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Vietnam.... we meet again!

Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 31 °C

Those of you who have been following my journey from the beginning, or even if you’re just popping in for a quick visit will know or quickly learn that I’ve already been to Vietnam.
As with Thailand, this time in Vietnam is with my fiancé - Selfie addict extraordinaire!

We flew from Krabi to Bangkok with Thai Lion Air – surprisingly excellent cheap flight provider and their baggage charges are actually reasonable unlike Air Asia which I’ve found to get more expensive over the years. Plus, the seats on Thai Lion Air are wider than most, with good leg room and general space between rows so you don’t have the seat back in front of you inches away from your face and the seat belt is longer than most Asian flight operators so you can get that weird feeling of pride when you can pull the seat belt in and have lots of excess!

We had about 8 hours between our arrival at BKK airport and our next flight from there to Hanoi so we got some food in the 24-hour food court and then went to a temple across the train tracks from the airport.
Now, I’d read online there was a walkway that took you over the road and train tracks and landed pretty much in front of the temple, but us being idiots we ended up taking a different walkway in the opposite direction then had to traverse the road and train track on foot (luckily we’d put our bags in the left luggage hold!).
After an hour or so of walking we finally got to the temple, which wasn’t much to look at but interesting to pass time I guess, and then found the aforementioned walkway straight into the airport.
Livid!

Our flight to Hanoi was fine, with no problems and the hotel we’d booked – HAAP Viet Travel Homestay – was great, they even picked us up from the airport free of charge and we had our first taste of Vietnam’s Pho for breakfast (a delicious noodle and beef soup/broth).
As expected, the fiancé took pictures of the whole experience so you can see the room below:

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We only stayed there for one night as it is only really useful/practical for airport proximity and I’d consequently booked us into an AirBnB serviced apartment, which to be honest, felt like our apartment after only about 1 hour of being it. Such a strange feeling of instantly being at home. Our AirBnB host was Nam and we’d definitely recommend him and this property.

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The fiancé left his phone in the taxi and Nam quickly called HAAP Viet Travel Homestay to get the taxi info and then he called the taxi company and within 15 minutes the phone was returned (for a small fee of about 20p!). He will be forever grateful to Nam for the swift recovery!

I love AirBnB (provided the hosts are not horrendous human beings or the property isn’t as described which sometimes happens unfortunately) – it saves you money by being able to cook your own meals as opposed to eating out every day/night and gives you a real base to work from.

Of course it is not really any different to booking a self-catering holiday but when you’re booking stuff on the fly/as you go AirBnB is great.

Good grief, it sounds like I work for AirBnb but I do not – if anyone from AirBnb is liking this free advertising, feel free to shoot some coupon codes my way! Haha!

Hanoi is like most big cities but I don’t want to generalise as we didn’t go out of our way to see every corner of it during our stay.
We went across town to the Vinpearlland aquarium in Times City - that’s this weird, but massive mall in a new-ish area/complex place. It was all a little fake/staged.
The aquarium was expensive for what was there and not really worth it but it was nice to spend some time out and about and we got some food in the mall as well.

Apart from that we didn’t really do anything.

As a side note, if you want to go to Halong Bay it is actually better to go to Hai Phong as it is closer so it’ll cost you less than going from Hanoi and you can fly to Hai Phong as well which is good.

If you don’t want to fly anywhere in Vietnam, you really don’t need to and can do what we did by taking the sleeper trains.

You can easily book tickets on 12go.asia where you can input your destination and travel date and it will give you all options, 2nd class seaters and sleepers, 1st class sleepers and even VIP Sleepers.
The 2nd class ones are not very nice, especially for long journeys and the ‘beds’ are hard.
We chose the 1st class sleeper to go from Hanoi to Da Nang and then got picked up by our next AirBnB place in Hoi An from there.
We had a sneak at the ‘VIP’ sleepers and they looked much like our own cabins with maybe slightly thicker ‘mattresses’ so we were ok with not paying more for them unnecessarily.

