A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Vietnam ...continued

rain 97 °F

Week 2 and 1/2

It rained the whole trip to Nha Trang, stopping momentarily as we walked to our hotel – Nha Trang Inn. Nice small hotel about a five minute walk from the beach. Rooms are basic, A/C cooled and the owner (Minh) is very helpful.

We had dinner at Omar’s (Indian) just down the street and we settled in for a good night sleep with hopes that tomorrow I would not still be feeling the effects of my “illness”

Friday – breakfast and a walk to check out the beach. We found an area right in front of the Louisiana Brewery which rented umbrellas with beach lounge chairs ($2 pp/pd)….great deal. We rented three and headed back to the hotel for beach attire. The scenery was beautiful – blue water with a backdrop that reminded me of Maui. Jim also liked the scenery – two Russian girls on lounges in front of us in their very small thong bikinis…that and beer made the day for Jim.
Relaxing in Nha Trang

Relaxing in Nha Trang

Saturday – We weren't sure when we’d have the chance so it was back to the beach!!! This time we started the day dressed in beach attire, had breakfast and got there early. Another beautiful day!!
Waiting for the train Nha Trang

Waiting for the train Nha Trang


Ridin' the Rails

Ridin' the Rails

Sunday through Thursday– Up really early for a 0645 train ride to Danang and from there a short van ride to Hoi An. Our original plan was to stay three nights in Hoi An with the possibility of extending our stay there or in Hanoi. We wanted to make sure that our hotel was nice before we made our decision and after just one day – we decided to extend. Lantern Hoi An was wonderful. The rooms were very nice, pool very refreshing and staff wonderful!!! We took a cooking class with Mr. Tai, ended up getting some clothes made from Mr. Lai and Brenda also found a cute couple who made nice silver jewelry. Add to that some really good food, we could not ask for more. Brenda headed out early one morning for an early bike ride to the beach and another day to snorkel at the Cham Islands.

View from above Hoi An

View from above Hoi An

Cooking Class with Mr Tai

Cooking Class with Mr Tai

Tomato Rose

Tomato Rose

Perfect spring rolls

Perfect spring rolls

Green Papaya Salad...yum!!

Green Papaya Salad...yum!!

Hoi An

Hoi An

Mr Tai and family

Mr Tai and family

Local food in Hoi An is some of my favorite – ok – I like just about all Vietnamese food but Crispy Pancakes and White Rose are high on my list.
Hoi An was a definite highlight of the trip.

Friday…off to Hanoi. The decision was to either take a 15 hour train ride for $70 or a 90 minute plane ride for $90…..no brainer there.
The flight to Hanoi was effortless with a driver from our hotel waiting for us.

We have decided (especially with three of us traveling) if our hostel/guesthouse/hotel is able to provide pick up and drop off service either to train station or airport…we’re taking it. It just makes things SO much easier and usually the same price or cheaper.

Our hotel in Hanoi was the Hanoi Glory Hotel. We booked it through our hotel in Hoi An and it was supposed to be as nice as the Lantern….it was ok but nowhere near as nice. It was centrally located in the Old Quarter and for just for a couple of nights with a trip to Halong Bay in the middle – it worked.
View from our room at Glory Hotel

View from our room at Glory Hotel

Hanoi - Old Quarter

Hanoi - Old Quarter

Saturday - Halong Bay was a nice trip. The ride out about 3 ½ hours – weather OK, the boat...not huge – about 20 people, bed pretty comfortable (though we were right over the bilge pump which went on and off all night). We woke to beautiful blue skies and Brenda got to see the “beautiful Halong Bay”. Breakfast and it was a slow cruise back to catch the bus back to Hanoi - short but sweet!!

