As I continue my journey north to Hanoi I was in love with Vietnam and definitely a place I could spend a lot longer. I love travelling by train and even though it’s a bit more expensive than the bus I feel it’s more comfortable and you see a lot more. The train line in Vietnam is called the ‘Reunification Express’ as it resumed service on December 31st 1976 following the time when the country was divided to north and south during the war. The picture below is the part of the line between Danang and Hue and follows the South China sea climbing up through the cliffs and jungle with fantastic views of the coast. This part of the line is called the Hai Van Pass which means Sea Cloud Pass and I loved every minute of it.
I tried to do most of my train journeys during the day as I loved sitting watching the world go by taking in the scenery. This to me was part of my travels and not just a way of getting from a to b. The journey from Hue to Hanoi was the longest part at 14 hours so decided to experience the sleeper train as part of my adventure. I booked a soft bed which wasn’t very soft so wouldn’t like to imagine what the hard bed was like!! There were 4 beds in by cabin and all the locals were friendly even though they couldn’t speak English but smiles and sharing my pringles got me some smiles back!!
I read about scams all the time and only had good experiences on my travels so far. I arrive in Hanoi at 5.30 am half asleep and got hassled by a taxi driver so checked it was a proper taxi and had the meter on so all was good. We arrived in the street where the hostel was and realised he’d put my backpack in front of the meter so I couldn’t see that the fare was 300,000 VD ($15) and not 30,000 VD ($2). I politely but slightly angry pointed to the sign on the side of the car showing the fare per kilometre and as a result he immediately dropped the price to 50,000 VD. I then decided to be clever and take a picture on my phone of his car to report him but he wasn’t happy and started shouting at me and chasing me down the road !! This is a big scam in Vietnam and lucky i’d been travelling here for 3 weeks so I knew approximately what the fare should be but some people pay a lot more thinking it’s normal.
One of the highlights in the north for me was a 2 night/3day cruise to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island. I’d seen this on websites and brochures so many times and it was even more amazing than the pictures !! Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site in the Gulf Of Tonkin which includes 1600 islands and islets forming the spectacular limestone pillars. We were lucky with the weather so spending a couple of days cruising along the bay was amazing and so relaxing.
We cruised along taking in the amazing scenery and spent a night sleeping on the boat and having lots of fun sharing stories with other travellers over a few drinks. There’s something about being on the water that I find very peaceful and relaxing.
The following day we visited Cat Ba Island and stayed in a hotel there and had some time visiting caves, relaxing in the pool and an afternoon on Monkey Island. We also had a cooking class and made some fresh and fried spring rolls which was good fun and very yummy!!
Hanoi is a beautiful city and I loved exploring the old quarter an sitting in the street cafes drinking ‘bia hoy’ which is fresh beer and mingling with the locals and other travellers. On my last night I went on a free street food tour run by Vietnamese students so a perfect way to end my time in Vietnam (www.hanoifreewalkingtours.com). They run a variety of different tours to explore the city and it’s also an useful way for them to practice their English.
I’ll definitely return to Vietnam sooner rather than later and now it’s time to prepare for my 24 hour sleeper bus trip to Laos. Have you been to Vietnam? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences.
I’ll be back soon to share with you my adventures in Laos,