Monday, 23 January 2012

Bus journey from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon)

We booked a bus using our open bus tickets with Camel Tour. We caught the 1am instead of the 1pm bus as we didn't fancy travelling so early in the day and also we would save on 1 nights accommodation by travelling over night.

The bus didn't arrive until 2:15am, by this time we were all really tired and almost booked a room at the hotel thinking that the bus had forgotten to turn up. We eventually boarded the bus, which was nicer than the last one we had travelled on but the leg room was very cramped, even i couldn't stretch out my legs!

Once on board the journey went smoothly and we arrived in HCMC at 7am.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Mui Ne

The bus dropped us off in the middle of the main road of Mui Ne and we proceeded to find some accommodation for the night. We all looked around for an hour but could not find anywhere cheaper then $14.

We negotiated a double room from $14 to $13 per night at a place called 'Gio Bien Guest House'. Jason, Luke, Josh & Aaron booked a double twin here for $20 per night between the four of them. We did all try lowering the price even further with the promise of staying here for four consecutive nights but the owner stood his ground and refused.

The rooms were spacious and basic and they all have air con, although even with this on continuously both our rooms were full of mozzys and we all got eaten alive!

Our room at Gio Bien Guest House

The boys went swimming in the sea just before sunset and then Ian, Jason, Luke, Aaron and I all headed out for some food. We found quite a few open air seafood restaurants and the others picked some fresh fish for our dinner. I'm not a fan of seafood so i ended up missing out on the fish.

The sunset on the beach

Aaron ordered a huge sea snail and the others ordered a large Red Snappa. The fish was cooked perfectly and tasted really good. I ended up finishing off the rest of Ian's even though i don't usually like seafood, i really enjoyed this. The only downside was that we waited almost 1 hour for the food to arrive!

Aaron's sea snail

During our first day it was quite cloudy but still incredibly warm. Most of the day was spent booking our flights to Bali and Bangkok and looking around the town. The boys found a nice gym that was owned by a friendly Aussie guy called Rex who gave us some great advice about Cambodia. If you're into your fitness i would recommend visiting here, it's called 'Mui Ne Fitness' and is located on the main road.

We found some builders having a nap during a power cut

The second day we booked a sunrise trip to see the sand dunes. We arranged this via Rex after he advised us to visit during sunrise and pointed us in the direction of a guide with a Jeep that we could hire.

We each paid $6 and were picked up from outside our hotel at 5am. The journey to the white dunes was about 40 minutes and we walked up to the higher dunes to get the better views. There were about 20-30 other tourists here but this didn't spoil the view in any way. It is a truly a magnificent scene and definitely worth the early wake up call.

The White Sand Dunes

 Driving towards the Red Sand Dunes

We then stopped off at the red sand dunes but the place was heaving with about 400 (I'm not exaggerating!) Chinese tourists, it was packed. The dunes here were beautiful but not as large as the white dunes and the sand had foots prints in every direction so it wasn't great to photograph.

 This is the crowd that greeted us at the Red Sand Dunes, although this picture doesn't quite show just how many people were actually there

Afterwards we visited a little market and fisherman's village.

We then stopped off at a place called Fairy Stream. It is a very shallow stream with a soft sand bed that you can walk along it. Again we were met with some stunning views here and some of the pure white and deep red sand contrasting against each other looked amazing. There is a stop off point offering tourists a ride on an ostrich but i would advise against participating as we watched the owners treat the ostrich's quite badly.

Four leaf clover

Me in the Fairy Stream

We arrived back at our hotel at just after 10:00am, all in all the whole tour had taken 5 hours, so for $6 each it had been really worth while, a must to do if you visit Mui Ne.

To hire motorbikes here it was quite expensive so instead we all hired bicycles and went in search of a quiet beach spot. After half an hour of riding we came across a bumpy dirt track that led to some small local houses and a little beach. The beach was located after Mui Ne Beach and just before Fisherman's Village.
If you want some peace and quiet away from the resorts and crowds then head here. It was deserted except for a few fishermen and some friendly local children that came and went throughout the day.

A small slice of paradise away from the crowds

Some of the local children at the small beach we found

On our last day we decided to head to the little beach we had found the day before. We had to stop off and change Ian's bike as the peddles were not working properly.

Whilst waiting at the hire shop, I was stood on the sandy pavement area talking to Jason, when i suddenly heard people screaming/shouting. I looked up to see a mass of metal coming incredibly fast and heading straight for me. Before i had time to think i had been knocked to the floor where i then waited for the pain to kick in. As i was in shock i quickly got up and everyone rushed over. I was shaking and confused and saw a girl lying on the floor next to me with a motorbike still in her hands.

