Archiv der Kategorie: World Trip 2018-19

Sightseeing in Hue

22.01.-23.01.2018 Hue

When I left Hoi An, I was partly happy to leave behind the overly touristy town and prices, but partly anxious cause I felt like this really was the start to my solo backpacking adventure. From now on, I was gonna stay in dorms, book the cheapest means of transport and (hopefully) meet lots of interesting people from other countries.

To begin with, I got picked up by motorbike taxi and dropped at a travel agency, where I waited shortly for the bus to arrive. To my surprise it was a sleeper bus and there were only 5 other passengers on it! And we didn’t even pick up anyone anymore either. So it was a comfy and quick journey (only about 2.5 h) to Hue where the bus dropped me in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I have the app Maps.Me which has saved me many times on this trip already and again did so. I could see that my hostel was a 15 min walk away from where I was – doable especially if the taxi drivers only tell you tourist rip off prices. Backpacking life!

Since check-in was not until later, I went for a walk to the citadel to see the Royal Purple City. It was a long walk and I was tired from not sleeping well for 2 nights in a row, so when I finally arrived I didn’t find it too stunning. Maybe in a better mood I would have appreciated it more, but like this it felt more like something to tick off!

Oh well, there’s also such days when travelling. I also booked my night bus to Hanoi and further on to Sapa for the next day, as well as a tour to see the sights in the wider Hue area. This is also something I usually would have preferred to do by motorbike but since weather was again so-so and the tour was actually cheaper than renting a motorbike by myself, it was impossible to resist.

So next day I got picked up at 8.30am and driven to the pier where a typical dragon boat was waiting for me and my group to take us down the perfume river. To be honest… it’s a broad river and the boat has dragon’s heads in the front, but it’s basically a normal boat taking you down a broad river super slowly with not much to see along the way. It was cheaper than the bus-only tour so that’s why I opted for it.

Our first stop was a garden house – basically a similarly old house like the ones I visited in Hoi An, but surrounded by more green. So the house was not too special but the guide told us some interesting stories about Feng Shui, Ying and Yang, why you love someone (according to Vietnamese belief) and how you can ensure eternal life (by making babies who carry your DNA. That’s why former kings sometimes had around 300 wives and over 100 kids…).

Next, the boat stopped at the Thien Mu pagoda – finally a pagoda which had a nice tower! And then we visited a very odd temple, the „lady temple“ as our guide told us, where usually no other tours go. Well, we struggled to see the extra benefit of us going there too 😉 It was an odd, eerie place – very dusty and cluttered.

The afternoon was the more interesting and wow-ing program: we visited 3 tombs of former emperors, which of course are not just simple tombs but rather building complexes often including pagodas, lakes, sculptures and more. The Minh Mang tomb as well as the Khai Dinh tomb were both very pretty and worth a visit, swallowing hard on the 100,000 VND entry fee for each tomb. The tomb of Tu Duc looked nice as well – on the poster which was hanging in front of the restoration site!

The tour also included a stop at a „conical hat and incense making village“ – of course just a shop where they would briefly show the process hoping for you to buy something at inflated tourist prices.

Overall, the tour was ok and our guide gave us some interesting information. But it probably would have been enough to see the first 2 tombs and the Thien Mu pagoda.

As mentioned, after the tour I was already headed for the night bus to Hanoi and further on to Sapa. Usually, I probably would have stayed one more day in Hue, maybe visiting the DMZ or so. But since weather in Sapa looked nice only for the next few days, I decided to bite the bullet and take the looong bus trip to catch the sun!


Hoi An – 3 days in the city of lanterns

19.01.-21.01.2018 Hoi An and My Son

We arrived in Danang around 9am after a hellish night on the night train from Muong Man, close to Mui Ne. The cabin was small, the beds hard, the upper ones didn’t leave much space between your face and the ceiling, and what’s more – the train was shaking like a boat in a storm. In every station, it came to a very abrupt halt. In addition to that, my mum was still sick, coughing the whole night and my sister suddenly got sick and had to throw up. Let’s just say we were all exhausted and glad when the train stopped in Danang station and our pickup service was waiting already to bring us to Hoi An.

