Pete and I, it would appear, still have itchy feet so this time we chose to explore some Asian countries that we have never visited before, opting to do it our own way rather than an organised tour. (There were some days when we both thought it would have been better to be herded around by a tour guide and especially when we seemed to be spending too much time organising internal buses, flights, trains and accommodation but on the whole we think our way was better as we could stay as long as we wished and move on when we were ready.)
Hong Kong was amazing with its neon lights everywhere and hundreds of people on the streets which made me feel very much like a sheep being moved along! We visited the major tourist spots ie Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island (amazing views), The Bronze Buddha on Lantau Island at the top of a huge gondola ride, followed by a visit to a fishing village on stilts over the water, and then on the last day we took the fast ferry over to Chinese Macau to see the Portuguese influence there and the fascinating architecture. So all
in all it was a busy 3 days but as our hotel, with its incredibly small room, was minutes from Kowloon Gardens with its beautiful fountains, we were able to walk around there most evenings to just relax and watch the locals having some down time with their kids.
Hanoi, Vietnam seemed even busier but the small streets in the old part of the city perhaps didn't help what with cars, scooters, motorbikes and push bikes coming at you from all directions. Walking across the street for the first couple of days was a nightmare but after 14 days it is not a problem but you still do have to be very very careful! We both like to walk the streets to explore a place but Hanoi pavements especially around here are full of parked scooters, vendor’s food stalls or tables and chairs from the many cafes so along with the uneven and broken or missing pavers it is a wonder I have not fallen over! I did spot a tourist on crutches with a strapped up ankle so I can guess what happened there!
I sampled an egg coffee, the local speciality and have to say it
was delicious. Pete is very much enjoying the very cheap beer at $1.00 a can but pity the wine isn't the same price! Standard Vietnamese coffee is delicious, hot or cold and often has sweetened condensed milk in it too making it even more delicious. Needless to say the country is full of locals drinking coffee be it from plastic chairs on the streets or in upmarket Cafes where the waiters bring it to you in your own little coffee filter pot.
We struck lucky with a two day boat cruise to Halong Bay as we were upgraded to an amazing cabin on board with its own balcony and even a spa bath. The whole trip was wonderful with only 17 guests instead of the max of 27. We kayaked around the Islands and bays following our guide and stopped for a swim, There was we noticed a little bit of plastic pollution occasionally in the water as we were sailing along but as we opted to go to Ba Tu Long Bay it was much quieter there and seemed cleaner. We got along famously with an Aussie couple and were up late sharing their complimentary bottle of local
wine. (They may have paid more?) That did not stop Pete and I plus 8 others getting up early for aTai Chi class with Chinese music in the background. We enjoyed it so much we may take it up when we eventually settle down. We also attended a cooking class and learnt how to make delicious spring rolls full of many healthy ingredients and hopefully I can impress future dinner guests by making them when I get home.
Not really knowing how long we should stay in each place in Vietnam we opted, to save time, to fly to Da Nang on the east coast and arrived in time for the night show on the Dragon Bridge. The large concrete dragon spanning the whole length of it is illuminated alternatively in orange and then blue neon lights and the dragon at exactly 9.00 pm shoots fire out of its mouth and then water. Quite spectacular with thousands of locals and tourists watching and dancing to the very, very loud music.
We took the bus to Hoi An just a few kms south and so glad we did as the hundreds of lanterns all lit up and floating down
the river after sunset was just amazing.
The guided tour to Ba Na hills with the famous huge concrete hand sculptured to look as if it is holding up a long bridge was worth the trip but spoiled by the thousands of tourists doing the same thing. Thankfully the next day's guided trip north to Hue was great with only 7 of us on the minibus and a really neat guide. It was good to learn about the history plus explore the ruins there but to be truthful we both enjoyed spending time with the other people on the bus who were from Hong Kong, Switzerland and England, being the chatter boxes that we are!
Flying next to Nha Trang further down the coast we took a long walk and up a steep hill to look at yet another Buddha and then headed for the beach, hired sun loungers and lazed the rest of the day swimming, reading and people watching. The place is swarming with Russian tourists and they look to have amazingly good bodies when they are young but all seem to go obese later on and not very attractive in their bikinis and budgie smugglers!!!!!!!!
Train travel to Ho Chi Minh was next and quite enjoyable with comfortable seats and watching the workers in the thousands of rice paddies, We took in a Water Puppet show here and really enjoyed it even though the whole thing was in Vietnamese. Such talented musicians, singers and puppeteers and a must see.
We are now finally relaxing at a friend’s house about an hour north of Ho Chi Minh, We are surrounded by locals and when we walked up to the market near here yesterday everyone smiled and said hello and I suspect that it is their only English word, However the many dogs they have seem not to like us with nice ones running away from us as though they are seeing ghosts and the bad ones barking loudly and coming up way to close for my liking! We have a huge pool to use to cool down in and have lost count on how many times we have been in it now, The house is so private that we have stopped using togs and have resorted to skinny dipping not that you want or need to know that fact!!!!!!! It is so nice to
walk around a house again after being in hotel bedrooms for the last 3 weeks.
We went to a big supermarket to stock up on supplies and just loved the prices. 30 cents for 4 big Roma tomatoes, roasted chicken $6.00, huge baguette 30 cents, 4 pack yoghurt $1.50. I could have spent hours there looking at all the products but no way with Pete with me. His motto is always in and out asap.
Well will close here as time for another swim.
Off to Cambodia in a couple of days.
This retired life is hard!
Take care and thinking of you all.
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