Peg Pic ...Halong Bay Style

Peg Pic ...Halong Bay Style

Only way to eat prawns

Only way to eat prawns

Yummy fish served on our boat

Yummy fish served on our boat

Hang Sung Sot - Surprise Cave

Hang Sung Sot - Surprise Cave

Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Sunrise over Halong Bay

Sunrise over Halong Bay

View from our boat

View from our boat

Brenda enjoying Halong Bay

Brenda enjoying Halong Bay

View while kayaking on Halong Bay

View while kayaking on Halong Bay

Full Moon over Halong Bay

Full Moon over Halong Bay

Sunday and Monday….Back to Hanoi and the weather was brutally HOT!!! so we spent the day enjoying good food and cold beer. My restaurant recommendations: Ying and Yang and Green Mango and any of the Gecko’s (which were abundant with cold beer and good food).

Posted by pjburke 13:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Vietnam 2014 – South to North

rain 90 °F

I've been back almost a week...still feeling jet lag. Computer problems on my end made posting along the way difficult - sorry. Hope you enjoyed what are now (mostly) wonderful memories of our trip.

Thurs - 24 July 2014

Week 1

Another HUST Summer Camp session came to an end with the same mixed feelings as last year. We were excited to start new travels but sad to be saying “until we meet again” to our students and Wuhan. We know now that that statement is true.

Fresh was waiting in the lobby to say goodbye. We were originally told that TA's would not be able to go to the airport with us. Fortunately, that situation changed and we were traveling in a van not just a car. She was very happy to be able to go with us: always taking care of me.  The Wuhan International Airport is much smaller than the Domestic, so getting to our gate for our trip to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon or HCMC) was very easy. We flew through Bangkok and arrived in HCMC with the dark skies threatening rain.

With our “Invitation Letter” (obtained while we were still in the US) the VOA (Visa on Arrival) process was very easy. $45 and a passport photo in hand, we filled out the applications and within ten minutes our names were called. With visa in hand, we passed through immigration, picked up our bags and located our driver and it was off to Hotel Luan Vu. Even though it was 2330ish, Bien Vue (which is a major backpacker area) was hoppin’. No problem getting something to eat and a cold beer…holiday had begun.

Luan Vue Hotel

Luan Vue Hotel

Friday - Our stay in the HCMC area is a little chill time for us but adventure for Brenda. She headed off on moto tour of the city,which we did on a previous trip. JB had done his homework and found us a nice place for lunch: Temple Bar and then off for a little spa time at Glow. Oh..we're loving Luan Vue - staff is great and the beds are SOOOO comfy.

A rather tough decision was made today was to head home from our trip early. We got news from home that my Mom had fallen and after a short hospital stay and pacemaker tweak, she was heading to a rehab facility to regain her strength. I was receiving regular emails from friends (angels) at home who were checking in on her. BUT....I found that I really felt "home" was where I should be. Friends at home convinced me that I didn't need to rush home and that Mom was being well taken care of so while Brenda was out scooting around HCMC we made our return reservations for the same day (and on some of the same flights) that Brenda would be taking home on August 23rd.

Saturday, Brenda off today for a tour of the Chu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple – Jim and I relaxing…and it rained.

Sunday, we were all off to an overnight tour of the Mekong Delta area. Jim and I had traveled in this area back in 2009, coming into Vietnam from Cambodia. Brenda expressed an interest in the area and we wanted to see how things had/had not changed. Our 2009 trip was a three day tour, this one only an overnight but it was a good, quick overview staying in Can Tho and arriving back on Monday late for dinner and a quick night sleep…it’s off to Mui Ne in the am.

P and J on the Mekong

P and J on the Mekong

Mekong Riverboat

Mekong Riverboat

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

Smile!!

Smile!!

Selling Veggies

Selling Veggies

Life on the Mekong

Life on the Mekong

Mekong Floating Market

Mekong Floating Market

Working on the Mekong

Working on the Mekong

Making rice paper

Making rice paper

Anytime...anywhere!!

Anytime...anywhere!!


