Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200304 New Zealand Vietnam

TUESDAY 1 APRIL 2003 – Steve takes an early swim
whilst the tide is right before we walk into
WEDNESDAY 2 APRIL – Mick & Shirley set off in Jenny &
Rons motor-home. Jenny’s guest in the unit are a
British couple Rodney and Helen Barker.  Rodney is a
Prof  of Political Science and gets interviewed on the
Auckland news about his opinions on Iraq.  Walk up to
North Heads to explore the gun em-placements and many
tunnels before continuing to Devonport.
THURSDAY 3 APRIL – Do more research on the SARS
problem and come to the conclusion that providing on
the day we leave the British government are not
issuing a warning not to visit Vietnam we shall go
ahead.  Our insurance company tells us that we will
still be covered for medical problems.  It’s a lovely
warm day so we spend a lot of time in the water.  I
walk right out at low tide and notice lots of "sea
biscuits" underfoot. 
FRIDAY 4 APRIL – Join Jenny for a drive to Takapuna to
get a few last minute things for Vietnam including
face masks at $1.50 (60p) each.  Stop at the $10
(GBP4) hair cut bar for a trim on the way back.  Watch
the video of Tomb Raider which has parts filmed in
SATURDAY 5 APRIL – Up at 5.30am for the inaugural
Cheltenham Beach Fishing Competition.  John picks us
up to go to the marina for his boat.  We head round to
the beach but find the tide is too low for us to reach
the shore and register for the competition. We launch
the dinghy for Ron to row ashore just as Jenny phones
us up and offers to do it.  Whilst hauling the dinghy
back in we knock one of the fishing rods over.  John
dives in to retrieve it and surfaces clutching a
soaking now useless mobile phone.  $20 (GBP8) entry
fee per boat and we’re in.  Ron soon hauls out a good
sized snapper followed shortly by another.  John gets
the next one then it’s Steve’s turn.  The only person
to catch any more is Ron giving him a total of 5.
Return to the marina and hand in our catch.  In the
evening we all gather at someones house for the BBQ
and presentation.  Needless to say fish is on the menu
and it tastes just great smoked.  There are many spoof
prizes but surprisingly we "Team Thomas" win the
prize for the most fish caught and get a big bag to
hold them in! 
SUNDAY 6 APRIL – It’s a rainy day as Ron and Jenny run
us over to Manurewa to Rob & Emma’s place.  They have
moved since we last saw them and now live in a lovely
mansion type house complete with swimming pool, spa
and electronic gates.  Emma’s Mums boyfriend bought it
at auction when they were over in March and as Rob &
Emmas are between houses they have been asked to stay
there.  Spend the day chatting with them and playing
with Jack.
MONDAY 7 APRIL – A much nicer day so Steve and I set
off with Jack in the pushchair and make a 2 hour walk
down through the Totra park and back via the botanical
SUMMARY;- 33 days spent in New Zealand. Total cost GBP
481.94 (excluding money for Vietnam medical etc).
GBP14.17 day.
TUESDAY 8 APRIL 2003.  Up at 3.45am for Rob to drive
us to the airport in the rain.  Pay our $25 (GBP9) per
person departure tax (part cash/part credit card)
before boarding our 0625 flight to Melbourne.  It’s
probably a combination of "SARS" and the war in Iraq
which has reduced the number of people traveling.
This flight is almost empty.  Still raining when we
get to Melbourne to transfer to our flight to Ho Chi
Minh City.  We’ve bought face masks to wear but as we
have a row of seats to ourselves we don’t bother.  In
fact for most of the 8 hour flight we take a centre
row each and lie down to sleep.  Chat to a couple next
to us and find it an amazing coincidence that they met
up with our friends Stan & Judy whilst touring South
America last year.  Land in VIETNAM around 4pm local
time (6hours ahead of BST).  The heat and humidity hit
us as we step from the plane.  Many airport officials
are wearing masks but judging by their obvious lack of
public relations we wouldn’t have seen a smile anyway!