So the 1st class sleeper has 4 bunks, 2 on either side with a small window bench/table between the lower bunks.
We were on the top bunks both times we took the train and they were pretty comfortable with space for luggage under the lower bunks and a little cubby for smaller bags etc over the door for us up top.
There’s snacks and drinks for sale as well as hot food if you want to buy it, which we did as our journey was 12 hours!
Rice with chicken and vegetables and some other undisclosed meat products but it was warm and tasty so no questions asked and barely any money paid!
We paid about $100/£80 for two beds on the sleeper but realistically it meant we didn’t have to pay for accommodation for that 12-15 hours and we didn’t have to get a flight and pay extra for luggage, plus we got to see some of Vietnam’s countryside and mountains on the way so not so bad!

We arrived at Da Nang train station and our driver was waiting for us so we got straight into the car and made our way to Hoi An (about 45-60 minutes away south of Da Nang).
We’d booked another AirBnB place (Green Areca Villas) but this was more of a guesthouse/hotel and we were pleasantly surprised by the general look and feel of the place – quite high-end without being priced as such, and a pool!
It wasn’t as close to things as I’d hoped and after being in Thailand where there’s a 7/11 or Family Mart on every corner/street to a little shack with some snacks and maybe a beer or cola was annoying.

We rented a motorcycle for a day (150,000 VND - $6.60/£5) to go to the old Hoi An town which I’d visited previously but he’d not been (obviously!) so off we went.

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I’d forgotten how beautiful it is there with little streets and lanterns, the river, the old Japanese covered bridge, lovely! Plus, the fiancé loved it too and I loved watching him love it! *gush*

We went during the day and then back again in the evening when all the lanterns were on and it had an exquisitely ancient, mystical feel – if you’re a fan of Ghibli movies it was very Spirited Away!

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We mainly just enjoyed the pool and ate at the hotel which would explain our nearly 2,000,000 VND ($88/£67) bill at the end (room rate + 2x transfer to Da Nang train station + motorcycle + food + minibar!) – Life!

Ah yes that reminds me, throughout our journey things happen that are, how shall we say, annoying as balls? However, the pair of us has taken to looking at these things/experiences as just another example of life and the many delightful and horrible experiences it can throw at you so when something happens (a wrong turn, an expensive indulgence, a faux pas) we would simply say to each other, “Life!” and carry on!

We took the train again from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City, this time around $90/£70 and 20 hours!

Our hotel was horrible, despite positive reviews, but cheap (there were rats in the ceiling!)

Again, we didn’t do much but there is a lot to do, especially Museums etc.

We went to the Zoo and Botanical gardens then walked down to the Notre Dame inspired cathedral and post office before admitting defeat from our tired feet and heading back to our hotel.

As the Mid-Autumn festival happened during our time there, I did a little research for where to go and found an apparent evening palooza at the Crescent Mall so we hopped in a Grab taxi and went across town.

For those of you who don’t know Grab is the Asian equivalent of an Uber and you can get cars or motorcycle taxis from an app on your phone – very useful and efficient!

When we arrived at Crescent Mall there were thousands of people so we thought we were on to something good… there was nothing really.
There was a fake mini Hoi An that had been erected for the event but you had to pay to get in and from peeking inside, totally was not worth it.

So we went for a walk around, grabbed some cheap, hot food from the Circle K (convenience store), took some selfies and then got another Grab taxi back, right before the heavens opened!

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The rain has been following us from country to country!

Luckily, the following day was clear and sunny for our trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels – home of the Viet Cong fighters during the Vietnam war. Something I’d done previously, but was now enjoying a second time with the fiancé.
It really is interesting and worth a visit, plus you can go inside the tunnels and see the bamboo traps the Viet Cong used to trap and kill US soldiers.

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Here endeth our time in Vietnam – on to Laos!

Posted by Lady Mantle 00:38 Archived in Vietnam Tagged zoo saigon hanoi botanical_gardens hoi_an notre_dame fiance ho_chi_minh_city sleeper_train cu_chi_tunnels japanese_bridge vietnam_train 12go.asia Comments (0)

Off Again on an Asian Adventure - Thailand - Krabi 2017

Thailand Part 2 - Krabi

sunny 33 °C

I find myself travelling throughout Southeast Asia again, only this time I’m doing it with my fiancé.

