello how are you?” I checked into my hostel and was instantly greeted with an iced tea and booked my trips for the next days ahead! Obviously the first thing I did when I arrived was get on a bicycle and explore what was around (and surprisingly, I didn’t get lost on the way back! ) and then just as I got back to the hostel a group of people all from different places around the world asked me if I wanted to go for food with them! And so I followed them down to the river and we ate at one of the street food stalls along the river! I got a pineapple smoothie and veg noodles for £2! We waited for it to go dark and then explored the market area which was all lit up with pretty lights for the new year’s celebrations; we came back to the hostel and then I went back out again to pub street on the bike and it was so pretty! I got Oreo ice cream rolls (yum!) and then rode back to the hostel to sleep.
Day 4: Phnom Kulen National Park
Early start! Went on a tour to visit Phnom Kulen National Park which was absolutely amazing! During the journey there the guide explained that the more rural you get from the Siem Reap centre the houses get higher up and they build them with wood and on stilts in case of flooding. First we visited a temple with a reclining Buddha where I got blessed (again) and then spent some time looking around, I placed a lotus flower on the reclining Buddha as well which I think is supposed to be good luck (have definitely just made that up). It was quite sad actually because on the stairs on the way up to the temple there were a lot of homeless people some blind, some limbless and it was really difficult to watch. From here we then walked up to Phnom Kulen waterfall which was amazing!! All the locals were around there having picnics and enjoying their weekend and I went for a swim in the (muddy brown) water which was really cool! You couldn’t see a thing when you got near to the water because the spray was so intense! I met 2 people from Canada 2 people from Italy and 1 person from France who I got to know and spent the day with. While I was swimming the local children shouted ‘selfieee selfieee’ when they saw me taking photos and so I took a selfie with them. Many of them stare because they are not used to seeing British people in swimming costumes! (even more so a British person in a swimming costume screaming about how cold the water was, tripping over every single rock and getting every possible angle for a photo of the waterfall) We climbed back up the millions of steps and then made our way back to the bus to make our way back. I was quite tired this evening because I wasn’t very well yesterday and so I think my body was telling me to rest and the trip so far had already been quite full on! So I grabbed a pineapple smoothie and then headed to bed as I had a very VERY early start the next morning!!
Day 5- Angkor Wat and Night Markets
Even earlier start this morning! I woke up at 3:50 am and then the tuk tuk arrived at 4:30 am with the two Filipino girls I met in Ho Chi Minh on my tour to the Mekong Delta! They are such lovely people and as we both had plans to see Angkor wat and surrounding temples on the same day and so it made sense that we went together! At the ticket office they had to take a photo of us for our entrance ticket but didn’t warn you and so it’s the most unattractive photo I’ve ever had taken in my life (If you visit the temples- be ready) Our tuk tuk driver was so friendly and guided us round to Ankgor Wat temple where we waited for the sunrise. It was such a magical moment and I could honestly watch it over and over again! It was such an amazing feeling and the atmosphere with everyone sat around the lake waiting for the sun to rise above the ancient temple. After we had watched the sun come up we then walked around the temple and it was so incredible to see the intricate carvings on the walls and the way that the different parts of the temple were built. We spent 3 hours at Angkor wat walking around which shows just how big the complex is!! Before we moved to the next temple we had breakfast and by this point it felt like it was lunchtime but it was only 7am! After my fresh coconut and fruit and muesli we moved on to Bayun temple which is the temple with all the faces engraved into the different walls. The detail in the carvings are amazing and must have taken years and years to build! (well it did) We saw the machine that they use to build the temples and how they engraved all of the walls and it’s so much more creative than the way we build our houses now! Our guide was amazing at knowing where to take the best photos and took loads of pics of us around the temple and because he was a local rather than a big company guide he knew all the spots away from the mass of tourists! After we had wandered round this temple (I genuinely thought I was possibly dying in the heat it was 33 degrees at 8am!)