Tuesday –Feeling sad to leave our comfy beds but our adventure continues. We headed off to Mui Ne (a small beach town east of HCMC). Travel entailed about 5 hours on sleeper bus which at first we were NOT excited about but ended up being much easier than regular bus. The bus let us off at Sunrise “something” Hotel– at first look we thought – this can’t be our hotel – too nice. .well it wasn’t. We had to get a cab to our hotel, a little north of the resort area: Sunrise Village Hotel – room nice, nice pool, nice people. B didn’t feel like dinner so Jim and I headed out and stopped at a BBQ/Hot Pot place. We were the only westerners except for another couple who were with a nice young Vietnamese lady who was either a guide (or friend). She helped us out with ordering –goat hot pot, the specialty. We also ordered a couple of beers. When they arrived they were warm (not good) but served with a bucket of ice. Can you see where this is leading??? Yes, another “rookie mistake”…DO NOT use ice delivered to you in a bucket – only cubed ice!!!!
Sunrise Beach Hotel

Sunrise Beach Hotel

Dinner was good going down…not so great coming back up. Within a few hours of dinner, I was sick, sick, sick. It was reminiscent of our first trip to Vietnam when I was convinced that I had Dengue Fever but most probably only had a little food poisoning along with dehydration… it really sucked then and was only a hair better this time. Symptoms lasted all night and Wednesday was a lost day for me. Fortunately(for me), it rained all day. B and J took off to explore a bit of the tourist area, had a few beers at a beautiful beachside hotel (or so I was told) and wandered back later in the afternoon, as I was starting to return to the land of the living. We used this off day as a planning day. Since it appeared that cancellation openings for the Orangutan trip were not going to materialize….

OK…back up – our original plans were to go to Vietnam and then to Borneo and take a klotok (small boat) into the jungle to see Orangutan in their native environment. Well, one company kept stringing us along with an apparent price increase which never materialized and neither did the reservation. We decided to check with another company but by that time it was too late – everything was booked but they would keep us on their cancellation list. So it was on to Plan B but we had to decide just what Plan B would be.

…. we decided to look for a side trip to fill in before we were scheduled to travel to Bali…what to do, what to do!! Jim had read in Lonely Planet about an area in West Java called Cianjur. It’s off the main tourist route and sounded like an interesting trip. Since, I was not feeling up to it, Brenda and Jim took the lead planning this portion of our trip. They emailed Cianjur Adventures, confirmed that there was room, got air reservations from Hanoi and also confirmed that we would be able to get our Visas on Arrival in Bandung Airport. For this portion of the trip, I’ll just be along for the ride!!

Thursday and I’m feeling much better. Today it's time to move on but before we needed to catch our bus I finally felt like a walk on the beach. The skies were threatening but no rain (at least not yet) and although our hotel is just about 60’ from the beach, it’s not a pretty stretch of land. As B and I ventured out around an old shack to the beach, we found the local fishermen (women) had just brought in the morning catch. It was pretty cool The boats were being brought up on the beach with the assistance of the small waves. The families would then collect the fish from the nests. The remaining task of refolding their nets kept them busy for quite a while. Hard work!!

Boats on the beach

Boats on the beach

Morning Catch

Morning Catch

It rained a bit more as we waited for the bus to take us up to Nha Trang. We were going to take the train, but that would mean an hour ride to Muoung Man and then a five to six hour train ride. Sometimes buses are just easier.

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

Posted by pjburke 13:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mui Ne and HCMC

Bye Bye Vietnam!!!

22 October 2011

0700 comes early on the train and it was not an easy sleep. This train was a little bit more “basic” than the one from Hanoi to Danang; a little dirtier, the bed a little less comfortable and a lot noisier. There was an occasional rattle in the wall of the train right near my head that seemed to start just as I was falling asleep. Baguette and a banana for breakfast and we said good bye to our cabin mates as they got off in Nha Trang. The remaining passengers included one Vietnamese family who now lives in Houston and a family with the cutest little boy I have seen in a long time. He decided we were pretty interesting. It started out as a game of peekaboo where he would giggle so hard I couldn’t help laughing right along with him. He wandered into our cabin as Jim and I were playing cards; I took his photo which absolutely mesmerized him. I took a few more photos and it was time for his family to depart but he didn’t want to leave. He left the train crying in his Dad’s arms….sorry!!

