Matt Robinson


Matt Robinson

Happily married journalist living in Bedfordshire, UK. Love travelling, just wish I was able to do it a little more!

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District 1 April 11th 2013

Our two night stay at the four star Grand Silverland hotel cost more than all our other hotels in Vietnam put together, but after all that travelling, interspersed by illness and mountain bike crashes, I think we were due a treat. And still, the nightly rate worked out not much more than something like one of those hotels that Lenny Henry does those awful adverts for. We were supremely well looked after and the room was beautiful; this would be a great place to come back to after a day of sight seeing in Saigon.The fact that Saigon is Vietnam's economic power house is clearly evident, the skyline is littered with gleaming skyscrapers and new ones under construction. On the ground meanwhile, we spotted plenty of upmarket designer retail establishments and coffee shops, and the roads ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Central Highlands » Lam Dong » Da Lat April 9th 2013

Dalat was a brief, one-night stopover on our way to Saigon from Nha Trang, reached after a four hour bus ride up an incredibly twisty road. The main objective was to see a little bit of the apparently quirky town, and sample some of the local mountain biking trails. And quirky it was. Dalat was probably the most unusual place we visited, I can only describe it as an odd cross between a run-down alpine resort and a counterfeit Disneyland. Grand, French-built houses were dotted about in the surrounds of the large, man made lake just outside of Dalat's centre, a TV aerial made to look like the Eiffel Tower looms in the distance, and kitschy touches like the 'Valley of Love' - a romance orientated theme park - are in abundance. It's also much cooler ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Khanh Hoa » Nha Trang April 7th 2013

I felt a little reluctant to be leaving Hoi An, but it was time to move on to our next destination. Our second (and final) night train journey of the trip was a fair bit shorter than the first at ten hours, but the train itself was a little grim. Worn, dark wood paneling lined our soft sleeper cabin, while the bed sheets, one of which had blood stains on it, looked like they hadn't been washed in a good while. Still, it was much more comfortable than the hard sleeper we'd taken to Danang, and yes, it had a proper toilet!! Our two days were spent lazing on the beach and eating anything from hamburgers to cashew chicken, served in half a scooped out pineapple. We did pretty much nothing else, and it was bloody ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Quảng Nam » Hoi An April 5th 2013

The next day we figured we were due a little R&R, so took a short taxi ride to An Bang beach. It's a beautiful, secluded beach that looks like something off the front of a postcard. We didn't do much else that day other than head into town in the evening to grab a bite to eat. Deciding to sample something else from Hoi An's very international palette, we went to what is said to be the best Indian restaurant in town. Sadly without air conditioning in that temperature, the restaurant was so hot it made me feel a little ill, so we switched to a takeaway and ate back in our delightfully cool hotel room. After checking out of Thanh Van 2 the next morning, we boarded a bus heading for a tour of the ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Quảng Nam » Hoi An April 4th 2013

It was on this day that it felt as though our trip turned a corner. We were both feeling as normal as we had done since the beginning of the Ha Long bay cruise, the weather was fantastic, and we had a beautiful town to explore. Hundreds of buildings in Hoi An's charming old town are protected by UNESCO decree, with many of the old houses open to the public along with a number of museums, temples and chapels. An old town ticket gets you access to five of these places, and we saw our first three in our first morning in Hoi An. By far the most interesting of these was the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation (and, breathe!). The hotel pool was the perfect place to escape the searing midday heat, and ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Quảng Nam » Hoi An April 3rd 2013

I was looking forward to awaking to what I'd been told would a spectacular coastal view as the train trundled at as leisurely 30-40mph towards Danang. It turned out, however, that our enjoyment of the remaining part of the journey would be dampened by yet more illness. Rach succumbed first, closely followed by me. The worst part, though, was having to use the unbelievably grim squat toilet in our carriage, with its urine-soaked floor. Having to use the thing while I was in that condition was possibly one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. The parting words of Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness - or more appropriately from the Vietnam-based film adaptation Apocalypse Now - rang in my head. The Horror, The Horror... The train finally pulled in to Danang, where we ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi April 2nd 2013

A night recuperating at the Hanoi Rendezvous hotel had done us good, but we were far from better. Still, we only had the day in Hanoi before taking the night train to Hoi An, so it made sense to Imodium up and see some more sights. First up was the prison museum, dubbed the 'Hanoi Hilton' by shot down US Air Force pilots who were interned at the jail during the Vietnam War. We'd been forewarned about the biased nature of the museum and it's skewed look at history, so it was no surprise to see photos of US POWs having a lovely time playing volleyball, decorating Christmas trees and writing home to their families, when in reality torture and maltreatment of prisoners was commonplace. That aside though, many of the museum's exhibits did give a ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Northeast » Quang Ninh » Halong Bay April 1st 2013

It had to be something we'd eaten. Not long after calling it a night, we both started to feel a bit ill, and our worst fears were realised as we began fighting for the bathroom to violently expel the contents of our stomachs. It was one of the worst nights of my life, and I couldn't believe our trip had taken such a disastrous turn so soon. Rach was worse off by some margin, and there was even talk of how we could throw in the towel and fly home early, though it quickly occurred to us that a 10 hour flight in our condition wasn't the best idea. Carrying on wasn't the most attractive option either. On most other holidays you'd have the option of recovering from such an unfortunate ailment in your hotel, but ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Northeast » Quang Ninh » Halong Bay March 31st 2013

I was initially excited at the prospect of our Ha Long Bay cruise. An hour into the minibus ride to the boat, however, I would just be happy to get there alive. The driver seemed to be intent on getting to Ha Long City as quickly as possible, no matter what sort of insane, close shave overtaking manoeuvres that meant performing. Coupled with the shocking state of the roads closer to Ha Long - I'll certainly not complain about the comparatively dinky potholes that litter UK roads again for a while - we were pleased to finally arrive and be whisked onto the Paloma Cruise boat. Ha Long Bay is a stunning place, with thousands of limestone islands dotted around for miles, and a relaxing cruise seemed the perfect way to experience the unusual location. After ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi March 30th 2013

After awaking early in the afternoon, we stumbled out of the hotel, surveying the chaotic streets of Hanoi with our bleary eyes. Upon the hotel's recommendation we headed down the road to a very basic establishment for lunch. It served only one dish, Pho, a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of noodles, beef, broth and herbs. A small group of women squatted on tiny plastic chairs partially in the street as they made the dish, cooking it over a small fire. It was surprisingly tasty for such a simple dish, though I wasn't keen on the presence of lemon grass. After eating our Pho, we had our first experience of crossing the road in Vietnam's hectic capital. There's no point in waiting for a clearing in the traffic, as you'd be waiting all day. Instead, we took ... read more

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