This is the second part of Christine’s post about our adventures down the coast of Vietnam. If you missed the first part, go here: Good Morning Vietnam (Part 1)
Da Lat: Finally a town in the mountains with some cool weather! Da Lat is up in the central highlands and significantly cooler than the coastal areas and cities. It’s only about 200 kms from Nha Trang but took 5 hours due to the biggest potholes I had ever seen. Some were as big as a Volkswagen beetle! We could hardly believe the bus would make it as it chugged along at about 20 km per hour. But we made it and, like always, were dropped off right outside a guesthouse. So, we started walking down the street and decided to duck into a different guesthouse just to see what the prices were like given it is festival time. This was the weekend that Vietnam had a big holiday celebrated both Reunification Day – April 30, and Labor Day – May 1. Lucky for us, the guesthouse had one room left, but it was down on the basement level (flashbacks to our last apartment in Seattle).
Well, here we are on another sleeper bus in Vietnam heading to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, aka: Saigon) with yet another psychopath driver. Just moments ago he passed a car – on the shoulder! – at 60kph! Despite his crazy driving, I am enjoying the lounge chair that reclines and the cozy blankets as well. HCMC is the last city we will visit before we head into Cambodia. We can only stay 4 nights as our visas are due to expire. I realize we haven’t written much these past weeks and that is because we have been having so much fun in this amazing country. So, let me tell you what we have been doing. We already told you about crazy Hanoi and spectacular Halong Bay so I will continue with our story from there.
In Hue Vietnam, we hired two motorcycles and drivers for the day to take us to some of the less populated temples and sites around the outskirts of the city. During a break, our driver Thoung, sang a song about his adoration for Ho Chi Minh, or “Uncle Ho” as he is referred to by the people.
I’ve never been able to sleep at night. As a man, as a child. It’s not excitement, it’s not nerves, it’s not fear, agony, stress or anxiety. But it can be a pain in the ass. I have just always been awake when others have slumbered. TV, movies, internet, books, staring at the ceiling – nothing has regularly kept me from watching the night gradually evolve into the early morning, and see the time reach 4 or 5am. When I was a grade school, late at night, I would re-arrange my bedroom furniture (sorry if it ever woke you up Jackie or Dave). That must have freaked my mum out when she came in to get my laundry the next day!
Bah dah – bah dah – bah dah – bah dah . . .
It’s funny, I always thought the the sound of a train moving along its rails went ‘clickity clack . . . clickity clack’. Not so – at least to me. To me, it sounds more like ‘bah dah-bah dah . . . bah dah-bah dah’. I’ve been on this train for the past five hours, and I can tell you with certainty, it is closer to ‘bah dah-bah dah . . . bah dah-bah dah’ than ‘clickity clack’. Every second, bah dah-bah dah. I estimate we’re going 70kph, maybe even 80. By now we’ve past Ninh Binh, Than Hoa, maybe even Hah Tinh. Bah dah-bah dah. The wheels melodically click below me and the train car bounces around me. Five hours so far. Seven more hours to go. Not very romantic and not so poetic, but here I sit at 3am on a Sunday morning.
Our plane had just touched down in the North Vietnamese city of Hanoi. We’d gotten off our plane rather quickly, we’d cleared customs without any problems, and had picked up our backpacks at baggage claim. Walking through the terminal we needed three things: an ATM to get some local currency (dong . . . lol!), a toilet and a tourist information desk. We knew that there was a minibus that would take us the 45 minute journey into the Old Quarter – the heart of Hanoi, but we just needed to know were. Also, look for a city map, and talk to the agent about any cool things to do that we might not know about.
We had found a tourist information kiosk and began to talk to the agent on duty. It was all good until he asked us where we had booked our stay. Well, we had an idea only. We knew that we wanted to be in the Old Quarter, and even what area within the Old Quarter, but hadn’t finalized a guest house yet. No problem, he knew of a great place for us to stay. He showed us some photos of a hotel in the area we wanted and seemed to know a lot about it. As we were talking about our time in Hanoi, he also inquired about what we were going to do and what sights we planned on seeing. A very chatty guy. I had been reviewing Halong Bay Junk cruises and when I told him this, he told me about a really nice boat he knew about, and even had some photos as well. How convenient, I thought. Curious to. You see, we didn’t actually make it to the information kiosk – we were in fact, at a tour agent desk.
This goes against our very being. A tour desk in an airport selling hotels, resort stays, cruises, and more. This isn’t what we do. We’re backpackers dammit! We seek our own paths, we don’t buy tours in airports! My inner voice began to yell “run away, run away quickly!”, but there we stood, looking at photo books and pricing excursions.
In 2009 we sold our possessions, grabbed our backpacks and traveled the world for 18 months.
Now we're back in Seattle, and though we aren't planning another round the world adventure, we're taking the time to grab our packs and enjoy long weekends, exploring what the U.S. Northwest has to offer!
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Our Travel Breakdown:
Departed: July, 2009
Returned: January, 2011
Planes: 30 / 36,295mi - 58,429km
Ferries: 41 / 4,120 mi - 6,631km
Trains: 9 / 3,950 mi - 6,357km
Buses: 104 / ????
Chinese Junks: 1
Rental Cars: 4
Taxis: too many to count!
Subways: heaps of rides!
Bicycle Taxis: by now? dozens!
Sagnthaews: Oh - so, so many!
Longtail Boats: many!
Hotels/Guest Houses: 52
Stays w/ friends: 13