Our stop at Muong Man was a very small station in the middle of the dragon fruit growing area of Vietnam. We were told by the GH that it would be about 400K VD (about $20) for the 45 minute ride to Mui Ne – they were right on the money. Once we were about where we thought we should be, it took us few minutes but we found the sign for the GH….up the hill about 10 minutes and we arrived at Mui Hills Guesthouse – very nice!! The location is up, away from the busy street but close enough to walk to the beach, shopping, eating – in about 10 minutes. We’re met by Jacob (American from Oregon) who gets us settled. He lets us know that the GH owners (Erik and Long) also own a bar/restaurant Red and Blue. If we want lunch (or dinner), we order at the GH and they bring it up on moto. With little to no sleep on the train, that is a perfect option for us. A dip in the pool and a nap – we’re ready to check out the town for dinner.
Mui Ne Hills Guesthouse

Mui Ne Hills Guesthouse

We wandered the main street for a bit when we realized that a great many tourists here are from Russia. Most of the signs are in Vietnamese, English and Russian; not what we’re used to. We decide on Red and Blue for dinner, and a good choice it was, the BBQ’d squid was perfectly done and the Mojitos – almost as good as mine!!

23 October 2011

A good nights’ sleep and I’m up early for a special SKYPE. My sisters, Peg and Judy, are in Lambertville, NJ, my Dad’s hometown, visiting family. Trying to coordinate times was a little tricky. After meeting with cousins earlier in that night, Peg and Judy met with my cousin Mary Kay a little after 8pm (ET) to get on line with me at 7am the next day in Vietnam. We had a wonderful visit – 45 minutes from Vietnam for free – I love SKYPE. They only down side was that we couldn’t figure out how to conference Chris (MK’s sister) in from Florida. Boo!!

This morning, after breakfast I caught up on the website. It was a brilliantly sunny day. We could hear surf and sand calling our names. Mui Ne Hills GH has an association with the Coco Beach Resort so off we headed for a day at the beach. The South China Sea is very warm, the sand soft and the view stunning. We enjoyed the resort most of the day until it was time for the finals of the 2011 Rugby World Cup which we watched with 100 of our closest friends at the bar at Coco Beach. Turns out there are not only Russians in Mui Nei but a fair amount of Kiwis and French. Of course, we were rooting for the All Blacks and they held on to win 8 to 7. It was a heart stopper.

As we walked along the beach on our way back to the GH, we took time to watch about 15 kite surfers skimming the blue water as they made their way back to shore, the sun setting over the sand hills. Kite surfing is a big draw to this area. We’re told that in the next couple of months, the winds will pick up and so will the crowds and also the cost of rooms. I think we’re here at just the right time.
Dinner was at a seafood buffet and was really quite good: 119VD (about $6 each) for hotpot and stir fry although their Mojitos didn’t come close to the Red and Blue.

24 October 2011

Our last full day in Mui Ne and Jim has planned a moto trip (we’re riding not driving) to some of the surrounding sites: the Fairy Stream, the local fishing village and the sand dunes which are about 20km outside Mui Ne. They reminded us of the dunes near Yuma. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Mui Ne Hills organized a set menu dinner (at Red and Blue) for people staying at the GH. We had a great night. Along with Erik and Long (the owners) and Jacob (manager), we joined about 15 others guests. Dinner was family style and included four dishes. A tasty slaw salad was followed by beef wrapped in grape leaves, shrimp and pork lettuce bundles (which I have to make for a unit party) and best of all was the beef soup (Long’s family recipe) with rich stock and quail eggs. What a nice way for us to end our trip to Mui Ne.

25, 26, 27 October 2011

Up early (we had to catch the bus to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) at 0830) and for the first morning since we arrived, it was overcast. The view while eating breakfast was still very nice – the sun was trying to peek through the clouds.

The bus ride took about 5 ½ hours and we were very fortunate to be let out within walking distance from our GH (Hong Ha Hotel on Bien Vien).
The next few days will be planning days. We need to get some laundry done, shop for a few things to bring to New Zealand (we’ve both become attached to Vietnamese coffee) and I’m working to finish the Vietnam portion of the website.

HCMC is pretty much as we remember from two years ago – a little crazy.

