We have been on the move a bit over the last week and have decided to use that as a valid excuse for chilling out a little (code for staying in an air conditioned room) and spending the afternoon catching up on a little house keeping and avoiding the heat.
The heat here has not been of the “blast furnace” variety that we struck in Greece, it just seems to wrap itself around you making you feel as though you are walking along with a heavy coat on. However, we are probably coping with it better than we would have a couple of months ago. Apart from anything else, it also seems to kill the appetite which is of course good for helping us to shed a few of those unwanted kg we were carrying when we left New Zealand (every cloud has a silver lining).
While we have been staying in self catering airbnbs, the travel experience has been in sourcing local foods and putting together simple meals. Here in Asia we are staying in hotels so we are now seeking out local eateries and try the foods the locals eat. It has been a pleasant change and our chop stick skills are improving in leaps and bounds. I reckon that in a few more days we will be able to eat pho (soup) using chop sticks. Here in Vietnam we have enjoyed the food very much and especially in Hue where we are currently based.
The hospitality has also been amazing. The service can be a little over-the-top for DIY kiwis but there have been times when we have been happy to accept the fuss.
When we returned to Hanoi from our two nights in Halong Bay, we needed to collect our bags (we took overnight gear) which the hotel had kindly agreed to look after. Even though we were not staying the night, on arrival at the hotel, they had welcome drinks, told us to go and have a shower and get changed, arranged for transport to the station (we did not pay) and the porter at the hotel even came to the station by bike to help us with our luggage and ensure that we got on the right train (there was only one in the station) and into the right sleeper berth. As we left they came out with a food parcel for each of us so that we did not have to eat train food. If you are ever in Hanoi try the Calypso Grand Hotel, tell them Mr Cliff and Mrs Ruth recommended it.
During our two nights Halong Bay we were again impressed by the service. We were pampered from the time we arrived at the marina until we left it and upon leaving, as we had a short wait, we were served an impressive lunch.
Most of our fellow visitors to Halong Bay only stayed for a night and that is probably all that you need. However we had booked two and, on day two were transferred to a “day boat” along with five other people. It was a pleasant day that took us away from the tourist congestion of the main bay, we visited a floating village, did some kayaking, swam at a tourist free beach and also struggled through a five course lunch which, for non-lunch eaters, was a battle. Ruth waved the white flag after two courses even though the food was excellent.
We caught the train from Hanoi to Hue, a distance of just under 700km. It was an overnight trip and we shared our sleeper berth, which they call “soft” sleepers, with a couple from the UK. For me, taking out the hearing aids eliminates the noise issue, but it did not make the sleep any more comfortable. At times it felt as though the train was going along a badly pot-holed road. However, despite all of that, it was still more comfortable than long-haul flying. The rest of our trip South to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is also by train but they are all during daylight hours.
Hue has been a contrast to Hanoi, more open space in the city, not as many cars and the biggest surprise has been the weather, not a drop of rain, despite this being the wettest month of the year. It was a point of concern when I planned the trip as central Vietnam would be in the midst of its rainy season while further north and south were going to be ok. Maybe we are getting some payback for the rainy start to our travels back in July and August.