Day 60: Nothing To Declare

After nearly two months of travelling you would have thought we’d have done something to celebrate, wrong, we did nothing. This post will not be long, probably around two paragraphs if you’re lucky. We got up for breakfast before the receptionist had a chance to call us, we then got dressed and headed to the roof for a lovely breakfast sandwich. The arrangement for breakfast was rather strange, instead of ordering anything, we just had to show up and get what we were given. Quickly, we wolfed them down and returned to the Sarah and Ben headquarters. The weather outside was terrible so we opted to stay indoors all day out the way of it. We alternated between the tv and our tablet device, choosing either films or shows to entertain us. Later into the day we started to hear loud ‘european’ and 90’s music blaring through the hotel. After some lazy investigation we discovered that it was coming from a stage which was being set up on the beach. Sadly, we wouldn’t be in Da Nang for long enough to find out what the stage was for.

We remained in our cave until sunset, finally emerging like two travelling bears from hibernation. We decided to visit a local cafe we had seen advertised a few days before called Zen. Although we were assured that it was open for business, much like the rest of Denang, when we got there, there was a notice in Vietnamese on the gates and surprise surprise – they were closed! With that bit of bad luck we decided to go back to the beach side restaurant we visited the day before. We stayed there for a couple hours and had some delicious food, even though the Internet was once again terrible (Damn you Vietnam, damn you and your comparable 90’s dial up speeds). With the evening drawing in, we paid for our dinner and retired back to the hotel.

Seeing as the Internet only worked in two places of the building, the ground floor and the top floor, we decided to go online and find a hotel for our next location, Hoi An. It was quite tricky to focus on what we were doing initially, as the receptionist joined us and kept talking about random points, we didn’t want to be rude, so we conversed with her for a bit. She told us how she had had the hotel for just over a year and asked us if we wouldn’t mind writing a review of it online. Of course we obliged, after all it was the least we could do after she was kind enough to put a roof over our heads. We then said goodnight and continued our search for accommodation. Eventually we found a nice place for cheap…ish, it came to thirty pounds for the pair of us for two nights. Happy with what we booked, we returned to the room to watch movies, and eventually fall asleep to the distant relaxing sounds of dff dff dff dff boom boom dff!!!

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Day 61: Five Writes Don’t Make a Wrong

We were given another wake up call courtesy of our best mate downstairs to let us know our breakfast was ready. Bleary eyed and rocking some stylish bed hair, we trudged up to the roof for our – now standard – egg, ham, salad sandwhich concoction.

When we were done we returned to our room where we packed our bags, showered and cleaned up the room a bit (just to look good when they checked it later). We had already paid for the hotel when we booked it, so when it came to checking out all we had to oay for was a bottle of water sarah took from the minibar. We were handed our passports and asked if they’d sort a taxi out for us. Not long after asking, one randomly pulled up outside, with that a member of staff arranged a price with the driver, making sure we didn’t get ripped off. We were going to get a bus (which would have been significantly cheaper at 30, 000) but thought we’d pay the 390, 000 dong for piece of mind, as a taxi would take us right to the door.

Inside the taxi we showed the driver the name of our hotel, at first, like every driver, he said he knew the way but had to stop half way down the road to ask a fellow cabbie for directions. Hoi An was only a half an hour drive from Da Nang, however, even with directions it took a little while longer for our driver to locate the hotel, all the while the metre was increasing. When we eventually located the building the metre read 420, 000 dong, thinking we were about to get in an argument I was prepared for the worst, fortunately the driver was happy to accept the agreed price (something that wouldn’t have happened in Hanoi).

As we climbed out from the car, one of the hotel’s concierge was quick to take up our bags from the boot, leaving us to check in. We recieved our room key and followed the little man up the stairs. He did look quite funny carrying both of our large rucksacks, he kind of resembled a tortoise as I am pretty sure my bag was the same height as him. We climbed to flights of stairs until we reached our room, he came in and showed us how everything worked such as the air con, tv and minibar. Thank goodness he did that as we wouldn’t have known how to do any of those things, especially the opening of the fridge, I imagine even the greatest minds would struggle with the complexities of a fridge door, or the turning on of a television set (if you didn’t know by now, I am being sarcastic). Still not understanding if we were supposed to tip a man we didn’t request, and essentially did something we could have done ourselves, Sarah paid him regardless. He was happy enough to take the money, then left our room with a smile on his face, bless him.

With our bags dropped off we decided to explore the grounds of our rather large…. resort I guess you’d call it. We followed the signs for the pool (as lets face it, that’s where everyone heads to first). stumbling across it, we discovered only two people sunbathing, so seising the chance – clearly no Germans here hogging up the sun beds – we located a spare lounger and began flicking through the lonely planet guide to see what there was to do in the area.

There were a few things which caught our eyes, so we decided to ask at reception to see if they had any day trips. The ladies behind the desk were quite helpful, if not slightly rude. We booked a half day trip through the hotel for the next day to My Son.

