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Vietnam

sunny
View Honeymoon Tour on Daft Slags Do..'s travel map.

Saigon:

We left Cambodia on the morning of the 5th and caught a coach to Ho Chi Minh that took around 7 hours. One of the fellas on the coach collected all passports on commencement of the journey, which we thought was a little odd but we went with it. As it turned out what followed was a bizarre situation waiting at the boarder crossing without a clue what to do and everyone on the bus walking one way and then another and then finally into the boarder 'warehouse' and eventually getting called through one by one and finally our passports were back in our possession. Luckily we had done our research beforehand and read that this is common practice, so we were a little less worried than other passengers on the coach. As we drove over the boarder into Vietnam the landscape began to change with blossoming trees lining the road and we welcomed a sigh of relief. Once again when the coach pulled up to park we got off and navigated our own way to the hostel, which turned out to be fairly close by. After checking in and chucking our rucksacks in the room we headed out down the main backpackers street for delicious food and then back out in the evening for beers as we watched the scores of tourist bumble up and down the bustling street.

In the morning we had a home cooked breakfast at the hostel before catching a taxi to the airport hotel we previously stayed at to collect our larger bags. After that chore was done we wandered around the streets of Saigon taking in the sights and stopped by Cong Caphe for scrumptious Vietnamese coffee. Then onto the delights of Ben Thanh market to shop for souvenirs with feisty sellers grabbing your arms and not letting go! Then onwards again to the Ho Chi Minh post office, an old French colonial building that was architecturally stunning. In the evening we visited the Five Oysters restaurant down the backpackers street for Phở and a couple of beers.

This is what Cambodia was lacking for us almost, the ease of walking and wandering without a plan and feeling completely safe. The following morning was a fairly relaxed one and after wandering for a while we caught a taxi (that cost £2!) over to the War museum. Incidentally it did not open for another 30 minutes so we had a drink across the road and watched as people arrived to the same fate. We spent a good couple of hours in the War museum, learning and educating ourselves.
Again afterwards we wandered, out and down to the river where we sat and watched the crazy Saigon scooter traffic rushing past. On the way back we stopped at Hum vegetarian restaurant where again we had absolutely delicious food before heading back to the backpackers street, where we just couldn't resist another cup of Vietnamese coffee!

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Phu Quoc:

Arising fairly early we checked out, hailed a taxi to the airport and caught our plane to Phu Quoc. What a dream Phu Quoc was, checking into our Hotel we felt in utter luxury. As in the Philippines, all days merged into one. We spent our days lounging around the pool, ordering cocktails at 12 noon on the dot, eating in the restaurant and generally feeling spoilt. Perhaps I'm over exaggerating it, however compared to the accommodation we had recently stayed in and the fact that we were non stop tourist's for a while meant that it was pure heaven and we relaxed like there was no-one watching. We even ordered room service, sat in our pyjamas, that was brought right to our laps! Perfect! One day we left the hotel, borrowed the hotel bicycles and rode over to the beach, although very nice we decided that this would be our only pool time so headed back to the hotel to read and chill the hell out. The hotel offered breakfast included in the rate, and it was one of the best breakfast's we've had with all sorts on offer, a highlight being freshly made pancakes and pomegranates in abundance! It was a perfect break from our travels!

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Hanoi:

On Monday the 14th we sadly checked out of paradise and flew up to Hanoi. We both took a cold with us, so upon checking in to our Hotel located in Hanoi's old quarter, we had dinner across the road and headed for bed. Exciting.
In the morning we were greeted with yet another lavish breakfast set up offered by the hotel before heading out to peruse the streets of Hanoi and over to the market. Navigating your way through Hanoi traffic really is a skill, with scooters driving and hooting in every direction. You really have to commit to crossing the road, or you will die. We took a leisurely walk down the nearby lake and ended up at - you guessed it - Cong Caphe! In the evening we found a vegan restaurant called Jalus, that was closely matched to the affectionate nickname we give to Jason and Alice (Jalice) as it turned out we often returned to this restaurant as the food was something else! Soy milk, coco infused, leather free 'energy booster' - be rude not to. After we walked over to Bia Hoi (Beer corner) and found a bustling street filled with food vendors, bars and badly dressed Europeans and settled down drinking 45p beer and people watched the night away.

