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Vietnam: 17 September - 10 October, 2005

Hanoi 18 - 20 September: Hanoi
Vietnam is by far the furthest east we have been. We started our journey on the 16th of September, travelling by train to Paris. On the 17th we took a plane to Taipei (13.5 hours), and from there another plane to Hanoi (3 hrs), the capital of Vietnam. After a trip that took some 24 hrs in total, we are glad to finally arrive in this bustling city full of motorbikes. Unfortunately, ... it is raining... If you're from Holland and you think you know all about rain... Think again! Rain in Vietnam is somewhat different from what we're used to. In Vietnam, it pours down continuously, with an intensity that would have flooded the city of Eindhoven within an hour. And, contrary to what we're used to, it doesn't slow down so you can quickly go out and buy some groceries...

Brave as we are, we do the walking tour in the rain and even manage to catch some sun on the second day. Hanoi, as opposed to other big Asian cities as Bangkok and Jakarta, seems to be quite small and less crowded. The city is home to a few million motorbikes and since most people cannot afford to buy a car, motorbikes is all you see around here!

Halong Bay 20 - 22 September 2005: Halong Bay
After 2 days in Hanoi, we decide to go east, to the magnificent natural wonders of Halong Bay. Halong Bay consist of hundreds of limestone rocks, rising from the ocean. We take a 3-day boattour, which allows us to enjoy the quietness and peacefullness of this wonderful spot. We visit the largest cave in the area and do some kayaking on the second day - just imagine sliding underneath a rock only to find yourself in a beautiful (and blue) lagoon!

Sapa 23 - 26 September 2005: Sapa
Our next destination lies in the far north of Vietnam, not far from the Chinese border. Sapa is home to a number of hill tribe people and the beautiful surroudings make it an excellent place to hang around a few days and do some hiking in the area. Together with our guide, a young girl from one of the tribes, we explore the rice paddies and villages around Sapa. Vietnam is the second largest producer of rice (Thailand is the first) and we were lucky to visit Sapa when the harvest had just begun. Everywhere you could see people working in the fields, everyone still wearing their traditional clothes.

We also met up with a few people we had met on the boat in Halong Bay, to go out for dinner and a few drinks in the evening. And although we didn't get home that late, this was the first time (of many it would turn out) that we actually had to make lots of noise to wake someone up to enter the hotel again...

Hue 27 - 28 September: Hue
Returning from Sapa by nighttrain, we are just in time to catch some more rain in Hanoi. Typhoon Damrey is about to hit the Vietnam coast and it's pouring even worse than on our first day. We catch a taxi to a hotel to get a few more hours of sleep (and besides, what else can you do when it's raining?), spend some additonal time in a bar reading, and take another nighttrain to Hue, one of the oldest towns in Vietnam, somewhat halfway between Hanoi and Saigon. After our arrival, we take a bike to explore some of the royal tombs that surround the city. On the map, it looked like a great plan: making a small round was all that was needed to visit a temple and 3 royal tombs, at it seemed... The temple was easy to find (though the map didn't show any of the many hills we had to take to get there, which is no fun when it is around 30C outside), and so was the first of the tombs. Then the challenge began: the road on our map took us straight into some very small village in the middle of nowhere, where we were not really warm-hartedly welcomed. Being lost by now, we had to ask the way, and the woman who actually let us come closer, looked at us with more fear than curiosity. In the end, we got so angry with driving around in circles, that we turned around and went back the same way we came, meaning we never saw the other tombs...

Moreover, we decide Hue is not for us, and book a bus for the next day to Hoi An.

Hoi An 29 September - 2 October 2005: Hoi An
Hoi An is just everything we imagined it to be: very laid-back and shops all around. We stay in a very nice hotel with a swimming pool and meet up again with some people we had met before in Halong Bay. Basically, we spend our time choosing fabrics and designs, having our measures taken, walking around, trying on some tailor-made clothes, more walking around, more choosing fabrics, more trying on, bargaining about plates, and bying a suitcase to take everything home. What else does one want to do on holiday? ;-)

My Son

2 - 6 October 2005: Nha Trang
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and that's exactly what happens when we arrived in Nha Trang. Nha Trang is very popular with Vietnamese tourists, and it's just a long strip of hotels near the beach - depressing, I would say. At the first hotel we go to, well recommended in our bible (the LP), they show us a very wore down room, and seemingly they never bother to clean the aquarium in the lobby. So we take the most expensive hotel in the neigborhood, which definately is more money than value, but at least has an outside pool. We spend some time at the beach, and considering there are not too many tourists, we are constantly bothered by the SAME people trying to sell us the SAME stuff every 15 minutes!

All kinds of rice... 6 - 9 October 2005: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
After 2,5 weeks of travelling through Vietnam, we have reached our final destination: Saigon, or offcially: Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City is home to 10 million people and 8 million motorbikes and is everything you would expect from a city of this size. Because we have one day more than we originally planned, we decide to take a one-day tour to the Mekong Delta. We spend the last days of our holidays strawling through Saigon, sipping cocktails while overlooking the Saigon river, and sleeping like a king at the Majestic Hotel!

Mekong Delta

For more pictures, click here.