 The local currency is dong at around 25,00 to 1GBP
but they prefer to use US$.  Share a taxi with James &
Jo $5 (GBP3.50) to Sinh Cafe in the back packer
district of Pham Ngu Lao.  Order drinks – local BGI
beer costs 10,000d (40p) and l 1/2 litres water 5,000d
(20p).  Jo & I walk around the corner to check out the
recommended Guest House 64.  The staff are very
friendly and helpful and the small double rooms with
en suite are nice and clean.  $10 (GBP7) with fan or
$12 (GBP8.40) with air con and the price includes
evening meal and breakfast.  After a much needed
shower we get our meal of spring rolls and noodle
soup.  Take a walk around the neighbourhood and soon
learn how to cross the road.  There are literally
millions of motorbikes in the city, plenty of cars and
few rules of the road.  To cross on foot you look for
a small gap in the traffic then start walking –
slowly.  Road traffic expects you to continue at the
same pace whilst they weave around you.  Nerve racking
but it seems to work.  First impressions are that Ho
Chi Minh city is similar to Bangkok.  Lots of cafes,
food stalls and small shops. Locals seem to be always
eating at the impromptu street food bars whilst sat on
dolls house sized chairs.  Cheap prices, heaps of
people and frequent wafts of strange smells complete
the pictures.  Dozens of tour operators compete to
sell trips with many offering 20% discount at the
moment.  Day tours start at just $4 (GBP2.80) and an
open date bus ticket from here to Hanoi (with stops on
route) which is over 1800km costs around $20 (GBP14).
Collect lots of leaflets before hitting the sack.
WEDNESDAY 9 APRIL – We’re awake early so after
breakfast we set out following the "Lonely Planet"
walking tour.  These guide books are sold here as
copies (they look like originals) for around $5
(GBP3.50) instead of the normal GBP15.  Soon get the
hang of the traffic as we trail around the city taking
in the indoor and outdoor markets.  The municipal
theatre and Hotel de Ville are magnificent buildings
in French style. The war remnants museum 10,000d (40p)
is a distressing compendium of the horrors of modern
warfare.  Photo’s of the mutilation, napalm burns and
torture along with deformed children are really
shocking.  Reckon if this museum was taken on tour
around America things might be very different in Iraq.
 Notre Dame cathedral is unfortunately closed until
3pm but the adjacent French style Post Office is worth
a look.  It’s a long sweaty but interesting walk out
to the Jade Emperor pagoda. A mixture of Taoist and
Buddhist deities with lots of rooms and statues.
Footsore and weary we catch a cyclo taxi back.  With
us precariously balance at the front of a push bike
our elderly driver sets off. It’s pretty hairy as we
set off the wrong way up a busy dual carriageway.
Huge trucks bear down on us (no wonder they are
designed with the passengers as first line of defence)
but our driver manouvres a way through to join the
traffic on the other side.  "Ho" chats and points out
a few interesting sights en route.  He works hard for
the $2 (GBP1.40) fare but with an average per capita
income of less than $300 (GBP210) year he’s doing
alright for just over 1/2 hours work.  Eat lunch at
Sinh Cafe.  Steve has a prawn dish with rice and I
have sizzling beef and chips.  With a beer and
milkshake to wash it down the bill is a reasonable
72,00d (GBP3).  Afternoon siesta which is also a
Vietnamese tradition with office workers lying on the
floor to sleep.  Evening stroll to book our tour for
tomorrow.  Happy Tours are offering a free T shirt
with all bookings and that sways us.  $4 (GBP2.80) for
a full day visit to a temple and the tunnels.
THURSDAY 10 APRIL – The tour starts at 8.00am in a
mini bus.  It takes a long time to clear the city and
head into the country.  We’re at the upper end of the
Mekong Delta and amongst rice fields.  Coffee stop
where we buy Walls Solero lollies for 2,500d (10p).
Brightly coloured trucks go past which are used for
funerals.  Huge kilns fire the house bricks used in
the area.  Arrive at Cao Dai cathedral in time for the
noon ceremony.  It’s a very unusual design temple and
we’re surprised at being allowed to watch the service.
 Lunch in the nearby village is included in the tour
price.  A 2 hour drive takes us to the tunnel area for
our visit to Ben Dinh.  65,000d (GBP2.70) admission
where we first view a video and have the tunnel system
explained to us.  We then walk around the area and get
chance to enter some of the tunnels.  Even though they
have been enlarged for the tourist they are very small
and chlostrophobic.  To think that people virtually
lived in the 3 tier system is amazing.  We watch rice
paper being made and eat tapioca before heading back
to the city.  Hit rush hour and a sea of bikes.  Can’t
believe that we make it back without witnessing any
accidents. Internet cafes abound and at 1000d (4p) for
10 minutes they get a lot of business. 
