Our blog which is now focusing on our travels in Europe during the Winters and working across the UK in the Summers.
It also has all our adventures from travelling India and South East Asia in 2018, the Philippines in 2020 and Sri Lanka in 2021/22
I was quite excited about our next method of transport as
we were heading over the Hai Van Pass on the back of motorbikes. Our guides Phu
& Rin arrived just after 8am, strapped our bags on the back and then we
were off. Phu took us through the vegetable village in town which is where all
the veg is grown for market. It looks like a neat, tidy and huge allotment….
We’d asked for our first stop to be at the Linh Ung
Pagoda on the Da Nang peninsula, as this is where the large statue of Lady
Buddha is located. This is the largest statue of lady buddha in Vietnam, at 67m
and bright white she can be seen from anywhere in Da Nang, gazing over the bay.
Although early in the morning there was still a lot of tourists and worshipers but
as it’s well away from the town and the traffic it was still quite peaceful.
They also have the most amazing display of huge bonsai trees in front of the
pagoda, which used to be a very time-consuming hobby of my own and it was
lovely to see such big examples.
Back on the bikes we headed for the Hai van pass and were
soon off the motorway and heading uphill through smaller towns. I was loving
being on the back of a bike but obviously hadn’t been paying much attention to
my belongings as after a short burst of speed I felt something drop out of my
pocket! It took me a few seconds to realise it was my wallet and although I
didn’t have any cash in there, my ID and banks cards were. I frantically tried
to explain this to Rin who bless him didn’t speak a word of English, but he
understood that something was seriously wrong and we turned back. We did a
couple of passes but as Paul and Phu had gone on ahead we needed to find them
I’m seriously panicking by now but after explaining
everything to Phu, who then translated what this mad hysterical woman was
saying to Rin, we all went back for another look. We couldn’t see it anywhere and
were discussing next moves when two local ladies came up. They had been handed
my wallet by anther lady that had passed by and we were able to ring her and
thank her for her honesty and quick thinking to hand it in near where it was
Feeling slightly foolish but very grateful we carried on
to the viewpoint at the top of the hill. It was a lovely view with a slight
concrete overhang with the hill and beach below and Phu suggested that Paul and
myself perch on the edge for a romantic picture. This was spoilt somewhat as my
sunglasses toppled off my head and slid down the concrete slope and off the
edge! I was upset and Paul was pretty cross but I don’t think the picture gives
it away. Fortunately, I was again saved by a local as the owner of the drinks
stall went down the slope and managed to grab my glasses returning them to me with
a grin. So, feeling doubly stupid and now a little anxious of what the 3rd
disaster might be we continued on.
We didn’t suffer anymore incidents and after a few more
photo stops on the way over the mountain we headed down to Lang Co beach for
some lunch. Here you could swim if you wanted but it wasn’t the nicest beach,
or the cleanest so we settled with a lunch of BBQ giant Clam, French fries and
a Papaya salad, all of which was gorgeous.
Back on the bikes we headed to a place called Elephant
Springs. This is natural spring fed river that is formed into man-made pools
and temporary cafes for tourists and the like to cool off in. It is only here
in the drier seasons as come rainy season the river runs high and washes all
the temporary structures away and although it’s highly tourist driven with the
expected bit of rubbish, which is mainly beer cans and the foam matting they
use as slides, it’s quite nice.
I have no idea how much it was to enter as this was
included in our easy rider package, but I overheard that you do have to pay
extra to sit on the shaded wooden matted areas and use the changing rooms
(which are basically just urinals/ toilets but at least there is a door). We
spent an hour or so here swimming in the clear cool water before heading back
on the bikes for the last leg of the journey.
By this time we, as non-bike riders, we were getting very
numb and painful bums and we still had a couple of hours to go before hitting
Hue. We had a brief welcome stop at a Lagoon, which whilst not the prettiest
place enabled us to stretch our legs and see the fishing boats and then we
hurtled on towards our destination.
Our digs in Hue was the Cherish hotel very close to the
main hub of restaurants and bars but within walking distance of the old Citadel
as well. It was upper budget but had a large double room, en-suite, A/C, TV and
much to Pauls joy a big buffet breakfast.
With only 3 days here we quickly set off to find our
prices for tours and sample some of the local beer and food. Sadly, Bir Hoi
wasn’t a thing here but they did their own local beer called Huda, which was
bottled and still only 10 – 25k dong, basically under £1. They also close the
main restaurant streets to traffic at the weekend and fairground type games
stalls and live bands pop up to entertain the crowds giving it a holiday,
festival type feeling.
We stopped at a placed called Lam Travel on our rounds
and here the very talkative owner told us about the different DMZ zones and
reprimanded us if we didn’t look at him or listen to him when he spoke! He was
quite funny though, so I give him my WhatsApp details, which meant I then got
goodnight and good mornings messages from him until we relented and booked a
tour with him.
We spent the following day walking around the old
imperial palace in the Citadel, which they are slowly repairing and rebuilding.
It was very hot but with loads of covered walkways and beautiful gardens it was
easy enough to hide from the sun.
We discovered a beautiful garden full of bonsai behind a
broken barrier which, after we left realised wasn’t technically open to the
public yet, but us and a few others had discovered and it was nice to get away
from the crowd.