There was a shuttle service which ran every hour and would take the hotel’s guests into town, seeing as the town was only a fifteen minute walk away we decided to skip the half an hour wait and go it by foot.

It didn’t take very long at all to reach the town centre, however, along the way we were hassled every few feet by people trying to sell us tailor made clothes. Unlike Bangkok, these people had evolved to annoy you by push bike, meaning even if you said ‘no thank you’ and walked a bit faster they’d still keep up with you. Great!

The streets were a littke confusing at first because the main roads blended in to side streets and visa versa, but with the help of a map we managed to navigate our way around. It was close to dinner time when we were done looking around the markets and side streets, so we decided to go for food. We happened to be outside of a restaurant named ‘Mermaid’ which we discovered was a recommended place to eat in the lonely planet guide. My spaghetti Bolognese was delicious, which made me believe I should have ordered a pizza if they were so able to master an Italian dish.

Sarah however, was not so satisfied. After a few bites of a seemingly delicious Chicken Salad, she suddenly sat back, looking a little pale and quite disgusted…. Sitting peacefully among the leaves was a caterpillar…. Silver lining… At least it was still whole! Needless to say, the salad was swiftly sent back to the kitchen, thus ending the ‘healthy’ kick she’d entered for the day. Thankfully they didn’t add salt into the wound, and removed the salad from the bill. No tip for you Mermaid despite your amazing spaghetti! I guess it just goes to show you can’t trust everything you read, even in a tour guide…Lonely Planet, you have some work to do before we start trusting you again!!

Alongside an ever queazy Sarah, we continued to explore more of the market, this time walking along the docks. We stopped in for dessert at another place where Sarah ordered a banana pancake, this time however, instead of a caterpillar, she found a whole monkey on her plate…… just kidding. During dessert I made friends with a little white kitten, I got its attention at one point by waving my fingers around beside my chair, feeling it hit them with it’s paw. My initial reaction was RABIES….. Fortunately its claws weren’t out and there was nothing to worry about, plus, it was too cute to have been a threat to anyone (which is clearly how most people bitten by rabies infected animals justify their reasons for playing with them) I then made it a little ball to play with using a napkin from the table, which it continued to hit around even after we left.

We continued down past the docks hoping to see one of the popular sights of Hoi An, the …… bridge but, alas, Lonely Planet you have failed us again! As the obvious cheap skates that we are, the ‘free’ bridge was an obvious draw…. except for the fact that it wasn’t free. After being laughed at by the ticket guide for our ‘outdated’ guide book (clearly much has changed in the 3 month period since the damn book was published) we left, both agreeing that we would visit the bridge another time, and walked back to the hotel… stopping for a cheeky M&M purchase along the way!

Since the salad attempt #1 had failed, Sarah decided she wanted to go in the pool, obviously keen to burn off those extra calories she’d consumed while munching on what we assumed to be the caterpillars family. While she tried her best to encourage me to join in, I stood my ground, saying I’d just watch her like a prod parent would their child. You may call me boring… But i like to think that dedicated is a more appropriate term given that I sacrificed that cool dip to work on the blog, which had decided to start deleting itself. After countless lengths Sarah got too cold….. and slightly bored as well I’d imagine, then returned to the room. I followed her wet footprints back not long after. I wasn’t in the room long before I decided to check out what was happening with my blog on the hotel’s computers. After an hour and a half-to-two hours my worst fears came true. Somehow along the way I had lost days 49, 50, 51, 54 and 56, roughly translated that was around eight to ten hours work and seven to ten thousand words. This wasn’t the first time I had lost my writing, but it was the first time I wasn’t able to get it back. Really frustrated and angry I returned to the room to tell Sarah the bad news. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to relax and it was going to take a while before I could calm down again.

Not long after returning to the room, I caught the end of the Harry Potter movie Sarah was watching on the tv. She did her best to cheer me up but when you lose something that you put so much time and energy into it leaves a very bad taste in your mouth.

Speaking of which, she then suggested we go out for food, I didn’t want to do anything then apart from get back the lost work. I did agree thinking it would distract me for a while, however, I just ended up being the worst dinner guest in the world. I only ordered something small to eat as that’s all I felt like having, and when my chicken skewer showed up I suddenly felt hungry enough to enjoy it. During dinner, somehow, we were able to connect to Facebook on my phone using the restaurant’s WiFi. I had a couple of messsges waiting for me on there, one of which was from Jamie (our friend from Halong Bay). He was asking us how we were and where we decided to go for Christmas, he also said how he was currently in Nah Trang. That was fortunate as Nah Trang was where we had in mind for Christmas, so I wrote back asking what his opinion on the place was, as supposedly it was Vietnam’s version of Ibiza. We didn’t have long at the restaurant, as we had arrived to town via shuttle bus and had to be back within forty minutes to catch the return ride. We just made it back in time for the lady to phone for the final bus, it arrived within five minutes of the call and before we knew it we were back at the hotel. In the lobby I showed sarah what had happened to the blog, sadly we couldn’t do anything to correct the loss, so I can only apologise for what has happened. While we were on the computers, Sarah asked the lady behind the counter if she could get her onto Facebook, the lady said no as the computers were too Slough…. I think she meant slow but who knows? Cheekily, the woman was using Facebook herself behind the counter, so she clearky knew something we didn’t. We soon returned to our room, where after a quick shower, I spent the next two hours typing up this particular blog which I really hoped would save!!!!!!!!!

