Clean Mountain Air: Sa Pa – 27/10/2019 to 30/10/2019

Our last stop in Vietnam was all about getting away from the city of Hanoi and resetting ourselves ready for the chaos we imagined super industrialised Korea would bring! Emily and I headed to the mountains and a homestay 8km outside of Sa Pa for fresh air, trekking, altitude and a much slower pace of life for 3 nights.

Planning out trekking routes with a mountain doggo

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Descending Dragon: Cat Ba, Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay – 21/10/2019 to 24/10/2019

No trip to Vietnam is complete without a trip to the iconic Ha Long Bay, the descending dragon. But the more we researched boat trips the more it became clear to us that as a destination it can be very hit and miss. Depending on the cruise you end up on, your tour, and even your safety, can be compromised. And for a premium price, particularly in South East Asia, it is not something we wanted to gamble on. Throw in the fact that Ha Long City has become one of the most crowded tourist spots in the country, we decided to look into alternatives.

Successs! When we went there was not a single other boat in sight

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Everybody Was Kung-Fu Biking: Ninh Binh – 19/10/2019 to 21/10/2019

It was the dead of the morning when Liam and I arrived in Ninh Binh. Our bus driver absolutely gunned it down the road from Hue and our 11 hour journey was over in 9, leaving us on the side of a road at 3:30 am with one fellow traveller. We decided to split a taxi fare with him since we were heading the same direction, the taxi driver took half the fare from him and when we arrived at our homestay he demanded the full fare from us. Nothing like finding your way out of a scam to wake you right up. Luckily our luck changed from there on out. Our homestay hosts graciously let us in at a time where no one wants to be awake, and let us sleep in the dorm room until we woke up for the day at no extra cost. Heroes!

Ninh Binh is such a peaceful and beautiful place at any hour

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No Hue, José: Hue – 16/10/2019 to 18/10/2019

Taking the train from Da Nang to Hue through the Hai Van Pass is something Emily and I can definitely recommend doing if, like us, you don’t fancy the 5 hour ride in the mud and rain, but still want to enjoy the views. We first came across this stretch of beautiful landscape reading Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar, one of the greatest travel books ever written. Our sentiments echo his and his observations are still true today: I had been unprepared for this beauty; it surprised and humbled me in the same degree the emptiness had in India. Who has mentioned the simple fact that the heights of Vietnam are places of unimaginable grandeur?” 

The start of our journey was still a little gloomy like the end of our time in Da Nang

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Exploring with Friends: Dalat – 08/10/2019 to 11/10/2019

After a long and bumpy bus ride Emily and I arrived at Dalat, leaving the coast for mountains. Mountains in Vietnam nearly always mean coffee. So, while getting to grips with the city, our first afternoon was spent in a coffee shop enjoying the local brews and planning the days ahead.

Emily’s former life as a barista hasn’t gone to waste in Vietnam!

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The Great Sand Dunes of Vietnam: Mui Ne – 06/10/2019 to 08/10/2019

Our first bus journey in Vietnam took us from Saigon to Mui Ne. A five hour journey on a bus filled with sleeper seats. Liam and I spent the journey laying down at the back of the bus eating mini pancakes and watching Bob’s Burgers. Needless to say, the journey flew by! Mui Ne is a town known for its vast stretch of beach, relaxing environment, and sand dunes. Something we didn’t really expect to come across in Southeast Asia!

Walking on the white dunes of Mui Ne! 

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It Wasn’t Cushty in Cu Chi: Saigon – 03/10/2019 to 06/10/2019

Ah, Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City officially. But does anybody really call it that? The local businesses don’t, that’s for sure. Plus Ho Chi Minh City is a bit of a mouthful isn’t it? Whereas mention Saigon and it evokes images of the far orient. Or memories of the Vietnam War and the cultural grip it had in the 50s, through the 60s and into the 70s. Yes, Saigon. Even on our first night wandering through district one only to end up in the skybar of the Bitexco Financial Tower, sipping a drink and watching the lights and mayhem of the labyrinthine city below, I knew Emily and I would fall in love with this city.

Nightscape and city views from the Bitexco Tower

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Out with a Bang: Ao Nang – 28/09/2019 to 03/10/2019

That title is actually pretty misleading. In reality Liam and I had a perfectly relaxing and laid back last couple of days in Thailand. We carried on a blissful routine of swimming in the sea, reading books under the shade of the palms and watching the sunset fade away every evening. It was simple and immensely enjoyable! Not a bad way to spend our time in the resort filled beach town of Ao Nang. 

Maybe next time we will do some sweet sunset parasailing! 

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DiCaprio Dreams: Koh Phi Phi Islands – 24/09/2019 to 28/09/2019

Leaving Phuket and heading to Koh Phi Phi Don our trip in Southern Thailand immediately got better. The views en route were stunning as me and Emily caught our first glimpses of Koh Phi Phi Lee and Maya Bay with unclouded tropical blue skies and turquoise sea. Real paradise and clearly a worthy setting for the film that really put the area on the map, The Beach. Throw in a killer first sunset once we arrived and some hidden gem food options (try the markets and avoid the Tonsai Pier area for real food that isn’t 5x the price) and any misgivings for Koh Phi Phi Don being a beautiful location with a soulless tourist town were soon forgotten.

Beautiful sunsets are all part of island life

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Killing Fields: Phnom Penh – 17/09/2019 to 20/09/2019

One thing you notice after spending just a week in Cambodia is just how few old people there are. There seems to be a missing generation and the awful truth is that there is. The brutal Khmer Rouge regime reigned terror on the people of this wonderful country for 4 years between 1975 and 1979, killing over a million people either by murder or through the starvation, disease and chaos that often follows such an abhorrent regime. It’s a sad story. But it’s a story more people should know. And it’s the story of why Emily and I visited Phnom Penh.

Skulls of the dead at the Killing Fields – a macabre sight

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