Vietnam - we arrived in Vietnam after a long sleeper bus from Laos. We didn't know sleeper buses existed up until that point and after 27hours in a horizontal position we wish they didn't! To top this travelling off we both overdosed a little on sleeping tablets which did not do what they were supposed to and left us spaced out and groggy. I also decided my phone would be much happier without me and left it on the bus for it to travel back to Laos. I hope it's happy there!
Once in Vietnam we got hounded by taxi men to take us into the centre. We wanted to start walking and hail one down as they turn out to be a lot cheaper but an American pair had asked to share a taxi with us. We obliged as we didn't want to seem rude plus we thought they would share part of the cost. The taxi was way over priced and the American guy would not stop talking!!! He spoke to us like we hadn't been travelling for 5 months (even though he'd only been travelling for two weeks) telling us that the taxi fair was cheap and
how he'd heard Hanoi was thief central. (Pretty much like most big cities you have chancers!) it's safe to say we were glad to lose the Americans as soon as we got to Hanoi.
Hanoi turned out to be wonderful! People were so friendly and the old streets had such a vibe to them that we found ourselves walking around endlessly for two days and just enjoyed taking in the whole atmosphere of the city. We found ourselves ending up at the lake more times than I can remember. People asked to have photos with us and there were so many people exercising around it all the time. There was such a happy vibe to Vietnam and I instantly knew I was going to love this place.
Next stop was Phung Nang. We took a sleeper train and again the locals were so interested in us that we ended up with children jumping all over our beds taking selfies with us. They were so fascinated with Robert and his beard never mention his height! The scenery in Vietnam is beautiful so much green mountains and hills that just sharply cut out of from the flat land. We arrived at
the train station and jumped on a local bus to our destination, again people smiled and welcomed us. We finally got to our destination in the middle of nowhere with a lake and farmland all around. We decided to jump on some bikes and see what was around. We cycled through many little villages where children and sometimes adults would run out there homes to wave and say hello. The sun was shining and the scenery was just unbelievable. Its times like that that we could just burst with happiness. It's such a privilege for Robert and I to see and be part of an entirely different world to our own, sometimes we have to pinch ourselves!
We decided to do a day drip to caves with an adventure activity the next day.... I have mixed emotions of this day but a story from it nevertheless..... We started in the national park visiting a sacred cave that entrapped young women and men who decided to shelter from bombs the Americans dropped. The cave unfortunately locked them in and they couldn't be rescued, their bones remain in the shrine so we did not enter. We next walked up a hill for
a km to only walk down 100s of steps into the biggest cave I've ever been in. Huge stalactite and stalagmites illuminated the huge space. We were told it is nowhere near the biggest cave but if walked it would take 32km to get to the other end. We walked 3km inside. Just incredible. After lunch we ended up by a huge turquoise lake with a zip line running across it to get to our next destination... The mud cave. We ziplined in swimwear across the 200m wire only to then swim into the cave. Once there we navigated the dark cave with head wear and torch through narrow slippy mud corridors as the mud became deeper the openings became narrower. We eventually walked into an open cave area with a pool of brown mud that looked a little bit like chocolate. The mud was so heavy and once sitting it was hard to stand back up! After frolicking for a bit we made our way back out. This is where this story begins to become a traumatic experience for me. I forgot to mention we were with a group of people and I happened to be a slightly bigger
frame than the other girls... To get out of the cave there was a rope that you slide down. I will remind you that now I look like a huge turd and I could not hold on to the rope so I slipped all the way down the slope with no grace whatsoever. Legs above my head I then try to register this and regain my dignity by standing only to slip and slide and have to crawl on all fours to get out of the way for the next person. After leaving the cave we got on kayaks to head back to where we got on the zipline. For some reason Robert and I could not seem to manoeuvre the kayak in the direction we wanted so ended up spinning in circles pretty much all the way to the shore!. At the lake there was an obstacle course in the air that you could do. Using ziplines. We all got in a line to go on the zipline that throws you in to the water at the end. No harness this time just body strength. After watching everyone do this and seeing them doing back flips into the water
I presumed it was easy. I stepped up to the zipline about 20m from the water. I struggled to get grip as I'm short, once I felt ready I jumped...... Like a baby elephant falling out of the air I slammed into the water.. The zipline handle hadn't even moved. Embarrassment is not even the word for what I felt at this point. My thighs were numb from hitting the water full force but all I could think about was how I was gonna handle my shame once I resurfaced. Once my head bobbed up my first reaction was to laugh uncontrollably (otherwise I'd have cried from the initial pain). As I swam away I spotted Rob who had already been on the zipline with ease. As soon as I got to him I scolded him for allowing his heavy wife to attempt such things!! At that point I was ready to go home all the way back to the UK where I could wear a huge tent to hide my wobbly bits instead of being in these ridiculously hot countries where I had no choice but to show skin! After my tantrum I got out the lake and had
my self a rum and coke and all was fine with the world again 😊. For the rest of the week I found myself waking up giggling at my misfortune on the zipline and how funny it would have looked to everyone else. The only part that wasn't quite funny was the black bruising running behind my thighs and how I couldn't sit down without wincing!