The next morning I awoke to a day of hell. From the moment I opened my eyes I did not stop sneezing, apart from a 30 minute break in the evening to eat dinner, I literally sneezed ALL DAMN DAY! Even through breakfast. We got a taxi to Hanoi towers and went to the prison museum, however Jack will have to tell you what it was like as I was too busy sneezing. People actually avoided me. In the evening we went back over to Jalus (cannot express how good the food was!) and headed back to the hotel to pack our rucksacks for Sapa. Still sneezing.

Sapa:

Feeling like absolute crap, we got up and waited outside our hotel at 6:30am for our 'Limousine' to collect us. We were not disappointed - the mini bus turned up with blacked out windows and we were ushered onto the back seat, luckily we were the last to be picked up so the three seats at the back were all ours. (The mini bus only had a further four seats) We were given a little 'snack pack' of water, banana and a muffin to our delight and the mini bus also had usb charges in every seat and WIFI!!!! I stretched out and slept the whole way to Sapa town, where we were deposited for an hour wait to catch another bus onto our home stay in Nam Cam Village. Walking through Sapa town we stopped at a restaurant for Jack to eat lunch whilst I drank ginger tea and nursed my teeth that felt as if they were about to fall out (sinus pain). Upon the arrival of our next mini bus also came Chung, our guide. A lovely, chatty Vietnamese man that called me 'the wife'. It was a short but nail biting drive up to Nam Cang village over severe drops!!! At one point I even hoped to just fall off the edge, to get it out of the way you know?! The anticipation was torture and of course, there were no road barriers - if you careered off the road you were done.
Once at the village we walked through and over a rope bridge to the family owned lodge. We saw that the family offered the traditional herbal bath and booked ourselves in for an hours time, as this was the approximate time it takes to prepare the bath. Herbs were boiled over a wood fire for the hour then transported into large wooden baths. We soaked in the bath for about 45 minutes overlooking the river below. Any longer can be dangerous as the herbs can make you feel drunk! However it completely sorted out my sinus' and I began to feel human once again. Afterwards we had a home cooked dinner, bringing out plate after plate of delicious food that was more than we could muster and headed for bed in one of the best night's sleeps we've had.

Up at the crack of eight for a home cooked breakfast then out into the village with Chung. You are only allowed into the village if you have a guide that has a permit. The views were spectacular, rice paddies and hills that seemed to go on forever with a mountain backdrop left us speechless. We met the local tribes people that were extremely welcoming and friendly. Chung met and greeted everyone that passed and took us inside one of the local's houses, it was an odd experience as the elderly gentlemen was just waking up and Chung pulled up two chairs for us to sit on whilst he chatted with the gentleman in Vietnamese and gave him a bag of sweets for the grandchildren (although we had previously read that sweets should not be given due to the lack of dentists and how expensive it can be) although he seemed pleased. We could see pictures of the gentleman hung on the wall from the war and we chatted (through Chung) about the practical layout of the house and what each section was used for. It was incredibly interesting. We had lunch back at the lodge and I went for a much needed nap whilst Jack went back out with Chung around the village. They walked into the hills and had to abruptly stop several times to check something wasn't an asian cobra (luckily didn't see any but think we heard one make a warning sound as we walked past). And once again time was spent in the local's homes where Jack met a 96 year old lady who didn't take too friendly to him, although it was all good fun.

At 3pm we walked the short distance through the village to the mini bus which then took us to Topas Eco Lodge. Again, driving along the mountain path was excruciatingly scary but we made it! We checked in, pre ordered dinner from the a la carte menu and located our hut overlooking the mountains. Absolutely incredible views. We went back to the main lodge at 7:30pm for a fancy dinner and back to the hut to enjoy the luxury.

We enjoyed another free breakfast, showered, packed and checked out. We had a little wait before the mini bus back to Hanoi so we had a walk along the buffalo trail and had a beer/ginger tea in the bar before jumping on the bus. On the way back there was only four of us so we enjoyed the spacious captain seats for the 5 hour ride back. We were dropped back at the Little Hanoi Diamond hotel where we collected our large bags once again and walked over to our next hotel to check in.