Day 51: I’m On a Boat

Not trusting the iPhone alone to wake us up, I set two alarms. At seven a.m, both gangnam style (from the tablet), and the robot tone (from the iPhone) were kind enough to wake us in our pitch black room. Not feeling like we had a wink of sleep, we grumbled out of bed and got ready to walk to James’s place.
We had to be there for quarter to eight if we wanted to have a free breakfast, unfortunately, by the time we were prepared to leave it was already twenty to eight (I knew I should have set the alarm for quarter to seven, but, as always, Sara knows best).

In the lobby, we had to wake the young guy who worked there from his bed beside the desk. He was the nicest guy, climbing out from his covers all bleary eyed, as we frantically fondled the money we owed. With that sorted we were out in the thick of it again. This time with all of our luggage.
Every scooter passing by constantly blowing their horns, irritating me more and more. Inevitably I grabbed Sarah’s bags, so I was carrying three to her one, we finally made it to James around 7:50am.
To our surprise we were still allowed breakfast. The food hit the spot and during that time we met a guy from Scotland named Jamie, he was a tall guy standing six feet two inches, brown hair and piercing blue eyes, he was also joining us on the trip.
Not long after, we put our bags in storage then at half past eight our minibus arrived to take us on a three hour journey to the harbour.

We picked up more passengers on the way, to say it was a squeeze would be an understatement. I reckon I had around three centimetres of legroom, and was shoulder to shoulder with both Sarah and the people beside me. This made for a very hot and uncomfortable ride.
We made one stop on the way to a very nice place, where Sarah was blown away by the quality of the toilets and the hand soap inside.
With fresh smelling hands, Jamie, James, Sarah and I sat around a table enjoying some m&m’s Sarah had bought.
We continued down the road for another hour or so until we reached our destination, the harbour.

Here, our tour guide (who told us earlier his name was Popeye, he chose this name himself for two reasons, 1. He liked spinach and 2. It was easier for tourists to say) introduced us to our captain, then proceeded to sort our tickets for us.
Randomly, the girl from the airport showed up, you know, the one with the bad luck on buses. Still not knowing her name we made small talk, safe in the knowledge we weren’t sharing a boat with the cursed one, Just joking, I’m sure she’s not cursed, just has bad luck.

With each of us having a ticket in tow we followed our captain to his boat. “Thank Poseidon,” it was a decent looking vessel which was well preserved and put together. We got on one by one, aided by the crew, climbed the mini staircase, and were instructed to place our bags down then take a seat at the tables inside.
The weather was quite chilly by this point, and a cold sea breeze continued to blow in as we were told the itinerary for the day ahead. Soon after, we were given keys to our rooms where we were to take our bags then regroup at the tables again for dinner.
The cabins were very quaint inside, with two comfy beds and a bathroom hosting a giant shower head, we felt very well catered for.
We did as instructed and met back up with everyone for food, it was some of the best food we had had since being in Vietnam, and to say it was all prepared on a boat at sea, it was very impressive.

The whole time during dinner we were heading towards our first destination, a cave we were set to explore.
It didn’t take long, all of ten minutes, before we arrived at the first stop of the day.
We all jumped from the boat and followed our tour guide towards the steps which would lead us to the mouth of the beast.
Before climbing, Popeye told us the legend of how the two thousand islands came to be. He spoke of a dragon that formed valleys and crevasses with it’s flailing tail as it charged towards the coast, when it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.
On the same breath, he then went on to say how geologists claim it had something to do with tectonic plate movements, I am more inclined to go with the latter explanation.

We eventually reached the top, inside the cave was very impressive indeed, there were lots of stalagtites, and stalagmites all of which had different coloured lights being shone upon them. It almost looked like Santa’s grotto given the time of year.
As we ventured deeper, we noticed the ceiling looked like it had been rubbed with several large spoons, as everywhere you looked there were dips carved into them (this was caused by the sea years ago, when the tide was high enough to breach the cave).
We continued along the path behind Popeye, where he’d stop every few yards to show us rocks which resembled different things.
There were five in total, a monkey climbing a stalagtite, Santa’s face, a laughing Buddha, a turtle, and last but not least a rock which resembled part of the male anatomy.