Next stop Hoi an! What can I say this place was just wonderful. Full of colour and history! Had everything we wanted! Farmlands and rivers, canals and beaches with beautiful blue seas. we stayed in a lovely family run guest house that was close to everything. We again hired bikes to get around....we stopped at a memorial ground that once we began walking round we found thousands of white tomb stones of those killed whilst fighting the Americans or the Vietnamese rebels. It was hard hitting to see so many graves and we only really started to begin to understand what happened here.
We then headed to a silk making farm. We were shown round by the loveliest woman who was so intrigued by our lives. She told us about her daughter and
asked if we could Skype sometime as she added me on Facebook. She took a special liking to Rob for his red big lips that show strength and beauty hehe. In fact a few of the ladies took a liking to Rob! His height is definitely an advantage here! Anyway back to the silk farm. We got to see the silk worms in all their glory. We then watched how they weave the silk by hand after boiling the cocoon (with the silk worm in it) we weren't too keen on seeing this but it was still interesting. The silk worm doesn't go to waste as they then fry them with garlic and butter to eat!
After the silk farm we cycled into the main area with boutiques and cafes that give it a French/Italian feel. This also happens to be where I fell over the handle bars of the bike! As Rob stood there I was greeted with a sweet food stall seller standing me up and caring for me and my fresh new bruises. Again once on my own with Rob, I told him off for breaking randomly in front of me causing me to hit the curb
at a funny angle! He on the other hand takes no blame for it whatsoever as he was already on the kerb!
After lunch we decided to lose ourselves in the floating palm tree farms, watching as the locals flatten the palm leaves they've picked to dry out in the sun.
The next day we took our rum and coke and headed to the beach to relax before we moved on again to Saigon.
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh such a nice city. Some really interesting builds and history as this is where the Americans based themselves whilst fighting north Vietnam. (north and south were divided at this point and Americans were south's allies). Everywhere we went people would smile and say hello even when they walking past to go to their fancy office jobs. We had one elderly gentleman who was riding a bike so fascinated with us that he fell off his bike. He then proceeded to come up to us with a big smile, kissed me on both cheeks giving me a huge hug and then shook Robert’s hand saying thank you! He then went on his way with his bike and a big grin. We visited the
war museum here and viewed some of the most horrific stories and pictures of the American/Vietnamese war. Its a very biased history as it doesn't mention anything about how south Vietnamese were also fighting against a total communist country. Regardless of the politics it's still completely heart breaking to see what happens to people in war. America used a chemical called agent orange to destroy forests and knowing full well it would also cause serious affects to 1000s of innocent families. 3 generations on and children are still being born with deformity. (side note the guys who produce genetically modified crops that we all eat created agent orange. A huge corporation in America called Monsanto. A company that also bullied Indian farmers out of their lands as well as deforesting the amazon). When analysing what devastation took place and the brutality of what the American soldiers became, it's amazing to see how forgiving the Vietnamese people are. They haven't allowed the past to hinder their progress.
From Saigon we made our way down towards the coast. To be break it up we stayed near the Mekong delta where we got to venture out on a long boat to see the
floating markets. We had a guide with us who gave us some interesting insights into the politics of Vietnam and the communism that consumes the country. His family fled the north when the French left and communism took over the north. There are still strong view points on the war and it was humbling to get to understand it from a local as the museums are very biased. Still he's proud of his country and how much it has developed.
We left the mainland of Vietnam for Phu Quoc island to get a treat near a beach for a couple of days. It was lovely to just relax and watch the sunsets before we were back on the road heading to Cambodia.
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