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Week 1 in Vietnam

VIETNAM | Thursday, 20 December 2012 | Views [1308]

13th December 2012

After a horrible day on the bus from Laos to Vietnam, we finally arrive at our hotel and get possibly the best welcome to date. We are staying at the Watererland (booked through Agoda) and we get welcomed with the strongest cup of ginger tea I have ever tasted, (not that I have ever drank ginger tea, it has to be said), we also get offered fruit, followed by a banana milkshake.  They were defiantly trying to 'up' their review score on the website, that and trying to talk us into doing one of their tours around Hue.  Our room is on the top floor (5th) so it is nice and quite and it is a good size, unfortunately, we have only booked it for one night and they are full the following night, so we will have to move across the road tomorrow for a night.  We are only going to be here for 2 days as we have to head North pretty quick, as we need to be in Hanoi for the 20th to meet our friends Rhain and Lucy, who are meeting up with us for 3 weeks over Christmas, after 10 months, we can't wait to see someone from home!  We will be heading back this way, as they fly out of Ho Chi Min City on the 10th of January.

We go out for supper and soon realise that people in Vietnam are a lot friendlier, than they are in Laos. We have a good chat and laugh with the young waitresses at the bar we popped into on the way home.  We instantly know we are going to like it here.

We make inquiries about the train to Dong Hoi.  Everywhere we ask, says that there is only a night train there. We ask about 6 different agency's and they all say the same.  Before we book, we decide to walk down to the train station ourselves and find out that they are all lying!  There are 7 trains a day that go there! so we book our ticket direct at the station.  On the way back into town, we walk around part of the citadel, it is massive and have decided that we could spend a whole day there with the girls, so amble our way back to our room having a  leisurely late lunch en route!

On to Dong Hoi 3 and a half hours away.  The train is not as good as we had hoped. Air-con is struggling with the heat and so are we! but it is on time, for a change.  We share a taxi into town with a guy called Simon from Leeds that was on the train, (it always amazes me, how much I miss a British accent!). We have a quick walk around town to try to find somewhere to eat, this is easier said than done and we end up going back to our hotel to eat there, it's pretty basic but OK.

On Sunday we walk across the bridge to the beach, we haven't seen the sea for 2 months and are really starting to miss it. There is not a soul on the beach (it is their winter) although it must be high 20's at least!    We walk around the sand-spit and back through the back streets. Children shout hello and ask for money, cheeky little gits, they aren't even poor, so I asked them for some as well.  One kids runs down the street after us, with a note in his hand, he either thought I was serious or had a very good sense of humour! 

Our train to our next destination of Ninh Binh is 7 and a half hours way and leaves at 5.30 a.m. - oh the joys of travel, so we are up at 4.30.  There is some nice scenery, especially early morning when the farmers are walking their cattle to the rice paddies, carrying their wooden ploughs.  We arrive mid afternoon and soon discover that Ninh Binh city it's self is a pretty boring grey town, We struggle to find anywhere to eat and when we do, the girl takes our order and then gets on the phone.  Five minutes later, she leaves us sat in the café on our own, while she pops out on her scooter to collect our meal, she arrives 10 minutes later with an elderly lady sat on the back of the bike holding a tray with 2 plates and a glass of fruit shake on it, I wish I'd had the camera out!

We were going to stay 2 nights here, so we could hire a bike and go up into the mountains and to some caves, but the weather has changed from being in the high 20's down to about 18 and it is windy and rainy.  We decide to see if can get on the afternoon train to Hanoi.  Its only 2 and a half hours away.  We can, but our seats are not together, in fact, they are not even in the same carriage.  I convince Matt that I will be fine on my own, (his promise to my brother Ric, that he will 'look after me', has been taken extremely seriously, so I don't think he has taken his eyes off me in the last 10 months).  We get a free lift to the train station by the staff from the hotel, on the back of 2 scooters, it's quite difficult to balance while carrying a large rucksack and a day bag with your arms (and legs for that matter) around a total stranger!

An uneventful journey and Matt and I are reunited on the platform!  We walk to our hotel, which is called Lake View, yes, it is right in front of the lake but our room does not have a view of any description (other than next doors brick wall!), never mind, the room it's self is OK.

We have a walk around and find Rhian & Lucy's hotel, it looks very nice and is only about a 10 minute walk from ours.  Next we walk to the 'old quarters' and have a look around  It is chaos, 100's of scooters and cars  whizzing through the streets, not seeming to pay any (or little) attention to traffic lights and certainly not paying any attention to the pedestrian crossings. We got some very good advice of someone in Hue the other day on a crossing, he said, 'just walk slow and they will go around you'.  This has proved to be very good advice!

Today, Matt agreed to go a vegetarian rrestaurantand he actually really enjoyed it.  It is run by Buddhists, who have the culinary skill to make vvegetarianfood look and taste like meat!  It was really very clever and very tasty too! We had a set menu of soup with rice, some really meaty mushrooms, something that resembled pork on skewers, some (fake) crispy chicken and some seaweed wrapped tofu, that tasted of fish.  All this for 2.40p each.  I was slightly pissed off when the bill came and there was a charge of 4000 dong for something(?) when I asked what it was for she said it was the napkins (the wet wipes, you get in the Moon Hon - for nothing) I'm sorry, as nice as the food was, I had to tell her that, a, we didn't ask for them and b, you can't charge for a napkin that Matt hadn't even opened!.  It is only 12p by the way, but it is the principle.  So many times we have checked the bill and it has been wrong, but surprise, surprise, it's ALWAYS in their favour! So now I always check and I tell them if it is wrong, even if we leave it as a tip anyway. Why do they think, just because we are tourists, they can rip us off?  (Last night it was being charged 40,000 dong instead of 25,000 dong for a can of coke).

We are now excitedly awaiting the arrival of Rhian and Lucy, whom we are going to meet off the plane tomorrow morning.  Can't wait!

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