FRIDAY 11 APRIL – Set off on our open bus tour.  We
have paid $14 (GBP10) for a ticket to Hue.  We get a
booklet from Brothers Travel with separate tickets for
each leg of the journey and a list of the stops en
route.  It’s a very small mini bus and very full, even
more so when we pick up a TV for delivery a few miles
up the road! I end up sat next to an Australia lady
"Jude" who is on holiday with her husband Garth and
their 4  children.  Another coincidence emerges – as
Garth’s brother Bob lives in Wallington just by Bev &
Norm and will almost certainly know them.  La Nga Lake
should be a stop for us to view the floating houses
but the driver presses on.  Dinh Quan town has huge
boulders strewn beside the main street, many with
houses attached. We notice that Honda motorbikes are
the biggest road users followed by push bikes,
lorries, buses then just a few private cars. The
people on motorbikes seem more likely to be wearing
face masks against the dust than helmets for safety!
It’s not unusual to see a whole family on one bike.
There either aren’t any or driving rules are usually
ignored and it’s every man for himself.  Our driver
travels quite fast and whilst taking a bend wide he
loses control.  We begin to swerve as he tries to
correct it.  The bus begins to tilt and we career
along on two wheels.  Amazingly he brings it under
control and we skid to a halt at the side of the road.
 Close inspection reveals that the diesel cap was left
off at the last fuel station.  Diesel has been
spilling out onto the tyres which has made them very
slick.  We are lucky not to have had an accident or
hit anyone, this must be the only stretch of road that
hasn’t had on coming traffic.  Continue at a slightly
slower pace and soon pull over for a toilet stop – is
that an indication of how scared the driver was or
what?  Lunch stop where 43,000d (GBP1.65) buys us two
meals and drinks.  Begin our climb up into the
Highlands which is very much like the Cameron
Highlands in Malaysia.  Reach the hill town of DaLat
late afternoon.  The bus stops outside the Hotel
Phuong Hanh and they encourage you to check out the
rooms.  We’re pretty weary and although the rooms are
a little shabby for $7 (GBP4.90) a double including
breakfast we are content.  After a shower we set out
for a stroll and immediately find a much nicer hotel
next door!  It’s considerably cooler in the mountains
and better for strolling around. 
Together with Jude, Garth and their children Harry,
Tom, Ellie and Alex we set off to find the "Crazy
House".  We have 3 maps of DaLat and they are all
poor.  Eventually after taking many wrong turns and
being given lots of wrong directions we find the
place.  5,000d (20p) admission to wonder round the
whimsical house created by the daughter of Ho Chi
Minh’s successor.  It’s a magical place with a giraffe
in the centre used as a staircase and lots of rooms
with themes where you can stay overnight.  Very much
along the lines of Salvador Dali or Gaudi and we love
it.  Leave "the family" at a cafe and find a short cut
back.  Spot a Vietnamese restaurant in town which is
packed out with locals.  It’s so authentic that we are
the only white people to dine there.  8,000d (32p)
gets us a huge bowl of steaming "food over noodles" –
noodles topped with vegetables and pork with stock
over the top, yummy.  Total bill including drinks
25,000d (GBP1). On each table is a plastic toilet roll
dispenser with a roll inside for you to use as wipes
or a serviette.  This restaurant is also popular for
take aways.  They balance a plastic bag in a dish to
fill with food then fasten the top, must be their
version of McDonalds.  We’re starting to be driven
crazy by the reversing signal on buses here.  To warn
people they blast out music of the kind you get in a
greeting card with tunes like "Happy Birthday" and
"It’s a Small World".  It’s beginning to get cool and
we see people gathered around braziers as we climb the
hill back to the Hotel.
SATURDAY 12 APRIL – After breakfast we move next door
to the Pink House Hotel where we pay $8 (GBP5.60) but
get a much nice and more modern room.  Set off on our
walking tour still struggling with the maps.  Visit
the cathedral and pass the Eifel Tower replica which
acts as a communications centre.  The Art Decko train
stations not bad by which time we have to stop for a
drink at one of the many pavement cafes.  Walk around
the lake to the Flower Gardens 4,000d (GBP16p) but
they are nothing special.  People often stop to chat
to us and quite often it is just to practice their
English, other times they are trying to sell something
but aren’t overly persistent.  Back around the lake to
the centre of town and through the market area which
is heaving.  Finally find the "mad monks" pagoda but
unfortunately he is not home.  Call into the
"authentic" restaurant on the way back where Chinese
style beef and pea pods and boiled rice feed us both
for 22,000d (88p).  We have satellite TV in the room
so Steve watches sport for the rest of the day whilst
I do trip research.
SATURDAY 13 APRIL – 7.30am start for the bus trip to
the coast.  The Aussie family are on board and I chat
away to Jude and find we have a lot in common.