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Hanoi part 2:

The next day back in Hanoi was a chilled one visiting Cong Caphe and planned some more itinerary. We had pizza in the evening as a 'safe' option before our trip the following day, however it left Jack feeling sick and I was actually sick bleugh!

Ha Long Bay:

Another early morning for our coach to pick us up to take us to Ha Long Bay. It took around 3 & 1/2 hours and we were entertained along the way by our tour guide 'Qui'. Once on the boat lunch was waiting for us and we settled in and chatted to the other passengers whilst we ate. Afterwards we got onto a smaller boat that took us to the 'amazing, surprising cave' for a tour around then back on to the main boat for chill time then ferried back onto the smaller boat for a tour around the oyster farm. We were quite surprised at how pearls are made - a membrane is taken from one oyster, sterilised, cut into small pieces and then inserted into the ovary of another oyster. Pretty severe. Back onto the main boat to freshen up before dinner then spent the evening drinking, chatting and squid fishing. Although the bay was mainly populated with jelly fish and floating rubbish, we had fun all the same.

After a comfortable sleep in our cabin it was a 7am start for breakfast on the boat before boarding a bamboo boat to take us around a small fishing village. Back again on the main boat we had a short cooking class and learned how to make spring rolls (Jack even partook in a spring roll race!) On the way back lunch was served and then we got off the boat and back onto the coach to take us back to Hanoi.

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Hanoi part 3:

On our last full day in Vietnam we decided to head over to the Ethnicity Museum for a final history lesson. After we did a spot of souvenir shopping and in the evening went back to Bia Hoi for cheap beer and people watching.

Overall our experience in Vietnam was a good one - we would highly recommend visiting and would definitely say it is the country that had the most culture and history, with plenty to do and an abundance of sight seeing. A big thumbs up!

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Posted by Daft Slags Do.. 12:48 Archived in Vietnam Tagged buildings boats beach vietnam travelling travelling_honeymoon Comments (1)

Hong Kong

Year of the Monkey

sunny
View Honeymoon Tour on Daft Slags Do..'s travel map.

After a two hour fifteen minute flight from Bangkok, we arrived into Hong Kong airport ready to negotiate a taxi to our hotel. Little did we know that Hong Kong would be well geared up for this and gave us all the useful information such as taxi etiquette, how much it costs to certain areas, what the taxi meter means, details of our taxi driver and a card with important numbers to call such as the police etc.

Once checked into the hotel we sauntered down a nearby side street to get a bite to eat. The small alley like street was packed with restaurants and bars, each equipped with a mouthy sales person trying to get you in. We settled on an Italian (when in Hong Kong!) and ate scrumptious pizza and pasta, albeit at hefty London prices. The beer was weak and overpriced. Just like home.

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The next day we arose early, packed a rucksack and headed out navigating our way through Hong Kong's MTR stations all the way to Disney Land!!! The MTR even had it's own line to get you to Disney Land that played fairytale music, had Mickey Mouse ears for handles and Disney character motifs adorned the windows. Feeling like a six year old we skipped into Disney Land and spent the entire day there. We saw the daytime parade, night time parade and special fireworks celebrating both the 10 year anniversary and Chinese new year's eve over the Disney castle. We went on all the rides (some twice) and saw all the shows. Money well spent and we left feeling satisfied but exhausted. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at 'Welcome' supermarket for some staple food supplies. They had regular sized yoghurts on sale for £15 each. Obviously we did not purchase these, we're on a budget after all. The majority of our meals were shared peanut butter sandwiches, crisps and boiled eggs (that we boiled in the kettle in the hotel - yes this is possible, you just boil it twice)

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Luckily we picked a hotel that was a five minute walk from all the Chinese New Year activities, in an area on the northern bit called Kowloon. We had a wander around on the Monday (New Years Day) down to the harbour and shopping centre. It was absolute carnage with a million tourists walking in every direction. At 6pm we headed down to the parade route and picked our spot. It was already filling up at this point but over the two hour wait for the parade to start, hoards of people filled in pushing and shoving for the best view. People were handing out goodie bags also, which we managed to nab, inside was a packed of vegetable crisps and a honey drink. The parade itself was a little on the disappointing side in terms of the array of floats and acts going past (especially compared to Disney Land). We got to see a traditional Chinese dragon though and a lot of people on flipping stilts (Kiwi's phobia). But overall it was a good experience and would definitely recommend it. Afterwards we made a quick exit to avoid the crowds and had a walk through the streets of Hong Kong and down to the waterfront and took in the incredible sights of Hong Kong Island's colourful sky line.