At one point, Jamie, James, Sarah and myself got left behind because we were too busy taking photos, eventually we caught up at the viewpoint.
Here, you could see way out across Halong Bay, to the right of us were some rocks which looked like a persons feet dangling over the edge.
With all of the conceivably imaginable photos taken, we made our way down the steps and back to the boat.
We needed to have a quick restroom break before setting sail again. Sarah was very sure she wasn’t going to use them, encouraging us to have a look to see what was discouraging her.
Inside the ladies were two toilets side by side, with no dividing wall. Meaning if you were to use one and somebody else came in you’d certainly get to know them quite quickly.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture to show you, as when we left another couple came in…. be a bit weird really if I were to take a snap when the woman was sat there.

Back on the boat, we were told it would be ten minutes before our next stop, I was looking forward to this as it entailed kayaking.
Each of us grabbed a life jacket and were seated one by one into our kayaks.
Sarah and I set off before James and Jamie, however, rowing in sync was something of an issue to begin with.
We rowed around a giant mountainous rock, erecting from the sea. We passed the boys a couple of times as well.
One time they stopped to chat, they told us what happened when they set off.
They hit into a wooden boat containing goods for sell and accidentally put a hole in it. Unsure of what damage they had truly done.
We were out on the waters for twenty five minutes before returning to Popeye.
When we climbed aboard our captains boat, it was a race against the clock to get to our next destination before sunset.

This time we only had to sail for five minutes, so, with a quick duck into our room to get out of our wet clothes, we were ready for the mini beach.
The reason for us visiting this beach? It contained a view point of the whole of Halong Bay.
However, to reach the top we had to climb about three to four hundred steps.
It was hard going, with each step burning my thigh muscles, reminding me just how out of shape I had allowed myself to become.
The higher we climbed, the more populated it was, as everyone appeared to be eager to watch the sunset, occasionally the stairs formed vertical queues, because the people ascending had to give way to the people descending.
Eventually we reached the last step to find the most breathtakingly beautiful sight we had witnessed yet. The only downside, it was filled with tourists who would ruin any pictures you’d take by photo bombing you every time (just so my nan knows, photo bombing is when people randomly walk by in the background destroying what would have been a beautiful memory).

After a while, people began dispersing and we were all able to get good shots before the sun disappeared behind the tall grey islands.
It’s funny, when you get to these beautiful viewpoints you spend so much time trying to capture a good photo than enjoying what mother nature has created upon her vast canvas for you.
Before making the descent, we asked a lady from our boat if she’d mind capturing the four of us, and our achievement of climbing so high on camera. However, after looking at the picture, we noticed a random lady, somehow, managed to photo bomb us, luckily, our photographer didn’t mind taking it again.
We returned the favour by taking her picture, then all of us walked back down the steep steps until we reached the beach.
Here, James wrote our names in the sand, while Sarah and I had funny photos taken by Jamie. We snapped up Neil Buchanan’s art attack then climbed on our boat for one last time that day.

Our next stop would be our final stop, as it would be here we’d drop anchor for the night and enjoy some fine food once again for tea.
While we were waiting for it to be cooked, Sarah and I went back to the room to put on some more layers (yes, it was actually that cold we needed to layer up).
We then sat in the dining area where we ordered a coke and waited for Jamie and James.
It turned out they weren’t in their room, instead, they were on the top floor of the boat.
We found the pair of them chatting with a group of American guys, they were from California and were very friendly and entertaining, telling us funny stories of their college lives back home.
Half an hour or so passed before Popeye told us dinner was served. We found our places at the tables and were blown away by the amount of effort that went into the food.
They had surpassed what we had for dinner by a long way, they brought out plate after plate, each one more mouth watering than the last.

Now, I’m not a seafood fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this feast. They first brought out a salad, followed by a plate with a glass upon it. There were several king prawns overhanging the edge, and inside the glass were several edible flowers, each made of carrots, potatoes, cabbage etc.
The next dish was spring rolls, then came a beef and vegetable plate, followed by stuffed chicken fillet and on that plate they had placed a tomato which had been carved into a swan. For desert they brought out slices of apples, which were carved to look like bunnies, I hadn’t had an apple since leaving home (other than in fruit shakes) and I missed it, as that used to be one of my favourite fruits.

It was a feast fit for a king, when it was all over some people called it a night and retired to their cabins, whereas Jamie, James, Sarah and I, remained at our table exchanging war stories of drunken nights out, and embarrassing incidents that had occurred.
When we were all laughed out, the four of us returned to our rooms. Where for the first time, we used the air conditioning unit for a different purpose, a somewhat alien purpose… to warm ourselves up.
That’s right, we set it to thirty one degrees, did I not mention it was cold here!!!

Day 63: We’ll Cross That Bridge When We Get To It

For the first time in a while I woke up with some energy, it may have been down to the fact I had a good nine hours sleep, ooooor because I slept in the spare bed of our room (for honest reasons, you see, I wasn’t in the doghouse, I just didn’t want to disturb Sarah who was already passed out in the bigger bed). As per usual it was straight out of bed and off to breakfast, when we had our fill we returned to the room for an hour or so, waiting for the sun to rise. When it eventually did it was off to the pool. We spent a few more hours there, it was almost like a private resort just for us as not a single person showed up until we were ready to leave. Our travelling trip was starting to look like a bad joke, as this day was another write off when it came to sightseeing.

