So long fried rice
Trip Start Apr 26, 2009
5Trip End Jul 25, 2009
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Our first day was spent trawling through endless brochures and magazines, comparing establishments and choosing our new togs in this mecca for tailoring. Competition is strong so prices are low but workmanship is of a high quality. One can get a little obsessed with the 'value for money' found here but we eventually managed to strike a balance between 'entire wardrobe overhaul' and 'some useful clothing items'
So, with all the fittings required, we had a chance for a much deserved chillout and what a beautiful place to do it. We already mentioned how lovely the town was and had no idea that just a couple of km's away was the most stunning beach this side of the Mekong. We were very surprised that as we came out of the town surrounded by Vietnamese and French influenced buildings, motos speeding past and locals carrying their wares on a stick over their shoulders, we arrived in the very contrasting Antiguan style white sands of China Beach stretching for miles with a calm blue sea. The temperatures soared over 40 degrees so some excellent tanning opportunities.
After Hoi An we flew, again from Danang, to Vitenam's capital, Hanoi. Now, having read the Lonely Planet, we didn't know what to expect from this city with an entire page dedicated to telling naive travellers about the potential taxi cowboys at the airport who try and get you in their cabs, then force you to stay at their preferred guesthouse, which is probably owned by their brother or cousin or someone else who is involved in the Viet-mafia ring. Being hardened backpackers by now and of course doing the sensible thing and reading ahead, we would obviously have no worries
we fought our way through. Then when we finally closed the doors, they followed us out of the airport on motos - it wasn't the calmest exit but we survived, mainly due to our new taxi driver thinking he was a young Nigel Mansell, luckily.
Once we arrived properly in Hanoi, our initial impressions were that it was dirty, noisy, loud, manic and actually quite scary (I had better say here that I don't think Neil was scared, just me)
In the morning going to Halong Bay we boarded a bus and commenced the drive North to Haiphong where we would board the Junk Boat which would sail us around for the next 3 days - the drive led us into the most torrential rain, it was cyclone-like! Excellent - our first sailing trip all honeymoon and it's bucketing rain, we thought. However, after the storm passed, we got on a small boat which sailed us to the big junk boat. We were given keys to a very nice cabin complete with plasma TV, hot shower room and a fair sized bed and it was all very clean. This was a pleasant surprise seeing as the trip was inexpensive. We ate lunch on the boat and then ventured out to 'The Amazing Cave' and yep you guessed it, it was an amazing cave. To be honest, it was okay but a little bit touristy and the locals had ruined it somewhat by fitting coloured bulbs to certain parts of the cave giving off pink or blue or green hues as we walked through - not the most authentic sight to behold.
We then took a kayak through the stunning Halong Bay - it's massive so we didn't navigate all of it but what we saw was sensational. By now the weather had vastly improved and we had perfect blue sky and baking hot sun beating down on us as we rowed through the bay. We went through a cave complete with bats and not only was this a stunning sight, Lost World-like, but also a welcome temporary shade from the hot sun.
We stayed one night on the boat and that was fun as we met a cool couple from Newcastle and then headed off early the next morning to a beautiful 4* resort in Cat Ba - an island in the bay- as a lovely treat for my birthday. The resort was just what we weren't used to - beautiful pool, right on the beach and the most fabulous food - plus more HBO! The hotel even made me a birthday cake and had the whole restaurant singing 'Happy Birthday' - which wasn't at all embarrassing. The best thing about this cake was that they had iced it and then added coco- pops, crazy but rather awesome.
After Cat Ba, we went back on our junk boat and sailed through the rest of the bay back to Haiphong to make our way back to Hanoi. The journey back was long and hot and not very comfortable - so all very normal
On 23 May we took a flight from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpar and literally just stayed in the airport to connect through to Singapore. However, the airport turned out to be a very worthwhile stop on the map as we walked through transfers and saw the flashing golden arches smiling towards us after a whole month without fast food. So long fried rice.
We only spent a night in Singapore, which was all that we could have done on our limited budget but we loved the city and made the habitual visit to Raffles Long Bar, sipped Singapore Slings and cracked monkey nuts - discarding the shells along with the hundreds of others on the floor - colonial and classic, we reminisced about the good old days (not that either of us were alive back then).
We've uploaded some more photos but none of them are titled as the upload tool was really frustrating and cancelled everything twice so we resorted to pictures only - will bore you with more stories on our arrival back in Blighty!
Next stop is Oz and we'll report back soon. We miss everyone terribly and wish you all well.