Edit Blog Post
Published: April 17th 2013
Our month in Vietnam is over! It was a very full on month; we took a lot of buses, saw a lot of places and made a lovely Danish friend Leah, whom we travelled with for about 3 weeks (a very long time in the travelling world!). We ended up staying in Hoi An for about 3 days. We had a hotel with a pool for the first time! We rented bicycles, got lost in the old town and rode out to the beach. We also ate a lot of good food there, the best we had in all of Vietnam! We also had clothes tailor made, an interesting experience although they struggled to get the dress I designed quite right. It took three trips back to the tailors and ultimately a motorbike ride out to the work shop where five Vietnamese women made me strip to my underwear, stand on a stool and then they proceeded to prod and poke me until eventually declaring the dress was perfect. It was very nice, not really the dress I designed but the women were so happy with their work and I couldn't be bothered to spend any more time as a mannequin
so I gave in! I was taken back into Hoi An where I met Beth and Leah in a very tasty bakery and treated myself to apple pie and caramel ice cream which made me happier than is probably normal! I really liked Hoi An, it was very beautiful during the day with flowers tumbling over each building and at night everywhere was lit by brightly coloured lanterns; it had a very romantic feel.
We moved onto Hue and hired motorbikes again. We explored the Imperial city and saw sights such as the citadel. It was nice but I felt ill, we were all tired and couldn't really be bothered with cultural sight-seeing. We ended up instead riding around the town and getting lost in provincial areas, it was nice seeing a less developed part of town. Beth had been there two years ago and almost didn't recognise it, it has been built up so much. After our short lived cultural exploration, we booked the bus out of there for the next day and opted for an evening of cocktails and dancing! We took another sleeper bus, this time armed with sleeping pills to our next destination, Hanoi. It's
a very busy city where the chance of being run-over is a very real possibility! You just kind of walk determinedly and the cars and millions of motorbikes dodge you! I loved it but friends, particularly Dewi and Glenn, will know I've always been a bit relaxed when it comes to crossing the road - "cars will stop for me"! (worry not mother, I haven't been run over yet!) We checked into the famous Hanoi Backpackers hostel and it was really social and fun. We were put into a female dorm called the 'Nunnery' - finally my father's dream for me to end up in a nunnery came true! We spent our first day there just getting lost, I really liked how each street had a different thing to sell! One street sells shoes, another phones, another bamboo, another bia hoi (fresh beer which costs about 10p), etc. The first night, we went for drinks on the rooftop bar, got talking to a big bunch of people and I ended up having a really good night out in Hanoi. We spent another couple of days in Hanoi, did a walking tour of the city and met up with Ana, our
Spanish friend who we met in Laos and travelled with for a few weeks in Cambodia! It was a very short but sweet reunion!!
On the 2nd April we went on the Castaway trip with the hostel. It's a 3 day, 2 night trip to Halong Bay. Halong Bay was truly amazing, we had clear weather but sadly no sun. The first day you take the boat out to Castaway island, stop for a while where you dive from the top of the boat and then you're greeted at the island by the previous group. We had a really fun group, we played games, beach volleyball and partied. We were staying in huts on the beach and I fell out of mine. Basically, stairs got the better of me again! I lost my balance on the top step, grabbed the nearest beam, swung OUT of the hut instead of back in and fell straight onto my back on the beach and rocks below! Classic. I lay there pathetically calling for help/Beth when a kind gentleman found me and picked me up. I hobbled off, wondering what was hanging off my foot. Only when I reached the light of the
bar did I realise it was a big flap of my skin. I'd cut my foot open and proceeded to fill the wound with sand as I'd hobbled down the beach. I got pinned down on a table in the bar while someone cleaned my foot, eventually finishing off with the delight of iodine which stings like you wouldn't believe! They bandaged me up and sent me on my way, but I was then limping for the rest of the trip and had to tell the embarrassing story to everyone who asked what had happened to my foot! Stairs - my bitter enemy! You'd think one day I'd learn how to walk down them! The next day was Beth's birthday and Leah and I made sure everyone knew it by singing to her at breakfast and giving her presents. She was happiest with the jar of Marmite I'd searched Vietnam for! Strange girl. She declared she wouldn't be sharing - absolutely fine with me!! We spent the morning doing high-speed tubing which basically involves four girls clinging on as hard as possible to an inflatable platform while a speed boat tries its hardest to throw you off. It was SO
fun but ridiculously painful! Each time you'd hit the water, you felt like your whole body had been assaulted. You'd come to the surface, completely disorientated then haul yourself back up for another go! My favourite moment was hearing Leah shout "I've lost my bikini bottoms!" but luckily they rose to the surface and she was able to preserve her dignity. After about 4 goes at the tubing we were left out in the bay and told to swim back to shore! Bastards! We were all destroyed and slowly paddled our beaten bodies back. An hour or so later the bruises on my thighs were gaining me as much attention as the bandage around my foot. I have never had such massive bruises, just from pounding the water so hard! It was hilarious though! That afternoon we kayaked around the bay which was really beautiful. There was the option to do rock-climbing but I sadly had to decline as I couldn't stand on my foot. I did join in beach volleyball though! Don't think I was much help as I couldn't move very far but I enjoyed myself! One of the funniest things about it was watching people run to
hit the ball and shout "mine" which in keeping with Castaway rules meant they had to drop and do ten press ups! You also had to do ten press ups if you made the mistake of saying "ten". I only got caught out once but my immense lack of any upper body strength made for a very slow display! We greeted a new group to the island, played many more games, swam in the bay and danced on tables! The next day everyone is ferried back to Hanoi but we decided to visit Cat Ba island instead so said goodbye to our fellow band of broken warriors and waited for our boat. They decided to inform us five minutes before we were due to leave that the boat actually wasn't free! How about that! And charged us an additional $5. Not impressed.
We arrived in Cat Ba, feeling very broken! The high speed tubing had bruised our entire bodies, I'd managed to cut the sole of my other foot plus several toes, we hadn't had much sleep the whole trip, I'd picked up a horrible cold because the island was constantly damp and we were just a little bit
hungover! It was a great trip and Beth had a brilliant birthday but it took a few days to recover! We spent the first day in Cat Ba not doing much! We were staying in a massive hotel but seemed to be the only guests, it seemed like a bit of a ghost town. We did have a bathtub in our room though! An absolute dream after 3 days on Castaway! My first bath since leaving home! We got take-away pizza and watched movies in our room, felt like Uni! Next day, Beth woke up with an infected toe and was struggling to walk so decided to stay in while Leah and I hired motorbikes. She'd been to Cat Ba two years ago anyway so wasn't missing anything. Leah and I drove around the island, taking in the amazing scenery and stopping at a hospital cave, used during the war. We had a guide who explained what each of the rooms had been used for and it was fascinating, a cave had been the only safe place for a hospital! Any day spent on a motorbike is a good day for me so we had a brilliant time riding around.
Someone stole my helmet outside our hotel though so the men I hired the bike from charged me for a new one ... annoying! We left the next day for Sa Pa which involved a very long day of travelling. We left Cat Ba at 12:30, took a bus to the port, then a boat, then another bus, then another bus, then a taxi, then a mini van and then a sleeper bus finally arriving in Sa Pa the next morning at about 7am. Long!
When we arrived in Sa Pa, we were instantly struck by how cold it was! I was glad I'd had jeans made in Hoi An. We spent the first day having a little explore of Sa Pa town, got Beth medicine for her foot and tried to get used to the cold! It was chilly in Hanoi, Halong Bay and Cat Ba but Sa Pa was a whole new extreme. We haven't exactly packed many warm clothes and the hotel didn't have central heating so we were freezing! I appreciate it's been freezing back home for months so don't mean to complain but we're unprepared for cold out here! It definitely didn't help my
cold. I felt pretty tired in Sa Pa, everything just seemed to get a little bit on top of me and I felt jaded. Three and a half months away finally seemed to take its toll. We woke the next morning and decided to hire motorbikes. I didn't really feel like it in the morning, everything was grey and misty and miserable but it turned out to be a great day! We rode out to a nearby ethnic village and met all of the Hmong women who walked us through the village to a cave. Of course after they wanted us to buy their wares! I was eventually talked into buying a pashmina but it was a great shout considering how cold Sa Pa was! We then drove out to the Silver Waterfall and the road was incredible!! We were driving through the mountains, the weather had cleared up and the view was beautiful! Terraced rice fields, mountains, rivers; we just drove on and on. It was so refreshing. The next day, Leah and I went went on a two day trek. Beth decided to stay in Sa Pa because she couldn't really walk on her foot and she'd done
a trek there two years before. We set off with our guide and walked down through the mountains to visit different villages. It was nice but pretty easy-going. We reached our homestay by 2pm and were left wondering what we were going to do with the rest of our day! We wandered the village, enjoyed the amazing views and then found a cool bar run by a really nice Dutch guy who had board games and Earl Grey and incredible hot chocolate! It was needed as it got cold early on. We were wearing all the layers we had but were still cold! We went back to help cook dinner. The couple we stayed with didn't speak very much English so we struggled through dinner to communicate with each other. We did discover they'd never really travelled and it seemed so strange that we were sat in their kitchen, a girl from England and a girl from Denmark and they'd never even gone any further than Sa Pa! The next day we woke to find it was raining. Our guide came and we set off on a very damp trek. She asked if we'd like to go the easy way
or hard and we picked hard so she led us along tiny, muddy paths on the edges of the rice fields and we tried not to fall face first into the muddy water! We regularly slipped and slided but it was good to get some exercise and fresh air!