From here we then went to Baphuon temple which we didn’t spend too long on but just before we got to the temple were loads of monkeys!! There were so many baby monkeys I could have watched them all day long! (Then I found out they all have HIV and Ebola diseases so I briskly walked away). At the top of this temple (more steep stairs) was a reclining Buddha made out of the same stones that the temple was built with. It was almost like one of those illusions that once you’ve seen it you can’t lose it but it’s difficult to see in the first place. I was exhausted by this point and both me and my Filipino family for the day had to find the energy to carry on. We went to the tomb raider temple next which was the temple that they filmed the tomb raider film in (so cool) and I stood where Lara Croft stood in the film. The trees here were amazing because it’s an abandoned temple and so the trees have just grown around it and through it. After this temple we visited a small local market where I bought a T-shirt to remember the day. When I got back to the hostel I fell straight asleep until the afternoon and then went for a pizza opposite my hostel and then walked down to pub street to meet the 2 Filipino girls again. We walked around the markets and I bought a painting of Ankgor Wat, a lotus lip balm and a REALLY COOL fan! It looked like a normal fan but when you open it up it turns into a hat as well as a fan! Was absolutely fascinated. I also bought a dress because I needed more clothes as my clothes weren’t cool enough it is so hot out here! We all then went for a cocktail on pub street and then made our way back to the hostel.
Day 6: Flight to Da Nang, Vietnam
Hotel: Regina Boutique Hotel (Really good location, good for a one night stay)
This morning was quite chilled out as the last few days had been quite full on. I got a tuk tuk to a place called Tavoos garden to have breakfast which was recommended by the Canadian people I met at the waterfall (fantastic for vegans/vegetarians). I had vegan oatmeal and a turmeric and banana smoothie! So eco friendly and you had to take off your shoes and sit down on the mat which was so nice. The place was filled with sunflowers and loads of other plants and I definitely felt at one with nature! I then got a tuk tuk back and on the way to find a tuk tuk I came across the Canadian people again! Once I got back to the hostel I packed, checked out and sat around the pool until it was time to get my tuk tuk to the airport. It was boiling! (And I burnt myself oopsie). After that it was time to leave the hostel and make my way to the airport and I was sad to leave as it is such a beautiful country! I’ll definitely be back in the future. I met an Australian man at the airport who lives in a small town outside of Da Nang called Hoi An and highly recommended going there and so I will try and fit it into my time in Da Nang. Once I had arrived in Da Nang, I got a taxi from the airport to my hotel and while we were driving down I was once again blown away by how pretty all the lights and decorations were! We drove along the Dragon Bridge on the way there and it was so cool to see along the river. The driver didn’t speak English at all and so we had a conversation through the app that he had on his phone, although some of the translations were hilarious and definitely not what he was trying to say and so I was desperately trying To keep a straight face. It was reasonably late already and of course I wanted to get straight out and explore so I had a quick 20 minute power nap and changed my clothes and then went straight out! The Dragon Bridge was only a five minute walk from my hotel so I walked along down to the river. As I was walking to the river there was a man dressed as a bear following me down the street which was the strangest thing I’ve seen while walking…
When I got to the river the Dragon Bridge was so beautiful! There were bright lights everywhere and I walked along the marina and saw that the dragon changes colour every few minutes which was pretty. All the boats and cruises along the river are decorated with bright colourful lights which really lit up the entire river. After walking for a while I went to a cafe and sat opposite the river with an avocado smoothie and just admired the view. After this I walked up to the bridge and walked along and saw the dragon change colour up close and then stood and looked over the river. Just down the road from the bridge was the night market and so I wandered in there on the way back to the hotel and had a look around but didn’t buy anything. By this time it was already 9pm and so I needed to find somewhere to eat and really struggled! After walking around for a while I found a Japanese restaurant and had shrimp pasta and then went straight back to the hotel to sleep.