Reminds us of the times when we took Claire and David
on similar trips.  Spot a record number of 5 adults on
one motorbike.  Lovely views as we wind our way
through the mountains to reach Ngoan Muc Pass.  Pause
for 15 minutes and to battle against the vendors.  A
whole fresh pineapple all chopped up for 4,000d (16p)
is hard to resist and tastes delicious.  It’s a long
winding road down the mountain but we have two drivers
today and they seem slower and more careful.  Stop at
Poklong Garai Cham Tower one of numerous Cham Towers
around Vietnam.  5,000d (20p) buys us a ticket to
climb up the hill and view the interesting ruins from
the 1300’s.  Final leg of the journey with a short
lunch stop at a restaurant beside a stream.  The
toilets are out at the back and judging by the colour
and smell of the stream this is where they empty.  Nha
Trang is a huge resort very much like Pattaya in
Thailand.  The driver stops for us to check out a few
of the mini hotels.  They are all much the same with
double fan rooms at $5 (GBP2) and double air con for
$7 (GBP2.80).  Settle on the Chi Thanh which is 2 rows
back from the beach.  The rooms is very warm so we
leave the air con to do it’s stuff and head to the
beach.  It’s a 6km stretch of sand around a bay with a
few islands off shore.  The water is quite warm and
it’s all rather nice.  Complete our walk around the
block and return hot and weary.  Again we have
satellite TV so whilst Steve watches sport I sit at
the Hotel computer to type up the diary – 10,000d
(40p) hour. An evening stroll along the seafront
reveals lots of beach bars, hundreds of locals
parading on foot or on motorbike and lots of
interesting floodlit gardens and fountains.  Down a
side street we go up market and dine at the
Candlelight restaurant.  It’s full but a table
suddenly appears on the pavement complete with candles
and table cloth.  Steve has pasta and I have mushroom
curry and rice followed by chocolate banana pancakes.
Still the bill is only 72,000d (GBP2.80).
MONDAY 14 APRIL – Woken at 5.00am by a tannoy
announcing the news to the Vietnamese and also issuing
government propaganda – of little interest to us.
Feel a bit sick when I get our money from the safe and
find US$60 (GBP42) missing.  The system is that you
put all your stuff in a plastic bag then they staple a
piece of paper over the top and you sign it.  At the
time I doubted it was foolproof.  We have a quiet word
with the manager and he says he will investigate
whilst we are out.  The bus collects us for our $7
(GBP2.80) boat trip.  There are 14 of us aboard and
our first port of call is Mun Island (Ebony Island).
The snorkeling is really good with plenty of colourful
fish and coral.  Next stop is Mot Island where we
anchor off shore for lunch.  It’s buffet style and
includes lots of seafood and unlimited local wine from
DaLat which is lethal.  The crew then entertain us
with music and instruments.  The drums are actually
plastic drums cut up into different sizes.  By the
time we get to Tam Island other boats are already
moored up and eventually 10 tourist boats gather.
5,000d (20p) gets you onto the beach and for a further
50,000 (GBP2.00) you can rent a beach bungalow with 10
"deskchairs"!  We just chill out and are entertained
by a group of drunken lads attempting to play
volleyball.  Reckon our David would like it here
especially with cigarettes at just 5,000d (20p) for
20. Back on board for a fruit buffet which includes
the unusual dragon fruit.  It has a pink spikey skin
and the inside is a bit like white melon with lots of
small black seeds.  Final stop at a fishing village
where locals paddle out to us in their basket boats.
5,000d (20p) gets you a ride around the bay but we
stay on board and look at the different seafood which
they are holding in pontoon nets.  Arrive back around
4.00pm.  Back at the hotel the manager comes to see us
and offers us the room and trip for free.  As this
only totals $28 dollars we are not happy and ask to
see the owner.  The manager returns less than 10
minutes later and says it turns out the owners son has
been into the safe and taken the money.  He is most
apologetic,refunds our dollars and thank us for not
making a fuss about it. Something doesn’t quite ring
true and we reckon the manager took the money and the
owner knows nothing about it. Whilst we won’t mention
which hotel it occurred at we shall warn people to
watch the safety deposit system.  Receive a disturbing
text from Claire to say that John collapsed in town
and Mum had to phone for the ambulance.  He is in
hospital with a broken leg.  We’re very frustrated as
we can’t phone from here, we can receive but not send
SMS text messages and our only E-mail contact with Mum
is through John.  Do our best by trying to E-mail
Claire.  The karaoke bar next door strike up with
terrible singing accompanied by very loud music.  This
confirms our decision to leave.
