Hanoi is said to be one of the most beautiful and atmospheric cities in Vietnam. To be honest we didn’t see its beauty (e.g. compared to Hoi An). It’s a nice city but not amazing. The Old Quarter is the historic heart with pulsating life and countless of motorbikes. You find local coffee shops and restaurants at every corner and it’s nice to watch to chaotic street life. We toured the capital sights for 3 days.
Yet another world heritage site?
Deciding which tour to take, took Eva a long time – too many choices and even more warnings about scam tours made our life as hard as it can get while traveling the world. Only a few tours met our requirements. Our lovely host Linda (Hoi An) offered us our favorite tour (“Glory Cruise”) for a good price. The 3D/2N adventure started three days later.
Still a bit cautious we arrived at the harbour and were pretty amazed by our ship. It was new and luxurious. Cruising in luxury made it very easy to enjoy Halong Bay with its over 3000 majestic lime-stone islets. The weather was perfect – sunshine all day long but not too hot. Especially, the second day we were able to explore the bay without the crowds. Sally, Paul and the two of us had a whole ship for ourselves and a lot of fun while kayaking, sun-bathing and relaxing.
It’s all about tailor-made stuff!
Hoi An is an ancient town and a unique heritage site. The streets have charming lights in every tree and the whole city has an harmonious character. Not only because of its many temples, stylish restaurants and bars but also because of its grand architecture and the riverside setting it’s a must see when you are in Vietnam.
Everyone who has been to Vietnam recommended this cute little town which is also famous for its glut of tailors (more than 200). We couldn’t resist and got tailor-made suits, shirts and much more. It kept us busy for almost 2 days with around 7 fittings. But we left the tailor (BeBe) with a smile and many bags. As good costumers we were allowed to have a look in their factory which is located in the back of their shop.
If not busy with fittings we were wandering along the ancient lanes, the historic perfectly preserved port and the many sights the old town had to offer. The surrounding area could be well explored with our scooter…
A scooter ride is not always a peace of cake…
No pick up was awaiting us at the airport. After waiting for 20 min. not many taxis were left and our options therefore very limited. A strange guy came up to us asking where we want to go several times. Our travel experience told us to be cautious denying his offer to give us a lift. Eventually, the guy knew our hotel and Phu Quoc is neither Central nor South America, so we finally gave in and accepted his offer. Due to his mad driving skills we reached the hotel in Warpspeed.
Our nice hotel was located directly at the beach. Every room had its own hammock, which we used heavily. We enjoyed most meals along the beachside or in Raghavs favorite place – surprise: an Indian restaurant. The running gag was fish sauce. Raghav and Rakshita found it in pretty much every single meal – Niels in turn found it in his breakfast pancake only – seriously, they prepared the pancake in fish sauce… The first contact with locals taught us that not everyone likes to bargain: the girls wanted to bargain for fruits. The lady responded by pushing, cursing and trying to spill dirty water over them. Completely confused they brought out in big laughter. Luckily this was the only weird experience we had with locals for the rest of our trip.
Marcus, Rakshita, Farina and Niels rented two scooters for the exploration of northern Phu Quoc while Raghav and Eva stayed at the hotel. The roads are mostly unsealed and sometimes really tough. Marcus and Rakshita rode a scooter together. While going down-hill the scooter sledded and they crashed. Rescue team ‘Niels and Farina’ helped them up again. Marcus had scratches along his leg, arm and a stone in his hand while Rakshita seemed to be more lucky with only some scratches on her ankle (her jeans saved her from worse).
Back at our place Niels cleaned all wounds while Eva got the stone out of Marcus hand. The stone was actually quite big (size of a big pea). Not sure if the wound was really clean Niels and Marcus went to a so-called hospital. For only 3 € Marcus got treated including a local anesthetic (because he was screaming like a little baby) and antibiotics. The doctor advised Niels to take pictures of Meggis while cleaning the hole in his hand. However, out of respect and decency those pictures can’t be published here 😉 What an experience!
Raghav and Rakshita had to leave the same day so that Rakshita could get a proper check-up at home. As it turned out Rakshita wasn’t lucky afterall. Her bone had a small crack and the next weeks a cast was part of her fashion style.
Besides that little happening we had a great time together and look forward to met up again. But without scooter trips 😉
Our Scooter gang
One Australian, one Indian, one American, two Germans and us – our planned NYE celebrations group. As it turned out you can add two more Indians and a loooot of Vietnamese 😉
Rob, Eva and I were supposed to leave Langkawi at 11 a.m. and arrive in Ho-Chi-Minh-City at around 3.30 p.m. local time. It was not before 9:00 p.m. we finally were able to meet with Maggis and Farina who were waiting for us at the airport by that time… At least we were able to enjoy one more pizza at our favorite place at KLIA2 (stop-over) because of the delay.