After a quick shower back at the room, we were ready in time to catch the 2pm shuttle bus into town. When we arrived we stopped in a travel shop in order to book a bus to Nha Trang, as well as an open ticket to several other stops for later on down the road. We didn’t have enough money to buy the whole ticket, instead we put down a deposit and said we’d be back after dinner. Like usual the same old routine happened, we walked around town until we found somewhere to eat. We chose the same location as the day before, Cargo, not only did they sell desserts, but they also had a variety of main dishes. I couldn’t resist the urge and once again ordered a burger, I mixed it up a bit by choosing the bacon burger option, at one point I nearly picked a pizza but wasn’t strong enough to handle the disappointment one more time. Their prices were quite high for Vietnam, but they made up for it with the quality of each meal. We couldn’t handle dessert at that time, so, we paid up and wandered the streets again.

Sarah was (and still is) adamant she would replace her wardrobe she has with her, growing tired of her clothes already, and making paper thin excuses in order to buy new ones. Such as, “well, the clothes in my bag are getting a bit tatty anyways.” Needless to say, the shops we looked around were all tailors, as each one was packed with dresses. She even went as far as trying one on in a store, but wasn’t happy with the way it fit (or the price) so the pair of us left. We looked at several stores as we continued to walk through town, each time I’d hear “oh, that’s a really nice dress,” from the eager beaver beside me. Regardless of all the umming and ah-ing, Sarah didn’t buy any dresses, and she really surprised me when we stopped in a small Chinese temple. Unlike our usual visits to temples, we were only in there for a maximum of two minutes before she had had enough, to be honest you could see everything by spinning on the spot. When we decided to leave town we had just missed the shuttle bus back by a few minutes, it wasn’t so bad as we were only a few minutes from the hotel anyway.

When we got back, Sarah used my phone to Skype her dad, I used that time to get back in the pool and mess around. There was a few problems with Skype at that time, so instead Sarah turned it into a photo shoot with me being the model. After the vogue Christmas special, we returned to the room and remained there for at least three hours. Sarah “The Nerd” Duxbury spent that time reading her kindle, while Ben “The Cool Guy” Norris watched the hit US tv series “Sons of Anarchy.” At seven pm we caught the shuttle bus back into town, as we were now ready for our desserts. There was only one place we were wanting to go, so, for the second time that day, we hit up Cargo. After the brownie and ice cream, and the chocolate cheesecake (don’t worry nanny, their cakes have nothing on yours. How’s your new oven treating you now anyways? I hope you’re finding it easier to bake cakes) we took an evening stroll to a new part of town.

Hoi An’s town centre was really busy on this particular evening, I imagine it was always like that had we actually arrived before nine pm. At night the streets are beautiful, with the only lighting coming from lanterns hanging from trees and buildings. We decided to cross a bridge over the river to explore the little island on the other side. As we crossed, I believe we ruined three families photographs, and broke the hearts of several club reps when we declined their pamphlets which contained bar promotions. We didn’t stay for long, but to my annoyance there was a bloody market. Like a moth to a flame Sarah wandered, it only took fifteen market stalls before she realised (and openly said) they all sold the same tat, with that we decided to call it a night. Looking at the clock we realised, if we were quick, we’d be able to catch the return shuttle bus at ten past eight.

With a quick hop step we made our way through the hustle and bustle (passing a game of hacky sack on the way) until we arrived bang on time at the tailor/pick up point. The lady on the shop rang the guy for us, while I darted across the street to grab my beloved a bottle of cool refreshing water. Within five minutes we were collected and returned safely to the temple that was Southern Hotels and Villas. We had become so familiar with the receptionists by this point that we didn’t even need to ask for our room key, as they had it ready and waiting in their hand. We got back to the room and spent some of the evening looking for our next hotel, but for the most part of it, we promised we’d do something more eventful soon.

P.s
I truly am sorry readers for the severe lacklustre of our past week or so, but as the hit song goes….. “Things can only get better!!!!!”

Day 62: Suits You Sir

After a late night of typing my blog I found it hard to muster up the energy to get out of bed at 7am (I’m supposed to be on holiday). The pair of us walked to the hotel’s restuarant to enjoy a buffet style breakfast, it was ok but nothing special. We then waited at reception for our bus, which would be taking us to My Son. My Son (pronounced meeson) was a 45 minute drive from our hotel, and it’s history (courtesy of a travel app on my iPhone) is as follows…

“My Son is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temoles constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa (Chiem Thanh in vietnamese). The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is ‘Bhadresvara'”.

Now, the only reason I used the app to explain what we saw today was because I didn’t find the place all that interesting. I am often annoyed with myself, as sometimes I don’t find the cultural visits that appealing. Today may have been down to any number of these following factors.

1.) It was hot in the Sun’s blistering gaze everytime we stopped to be told the history of the sight.

2.) There were big groups of tourists crowding around the same sight as us, which was annoying.

