VIETNAM TRAVEL BLOG
We would like to offer you our own personal experiences while travelling through Vietnam. Simon & sometimes the whole family, will show you the real Vietnam by posting about it in our Vietnam Travel Blog.
Our travel blog through Vietnam will hopefully inspire you to travel to Vietnam once the COVID-19 virus has been contained. After the pandemic is over & Vietnam has opened up their borders, you will then have chance to live and breathe exactly where we have shown you, maybe doing it better!.
Bringing Vietnam to you with our own travel blog of Vietnam. Enjoy!
Off the Beaten Path Sapa Tour!
Day One - Private Red Dao 3 day Trek - 5th August 2020!
This morning I packed up all my belongings and checked out of my hotel at Aira Boutique hotel and spa. Today was to be a trekking day with my private Red Dao minority guide.
Before I left my room though I got up early to take a time lapse of the views from my balcony, after having bad weather yesterday I wanted to see a sunrise and wow yes, I got a great look at early morning over the valleys. Check it out in our video!
I walked to the trekking office near the lake and met up with my Red Dao tour guide who explained the route we were to take over the 3 days. Quite a lot of kms were being mentioned, so if you are ok to walk, this is definitely the trek to take!
Beginning in Sapa Town, we started our walk past the lake and down in to the back roads behind the houses. Passing by a little Tofu making factory where the owner asked me tom tay away…charming, I don’t have the lergy mate! Hate tofu anyway, haha!
Moving on, we walked down in to the valleys where the rice terraces started to come in to view. Sapa town is on a hill and so to get to your destinations in the local villages, you need to walk down hills. This makes trekking in Sapa pretty easy unless you then want to get over the next hills to even more remote minority villages, then it can be taxing on the legs.
Today was going to be around 17km of trekking and I was well up for it. I do love visiting Sapa and doing a trek is the best thing to do in Sapa by far. There are many different types of treks, there are cheap and nasty ones, in huge groups, over trodden trails with many other groups taking them with poor homestay facilities.
Then there are the treks we offer as a 2 or 3 day package. These are off the beaten path treks and not ventured on by many other tour operators due to the distances & price. If you want cheap, we can offer you this but we would rather offer you the best ones, treks we have taken ourselves and recommended highly!
The morning was a lovely one, bright sunshine and plenty to see. My guide was very talkative and I did get a unique insight in to Red Dao daily life and what they get up to in their villages.
We walked along the edges of rice fields, past Water Buffaloes, in through corn fields, up hills and past rock formations. What a start to the day this was. Really enjoyed it.
We now get chance to see an amazing view up a hill overlooking Ta Phin Village. Wow…not a difficult climb and one you go through corn fields to get to. But the view…did I say wow already? Check this out on our video and see for yourselves.
This was the highlight along with a walk through the bamboo forest, this was just brilliant. Up close with these huge trees rising up above our heads. These would be perfect for building houses for sure.
We stopped for lunch at a homestay which is offered to guests but as it was too early, we would just have lunch and not stay the night.
We had a selection of great tasty dishes on offer, check the video out to see what we ate, it all went down a treat after walking so far this morning already.
Afterwards, my private Red Dao tour guide gave me a tour of the homestay and what the owners got up to during their working day. They were actually Hmong and not Red Dao but they had a weaving machine and used Indigo to dye their tradition Hmong clothes. Very interesting and I even got chance to try one on.
This is what we like to offer our clients too. A unique look in to the daily lives of minority villagers such as the Hmong, Red Dao and Dzay communities. A wonderful experience to try for yourselves in one of our off the beaten path Sapa treks, check them out on our website now.
After we checked out the rooms of the homestay, one of the better ones I have seen actually, we headed back out on to our trek.
We also walked past a local funeral being held in a village, something I didn’t want to film out of respect of course. Funerals in Vietnam tend to last a few days and usually loud music is played with instruments, plenty of rice wine and beer and lots and lots of food. The funeral goers wear white bands on the heads too.
Walking through local villages, checking out their activities is a highlight to see how they go about their day. No tourists anywhere as I say, it was during the pandemic but also this is a unique route which only our operator takes.
We were just a few kms away from our homestay for the evening and the heavens opened up. A typical time in Sapa in August to be honest but I like to see the green rice fields so its a toss up what you want. Totally dry and harvested rice fields or wet and good scenery.
We walked up a small path to where the homestay was located and were greeted by the family of the Red Dao tribe at their home. What a welcome, lovely smiles all round and such a rustic home which is wonderful. You don’t want to be under any misconceptions that this is like staying in a hotel.
This is a home for minority people, so if you have a problem stepping out of your comfort zone, this may not be for you. Check it out in our video and decide for yourself if this is for you. It is the most genuine way to see how the real people live here so I recommend it totally!
Once I got inside, I moved my gear in to my room, which had 3 beds in it but as I was the only one here I had this to myself.
The room had a view (when it stopped raining) mosquito net and mattress on a bed. Some homestays in Sapa have mattresses on the floor so do check what you are getting if booking cheap!
A surprise I had before dinner was that I was to get a herbal bath. This was a traditional thing to do in a Red Dao home and one I was actually very much looking forward to after a long day trekking and getting soaked wet through.
They pick herbs and spices and plants from their garden or fields around and cook them in water in a huge pot over an open fire. This brings out all the goodness in the plants ready to be added to water in the wooden bath tub.
Now, the wooden bath tub I had in Dong Van last year was bigger than this, being that I could sit down and stretch (a little) out my legs….this bath however…Jesus!! It was more like a barrel and sitting in it was not the most comfortable thing in the world!! I had to scrunch up my legs to sit in it but wow…such amazing aromas & feeling for the aching muscles to repair.
I had a couple of beers whilst having this bath and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then, after my herbal bath at the Red Dao home, dinner was served…I was treated like royalty here and was I looking forward to home cooked tradition Red Dao food, was I ever!! The dishes on display were simply magnificent, I am a big eater but never go hungry in Sapa. The portions they have on offer is out of this world and must try it.
This is another reason why a stay at a local minority home in a rustic house should be on your Vietnam bucket list, the food! Tasty, huge portions and variety too.
I dug in to the delight full dishes which you can see in full by watching the video. The family were very friendly and delightful to chat to, I even learned a few Red Dao words. It’s not Vietnamese, it’s a completely different language.
I enjoyed a few beers and obviously rice wine which is a big thing in the minority villages, pretty potent stuff actually. Then headed to bed to relax and sleep until day two of my minority villages trek with red Dao guide.
Thanks for reading guys, watch the video and do check the herbal bath, the food on display and choose this off the beaten path trek with us at Travel Agent Hanoi.
Best view of Sapa Town!
Sapa Ghost Town - 4th August 2020!
Hi everyone, so, if you have been following my blog you will see that I have just taken the limousine bus from Hanoi to Sapa town, arriving at 1pm.
I checked in to my hotel and freshened myself up. The hotel I was staying at was the Aira Boutique Hotel & Spa. A beautiful hotel which we use for our guests staying in Sapa Town. Its a 4 star hotel with impeccable fixtures, fittings and rooms. The staff here are unbelievably friendly and helpful too, such a joy to stay here. I would say its the best hotel in Sapa Town by far, especially when the price is very decent too!
I chose a premier deluxe room with balcony and mountain views. Although when I arrived it was raining, the view was not quite how I envisaged but that was about to change, please read on!
Aira Boutique Hotel & Spa is located slightly away from the centre of town and you do need to walk down the hill to reach the square. This is where the Mt Fansipan tram station & church is situated, but it’s not too bad if you are fit enough.
The town was pretty much like a ghost town. Many places closed down, no foreign tourists at all, just some construction work going on which I believe were new hotels along the main drag.
The church and square were desolate and even the streets had very few people walking on them. Pretty sad times in Sapa! Although, this is a blessing for a solo traveller and for my videos. Especially when I know how busy & crowded it can be. So I grasped this opportunity and tried to enjoy it as much as possible. Once the borders of Vietnam open, you will never see Sapa Town like this again!
The second wave of the covid-19 pandemic was in full swing so many Vietnamese had cancelled their holiday plans to Sapa and stayed away. In fact, I was the only person staying at the Aira Boutique Hotel & Spa…I had a private hotel in effect! Fantastic!
Anyway, once I walked around town for a bit, filming different locations, I decided to then head up Ham Rong mountain.
Ham Rong Mountain, or Dragon mountain is where you will get the best views over Sapa Town. You can also get views towards Fansipan and the valleys of terraced rice fields, so its definitely Wirth the walk up.
I think I paid 50k VND for the ticket, which in hindsight was quite steep to be honest for the current covid-19 situation with no tourists, but didn’t think anything of it at the time.
There are quite a few steps to begin the journey up and then it flattens out to show off some nice gardens. There are some strange additions which don’t really fit the park, such as Disney statues…no idea! But also had quaint little bridges here and there with a dragon statue, that’s more like it.
There was a nice replica of the rice terraces part the way up and plenty of flowers and trees. It was a nice location and well kept by the gardeners.
One of the best parts about walking up Ham Rong Mountain was the rock formations you need to, sometimes, squeeze through. These are amazing and definitely worth a photo or two with your friends.
After this point you end up with the final climb and to a terraced area which overlooks Sapa town and the valleys beyond.
I was the only person up here so I had clear views from any angle I wanted. The last time I was up here a few years ago with Ngat, we had a lot of competition for the best spot to take photos. Now, I could set up my camera on the barrier and get some good shots.
I stayed up here a while to take in the views and boy are they something. Definitely worth the climb for sure.
I headed back down the mountain and met some Hanoians wanting a photo taken of them. Youngsters up here on a trip from Hanoi and very friendly guys.
I walked back to my hotel and now that the weather had cleared I wanted to get a look at that view from my balcony….awesome! A view across the valleys and rice fields and also a unique overhead look at the Fansipan tram which sauntered on along the tracks right in front of my balcony a few hundred metres away.
So, that was my afternoon in Sapa Town and starting pretty ghostly but ended up with amazing views at both Ham Rong Mountain and my hotel at Aira Boutique hotel and spa!
Thanks for reading and to check out my afternoon trip around Sapa Town, watch the video now and see for yourselves the magnificent views.