When the five of us finally managed to find a taxi we expected the worst. While driving the meter was jumping in 10.000th every second the car stopped (26.000 Dong =~ 1 €). Another 100.000 were added every km we went. By the time we arrived at our hotel the total amount came up to 1.8 million (~69€ for 8 kms). Ready to start the arguing, I asked for the price – 160.000 Dong?!? Well seems like meters work different in other parts of the world 😉
Our room / suite / apartment was nicer than expected: two bedrooms, spacious living room (huge dining table and a chill-out area), two fully equipped bathrooms and a kitchen. It immediately felt like the apartment in the TV show “friends”.
The moment we touched ground in Vietnam something wierd happend to Rob: he got active, he started planning, he searched for information in the net. As it turned out he badly wanted to visit the Chu-Chi tunnels. Thanks to Rob we went there right away the next day. It was quite an experience. We are not taking any sides, we are no historians but living in those tunnels must have been hell. They are so small I couldn’t fit in there. We had the chance to squeeze in one of those holes !oppressive! Also we “walked” down a tunnel, as I read later on it was prepared for tourists – however I nearly got stuck.
The same day Raghav and Rakshita arrived. Following the “Friends” mentality we took it easy that evening and chilled in our apartment. The following day the girls prepared for NYE, meaning they went shopping. Raghav and me met with two friends of Raghav and went to the national war museum. A propaganda palace – but well there are always two sides of a coin. Mainly military equipment (parts of shot down B-52 bombers and there like) as well as pictures of wounded and crippled Vietnamese are shown. The whole thing is rather depressing and left a lot of open questions as the history itself is nearly left out completely. While Raghav did some more sightseeing with his friends I went home to get myself ready for the big night. First thing I saw was a miserable Rob and a sleeping Meggis (who was supposed to take care of the evening planning).
Exhausted from the major shopping trip the girls came back. The evening planning was made (not by Meggis) and we headed out for dinner. Because of Robs misarble condition the team decided to celebrate the countdown at our roof-top with a great view over the city. As soon as the new year started we went for some serious partying in the gossip-club. On the way we got to learn how a real traffic jam looks like. Round about 500 meters away from the club it was impossible to go any further by car – but also walking was quite and exercise: climbing over dozens of motorbikes and squeezing trough non existing gaps. Everyone was in a good mood therefore the whole thing was great fun and the locals were pretty impressed by the way foreigners make their way! Finally arriving at the Club a bouncer lead us to a private table and a great night with a lot of fun started – no more details given 😉
The next day we followed the “Friends” mentality again and chillaxed in our apartment, only leaving it to get some food.
On our way to the New Years Eve Party
Well, we have seen the sun while staying on Langkawi and the rainfall was not as bad as in most parts of Asia, but sunnies were mostly needed to cover our eye rings in the morning. Because of the weather our primarily focus was on nighttime activities for which it came in handy that we stumbled over a very nice bar in our first night. We have taken the barkeeper into our hearts. Over the course of our ten days stay he made us quite a view special drinks and was always up for a chat. Mostly we ended up in clubs called Sunba or OneLove. We won’t forget the crazy parties and Sunba staff won’t forget us (right Rob?). One night we met nearly the entire crew of a real superyacht. All of them were great fun and we had a nice night out. Also we met Gregor and Martha from Poland as well as Nick and Natalia from GB / Russia (living in Australia though). Thanks guys for the unforgettable nights….
During daytime our main task was to find food, which was supposed to be easy, right? It was, but good, not overprized food? That was a different story. A low was reached when we finally gave in and went to the Italian / Mexican restaurant on the main street: the pizza was one of the saddest things I have seen in my entire life so far – hardly any toppings with a little flavor of nothing?! Seriously if you ever visit Langkawi don’t go there! The next pizza place only served very sweet pizza, however the Internet was freaking fast 😉 Eventually, we managed to find extremely good food. There are two places serving authentic Indian food (this might be the reason because _all_ staff is on a three years contract directly flew in from India!). 1. India Palace – rather pricey (in Malaysian terms around 6 – 8 € for a maim course). But the food is extremely good, so good that we started Christmas eve (24.12) there. 2. Our favorite 24/7 corner restaurant. Food is so cheap you are tempted to order way to much every single time. Their famous banana pancake cost as little as 50 cent! Chai Latte and Teh tarik (national drink of Malaysia- made from black tea and condensed milk) are also 50 cent – all that 24/7!
But Langkawi is more than just food and cocktails! The beach in Cenang – if the sun was shining – was really nice. Also we spend one very sunny day island hopping. A day tour for only 7 euro including the transport to the harbour, lunch and entrance fees for national parks is more than one can ask for. Another day we rented a super sports car (see pictur below) and drove around the island. Our first stop was at the Skybride – it was closed… However, the Skycab was operating and the view from the top was amazing (see video ;). Our next stops included some nice beaches and lunch on the beach. Only the planned second accommodation (“sandpiper”) was a downturn. It was far away from everything and on top overbooked. The owner wanted us to stay in a place without internet (!!!) and directly on the main street. We declined his offer and went back to Cenang where we found a great place to stay!