3.) It was difficult to understand the tour guide at certain points.

4.) Lastly, I was constantly distracted by the occasional passing butterfly.

I am glad when Sarah suggests we do the cultural trips, as sometimes they can be quite fun, but on this day the sight looked like a load of rocks to me. When we first arrived, the tourguide told us he would collect our money to buy the tickets, however, he told us the price had risen from 60,000 to 100,000 dong. Sarah was cautious of this, as she had read in the guide book it was a con used to pocket more money. We told the guide we wanted to buy our own tickets, but soon ate those words and felt bad when we discovered the guide wasn’t lying and actually had to pay the 100, 000 dong. When we got in, we learned My Son was divided into several groups, A through to G. It was quite sad at certain areas as they had been totally destroyed from the bombings during the war in 1969. Group G was currently under construction meaning it was closed off to the public. We read on a sign that it was near collapsing, and if it wasn’t for the Italian restoration team working there, it would have fallen to pieces. We also read the team used the same techniques as the original creators.

This meant instead of using cement to hold the bricks together, they were using a special solution consisting of a heated resin and another product used in the making of tyres. After the guide told us everything he knew, we were given the opportunity to explore the grounds at our own leisure. We were given a generous time limit of 50 minutes, we only needed 20 to look around the remaining grounds. The highlight of the day, for the pair of us, was when we photo bombed of a couples photograph. I think we got away with it, and I hope somewhere out there now the couple are looking through their photos of the day and discover the two mental Brits pulling faces. With time to spare we returned to the coach area and bought some drinks, while we were waiting we saw a poor little monkey chained to a tree. We couldn’t figure out if it was to protect the tourist, or just a tourist attraction, either way we didn’t like it!

The coach left on time, as promised, and seeing as we only paid for a half day trip we were taken back to the hotel via coach, whereas the majority of the group continued on to enjoy a boat ride. When we returned to the hotel we decided to waste some time in our room, until the next shuttle bus would carry us to town. They ran every hour on the hour, the previous day we had recieved a message from our friend Alix. It explained that she was staying at our hotel. When we were walking down the stairs to leave, I noticed a girl with blonde hair passing by. When she turned around, to my surprise, it was the lady herself. She told us she was also heading into town, as the day before she had a dress and coat tailor made and was going back to collect it.

Alix had four days left before she was returning home, so was getting rid of all her excess belongings in order to take back her new clothes. The three of us caught the two o’clock shuttle and ate dinner at the first cafe we came across. During dinner we caught up, and exchanged funny annecdotes, as well as the rare con’s we had been duped by. After food we had to move pretty sharpish as Alix had to pick up her clothes. On the way she told us information about the “Killing Fields,” this was a place in Cambodia we’d soon be visiting. By the sounds of it, it is a true representation of how evil the human race can be.

At the clothing store Alix tried on both items she ordered, unfortunately she wasn’t happy with the way they sat, referring to the dress as a potato sack. She didn’t have long for them to alter it, before having to catch a bus to her next stop. The tailor/seamstress told her it wouldn’t be a problem, and that she could return in half an hours time when the alterations would be complete. We used that time to find a cafe called “Cargo,” this was a place in the Lonely Planet guidebook because of it’s amazing dessert options. It was a little walk away (around 5-10 minutes, but when cakes involved we’d walk 70 miles without a fuss). Alix and I ordered warm brownie with ice cream, and Sarah ordered a chocolate mousse. When I was asked which sauce I wanted, either chocolate or caramel, I asked which was best to which I was told I could have both (if only every choice in this life was that easy).

After finishing both mine, and the last of Sarah’s, we promptly paid up and made our way back to the tailors. This time Alix was very happy with the results of their hard work, she promptly paid and we headed back toward the hotel. It was too late for us to get the returning shuttle, so instead we caught a taxi. The total fare came to just shy of £1, which Alix was kind enough to pay for, and refused to accept our cash when we thrusted it upon her. Her kindness didn’t stop there. When we got inside Alix was generous enough to us her “Southeast Asia on a shoestring” guidebook, meaning we were now covered for the rest of our trip. Just try hustling us now con men. I helped Alix with her bags to the taxi, then Sarah and I wished her well, before giving her a hug and saying our goodbyes. It was then back to the room, where we chilled out for a couple of hours. The only thing that spoiled it was the movie “Beastly,” on the television. That movie is just terrible.

I took some time to phone home and see how mum was doing. She had been very busy decorating their house for christmas. After I saw the winter wonderland at the Howe residents, my mum went on to show me my adorable canine buddy Rocky. He appeared to be happier than ever, I knew I did the right thing by giving him to them when I left. He is living like a king….. or whatever the dog equivalent is. After the call the pair of us caught the 9pm shuttle bus to town for some tea. I wasn’t feeling that hungry so only had an omelette baguette (some might say that’s a big meal, but seeing as every time I order food here I have two dinners, I’d say an omelette was more of a snack).