We had to wait for our rooms to get ready until noon so went for breakfast and then forced ourselves to walk around for a bit in Hoi An’s old town. Especially for my sister this was not too enjoyable as she felt very bad. Of course though the town is very pretty and has lots to see and explore!

When we finally got into our rooms, my mum and sister decided to sleep a bit while my dad and I ventured back out. The visitor ticket to Hou An’s old town which comes at a steep price of 120.000 VND includes the visit to 5 places of interest which you can choose, for example old houses, museums and assembly halls. Over the course of the next 3 days I visited most of them given that we had 4×5 tickets and my family almost didn’t have any time left to see stuff. So I ended up using up all of their leftover vouchers as well. Honestly if you weren’t forced to buy the expensive ticket, I probably would have visited 2-3 at most, but like this I felt like I had to get our money’s worth 😉

Generally, the old houses and family chapels were rather boring, often dusty and more souvenir shop than museum. I quite liked the assembly halls / community houses though. The folk museum is done quite well and the old house that it is situated in is actually prettier than the „old houses“ themselves.

Later on, my dad stayed in the hotel and I went for a walk with my mum. While with both of them I visited some sightseeing places, we also ended up doing quite some souvenir shopping since it was their last full day in Vietnam. And Hoi An for sure is a good place to do so! There’s souvenir shops everywhere. Bit too much for my taste, but that’s just what happens to places if they become more and more touristy. In between the shops, there’s lots of nice cafes and restaurants. They too come with a higher price tag than elsewhere in Vietnam. Lots and lots of lanterns are hanging in the small streets of Hoi An – the lantern city. This looks especially pretty at night when they’re lit and transform the whole city into a warm and colourful place.

After a last funny dinner where I was served a huge pile of crispy noodles and some out-of-the-package tomatoe sauce without flavour as a side (one of the first times in my life that I complained and sent a dish back to the kitchen), it was farewell time next day. While my family was going back to Austria, I was gonna stay and continue the trip on my own. It was a sad moment to send them off to the airport since we had such a good time together! It felt quite odd the next few days to venture off on my own while constantly having been surrounded by them for the last 2 weeks. Thanks again for joining me on this adventure!

IMG-20180120-WA0001 (Kopie)

Other than further explore Hoi An and it’s tourist sights, I also booked an early morning (sunrise – although there was none) tour to the old Cham ruins of My Son (pronounced ‚mee sun‘). 99% of all tours arrive at My Son between 8am and noon and I had read before that the site gets too crowded then to enjoy it properly. So I kicked my a** out of bed at 4am to beat the crowds and it worked! There were 10 people in my group and we had the whole place to ourselves. The ruins are pretty and the setting in the jungle is quite nice. It was super quiet and peaceful there and sooo worth the extra cost to go on the early tour rather than the standard one where you get shipped around in tour groups of 40+ and you see more people than ruins. I could have gone by scooter as well, but weather forecast was a bit rainy and it’s not such a short distance. I didn’t feel like making my first solo scooter rental on this trip a miserable one. If you can though, go by scooter! The way there is really nice, passing by picturesque rice fields and there’s not much traffic. We walked around the ruins for a while with our guide explaining the most important things and making not-so-funny sexual jokes.

On the way back we switched to a boat about halfway, and took a boat trip back. Compared to the boat tour in the Mekong Delta, this was rather boring without much to see though. More really a means of transportation. We did a stop at a „carpentry village“ close to Hoi An which was of course full of souvenir shops but also quite interesting. We walked around a bit and watched locals working on wooden sculptures but also on boats.

After the tour, I finished off my Hoi An exploration, and spent some more time at the market in the eastern part of the city. Markets are just always great to walk around and take pictures!

I also spent quite some of my time in Hoi An relaxing, working on my photos and blog etc. After some rather fast travelling for the last two weeks it was good to get some chill-out time!