TUESDAY 15 APRIL – Call round to Brothers Cafe for
breakfast.  Pork chop, fried eggs, chips, mushrooms
and baked beans 15,000d (GBP60p).  Someone tells us of
a problem in Thailand where they are quarantining
people for 2 weeks if they come from a SARS affected
country.  We will research this and if need be spend 2
weeks in Cambodia en route.  Hitch a ride on a
motorbike 5000d (20p) to mini hotel Quang Minh which
we checked out last night.  $8 (GBP5.60) for a double
room, en-suite, fridge, TV and remote control air con.
 It was new in February so all very clean and nice and
only 100 metres from the beach.  Notice the Vietnamese
don’t like to get any sun on them.  They walk around
with gloves up to their arm pits and wearing trousers.
 They even wear clothes into the sea.  Walk to
Louisiane Cafe which is behind the beach and has a
swimming pool which is free for customers to use.
Drinks prices are inflated at 20,000d (80p) for a
bottle of water instead of the usual 5,000d (20P) but
it’s worth it.  Evening stroll to the Kangaroo Bar
where they have 100 DVD films to choose from.  Settle
on the new James Bond "Die another day" whilst eating
our 3 course 35,000d (GBP1.40) meals along with 2 for
the price of 1 happy hour drinks.
WEDNESDAY 16 APRIL – Up at 5.30am for our bus to Hoi
An.  It’s a small mini bus but fortunately has lots of
spare seats.  The scenery is fantastic as we pass
paddy fields, mountains, beautiful beaches and just
interesting landscape.  The road on the other hand is
terrible, lots of areas being re surfaced and huge
bumps to get on and off the many bridges.  Even Steve
doesn’t manage to sleep.  Beach stop for coffee then
another for lunch in a restaurant on stilts over
fishing pools.  Notice in the towns we pass through
there seem to be almost as many shops as people and
that’s saying something, Vietnam has the 14th largest
population in the world.  Arrive in Hoi Ann around 7pm
and the bus takes us to check out a few Hotels.
Settle on Phuong Dong Hotel with a double at $6
(GBP4.20).  Walk down the street where there is lots
of action.  Dressmaking is the main trade here and we
are often asked if we want clothes made.  Visit the
recommended Camel Restaurant which has a lovely garden
with stream.  German lad Henri off the bus joins us.
Try the local Cao Lau a sort of soup with noodles,
crispy prawn cracker, green veg and pork.  Very
filling at only 6,000d (24p). 
THURSDAY 17 APRIL – Move down the road to Thanh Binh 3
hotel which for $8 (GBP3.20) gets us the same type of
room but the hotel has a lovely swimming pool. These
rooms usually cost a minimum of $15 (GBP10) but due to
lack of tourists everything is being reduced. Walk
down to the old area of Hoi An which is like a living
museum with many of the old merchants houses.  Cross
the Japanese covered bridge which is charming but
showing signs of wear.  Passin Phung Hung House a girl
calls us in.  She shows us round and explains the
history of the house and then introduces her sisters
who are working on different handicrafts.  We’re taken
upstairs for tea then leave after making a donation
into the strategically placed box.  Buy our 50,000d
(GBP2) UNESCO tickets to gain admission to some of the
old buildings.  You have to select one from each of 4
groups which is difficult.  The old merchant Tan Ky
house is not much different to Phung Hung.  Check out
the Phuc Kien Assembly hall which is quite impressive.
 For the museum we choose history and culture which is
poor but attached to a temple. Amble down to the river
through the market.  Banana boats (literally) are
docked at the quay and people bustle around.  Up a
side street we see a sign for draught beer 3,000d
(12p).  We’ve not had any breakfast so Steve has a
beer and I a soft drink.  Probably one of the best
things on the ticket is the handicraft centre where we
see lots of different things being made and then see a
traditional song and dance concert. Rest of day by the
hotel pool.  The aussie family arrive having had a
horrendous train journey up from Nha Trang and also
had money stolen whilst at their hotel there.  It’s
Harry’s birthday and with no prompting the hotel staff
bring up flowers and a lovely birthday cake to their
room.  Return to the restaurant with draft beer, it’s
called Quan An and serves absolutely fantastic food as
well, all at cheap prices.
FRIDAY 18 APRIL – Off on our trip to My Son holy land.
