To the Ends of Asia
Trip Start Aug 06, 2009
26Trip End Jan 01, 2010
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The views were much the same, fields and crops and workers, except houses that were dotted along the way. These houses were stunning, really tall and thin with glorious balconeys, all painted in bright colours, such as yellow, green or blue.
After our journey to Ghaffar's house in Hanoi, we realised that it surpasses all traffic we have encountered anywhere, even compared to Mongolia
Hop, Ghaffar's wife, was absolutely lovely and cooked us the most beautiful food, especially after all the chicken feet and dog meat in China. We will never forget her amazing cooking; soup, beef, chicken, prawns, omelette...
They both advised us to go to Halong Bay which sounded perfect, we would get to sleep for a night on a boat and do lots of different activites and eat some not so great seafood. We met an Indian family who live in Vietnam on business, an American from New York, and a couple from Denmark who we could happily advise to go on the Trans-Siberian. We did some kayaking and got lost, saw some more caves with lots of French people, then relaxed up on deck as the sun went down. The next morning we had some extra time so we got to go on a little raft and go under another cave into this amazing isolated area surrounded by cliffs. Nearby was an ancient fishing village, where women dressed like ninjas to avoid getting a suntan.
When we returned to Hanoi we took Ghaffar and Hop out to dinner to say thank you for their amazing hospitality, and to my greatest happiness it was an Indian restaurant, a cuisine I had been missing since we left Britain. The food was very satisfying apart from the strange looking sag allo - potatoes submerged in green liquid supposed to be spinach. Also tried a new dessert, a sweet dish of carrots and sultanas and other assortments - delicious.
On Monday we experienced our last few rides on the back of a motorbike, the best thing since sliced bread and spent our time milling around the Old Quarter, looking in all the stores which sell practically exactly the same things. But before we knew it we had said our goodbyes and were on our last Asian train journey to Saigon. On all our travels, the Chinese trains were most definitely the best. The most fancy and elaborate with the nicest conductors. Although the Vietnamese trains had sockets in the individual cabins and they brought food to you which was an added bonus. The restaurant carriage was unusually at the opposite end of the train after all the seated carriages. We were about to give up and turn around as we weren't actually sure if there even was a restaurant carriage. But then there was and it was pretty crazy and as usual they had basically nothing that they claimed they had on the menu and everyone was eating delicious food all around us, but that is life as a traveller.
The views on the train were something special; passing along the coast was very beautiful, it was a shame we didn't have the time to stop off anywhere. We saw very little of Ho Chi Minh City but it felt less chaotic on the roads but a bit like what I'd imagine Thailand to be with all the tourists and sunglasses and hot weather. And all of a sudden it was time to leave and enter our first airport which felt very strange due to it being a million times more modern than train or bus stations. But a train is definitely far more comfortable than a plane any day.