A Travellerspoint blog

Knock Knock Hue's there?

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Arrived in Hue early morning after taking a sleeper bus - not as scary as we were led to believe although I would still keep everything valuable in sight - it's a great way of saving time as you're sleeping anyway and even better you're combining the bus fare with accommodation! They take a little getting used to though especially if you are tall! (so needless to say I was fine!). They can get a little cold with the air conditioning so they give you a small blanket which is handy! Woke a couple of times during the night but once the Vietnamese dude sleeping above me turned off his very loud tv I was sleeping like a baby!
Staying in Hue backpackers which we had organised from the hostel in Hanoi which saved us lugging our backpacks around the city. At first glance it appears much quieter than other cities we have been in but nevertheless we set off to explore the city for the day visiting the Citadel (a former imperial city on the banks of the river) which housed an Imperial enclosure and forbidden purple city. Its pretty much just gardens now after it was bombed during the war rebuilt. They have begun renovations but its a work in progress by6 the looks of it! What we have noticed is that unlike many tourist attractions in Europe they don't have guided tours which makes it a little difficult to appreciate exactly what you are looking at! This place did have a video reconstruction of what the palace looked like in olden times courtesy of Samsung on probably the biggest tv screen I've ever seen! Took a motorbike ride for the first time (I was holding on for dear life at the start!) to see the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Tomb of Tu duc both important landmarks in the city. This we got for 80k vietnamese dong after much bargaining (about 2.50e!). Have bought an open bus ticket here for $34 dollars with 4 stops (Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat and Saigon) to save money on the bus fares. Looking forward to Hoi An and maybe getting some dresses/suits made!

Posted by elisasdiary 07:27 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi and Halong Bay

sunny 30 °C

Arrived into Hanoi after dark - the journey from the airport was eye opening! As we would learn over the next day or two there are as many motorbikes/mopeds in Hanoi as there are people in Ireland! Craziness! I was literally on the edge of my seat until we arrived at our stop! I can't recommend Hanoi backpackers to the travellers among you as the rooms are clean, the staff so friendly and helpful and the craic is ninety! It wasn't long until we ran into some fellow Irish! Beer and a burger in the rooftop bar - 2e! By closing there's quite a gang gathered for a pub crawl - we feel minging after travelling but sure when in Rome! Play some pool with some scottish lads although with Fiona and I failing to even hit the ball on most occasions I don't think you could call it playing! We like to blame the cues and lack of chalk!
The next day we set out to explore Hanoi and to determine if it's as crazy during the day as it is at night! A definite yes! The key is slow and steady movements......let the bikes avoid YOU and you will make it out alive!
Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the old quarter is our first stop. An island in the middle houses a gigantic embalmed tortoise, linked to a local legend. The first shopping of the trip got underway in Hanoi with the girls bargaining for handbags! We caught a water puppetry show in the afternoon, an old tradition in Hanoi. It provided some laughter and relief from the blistering heat! AC is crucial on a trip like this but is a luxury in many places even if that luxury only costs an extra dollar!

Booked a 2 night 3 day trip to Halong Bay through the hostel. It is more expensive than the competitors but from what I hear it leaves the competition sitting! The trip has an early pick up so blearey-eyed travellers board the bus to Halong City at 8am. Felt sorry for the tall lads sitting on makeshift seats - lesson -get on the bus first! Funnily enough turns out to be the Scottish guys we met the night before! Boarded the Jolly Roger @ Halong Bay Harbour for 2 nights on the open sea! Our leader, a guy nicknamed Bambi got the party started soon after we boarded. That day we got to swim in the bay and kayak to some caves hidden amongst the 3000 or more islands rising from the waters of the Gulf Of Tonkin. It is by far the most beautiful place I've seen in the world so far, its no wonder its in the running for ranking as a great wonder of the world. The caves also provided some adventure with the group having to crawl beneath low lying rock and along tunnels with the only light being provided by a handful of torches. The food on the boat was surprisingly top notch and plentiful! The Vietnamese sure do know how to cook! Post dinner party went on into the wee hours of the morning with several new friends made!
Day 2 on the boat started with an early morning wakeup call and the departure of the day trippers. The 2 nighters were headed for Castaway Island where we would stay for the 2nd night in beach huts. No luxuries here but we didn't care - we had what anyone needs on a holiday - a bar, the beach and good company. Got to try out some watersports, volleyball and tabletennis also which was great fun. As we lazed about in sea after the watersports, I had to fish a little Vietnamese kid out of the water when I noticed he had paddled out too far and was in difficulty. A memory that will last a lifetime! The poor little fella was no more than 5 and was shaking like a leaf. Thankfully he was fine despite the tears rolling down his cheek. A smack from his mother and he disappeared for the rest of the day!
That evening after dinner (again yum yum) the games an fun continued, we even got an impromptu dance off from the girls! I don't think the photos even do it justice but definitely Halong Bay is a highlight of the trip so far and if anyone is pondering over whether to pay it a visit or not - you won't regret it if you do!