Hanoi to Sapa by Limousine
The best & most comfortable way to travel - 4th August 2020!
Today on our Vietnam Travel Blog, I am to take the limousine bus to Sapa from Hanoi. There are many other ways to travel to Sapa town from Hanoi and I will explain a few now before I talk about my journey today.
If you are either short on time or short on money, an overnight sleeper bus from Hanoi to Sapa would be your best bet. Leaving at around 9pm from Hanoi and arriving in Sapa around 4am, whereby not needing a hotel or hostel for the night thereby hitting two birds with one stone. You get a sleep and get to where you want to be too for around $12 - $15.
However, this is probably the worst option in my eyes and many others too. If you are a backpacker and don’t mind pushy, unfriendly staff on the buses, arriving at daft o’clock, not picked up or dropped off at hotels. By all means go for it…its cheap, but cheap for a reason. I wouldn’t recommend it!
The next option if time is an issue but have more cash available, would be to go from Hanoi to Sapa by overnight sleeper train. A more comfortable option which allows for a better nights sleep than an overnight sleeper bus. You can share a 4 berth cabin with other tourists, or pay for a private twin berth if budget is not a problem.
Basically, starting from around $20 you can get a single bed in a 4 berth cabin but if you require a private cabin, you would pay for all beds. There are also better standards of sleeper cabins but I will go in to more detail on another post.
With the train trip though, there are drawbacks. You would need to get to the train station yourself, by taxi or private car and you will arrive in Lao Cai at around 5.30am. Lao Cai train station is a further 45 minutes shuttle bus ride to Sapa Town at a cost of 50k VND per person. Do not pa anymore than that, if they are asking 100k or 20k VND, its a scam! We can still offer this option if you like going by trains, I do, this will include private car pick up from your hotel in Hanoi and drop off service at Sapa Town, contact us if you wish to book this?
Finally, the option I would prefer and I offer most of my clients is the limousine bus from Hanoi to Sapa. This service picks you up from your hotel in Hanoi and drops you off at your hotel in Sapa Town. Easy, done, no messing about with extra transfers or hundreds of shuttle buses vying for your business at Lao Cai.
It also sets off at 7am and arrives at a decent time of 12-1pm. There are later buses at 3pm, arriving in Sapa Town at around 9pm. Or you can take a private 9 seater bus for you and your family or large group & pay a little extra to go at your own designated time. We can absolutely help you with this, contact us for more info and price. Still time to enjoy a trip up Mt Fansipan and/or a walk up Ham Rong Mountain!
Anyway, back to my trip from Hanoi to Sapa by limousine bus. This bus is actually classed as a 9 seater but the only decent seats are 4 in the middle and 3 at the back. Although, as I will explain, the front two seats weren’t that bad either.
Basically, the 4 central seats are deemed VIP, the 3 back seats are standard seats as are the front two.
I checked out of my hotel after having a basic breakfast. Breakfasts at hotels during covid-19 are usually buffets, but due to lack of guests they are standard. So I had my bread and eggs and a cup of tea & headed to the bus outside.
There was a bit of confusion at first due to me paying for a VIP seat and yet given the front seat. After a bit of toing and froing I eventually had to sit in the front seat. Which to be honest was not too bad and I had more leg room than I would have had with the two seats directly behind in the VIP. I have dodgy knees and so cramped legs are very uncomfortable for me especially long journeys like this (6 hours).
So, the journey began and after picking up a few guests we were on our way…in the rain…great start!!
The journey itself is quite scenic once you get out of Hanoi as we take the new motorway, well, it’s not new now, must be 5 years old!
The mountain views and countryside you see out the right hand side of the bus is beautiful. If you were in a VIP seat or back seat you would probably miss this but I was in the front so got birds eye view in a way.
We stopped a couple of times, once for fuel and a toilet break at a petrol station, which is not quite like the stops we get back in the UK. They don’t sell magazines, sandwiches, crisps, snacks, sweets, clothes, books or serve fast food. What did they sell here? Oil! Wow! Don’t push the boat out will you?
The second stop was a better snack or food place with toilets etc but still nothing special.
This stop was just before we started up the hill on the winding roads to reach the summit at Sapa Town. This is the scenic part of the trip you will see from the left hand side of the limousine bus. So what you missed on the way will more than make up for it this side. So if you are travelling from Hanoi to Sapa I would choose the lefthand side so you get to see these views on the way.
The driver was very good, most drivers can hammer the bends of the winding road (especially cheap buses) and make you quite car sick, so he didn’t offer this kind of driving today which was good. A lot of Vietnamese passengers can be quite tom dick (sick) so a sick bag is quite useful if you are like this.
We arrived in Sapa town around 12.30pm and by the time the passengers were dropped off at their hotels, mine was last, I was in my hotel at 1pm.
Not a bad ride and more than enjoyed the front seat as I got chance to film the journey. Check it out now and see for yourself the kind of scenery offered on the limousine bus from Hanoi to Sapa Town.
Hanoi Walkabout during COVID-19
Ghost town of Hanoi - 3rd August 2020!
So after I checked in to my hotel, a 4 star hotel at a really good rate due to COVID-19 including private double room, en-suite shower room & small balcony with breakfast also.
I set out of the hotel to have a bit of a walk around Hanoi and grab a bite to eat. I was very close Boone of my favorite restaurants so thought I would head there.
The streets were their usual self around this area, as this was still pretty local around Bat Dan street. There are plenty of streets still operating their businesses because they weren’t relying on tourists alone. They were dealing with local Vietnamese so were perfectly fine…later though near Hoan Kiem Lake, I will tell you. Totally different story!
So, the place I wanted to have lunch was at Bun Bo Nam Bo. A very famous place for South Koreans it seems, because every time I went in their pre-pandemic, big groups of Koreans would come in and share a bowl between them.
I myself would be having a bowl to myself & still want more!! I usually come here with Ngat as she loves this dish too. In fact, Ngat has made this dish as part of her cooking series, check that video out now and see how easy it is to make this dish for yourself at home during lockdown!
We usually had a few Banh Gio or processed sausages dipped in chilli sauce for starters so I had the same today.
A cheeky bottle of Hanoi Beer was in order and tasted great after that long morning travelling earlier today.
A bowl of the good stuff was plonked down in front of me and boy does this dish look good. It also tasted amazing with beef strips, noodles and a mix of salad and herbs in a kumquat sauce…very good! A definite must for when you come to Hanoi with Travel Agent Hanoi! 🙂
Ok, so after this delightful Vietnamese dish filled a corner I headed out to walk the Old Quarter streets where the tourists used to be. This was filled with handicraft shops, cheap knock off clothing stores, silk shops, travel agencies (although mostly rip off Sinh Tourist & advisable not to use if re-opened).
Now though, heading along Hang Bong and Hang Gai, I could see hotel after hotel closed down, padlocks on the main doors and deathly silent within.
Restaurants, craft shops and NorthFace shops were all closed down too.
It was a sad sight to see so many hotels closed down but with business being solely for western tourists, they simply couldn’t carry on.
I walked to Hoan Kiem Lake and being that it was later in the day there were still people milling round but the walkways were all being repaired. This looked a mess but it was inevitable that it needed doing. Once tourists would return, this would l be looking very smart.
I had a couple of things I needed to buy for my GoPro and so headed to shops outside the old quarter. These areas were still quite active, so you can see that the main tourists areas were totally different to outer areas.
It was now getting on so I headed back to the hotel and smartened up after shower and change of clothes and headed out for dinner. Although this didn’t happen until about 9pm, as I ended up bumping in to a friend of mine at his local bar on Dinh Liet.
As I was sat there I couldn’t believe the scenes out on that road. Normally its a buzz of entertainment and many, many tourists walking up and down jumping in and out of silk shops or eateries and bars…now, it was dead…totally dead at just before 9pm!! Amazingly eerie!
After a few beers & a bit of seafood with my mate Paul, I walked on in to Bia Hoi junction and Bia street on Ta Hien…wow…all the stools and tables were out but nobody sitting on them! Shocking difference to pre-pandemic!
I didn’t see any point in stopping at any of these bars so I walked down Ta Hien to find a restaurant and grab myself more to eat…still hungry!!
Nothing special really, just stir fried noodles and beef, nothing that tasty to be honest. The quality wasn’t so great but it was just a basic dish, we wouldn't eat here if as a family, I just wanted to grab something quick before bed.
After this I headed back to the hotel to get an early night for I was to travel to Sapa by limousine bus tomorrow, woohoo!
Check the video of my walkabout in Hanoi now and I hope you enjoyed my post! Cheers folks!
Taking a Public Bus to Hanoi!
Experience a local bus in Vietnam - 3rd August 2020!
Firstly though, I needed to get in to Hanoi and because my bus was at 7am the following morning, I needed to stay overnight in Hanoi. This gave me chance to check Hanoi out during the covid-19 pandemic.
At this time, a second wave had hit Danang, just a few days after we had left. So we stayed at home and self isolated for 2 weeks before we went anywhere, just in case.
So, to get to my public bus in to Hanoi, I first needed to ride Ngat’s bike, with Ngat on the back, to the main road where the bus fly’s past!
Ngat would drop me there and head back home. We can ride our bikes to this point and leave them overnight at the local restaurant for just 10k VND per day. This is usually if we both go in to Hanoi.
We only had to wait about 10 - 15 minutes till the bus arrived. It’s always a mad dash to get on them as they don’t usually come to a complete halt, unless you have tonnes of luggage or are sticking something in the back.
Therefore you need to be pretty nimble on your feet.
I said my goodbyes to Ngat and I was on my way. This public bus in to Hanoi starts in Thai Binh and drives through Nam Dinh and Phu Ly, before hitting the highways and then in to Hanoi.
It comes round the back way around near Big C in Long Bien where it will park up at Gia Lam Bus Station.
We stopped along the way for a toilet break and a snack or two if you wished.
Some toilet stops can be pretty dirty so if you can hold on, I would wait till you get to Hanoi. Although on the odd occasion, I have come across better toilet stops more recently, so maybe check it out first.
Sometimes you will need to pay 2000 VND for entry to the toilet, that way you know they will be relatively clean...not to western standards but doable!
This bus station is only about 2-3km away from the old quarter.
