Our tour of Vietnam would take us from the capital, Hanoi, in the north and down the coast to Ho Chi Minh/Saigon in the south with a few stops along the way…
Hanoi to Hue, Vietnam – By Sleeper Train
From Hanoi we headed to Hue by sleeper train. The train was much the same as the ones in China; though a bit older and more basic but cleaner toilets! We arrived late the next day which is always a bit annoying on a sleeper train as you just want to get off, get to your hotel and shower as soon as you can.
Hue is located in central Vietnam on the banks of the Perfume River and was the imperial capital of Vietnam from 1802 until 1945 when Hanoi was established as the capital. A perfect place for some sightseeing… or so we thought.
We had a few things on our list to do but only ended up going to the Imperial City. Whilst the Imperial City was interesting, they gave you more information than the Forbidden City in Beijing, which was very helpful as we know next to nothing about Vietnam's history.
Unfortunately quite a lot was destroyed during the war and it was left neglected for many years. What you now see is the rubble that was once a palace or newly restored parts that were damaged or totally destroyed. To be fair to the Imperial City, I think having been to Beijing and seen the Forbidden City, we are probably now harsher critics of similar sights.
We decided not to go to the nearby tombs because we just couldn't be bothered to deal with transport issues and the depressing gloom that had set in whilst being in Hue.
Possibly the most disappointing part of our time in Hue was the food. We love eating, and Hanoi had been amazing for food. Hue was anything but. Hue was overpriced, awful resort type food.
We spent far too many days in Hue. If we hadn't had prepaid our hotel, we would most likely have left at least a day early. Our hotel in Hue was probably the only positive thing about our time there. The staff were always very helpful and weirdly happy. They always wanted us to have fruit and juice – when we arrived we were given some juice, a fruit platter and wet flannels, when we came back after the visiting the Imperial City we obviously looked disgustingly sweaty as they insisted we have some lemon juice to refresh ourselves and gave us more flannels and when we left, we didn't have enough time to have breakfast so they put some fruit in a bag for us to have later.
Travelling from Hue to Hoi An by Morning Bus Service
After having a not so great time in Hue, which had definitely dulled our enthusiasm for Vietnam, we headed to Hoi An on a morning bus. We got off the bus, and walked around the corner for some lunch and were immediately happier. The food in Hoi An was very nice!
Instead of a hotel, we were staying in a homestay – Water Coconut – which couldn't have been nicer. Once we'd settled into our room we headed out back into town on bicycles, I should mention that up until this point the weather had been amazing, it was a beautiful clear and sunny day, and just as we were heading back the heavens opened and it poured with rain. Luckily we had just stopped at a shop to pick up some supplies so just stood and watched the worst of it before cycling back. The rain eventually stopped so we thought we could make it to a restaurant by the beach for dinner, so with our head torches on we set out. No such luck. We were happily cycling along before Darryl turned around and said the rain is coming. We didn't quite make it to cover in time. We stopped at one of the restaurants we had passed and were literally soaked and dripping with rain. It started to rain on our way back too, which wasn't fun as it was dark and we got a little bit lost/unsure of where we were. We do not seem to have much luck with bicycles and the weather in Vietnam.
After that much cycling, my legs were suffering. I never cycle, I hate cycling and apparently so does my body. So instead of cycling some more, we hired a moped for the next few days. We drove to the beach and around town. If we weren't living on a budget, and we knew when we were heading home, we would more than likely taken advantage of the numerous tailors that Hoi An are known for. It would be great to get some trousers that actually fit properly!
Hoi An was so nice, we opted to stay an extra day, which originally was going to just be in the same bungalow but there was a bit of a mishap with that so we ended up staying in a house across the road which was great too!
Hoi An to Nha Trang by Overnight Sleeper Bus Service
We took a sleeper bus to Nha Trang, an experience that Darryl was not a fan of, probably because he couldn't really fit in his bed/seat and seemed to have been savaged by some sort of bed bug. We arrived bright and early at 6am and the town was already very busy. There were lots of locals exercising on the beach, swimming and playing badminton. It reminded us of China in the evenings – the mornings could have been just the same, we just were never awake that early!
We again didn't get up to much, we just enjoyed relaxing and not having to do much. We went to the beach a few times and went for a mud bath.
We tried Thap Ba Mud Bath Hot Springs who are famous for the healing and therapeutic powers of their mud and mineral baths. To reach Thap Ba from town we had to get a taxi, and as always when you want one you can never find one. We had prepared by checking out their packages online before hand so avoided getting sucked in to buying an expensive package. We floated in a mud bath before rinsing off and soaking in a mineral bath. It was a relaxing, but odd, experience sitting in a bath of mud. Darryl didn't enjoy it that much though.
As we stayed an extra day in Hoi An, this meant that we were going to spend a day less in Nha Trang, we weren't too bothered by this as we hadn't heard great things about Nha Trang, but it turned out to be nice and quiet. Plus our hotel had upgraded us to a family suite so we had loads of space and a balcony. Naturally, we stayed another day.
Hoi An to Mui Ne by Day Bus
We took a morning bus to Mui Ne, arriving at lunch time and headed straight to our hotel. This one was very basic, which was a bit sad after being in a family suite. But we are on a budget that we need to pay more attention to as it's getting tighter!
Unfortunately for us, whilst we were eating lunch it started to rain. So the rest of the day was a bit of a waste. It has felt a bit like the rain is following us around!
We only had one full day to explore the area so hired another moped and headed out to see the sand dunes. This took us a lot longer than we thought because the directions we had were very vague and didn't really emphasis the distance. It was a very hot day, similar to when we ventured to the beach in Hoi An. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped for a very late lunch/early dinner by the beach. Whilst we were eating, it began pouring with rain so much so that the road was like a river similar to Nha Trang.
Following our brief exploration of Mui Ne, we had another early morning start to get the bus to our final destination in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh!