A Travellerspoint blog

Hoi An & Our Homestay Experience!

sunny 27 °C
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Hoi An has been my favourite stay in Vietnam so far! Partly due to the fantastic town and the improved weather, but mainly due to the lovely family we stayed with. We chose Camellia Homestay as it had such good reviews on tripadvisor and were so glad we did, they made us feel so welcome and the house was beautiful. It was nice being a little way out of town too as we were closer to the beach (although it had been pretty wrecked by the typhoon!) and out of the busy town centre.
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Our first day in Hoi An we borrowed bicycles from the family and cycled to the beach - although as per my above comment and the below photograph, it was a bit of a waste of time.
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We then cycled the lovely scenic route along the river in to town for some delicious food at one of the hundreds of restaurants that fill the town. Exploring the town by bicycle is really fun, but the next day we instead decided to up the excitement by renting a moped! Like the other cities and towns in Vietnam everybody uses them, but in Hoi An, although still fairly hectic on the roads, it's a much better place for us tourists to use them!
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We rode the moped 25kms North to the neighbouring city of Danang, getting a suntan along the way. Our aim was to reach the famous Monkey Mountain (aka Son Tra Peninsula) but as Ben had to be back for his suit fitting we only had time for a quick bevvy on the beach!
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Hoi An is famous for its many tailors and is THE place to go in South East Asia for the service, so Ben decided to indulge on a fantastic hand tailored suit. We chose BeBe tailors as they're voted top on tripadvisor and were the only tailors the homestay would recommend! They did a fantastic job on Ben's suit, not settling until it was just right. The service was excellent, and cost a fraction of what it would have cost at home - happy days!
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There's so many restaurants in Hoi An, which is great for food lovers (like us!) but it also makes it difficult to chose! Our favourites were Cafe 43 (really cheap, delicious food - chicken curry is great), Enjoy Hoi An (45 different flavours of icecream says it all!) and Morning Glory (more expensive than the others but so worth it). Hope this helps if you're due to visit!!
Shoppers will also love Hoi An as there's so many little streets lined with shops selling all sorts of stuff, from clothes and jewellery to hand painted coconut shell bowls. Ben bought me some of these bowls as an early birthday present, along with some beautiful hand painted traditional lanterns.
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Along with its reputation for great tailors, Hoi An is also famous for its beautiful lanterns. At night the streets come alive with the different hues, giving the whole town a romantic feel. You can also buy a floating candle to watch meander down the river - once most of the tourists have done this the whole river looks so pretty!

All in all, Hoi An is the place to go if you're looking for amazing yet suprisingly cheap food, and, with its various cultural sites too (The Japanese Covered Bridge being the main site to see, although I have to admit it didn't wow me) has lots more to offer than just beaches and shopping (as good as the shops and markets are!). I would have loved to stay longer!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 02:21 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Huê!

rain 22 °C
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Huê has been our second stop in Vietnam and although the weather has been really rubbish (when we arrived the train's tracks were under water due to flooding!) I'm pleased we've stopped here on our route down the coast.
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The view from the train when we arrived in Huê!

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The city itself is a little bit like Hanoi, with ten times less mopeds - although theres still a fair few - and just as many restaurants and cafes. Theres also a river (The Perfume River) running through the city which when the weather is nice I imagine would be really lovely to cruise down on one of the many tourist boats moored on the South Bank.
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The view of The Perfume River from our hotel.

During our brief stay in Huê we've mainly just eaten lots of really tasty, cheap food - curry here is really good! And not spicy either, which Ben has liked as most places so far have all specialised in spicy food! There's lots of Western restaurants too, which serve cheap sandwiches and burgers if you need a fix of foods from home!
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Today we visited the large Citadel, which is fairly interesting and with it's moat and many ponds is a nice way to spend the afternoon relaxing! The Citadel was heavily bombed during the Vietnam war so much of it is just ruins but there's restoration projects going on (which the cost of your ticket goes towards) to try and salvage these once-beautiful buildings. The buildings that have been restored look really impressive.
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All the hotels and travel agents try to sell moped or bus tours of the Citadel and surrounding Pagodas but we thought these were quite expensive so unless you're majorly into historic sites and architecture I'd just recommend doing what we did and taking a taxi there yourself and spending a few hours wandering around. We then walked back to our hotel to save some more money - also hoping that's sufficient exercise to burn off all the food I've indulged in over the past few days!!

Tomorrow we leave Huê for Hoi An, which is apparently meant to be lovely so I'm really looking forward to it; perhaps we may even be lucky and get some nicer weather!!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 05:45 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Halong Bay

sunny 26 °C
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We spent two nights on a trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay - something I'd really been looking forward to as all I'd heard was good things and I was in no way disappointed! With 1969 islands, the scenery of Halong Bay is absolutely breathtaking! I took so many photographs in the two days we were there!

The Halong Bay trip Ben and I booked to do was cancelled last minute due to typhoon damage to the boat, so we were added to a 'party cruise' instead. Whilst the travel agents were great ensuring we didn't miss out and although I'm glad we were able to go at all, we definitely wouldn't have chosen this tour ourselves - namely because we knew we'd spend the whole two days listening to music like The Venga Boys (we weren't wrong!) The trip's itinerary wasn't quite what we wanted to do either, but still we did have a really good time...