You can take a local bus costing 7000 VND per journey, from a bus stop nearby here. Or, if you have the Grab App, you can (if alone) get a motorbike taxi which is very cheap. Or if a few of you, share a taxi, but don’t, I repeat don’t, choose one from outside the bus station.
These taxis sometimes either charge inflated prices or have a fixed fee for a journey, which can be much higher priced than a normal taxi.
I would recommend turning left out the bus station and finding the main road and choose a shop or restaurant showing their address. Dial in to your Grab App and book a taxi using that address. It’s pretty simple and easy to do. Check the video out and see how I did it on my mobile phone!
Once I arrived in Gia Lam bus station in Hanoi, I jumped out and waded through the hundreds of Xe Om (motorbike taxi) & fake Grab motorbike riders….seriously, watch out for these. They pretend to be Grab by wearing the jackets and helmets. They are not official. You need to book through the App to get the official taxi…be aware!
I walked to the main road and pulled my phone out and booked a Grab motorbike taxi. This is a short journey but I wanted to be further in to the Old Quarter than just at the entrance at Luong Ngoc Quyen, so it was about 30k VND for the ride. Cheap as chips and a buzz riding across Chuong Duong Bridge across the Red River.
I arrived at my hotel, something cheap and cheerful & checked in.
So that was my public bus ride in to Hanoi, hope you enjoyed my post, next up is a walk around Hanoi and a tasty Vietnamese dish for lunch!
Danang to Hanoi Overnight sleeper train
Heading home after our Vietnam holiday - 18th July 2020!
So, today finally came in our Vietnam Travel Blog and we were to leave Danang and head home after a lovely holiday in central Vietnam.
We checked out of our hotel and took our private car to Danang train station. We were heading back to Nam Dinh on the Danang to Hanoi overnight sleeper train.
The taxi journey from our hotel to Danang train station wasn’t long and gave us a final look at the coast road and city.
Danang train station is pretty unique having a steam locomotive stationed right outside the entrance. A beautiful looking train and a great little addition to what would be otherwise a pretty normal Vietnamese train station.
Once the train arrived, after grabbing a load of snacks, we got ourselves settled in our private 4 berth cabin, ready to enjoy the journey along the Hai Van Pass. I actually enjoyed it far better this time round due to not standing up and being stressed about getting good shots for our YouTube Channel.
I was sat by the window with Will Minh and Ngat and had great fun pointing out boats and Will Minh shouting Ca (fish), every few seconds…no idea how he saw any fish 🙂
Watching the snaking train follow us from behind was a great sight to see, probably a photo you have seen a million times but still an awesome sight.
As we were meandering along, we were offered dinner. I never expected anything to be honest but apparently that’s the case during the day. At 35000 VND per dish with a cup of soup too. Not bad really and for £1, wasn’t going to argue about the quality, which to be fair was pretty good.
Along with a portion of rice, you had the choice of chicken drumstick, pork ribs, or pork meat. We decided on a variation of them all. 105,000 VND and 3 square meals which would probably last until you leave the train in the early hours. If not, you can always order snacks from the trolley lady who frequent the walkways of the carriages.
If you are a big eater, maybe get a couple of these dishes and save the chicken legs for later.
I had brought along a few cold beers & snacks for later as I am gutsy buggar!
We actually received a package enquiry while we were on the train and I managed to send a full itinerary using our software within an hour…nothing came of it though which is quite frustrating! back to the beer then! 🙂
Once we were all settled, I enjoyed a few beers while Ngat and Will Minh settled down in their beds. We alls left quite well and woke up to arrive in Nam Dinh train station around 4am.
Our driver was there to greet us and when we reached home, around 4.30am - 5am, the village was waking up and Ngat's Mam was even there to greet us…different world here 🙂
Hope you enjoyed our post for today in our Vietnam Travel Blog, we really appreciate your viewing and see you next time.
The White Lady of Danang & the Beast!
Road trip on the Hai Van Pass - 17th July 2020!
Today in our Vietnam Travel Blog, I decided to leave Ngat and Will Minh to chill out at the hotel, while I headed out for the day to do some filming for our Travel Agent Hanoi YouTube channel.
The plan was to ride by motorbike along the Hai Van Pass of which I saw by train a few days earlier, check the video out, its fantastic! Then I was to head to see the white lady of Danang at Linh Ung Pagoda. You will see her even whilst sunbathing on My Khe beach!
First on the agenda was to grab my bike, which I had arranged through the hotel to rent for the day at 150,000 VND. That is a pretty standard price in Vietnam to be honest for something like this “beast” I was given. There are better bikes but for what I needed, it was fine.
If you are looking to bike it from Hanoi to Saigon or vice versa, I would recommend buying or renting a much better standard motorcycle or moped, otherwise you will be forever repairing it.
So, around 9am I set off! It is approximately 25km away from the actual start of Hai Van Pass from My Khe beach. So that was a trip I wanted to get out the way, which involved travelling through Danang City for a short time to the pick up the coast road.
On the way I spotted what looked like a cross between a pagoda & an old boat, just sat on the beach. Not sure what exactly it was for, maybe someone reading this knows who’s boat this is. Check it out at 0:24 seconds in to our video & let me know in the comments of the video.
Right then, so on reaching the start of the Hai Van Pass, I stopped to film an introduction for the video but then got right back on the bike and whizzed off.
Normally journeys like this should only be pretty short. But, with the amount of view points, stunning scenery etc, you end up taking hours stopping and starting to take photos. That’s why you’re here at the end of the day!
I remember the first time I made this Hai Van Pass motorbike ride, was back in 2011 when I was bike packing through Vietnam. As soon as I started the Hai Van Pass up the first hill I got a puncture…I had to roll my bike back down the hill to a guy who just happened to be sat on the corner before the climb with tools and bike repair kit. Awesome!
This time I had no such bad luck and sailed past this point thankfully undamaged!
The roads are pretty clear when riding the Hai Van Pass but you will come across a few large trucks or lorries, transporting their goods or heavy loads from Danang to Hue or vice versa. These will be slow moving lorries and trucks so once you see an opening, you can get past them easy enough.
Do be careful though, these winding roads may bring up a sharp turn or bend without realising so ensure a clear road ahead before overtaking. Many Vietnamese don’t, just don’t follow someone thinking its fine…it may not be!! Always check for yourself! These guys have ridden bikes a lot longer than us unless you are an experienced motorcycle enthusiast, then you would know about this anyway! Not trying to teach you to suck eggs!!
At the half way point there is a great little stop at Hai Van Quan where you can relax and get out of the sun & take in some great views from their viewing platform.
On the other side of the road, there is also a set of ruins which are very interesting to explore…it was for me anyway! Old bunkers and guard posts used during the French & American conflicts. The view from the bunker was unbelievable and if it was me guarding I would be a bit distracted & probably see buggar all of any enemy attacking!!
Whilst I was here at the viewpoint I noticed that the old gun turret, which I have seen many a photo being taken from, had a sign attached to it! Damn shame, but it seemed nobody was permitted to climb up on this now, it did look at bit rickety and with my weight, probably end up down the hill!!
So pretty disappointed I didn’t get that selfie or photo I have been after for years. So, after my brief visit here and a bottle of Tra Xanh. I set off back on the road.
The views in some places are so superb, you must stop, at a safe part of the road of course. But others are quite obstructed and the road is at a level which doesn’t get you high enough to look over the walls or vegetation.
As I mention in my Hai Van Pass by train post, the views from the train are far superior to ones from the road. A totally different perspective of course but maybe do both, it’s up to you guys. All depends if you are backpacking through Vietnam on your motorcycle or in a family with kids!
So, the journey continued for me on the winding roads, I did come across some traffic towards the end near the Lang Co viewpoint and also there was a train crossing so the barriers were down.
This gave me a perfect opportunity to park up and take some great shots of Lang Co Beach only meters away from where the train was passing. You will see how close the train will get to the edge of the coast by watching our video & at 4:20 is where the train goes past me.
After the train passed, I headed out to Lang Co beach and the fishing village. This is a fascinating little place and once you reach the edge, I went too far on my bike and got bogged down in soft sand! I left it about 20 metres away and walked to the fishing boats, lobster cages, nets etc. Great little place to take some amazing photos.
So, the Hai Van Pass and Lang Co Beach was done. Check out the video and see for yourself.
But now, it was time to head to Linh Ung Pagoda and see the white lady looking over Danang City!
The journey back was more relaxing for me as I wasn’t worried about filming anything much as I had already done it. Therefore a much quicker journey to reach Danang and then take the coats road to the right and up the hill to Linh Ung Pagoda.
I arrived at the gate and a guard was there with tickets for my bike to park up. I asked how much and he just pointed to the box and basically said you can pay as much or as little as you want, after your visit inside.
So there is a slight climb up a load of steps to reach a great entrance point to the complex. Once you walk through the you will be amazed at what you see. The gardens are filled with Bonsai trees, statues and plants and the Linh Ung Pagoda itself dead set in front of the gates.
These gardens were perfectly treated and looked after, it is no wonder this was a popular place. But in this heat, Jesus, it was damn hot and you definitely need to head to the sides where benches and seats are set under trees.
There was an ice cream shop on here which was a god send so definitely grab yourself one of those whilst walking round!
After walking around the gardens I walked in to the Pagoda itself. Linh Ung Pagoda was your typical styled pagoda with a main centre piece with Buddha statue.
There were different colored statues too, black buddha, gold buddha and also standing proud, the impressive guards of the pagoda on either side.
The main attraction for me was the White Lady of Danang. This beautiful statue was the tallest buddha statue in Vietnam and had amazing views out over to Danang.
A kind of lady looking over and watching out for the people of Danang. Stood on a bed of lotus flowers, this statue is worth adding to your Vietnam bucket list and heading here for a good old ogle.
Ok, so that was my day today and I hope you enjoyed it.
I will be back with our final day in Danang and our journey home by overnight sleeper train.
A day at Ba Na Hills Danang
Two more ticked off my Vietnam Bucket List - 16th July 2020!
Today in our Vietnam Travel Blog was the day we would head up the longest single cable car ride in the world to visit Ba Na hills.