We left Sa Pa that night and took a sleeper bus back to Hanoi. We spent one last day in Hanoi, back in the hostel but they put us in a building over the road this time, on the 5th floor! Hanoi-ing! (See what I did there?!) Although on the plus side, no one joined us in our dorm so it was nice to just be the three of us for our last night together! Next day we said a sad goodbye to Leah and Beth and I flew to Bangkok. It was strange to be on a plane again, we haven't been on one since we left England! We had to wait for a couple of hours in the airport and they only have metal chairs. I can't understand why Asia doesn't have cushioned seats?! Always metal chairs, or plastic or wood! What's wrong with a bit of padding
Asia?! Anyway the flight itself was fine, fairly quick and we landed in Bangkok and headed for the train. I had been secretly arranging with Beth's family a nice hotel for us in Bangkok for two nights! We took a couple of trains, again hard plastic seats, and then got off at the right stop but I had no idea where the hotel was. I tried to discreetly ask people without Beth hearing and eventually we found the Holiday Inn. We walked into reception and I was staring at Beth, waiting for her reaction but she didn't seem phased. I was like "uhhhh, are you not wondering why we're here?" and it wasn't until I asked for the reservation for Joseph Kempster that she realised! She was so surprised and the room was incredible!! We had a massive double bed EACH (this rarely happens!), a huge window, bath tub, bath robes, slippers, TV, tea and coffee! I understand to many people, this is what a hotel room should sound like but after 3 and a half months of hostels and guesthouses, it was proper luxury!! I'd forgotten what a comfy bed felt like! I actually slept well for the first
time in a long time! The next day we wanted to make the most of the hotel so bought snacks in a supermarket and headed back to the hotel! We used the pool which was on the rooftop and was massive!! It was lush! We were back in the room later, Beth in the bath, when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to be greeted by a man with a table laden with champagne and chocolate cake and he was singing to me! I was like "stop, stop! Wrong person!" then made Beth come out in her towel to receive her birthday treat. My favourite part was how they got her name round the wrong way and so he sang "Happy birthday dear Kempster"! But it was an incredible treat for her and she was gleefully surprised all over again! I've informed my family and shall be expecting something equally as wonderful when my birthday comes around! We had two nights in the luxury hotel, were very grateful to Beth's family and were very
sad to leave the next morning. It was the perfect pick-me up though! I left re-energised and excited to be back in
We headed to Khao San road, the main tourist area of Bangkok because they were celebrating Songkran festival, Thai New Year from the 13th-15th which is basically a massive water fight. There wasn't much going on in our fancy hotel area but as our tuktuk drew nearer to Khao San, some kind Thai people threw a massive bucketful of water into the tuktuk! Soaked before we'd even got there, we grabbed our backpacks and ran into the nearest guesthouse. This room couldn't have been a bigger come down after the fancy hotel! Just a box with two of the most uncomfortable beds in the world, shared bathrooms and no windows. We just threw our stuff down, changed and got out to enjoy the festival. We bought waterguns, naturally, and got involved! It was mental! Everyone is soaked, spraying each other in the face, some people using pressure hoses and ice water, other people just opting for good old fashioned buckets! My gun wasn't exactly powerful and may have had Winnie the Pooh on it but don't let that fool you, I was just as lethal as the people with pressure hoses, I chose the most evil of all
tactics ... squirting people in the ear! Ruthless. They also have clay which they've mixed into a white paste and love to wipe all over your face! I have a bit of an issue with people touching my face, particularly when their hands are covered in crap so didn't enjoy that part of Songkran too much but otherwise it was hilarious! How they keep it up for 3 days is insane! There were groups just cruising around in pick up trucks with massive water butts, soaking anyone they could reach! We thoroughly enjoyed one day of it but the next day when we'd booked a bus to Krabi wasn't quite as fun. You don't really want to be soaked and covered in clay when you have to take an all-night bus! We took fresh clothes, waiting until we were safely on the bus before changing because you could get soaked at any moment! Thailand haven't mastered the art of sleeper buses in the same way as Vietnam. Vietnam understand the need to lie down to sleep, granted for Asian sized people but fortunately I fit that category! Thailand on the other hand just give you a regular coach. I didn't
get much sleep so after checking into a guest house in Krabi, went to the beach to nap for the rest of the afternoon. It's delightful to be back on the beach although it's not the nicest beach, we'll move onto an island soon and hopefully do some more diving. It rained last night though and has still been raining today! I haven't really seen the sun in weeks! Not since Hue so was looking forward to hitting the beach today, instead I'm stuck in the room and taking this chance to write my longest entry yet! Apologies you've had to read all of this, it's been a busy few weeks!!
I feel like this trip is in phases. Thailand (the first time), Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were phase 1. Thailand again is phase 1.1! Then we make our way south to Malaysia and begin phase 2! Friends we've made have already gone home and it's crazy to think we've still got such a long way to go! I've loved everything we've done so far and every country we've seen! I'm happy to be back on the beach, eating Thai food and hopefully doing some diving and then I'm
excited to see more of South East Asia!
Tot: 1.127s; Tpl: 0.089s; cc: 7; qc: 45; dbt: 0.0235s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb