Summer 2017 #8 : Halong Bay & Hanoi, Vietnam

Halong Bay

Arrived: Fri 28th July 2017 [Day17]

Departed: Saturday 29th July 2017 [Day18] (my birthday!!)

Hostel: Central Backpackers Hostel: Hideaway

When you think of Vietnam, you think of the stunning Halong Bay (or the war, but let’s try and keep things positive). There are literally hundreds of different ways you can see this natural beauty. The tours come in all different shapes, sizes, styles and packages… but all of them are expensive. We knew this when we were looking at our options, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, there were a few things we knew we wouldn’t be able to scrimp on, there were some things that there is no way around it, you just have to pay the money to get the experience. We’d both heard a lot about the Castaways tour. A friend of mine who gave us his itinerary for when he went in 2016 said this was one of the highlights of his whole South East Asia trip. But… we weren’t sure it was for us. It was super super expensive, 2 or 3 nights, and we just didn’t have the time. So, we with the tour that the hostel we’d stayed with in both Hanoi and CatBa offered called Halong Hideaway Tour. They offered a couple of different options, and we went with the 2 day, 1 night experience. We were pretty proud of ourselves that we’d managed to work the timing of it that we would wake up in the famously stunning Halong Bay on my birthday… I’ve had some pretty epic birthdays (that tends to happen when you’re born in the middle of the summer), but, honestly, this one was one to remember…

We were picked up from our hostel on CatBa Island at around 11:30am. Nathan (an English hostel worker) took us to the coach with all our bags. The bus was full, apart from the 2 seats spare (one at the front, one in the middle) for me and Alice. We made a right mess of the whole thing, trying to get on with both our giant bags and day bags while everyone was just sat there staring at us, waiting for us to sit down. It was not our smoothest moment of the trip… I was sat next to a Canadian girl called Erin, and when we arrived at the port, we had to sit and wait for ages for the boat to arrive. We got chatting to a few other people: Jean & Nicolet (both Canadian and friends with Erin), and Abby (a British girl who I couldn’t figure out if she was young or old…).

When the boat finally arrived everyone headed down into the boat, but me and Alice were the first ones upstairs to the top, open sun deck. People soon followed us, and then Dyl (no idea if that’s how you spell it) an Irish Rep for the hostel, gave us all the lowdown of what our day entailed. After he finished his little speech, the Continue reading

Summer 2017 #6 : Phong Nha, Vietnam

Phong Nha

Arrived: Sat 22nd July 2017 [Day11]

Departed: Mon 24th July 2017 [Day13]

Hostel: Heritage by Night

So, after arriving in Phong Nah by bus the night before, we gave ourselves a fully chilled day, waking up to no alarm and heading down for our free breakfast by the pool… One awesome thing about arriving somewhere new at night, is that when you wake-up, you see where you’ve arrived in daylight for the first time, it’s like going somewhere blindfolded to experience a big reveal in the morning.

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We were a little apprehensive about where we were staying, as so, so so many people had told us the only place to stay was Easy Tigers, but, after going down for breakfast by the pool, and seeing our view, we were blown away and so damn happy we’d chosen this place! The back area consisted of a bar, tables, pool, deckchairs, and all looking out on a towering cliff face. It was stunning, we had no idea how we’d stumbled into this amazing find!

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After showering, changing and putting in a load of clothes for washing, we decided to take a stroll around town/down the street and see what we could find… nothing. We found nothing. There is absolutely nothing to the “town” of Phong Nah apart from the tours you can take or go on yourself. We walked down to the river, where we found… not a lot, and then we decided it was time to look what our options were for Continue reading

Summer 2017 #5 : Hai Van Pass & Hue

Hai Van Pass & Hue

Arrived: Fri 21st July 2017 [Day10]

Departed: Sat 22nd July 2017 [Day11]

Hostel: Why Not Hostel

 

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this while sat in Christmas pyjama bottoms with Christmas music blasting out my laptop while I wait for Molly to arrive so we can put up my Christmas tree. How it’s got to be December I really do not know… It feels wrong to be reading through my travel journal and looking at my pictures from the summer while I have panda’s in Santa hats on my socks and Mariah Carey tells me what she wants for Christmas… It just shows how damn far behind I’ve fallen with these blog posts. I still have over 2 weeks of travel to write up about, ideally before I start out on my next adventures (which will commence in EXACTLY 2months… shit.)

I guess we best get down to it then ey’?

 

On the morning of the 21st we were up super early, packed and ready for a day we’d been both excited and nervous about since we decided Vietnam was our destination. We were down at reception by 6.55am and we waited for half an hour before deciding we would make the most of our last free breakfast at Tribee Cotu, Hoi An. At around 7.45/8am (pretty much an hour late) a worker from the Top Gear Tour company arrived to talk us through the basics of what we’d need to know before we would RIDE ON BIKES ALONG THE HAI VAN PASS. Neither of us were that familiar with how to drive a petrol bike… I’d had a few “lessons” in the compound that I live in here in China, but, that was all our experience combined. Neither of us had told our parents or many other family members that we were about to embark on this trip, because, let’s face it, they’d only freak out and worry for the whole day until they heard off us. So, better to ask forgiveness than permission right?! How could Continue reading

Summer 2017 #4 : HoiAn

Arrived: Tues 18thth July 2017 [Day7]

Departed: Fri 21st July 2017 [Day10]

Hostel: Tribee Cotu

Hoi An… I feel like we stayed here for a good while, like, a solid chunk of time. Looking back it’s where I would say our trip really took off and we properly got into the swing of things. It’s also somewhere we got to know really well during our stay, and we loved it. Realistically, we only stayed there for 3 nights, but after staying in 3 different places in less than a week, it felt like we made ourselves at home here.

It’s also here that I let my awkwardness and uselessness shine bright [not for the first or last time of the trip]. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that there are a few things I’ve learnt about myself during my little bits of travel. 1 – the sea cures any hangover, 2 – I am beyond crap at remembering people’s names and faces (to be fair, I’ve always known this, mention someone we were in school with for 10 years and I probably only have a 50% chance of knowing who you’re talking about), 3 – I am one of the most awkward humans you will ever meet. I somehow manage to make any task look difficult. I have a magic gift of creating awkward situations out of the most normal things. This is something I used to struggle with, but thankfully now I’ve just learnt to accept it and get on with it, I’ve made it part of who I am, because let’s face it; it always was, I just ignoring it! When we were in Tokyo and Seoul, Kyle couldn’t quite believe how bad it was, but again, thankfully he just laughed it off after the initial frustration. Alice, thankfully, has known me my whole damn life, so she’s known this is a part of me and my personality, but, again, I don’t think she realised how bad it had become (blame China), until Vietnam. She’s a pretty laid back lass though so it was all good!

Anyway….Let me tell you about our arrival at the hostel. I’m going to put this incident down to the serious lack of sleep we’d managed to get on the sleeper-bus… that’s what I’m going with anyway.

So, after awkwardly waiting in the wrong hostel (behind a massive group of French [?] students), we finally made it to the right Tribee hostel a few doors down. We were way too early to check-in, so we sorted out some laundry at reception (thankfully there weren’t many people about), and then we sorted ourselves out a bit, changed and rented some bicycles. It was during this time that I proceeded to walk into the bathroom on two different guys, within about 20 minutes. Now, “walk in” is probably the wrong term here. I practically barged the door down, I genuinely almost broke the Continue reading

Summer 2017 #3 : Dalat

If you’re only here for some travel tips or want to read about/look at pictures of what me and Alice got up to on our summer travels, please skip ahead and ignore these first 1000 words or so.

If, however, you’re happy to sit through and read a little about myself and my life/thoughts right now, then go ahead and enjoy this intro into my 3rd instalment of my Vietnam travel posts!

 

Overwhelmed.

That’s the only word I can think of, to describe how I’m feeling at the moment. In literally every aspect of my life, I feel like I’m struggling and at risk of drowning if I let things get on top of me too much.

