The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Latching Onto Strangers

I feel kinda bad about my last post where I pretty much slammed the town of Dalat. At least it seemed that way. I was more slamming the tour I was on. Dalat itself seemed like a cute little town. I know the one thing that stuck out in my mind was how clean the lake in the middle of the town looked and how well groomed the walking trails were. Perhaps if I had gone to Dalat with a better attitude I would’ve enjoyed the town more. Check out Dyanne’s blog, the geocacher I had met in Sapa, for a better idea about Dalat once she moves there to teach English.

IMG_4325Leaving Dalat was an adventure in itself. The bus was . . . run down to say the least. Fumes filled it for the 4+ hour drive to Nha Trang where I had already reserved my seat on the bus to Hoi An. I would only have an hour changeover to make that bus. When the bus heading to Nha Trang pulled over with a flat tire, things looked dire.

Haha, I just rhymed!

IMG_4468Luckily, I made it. The bus dropped me off on the opposite side of Nha Trang so I quickly hailed a taxi and zipped off to the Sinh Tourist office to catch my sleeper bus to Hoi An.

The one problem with Vietnam is that there are so few hostels outside of the huge cities. This makes it much more difficult to meet other travelers. You end up being on your own unless you get lucky and can latch onto a couple people some how. My luck came on that bus to Hoi An when I met a German named Frank and a guy from China named Po.

Hoi An
We arrived in Hoi An at 6:30am and I set out on a mission to find a hotel to stay in. The first one was a bit of a dive for $8 so I turned that down. The next one I found was much better for the exact same price. A swimming pool, TV in the room, private bath, and a king sized bed. I said yes to the room and settled in. When I went downstairs for a quick breakfast I saw Frank and Po, whom I didn’t know their names at the time, in the lobby. They recognized me from the bus and told me to sign up for the day tour to the My Son temple with them.

So I did. And not just because Frank was insanely hot(kinda like a cross between Jordi from Barcelona and Dan from home).

IMG_4346The My Son temple complex is the remnants of the Cham Empire and is found about an hours drive south of Hoi An, deep in the jungle. When we arrived we walked as a group to the main grouping of ruins where the guide gave us a brief description of the site and its importance as a religious centre back in the Cham Empire days. We were then given plenty of time to wander the site.

It was a short tour. We finished by taking a ride on a boat down the river while eating lunch before we arrived back in Hoi An. While Frank went back to the hotel for some much needed IMG_4447sleep, Po and I went on a little walk around the old city, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a beautiful old town and completely filled with tailor shop after tailor shop as Hoi An is the place to go if you want to get a suit or dress made.

In the evening, over dinner along the riverside, I made a snap decision to join Frank and Po as they head north to Hanoi. Both had flights and trains to catch in Hanoi so they were rushing through Hoi An, Hue, and Halong Bay. I didn’t mind. I just liked these two too much to say goodbye already.

The bus ride to Hue only took five hours so we still had plenty of time in the day to go explore. After finding a hostel(with dorm rooms!!!) we went to the Sinh Tourist office to book our next bus, and to book a quick 1 day tour of Halong Bay(as that’s all the other two had time for). Then it was really off to explore.

IMG_4505Unlike many cities, one of the biggest attractions in Hue was not a long ways outside the city. It was actually right in the centre. The Citadel, the old Imperial fortress, is a massive complex surrounded by a moat and tall wall with beautiful gates. It actually sits inside what is called the Forbidden Purple City(though I’m not sure why they call it purple. I saw none). It was an easy walk to get there from where we were staying.

IMG_4531The best thing to come out of getting there on our own? Getting to spend as much time there as we wanted. I think we spent a good three or four hours wandering around the Citadel. It is a bit sad to see how unkempt some of the grounds are, with the grass growing rampant. But the restored buildings are amazing. Great colours too. We were there at the perfect time as the sun was beginning to set.

There’s a reason they call it the Golden Hour.

The next day, even though our bus didn’t leave until 5:30pm that night, we didn’t do anything. The Rugby World Cup was on(New Zealand vs. France) so we ended up watching that until we had to  run to our bus. Our hope was that we would arrive in Hanoi in time to catch the tour to Halong Bay.

Halong Bay
I’m not going to say much about this as I ended up coming back here on a three day tour because one day is just not enough. I’ll just post a spoiler pic or two for you to ogle.


Ha Long Bay, a contender for the controversial “New 7 Wonders” campaign, is absolutely stunning. Breathtaking is the word. A long three hour drive to Haiphong City from Hanoi awaits you to begin the tour. I think this, more than anything, really detracts from the tour when you only give yourself one day. Sure you get to see Ha Long Bay, but you can only go so far into the bay, and amongst the karsts and islands, before you have to zip back to the port and bus back to Hanoi. It’s a nice taste though.

Saying Goodbye in Hanoi
The next morning Po left to catch a train back to China while Frank and I spent the day together searching for a place to exchange Vietnamese Dong for US dollars(we failed). We did, however, manage to figure out where he could grab a public bus to the airport. I said goodbye to him as he boarded the bus and I was alone again.

So while it was a bit of a whirlwind tour coming all the way from Nha Trang to Hanoi in four days, it was still worth it to be able to hang out with some cool people. And hell, I have lots of time.

And you can’t blame me for wanting to hang around a guy that looks like this:


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