Posted by elisasdiary 05:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Laos- Vang Vieng and Ventiane

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So next on our itinerary was Vang Vieng. To say that the ride was bumpy is a bit of an understatement!!! The previous days rains had caused several landslides which were causing havoc on the roads. We were nervously close to the verge at one point with a ginormous drop below! Eyes shut immediately! The 20 questions game was getting us through the endless hours of the same stop start stop start journey. I think the 2 german girls thought we were crazy! The roads into Van Vieng were like being on a vibroplate but we got there eventually and after bed bug patrol we were checked into our hostel! VV is a much smaller town and was errily quiet when we arrived as everyone is on the river during the day. We sussed out the fashion for tubing the next day and nabbed ourselves some souvenirs at the same time! Disappointing to learn that the Irish pub in town was not showing the Mayo Kerry game so we were resigned to listening to it on the radio (for those of you travelling - tune in app on android/iphone is brilliant with wifi its just like being in your kitchen at home!). Maria is delighted with the result, me not so much!
Set off tubing the next morning, shared a tuk tuk with some girls from Clonmel. Ireland is such a small place when the only person you know from a town knows someone you meet in the middle of Laos! The 8 of us stuck together for the day and had an absolute blast! Who knew that floating down a river in a tyre tube could be so much fun! Might have been something to do with the 'refreshments' we consumed along the way! Met travellers from all over the world at the different stops along the river, from Argentina to Israel to Malahide!
Gave day 2 @ tubing a miss as feeling under the weather. Hire some bikes (1e) and head out with Edel and 2 girls from Dublin into the countryside (free). The roads aren't very bicycle friendly today with crater-like potholes that lie beneath the rainwater - pity we only realised as we met moped after moped after moped! The sun got the better of us after a few hours and we headed back but not before Edel managed to lose a shoe in said pothole and had to wash in the river! She wasn't impressed that the rest of us were rolling over laughing!

Headed to Ventiane the next day where we had a cookery class organised. Karen was left behind and follows on the next day - she has fallen in love with tubing! Ventiane is a little more expensive than Vang Vieng but to be expected of a capital city. The cookery class is just for us -Orh Seen - a traditional Lao beef stew, Lab Kai - a spicy chicken salad and Tam Mak Hung Green Papya Salad. Doing the course in the morning after breakfast not the best idea as we got to eat all the food! But we were chopping and grinding like pros by the end of it!

Posted by elisasdiary 04:18 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Laos -slowly but surely!

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So it was goodbye to Chiang mai as we headed by bus to Chang Kong but not before I got to experience a real Thai toilet complete with hole in floor, buckets and hose........probably best not try to explain that one.......safe to say my bladder went shy! We were moving onto Laos via slow boat which we caught in the border town of Chang Kong after an overnight stay organised with a package tour we booked through the tourist office in C.M. We took a small wooden boat across the river for approx 5mins to Huay Xai where we got our visas for $35. We were taken by what can only be described as a barbie bus (photo to follow) to the slow boat. The journey itself was....well.....slow, there's no other way to describe it! It involves 2 days of 6hrs sailing down the river to Luang Prabang with an overnight stop in Pak Beng. We stopped along the way with food (live chickens were spotted in one bag!) and drink supplies for isolated villages that were dotted along the route. The seats are relatively comfortable but we were lucky not to end up with the wooden benches, otherwise it would've made for sore backsides even with the cushions we bought for less than a euro (these are a wise investment). We met several new friends on board the trip and it was a great opportunity to hear their stories as we had met few other travellers in C.M. We arrive in Luang Prabang at 5pm Wednesday. We locate a guesthouse after our bed bug experts Maria and Edel have completed their inspection! The first night is quiet -dinner with friends and a stroll through the vast array of stalls in the night market. We visited the Pak Ou caves- a kindof graveyard for unwanted budda statues- and the Kuang Si Waterfalls which due to the high rainfalls in the current wet season we not as picturesque as expected. A trip to the local bowling alley on our last night provided a great nights entertainment for what seemed to be every backpacker in L.P (probably as everything else here closes by 11pm), Fiona and Maria were battling it out for champion status with hilarious consequences! But a bit of competition is healthy right?

Posted by elisasdiary 10:17 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

The journey begins

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Terminal 2 Dublin airport: The gang are all together for the 1st time. Excitment abound we set off for the gate after check in and laughing our the weight of our luggage!

London Heathrow: Okay so its not business class but well take any free upgrades we get! We found ourselves @ the gate in London being bumped up to premium economy! Nice one! More legroom, reclining seats, actual plates, cutlery and glasses we were living the high life of economy class. As we took our seats we were offered champagne to help us settle in. With the clink of the glasses we toasted to our adventures! We all managed to get some shuteye on the overnight flight in between movies and meals and of course refreshments! After short stop in Bangkok we were off again to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, a short flight away. Hopped on a 4x4 with Mr kid for a bargain 150thb probably could've got a cheaper tuk tuk but it was wet and there were 5 tired Irish girls wanting food and a bed. What's 3e anyways?
Overslept brekkie and lunch, time to get on Thai time me thinks. Spent the afternoon getting our bearings and our first sawnngthaew (converted pickup truck with 2 wooden benches at the rear), which came to our aid just as the heavens opened (our first downpour of the wet season) 0.5 litre of water 25c omlette 2.75e- bargain lunch! Things are so much cheaper than home! Our meals cost very little and are very tasty-the thais cook a mean curry!
Day 2 was spent getting up close and personal with some tigers just outside the city, apprehensive at the start considering your head would fit nicely between their jaws! Had a full day tour on day 4 (day 3 a washout with the rains) which involved elephant riding, white water rafting and ziplining in the jungle. So so so much fun! The Thai people stare at us quite a lot, it takes a little getting used to but as one local woman said she was only looking at our pale white skin, which was beautiful to her and a lot of women wanted our colour- we have to be careful buying skincare products here as most contain whitnening ingredients just Like we have tanning ingredients at home! Strange that!
Went on a walkabout on the last evening, spotted some beautiful temples, all so ornate and magnificent. Will try post some photos as soon as I can.

Posted by elisasdiary 10:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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