The party night in Hong Kong did not give me much sleep so I arrived super tired in Hanoi by plane. I was very happy to leave China after four weeks – I was just looking forward to another kind of Vietnam and an easier way to travel. I found both but other complications came up.
First really positive thing was that I got picked up by a Vietnamese guy I know through a friend. It is always the best to go with locals so he made these two days in Hanoi very nice! We were driving around with his motorcycle, had very good dinner and showed me interesting placed of the city. Additionally my hostel “Ga Hostel” was really nice, for 5€ a night I got good service, a bed in female dorm and breakfast. The chill out area was good to meet other international travellers and the stuff booked me a tour to Halong Bay and the bus to my next destination.
That is how it works in Vietnam, you usually book everything with your hostel or travel agencies on the streets. I haven’t met someone who did it otherwise unless they were travelling by motorbike what a lot of backpackers do. But the thing is, everyone wants to sell you something or make money with you – like this you never really talk to the local people because you are too busy with bargaining the best price or getting rid of them. That is the difference to China – there, you feel a bit more on the same level like the others. You get the same prices like the locals and unless you cannot talk to them because of no English, you feel more like a part of it. In Vietnam you are more “the tourist with money”, you pay more than the locals. But yeah that is the difference because Vietnam is much poorer than China.
This fact you can also see in the landscape: in China every square meter was used economically, everywhere new houses were built or the ground get used for agriculture. Vietnam is more wild and natural but also more dirty and the transport is much slower. For my first trip to Halong Bay the ride took 4 hours for 150km by bus. In general this trip was very good organised and I had a great group on the boat. I got picked up in my hostel from the English-speaking guide Toni. Toni was originally from Laos but works for many years as a guide already and he even travelled some countries in the world already what is not so usual if you talk to local people so probably that’s a good job for him. He told us he is still looking for a wife. I think that is very important in Vietnam, everyone was asking me if I am already married as well – of course not, I am 22!
The first afternoon we visited a cave and did kayaking which was really cool! Unless it was cloudy the scenery with all the little limestone islands was wonderful. We stayed one night on the boat and had nice dinner and free beer. The only thing which was not cool was the first drink we got, I thought it is the welcoming drink and in the end I had to pay $3 for the mango juice and they just don’t say it!
Next day we went swimming (yeah!) and visited a pearl farm. Then the bus took us back to Hanoi and straight after my arrival I had to catch the next bus to Hoi An. 6 a.m. in the morning we got dropped off somewhere in Hue, a city north of Hoi An. I was with an Italian girl and we did not know what is going on at all. We called our hostel in Hanoi and they said the next bus is coming soon but some strange men were asking us to take us with their motorbikes somewhere (making money again!). After three hours waiting, a transfer to the bus stop in a too small car and many confusing discussions we got in the right bus and arrived in Hoi An at 1pm.
I had a great hostel booked there – “dorms” with three big beds (no bunk beds!), an indoor pool and good breakfast for 6€ a night. Unfortunately it was raining all the time and on the last day the whole city got flooded. But the city itself was really cute and beautiful with lots of colourful lanterns and street food everywhere. And I met with the German couple I already met in Moscow and the transsibirian train.
The second day I did a tour to the holy Cham land of “MY SON” – a really beautiful area with temples built from the Hindu minority of Cham over 1000 years old. Some people say it looks like a little “Angkor Wat” in Cambodia but I haven’t been there yet so I cannot compare. On the way back to the city we took a boat ride over the river with nice lunch.
After this rainy weather I went straight to the south to Mui Ne, follow me on Facebook for more impressions and photos!
More about Vietnam and the best travel tips about where to go, when to go and public transport on my VIETNAM page.