We sometimes send our guests up to Ba Na hills and it can be hit and miss with clients. Some say it's pretty tacky and not worth the journey but others say they have a great time especially with kids.
I was skeptical about the journey myself to be perfectly honest, but this had to be done to a) find out for myself and b) to see the Golden Bridge which has been on my Vietnam bucket list for a while.
We had only a few nights in Danang, so decided to get up there on our second full day here as weather looked clear.
We booked a private car to pick us up from DLG Hotel at My Khe beach and take us the 30 - 40 minute drive to the base station for the cable cars. Actually, it was the car park where we were dropped off and required us to take a shuttle bus up to the main gates, just a couple of minutes away.
We decided to take the push chair for this trip as Will Minh would not last the day walking…in fact it was really the only time we took it out bar an evening or two having dinner…all that way and struggle for a couple of uses!!
Anyway, once we reached the main entrance, we showed the bar codes on my phone from the tickets we bought online. Then proceeded to follow the hordes! It was July, so the Vietnamese summer holidays were in full swing and hundreds of people were queueing up to get to the cable cars.
If you do come to Ba Na Hills, I suggest first of all, come out of the Vietnamese summer holidays & secondly, midweek when the kids are at school. You will get a much quieter experience and less pushing and shoving!
One woman tried to push past me by just barging me out of the way…45kg against my 95kg was not doing anything for her. She had to wait. Thats Asia for you. I remember in China, if you didn’t toughen up and stop apologising, oh after you, no problem, I will wait (typically British), you will get eaten alive in Asia and get nowhere!
Anyway, after being herded from barrier to barrier to stem the flow we eventually reached the cable car. It was a good job we had the push chair as Will was getting restless already waiting around going nowhere!
Getting on to the cable car for Will was a great experience and exciting for us all in fact. I wanted to get on at the Suoi Mo station to see the longest stretch of the Ba Na Hills cable car ride. But found it was either closed or we somehow missed it being dragged along with the hordes. Never mind, this just meant two separate rides to the top. We boarded at Toc Tien station.
I was practically stood the whole way with my arm out the window of the cable car filming the views and journey for our You Tube channel. Check the video out now and see how beautiful the views were.
Sailing over the lush national park of Bach Ma we travelled higher and higher, the air was beginning to get cooler and cooler which was a god sendoff me being an English lad from the north east!
We eventually reached the top after switching cable cars at Ba Na Station & then Debay Station to end up at Morin station.
I’ve never been, but this had a Disney feel to it with a castle & spires as you arrive. Lots of people strolling around, music playing and a golden globe right in the centre of a pond. Street performers on stilts, western dancers covered in makeup and head to toe in colourful costumes! We never did get to see them actually perform but we saw them walking to and from their workplace all dolled up and covered in makeup, western dancers too!
We walked around taking it all in with fountains, roman soldiers and replica statues from Belgium too. The French village including a church & many splendid buildings was pretty nice also.
There was a German area with a beer guzzling statue, pretzels being sold out of baskets by young Vietnamese girls dressed in traditional German dresses. Beers and sausages although not sure how German the sausages were! A true European feel to it!
Down some steps we had chance to entertain Will Minh with an array of kids activities. He loves dinosaurs and a dinosaur world we thought would be perfect...oops! There were big animatronic life like dinosaurs roaring and gnashing their teeth…this put the wind up Will and he screamed the house down, a bit too real for him at the moment then!
We took him to a play area where he could run loose for an hour before we headed for some lunch.
We bought our ticket online and with it was an all you can eat buffet!! Now, I like buffets, but to be honest, this buffet was a typical Vietnamese style and quality was pretty low! I did get my fill of course and there were some bits and bobs I liked. But overall poor quality, but for 100,000 VND ($4), what do you expect!
There are plenty of much better restaurants and bars serving snacks and food. We would spend a bit more and get a better quality lunch than going for the buffet!
The afternoon was spent checking all the other parts of this section, it was then to head back down to the lower level, where one off my bucket list was o be ticked off. The Golden Bridge, the bridge with hands seemingly holding it up!
I wasn’t disappointed, I loved it. It was like my time in Prague on St Charles bridge, how many times do people walk back and forth? Who knows. I did it many times and I did it here also! Stunning views down to Bach Ma National park and a view of the cable cars going up and down the mountain. For me it was well worth the visit, just to see and walk across this iconic "selfie capital" of Vietnam bridge!
I have heard of clients who went up here and couldn’t see a thing, even the bridge itself whilst stood on it!! So it can be hit and miss, check the weather forecast before you head up, or ask people coming down. But in July, the summer in Vietnam, it was clear as a bell and lovely views.
There were also lovely gardens to walk around, a big chess set and greek columns which Will had fun running in and around. Plenty of gardeners watering and treating the plants and flowers, a full time jb too!
It was now getting on and Will hadn’t had his midday nap, so we decided to head back down. It was around 3pm or so and we arranged with our driver to meet us at the car park point.
The journey down was in one cable car because we started at the Golden Bridge section, so no need to swap.
The best way to travel up Ba Na Hills is via Suoi Mo station for the longest cable car ride, up in one shot. Then drop down levels to see other areas before finishing off at the Golden bridge in the late afternoon when its quieter, to then head back down to the bottom.
A good full day out at Ba Na Hills all in all, tiring but we enjoyed it. I think it’s a different experience for couples or older folks, but with kids it can be a good laugh.
Hope you enjoyed my blog for today, check out the video and see for yourself the wonderful views and glitzy stuff on the park.
Best beach in Vietnam?
A stroll on My Khe Beach Danang - 14th July 2020!
After my Grab bike ride around Danang, I decided to have a walk along the My Khe beach and see for myself up close how it was during the pandemic.
This beach is vast, long and deep especially the time I was walking around it. The best time to visit the beach in Vietnam is during the time it is hot…no Vietnamese will venture or sit on the beach during this time. Unless of course they are wrapped up or under huge canopy's set up to block the sun. We westerners like to (I don’t actually) sit in the sun all day to get a tan, turning in to Lobsters in some cases. But the Vietnamese prefer to hit the beach at 4.30pm onwards when the sun is going down, cooler and with plenty of shade.
There was plenty of families out playing in the sea and on the sand and it's a truly family experience for everyone. Vast open spaces and plenty of room to play a full blown football match if you had the numbers.
Walking on the sand is delightful too as the soft white sand flows through your toes as you walk and a great sensation.
I walked up and down a short potion of the beach and could see two Vietnamese girls in bikinis taking selfies, dancing and a group o Vietnamese lads ogling them…haha! Proper Kardashian style!
Plenty of lads playing volleyball & football & there was also jet skis, parasails and rubber rings etc available to enjoy out on the water. Here it was quite a bit calmer than the water in Hue where we were staying at Thuan An beach.
On the walk back, I came by the long promenade instead to get a different outlook to the beach. Always at this time and nearly mornings, you will find locals exercising along here which is great to see. Old guys looking much fitter than a lot of young folks out there, but they do this every day and have done for years.
I saw a bench full of old fellas having a natter to each other which I thought was nice. They are probably catching up on the days events with the beautiful beach and sea in front for a view. Great setting for these guys!
I walked back to the hotel to be greeted to a fresh (Will Minh still wasn’t himself) and wide awake family (kind of), ready to explore the nearby food joints for dinner.
That is our next installment for our Travel Agent Hanoi blog. Catch you soon. Cheers!
Grab ride in Danang
Taking a Grab Motorbike taxi - 14th July 2020!
Once we had checked in to our hotel, Ngat and Will Minh had a sleep in the room so this was my cue to head out and explore.
I first needed to buy some extras for my new GoPro Hero 8, which I had bought in a shop in Danang but had shipped to me in Hue. The camera equipment I had was either too bulky or not a decent picture. You will see the footage from my first video at the train station taking the Hanoi to Hue overnight sleeper train. Not great!
In Vietnam, xe om’s (motorbike taxis) are usually easy to come by but can be a pain if you need to always haggle a price & have no idea how much it should be. Grab is common place everywhere in Vietnam now. Some places may not have Grab Motorbike taxis, but will have cars available. In Danang, there were plenty of motorbike taxis available once I logged in to the App. Guy was with me within a minute and I hopped on.
It always makes me laugh when I just meet up with any Xe Om or Grab bike. The look on the face of the rider when he sees how big or heavy I look…yup…taking more of your fuel from this ride sunshine!! 🙂
Riding by motorbike and sat on the back gave me a great opportunity to film part of the ride so heck it out ere and see for yourself how it goes.
The ride I took went along a portion of the beach, which is a LOOOONG one…even the short part I needed to ride along was long enough!
But then a quick turn to the left and we were heading in to Danang city crossing the Dragon bridge. This bridge is as you can imagine, shaped as an Asian dragon (no wings), is an awesome site and actually on Saturdays in the evening, lights up and breathes fire….damn it we were leaving Saturday morning. Never mind, next time baby!
A brief visit to the Go pro shop who didn’t have what I asked or by Facebook 🙁 damn it! Then headed back to the hotel and to enjoy a walk along the beach. Thats in my next installment. Check out the Grab motorbike ride out and see if it is for you!
Best Train Journey in Vietnam!
Taking the Hai Van Pass from Hue to Danang - 14th July 2020!
As anyone with kids knows, checking out of a hotel and getting to the next destination on a holiday can be a test. This morning we had to have breakfast, pack our luggage (did most of it last night) and check out. The next part was to take a taxi to the train station to begin the next stage of our Hue & Danang 2020 holiday.
We were to take the SE1 10.54am train from Hue to Danang. This is the train which travels from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on the reunification line. I would like to do this journey one time, of course the family may not like it as much! But we can hop on and off at different locations and see the whole country. Unfortunately they don’t offer hop on hop off train tickets yet or a combat include all destinations. This would be a great addition!
Some places do not have a train station such as Hoi An and transfers will be required but it's a great opportunity to see a gorgeous country especially if you enjoy riding on trains.
Todays train journey was to go along the Hai Van Pass, a gorgeous journey with spectacular views to the coastline with stunning desolate beaches and peninsula's.
Once we got all our luggage on to the train which was a struggle with a pushchair including our luggage but we managed. Ngat and Will got settled in to their seats once we moved a girl on who was in the wrong seat. I was going to be standing most of the way filming for our YouTube channel so no seat needed really. We chose a soft seat air con carriage for this journey as we had no need or beds being that it was only 2.5 hrs long.