 $3 (GBP2.10) reduced from $4.50 (GBP3.15). The bus
journey takes about 1 hour to get to the World
Heritage Site.  We walk to the ticket office and pay
50,000d (GBP2) each.  Over a bamboo cane bridge to the
waiting jeeps to drive us to the site.  Spread over a
few different areas are ancient Cham style temples
from the 4th century onwards.  The first group are
quite impressive and a little spooky as they are quite
overgrown with greenery.  The rest of the groups are
poor, unfortunately many were destroyed by the
Americans in the war as the VC hid here.  After the
impressive first group it’s not fun in the stinking
sweaty heat trailing round the rest with a guide whose
English is atrocious.  Head back by bus then get
dropped off at the river to go by boat.  Lunch is
provided – McDonalds style polystyrene boxes with
"white roses" inside, that’s a type of uncooked
wanton.  We also get a small plastic bag with fish
stock to poor over the food and a bottle of water to
wash it down.  See a bit more of Vietnamese life as we
cruise along the murky river.  Stop at an island to
see more carpenters before being dropped off at Hoi An
wharf.  Unfortunately we have to walk back past Quan
An and can’t resist a beer and a plate of spring
rolls.  The hotel pool is most welcoming on our return
then the Aussies join us for a card session.  We all
head out together and stop off at the tailors for them
to collect clothes.  There rather good and I order a
simple skirt for $3 (GBP2.10).  The people at Quan An
are delighted when we all sit down and even with 8 of
us eating (often more than one dish each) the bill is
only 220,000d (GBP8.80) in total.  Everyone agrees
it’s the best food they have had in Vietnam.  Collect
my skirt which is fine.  Cooling dip in the pool when
we get back.  Steve out to Treats for football and a
game of pool.
SATURDAY 19 APRIL – Share a taxi with the Aussie
family to go to the local Cua Dai beach.  It’s a
lovely stretch of sand backed by clusters of palm
trees.  We get quite a lot of hassle from people
trying to sell things and offering services.  There
are lots of beach restaurants and very few customers
so our stoll along the beach includes fending off the
vendors.  We eventually give in and pick a restaurant
which offers free use of the beach loungers.  Steve
really enjoys his 15,000d (60p) crab but not all the
food is good.  Return at 1pm for the Aussies to head
north whilst we take a siesta. Our for our evening fix
at Quan An restaurant which today has fresh fish on
the menu (know it’s fresh as they haven’t had any for
2 days) – it’s excellent.  Head back with Steve
stopping at Treats (same same but different) to watch
football and play pool.
SUNDAY 20 APRIL – Off to Hue.  First stop the Marble
Mountain where 10,000d (40p) get us a guided tour
inside.  One of 5 marble mountains in the area it was
an island at the time when the land was under the sea.
 The water forced it’s way in and channeled out caves
which we explore. Lots of stalls outside selling
marble statues.  Up over Hai Van Pass at 496m where we
get fine views of both the north and south beaches
from the top.  Coming down the steep hills we see lots
of lorries pulled over pouring water onto their over
heated engines.  Lunch at Lang Co Beach which is
deserted.  Arrive Hue early afternoon and get dropped
off by Phuong Nha Hotel.  Negotiate a $10 (GBP7) room
down to an amazing $4 (GBP2.80), cheaper than an CL
parking for a motor-home in England and we get a bath
in the en suite, sattelite TV with English movie
channel and 4 single beds. We’re opposite the famous
Cafe on Thu Wheels where after a stroll around the
block we have a late afternoon meal.  Spend the rest
of the evening watching movies.
MONDAY 21 APRIL – Can’t resist the $1.50 (GBP1) 8 hour
boat trip up the Perfume River.  First stop the lovely
Thien Mu Pagoda where we see the old car which the
monk drove down to Saigon before setting himself on
fire.  Further up river the Tomb of Tu Doc we are told
is 4km from the river and we need to take a motorbike
as we don’t have time to walk it.  We negotiate a
motorbike down to 10,000d (40p) each return.  A
further 55,000d (GBP2.20) gets us into an attractive
area with a lake, 3 different tombs and lots of other
old buildings which we enjoy ambling around. Amazingly
the motorbike finds a "short cut" back which is only
about 1km and would have meant we could have walked
it!   It’s interesting observing life on the river
with small sampan style boats weighed down with gravel
and others hauling in fishing baskets.  Next stop is a
temple but we’re all templed out so just sit outside.
Return to the boat where they have removed the dolls
house size plastic chairs and put mats on the floor
where we sit whilst they serve lunch.  Pass on the
next mausoleum and walk into the village with Aussies
Dan and Teena (who are on honeymoon) and pick up a 1
litre home brew beer to share for 6,000d (24p) – beats
any tomb around here.  Ming Mang is the last stop but
one tomb is enough for us so we buy some bananas (6
for 1,000d/ (4p) then chat to the owners who live here
on banana and peanut farms.  Back on the boat we are
busy chatting when Steve suddenly slides onto the
floor.  The back legs of the chair have bent and he’s
disappeared – must be the weight of all that beer!
