|Hanoi Street Food|
|Scooter Madness (Hanoi)|
|Best Ice Cream in all of Hanoi|
|Abs Inciting Bad Behaviour (Hanoi)|
|Food Everywhere (Hanoi)|
|Beautifully Presented Fruit (Hanoi)|
|Paradise Cave, Pictures do not do it Justice (Dong Hoi)|
|Crouching down in the Vinh Moc Tunnels|
|Rice Fields and Water Buffalos (everywhere)|
|Snake, Starfish what more could you ask for (Dong Hoi market)|
|Man versus fish 0-1 (Floating market in Cat Tho)|
|Pineapple Currency (Floating market Cat Tho)|
|Banana Boat (Cat Tho)|
|Down the river (Cat Tho)|
|Abs trying his luck as a Boatman (Cat Tho)|
|More Cute Kids (Cat Tho)|
|Dried Squid (everywhere)|
|Wish I could do this! (everywhere)|
On leaving the culinary behemoth that was China, we had high hopes and dreams of continuing our gluttonous endeavours, with images of friendly locals stuffing us with delicious Vietnamese noodles and soups. But it just never happened. Actually what did happen was exactly the opposite.
Hanoi was our first stop and probably not the best place to start. We stationed ourselves in the touristy Old Quarter and this was also probably not the best place to stay. But we just didn't know…
Exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter is challenging to say the least. Between dodging millions of scooters, dealing with all the touts that lurk on every street corner waiting to make an easy dollar and finding a food stall with street food where the owner doesn't tell you to piss off, it was exhausting just going around.
Up until we arrived in Hanoi we had never experienced any problems finding street food and allowing friendly locals to take money off us; here we tried to buy food off the street and were shooed away by the owners. The one time we did manage to sit and have a bowl of pho, Diana was slapped on the back and told to piss off moments after slurping down the last noodle. Surely this was not just their way of being friendly?
After much debating on where to go next (or whether to just leave the country) we decided to try to find somewhere a bit off the beaten track and test our newly discovered prejudices. There are no open bus tours to Dong Hoi and it sees few backpackers, apart from a steady stream of tourists attracted by the aptly named Paradise Cave, so this is where we decided to go.
Whilst we don’t get all excited over caves and much of our sightseeing is not based on the number of stalactites we are able to count, this one was definitely worth it. Paradise Cave was spectacular. With weird limestone structures reaching as high as 100 metres, and with the cave extending in length to 31km, it ranks amongst the biggest caves in the world (apparently there is even a National Geographic episode dedicated to it). Just being inside was like being transported into a science fiction movie and Diana quickly started prancing around pretending to be Queen Amidala (Abs isn't sure whether Di knows that Queen Amidala is the gun wielding Amazonian-esque character from Star Wars, and mother of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker – good knowledge Abs - but hopes you get the point that this cave was indeed other-worldly).
Back in the real world Abs was already planning our next destination and quickly enlisted us to go see the Vinh Moc tunnels close by, used as a makeshift shelter for 60 families during the Vietnam War.
Maybe because it was pouring with rain, or perhaps because it was way off the beaten track, but we were the only ones here and had the privilege of being taken around by two guides, one of whom was one of the 17 children born inside the tunnels and who had lost his hearing as a consequence of American bombings during the War. It was truly a humbling experience walking into this underground labyrinth where people tried to carry on their daily lives in a space that would be troublesome for a hobbit.
With Christmas rapidly approaching we moved on to Hue where we planned to splurge out on a luxury hotel and stuff ourselves with chocolate (mainly Diana). But after much debating we settled for a friendly budget guest house and stuffed ourselves with chocolate (mostly Abs). As a Christmas treat we woke up early and made our way to the best hotel in town for a breakfast buffet where we spent 2 hours eating everything on display (Abs again). With a minor stomach ache (Diana) and with a desire to be pampered (Abs) we headed out to a massage parlour run by blind locals we had heard about. Diana sat on the side-lines watching as a highly skilled man pushed and pulled every muscle of Abs’ body and snapped every bone until an uber relaxed Abs emerged 60 minutes later.
From Hue we headed down to Ho Chi Minh City to meet the greatest, most attractive and funny man who ever lived… Neil Ramchandani who was amazing enough to come visit us from London for only 3 days! After one day in HCM City we were soon looking to get out and decided on Cat Ho in the Mekong Delta. This was to be our last stop in Vietnam and we were glad we made it here.
We booked a boat tour to the floating markets and a peak of river life, but our highlight was easily the time spent with Neil, the sweets he brought us from the UK and the best (and to be honest, the only) duck hot pot we've ever had, though to be fair the latter was down to the kind people in the Vietnamese restaurant, not Neil.
The New Year came and went uneventfully. Neil had already left us and so it was with an unheavy heart that on January 1st we boarded a bus for the short hop over to our next country, Cambodia.