We set off from Hue train station on time and so were on our way to Danang, Choo Choo!! I love going on trains! Big kid I know! I sat with Will Minh and Ngat for a little of the way as I set up my cameras and e left Hue City. Then once the scenery started appearing before the actual Hai Van Pass I went to the end of the carriage and set up with the open window.
If you are looking to film the Hai Van Pass train journey, the soft seat areas have carriages with open windows. Later in the week when we were travelling home on the Danang to Hanoi train, we had a sleeper cabin & I couldn’t open the windows so be aware, you may need to wander to the soft seat carriages.
Once we reached Lang Co beach, I knew we were just starting the Hai Van Pass and the scenery and views begin here. The Lang Co Beach area is a stunning view and the train tracks run right along the edge to get the best views. Later in the week I will take a motorbike ride along the Hai Van Pass to get a different prospective. All great views but I think the train has the far superior views as it gets closer to the cliff edges and look down on the beaches than you do riding a bike (I did a few years ago with Ngat and 10 years ago on my solo bike packing tour of Vietnam).
The whole journey takes around 2.5 hours but the main scenic part of the journey probably just 60 - 70 minutes.I stood the whole way in case I missed anything….
During the journey I ventured back to my seat and as I was changing batteries for my cameras, Will Minh threw up all over himself, the lady next to him and Ngat too…poor lad! He was fine on the Hanoi to Hue overnight sleeper train, but this Hue to Danang train may have been a bit bumpier, especially not lying down but sat upright in the soft seat.
We got lots of napkins and towels from the train staff and mopped it up, poor woman was covered haha! We were not far from Danang now and not much of the Hai Van Pass remained but I got chance to film some incredible beaches and rocks close to the shore.
If you are taking a Vietnam holiday with us and travelling from Hanoi to Hue and then on to Hoi An, I would definitely ask to have this included in your Vietnam itinerary. We can offer private car or train but as I said, the train journey gives far better views.
Pulling in to Danang train station at 1.22pm, we left the carriage & walked along the tracks to the left to then head through the station and to awaiting taxis. We were staying close to My Khe beach and was only a 10 - 15 minute ride to our hotel DLG. This was meant to be a 5 star hotel, but it wasn’t. A huge beast of a hotel and not the kind of hotel we would usually stay in or ever stay in again. Especially when there was an immigration convention on and thousands of immigration officers staying for two nights…shit!!
The room was nice enough though and we had spectacular views to Danang beach My Khe. Will Minh and Ngat had a kip and I headed out to have a walk along the beach, see that video to see a Vietnam Beach up close!
Thats it for the Hai Van Pass train journey from Hue to Danang. Watch the video to get a great look at the coastal views and secluded beaches.
Foodie Heaven in Hue!
Market & restaurant delights - 13th July 2020!
Today in our Vietnam Travel Blog was not meant to be a full on foodie day out but it certainly turned in to one.
Setting off on the motorbike, we all headed out to Hue City for the day. From our beach resort in Thuan An is just 12km away. Around 20 minutes or so later, on clear roads (Jesus its so different to Hanoi here) we were pulling in to our first destination, Dong Ba Market.
Dong Ba Market is situated just over the river from the centre of Hue, on the same side as the Imperial City, just on the corner of the moat. Just as you get over Truong Tien bridge, make a sharp right and come back towards the river, you will then take a bed to the left where you will see Dong Ba Market ahead of you.
Ngat was interested in buying some gifts for family back home, namely Hue Royal Tea drank by Kings and Queens of old when Hue was capital of Vietnam. Dried squid which the Vietnamese love to eat, it does seem to go well as a bar snack, lotus seeds for cooking with sticky rice or Vietnamese desserts & a couple of other odds and ends.
I am all for visits to places where food is involved, if you know me, you know that’s definitely true!
After we parked the bike inside Dong Ba Market, which costs 10,000 VND per time, we started our walk around the market. We didn’t obviously bring the push chair due to coming on the bike, so Will Minh would be a challenge to walk in this heat. So definitely bring a push chair if you have young kids. He did quite well actually and Dong Ba Market is pretty much covered with the typical Vietnamese style orange and blue tarpaulin in places and parasols (low height - learn to duck & mind your head tall people)! So not so bad.
Dong Ba Market is amazing, so much to buy and so much being offered by all ages of Vietnamese people. Make sure to stay hydrated in here, even though its covered from the sun, the heat built up inside can be overbearing. Plenty of places inside the market selling drinks, so no need to bring your own.
I usually leave Ngat to deal with the stall sellers as my presence does not do anything for haggling. Even though we are not well off, westerners are still seen as rich compared to them. So don’t expect to get the best price when haggling, it is simply not the market sellers way to offer something at the same price as a Vietnamese, unless its food you sit down to eat.
Ngat was told by her fruit seller in Hanoi one day that I shouldn’t come to the market to buy because they will sell at a higher price. Even though they knew I had a Vietnamese wife. Something to do with losing face with other sellers!
Walking around Dong Ba Market can be addictive. We passed by bowls and bowls of sweets, spicy looking prawns, jellys, jars and jars of pickled gurkins & fish sauce. Exotic fruit like Dragon Fruit, Durian, Jack Fruit & vegetables, conical hats, you name it, it was here.
Ngat bought a few items after haggling with the sellers and we realised how long we had been walking around. Will Minh was now on my shoulders and tired, so we decided to stop for lunch and a drink.
We saw lots of food vendors along the way but one caught our eye more than others with what was being displayed. Where we sat is quite funny which I will explain in full later.
We sat down in front of what I can only describe as HEAVEN. I was in a trance by the amount of different kinds of Vietnamese food on offer. I wanted to try them all and we very nearly did.
One of my favorite soups in Vietnam would be Bun Bo Hue, which is a beef soup, noodles & vegetables and simply delicious. This was in a huge pot bubbling away & the main event of the display. The stock probably made in the early hours of the day which is common for soup stalls…its taste is far superior this way.
Ever had a pot noodle after throwing in boiling water after 1 minute…rubbish right…imagine 6 hours or more of beef bones boiling away….heaven!
We didn’t have the Bun Bo Hue this as this would have filled us both right up & I wanted to try at least three or four dishes.
First up was a drink of Mia Da, this is a sugarcane drink with ice. Da meaning ice. A great way to quench your thirst from walking around in the heat in Hue, which can be unbearable at certain times of the year.
Our first dish was New Lui, a bbq pork meat with herbs and spices on a lemongrass stick. This was combined with rice paper, cucumber, lettuce, coriander, mint, basil and rolled neatly to give you a spring roll shape. This as then dipped in a peanut sauce which was divine! First one done and boy what a starter!
Other dishes on display were Grilled Belly Pork on sticks, Banh Bot Loc, Banh Khoai, & Bun Uot Cuon Thit Nuong ( a similar kind of fresh spring roll).
Next up for us was Bun Thit Nuong, a noodle dish with meat, veggies and a delightful citrus sauce which you turned over and over to mix together. This is a meal on its own, but of course we want more.
We also tried the Banh Khoai, which is similar to the Banh Xeo which can be found in Hanoi. A yellow rice paper deep fried and slotted with pork sausage, shrimp, beansprouts and spring onion. A very tasty snack you can have on the go. Mang Ve (takeaway).
Finishing off with a couple of the belly pork on sticks and we were done…there was so much to try but in one sitting it is a struggle.
So, where we sat down to eat was simply due to what we could see. While I was sat there, I happened to glance next door and up on the woman’s stall was a photo of Anthony Bourdain. He had been to Dong Ba Market and must have eaten at this ladies stall. To be honest, on looking at her stall it was very similar to the one we chose. But the food we had just eaten was top notch and I couldn’t fault it by any means.
Being completely satisfied with lunch, we headed out to have a walk around the city but ended up chilling in the shopping mall where Will Minh could play in the kids area.
In the late afternoon, we were to meet up with Nhi, girlfriend of one of my friends Gareth who live in Hue. Gareth was away teaching and couldn’t return due to the pandemic and Vietnam not opening their borders since March so he was’t able to join us.
Nha took us to a place we went to the previous year. We loved it and so wanted to make film about it, which can be found below or here!
This restaurant was typical Vietnamese style, but bigger than usual. All customers were Vietnamese although I noticed one Westerner sat with his gf/wife at one stage of the evening. A definite good sign when locals eat here and in vast numbers.
The restaurant was close to an area we usually use for our clients to stay overnight when visiting Hue as part of their Vietnam itinerary! So a definite must for those who book with us.
First up for us was Banh Beo, a typical Hue dish made from tapioca flour with dried shrimps, crispy pork skin on top and dipped in a sauce made from sugar, fish sauce, garlic, and Thai chili. Actually, the way to do this s to dip your teaspoon in to the dipping sauce and pour tin to the small dish of the Banh Beo, Then scoop the treat out with the spoon and devour!!
These little treats fit in your mouth perfectly and are delicious. The pork crackling bits sat on top are not stuck, so be aware of losing these gorgeous bits to the ground…hate that!
Nhi was very kind to detail each dish for us being Hue born and bred and even demonstrated how to put some dishes together for us.
Next up was something we tried earlier, Nem Lui, we were shown how the locals eat this dish, slightly different to what we had done earlier at Dong Ba Market.
A table spoon of the dipping peanut sauce with sesame seeds was added to a different bowl with some Hue style chili sauce (my favourite). This was mixed together to give the peanut sauce a bit of a chili twist! The Nem Lui was rolled in the same way as before with vegetables and pork meat from the lemongrass stick and dipped in to this new sauce. WOW! This was even better! I love my chilling this just got my taste buds racing! Definitely ty the when you come to Hue with Tavel Agent Hanoi!
Next was a great looking dish called Banh Nam, a rectangular flat tapioca pudding with minced pork and shrimp wrapped in banana leaf. Another amazing dish to stick on your Hue bucket list of food. This one went down a treat as did all the others. I also had another Banh Khoai like lunch….this was just as good as the one in Dong Ba Market!
Watch the video to see how I made these dishes and how I reacted to eating them too…oh wow!!