Arrive back in Hue around 3.30pm having really enjoyed
the trip. Pick up a Cyclo which takes us all round the
6km walls of the ancient moated citadel.  Quite
impressive but having visited the Forbidden City in
Peking we give this a miss.  The whole trip including
taking us back to the hotel is only 20,000d (80p).
Follow the Lonely Planet recommendation to eat at Xuan
Trang Cafe where we try the Hue speciality Banh Khoai,
a crispy pancake filled with shrimp, pork and
beansprouts and served with peanut sauce and a side
salad all for 4,000d (16p).  We’re so impressed we
order main courses as well and the home made chips are
TUESDAY 22 APRIL – Bus back to Hoi-An with the same
stops we made on the way up.  Feel very sad when we
see a lorry loaded up with pigs so squashed like
sardines that it’s hard to tell which ones are still
alive.  Return to Thanh Binh 3 Hotel but they only
have a $10 (GBP7) room available on the 3rd floor.
Apparently ground floor ones are cheaper as the rest
incur a staircase tax!  Realise we have left our
passport at the hotel in Hue but the receptionist
phones them up and it is sent down with the afternoon
bus and amazingly arrives by 5pm.  Evening meal at the
Cafe 96 Bach Dang Street where we have the 40,000d
(GBP1.60) 5 course menu.  You really can’t go far
wrong in Vietnam for tasty and cheap food.  The only
problem is that we are not going to get rid of our
Aussie bellies at this rate.
WEDNESDAY 23 APRIL – After Steve has had his fix of
football on TV we set out on 10,000d (40p) a day
rented pushbikes.  They are sit up and beg style with
no gears but just fine for our 5km ride to the beach.
Enjoy sunbathing and lunching before heading back mid
afternoon through the paddy fields and small villages.
 We’ve been moved to a cheaper $8 (GBP5.60) ground
floor room which has a huge marble bathroom with big
corner bath tub.  Chatting to a couple by the pool
Trevor mentions that he was brought up in Warragul,
Australia. Our British friends Tony & Linda emigrated
there from Stafford many years ago and we visited them
in 2000.  I happen to say we’ve visited English
friends there and he asks there name.  Not only does
he know Tony but he produces a local paper with Tony’s
photo in along with his Estate Agency advert.  Dan &
Teena join us for a meal at Quan An which again is
superb food and good company.  Try to book our bus to
Nha Trang for tomorrow morning but due to the lack of
tourists they are now only running a night bus.  I
really didn’t want to go on that but we have little
choice and book for tomorrow night.  Learn that
Vietnam is now SARS free and the first country to be
removed from the World Health Organisation warning
list which means we won’t have to alter our trip
plans. John is now out of hospital and recovering at
Mums with his broken leg.
THURSDAY 24 APRIL – Check out of our room by noon then
sit around by the pool.  The hotel say we can hang on
to our towels and they have a room available for us to
shower and change in.  2pm set out with Dan & Teena to
a restaurant they know where Steve and I share the 5
course meal which finishes with deep fried yummy ice
cream all for 49,000d (GBP2). Lounge by the pool until
our bus arrives at 7pm.  Not looking forward to this
journey at all but at least it’s a big bus with few
passengers so we have a double seat each.  They also
have 2 drivers which is reassuring.  The first 3 hours
are not too bad with reasonable road surfaces but no
white lines and no cats eyes.  The usual rules of the
road apply, size takes priority, after that it’s every
man for himself literally but it seems to work.  Horns
are blasted at every opportunity and subsequently
ignored.  After a break for the drivers to eat we head
off again this time on the stretch with lots of
roadworks, and don’t we know it.  Early morning is
second break after which we are disturbed by all the
bumps driving on and off the bridges.  Suffice to say
that neither of us have slept much!
FRIDAY 25 APRIL – Arrive in Nha Trang around 7am but
typical of the open tour tickets the company want to
drop you at hotels which they get a back hander from.
We have stayed before and know exactly where we want
to go so we are off loaded onto bikes who still insist
on giving us the run around to a number of hotels
before taking us where we want to go.  This time the
same room at Quang Minh is down to $6 (GBP4.20).
After a shower and change we head to Louisiane Cafe
and rent the sunbeds on the beach for 10,000d (40p)
each.  They have deep cushions which are perfect for
snoozing. Evening meal at the Tin Duc restaurant with
lovely fish and chips for 25,000d (GBP1).  Wander
round the area with lots of restaurants and bars to
choose from.  End up at Shorty’s where an English man
is married to a local.  They show all the football
matches so Steve gets details of what is on when.
Steve bumps into Jo & James while taking a late night
stroll and arranges to meet up tomorrow.