Right now we’re both ready to begin the next phase of our journey.

New Zealand…here we come!!!!!

…and remember “Adventure is out there”

Posted by pjburke 06:56 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

Hoi An, Vietnam

Momentous event (for me): I want to take this opportunity to say a big “Thank You” to all who are following our travels. I’m able to see the number of viewings for each entry. One of our entries hit the “1000” mark this week. WOW!!!! I’m overwhelmed. Also thanks to all for your comments - they are so encouraging.

16 October 2011

As Jim puts it, “We slept like dead people”. Yes, we had a good night sleep and woke to the sound of heavy rain, more like (as Jay Maitland would put it “a tarantula rain”. We head up to the 6th floor for breakfast (included in our $37 per night rate) and were pleasantly surprised: coffee, tea, juice, made to order omelets, four fresh fruits, breads, cereal, yogurt, two different Vietnamese soups, ham, bacon…I can’t remember it all.

Breakfast was a success but it was still raining. I was writing in my journal and I got a call from Jim, he’s said he was going to have a manicure. Really??? I’ve been try to get him to have one for years. I guess it took a beautiful young Vietnamese lady to change his mind. As it turned out he actually had a manicure (his first since 1967) and a pedicure (his first ever). Good for him.

A little later, it’s still raining so we head across the road to Son Hoi An for lunch. It was recommended by the hotel and by Trip Advisor. The location is very picturesque and the food was really good. The White Rose and Vietnamese Pancakes (local specialties) were very good, as was the BBQ squid.

After lunch, still a very light rain but we decide to take a walk towards the beach, about a mile away. We pass rice paddies, small shops and make our way to the small town of Cua Dai. The beach is actually very nice and would have been great if the weather was a bit nicer.

Our plan is to make it back to the hotel and watch the NZ/AU rugby match with Allen at the hotel. We heard it would be a really good match…and it was. Go All Blacks!!!

17 October 2011

Still raining!! Another lazy day. We took the 1500hr shuttle into Hoi An (about 5km away). We had lunch at a “Mermaids” recommended by LP. It was OK.

I wanted to buy some lanterns but found that they wouldn’t really travel very well. Boo!

Amid rain drops, we walked the old town in Hoi An. When we arrived at the waterfront, we discovered it was flooded with water rising! This is very different from the scene we observed on our last trip. I got stung by a bee while standing near the waterfront talking with an Aussie couple we had met in Hanoi. We also looked at the possibility of having some clothes made…just not in the mood.

18 October 2011

Morning comes and it appears to be another rainy day. Jim had made arrangements with the hotel chef to go to the market with him to buy some fruit. (Jim was given a list of unusual fruits by his Vietnamese hair stylist in Tucson). It was a quick trip and they came back with some tasty items. Afternoon comes and we got lucky – it stopped raining (at least for a while) and we took out a couple of bikes (free at the hotel). We started out biking towards the beach (about 2km). Decided to ride down a side street (alley), dead end, down another road, another dead end but we kept trying. Not really sure where we’re going but we really can’t get too lost. Our little trip ended up lasting about three hours and we ventured in areas that weren’t on the tourist trail. The local people were very helpful directing us towards Hoi An and we actually ended up going in a big circle-nowhere near the beach. We would have ridden a little farther but a tire on Jim’s bike was almost flat.

We headed into Hoi An for dinner. The water along the wharf has subsided and we head across the bridge. We ended up sitting next to an Aussie couple (Peter and Charmaine). With Vietnamese vodka in hand, Peter and Jim proceeded to do a number of shots. Mot, Hai, Ba, Uong!!! (One, Two, Three, Drink!!) It brought us back to a night in Nga Trang, two years ago, with our then, Irish traveling buddies Jeanne and Pader. Needless to say, I was the taxi procurer this night.