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After a late evening back at the hotel watching Nat Geo Wild, the next morning we headed over to an area called Mong Kok to look for souvenirs. There had been riots in protest of the government shutting down illegal street vendors the night before but all looked good during the day. We were also on the look out for Tim Ho Wan's dim sum restaurant (a famous five star restaurant at affordable prices) however the first one we located had shut down and the second one located on Hong Kong island was opening in two days time. We threw our hands in the air and headed for a McDonalds (cheap and affordable). At 5:30pm we walked over to the waterfront to get a spot for the New Year firework display that was starting at 8pm. We were jealous of the people that brought along camping stools and flasks of tea. They took it very seriously.
At 8pm sharp the sky lit up furiously as the sound of thunder roared over from the river. It had started. What followed for the next thirty minutes was a continuous eruption of sounds and an explosion of colours unlike anything we had ever seen before. Best. Day. Ever.
We took a slow jaunt towards temple street night market where Jack purchased a steamed pork bun for 70p and we perused the stalls for souvenirs. Weirdly dotted around nearby streets where karaoke and fortune teller tents. The karaoke tents were literally pop up gazebo's with a karaoke machine and a pair of oldies belting their hearts out. An odd scene.

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For our last day in Hong Kong we decided to go to the New Years races at Sha Tin racecourse. Again we navigated our way through Hong Kong's MTR system, taking a wrong turn at one point and going a stop too far, only to have to turn back around. Neither of us having ever gone to the races in the UK we had no idea what to expect, except that maybe people in the UK dress up all fancy and get wasted. Well, Hong Kong races are nothing like that. On arrival to the station we followed the mass of people entering the racecourse into what looked like a warehouse. It was absolute mayhem, people walking in all directions, people queuing to spin the lucky wheel of fortune, vendors handing out free pens - we had no idea which way to walk or what entrance to go through! Eventually we found our way through to one of the main betting halls and wandered around bewildered. With not a clue how to put on a bet it was even more confusing in Chinese! We approached one of the betting guys who kindly showed us how to place a bet and ushered us over to purchase an English booklet explaining each race and what the odds where for each horse. Finally getting our heads around it we placed a bet for the next race, queuing up in the betting lines with little old ladies pushing and shoving. Overall we put three bets on and Kiwi won on two races, albeit a lowly amount as we only bet one Hong Kong dollar per race (about £0.89) however we walked away £1 up so we were pretty chuffed. We even shared a pint too.
Following from the excitement of the races we decided to stop by Hong Kong history museum on the way back to the hotel. It was pretty interesting stuff.

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Quick turn around back at the hotel and then out on the hunt for some Chinese food! We settled on a restaurant and ordered food - Jack opted for traditional chinese soup with dumplings and minced pork rather than the chickens feet/tripe in broth and Kiwi ordered the only vegetarian option on the menu, vegetable fried rice. Although when it arrived it was literally rice with bits of cabbage in! We were also served tea with condensed milk that was pretty rank, although Jack quite enjoyed it. We finished off the evening with a walk around the nearby Kowloon park. Although it was a central city park it felt really safe at night and was quite bustling for the time of day.

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We thoroughly enjoyed Hong Kong and would definitely recommend going, it's insane and colourful and loud and busy. But it's good. Now all we need is a good rest in the Philippines....

Posted by Daft Slags Do.. 19:10 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged buildings skylines night fireworks travelling hong_kong chinese_new_year disney_land lunar_new_year travelling_honeymoon year_of_the_monkey chinese_dragon Comments (1)

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