Day 7- Golden Hands Bridge and Ba Na Hills
Another early-ish start. I had breakfast in my hotel and then went down to the lobby to be picked up for my tour (which I booked on the Klook app, highly recommend!) to the Ba Na Hills to see the golden hands bridge and go on the longest cable car in the world! On the bus I met a man from the Philippines and a girl from Denmark who were both lovely and had amazing English. When we arrived at the bottom of the cable car entrance we were given the traditional Vietnamese hats to keep and so I wore it around the place! Getting on the cable car was surreal because I had only seen it in photos and videos and didn’t think I’d get to do it myself! It was so nice to just sit and watch the cable car going up and up to the point where we could see way above the clouds. The cable car was 500m long and as we approached the top we could see the Golden Hands Bridge emerging through the clouds. I was so excited to finally see it and so as soon as we got off of the cable car I went straight onto the bridge. It was honestly the most amazing bridge I’ve ever seen and the architecture is amazing! The tour guide took photos of me and me and the girl from Denmark walked the length of the bridge (and a Chinese tourist took a photo with me again…) and after we had admired the bridge we walked to the flower garden and I bought a banana ice-lolly. Then a Vietnamese worker wanted a photo with me too (I feel this is the beginning of many). We then got the next cable car further up into Ba Na Hills (which gets its name from the banana fruit because when the French came to the country they found a loss of banana trees and so planted them in the hills.) When we got to the end of this cable car we arrived at fantasy park which was a mini theme park type area and so we ate a buffet lunch and then wandered around. All of the arcade games were free and so were all of the rides and so we played loads of games and then rode the toboggan which gave such a nice few all the way down to the bottom and you could see the whole line of the cable cars. Once we had spent some time here it was time to head back to Da Nang city Centre and so we took a group photo and got back on the bus. The girl I met on the bus from Denmark was also interested in seeing Hoi An and said she would like to go with me in the evening if I didn’t mind! So of course I said yes and we met up later that evening to go to the city. We asked for a motorbike each using the GRAB taxi app (definitely download if you visit it’s so cheap and a fast way of getting around the various places) because it was so much cheaper than a taxi and quicker (and WAY more fun ) it was amazing riding through the city and into Hoi An!! Once we arrived I was immediately in love with this town. There were colourful lanterns hung up everywhere on the trees and hung from string between the shops and I immediately got an adrenaline rush and was ready to explore. We walked down to the old down and it was honestly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The colours were amazing and there were rowing boats along the river with lanterns hanging from the sides. So we got on one and were rowed down the river! The man gave us each a candle that we lit and then put it in the river to join all the others that people in the other boats had lit. We spent 20 mins going along in the boat and then walked down to find somewhere to eat. Once we had eaten we carried on walking through the town, looked at the market and I bought a handmade magnet and a postcard to remember the place. I actually could have spent a lot more time here but as I didn’t have the time, it was only a quick stop. It was quite late and so we got a motorbike back to Da Nang. When I come back to Vietnam I will definitely stay in Hoi An!
Day 8- Train to Phong Nha via the Hai Van Pass.
After I had eaten an early breakfast, I walked down to the beach which was about a 10 minute walk from my hotel and the beach was so pretty. Because it was early you could see all the locals rowing their boats into the shore after getting their food for the day! I didn’t have very long here because I needed to catch the train at 10am but I spent an hour walking along the beach (where a man gave me a hat and said the sun is hot wear it) and then I sat on the wall and just admired the view and let my thoughts take over. When it was time to leave I checked out of my hotel and got a taxi to Da Nang railway station. Boarded the train and set off on the 6 hour ride for Dong Hoi city. The train was so scenic and you had the beautiful view of the sea for the majority of the journey and if you are looking to do the train journey, this is a lovely way to see the country change from the urban to rural landscape.
Day 9- Arrive in Phong Nha
Hostel- Easy Tiger (Perfect for meeting people and such an amazing atmosphere)
Once I arrived at Dong Hoi train station I made my way to the bus stop to catch the local bus to my hostel in Phong Nha. It was so interesting to get on a local bus with the locals and While I was waiting for the bus I met an American man who was also staying on the Same street as me. As we were driving I could see the sun setting around the mountains and I knew this too was going to be a beautiful place. I arrived at my hostel and then booked a tour for the following day. I sat down to eat and then I was so tired I went straight to sleep!