We ate such a lot of good food during our stay here, but
this night Paul had booked a posh French restaurant as a special treat. Here I
indulged with a bottle of red wine (something I’d not had since Georgetown
Malaysia) and we both treated ourselves to a steak. It was bliss. At some point
in Pauls emails with the restaurant he had mentioned that this was a special
romantic meal because we had been on the road a while, which they must have
misunderstood as after the main meal all the lights got dimmed and I got
presented with a birthday cake and candle! The whole restaurant sang me happy
birthday whilst I died of embarrassment, but we thought it was easier to go
along with it plus this means we got free cake!
The following day we’d booked a car and driver for a half
day to whizz us around a few different sights. We visited the tombs of 3
different emperors, 2 of which had huge sprawling gardens and adjacent tombs
for wives and 1 which was smaller but highly decorated both inside and out.
also tried to get into an abandoned waterpark which has become popular with
backpackers in recent years, but the government have deemed it unsafe and have
security to stop you entering. If you believe the internet some of these guards
will accept bribes but our driver seemed shocked by this thought and wouldn’t
let us try, instead he took us to a nearby church where we saw 4 bridal parties
having their photos, all the brides looked stunning in their bright red wedding
A quick stop at the Thien Mu Pagoda just on the outskirts
of town and we headed back to our hotel to hide for a few hours before dinner.
On David from Lam Travels recommendation we had decided
to only go to Highway 1 of the DMZ areas as this cut costs, time and according
to him held the more interesting bits. We were going to pick up an English-speaking
guide in Dong Ha which was a 2hr drive away and then go to the Frame of a
church, Vinh Moc tunnels, Hien Luong Bridge and Doc Mieu base. We actually did
the church before we picked up the guide as it is located before the town, but
we already knew that this was the shell of a church riddled with bullet holes,
one of the few remaining buildings from the war.
Our guide was called Tom and he was born in 1954 in a
small town close to the bridge. He remembers having to move home quite a lot
when he was younger and had fascinating stories on hearing the bombs and
watching the tracer bullets shooting across the night sky. The entire tour was
fascinating, with the highlight being able to go down some of the tunnels that
the villagers lived in for 6 years but as a lot of these places or stops have
been created specifically for tourism it can feel a bit forced.
For example; I’m not sure why they have the Doc Mieu base
listed on the itinerary as there isn’t really anything left of the base now, a
few crumbling buildings in the gardens of newer family homes and a tank so
overgrown that you can hardly see it and in our instance this was viewed from
the opposite side of a busy road that we couldn’t cross. The town of Dong Ha is
listed as well but this is a very busy town now with no hint of the US bases
they had there during the war.
We got dropped off back in town about 2pm and decided to
go grab a bite to eat and a cold beer, before doing a few chores and packing
for an early start the next day.
This went slightly wrong as we found a place that was
selling a mug of beer for 8k. We’d already put away a few drinks and ordered
food when an Englishman, Canadian woman and an American guy (sounds like a
stupid joke already) joined us at our table.
We stayed there for a few more and then followed them
down the road to a hostel they had earmarked, which to our horror was the same
chain as the one we’d spent 3 drunk days at in Mui Ne. The evening got messy, street
games were played, the English guy went home to bed about 8 and we didn’t get
any of the things done that we needed to for our 4:30am start, but it was a fun
night out. We did manage to drag ourselves away at 9pm for a quick dinner
before packing and falling into bed.
Yet another short monthly update, it's now 5 months (22 weeks) since being back in the UK so here is what's happened since last the last blog. We splashed out and got some new crockery and new saucepans, frying pan etc as we were fed up using the ones we had since getting Daisy which actually came with her! Daisy got a few more bits of work done for the MOT, including front brake pipes & hoses, caliper and the previously mentioned power steering issue was just a pipe which saved us a lot of money. Anyway she passed her MOT first time, with only a couple of advisories which will be sorted soon, so that's a relief and now means her MOT is a July date which suits us better as we will be in the UK around that time each year. So with the MOT done and the leak fixed, we took off up to the Peak District for an overnight stay at a pub campsite, just to get out of the city for a bit and also I had a couple of DIY jobs needing doing which required hook up. First up was a small
Can't believe we have been away exactly 6 months already, seems to me as if it has flown in! 😯 I just wanted to post this interactive map that I have been using to plot our route so far, it has a point for every place we have had overnight stay or a flight transfer. It's only when I look back over it, then does the time feel slower and I realise it was a long time ago that we swam in the beaches of Goa! Here is a link to some of the stats - Click here View Full Size Travel Map So what is the plan for the next couple of months and beyond? Well after our 8 weeks in Indonesia, we fly to Ho Chi Minh City and travel up Vietnam, then probably over into Laos and then into Cambodia. Then money permitting, we may go back into Thailand and do the northern part, although we did originally plan to be away a year, it's looking more likely it will be 10 months or so. x
So the first day has been at Vasco de Gama. We only picked this place because it was so close to the airport and when you land at 1am all you want is a nice bed for a couple of nights. The hotel is really nice, we have a double bed each, a balcony, plus a toilet/wet room complete with built in viewing window. We slept most of the day and then went for a wander into town in the afternoon. The roads are chaos and everyone was staring at the 2 crazy westerners walking along side the cows, goats, dogs and locals.... There are no tourists in this town and everyone wants to shake your hand and say 'Hi'. Sadly town at that time is mostly industrial car workshops, closed pharmacies, closed bars and hardly any people but on the way back to the hotel we found a dingy little bar with 2 beer fridges and some locals having a curry and pints. 2 kingfishers later and after they started closing all the shutters and doors with us inside, we thought it best to go back to the hotel.