We took it in turns to go on Facebook and write back to friends, we then paid the bill and caught a taxi home. Initially the driver tried it on by demanding a high amount, but when we arrived the metre read way lower than his ideal figure. We got the price down to a mutual beneficial cost and headed inside. We made our way up the marble stairs back to the room, where we concluded our second night in Hoi An.

Day 58: You’re a Real Pizza Work

It was a rather slow day as they go, the highlight being us reaching Danang. It started like any other day, scratch that, no it didn’t. I had to be out of bed and at reception early to sort out our train. I woke up around 7am hoping they’d be ready for me. When I got there I was told they couldn’t sort it out until gone 8,” why cruel world? Why!!!?” Were the cries I let out as I made my way back to bed for all of another hour. When it came time for me to visit them again I was greeted outside the elevator by one of the female staff. She had with her two tickets for 10:50am. With that, I returned to the room to tell Sarah the good news. We packed our bags and had breakfast, before checking out and catching a taxi to the train station. It took a while waiting for the train to arrive, which wasn’t so bad as Sarah enjoyed watching the young Vietnamese children running around playing. The train showed up 40 minutes late, as we made our way to the carriage we were quickly made aware of the lack of organisation when it comes to boarding. It’s basically a push ‘n’ shove until every last person is on. If you snooze you lose basically.

Sarah went on ahead as I struggled with my bag, which is too wide to wear in the narrow corridors of a Vietnamese train carriage apparently. For the first time since being in Vietnam I had the luxury of a seat with a lot of legroom. The journey was roughly an hour and forty five minutes. During the trip we passed some beautiful, and terrifying sites. To the right of our carriage were fog covered mountains, and to the left, steep drops with the occasional passing ocean. We were somewhat distracted from the views as we spent the majority of the ride watching tv shows, besides, most of the Asian passengers would close the curtains in order to sleep. We were so engrossed in our dramas that we didn’t know when our stop was. I collared an official who told us we had another hour or so before Da Nang. With that we went back to watching the Mentalist, while Sarah continued to be crushed by the seat of the uncaring woman in front. Eventually a five minute warning was called, to which we stood up and got ourselves ready to depart.

Outside the train station we were welcomed like celebrities, once again, by all of our adoring….. Taxi drivers. One was particularly keen to take us, luckily we heard him say Hoi An, otherwise we’d have been heading in the wrong direction altogether. When we told him where we wanted to go (which was local, unlike the 45 minute drive he wanted to take us on) he was quick to say “ok,ok,ok, 150,000 don.,” Needless to say we swiftly walked away. The next one to step up was another keen fellow who only wanted to charge 30,000 each. However, he was part of the easy rider service which was an organisation that drove motorbikes. The price seemed good enough, we were going to take it, until he got a friend involved so the pair could take us separately. Due to being conned before by overly friendly people I told Sarah I wasn’t happy about going with those guys, and instead showed one last taxi driver where we wanted to go. He was a younger guy who wasn’t as conniving as the other older guys. He said he’d take us for a small cost of 70,000, before one of the older guys came over and suggested we pay him 100,000 instead.

The joke was on them, as when we were in and the doors were closed Sarah asked the driver to put the meter on because it only charged 10,000 dong every point eight of a kilometre. At our hotel the meter read 56,000 dong, meaning the guys on the bikes were probably quite genuine. They predicted it would come to that much, and warned us the taxi drivers would try and charge more. When we got inside the hotel, for once, we didn’t need to sleep. We handed over our passports and received our room key, we were then guided to our room by an employee. We dropped our bags off and returned to reception to find out what was in the area. The lady didn’t have any maps behind the counter so she sent an employee out to fetch us one. Within 10 minutes the guy was back. Sarah used this time to finally go on Facebook, as for some unknown reason it didn’t work in Hue. The lady showed us a few places down town to eat, but suggested we hired scooters because it would be quicker. We were well rested and felt as though walking wouldn’t be an issue, she told us it was only a 10 to 15 minute walk. It turned out to be more like half an hour.

We visited the Italian restaurant suggested to us by the lady at our hotel. I still didn’t feel satisfied by my pizza, and swore to myself there and then that I’d give up the search for the illusive tasty dish. It’s annoying, in a country that cooks dog you’d have thought a pizza wouldn’t be too big an ask. After all, it doesn’t get much simpler than dough, tomato and cheese does it? We went online during lunch and found there were several cinemas in the nearby vicinity. With that we settled the bill and began exploring. We only got to the end of the road before it started raining. Sarah suddenly took a turn for the worse, claiming she felt dizzy. We decided to put off the cinema for another day and returned to our hotel instead. We spent the best part of the late afternoon/ early evening in our room watching tv, old habits and all that. We reared our heads around 8pm and decided to visit a little coffee shop Sarah spotted earlier that day.

