Saturday, 16 August 2014

Vietnam-half way point

After a strange night sleeping at Manila airport we took our connecting flight to Saigon (otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh city). We arrived in the morning, took a very cheap bus into the centre and from there walked to our hotel, Linh guesthouse in the tourist district of town. Saigon wasn't quite as hot as Japan and walking around was quite pleasant. It was also the start of the rain season when we were there which meant the occasional unexpected heavy downfall was actually to be expected, despite the blue sky.

We just had three days in Saigon, on the evening of the 8th we caught an overnight train to Danang. We checked out the Vietnam war museum, which was full of disturbing images but quite interesting. I went to the Mekong delta alone, doing one of the highly inadvisable but cheap tours which quickly take you in and out. On our last day we went to China town, which now feels very Vietnamese, and a couple of buddhist temples. Saigon is extremely busy and the road chaos is reminiscent of India, minus the tuc tucs plus motorbikes. We traveled by foot, taxi, bus and motorbike. The food in Saigon was surprisingly good for vegetarians, and I just discovered that the international vegan chain Loving Hut actually originated here in Vietnam. If you see the word "chay" in any restaurant it means vegetarian, and the local options are often very cheap.

delicious pho at loving hut

The Mekong Delta

Fresh tofu spring rolls

Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon

Scarily convincing rice and veggie pork

The overnight train journey to Danang was in a very comfortable soft sleeper. We arrived in the afternoon on the 10th and immediatly got a taxi to the Blue Clouds homestay in Hoi An. I was a little disheartened on the way into town as we saw so many tourists and so few Vietnamese people, so many sterile looking resorts etc, but Hoi An turned out to be a very pretty little town with a lot to do in the surrounding area. We both briefly got a bit of Delhi belly there, but that didn't prevent us from cycling around the old town, taking a motorbike to the marble mountains and My Son and scuba diving at Cham Island. We also spent a bit of time on the beach... We were in Hoi An just in time for the monthly full moon lantern festival, which made everything look very pretty. Our homestay was particularly nice, with friendly and very helpful staff who went out of their way to help me when I was feeling sick.

Hoi An old town

Lantern festival, Hoi An

Japanese bridge, Hoi An

Hoi An beach with a view of Cham island

Tofu and lemongrass noodle soup

View of Cham island from the Marble Mountains, Danang

A series of impressive buddhist caves

climbing through caves

My Son

Scuba diving off Cham island

Cham Island

Yesterday we took a sleeper bus during the day up to Hue. We are staying in a nice hotel called Hotel Hong Thien 1. There is even a tiny swimming pool... Hue is a quiet and quite laid back city, but I have been quite underwhelmed by the 19th and 20th century tombs, replica of the Beijing Forbidden city and charred remains. Tonight we are taking a sleeper bus up to Hanoi, where will pass a day before taking an overnight train to Sapa. I am looking forward to being back in the countryside, and hopefully somewhere slightly cooler.

Hue Imperial Palace

Khai Dinh tomb, it's more recent than it looks...

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