Meeting the Fishermen of Hue
Early morning run & catch of the day - 12th July 2020!
This morning I was up bright and early at 5am. I have always dreamed of living by the beach and waking up to the sounds of crashing waves. This week at least I get chance to live that dream if only for a few days.
Therefore waking up to the waves was a pleasant one to experience even though being on holiday, so early a wake up call is not everyones cup of tea!
As I was up and at em early, I thought I would take a run along the beach in bare feet, probably not the best idea considering the beaches can be littered with rubbish where resorts are not built!
But anyway, I headed off and to be honest, running on beaches brings back horrid memories from my days at Bydales school in Marske-by-the sea…our cross country running was on the beach and running in soft sand is an absolute b#####d!
Anyway, as I am running along the (hard sand) beach dipping my feet into the waves, I noticed some young lads running towards me. They were a bit sheepish going past, probably thought I was a dirty foreigner who brings covid back to Vietnam (which it did on VN054 from Heathrow)…it happened elsewhere no lie…quite distressing for some expats living in Vietnam.
After this I also spotted some fishermen going about their duties sorting out their nets…very cool. I had not seen Vietnamese fishermen before and so was fascinated. Smiles all round as they fixed their nets, I then jogged on!
By the way, this beach goes on for bloody miles…I was not intending on running the whole length before breakfast, no chance…my knees are not what they were!
I was just about to do a turn around when I noticed some young fella camped out near the shoreline. I wasn’t actually sure he had any tent or such, but had a lot of stuff and was cooking his breakfast it seemed. He was a very friendly chatty guy although I didn’t quite understand half of what he was saying. He wanted me to join him but said I will have breakfast back at the resort and said my farewells…spot him in the video you will see how happy he was…living on the beach? You don’t need much here to be happy it seems! Magic!
On the way back to my beach resort on Thuan An beach, I noticed a fisherman coming into shore with his boat. He was steering the boat and paddling with one pole, seemed impossible but he was coming in gradually. I ran up to him as he was getting out to try and help him in to shore…boy, was I not making any difference!!
As he got out, he started to then walk to the tail end of the boat & perform a front squat (so it seemed) to lift the boat up out of the water and then proceed to spin it around 180°. He then walked back to the tail end (now the front end) o the boat and repeat the last action. This basically brought the boat out of the water and up the beach a few inches at a time. After about 5 or 6 turns at this, he then went inside his boat to retrieve his catch for the day.
Dragging out a modest bag weighing approximately 20kg (I asked - not from guess work) of fish, shrimps, crab etc. Watching over him and I presume his wife, as they sifted through the catch and separated the different types in to baskets. Constantly pouring seawater over the fish.
I asked him how many hours he was out fishing and his reply was 4 hours…must have been going out there about 2am to be back around 6am with his catch…not a lot for such early starts. God knows how much he made from his catch but as I have found out living in Vietnam, people lead simple lives and don’t tend to splash out on luxury goods like us westerners.
So after a brief chat with him, I decided to leave them to it and head back for a buffet breakfast at the beach resort. On the way, the same kids I saw earlier were running back along the beach towards me. This time, big smiles and a high five from each of them, one of my worst fears living in Vietnam during a pandemic were quashed!
A pleasant morning and great experience, check it out on the video now!
A trip to Vietnam’s Spookiest City!
A road trip around Hue - 11th July 2020!
Today as part of our Vietnam Travel Blog I had planned on a full days activities for my road trip around Hue. A combination of a ride up the coast to see the Spookiest City in Vietnam, a cemetery filled with lavish, huge expensive structures commemorating passed loved ones.
Then to ride further up the coast to see Lang Co Beach which is at the end of the Hai Van Pass (famous coast road usually taken by motorcycle).
The third stop was closer to Hue which would have finished the loop back to my beach resort. This stop was the Japanese bridge of Thanh Toan which I had seen in books and on the web and looked mint! Very reminiscent of the Japanese bridge in Hoi An.
I set off on my rented motorbike, just 150k VND per day, at around 9am this morning. Riding along the coast through fishing villages, but not actually seeing the coast from the road I was on. I kept coming across other lavish cemetery along the way. Not being absolutely sure how far I’d gone, I was tempted to stop and see if this was the An Bang City I was meant to visit. I thought perhaps it was the edge of the cemetery and so needing to venture inwards. But a quick look at my Google maps showed I was nowhere near yet! So carried on!
I was on the road just 25 minutes and the front end of my moped just fell off. I had noticed a rattling yesterday when I was riding around Hue on my Unique Day in Hue tour. Now, it had give up and decided to depart my bike. The problem was I had no place to put it for the rental company to fix back on…it wouldn’t fit in the seat and my attempts to use reeds from the side of the road to tie it on to my bike failed miserably.
On speaking with the Hue motorbike rental company who had wanted me to bring it along. They eventually said to leave it behind. I suppose bikes aren’t maintained that much these days with very little custom during the covid-19 pandemic of 2020. Otherwise the bike was fine and I did put some mileage on it!
Further down the road, I eventually came to the junction I needed to turn off at for the City of Ghosts. I rode a couple of kms and had to really check my Google Maps for the route as it was quite hard to find. I went through villages, back alleys, side roads, dirt tracks to eventually find the City of Ghosts.
I parked up on a side track and as I will mention later, I wish I had pinpointed my location at the bike park in a 250 hectare cemetery!!
I started walking around the city of ghosts totally mesmerised & in a trance looking at the huge structures rising above me at every turn. It was incredible! It was completely empty of people bar a few construction guys having their lunch (10.30-11am) and completely eerie.
Now, a cemetery back in the UK is pretty toned down, modest and nothing lavish. We tend to spend all our money while we are alive. In Vietnam though, they will think nothing of spending quite a bit on remembering dead loved ones. This city of ghosts at An Bang Cemetery proves this point entirely because some structures here cost families in the region of $50,000!!! A bit extreme or complete devotion to their loved ones?
I have come across situations living in the countryside with my family. Birthdays don’t seem to be remembered as much as days when family members had died.
Often I would ask Ngat when is such and such’s birthday, oh, in July sometime, or August…I am shocked because birthdays seem important in my culture. It seems death days are celebrated or remembered with a party in Vietnam. Family members come round, eat and drink and burn paper clothes and money for their departed…far cry from back home!
But anyway, slightly off track. Back to the City of Ghosts at An Bang Cemetery. This place was huge (250 hectares)! I was wandering around taking in all these massive structures, some bigger than my house in the countryside and some more modest but still half the size!
The intricate detail in these tombs with broken pottery used to tile the walls & columns was outstanding. Any tiler worth his salt would be impressed with workmanship like this. Probably why it costs so much with the amount of intricate tiling that was on display.
There were dragons heads, colourful carvings, tiled roofs & all manner of artwork which made up some rather impressive memorials.
I had heard some of these structures cost more than $50,000, possibly up to $200,000. 90% of the local villagers have relatives who live abroad & send money home to help fund the building of these amazing structures. The strange thing is, that the homes they live in here are pretty poor shabby places and people live a modest life & yet the money still goes on homes for their ancestors.
It has become a bit of a battle between villagers, keeping up with the jones’ to see who can build the most extravagant or amazing tomb/memorial.
I walked around for 2 hours in this place. I was wearing my thin hoody, hat & sunglasses to keep out the sun but it was now midday…the hottest part of the day and must have been close to 40 degrees! I was melting but still wanted to see more. I couldn't get enough of the place, I was loving it here...strange to think you would enjoy walking around a cemetery...maybe I have changed!!
Every structure had dates on when they were built. Some back in the 90’s, some 30 years ago, but looked like they had been built yesterday! The amazing colours in the borken pottery, the tiling, the paints seem to last a long time. I must get hold of some of this for my own home!!
Due to the cemetery being built in close proximity to An Bang beach, the site was covered in soft white sand. Walking on this was quite a challenge sometimes being soft & HOT!! I walked in and around many colourful structures until I came to what must have been the biggest of all the memorials!
This one was huge with a kind of White Lady Buddha statue at the front. This was reminiscent of the white lady buddha on the site of the Linh Ung Pagoda in Danang! This memorial must have been one with a price tag of $200,000, purely and simply due to the size of the land it was on along with the structures built on it. To check this out make sure to watch the video of my visit…you will see how big and magnificent it is.
I continued on and even though I had water, after another 30 minutes, enough was enough. After 2.5 hours I think I had seen enough.
I decided to head back to my bike….errrr…where the hell was it?? Every tomb or memorial blended in with all the others and now I was lost! I had no idea in which direction to take to get back to my bike and I was absolutely mafted, boiling hot and in need of getting in some shade!
The workers I saw earlier would be a good landmark for me to find my bike and so needed to listen out for them…that would have been a great idea if it wasn’t bloody siesta time after their lunch…bloody hell!! So no noise, no chance…but by pure luck I recognized a track I came up and ended up seeing the workers sleeping by the memorial they were building…phew!!
Time to head out and on to take a look at An Bang Beach.
This was your typical Vietnamese beach where western tourists don’t venture to. Not that there were any, as I was filming my day at An Bang Cemetery in July when no foreign tourists were permitted entry since March 2020! But still, I have been to many beaches like this and it is sometimes nice to see, tick it off a Vietnam beaches bucket list perhaps. But, to be honest, this beach was not all that. We have been to Vietnamese stye beaches in Nha Trang and there was more action there. This was a bit dilapidated & probably not a tourist attraction but a beach where local fishermen head out to sea. I did see a lot of Thung Chai (Coracles - round basket boats) dotted on the beach so perhaps thats the case.
So, I moved on. I was going to head to Lang Co Beach, but being that it was a further hours drive away and that I had spent 2.5 hours here at An Bang Cemetery, I decided to leave that trip to when we are in Danang, later on in our holiday. I will make the Hai Van Pass journey by motorbike, which is a must see too, keep an eye out for that blog!
So, next stop was Thanh Toan Bridge. I headed back through the cemetery one last time to have another look at this wonderful place…I was so glad I ticked this off my Vietnam bucket List.
Actually, my Vietnam bucket list is now sectioned in to smaller parts. I have bucket lists within bucket lists. So this one was ticked off my Hue bucket list…nice one!