However, when we reached the building they only sold drinks, and we wanted food. We felt bad when we got up to leave because the staff gave us a complimentary free drink. It was probably tea but it came in a clear glass, was luke warm and was a yellowish colour. As you can probably guess, my imagination got the better of me. We saw a restaurant across the street so decided to check it out. I wish we hadn’t, as the only thing that looked appetising was their plate of fried rice, this was partly due to the literal translations in their menu such as fried inside of chicken. When we nearly finished our meals Sarah witnessed a rat run across the floor, when she mentioned it to a nearby member of staff the lady simply smiled and nodded, you’ve gotta love the language barrier. After we paid for the worst meal in a while, including Sarah’s medicine tasting drink, we returned to the hotel. We asked the lady about any day trips they offered. Being handed a brochure, we took it back to the room and contemplated what we could get up to in our new, rainy little paradise!

Day 59: Life’s a Beach!

Ring, ring, ring was the sound that woke us up on such a fine Thursday morning. It was the lady from reception calling our room to let us know our breakfast was ready on the roof. For the second time during our trip we’d be eating breakfast while taking in a beautiful view. When we finished the delicious omelette baguettes it was back to the room, even though the weather outside was sunny. To be honest, as far as sightseeing days go this day was kind of a write off. We remained in our room for several hours, like usual watching tv shows. Sarah made a phone call to reception as we were having hot water troubles and she really wanted a nice shower before we headed out. The lady came up with a handy man but left shortly after, claiming all we had to do was turn the tap to the left. For some reason that bit of common sense didn’t work when we applied it the previous night. Not ones to complain, we pretended we didn’t know that’s what we were supposed to do and Sarah got her hot shower. Seeing as out hotel was a stones throw from a never ending beach, we packed a bag, applied some suntan lotion and decided to pay it a visit.

On the beach we removed our flip flops and walked as far as we could before the tide came bellowing in. Not wanting to end up stranded we returned and quite literally retraced our footsteps. During the walk we saw a washed up jellyfish, I couldn’t resist and prodded it with my flip flop, to my surprise the creature was hard. We saw a nice resort on the beach and decided to stop for a drink. As we sat to the table the wind started picking up, and off in the distance it was very obvious a storm was brewing. A lady came over with a menu, where I ordered a plate of fruit and a chicken burger. If there’s one thing the people of Asia know how to cook it’s chicken. The weather grew a lot worse just as my food arrived. The lady then suggested we sit inside to get out the way of it. However, inside transpired to be more outside, as the area was pretty open.

When I was finished we returned to our hotel, as the rain started to fall (see, this lifestyle we lead isn’t all sunshine and rainbows). Once again we were back in our little cave, but during our absence the staff were kind enough to clean up after us. We only stayed indoors for a couple hours this time, as Sarah found out cinema times for a showing of the new Christmas movie “Rise of the Guardians.” At six o’clock we made our way to reception and found there was a taxi outside waiting for a fare. The lady from reception came out to help with translation issues, then the driver took us to the plaza.

On the way we had the opportunity to see the city in lights. We had to cross over the Song Han Bridge, this is a famous bridge which allows tourists to travel from their hotels to the area’s beaches. In the middle of the night traffic is stopped from crossing and the bridge swings on its axis to allow shipping traffic to pass along the river. It was beautiful to see the bridge in lights as each bulb shot up and down its beams. The neighbouring Thuan Phuoc Bridge was equally as beautiful, as it’s rainbow coloured lights lit up the night sky it was almost as if the two bridges were in competition with each other. A 10 minute taxi ride later we had arrived at the four story super complex.

Inside it appeared half complete, on the ground floor there was a mixture of clothing and jewellery stores, as well as closed and abandoned ones. The second and third floors had a supermarket, and the fourth and final floor had what we wanted, the cinema. There as also a very popular arcade there too. We bought our tickets and seeing as we had time to spare we went to Vietnam’s KFC equivalent Loiterria (I think that’s the name). The menu was identical to that of the colonel’s, after we had our food we returned to the cinema to watch our movie. An enjoyable two hours later we left the cinema feeling really happy with what we had just watched. We then paid a visit to the supermarket where we bought toiletries, fruit, M&Ms (which seem to be the chocolate that’s sponsoring our adventure) and drinks (to replace the ones we had from our minibar).

When we left the bizarre plaza we were asked if we wanted one of the many yellow taxis outside. Sarah was hoping we’d be able to get some pictures on the bridge, so initially turned down the gentleman’s offer. Due to the rain (which looked like it was settling in for the night) I managed to convince her that it would be in our best interest to get one there instead of walking. We started out asking only one guy to take us to the bridge. However, because he couldn’t understand us, we ended up with every single taxi driver trying to decipher the word “bridge?” In the end we asked to be taken back to our hotel, but because we couldn’t pronounce the name of it we had to say the neighbour hotel, Jimmy. They all knew what we meant when we said that, we agreed a price of 50,000 dong. The driver pulled up onto the pavement giving us a literal door to door service. We paid the man and returned to our room. Due to the nature of the film we just watched, we had to go to sleep aware of the fact this would be the first Christmas either of us would be spending away for home.