That may sound slightly dramatic (and it most definitely is, BUT) I’ve been lucky enough to live a very fortunate life with few/no issues or problems, so I guess that’s made me soft to hurdles when they do present themselves and stand in my way… It’s just little things really, like work, colleagues, feelings of isolation and distance, too many unknowns in my immediate future, a serious lack of direction in my life, and to top it all off, a mouse problem in my teeny tiny kitchen…

Most of the time, feeling overwhelmed is a terrible, terrible thing, which causes you to struggle and to simply get through the day and figure things out as you go. There is one thing which has been overwhelming me recently, but in a crazy crazy good way: my memories of summer and Vietnam. I’ve been looking back through my photos, journal and going over everything we managed to do and experience in 4 short weeks… and quite frankly, it’s fucking insane. I’m totally stunned by the fact that I was able and lucky enough to be given that opportunity. How did this happen? How the hell did I manage to be in a position where I can spend 4 weeks of a 6/7 week holiday travelling such a beautiful and unique country… I seriously don’t get it. If I sit and think about it too much, I start to freak out.

Am I doing enough to take advantage of this life I’ve been given?

Did I really see and do as much as I could/should have?

Do I deserve this life of adventure and excitement that I’ve been dealt?

It’s strange to think that Continue reading

Summer 2017 #2: MuiNe

Sorry guys, no time for an introduction, I’m about to head out and drink some wine and eat BBQ food, enjoy my 2nd post about my pretty awesome summer!

MuiNe:

Arrived: Fri 14th July [Day3]

Departed: Sun 16th July [Day5]

Hostel: LongSon MuiNe

 So, we’d booked this place while enjoying one of our free beers at Hangout Hostel in HoChiMinh. We’d not really had any recommendations from people for MuiNe, and to be honest, hardly anyone we’d spoken to had even bothered to go there. We were trawling through Hostelworld when we found it, and we booked it in a second. The reason? For both of us, for one night, ON THE BEACH was 1 USD… WHAAATTT?! 1 USD is roughly 75p. 75 pennies for the both of us to stay on a beach, in Vietnam. Erm…YES PLEASE. We couldn’t believe it. Sure, we were going to be staying in a tent, with no AC or fan, in an Asian country in the middle of summer, but, it would be totally worth it right?….Right?!

After we got off the bus in the strange little nothing town of MuiNe, we dragged our bags into a restaurant where we sat for a little while, trying to figure out how we were supposed to get to the hostel. It was hot, really hot. We were hungover, really hungover. And we were about 15km away from our destination… We spoke to a few taxi drivers and they all gave us an extortionate price, because “it so far! Very very long way. You know how far?! Very far!”…. We eventually Continue reading

Summer 2017 #1 : Intro & HCMC

I did it… for the first time in my life I managed to keep a journal/diary of my WHOLE summer! Ever since I was a kid I’ve been told, pushed and encouraged to keep [at the very least] notes of any holiday or adventure I go on. I remember having to complete holiday books/diaries for school and it always felt like such a chore… As I’ve mentioned in many posts, I’ve never been a writer. I’ve never been one to keep a wordy documentation of my life… I keep bits, things and photos, but never words… that is, until this blog came along.

My Granny and Grandad Parker have done more than their fair share of travelling in their life, and my Gran could tell you which restaurant they went to, where they sat, and even what they ordered, from a place they visited anywhere between 20 – 50 years ago (don’t quote me on those numbers). This is not only down to incredible memory, but down to her piles and piles of travel journals. She’s always been so committed and dedicated to them; I was both envious and (shamefully) judgmental towards her books when I was younger. But now, after hearing her speak to my dad (about his recent trip to Canada with Nat), I can see how beneficial it’s been, how it’s made those adventures into part of who she is. Those memories haven’t faded, they’ve stuck there for who knows how many years… and I want that. I want to be able to sit down one day, talking to my children, niece, nephew (no pressure Sam & Dean), friends, grandkids, whoever… I want to be able to answer their questions about the beautiful countries I’ve been so damn lucky to visit, to be able to engage them in stories, and maybe, just maybe… even inspire them.

So, now let’s finally get down to it… The last few weeks at work were both crazy busy and insanely boring. We socialised a fair bit, doing a few fun things (HK Camping #2, River Trek #2 & floating down the aqua duct, Mojito parties, beer pong tournaments, comedy nights, quiz nights etc etc.), and generally wrapped up the year saying “goodbye” to friends/students. Work officially let out on Sunday the 9th July, when a Continue reading