19 October 2011

Jim’s not feeling so well today. No crystal ball needed to predict that!!! Breakfast, computer work and Jim has decided on a “lay low” day. It’s not raining so I grabbed a bike and head towards the beach. I rode towards the beach at Cua Dai again. A couple of big hotels and a lot of construction. I did have a bit of a scare. I had stopped along the beach to take a photo. It was a very open area but there was no one around and this guy started walking from the beach toward me but not saying anything. I found this very strange – got on my bike and rode towards some occupied houses. I heard some running footsteps behind me but they stopped as I got farther away. (It was all so surreal that it didn’t really bother me until I was telling Jim about it later).

I headed back along the beach road, through the little town and a bit north. There was a side road towards the beach, off I go. There appeared to be two cafes. I picked the one on the right – the lady made the most effort to get me into her place. Beachside seating and good food: this was a good choice. While lunching I noticed many Vietnamese ladies on the beach raking through the seaweed that had washed ashore. They were collecting wood that washed in with the tide. It seems they dry the wood and either use it for fuel or sell it. When you think your job sucks – think about these ladies.

A ride back to the hotel – uneventful with a quiet evening to follow.

20 October 2011

Jim’s birthday….one year closer to Medicare. :-) In our room, when we go back after breakfast, the hotel had left flowers and a cake. I can’t tell you how well we’ve been treated here.

There was also another little surprise – the sun was shining. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen that warm glow in the sky.
Grabbed a couple of bikes and headed to the beach. Nice ride and I took Jim on the same route I had taken the day before: maybe to exercise those demons of the “running man”. Lunch was also at the same little beach café. We had grilled fish that was one of the best we’ve had in all our travels. A little sunburn to show for our little outing – actually I look more like a raccoon.

Started to pack – happy hour across the street at SON and then dinner at the hotel. We’re ready to be on our way.

21 October 2011

Our last day in Hoi An and we’re getting a little antsy but it will be sad to say “bye” to the staff. They’ve really been wonderful. While we’re checking out, I noticed a guest list on the counter – group from OAT are staying at the hotel. Hmmm!! We’ve traveled with OAT to Peru and India – they made a good choice with Phuoc An River Hotel.

Of course, when we’re leaving town –the sun is high in the sky and very warm. We decided to head into Hoi An for lunch. When we were in Hoi two years ago, we took a cooking class at a little restaurant along the river. We were going to try dinner there a few days before but that was when the waterfront was flooded, so we decide to try for lunch. As we walked into Gioan, Ha (one of the owners) looked at us….”I remember you!!!” She was in the middle of a cooking class for two, arranging a cooking class for another two people but didn’t skip a beat when we asked if they were open for lunch. Come to find out, Vina (the other owner) and she opened a larger school in Vina’s family home about 10 minutes from downtown. A call is made to Vina, who prepares some of our lunch (with final prep where we are) and runs it down on the moto. They both look wonderful. So glad we decided to stop in. One of the dishes, chicken cooked in banana leaf, Jim crowned as THE best dish in Vietnam so far….and I think I’ve got the recipe at home!!! We stopped at their wonderful, new location on our way back to the hotel and are surprised at how big it is. They’re able to accommodate two classes of eight and do small parties….and it doesn’t flood up there. Good luck, ladies!!

Back to the hotel and Jim starts talking with a couple who had been at the hotel about the same time we had but our paths had just never crossed. What started as a short talk – ended a couple of hours later when they headed to the airport in Danang for their flight to Hanoi. Lucy and Hubert are Canadian, about our age and after retiring and selling their home in Montreal have been traveling the world for five years. We loved their stories and insight. Don’t worry Mom, we won’t sell the house and take off for parts unknown but another six month trip is probably not out of the question.

Off to the train station for the 2200hr train to Muong Man (near Phat Thiet) for our stay in Mui Ne.

Posted by pjburke 21:22 Archived in Vietnam Comments (5)

Hanoi to Hoi An….say that three times fast!!!

12-15 October 2011

A couple of quiet days in Hanoi! When we were here two years ago, we spent about a week in and out between Hanoi, Halong and Sapa. This year’s trip is more of a stopover point. We enjoyed some good Vietnamese food, enjoyed people watching as we walked around Hoan Kiem Lake and we also took a cooking class Thursday morning.

