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Hoi An, Vietnam. Courtesy of Hannah Banks.

Vietnam: The Journey for South to North

An extract from Hannah Banks’ blog, ‘HanBanksy’:

My time in South-East Asia was coming to a close. I had three weeks left and these were to be spent backpacking from the south of Vietnam to the north. For the past month I had spent it in Cambodia teaching English at a primary school in Siem Reap. My journey through Vietnam began with a goodbye to the teaching and forest volunteers we left behind in Phnom Penh, before taking a short tuk tuk ride to the bus station and waiting for hours for our night bus to leave for Vietnam – we found out later that the driver had taken a nap. To pass the time myself, and the people I was traveling with (Cat and Miri), pulled faces, ate Pringles’ and Oreos’ till we felt sick, watched the rest of the group attempt to sleep and contemplated taking sneaky photos (open mouths, drool and random subconscious movements…) which kept us entertained for the hours we endured on the non-air conditioned bus. Eventually we  reached the Cambodia-Vietnam border and proceeded through passport control.

The journey from the border to Ho Chi Minh City was quick and we arrived around lunch-time. As we sleepily plodded off the bus we were hounded by taxi drivers urging, pushing and pulling us to get in their taxi. Luckily for us, we were with an experienced guide who knew their tricks and the whereabouts of our hostel. So we walked. By this point I was getting fairly good at swiftly hoisting my over-sized pink bag onto my back and trekking after the others towards our new home for the night. When we arrived in the hostel we were all ecstatic to be sharing a room altogether. Officially the group was reunited and we would begin our adventures again! We relaxed in the room for a while before heading down the street in search of food and exploring the City – we visited the huge central market, a Cathedral which was meant to look like Notre-dame and the post office.

The following day we all went on a “Temple and Tunnels” tour. The temple we visited was a blend of religions and had an eerie feel – perhaps due to the various images of one eye reduplicated around the place, following you around as you walked through the intricate brightly coloured architecture. The tunnels, on the other hand, were very interesting. In those few hours we spent there I learnt a lot more about Vietnamese history. Some of it I found upsetting. I couldn’t believe the terrors they went through and strength the nation has and holds today; much like their neighbouring country Cambodia. I also felt disturbed by certain things displayed – the forms of defense against the Americans. However, I did very much enjoy the opportunity to crawl through the “euro” tunnel they have created for westerners – we being bigger an all! For the second time in my life I also relished the chance to eat cassava (taro leaf) again – yum! I really liked Ho Chi Minh and definitely wished I could have spent more time here to explore and really soak up the history and culture. Maybe another trip?

Mui Ne, Vietnam. Courtesy of Hannah Banks.

Next we headed to the town of Mui Ne, and is now in my top places to visit again. Here we sampled Vietnamese wine, ate freshly caught seafood in a restaurant overlooking the beach, surfed and sunbathed to our hearts content, went sand-boarding (ish) and ran, jumped, rolled and skidded down the sand-dunes and ran away from a vicious cow in a mini red sand dune canyon!! We only stayed here for a few days but I was desperate to stay longer, surf more and work on my tan.

After yet another mammoth bus journey, we arrived in Nha Trang which, again, I loved, particularly the nightlife. I think I had some of my best ever nights out here filled with drunken hilarity and mishaps. Our first evening in this wonderful, vibrant City was spent in a lovely Indian restaurant after which we eagerly checked out the nightclubs we’d heard many a story about. I hadn’t intended on getting so drunk, but, as we all know, it happens. The next day I woke up hungover (understandably) and feeling ill, knowing I was about to continue drinking on the booze cruise we had arranged for us. And yes, I can hear an encore of “Man up! You’re a student”. So that’s exactly what I did… And so ensued a blurry two days of drunkenness and anarchy. The next day, we cured our hangovers with a trip to a Vietnamese cinema  before climbing back onto a night bus and heading for Hoi An.

Hoi An is a beautiful, quaint little fishing town and is just so… French! I absolutely loved cycling around and seeing the most beautiful, pristine beach I have ever seen (even more so than the beaches I visited in Fiji) as well as all the stunning French architecture of the buildings. Here we said goodbye to one of our fellow travelers, Becca, who joined us in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This moment really honed in to myself, and Alex that our time in South-East Asia was also drawing to a premature close.

My experience of Hoi An, although an aesthetically beautiful town, wasn’t entirely pleasant and I experienced some trouble with motorcyclists attempting to grab my bag. Luckily for me I wasn’t carrying one and I was with a group of people I knew. This slightly tainted my experience here as, for the rest of the time, I became wary of motorcyclists, particularly at night and didn’t feel up for going out at night and partying like the others. After Hoi An we moved on to Hue. We only stayed here for a night which was a shame and visited the deadly Brown Eyes bar. Cheap vodka and red bull buckets and free shots every five minutes are not a good thing. Needless to say, it was very, very messy. After the events in Hue we moved on to our final stop Hanoi…

To continue reading Hannah’s travel tales please visit: http://bellexrose.wordpress.com/

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