Pattaya & a trot through Vietnam

December 15th 2007
Published: June 6th 2011
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From the Philippines we spent a few days in Bangkok before heading for the coast to make the most of the 30 days they give you.

We were tempted to go back to Hua Hin, an established favourite, but quite a few people this year had recommended Pattaya so we thought we'd give it a try.

This is one of the few touristy places in Thailand I had never visited, put off by it sleazy reputation as the sex tourist capital of SE Asia. We soon established that it is a very sleazy place, full of sex tourists.

Equally bad for us - the beach is rubbish, not much more than a swampy strip crammed with umbrellas and beach beds. We didn't deign to walk on it for the whole month.

On the upside, we had very cheap accommodation.

Our 'superior' room in a budget hotel had all the channels and a cooked breakfast included at £5.50 a night.

Around the town there were plenty of shops and stalls and all the fast food names you can think of.

All over town there are hundreds of 'go-go' bars, stocked with (literally) thousands of available girlfriends and boyfriends to suit all tastes, who all aim to get you in for that first drink and then whatever else transpires.

Usually a hotel room will have a notice which says "No visitors after 10 pm", or more explicitly "No prostitutes allowed".

In Pattaya the attitude was more "Please bring your prossies here" as girls and beer are the clear mainstays of the local economy.

As a couple, we were vastly outnumbered by all the single western men on their hols.

It has to be said that we didn't do a great deal each day other than wander along the promenade, check out the supermarkets around town and have a self service salad lunch in a pizza joint.

In the evening we were following a reality television series about a load of diseased people seeking redemption in a detox health spa through massage, psychotherapy and garlic enemas.

A winning combination as it turned out as most of them improved considerably.

After that we went for dinner around the corner and possibly to a roadside stall for a banana shake.

One night we were out after 10 O'clock (!) and noticed that the town was a lot more lively than usual. "Things don't get going around here until the small hours" said a man in a lift, and I believed him.

We then flew to Hanoi, familiar territory again as we were in Vietnam for 3 months last year.

We only spent a couple of days in Hanoi before taking the sleeper train into the mountains of the north to visit Sapa, our favourite place last year.

I was armed with some photos that I had printed to give to some of the people we had met before.

Over the next week we gradually met all the friends we had made and were very surprised to be recognised by people all over town as we reconnoitered the area.

One particular girl, Chi, heard on the grapevine that we were there and traveled in from her outlying village, with new baby on her back, especially to see us. We were really pleased.

On Linda’s birthday we were to be found hiking along mountain paths with a couple of Hmong tribe girls, Lan and (a different) Chi, to their village where we sat in their homestead yard and lunched. We were not allowed into the house because someone was menstruating (we think).

Unlike last year, the weather was fine all week which made for a much better experience.

However, I kept an eye on the news and we heard that a tropical storm was headed our way so we took the day train back to Hanoi and hopped straight onto a night train headed south as torrential rain bombarded the city.

After a total of about 28 hours on the train we got to Hue, a historical city and one time capital. We spent a couple of days wandering around, revisiting the citadel and the market, and all the cafes we had liked last time. Again we were well remembered.

The rain, in the form of Tropical Storm Likima, caught up with us again as we moved on to Hoi An, the ancient trading port. We had seen all the old buildings last time so there was no reason to hang around, and the insistent rain was making it miserable.

We took the overnight bus to Nha Trang, a nice seaside town where we planned to stay a month, and had two weeks of lovely sunshine followed by two weeks of non-stop precipitation.

In the meantime we heard of the havoc wrought by Likima. Hue was cut of by floods, as were many smaller towns and villages.

The rain in Nha Trang was not associated with this storm but outlying areas were badly affected nonetheless. Staff in the restaurants were telling us about their homes being flooded up to waist height.

Since last year we had kept in contact with Bich, the waitress at our regular breakfast haunt. (I had even got used to saying “Hey Bich, can I have the bill"). This year we went around to her house a couple of times. All the family were in attendance - she lives with her mother and brothers - and we managed quite a lot of jolly small talk and had a fresh (non fried) spring roll lunch without any subsequent problems, which was a relief.

We left the rains behind and headed up to the mountain plateau town of Dalat. It's a charming place with lots to do, but we had already done it, and, apart from a couple of nice walks, we were uncharmed this time.

It did have the distinction of providing us with a new record cheapest hotel room, at £3.50 a night, but it was on the basic side and, to be honest, I'd rather pay a couple of quid extra for telly and a soft mattress.

We rounded of six weeks in Vietnam with a few days in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City).

Linda started her shopping with a vengeance as home loomed ever larger, so our main activity seemed to be wandering around the tourist market.

We did also make it to the Reunification Palace, which was closed last time, but it was little more than a rather dull collection of big rooms with not much in 'em.

We flew out of HCMC airport in a lightening storm.

"They'll wait for it to finish" I confidently told Linda, just before the pilot started to accelerate down the runway.

Back in Bangkok, we did more shopping in and around the fabled Khaosan Road, and then took a bus to, you've guessed it, Hua Hin for the last 9 days.

A few days in deck chairs on the beach, a few more paperbacks, numerous walks around the tourist markets and even a couple of trips to Tesco's complete the picture.

As I write Linda is scratching her head, wondering how she is going to fit all our purchases into the limited baggage space. My bag is already over the 20KG allowance, so it can't go in there. Anyway, now for a last trip to the internet cafe, then one bus, one taxi and two aeroplanes will bring us safely back to the UK (touch wood).

Additional photos below
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Lan & Chi 2

Chi 2

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