The first afternoon of the trip we visited some caves within one of the peaks, most people enjoyed these but because we'd seen similar during our stay in Yangshuo in China they were slightly underwhelming and if I'm honest a bit boring! Plus it was swarming with tourists! Nevertheless, our next stop at Titop Island where we hiked to the top of its peak to watch the sun setting on Halong Bay made up for this and was the perfect end to the afternoon.
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In the evening we stayed aboard the boat, sleeping in our own cabin - although the cheesy pop music going on 'til the early hours hardly made it a peaceful night it was definitely a cool experience as I'd never stayed on a boat before!

The following day we sailed to this absolutely amazing cove on a tiny secluded island where we stayed in our own private deluxe bungalow right on the sand - this was without a doubt the highlight of the trip for me as we got to chill out sunbathing and swimming - if you know me you know this is more up my street than hiking etc.!!
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Later in the afternoon, we kayaked out of the cove and through the karst peaks until we found our own small patch of beach!
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The view from our bungalow - not a bad sight to wake up to!

On our last day of the trip we cruised back via the floating villages where most people earn a living through fishing - we visited one family who cultivate a breed of sharks, feeding and growing them until they're large enough to sell. With just wooden planks and barriers being the only means of walking through the various enclosures I stayed firmly on the boat!!

I would definitely have liked to spend more time exploring Halong Bay and it's various islands, and if given the chance would like to do the Monkey Island trip we originally planned. I'd especially love to go back to relax amongst the beautiful, picture- perfect scenery. Halong Bay is a must-do if you visit Northern Vietnam - just make sure you choose the correct trip!!
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Posted by AmyRossiter26 05:38 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

... And on to Vietnam!

all seasons in one day 24 °C
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Hanoi has been our first stop in Vietnam, and what a way to kick off! Hanoi old quarter is the place to be with its hectic but exciting streets where each is teaming with mopeds whizzing past and shops selling all sorts of stuff!
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There's an art to crossing the street - just take the plunge and step out (otherwise you'll be stood roadside all day!) and keep going, but slow and steady! The mopeds tend to weave past you, and cars do stop - most of the time! Between negotiating the busy roads and fending off the street vendors, Hanoi can be a tiring place... Especially if you choose the non-lazy tourist route of actually walking! So many people take up the offer of a tuk tuk or moped ride. To fend off fatigue, we just hopped into one of Hanoi's many cafes or coffee bars - our favourite was The Note Coffee. Located on the corner of one of the central streets, facing the lake, it served the best caramel lattè I've had. A cute touch is that each visitor is given a post-it to write on and then stick to the wall! Great fun sat in a window seat watching the hustle and bustle outside, whilst drinking coffee and reading everyone's notes. I would definitely recommend a visit there if you're passing!
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Hoan Kiem lake is central to Hanoi's old quarter, so you can't really visit the city without seeing it! It's lovely that in a city so busy, there's somewhere to go that's so relaxing. With cafes, restaurants and benches surrounding the lake it's very much a focal point of Hanoi.
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It's especially lovely taking a walk round the lake just as the sun's going down - a great way to finish the day!

Our first few days were spent anxiously awaiting the arrival of Typhoon Haiyan - after the utter devastation and tragedies in the Phillipines we were lucky to get just a few days of cloud and one night of torrential rain and wind. The night of which Ben dragged me out at 11pm to watch the Arsenal match, my sweet revenge was ripping him that they lost!

All the restaurants we ate at in Hanoi were really good - Little Hanoi and New Day being the best two, both are always super busy; a sure sign you're on to a winner! There's loads of road-side vendors selling wierd and wonderful street food, but with the restaurants being so cheap we didn't indulge in any fried frog! One night Ben and I had a tab of 6 beers, two mains and desert and it only came to £4.50 each!

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Tuesday we decided to do the touristy thing and visited Hoa Lo Prison. It was only about a ten minute walk from our hotel so thought we may as well! It turned out to be lots more interesting than I expected, and although it's now just a museum rather than a preserved prison, it's been done in an authentic way so as to give you a real idea as to what the prison was like. There's lots of other museums dotted about the city too, and if this one was anything to go by, I'm sure they're all worth a visit!
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We have both enjoyed getting to know Hanoi and exploring all it has to offer, but after 5 days we feel ready to move on to our next stop - the incredible Halong Bay.

Posted by AmyRossiter26 03:41 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Macau - The Vegas of China!!

sunny 23 °C
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Macau was the last of our stops around China (although technically it's own country) and what a way to finish!!
The city itself is nothing spectacular, although the old quarter is nice with its European style architecture - evidence of its past Portugese colonisation. There's also lots of high end shops and boutiques, which I loved wandering around (window shopping only of course!) There's some historical sites too - below photograph is of the remains of a catholic cathedral. Notice how there is the combination of European and oriental design.
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However, the real highlight of Macau is of course the casinos!! Everything you would find in Vegas from The MGM to The Galaxy. We set our sights on The Venetian and it was truely amazing!! I've never been to Vegas, or a casino, so was really excited and it didn't disappoint - you can see why people never want to leave!
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I didn't do any gambling myself (Ben had a small flutter!) but I just loved being in the midst of it all - and taking advantage of the free drinks! I may have had ten too many vodka cranberrys.
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Macau was definitely a great end to our time in China, and a real highlight of the entire trip sofar for me. I would absolutely love to return - but not when I'm on my backpackers budget, and can really indulge!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 23:04 Archived in Macau Comments (0)

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