Within just a few minutes the girl had picked up her broken motorbike and driven off! Ian said she didn't appear injured but i think she wanted to scarper quickly in case she had been forced to pay for any of the damage that she had caused to a couple of the bicycles that she had smashed into before she hit me.

I was told by my friends that this Russian girl had been travelling too fast on the motorbike and had clipped the back of Aaron's bicycle and then careered into me! 

The scene of the crash. I was standing just in front of the paved step and pole and ended up landing behind the pole. The pole and step probably saved me as it stopped the bike from skidding any further.

After 10 miuntes of getting over the shock, realising that my only injury were cuts and bruises and being tended to by a very kind local lady, we hit the road and headed straight for the beach.

The long straight road in Mui Ne and me and Ian heading to the beach just after the crash

I found Mui Ne to be a nice enough town and it was refreshing to be able to enjoy some beach time here after all the cold we had experienced in northern and central Vietnam. There are also so many places to eat here, not in the same sense of Hoi An but you are certainly spoilt for choice. 

The downside to Mui Ne are all the resorts. It has been over run with expensive accommodation and is very touristy, especially with your package holiday tourists and kite surfing enthusiasts. Don't let this put you off visiting, but 3 days here is more than enough.

Bus journey from Hoi An to Mui Ne via Nah Trang

We booked our bus to Mui Ne through Camel Tours using our open bus tickets. We were told to arrive at the tour office for 5:15pm as we would be leaving at 5:30pm. The bus didn't depart until 6:30pm!

Once on board we found the bus to be quite worn and grimy, with most of the seats having huge holes in them that they had tried to cover up using thin bits of foam mattress.

The bus driver also drove really badly. He braked hard constantly throughout the whole journey, meaning that i hardly slept due to the sudden jerks that seemed a lot worse because the bus was so old and rattled about like a tin can. The other annoyance was the horn that the driver insisted on sounding every few seconds!

We arrived in Nah Trang at 7:00am and then went to another Camel Tour operator just around the corner from where we were dropped off. We were told that the bus would depart at 08:00am when in fact we didn't leave until 9am!

We then boarded the bus only to find that it was the same bus we had been travelling in from Hoi An. I'm not sure where it had been for the past few hours as Nah Trang was where it terminated!

The bus journey from Nah Trang to Mui Ne was a little smoother (probably thanks to the bus drivers changing) and we arrived in Mui Ne at 2:00pm.

Dalat or Mui Ne?

Our visa was due to expire on the 18th January 2011 and it was now the 11th January. We knew that we had an over night journey to get to Nah Trang and from there a 3-4hr journey to either Dalat or Mui Ne, plus travelling back, so time really wasn't on our side.

I really wanted to visit both places but we had to decide on one as we just didn't have enough time to do both. We had heard good things about Dalat but no one we had met had been to Mui Ne. After weighing up the pros and cons we chose Mui Ne.

The only reason we picked Mui Ne was because of the wet and cold weather we had experienced for the past 3 weeks. Dalat is in the mountains and gets quite cold (think almost Sapa cold) and Mui Ne was right on the beach, experienced very little rain and would be of a much warmer climate.

My advice would be to visit both, if possible. Even though i have never been to Dalat, everyone that we met had said it was worth visiting.

Tailoring in Hoi An

Upon the advice from a couple of travellers we met in Laos we decided to have something tailor made at Kimmys. The prices were higher here but the shop was very smart both inside and out and after reading about shoddy tailors we thought we may as well pay a little more and go on the advice of the couple.

I asked for a playsuit to be made and showed the girl a photo of the model wearing it. It was a simple design on from the front and the back had a cut out detail. The girl said that she would not be able to complete the design within the two days we had left here and so called her friend and told us to go with them instead.
As this recommendation had come from Kimmys i didn't think to question this and followed the girl around the corner to a tailor called 'Bens'.

The shop wasn't as classy but that didn't bother me and the new tailors seemed confident about the design i wanted. I said i would like the playsuit to be black in colour and was then handed some stretchy cotton material. I also enquired about silk, but all the silk seemed too shiny and formal and so upon the advice of the tailor i went with the stretchy cotton.

In total the playsuit would cost $65, i was a little apprehensive on the price as it was a lot of money but i was told that due to the complex design at the back then the cost would be higher. I tried to barter but they wouldn't budge.

By now Ian had also decided to get something made and went for a shirt and a pair of shorts for $60. Even with this order they would still not bring down the price, this time claiming that the fabrics were expensive and of good quality.