Day-10- Dark Cave and Paradise Cave
Early start this morning, I was about to leave for a cave tour around Phong Nha to see Paradise Cave and Dark Cave. I met the people in the lobby that I was going to be doing the trip with and they were really lovely! And also hilarious. Everyone spoke English and so we all got along really well. The first cave we visited was Paradise Cave which was massive! The biggest cave I’ve ever seen and it was just so impressive. We spent around an hour walking around here and taking photos and then moved onto the next cave which was Dark Cave. To get to this cave we needed to zip line across and then swim to the entrance of the cave! The water was freezing and we were all laughing on the way into the cave. We were given helmets with a torch on and then we entered the cave bare foot. The cave was pitch black (hence dark cave) and it was quite funny as we were all slipping all over the place and were completely covered in mud. The walls got really narrow at points and we had to bounce off the walls at points to stay balanced. At the very end of the cave was a mud pool and because the mud was a mixture of solid and liquid we all kept plummeting into the water. I was having a lovely mud scrub and then I got sucked into a massive hole the mud (Lol) and honestly thought I wasn’t going to get myself back out for a moment. After we had made our way back out of the Dark Cave we kayaked down the valley to an ‘above water’ obstacle course which was so funny. We were so wet from the water so every time we went to hold on to a rope or metal hoop we would (I would) just instantly slip into the water. When I got back to the hostel I rented a bike and cycled down the river in attempt to find a spot to watch the sunset. I found a patch to sit and watch it and all of the local family’s came to watch it too! I started playing with the children and all of the parents were saying hi and wanted photos. It was such a moving and lovely moment that I’ll never forget.
Day 11- The Duck Stop
Today was Duck Stop day. The two guys I met on the cave tour were also going on the same day so we all motorbiked there together. We arrived at the Duck Stop (after We took several wrong turnings, which is why I shouldn’t be in the lead) and it was honestly the strangest thing I’ve ever seen but completely brilliant. We were taken into this room full of ducks and we each got a turn to be the duck leader. We then got to hold a duck and throw the lucky duck into the lake while we made a wish on it! The ducks were so cute and I wanted to take one home with me. I then got to ride a water buffalo which was also a strange experience but interesting. From here we went back to the hostel and then later that evening me and a girl I met that day from the Netherlands went back out on the bike to explore and just made it back in time before a big storm! I spent that evening chilling and later on we all went to the local club and partayeeeddd!
Day 12- Jungle Trek in Phong Nha National Park
Today was supposed to be a chilled day but me being me, I decided to do a trekking tour through the jungle as I wanted to get the most I could out of this beautiful place! I met an American family who I would be spending the day with and then the we got on the back of the locals motorbikes and set off. The first stop of the day was visiting a conservation centre which was the only one in Northern Vietnam!! It was the place where all of the injured animals that are rescued are taken to. They look after them and help them to recover and then release them back into the wild in various stages. No one can know where they release them because otherwise the poachers will be able to attack again. We got to meet some of the monkeys and I was playing with a baby monkey for ages, he kept holding my hands and playing with my fingers I could have stayed there all day long. We then walked around the corner to see the most beautiful peacock. I’ve never seen a peacock with its feathers fully on show and so this was incredible to see. After we had spent some time learning about each of these animals and where they were rescued from, we then made our way to the jungle to start the trek. When we first got there we were shown a small plant (Makahiya plant because hiya means shy in the Philippines) that shut its leaves when you touch it! Was amazing and really took me by surprise. We started the trek and I knew straight away that this was going to be a sweaty day! The majority was uphill and difficult stepping and so I was sweating in the first 5 minutes. The tour guide was smoking on the way up as well!! If I can’t even breathe walking up then I honestly have no clue how he does this every day! When we got about half way through the trek we stopped at a small waterfall where we all took a dip to cool off. From here we continued trekking and were shown the various grenades and bombs that were left in there from the war (and I tripped over an unexploded one oops) it was really interesting to walk down the secret pathway that the soldiers used. From here I walked straight through a MASSIVE spiders web that went all over my face and into my mouth and was so strong it felt like chewing gum! After I had had a few moments, we made our way into a cave which was nice and cool and the locals had cooked us a BBQ lunch on banana leaves and gave us lemon tea. On the way out of the jungle I was learning Vietnamese from the locals and we were making jokes with each other in Vietnamese! It took us around an hour and a half to make our way out of the jungle (with an aesthetic photo stop of course!) and then we got on the motorbikes and made our way back to the hostel. I had a few hours to shower and eat before getting ready for my overnight bus. I was on the same bus as 2 (very attractive) Dutch guys who I met a few days before) and we were all laughing about the bus. It was a really cool bus! I had never been on a night bus and kind of reminded me of the night bus in Harry Potter. I didn’t really get to sleep as it was only a few hours before my stop and the man shouted ‘Ninh Bình Ninh Binh!’ And that was my cue to get off.
Day 13- Arrive in Ninh Binh
Hostel- Ngyuen Shack (away from the touristy areas, beautiful setting and the family that own it are so friendly!)