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This is both a blessing and a (teeny, tiny!) curse.
It is a blessing that I get to see his reaction to places I’ve already been to and experienced, even down to his first time taking a flight!
It is a teeny, tiny curse because I have already seen these places and experienced these things before so the ‘wow’ factor is somewhat reduced.
My fiancé is also addicted to selfies, which when combined with my slightly faster “been there, done that” pace often leaves him alone in a foreign place.

I’m trying to be more empathetic to his situation.
He is me 5 years ago, minus the first time taking a flight thing…
As his eyes were falling on the insanity that is Bangkok or the hot mess of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, I was pleasantly reminded of my own reaction to the first time in those very same places and I felt a radiating warmth throughout my body that I get to not only witness him seeing these places
and experiences these things for the first time, but I also get to share in it all with him.

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It is oddly rewarding.

Now in a somewhat selfish manner, when we started our travelling journey together, we flew from Mandalay to Bangkok and got a bus straight to Krabi as that was an area of Thailand I’d not visited previously.
Even so, we got to see new places together and he got to see Thailand for the first time ever so win-win.

Whilst he is busy taking pictures of, well everything (including himself, a lot!) I’m occupied watching him.
It’s like watching a child discover what we take to be perfectly normal things, like rain, for the first time.
He is truly beautiful to behold in new surroundings (and anywhere else really!)
Unfortunately for all of my infatuated gazing, I didn’t actually take so many photographs of my own, so I will share some of his (non-selfie) photos of our time in Krabi!

We took the night bus from the South Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) which is essentially a giant bus terminal servicing the south of Thailand (as opposed to Chiang Mai etc in the North) and a mall with various tat and some foods places.
We looked for a reputable bus service (Nakhon Chai Air, The Transport Company and Green Bus, among others) and got some food.
There is a decent looking night market by the bus station/shopping centre also if you’re bus doesn’t leave until late.

We boarded the bus around 6:30/7pm and arrived at around 7am at Krabi bus terminal (miniscule in comparison to Bangkok).
I’d already read about how to get to our accommodation in the cheapest way possible, and obstinately avoided the touts screaming at us to pay their hideous fares (1,000 Baht - $30/£23) for shared minibuses.
We hopped on the white songthaew (essentially a pick-up with a roof and 2 benches in the back) for 150 Baht ($4.50/£3.40) who for an extra 50 Baht took us directly to our accommodation instead of just dropping us off at the usual stop in Ao Nang Town.

We stayed at the Bamboo Resort in Ao Nang, Krabi and despite having ‘Ao Nang Beach’ in the address, it was in fact NOT near the beach and in no way was it a resort. I was actually incredibly disappointed, of course the fiancé didn’t know any better but when I book a Bamboo Resort on a beach I expect exactly that…

What we got were little bamboo houses (nature got in EVERYWHERE) barely big enough in which to swing a cat and the joy of every morning and evening listening to men (and sometimes women) beating all mother of hell out of each other in the Muay Thai Boxing ring on site.
We were essentially booked to stay at a training camp, even though neither of us do Muay Thai or anything of the sort.
The only plus was that the adjoining restaurant had an Italian chef so the food was amazing (but overpriced!)

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All of this would have been manageable if the property was near, umm…anything, which it really wasn’t, aside from a tiny Muslim restaurant (very good and decent prices! Yay!) and a Family Mart (convenience store) about 5 km away, so we had to rent a motorcycle nearly every day (150 Baht/day).

We did the usual boat trips, rides into the mountains, experienced the standard tourist problems – our motorcycle tyre blew in the middle of nowhere/jungle but luckily for us a local Muslim guy on his motorbike told us to wait, popped back to his house just up the road from where we were stranded, came back in his pick-up truck, helped my fiancé load the bike in the back and then took us to an open garage. He even chatted with the guy to get us a good deal and we ended up paying about 150 Baht for a new tyre.
Such kindness you often see in Asia, with the occasional nasty little bastards who pinch your stuff but that’s to be expected I guess.

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Thailand is more expensive than I remember and after 2 weeks and £1000 for the two of us I was glad to be moving on!

Posted by Lady Mantle 06:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand motorcycle expensive muay_thai fiance 7_island_tour bamboo_resort Comments (1)

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