So, the road trip continued and I thought I had found the spot where the Thanh Toan bridge was but it was incorrectly marked on Google maps and I was miles away!! Damn it! Watch out for that guys if you are making this trip.
Eventually I found the actual location of Thanh Toan bridge and would you believe it!! The whole bridge was under repair and closed off with hoardings and barriers everywhere! I couldn’t believe it! It was going to be another of my Hue bucket list ticked off, two in one day. Not to be unfortunately, that will have to be another time.
Basically, due to covid-19, the authorities must have thought it was a good time to make repairs and refurbish the bridge. I will be back and will definitely go to see it one day.
So, it was time to ride back to the beach resort and to my family who will have been chilling out all day. Most probably indoors and out of the sun…very typically Vietnamese, they tend to head out when its cooler at 4.30-5pm, rather than sit on a beach all day and burn like a lobster, like us lot from the UK!
Anyway folks, hope you enjoyed the blog for today. I will be back with a day out to Hue city and Dong Ba Market along with a great dinner in a local restaurant next. Don’t mss those, a lot of food involved!
Best Beach Resort in Hue
Free Upgrade to Beach Bungalow - 10th July 2020!
Well, after my trip riding my motorcycle around Hue City with my private English speaking tour guide. I had a very pleasant surprise awaiting when I returned to my family at the resort.
We had checked in to a lovely, quite spacious, deluxe double room which is around 43m2 including a large bathroom. This was quite sufficient for our small family but if we had an extra child, you would be cramped. Also, our son was only 2 at the time so slept on a quilt on the floor so didn’t take up much room.
What happened when I returned from my Hue day tour, we had only been upgraded to the beach villa! Get in! A magnificent 106m2 bungalow situated practically on the beaches edge. Ngat and Will Minh were already there and settled in…I was met with big shouts of Daddy, Daddy, Daddy from Will Minh.
This bungalow was amazing and nothing like I had ever stayed in before. It had a large bedroom with Queen sized bed and ample room around and in front to space any luggage out to unpack. A smart TV although not something you need at a place like this and a mini bar.
There was also a door leading out to the back or front whichever way you look at it, which lead to the gardens and the paths to the restaurant, pool and bar.
To the front of the bedroom was a set of patio doors leading to a sun lounger area and terrace. Here you had two sun loungers with a small table to allow you to enjoy cocktails or in my case a few beers. You could sit out here for hours as the views to sea were amazing and the climate just wonderful at night.
This would be our go to place when Will Minh went to bed and we could chill and enjoy a couple of drinks in comfort whilst still being close enough to hear him. We used to use a baby monitor and sit somewhere within range and wasn’t always comfortable, this was perfect and recommended if you have a small baby who sleeps early.
Back inside and the next room from the bedroom was a lounge area, which had comfortable sofa chairs, coffee table and patio doors also leading out to the patio/terrace area with gorgeous sea views although no sun loungers.
The bathroom was huge and the biggest I have seen in a room I have stayed in. Full bath on legs with great stylish shower attachments. An indoor shower in a cubicle, toilet and wash basin with all kinds of soaps and gels to wash with.
Then, the best part for me was the outside shower. Now I have come across one of these in one of our partners in Phong Nha. But this beat that hands down and was superb. Set in a small garden and tiled walls and stepping stones on the floor. The jets were powerful and had the rainfall shower head which I love.
Taking a shower outdoors is one of the best feelings as one can be with nature. Of course it is walled off but the open air above makes it special.
So, a welcome surprise after a long day filming and riding the bike around Hue City. I enjoyed a few cold beers sat on the terrace that night and watched & listened to the waves crashing on shore not far away….bliss!
If you would like to add this Beach resort in Hue to your Vietnam itinerary, let us know and if in season, we will include for you.
Depending on your budget you can opt for either the deluxe rooms (like we did), garden view bungalows, beach villas (our upgrade) or Pool Villas…they have their own swimming pool and is more suitable for larger families.
Watch the video to see how stunning this place is and you can also tell by my voice I was pretty happy about it too!
Until the next time when I will visit Vietnam's most spooky City…enjoy folks!
A Unique Day in Hue!
A Full Day City Tour of Hue - 10th July 2020!
Todays installment of our Vietnam Travel Blog was to be a relaxing day for Ngat and Will Minh at our beach front resort at Thuan An. I was however, heading out for the day to explore Hue City and something completely different & possibly forbidden!!
I had a private English speaking tour guide for this Hue City day tour and set out on my motorbike to meet up with him. It's about 12km from the coast to the centre of Hue and so left in plenty of time although there is not much traffic here. It's not like Hanoi for getting in and out, that is a nightmare. This was an easy ride through local villages and spacious roads. Just before I arrived in the centre, there is a lovely view across the river to the right as you drive across the bridge.
We met up at 9am by the harbour, where all the dragon boats are moored ready for any tourists wishing a Dragon river boat ride. It is July 2020 so still no foreign tourists permitted entry in to Vietnam due to the covid-19 pandemic and so not many people around. We stepped on to our very own private boat for just 200k VND and a planned 20 - 30 minute ride up and down the river. There are longer versions of this ride which drops you off on the other side of the river at Thien Mu Pagoda. We however needed to return for our motorbikes which were parked at the harbour, so shortened the Dragon boat ride by half.
The weather was superb but I definitely needed to wear my long sleeved thin hoody, my go to when riding my motorbike in the sunny weather, to save getting burnt. Riding on the boat is also where you will not feel the heat and feel cool...however you will burn, for certain. Bring suncream or long sleeved tops and hats.
The Dragon Boat ride set off along the Perfume river and the views from this perspective were great, passing by the banks of the river where the promenade, walking street is situated. On the other side of the river you could see where Dong Ba Market is located, this is a definite must for your visit while in Hue City, the food there is amazingly tasty!
Continuing along the Perfume river you get chance to see some great sites such as the Trang Tien Bridge and the Citadel flag pole, which is where we will head to after the boat ride.
If you are in Hue City and have time, I would definitely recommend taking the Dragon Boat ride. As I say, we took a shorter version, but take the full trip and you will definitely get your moneys worth. Take a Grab taxi from your hotel, or if you are close enough, take a nice stroll along the rivers promenade.
One we arrived back at our bikes, it was a short ride through the city and across Truong Tien bridge. We went through the east gate which is one of the most photographed of the City gates in Hue. Just passing through this gate we parked up on the right near the holy cannons. To which was our first historical sightseeing stop.
The day was hot, damn hot and I made sure to bring along plenty of water and my hoody...otherwise it would have been a terrible day!
Walking to the ticket office we were told you could buy a combo ticket to see all the site in one payment! I wanted to see only Imperial City and Khai Dinh Pagoda so opted for a single ticket but definitely buy the combo as it will save you a few quid!
The tour guide walked me through the Imperial City to visit some amazing structures within the forbidden purple city. The Hue monuments is on the UNESCO World Heritage list so its a definite to come and see when you visit Vietnam in 2021.
As I was filming a lot, we spent quite a lot of time here but the highlight for me was actually the Meridian gate. This is where you enter the whole complex and show your ticket under the arch. You then walk through to the entrance to the Imperial City. The Meridian gate is simply magnificent, perfectly restored to its former glory & a great opener to the rest of the complex.
***If you wish to take a full day tour of the Imperial City along with private English speaking guide, private car, private dragon boat ride, the Royal Tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda and lunch! Contact us today!***
Back to the City and we continued through visiting some great structures, an old cinema, a jungle of lanterns & the final gate to where we exited to pick up our bikes.
Next stop was a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda. This was made famous for all the wrong reasons. The monk famously photographed setting himself on fire in Saigon came from this pagoda. His blue car can be seen in the background as he sits ablaze. A terrifying photo and one which sent shock waves around the world. His car is still at this pagoda and pictures of this poor mans heart are even on display! Thien Mu Pagoda i set in beautiful gardens and definitely worth a visit and is free to gain entry.
After this we stopped off at a local restaurant by the river just about 50 metres away from Thien Mu Pagoda on the left hand side. We decided to sample a few dishes and boy was I not disappointed. For me, the food in Hue is one of the main reasons for visiting again. It must be added to your bucket list for Vietnam for sure & I would say Hue food is some of the best in Vietnam. Later in the week we met up with a friend and had a great feast in the city, keep an eye out for that day.
The restaurant is typical of the style in Vietnam. A dirty floor, plastic chairs and aluminum tables set with chopsticks and sauces. Generally populated by local Vietnamese enjoying lunch with friends, it can get quite rowdy if they are drinking rice wine...a lot of Mot, Hai Zo can be heard for miles...
For lunch we had frogs legs in a spicy sauce, eel in the same spicy sauce and some fried rice and soft drinks to wash it down with. A beer normally goes really well with these dishes but we were riding motorcycles in Hue so couldn't this time.
Our next trip was to visit the Abandoned Waterpark on the outskirts of Hue. This was always on my bucket list ever since seeing photos online years ago. I finally ticked this off my Vietnam bucket list on this trip. It is an eerie kind of a place and is spaced out into 3 parts. The main dragons head, the stadium and the water chutes.
We entered through the main gates and usually there are security guards watching out for people entering as its actually not accessible apart from a bribe here and there. These guys were obviously sleeping off lunch so we headed on in unchecked.
Once we arrived at the Dragons head I could see how magnificent it was and yet sad that the waterpark was not open for business! You walk across a bridge over what is usually water but as it was July and scorching hot, no water existed today. On reaching the head, I could see it was actually a whole dragon with tail and feet. Dragons in Asia are different to dragons in the west, ours have wings, theirs don't!
You can walk through and inside the dragon and see that it used to be an aquarium with all glass from the tanks smashed and left to ruin. Walking around a kind of tunnel (the body) you exit out to another side to the dragon which heads off towards where would have been further zones of entertainment none existent today.
We then headed to the stadium where plastic seats were dotted around with some missing and some still intact. I wasn't sure what kind of show was to be offered here but did see water pipes so presume some kind of water show but it didn't look up to much to be honest. But still, an eerie stadium with no people for sure and well worth a visit if you can get here.