I arrived in Ninh Binh at 3:30 am and I was still half asleep so hailed down a taxi and he took me to my hostel. When I arrived I saw a sign that said Nguyen shack (my hostel) 200m this way and so I followed the dark path where I was surrounded by toads, graves and chickens (and don’t want to know what else) and when I got to the end of the path the gates were locked and there were no signs anywhere. I had blocked numbers from my phone so it didn’t charge me and so I couldn’t make any local calls as I didn’t have a sim for Vietnam. I sat in the dark for a while at the end of the path and it was very scary at night but eventually got inside. As it was so early there were no beds available anywhere and so one of the locals offered that I sleep in his bed and so I did! I started to feel a bit sick in the night from the lack of sleep and the motion of the bus and as his bed was inside the kitchen the smells made me feel even more sick! From this point on I started being sick continuously and then woke up around 9 am where I attempted breakfast but failed! There were no rooms available until 12pm and so I got on a bike and went on a hunt for fresh air in the hope that it would make me feel better and I had to find a hotel to be sick on the way so turned back when I could. When I got back my room was ready and so I checked in and fell straight asleep! I wasn’t feeling too good and could spare a day in bed as I had luckily planned longer than I needed in Ninh Binh, and so I slept all day and all night long! I felt fine the next day and was ready to go and explore again.
Day 14- Trang An boat tour
I woke up feeling fresh and had a big breakfast of pancakes with Nutella and banana , a pineapple smoothie and fresh fruit to make up for the previous day. I asked the owner to draw me a map to get to the boats and so I followed the sketch map (and actually didn’t get lost wohoo!) and cycled to where the Trang An boats were. Here I parked my bike and bought a ticket for the three-hour boat trip. I was in a boat with a Vietnamese family who spoke really good English. The place was amazing. Because I got there early there weren’t too many tourists and so I could really enjoy the setting with limited boats (Tip: Get there early because it gets incredibly touristy the later you go). The mountains were just breathtaking and there was complete silence in the boat as we all just admired the landscape. We stopped a few times at different pagodas and temples and went through 9 different caves. We had to duck to fit through the caves which was cool and the whole time I had my mouth open shocked at how lovely it all was. It was ultimately the silver lining to me being ill the previous day. I walked around the market afterwards and bought a T-shirt and small key ring. After this I cycled to the ancient village and had a short look around before heading back to the hostel. On the way back I stopped at the side of the road to look at my map and the bike slipped down the mud bank and both it and me fell into the rice field next to it. My bike was then broken and I had to ask a taxi driver if he could fix it. Once my bike was fixed I then got extremely lost down some questionable alley ways but I found my way eventually and stopped for an iced coffee and some spring rolls. I then went back to the hostel and showered and chilled for a bit. It was quite late by this point and so it was almost time for dinner. The two girls that were staying in Tam Coc, the village nearby, mentioned somewhere to go and eat dinner so I got on a bike and attempted to go and join them. I got about 50 metres outside of my hostel and then was chased by about 5 dogs! I had to find a safe place to turn around and then cycled as fast as I could back to the hostel! I had to eat dinner in the hostel in the end as It was too dark and scary to cycle around but I couldn’t eat any more noodles for the moment and so I had scrambled egg on toast for dinner! After this I chilled in my room and packed my bag ready for the next day.
Day 15- Viewpoint and bus to Hanoi
I woke up and had some French toast for breakfast which I had never tried before and was delicious! I met the girls at around 9am to walk up to the viewpoint which was not far from my hostel. There were so many steps and when we got to the top it was quite misty but it was still an incredible view over Ninh Binh. We all then cycled to a coffee shop where I had some coconut coffee and then I said goodbye to the girls and went back to the hostel, and as soon as I got back the driver was there to pick me up to go to Hanoi! It took around 2 hours to get to Hanoi and then I went into the hotel I will be staying at later on in the trip to ask them if they could hold my bags while I went to explore the city. The first stop was train street! As I only had a few hours in the afternoon I stopped at train street for a coffee on the tracks and plan to come back to watch a train go by at the end of my trip and take some photos. From here I got a grab bike to the lake nearby and walked around which was really peaceful. After this I was craving some western food and so I found a place that did pizza overlooking the lake and watched the sun go down. On the way to dinner I bought a ticket to go and see the water puppet show on my last day which will be a bit different! I then went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for my overnight train to Lao Cai. The cabin was so fancy! I was pleasantly surprised as the last one I went on wasn’t very nice and smelt VERY bad! But this one was lovely and I slept really well.
