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Exploring central Vietnam

Vietnam | Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | 20 photos

We finally made it to Nha Trang by 12h night bus from Saigon. Nha Trang is the Russian version of Miami! Tons of tall hotels lining a very long beach. Menus are sometimes only in Russian and Vietnamese, even not in English; unbelievable! We stopped in Nha Trang by default because there was not any bus direct from Saigon to Hoi An. We took advantage of these 24h to go to the beach, so it was actually not that bad. ;-) At least it was sunny and warm! - see below for what happened later. :-(

We took another 12h night bus to get to Hoi An. We prefer the sleeping buses in India than the ones in Vietnam. Here you feel like sleeping in a old leather dentist chair - but worse because it's much much more cramped and claustrophobic. There are three rows on two levels; they maximize the space in the bus; crazy! Plus, you have to put your shoes in a plastic before you enter the bus.

Hoi An Old Town is an exceptional UNESCO site, previously a trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its very well-preserved buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign (Chinese, Japanese, French) that have combined to produce this unique heritage site.

The city was so nice and relaxing that we splurged in a nicer hotel where we spent 3 consecutive nights in the same place!; we were able to rest and relax and just do "nothing". We need time off from traveling like here otherwise we burn out.

Hoi An is famous for its tailoring stores and its silk lanterns so we planned, yes sometimes we plan ahead ;-) lol, to be there for the full moon lantern festival. The whole old town turns off its electric lights so all you see are silk lanterns lit by candles; it was supposed to be so beautiful BUT we got unlucky it was cancelled due to rain. :-( Too bad!!!

We took a 4h day bus to the city of Hué, established as the capital of unified Vietnam in 1802, Hué was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945.

We visited the imperial city despite the cold rainy weather (about 10 degrees C/ 50 degrees F). Hard to adapt since we've had basically non-stop 30 C/ 90 F weather for almost 6 months. :-(. All central and northern Vietnam is rainy this week; it is supposed to get better next week but then we'll be off to Laos by then anyways. Luckily we still have warm clothes from winter last year in the Andes mountains. However looking back, we can say we got lucky so far with the weather. We barely had a rainy day like we are having now. So no complaints, we keep exploring no matter what! Lol :-) Just lots of wet socks and shoes. ;-)

We took a 12h night bus in our dentist chairs again to be woken up at 4am - surprisingly they were really nice about checking ahead who had to get off and woke us up nicely, India say often didn't bother to do this. So 4am and rainy and we have to walk and find the hotel then wake up the owner by ringing the bell like 5-6 times. The area of Ninh Binh features a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks. Steep valleys of flooded rice paddies are surrounded by steep, almost vertical karst cliffs.

Despite the cold and rain, we biked to a famous look-out peak. We were soaked wet to the bone but glad we did it. The problem in a "warm" country like Vietnam is they don't have heat nor thick windows. So when it gets cold like now, it's absolutely freezing in the room and impossible to dry wet shoes and socks.

Tomorrow we take a "short" 3h bus to the capital, Hanoi. No more dentist chairs! ;-)

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Hawaii Nov. 2014

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