SATURDAY 26 APRIL – Early morning walk to the far side
of town.  We’re too early for Maximart the big
supermarket to be open so have breakfast at the Banana
Split.  Stock up on snacks and drinks before taking a
cyclo back to the hotel.  Local whiskey is cheap at
30,000d (GBP1.20) a half bottle.  Back to Louisiane
where we meet up with Jo & James and also Teena & Dan
who have arrived and are in the same hotel as us.
Begin to feel like we are all part of one big happy
family in Vietnam.  All meet up for an evening meal at
the fish restaurant just next to Crazy Kims.  Fresh
fish is displayed and you buy it by the 100gm.  The
price includes steamed potatoes and stir fried veg and
my tuna steak is delicious.  The lads go to Shorty’s
to watch football whilst Teena and I head up to the
night market.
SUNDAY 27 APRIL – Late start.  Back to Louisiane with
Jo & James.  Cyclo restaurant in the evening followed
by E-mail for me and football watching for Steve
MONDAY 28 APRIL – Another late start.  Walk to
Brothers office where they say they can organise
sending our passports to Ho Chi Minh for the Cambodia
visa for $25 (GBP17.50) each.  Day at the water park
20,000d (80p).  We are the only ones for the first few
hours and get a taste of what Michael Jackson must
feel like when he takes over a theme park.  There’s a
wave pool and water slides which they turn on whenever
we want to use them.  The lazy river is so slow it
should be re named "bone idle!".  Over a deep pool is
a flying fox slide which Steve attempts first.
Unfortunately he loses his grip and whilst falling off
catches his small finger.  It’s the one he broke in
Italy and it looks like he has done the same thing
again.  I manage the flying fox with no problems.
Throughout the day we are joined by just 2 other
couples and easily out numbered by staff.  Steve takes
comfort in his whiskey whilst I bandage up his finger.
 Meet Teena & Dan for a night out starting out with 2
litres of the 5,000d (20p) litre beer at the street
stalls. At the night market there are food stalls and
we select different items from many of the stalls then
sit at the tables in the middle to dine.  Dishes cost
from just 2,000d (8p) each.  The Sailing Club are
having a beach bonfire so we end up there.  1 litre
cocktails and spirits with mixers are 30,000d
(GBP1.20) and arrive in huge jam jars.  Steve gets
stuck into the rum and coke.  When they light the
bonfire they also bring round free Tequila’s and Steve
drinks mine as well.  Late on I notice that Steve has
been a long time at the toilet.  Dan checks it out and
he’s not in there.  I have a bit of a wander round but
can’t find him anywhere.  Dan checks and finds he is
not back at the hotel.  Fortunately Steve is wearing
his striped (toothpaste) shirt and Dan spots him
flaked out on the beach on a bed.  He’s been shouting
for "Hughie" but no one heard him!  We sit around
until he has recovered enough for me to walk him back
to the hotel. By the time I’ve put him in the shower,
washed his clothes and got him to bed it’s after 2am.
TUESDAY 29 APRIL – Up at 6am to join Teena & Dan for
breakfast as their bus leaves at 7am.  By 1/4 to there
is no sign of them and it turns out they were so drunk
last night they didn’t book a morning call.  I wake
them up just in time for them to have a quick
breakfast and catch the bus to Dalat.  Our bus to Mui
Ne arrives at 8.00am by which time Steve is quite
perky but soon nods off on the journey.  Mui Ne is a
no through road which runs along the beach.  All along
the 17km stretch are hotels and beach bungalows.
After a false start we end up at the attractive Song
Hai Bungalows $10 (GBP7) including breakfast.  Almost
all the furniture is made of bamboo including the bed
frame.  The room ceiling has lots of conical hats
dangling from it.  Outside there are bamboo chairs,
tables, hammocks and swings and we’re right behind the
beach.  The only problem is that the hotel will not
accept our arrival/departure documents in place of the
passports which is what Brothers told us they would
do.  The day is saved when I hand over our second
passports but we certainly won’t let our originals go
again.  It’s very windy on the beach so we lounge
around outside our room then take an early meal before
settling down just after 8pm.
WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL – It’s re-unification day here in
Vietnam and today and tomorrow are public holidays.
Having gone to bed as the only guests at the bungalows
we wake to find them full up and even tents outside.
Sunbathing day with cooling dips in the sea.  Late
afternoon stroll along the street but it’s not
impressive.  Their seem to be either luxury tourist
resorts or bungalows on the beach side and just a few
restaurants on the other side.  Settle on Coco
Restaurant where we get a good value basic meal.

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