Moving on we went on to the water chutes, this is when we came across said security guard who was missing at the entrance. He was demanding we leave but my tour guide insisted this guy was not who he said he was as he had no ID on him. So we went about our jaunt and I popped in to the water chute area myself to do some filming. Wow, I loved this part, the best yet...the 3 water chutes covered in nature, plants and practically a living thing now. The water at the bottom of the slides was filled with all kinds of plant life. The trees were overgrown and intermingling with the plastic chutes and structures. The steps up to the chute entrance was covered in pine needles and foliage and was quite hazardous to be fair to the security guard!
This was what I was truly looking for when I added the Abandoned waterpark to my Vietnam bucket lit and boy was I not disappointed. I didn't spend too much time here unfortunately as the guy went off to find his ID and come back so we thought it best to start on our way. When I returned, the tour guide was actually in discussion with the guy and unpleasantries were exchanged in Vietnamese before we ended up on our way (having thanked the guy in Vietnamese for his leniency 🙂 )
This was our penultimate stop and now was time to see one other part of Hue City. This which I think is amazing being that they resemble the Terracotta warriors in Xian, China of which I had seen many years before. Another bike ride to this spot in blistering heat and pretty thirsty by the end of it, we paid our entrance fees, actually I did, my guide is free to enter and headed up the steps.
This place is Khai Dinh Royal Tomb and my favourite of all the tombs in the Hue Monuments complex. The Terracotta style warriors stand guard in the courtyard protecting the tomb itself with horses and even elephants stood proud at the gates. As it is perched on a hill it also has great views out to the woodlands and the white lady in the distance too.
I actually bumped in to other foreign tourists here, expats from Ho Chi Minh City but this was it from my whole unique day n Hue. Quite unique in other ways too!
A relatively newly built tomb between 1920 - 1931 for the Emperor Khai Dinh who apparently raised taxes 30% to help build it...wow! This was also the last tomb to be made for an emperor and you can see how well kept it is even though relatively new. The other royal tombs maybe more historic but I feel these warriors standing guard do it for me.
So this was the end of my unique day in Hue and I said goodbye to my private tour guide Tuan and headed back to my resort on the beach
I did venture off the beaten path (some say lost) & ended up taking a more scenic route back. I am very glad I did as I ended up riding through some local villages on tracks rather than roads through dense countryside and authentic houses lining the fields. Also, this route took me to the waterways of the lagoon which seperates the city & countryside to the coastline and I got to see the waterside businesses and fishing nets along the way.
An amazing day and one which I highly recommend if travelling to Hue.
When I arrived back I had an amazing surprise which I will tell all in my next post...stay tuned guys, thanks for reading!
Arrival in Hue & overnight at our Hue Beach Resort
Hue City to Thuan An Beach Resort - 7th & 8th July 2020!
We arrived at our beach resort at Thuan An at around 10am and filled in all the reception formalities. We had booked for 7 nights at this Beach resort in Hue and so were looking forward to relaxing at our room after a long journey on the overnight sleeper train from Hanoi.
We have stayed here before and loved it, so another trip here was not such a hard choice as we love the beach and huge swimming pool. The Lapochine is a 4* beach resort but we always get treated as 5* customers. The quality of this place is top notch and a stay here for 2 or 3 nights on your Vietnam itinerary with us is a must (if in season).
We were shown to our room by one of the staff and shown the amenities along the way such as the large restaurant, beautiful gardens and huge swimming pool. Next to the pool was a massage service & fully stocked bar opposite the restaurant.
The room we booked was a standard deluxe double with ensuite bathroom, office area and a lovely outside lounge to relax at night (while our son slept) on the terrace.
Overnight in our deluxe room at the Hue beach resort was a very comfortable one and woke nice and early to try out the breakfast, which is one of the main reasons for us coming again.
With a full buffet service laid on, lots of choices to enjoy a stupendous breakfast to start the day. Just a short walk to the restaurant for breakfast, passing the entertainment area consisting of a table tennis table, pool table and fussball table too. Plenty for the older kids AND adults to enjoy over the course of their Vietnam holiday in Hue.
We arrived at breakfast at around 7am, which is when it starts and there was already plenty of people enjoying their start to the day at this beach resort in Hue.
Here at the beach resort in Hue we had a great selection of bread, waffles and even Danish pastries....which my wife LOVES!!
An egg station which offers omelettes, fried eggs, poached eggs and scrambled eggs along with hard boiled eggs. Next to this was the Pho station, a must in Vietnam to try out when you visit...the street stalls are usually the best but these will pass for breakfast if you wish.
The western side of the buffet breakfast at this beach resort in Hue included bacon (never the best in Vietnam but tasty), sausages (likewise) and hams, garlic sausage and once we did have baked beans but this time around I was not lucky.
There was also a selection of fruit salads and an Asian side to the buffet which included fried rice, dumplings, noodles, curry (?) and some chicken or beef dishes too.
All in all, you will NOT go hungry at this breakfast setting and it will set you up for the rest of the day.
Later in the morning we decided to take Will Minh to the swimming pool and enjoy a splash around together in the beating sun! Then, while Ngat and Will Minh had a siesta I took a walk around the gardens to check it out and do some filming too and it was simply sublime. Well looked after gardens with full time gardeners employed to water and treat all the day long....the grass did need a lot of water as it was blisteringly hot. We went in July and is definitely decent weather with not a drop of rain.
In the late afternoon, which is usually when Vietnamese tend to venture out due to it being cooler. We headed down to the beach which is just a 1 minute walk from our room and glorious views in either direction. The beach is pretty deserted and plenty of room for kids to play and swim in the sea. Although I would say the sea was slightly rough this day and so if taking your kids in, be sure to be with them at all times.
The beach actually goes for miles and miles in both directions. I took a walk out there one day to meet up with some local fishermen, this comes later. Stay tuned to hear or watch about that! The sand is very soft too and walking on it is great....if not too hot! After a good play in the sand with bucket and spade, we went back to shower and change for dinner.
On Thuan An beach there are a line of seafood restaurants just a short walk from the beach resort to the right. We chose our favourite from last time and enjoyed some of the best seafood in Vietnam. Freshly caught that day and available in tanks for us to choose which we wanted on our plates.
This evening we opted for Tiger Prawns, Squid and Clams along with some fried rice for our son. The owner was a delightful guy and A delightful meal to top off a wonderful first full day in Hue. Check out our day at the best beach resort in Hue or our Hue beach front seafood dinner...you won't be disappointed!
Bringing Vietnam Journey begins!
Hanoi to Hue Overnight Sleeper Train - 6th & 7th July 2020!
So our Vietnam Travel Blog begins and taking a sleeper train in Vietnam can be quite the exciting experience for the whole family. It is not quite the same as travelling by train through Vietnam as it is back in your home country. But, it is completely safe however and some train rides through Vietnam are more exciting than others. The Hanoi to Hue overnight sleeper train is a great way to travel south from Hanoi without missing any scenery on the way after having visited all you can in north Vietnam.
Starting our Bringing Vietnam To You Campaign with the Hue & Danang 2020 series, we started from Nam Dinh near our home village. You will most probably board from Hanoi, or if you are visiting the Ninh Binh area you can start from there too.
The best time to take the train from Hanoi to Hue would be on the SE3 departing Hanoi at 7.30pm & arriving in Hue at 8.25am. This way you have the whole day to see Hue and not miss anything out if on a tight schedule.
There are varying types of seats or beds to choose from for your 13 hour journey from Hanoi to Hue. We would advise taking a sleeper cabin if you want to get any sleep whatsoever on this overnight train. I have taken 16 hour rides on hard seats in China and I can tell you, it is no picnic!
Starting with a hard seat or soft seat, these will be the cheapest tickets but not recommended at all. Stepping up a notch, you now have sleeper berths of 6. This is the hard sleeper and basic sleeping facilities such as pillow and blanket (you will need it as they crank the air con up full blast). These come with 3 bunk beds on either side and would suggest the top bunk if you want to avoid people climbing down & disturbing you to go to the toilet through the night.
The next level up is the 4 berth sleeper cabin which is a more comfortable experience than the 6 berth but of course a slightly higher price per person. There are also better standards of carriages other than the standard class which we took. They offer better furnishings and snacks & water, such as the photos shown below.
We were 3 people, my wife and I & our 2 year old son with luggage and a pushchair. So we booked the private 4 berth cabin which meant paying for all 4 beds. This allowed us space for luggage and the pushchair without cramming us all in using the extra bed. If you are a family of 3 we would suggest the same if you have plenty of luggage.
Starting at 7.25pm from Hanoi you will travel through Nam Dinh (where we boarded), Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Vinh and Dong Hoi before reaching Hue at 8.25am. among other destinations. There are other departure times available but as I say, I would recommend this one to enjoy more time in Hue.
It was quite an enjoyable ride and not too bumpy although I enjoy train rides, some may disagree. We were awoken early morning around 6am, although I woke up earlier. You will be offered tea and coffee and snacks to buy from the lady walking through the carriages with the trolley.
Amenities offered on the train are toilets at the end of the carriage, one western style & one squat. Along with a wash basin to clean your teeth and wash your face in the morning. Also, if you have any pot noodles or noodle snacks of any kind and need hot water. There is a hot water boiler at the end of most carriages which will allow you to eat a hot meal.
We took the standard style of carriage as we were paying for a full private cabin. But if you are a couple on a budget but want a better standard, we would suggest paying the extra for the Violette carriage offered for this overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Hue.
Once you arrive in Hue railway station, you will walk along the platforms to the right and then out the main doors to the left through the waiting area. Outside you will get chance to pick up any taxi as there are usually many drivers waiting and vying for your fares.
We actually thought we were clever and ignore all taxis and opt for Grab as we were going to the beach resort in Thuan An. But, we were told later that the local taxis were probably cheaper as they are looking for business. We were of course travelling when no foreign tourists were here so this may change once it is busy again after the covid-19 pandemic. So you can opt for Grab if you wish but also local rides are reasonably priced too.
We found our Grab taxi and headed towards our beach resort at Lapochine. The taxi took us through the town at first and then on the road out towards the beach area. It took about 30 minutes to reach our resort and start our Vietnam holiday in Hue. If you require train tickets through Vietnam, Hanoi to Hue or other journeys, contact us now!
Stay tuned for our next installment of Hue & Danang 2020 and watch out for this beautiful beach resort!