Viet Fun 3 is pretty much as we remembered it. A little older, but aren’t we all! We also got the chance to see Ha and Twee’s boys, one of which was just learning to walk in 2009. The small street outside Viet Fun’s door is now much busier with more hotels and cafes. The Moon Café became a favorite for a relaxing afternoon beer.

Friday (10/14) seemed to be a bit of a wasted day. We checked out of our room late morning, headed over to Tandoori (an Indian restaurant we were familiar with from our previous trip) for lunch, walked around the Old Quarter, stopped at the grocery store to grab a few things for the train and made our way to the train station for a 1930 departure.

The train we took to Hoi An was the SE19 1730 train, soft sleeper (four bunk – two upper and two lower). We had an upper and a lower and we shared the cabin with two guys from Paris, one now working in the Congo and the other in Qatar. Nice guys and they gave us some good suggestions for next year’s trip.
The hardest seat of all

The hardest seat of all

Hard Seats on the SE 19 train from Hanoi

Hard Seats on the SE 19 train from Hanoi

Note to self – just a couple of suggestions the next time we take a train: More food and remember to lock the door to the cabin after all cabin mates are inside. Nothing bad happened but it seems that at each stop people getting on would check cabins to see if there are empty beds. This happened a few times which, of course, means I woke up each time. The SE 19 is supposed to be one of the newest trains in Vietnam but new to the VN Railway doesn’t always mean it wasn’t used for years by another railway. On the top bunk, at times, I felt like I’d been put in a blender. The train shakes pretty bad, up, down, sideways. (It actually took me about a day before I got my land legs back). The soft sleeper is actually the best accommodations on the train. The hard sleeper (not actually hard beds) is a cabin with six bunks, then there are soft seats, hard seats and for people who can’t afford any of those, people will actually sit and/or sleep on the floor. So all in all, it wasn’t so bad.

The train pulled into Hue about 1000 and 99% of the passengers got off the train. It was very strange riding to Danang with no one else in our car. I took a walk through the train. There were a few people in the hard sleeper cabin and a few more in the soft seats but the people sleeping on the floor had been gone by the time we woke up in the morning. Not sure where they got off.

The scenery between Hue and Danang was beautiful. The whole area has had so much rain that the ride paddies looked more like lakes, there were many waterfalls and the forest was a blanket of lush green.View from the train between Hue and Danang

View from the train between Hue and Danang

We arrived in Danang right on time – about 1400 and were greeted by the driver from Phuoc An River Hotel. Jim and I were both pretty sleepy but we made our best attempt to stay awake on the 30 minute drive to the hotel. On our previous trip to Hoi An, we stayed just outside the downtown area on a very crowded, busy street. The Phuoc An River hotel is about 2km outside town with the river across the street outside the front door and rice paddies in the rear. It’s a nice hotel in a lovely location. Our room is so nice with the most comfortable bed we’ve slept in since we left home.

A quick dip in the pool felt wonderful and a cold LaRue beer at the bar even better. We met Van Ang and Allen, the new owners of the hotel. They took over about six weeks ago and are in the process of making simple improvements. The hotel is very nice as it is and will be wonderful under their guidance.

Allen and I had a great chat while watching the France/Wales Rugby match. For the first time, I actually think I may understand the basics of the game.

After having almost no sleep last night, it was an early dinner for us at the hotel. Their restaurant is on the 6th floor, and has an awesome view of the area. It was a lovely evening and we were able to have dinner outside. Very relaxing!

Posted by pjburke 21:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Nanning to Hanoi by bus - the process!

11 October 2011

Finally morning came… Did you ever have one of those nights, when you absolutely need to be up early; you wake about 3am and can’t get back to sleep, or at least not a fitful sleep? That was my night. When the alarm rang at 0630, it felt like I’d never slept.

We had packed the night before, so there was very little to do but grab a quick shower, secure our packs and make our way to the bus station. As we made our way from the third level, we found Jim (Portland Jim) with some OJ and hot coffee to help us on our way. Good byes and good lucks were exchanged and off we went. Luck was on our side as we reached the main street: empty taxi was driving by. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the bus station and about 20 minutes after that we’re on our way to Vietnam. So far, so good!