Day 16- Arrive in Sapa
I arrived early morning in Lao Cai and we got picked up from the station to get a bus to Sapa which took us around an hour to get all the way up to the top of the mountains. It was amazing as we were getting higher and higher above the clouds and as it is quite misty in the morning we couldn’t see too much. We arrived at the hotel that was included in the tour that I booked and it was so fancy. We were welcomed and taken through to breakfast which was all very overwhelming after doing things myself for so long. From here we showered and went straight out on a trek through the valley and to meet the local H’mong people. It was amazing to see their way of living and how different it is from our own. The trek was through all of the rice fields and we were taught exactly how they harvest the rice. I met a Spanish brother and sister and we all had a laugh while we were sliding everywhere in the mud. We were then taken through their village and a local took us to his house where he offered us marijuana and then also opium after, another interesting experience) we then got a taxi back to the hotel and had free time to chill. I had an awful blister from the walk and so my toe was in a lot of pain and so needed to rest and let it heal as much as possible as I have another trek the next day. I had a shower in my fancy hotel room and spread out across the whole length of the bed. I had a nap and then went to find somewhere to eat dinner. I was really tired after this and so chilled in bed and watched the mist lower and move past my window (quite creepy !!)
Day 16- Cat Cat Village
Early start, one of the local H’Mong people picked me up and we made our way down to Cat Cat village which is the home of the black H’Mong people. I got to see how they weaved all of their clothes and how they live day to day. After the tour we came back to a restaurant where I had the nicest grilled tofu ever! Since I still had about 4 hours before my bus back to the train station, I decided last minute to get the cable car to the Fansipan Summit. This was something I wanted to do but wasn’t sure if I had time but I did! As it was a week-day and too expensive for the locals, I had a cable car to myself!! The view going up to the Fansipan summit (which is the highest summit in Indochina ) was absolutely incredible and I was stood up the whole time just staring at the mountains ahead. I started to get a little bit emotional and a few tears slipped out because it was such a lovely moment to have by myself and began to reminisce on the trip and the view was just breathtaking. We arrived at the top and little did I know I still had to climb 650 steps to get to the very top! It was getting colder and colder the higher that I got and also was extremely windy! All around me I could see people in mountain gear and I was walking up in shorts and a T-shirt! (people probably thought I was a fool) Half way up it got too cold so I found a raincoat in the bottom of my bag that was enough to keep me warm. After about 40 (long) minutes I reached the summit and the view was absolutely incredible. The wind was so strong it was blowing me around and so couldn’t stay up there too long. I could see so far down into the valley and it was such a clear day I could see so far through Sapa. I met an Australian girl at the Summit and we got to know each other and then walked down the mountain. It was an amazing end to my time in Sapa and after a shower I met back up with the Spanish people and we were taken to Lao Cai station to have dinner before getting the overnight train back to Hanoi.
Day 17- Ha Long Bay Cruise
I arrived in Hanoi around 5:30am and we were taken to a hotel in Hanoi to have a shower and some breakfast (they also had a gym so I had a mini workout before breakfast) I then had around an hour to explore and so I walked to a coffee shop called ‘The Note Coffee’ where people can write their own post it notes and stick them anywhere in the shop. The place is covered in people’s notes from all over the world and it’s incredible to see. I then wrote my own notes and stuck them on the wall. My pickup for the Ha Long bay tour was at 9 and so I had to make my way back to the hotel and wait for my transfer to the boat port. It was around a 2 hour journey on the bus and then we got on the transfer boat to be taken to the Calypso Cruise boat which was anchored in the sea. We sat down for lunch but I had just had breakfast and so I went up to the deck to enjoy the view instead because they spent ages on lunch and I would rather see the view! For ages I just watched the little islands pass the boat and take some photos. I went down to my room to freshen up and it was incredible! There was a massive window overlooking the bay and also a window in the shower which was cool. The bed was humungous and everything was so fancy! We then had chance to kayak and we kayaked around Ha Long bay and went through the light and dark cave. The view was amazing! I genuinely felt as though I was dreaming. Once the transfer boat got back to the cruise we then had chance to swim around. This was so cool and me and a girl from Germany both jumped off the boat into the sea. I then freshened up and sat on the deck for a while and then it was soon time for dinner. I bought 2 cocktails to get the third free and after dinner I just sat and watched the pink moon (I think it was genuinely pink and not just because I was tipsy). I was really tired by this point so I went to sleep and once again spread as far out as I could in my large bed! Once again.