The next day we returned for a fitting. I wasn't overly impressed with my playsuit as the material looked cheap. The design was a good match and the seams had been sewn perfectly, i could not fault that at all. I did have to have an alteration made as it was slightly too big but this was to be expected.

Ian's shirt and shorts had also been made well and the shorts were made of a really nice thick cotton material. The shirt was a little thin but he had been re-assured that a good quality cotton that had been used.

We met up with Jason, Luke & Josh who had used a different tailor to us and paid only $7 for a pair of shorts. The workmanship on the shorts were to the same standard as Ian's but the material was very thin and in my opinion needed to be lined. I guess they were so cheap because of the cheaper materials that had been used.

The shirts however looked and felt like the same quality as Ian's but I'm not sure if the material used had been cotton or not. Unless you work in an industry where you use fabrics it is very difficult to tell, well for us it was anyway!

We returned the following day to pick up our items but overall i was disappointed with my outfit and felt it was very over priced. My advice would be to look at as many different materials as possible before choosing. Pick up the material you like and wrap it around you, imagine how it will hang once made, all this is really important and an expensive lesson that cost me $65!


The pockets on Ians' shorts have both torn through general wear and tear. Even Primark clothing has lasted me longer than that!

Hoi An

We were dropped off at a hotel called 'Vinh Huy Hotel' and bartered a double room from $10 a night to $8. We searched for over an hour, seeking out cheaper accommodation but couldn't find anything below this price. Aaron, Jason, Luke & Josh found a room for $10 between the four of them at the 'Hop Yen Hotel' but for a double room they wanted $10 a night. The room they shared was small but clean, the shared bathroom was also clean and there was 'on demand' hot water.

We returned to the Vinh Huy Hotel and booked for the night. The room was a decent size, the bathroom was clean but the rest of the room had filthy walls, a smashed mirror and a very old rusty fridge. All this didn't bother us but for $8 a night we felt it was over priced.

Our room at Vinh Huy Hotel

We then asked to book the room for the next 4 nights but were told that the room was only available for one night, and so we searched for 2 hours later that evening for another room.

Everywhere we looked at started from $17 a night and a lot of places were fully booked. When returned to our hotel to ask if there had been any cancellations for the following night, we were then told that told that we could stay but that we may not be able to stay the next night.

Basically, because we had negotiated the price down to $8 a night the hotel wanted to see if they could fill up the hotel and our room by charging new tourists $10-$15 a night. Meaning we didn't know if we were coming or going!

Due to the this and the bad attitude of the staff we checked into the hotel next door called 'Hoa My Hotel' for $12 a night for a double room. It was a little over what we were used to spending but the room, although smaller, was nicer, quieter and the staff were friendly and easy going.

Our room in Hoa My Hotel

We all hired mopeds on the first day and had a quick look at the beach. It was far too cold and windy to relax there so we headed into the town area and came across the ancient old town. The scene that greeted us were intriguing buildings, busy markets and quirky restaurants and i was excited to explore the rest.

Head to the market for cheap street food and fruit. Make sure you barter when buying fruit and gifts.

It was a full moon during our first night and the river area was packed with tourists. Many local families were selling lanterns made from brightly coloured paper with a burning candle inside. Once you buy one you have to make a wish first before floating it down the river.

The atmosphere here was wonderful and the pretty lanterns gave off a warm and happy vibe. Quickly this was interrupted by heavy rain, and the riverside was soon left deserted as people fled back to their hotels for cover.

The people of Hoi An are very religious and so these shrines were in or outside every shop

The next few days we hired bicycles instead of mopeds as we had enjoyed the old town so much the previous day that mopeds were not needed. We paid 20,000d each for and had to return them by 9pm that evening.

A lot of our time was spent riding around on bicycles, going from one river front restaurant to the next and watching the world go by whilst enjoying our first taste of sunshine in almost 3 weeks.

For free pool, board games and good food try 'Voulez-Vous' located on the Hai Ba Trung road. Although it's positioned on the roadside and it's over our usual budget, the food here was really tasty and  well presented.

A worker in the rice fields

Hoi An experiences terrible flooding during the rainy season.  You can just about see in the photo how high the water came in during November of last year

Photos from above and below were taken in one of Hoi Ans' Ancient houses

The famous 'Japanese Bridge'

Just one of the lovely places we ate at on the river

 Hoi An is one place in Vietnam that you should not miss. It has got to be one of my favourite towns so far, I fell in love with all the ancient buildings and the laid back atmosphere. It is a little crowded with tourists but try not to let that put you off. Had the weather been warmer/sunnier I'm sure i would have enjoyed a couple of days on the beach too.