Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mui Ne, Vietnam - 5 days of relaxation

So.... we arrived in Mui Ne at about 2pm after a 6 hour bus ride. we had been given a couple of hostel suggestions by the lovely Vietnamese girl that worked at the hostel in Saigon, so we hopped on the back of 2 motorbikes (they taxi you around here) and went in search of the Dragonfly Hostel. As is the way, the motorbike drivers took us everywhere but where we asked them to and in the end Luke had a look at a room at one of the stops and we decided to just stay there. For $18/night we got a beachfront room with A/C, hot water, TV and it's close to everything. When we wake up in the morning we open the curtains and are staring straight at the sea. The whole wall is floor to ceiling windows with a large glass door for access. I certainly agreed with Luke that this was the place for us - and it was under budget, which is a bonus!

While we've been here it took a few days to discover where the locals eat, and that's because it's just outside of walking distance. Yesterday morning we rented bikes and were able to escape the touristy area and find ourselves the market and some fresh food. We've mainly been going to bed before midnight and getting up at around 8am (got up at 7:15 this morning). One of us goes to a restaurant down the street for beautiful Vietnamese coffee and we sip it while sitting on the lounger overlooking the sea. From there we jump in the sea to cool off and have some fun, and then we usually venture out for breakfast (Pho) and a walk or bike around the place to check things out around town/out of town and then head back to the hotel for a few hours of rest/swimming/tanning - moving from sun to shade so we don't get burnt. In the afternoons we usually go to a chilled out bar called Pogo where they make a mean iced coffee with milk, and from there we have a couple of beers and find ourselves something delicious to eat. Yesterday we discovered a place that serves 'fresh' beer (Bia Hoi) which is beer on tap and is only 25c per glass. We stopped and had a glass and picked up a 2 litre bottle of the stuff to take home with us for the evening. You can't beat $1 for 2 litres of beer!

The photos below are from all 4 days.

Leaving Mui Ne tomorrow afternoon for Nha Trang and then possibly on to Da Nang/Hoi An or, if it's miserable there, as it has been, we'll go directly to Hanoi and Halong Bay.

Next post will be in a few days!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saigon - How do I love thee, let me count the ways...

Saigon, Saigon....

We flew from Delhi to KL - 6 hours, had a 4 hour layover in KL and then flew to Saigon - 2 hours. As we left Delhi at 9:30pm and arrived in Saigon at 10:00am, it was a long trip and we were thrilled to be in Vietnam where the food is fresh and the beers are always cold!

We organized an airport pickup with the hostel, smartly, because we never would have found it on our own. Upon arrival at the main road by the hostel we were greeted by a lovely 20-something Vietnamese girl that spoke English. Luke and I were pretty sure that the hostel was going to be great (especially after India) and were thrilled by just how great it was. It was family-run, clean as clean can be, had hot water, A/C and a TV and was only a few blocks from everything that we wanted to see. And was under our budget, which, of course makes everything that much better! And there were no rats, which, in our book, is very important! They even cooked us dinner one night!

We checked in, dropped our stuff off and were out the door within 15 minutes to get our hands on and our mouths around some pho. We walked 3 blocks and came across a place that specialized in pho so we pulled up a stool and slurped our way to heaven. We both had the lean beef pho and could not have been happier. And as we were on holiday, we had a beer to accompany it.

After coming down from our Pho high we got up paid (about 5$CAD for everything) and went out to explore the neighborhood. Everywhere we went was the scent of delicious food cooking and wonderful little local bars. We wandered up and down the streets and stopped for a few cold ones (as you do) before heading back to the hotel to relax for a bit, and then headed back out once we were rested.

The area was just as mental and scented and local at night. Near our hostel we stopped for some delicious prawn and chicken fresh spring rolls (laura & mom, you would have loved them!) and then ventured out into the night. We stopped at a large, touristy place first, which was a mistake because the beers were expensive (1.50$CAD) which meant there was no craic. After that one beer we wandered across the street and were greeted by a drunk Vietnamese woman that coerced us into stopping at her bar for a drink. Her name was Ling and it was her 35th birthday. As it was her bar she took our order and then insisted that we do a tequila shot with her in celebration. Luke declined (he cannot do shots) but I agreed. Becuase he wouldn't do the shot, she gave him a free beer instead. "Now THIS is more like it" we said to eachother with our eyes. Ling was excited, enthusiastic, kind and hilarious so we stayed out much later than we intended. Her boyfriend was an Aussie so he came over to chat with us and we then joined a table full of Slovaks and the chatting continued. Good first night!

We spent the rest of the time in Saigon doing the sight-seeing - Rex Hotel, Opera House, Reunification Palace, and took a day long boat trip down the Mekong River to some islands where we went to a coconut candy factory (it's not so much a factory as a hut with 10 people aged between 7 y/o & 60 y/o, a fruit orchard where we tasted fresh fruits, a bee farm where we tried honey candies and had a fresh coconut and a traditional Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. On this trip we met a Canadian man (47) that had just worked 5 weeks in Yemen and was taking a 2 week holiday in Vietnam. This guy was nuts! He ended up befriending us and, as we had an hour and a half on the island to chill and wait for our bus, he convinced us to join him at one of the local establishments where he proceeded to provide us with beers - on him. Interesting, but mental. The boat ride back to the mainland and then the bus ride home with him was... loud. He had his Ipod going, without the headphones so it was playing country music - VERY LOUDLY for the 4 hour drive back. Again, interesting but mental.

When we weren't sight seeing we were having breakfast at the pho place, snacking on food from random street stalls - liver pate, veggie and dried meat baguette sandwiches with hot sauce, more spring rolls, steamed buns stuffed with pork, fried fish, Vietnamese omelets etc, etc. We also wandered the city and the markets, found a traditional 'bar' that had tiny chairs and tables and served what they call 'fresh beer' - beer on tap (sometimes with ice) that costs only 25c per glass. We also happened across a French Bistro which served glorious iced coffees with condensed milk - heaven!

Originally we had booked only 3 nights in Saigon, but as we loved it so much, we decided that 5 was a better idea, and we are so glad that we did.

The last full day we had there we looked online to find that the next place we were heading (Da Nang/Hoi An) was flooded. After speaking to a Slovenian couple we met in our hotel, we decided that going there was not a good idea as they were wading through streets knee-deep in water. We then did some research to find other beach towns in Central-ish Vietnam and discovered Mui Ne. We were disappointed to think that we'd have to miss going to Hoi An, but the Slovenians had 2 bus tickets to Hoi An which they did not use (they flew instead) which they gave to us just in case we decided in the end that we would go. That way we at least wouldn't waste our money paying to get there, just to end up in a flood. And as we could get there from Mui Ne, we decided to take them. Because they were kind enough to give us the tickets for free, we took them out for a few beers before they headed to the airport and home.

Our hostel booked our tickets to Mui Ne that afternoon - 15$CAD for a sleeper bus (you'll see a photo in the next blog entitled Mui Ne). We were then up the next morning at 6am to have a coffee and get breakfast organized (pate baguette sandwiches and fruit), shower and pack, and we were on the 8am bus and on our way. With a 6 hour ride ahead of us, we got comfy in our strech-out seats, put on our Ipods and coasted.