Beach time in Mui Ne

17.01.-18.01.2018 Mui Ne

From Dalat we took the bus to Mui Ne. I expected a bus like the Futa busses we were used to from the South but unfortunately that was not the case. We got picked up by a rickety minibus that seemed like it would not make the trip. First we were hoping that this was only the pickup bus and not the „real one“ but these hopes were finally destroyed when we left the city behind us. Our 4 h ride took us on small roads though the country, rattling and shaking continuously due to both the road and bus condition. When we arrived in Mui Ne, we were happy to see that the stop was only a couple of hundred meters from our hotel The Bay.

After checking in and having some lunch, we decided to check out the beach. Unfortunately it was high tide and there was almost no beach left. Also, weather was grey and rather windy. Even with warm temperatures I didn’t feel like staying in the water for long, so we watched the kite surfers for a bit and then headed back to our hotel. Since mum was a bit sick, it was good to take it slow for a day anyways. I also had some things to organize like booking the night train to Danang and the taxi to Muong Man station, our hotel in Hoi An and the „desert tour“ for tomorrow.

Mui Ne beach
Mui Ne Beach

Next day, my dad and I woke up early and got picked up by a jeep which made our bus of the day before look like a Ferrari in comparison. Our driver was a grumpy young guy who didn’t speak much with us. He dropped us at the white sand dunes without another word, just pointing to the dunes. Not sure if we got ripped off, but every other tourist was driven into the dunes by their jeeps. But maybe this was really not included for us since we booked quite a cheap tour. In any case, we had to walk – and it was a long, hot walk through deep soft sand. We arrived on top of the highest dune quite exhausted and were suddenly surrounded by lots of Asian tourists in jeeps and on quads, screaming around and destroying the peace and beauty of the dunes with their loud quads and smelly jeeps. The dunes themselves were already underwhelming: not that big overall and we’d seen prettier ones in our life (e.g. in Morocco). On the way back to our jeep we got a bit lost and had to search for the correct parking lot since there are multiple ones. We then continued to the red sand dunes, much closer to Mui Ne again. By then, we were quite exhausted and the sun was burning down, so we only climbed the closest dune and took some quick pictures.

At this stage we were wondering why we even bothered to go on this tour: Unfriendly driver and underwhelming sights. The answer came when we visited the last 2 sights included in our tour: The fishing village / harbour was very picturesque and we quite enjoyed walking around between the boats and fishermen watching them work. There were also lots of pretty sea shells left behind and scattered all over the ground (such as crab skeletons and lots of waste sadly). I think we took much more time here than our driver wanted us to, but at this stage we didn’t care about him anymore. First time during a tour in Vietnam there was no need to discuss the tip for the driver/guide. Oh well, saved some money I guess!

The second very much worthwhile sight and also our last stop was the Fairy Stream. Basically you walk in a shallow stream for about 30 min (and back the same way) in the middle of pretty vegetation and awesome rock formations! It really seemed like out of a fairy tale. We also enjoyed cooling down our feet a little, overall a way more enjoyable and easy walk than in the dunes! At parts you were knee-deep in the water but mostly the water was ankle-high at most. At the end of the walk, there’s a waterfall – so if you’re wondering in between if you’ve reached the end yet: you haven’t until you’re stuck at the waterfall and need to turn around anyways. Dad then took a shower in the waterfall, which must have been nice and refreshing – so good idea to bring your swimsuit (I didn’t know about the option).

Since the last 2 stops of the tour ended up being quite nice, we felt glad to have done it in the end. Although, if I could choose now, I’d skip the White sand dunes and take the bus to the other 3 sights (which is easily possible). No need to even rent a scooter and risk being ripped off by the local police.

Since it was nice and sunny, we then joined my mum and sister at the beach for some sun bathing and jumping in the waves. Shower, late lunch and off we were again then… taking the taxi to the train station in Muong Man where we boarded the night train to Danang…