Day 18- Cat Ba Island and travel back to Hanoi
I woke up to the beautiful view of Ha Long bay through my cabin window and just laid there for a few moments to appreciate the landscape go by. Tai chi was at 6:30 on the top deck so I got out of bed, got changed and went up to the deck to begin the Tai Chi lesson. The lady was dressed in white silk clothes and we all learnt the basic Tai Chi steps. After this we went down to have a buffet breakfast and then I went up to the top deck to watch the view once again before it was time to visit the war hospital cave on Cat Ba island. This was really interesting and we could see all of the different rooms that were used by the soldiers to treat injured fighters. After this we came back to the cruise and checked out before we got transferred back to the bus to Hanoi. Once I arrived in Hanoi I checked into my hotel and made my way to Hoan Kiem lake to watch the sun go down and enjoy the Easter festival going on. It was so humid I was dripping with sweat within about 5 minutes of being outside!! After spending some time around the night market, I then went to a restaurant called chops and had a fish burger which was amazing. I carried on going around the market for a while but got very hot and so went back to the room and fell asleep.
Day 19- Hanoi
Hotel- Rising Dragon Palace Hotel
EASTER!!!!! And also my last day in Vietnam (sad). (But I’ll be back!) this morning I woke up early and went straight to the Temple Of Literature before breakfast. It was beautiful and the structure was so intricate. I wandered round here for about an hour and there were lots of schools there on trips to the temple! After this I got a bike to a cafe called ‘Lifted’, which was a healthy vegetarian/vegan cafe. Breakfast was included in my room but I was craving oatmeal and so I went there instead and had banana porridge and a cacao peanut smoothie. (I stood there for about 10 minutes pushing and pulling the doors until I, again, realised it was a sliding door). After this I went back to the hotel to freshen up and pack my backpack to check out before 12. As soon as I checked out I made my way to the train track cafe, and I was so excited because I’d been there before but this time I was going to watch a train go past! So I sat at the cafe, ordered egg cocoa and waited for the train to come by. All of the locals carry on their work on the tracks until they feel the vibration and then everyone moves flat to the sides and the train comes past every few hours and then they all continue their lives on the tracks. I sat staring down the train tracks until finally the train sounded it’s horn and the front appeared around the corner. As the train came past I put myself flat against the wall and the train coming past was only centimetres away from our bodies! It was amazing to watch it and certainly something to tick off of my list. After this I got a bike down to Hoan Kiem lake and because it is the weekend, all of the streets are closed and there is such a nice atmosphere around the streets. All of the local schools are out doing displays and everyone is so happy. The families are sat around the lake having picnics and laughing and it was so nice to sit on a bench and just watch the Hanoi life.
I visited a few more markets and bought a fan because I was literally melting away in the heat! I went to the restaurant I went to when I first arrived in Hanoi and looked over the river to eat a bigger lunch before my long flight. After my early dinner, I made my way to the entrance of the water puppet show and then went in to be seated! The stage was just water and then musicians came in either side and began playing music. The puppetry was amazing and I didn’t expect it to be that good if I’m honest. At times I believed that they were real and was fascinated by how they do it and the stories that they told with them (the man asleep next to me obviously didn’t feel the same way). After this I had to get a bike back to the hotel and then straight away get a taxi to the airport. I was feeling a bit emotional and sad because it has been an absolutely incredible trip and I didn’t want to leave. It is such a beautiful country and I’ll definitely be back. I just sat in the taxi and watched the Hanoi life one last time through the window. I have so many memories to take away and I’ve met so many people from all over the country that have offered to tour me around their countries when I come and visit. I’ll never forget the moments I have created on my own during my travels and these are mine to keep and I’ve experienced things for myself for the first time so many times during the time I was away. Things that took my breath away and saw things that made my heart tingle. I will remember these feelings forever and will definitely be back to explore more of this country and the Far East, after a few trips there I feel so at home and welcomed by the people there. Over and out!