Archive | Vietnam

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Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay

Posted on 07 March 2012 by christie

Cat Ba Island Kayaking

Kayaking Cat Ba Island

Ha Long Bay or “descending dragon bay” was the most anticipated leg of our trip to Vietnam. We had watched travel channel TV show hosts like Anthony Bourdain and Samantha Brown cruise around the 2,000 mystical limestone islet formations… while sipping gourmet cocktails and explaining why the area is so sacred to the local floating fishing village people. The zone has UNESCO World Heritage status and claims 20 million years worth of karst formation creating a tropical oceanic and sea shore bio-system. Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species. Legend says, the early Vietnamese people fought against invaders to settle the area. To assist in their defense, a family of dragons were sent by the gods for protection. Continue Reading

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Hanoi, Vietnam

Posted on 05 March 2012 by brett

Night Sleeper Bus to Hanoi

We departed Hue on our first night bus bound for the capital city, Hanoi.  The night bus was quite interesting with three rows of double bunk reclining sleeper seats.  Mostly tourists purchased the seats and then locals boarded the bus and packed the aisles for their nights’ rest. Luckily we had both opted for top seats, otherwise we would have been sleeping next to a bunch of strangers.  The night wasn’t too bad and we both got a decent sleep given the accommodations. We arrived in rainy Hanoi at 9am the next morning. We were immediately bombarded by taxi and moto drivers as we stepped off the bus at the local travel office. We had already been warned about the fake taxi driver scams so we were extremely skeptical in accepting any rides. Christie had three reliable taxi companies written down but none of the drivers appeared to be with any of the companies that used meters. The drivers wanted to charge us 150,000 dong ($7.50). The problem was that we had no idea where we were in relation to the Rising Dragon hotel…… and there are like five hotels with some variation of that name in Hanoi (we later discovered the Vietnamese copy business names and trick tourists into paying for the wrong service). Continue Reading

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Get out of my “Hue”, Vietnam!

Posted on 03 March 2012 by brett

Hue Citadel Gate

Hue Citadel Gate

We arrived in Hue (pronounced “Hway”) after a short four hour bus ride ($4) north from Hoi An through Danang. We happily checked into Thanh Thien Hotel, where we were luckily upgraded to a suite room. Under the Nguyen lords in 1744, the former citadel city was named “Phu Xuan” and was the capital of Southern Vietnam. The modern Citadel was destroyed by the French and Americans during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, none of the buildings are more than 150 years old. During the Vietnam War, about 10,000 people were killed in Hue…. most were civilians. Hue is situated along the Perfume River (Song Huong). The big attraction (north side) is the Citadel and Tombs of various rulers on the south side. Hue has a real city vibe compared to the small town charm of Hoi An. If you love history/museum tour stuff, and can put up with unfriendly locals, then Hue could be for you! Continue Reading

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The Romantic Charm of Hoi An

Posted on 02 March 2012 by brett

Hoi An - Riverview

Hoi An - Riverview

Hoi An feels like a small riverside town in the French countryside. It’s misty, overcast and significantly cooler than the southern beach towns like Quy Nhon and Na Trang. While the historic French architecture is beautiful and romantic, all the buildings are filled with tourist-centric vendors selling custom-tailored clothing, souvenirs and day tours. There isn’t much local Vietnamese culture apart from villagers making a buck with the tourist boom. Most tourists were French and few Americans appeared on the scene.

We stayed at Thanh Van II Hotel ($24/night) a bit outside of old town. They provided free bicycles, tasty breakfast and spotty Internet. Facebook hacks definitely came in handy as the Vietnamese government has blocked its citizens from communicating with former citizens who fled the country during the American war. Continue Reading

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Good Morning, Vietnam!

Posted on 01 March 2012 by christie

Vietnam countryside

Our journey to Vietnam began bright and early with a 7 AM minibus departure from Ban Lung. The first minibus took us one hour to the border at O’Yadaw – Le Tanh where we received our Cambodian exit stamp. We then proceeded to the Vietnam side at Le Tanh which was relatively hassle-free. You can’t get a visa on arrival at the border so we had pre-arranged our visa ($45) through a travel agent while we were in Siem Reap. Two Norwegian guys who were traveling with us to the border got rejected because they had no visa and no proof of onward travel after Vietnam. There are a number of countries who do not need a visa to enter Vietnam (U.S. is not one of them), however they must apparently show proof that they are leaving the country. We were all arguing with the border guards but they wouldn’t budge and told the guys they had to go back to Ban Lung and book a ticket before entering Vietnam. We continued to the next gate so we’re not sure what ever happened to the Norwegians. Continue Reading

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