Gao Jun, the owner of the Nanning City Hostel, and I had had a conversation regarding what to expect while making our way by bus to Vietnam. She knew the basics but was unsure of the specifics. She had asked other guest to get back to her but they hadn’t. The following may be a little more specific than you care about – unless you happen to be making the crossing.

First of all – price is about 160Yuan per person plus a 30Yuan service charge from the guest house. My suggestion: work through your guest house. It saves time and confusion.

Our bus was very clean and comfortable. There was a hostess on board who spoke English. Water is provided and we found out later – lunch (though basic – chicken, rice and sprouts) was also included. We thought there would be more westerners but - we were the only ones.
The ride from Nanning to border (Dong Dang) is very scenic, though due to my lack of sleep, was seen through have closed eyelids. The weather was clear and sunny and the roads we travelled were highways and not very busy.

We left at 0800, 5 minute toilet stop at about 1000, passport check by an officer who came on to the bus at about 1030 and then lunch break at about 1100. At the lunch break (25 minutes) we were able to exchange Yuan for Vietnamese Dong at a pretty fair rate. We were also able to pick up a SIM card, which worked in the phone Brenda let me borrow, for about $10USD.

Promptly at 1125 we left our lunch stop and at about 1200 we were dropped off at the first stop of our immigration process. We left the bus, where given cards to hang around our necks, got our luggage and headed to small (12 person) electric vehicles. Towards Immigration we go. The Chinese on board the bus are let out at the first stop. Jim and I and a Vietnamese couple were brought over to the Immigration Departure Processing Building: large (like everything in China), clean and efficient. We make it though, put our luggage through a scanner and head out the next door to another yellow transporter. From here, we’re taken to the Vietnamese Immigration office: not so big or efficient but it works. We hand our passports to the agent at Window #2 (there is no window #1) and told to move over towards Window #3 and wait. Maybe 5 minutes later, our names (or a reasonable facsimile of) are called out, take our bags to be scanned again and out the next door to a lime green electric vehicle. When that vehicle fills up, we head out. One more quick stop at the last passport check point and it’s on to another bus. Our green transporter knows where we’re supposed to go by the tags around our necks. This bus is a bit smaller and almost full – we got the last two seats together. Total processing time about 30 minutes: not bad!!! I’m not sure if this is normal. I’m sure during the National Holiday it was much busier.

Our trip into Hanoi took about four and a half hours – I think. There is a time difference (Hanoi is an hour behind China). There is also a stop at about 1330 – it was good to stretch. These seats weren’t as comfortable as the first bus. No highways in Vietnam until we get close to Hanoi but the scenery was beautiful. It’s an area we didn’t get to on our last trip here.

We make it to a bus station and there is a woman on the bus who helps us get a cab. She told Jim the ride to our stop should be about 150000dong. NOTE: TAXI SCAM WARNING – We get into the cab and he puts our bags into the front seat – leaning against the meter. I also notice as we’re moving that there is business card up against the meter. This was our own fault!! When we get to our destination and go to get out, the meter shows 400500dong ($20) and then he wants a tip!! We pay what is on the meter. Always agree on a price prior or look at the meter before you start– we know better than this.

Putting that experience aside, we get to our hotel (Viet Fun 3) and Ha (the owner) does a double take. He remembered us from two years ago. He gave us the option of a room on the 4th floor, up a very narrow winding stairway that we were only too familiar with or a room on a lower level at his new hotel down the street. We opt for the 4th floor. Fortunately, he insists that two of his employees take our packs up. Making my way upstairs, I notice that the stairway could us a little work but our room is huge (three beds) and very clean.

Jim felt like some western food, so dinner was at the Kangaroo Café. His burger was pretty good – the fish of my fish and chips – not so much. I actually missed having Asian food but the beer was cold and it was just a short walk from VF3.

After a long day, it’s an early night for the Burkes. Since we spent so much time here in 2009, we’ll spend the next couple of days wandering around and head for Hoi An on Friday.

Posted by pjburke 17:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 6 of 6) Page [1]