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Trip Report Vietnam

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A few days ago my partner and I arrived back from almost 2 weeks in Vietnam. I am not writing this as the post holiday blues set in and I can already planning the next trip!

We left Sydney for Ho Chi Minh city via Singapore. We flew Singapore airlines from Sydney to Singapore with a 3 hour stop over and with them again onto HCMC. We arrived around 8pm and checked in to what turned out to be a nightmare of a hotel (read trip report on Elegant Hotel Saigon).

We stayed in HCMC for 4 nights, the 1st night at Elegant Hotel and the other 3 at the Rex Hotel. The hotel was in the perfect location, slightly pricey but made the trip so much more enjoyable knowing we were coming back to a clean and air conditioned room, a place with a great bar and a lovely swimming pool. There is no way we could have been out in the heat all day so we really are thankful for the choice of two swimming pools at the hotel.

From the hotel we did plenty of walking, around the Opera House, peoples committee, Reunification Palace, the Saigon Skydeck, the War Remenants museum and thats just to name a few. We also booked a trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels through which was really well organised and a great day!

HCMC is a bustling place, full of people and motorbikes. We had heard that when you crossed the street you just had to go...they werent wrong. Once you start walking you just have to walk at a constant pace or your in trouble! Slightly scary at the start but by the end I felt like we ruled the road...

From HCMC we flew to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines. We paid $180 AUD per person and flew business class on a B777 for a 2 hour flight. The service was great however the interior of the aircraft is starting to look worn and old. Still, we felt completely safe and that was the main thing!

We organised a airport pick up through Viator and were met by a respresentative so put us in the car and the driver took us directly to our hotel. We stayed at the Hanoi Elegance Hotel which is a 4 star boutique hotel in the Old Quarter. The hotel was amazing, we couldnt be happier. Everything from the location, the food, the staff and the cleanliness were fantastic. Id recommend this hotel in a heartbeat to anyone trying to decide!

Once in Hanoi we spent the 3 nights there and each day we explored on foot. We only visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the various lakes in the area, also we went to the Vincom Tower which is a huge shopping complex about 1.5km from the old quarter. We explored alot on our own and did our fair share of eating in Hanoi, I would certainly recommend the Tamarind restuarant which is a vegetarian place. Delicious food!

From Hanoi we booked a 2 night trip on Halong Bay with Oriental Sails. The pick up was at 8am and took us a good 4 hours drive to get there with a short 30 minute break in the middle. Once there we were placed on a small boat and transfered to the larger boat which would be our home for the next 2 nights.

We had read on trip advisor about other peoples experiences and found that most people who complained had been in room 108, sure enough this was the room we were given but decided we wouldnt complain and just go with it and see if they were right...indeed they were. The room is located right next to the kitchen and just above the engine. The entire night the bed and room was vibrating and the moment the engine was turned on to move the boat the noise in the room was deafening and you couldnt hear the other person speaking. It was hard to get a good nights sleep with all of this happening but we decided to stick with it as the boat was full and we wouldnt be able to change!

The first afternoon we were taken to visit a huge cave inside the limestone mountains which was impressive and was a good chance to get some great photos. We went back on board and were told we had free time until 6pm which was when they were doing a spring roll making lesson followed by dinner. We had dinner and a few drinks and ended up doing karakoke with 2 other couples which was a laugh...the staff didnt seem impressed as they washed and cleaned around us and we late found out that they slept on the floor in the same room we were in and obviously wanted to sleep!

The next morning it felt like school camp as we were on a strict time schedule, we were to eat breakfast at 7am and no later as the people who slept in had the tour guide knocking on their door! After breakfast those of us doing the two nights were shipped onto a smaller day boat whilst the big boat when back to the mainland to drop the one nighters off and collect the new lot. The day boat was going to be our place for the next 8 hours...we sailed through some beautiful scenery but once we stopped in a small cove we were given the option to kyack or sit on the boat. Kyacking would have been great except it had been pouring rain and they were filled with water and the rain had come back again that morning. The 10 of us sat on the boat until 12pm just talking when they decided to make lunch, we then got told we were staying there again till 4pm...the boat was small, the toilet was disgusting, there was no food available and the only way we could go to the beach was to either swim or kyack in the rain. Some of the group decided to go for a kyack for 30 minutes or so and when they got back the crew disappeared for almost 2 hours, we couldnt access upstairs to find out where they were but eventually they came down and told us that they had been sleeping. We eventually left and were told we were going back to the big boat and 10 minutes later we were at a pearl farm that we had to spend 30 minutes looking around. All in all, we werent too happy with the day we had and the organisation wasnt any where to be seen. When we got back to the big boat we explainted the situation to the new tour guide who made us feel guilty as she kept explaining that they couldnt go to university and learn english!

We woke up the next morning and were told we had to be checked out of the room by 9.30am and then had free time till 11.00am which is when we would have lunch then be transported back to the mainland. My partner and I were placed on a small mini van with another random tour group and were told to sit in the back two seats with all the suitcases piled up next to us. We had arranged to be taken back to our new hotel and had it all written down in an email from the company, the new tour guide then told us he would be dropped us at their office and we would be put in a taxi. After many attempts to get them to drop us at our hotel we were then told they couldnt as it was peak hour traffic. We were tired and just agreeded and when we arrived we got put in a taxi which the company paid for. We were so thankful when we arrived at the hotel!

We had planned our last 2 nights in the Sofitel Plaza Hanoi as we were sure we would need a big clean and comfy bed and some where to just relax. We spent our entire time eating, swimming and having spa treatments which was a bonus! The only problem we had was when we checked in we had already paid for all accommodation costs upfront and because we didnt have a credit card, only a debit mastercard we couldnt use it to put down a bond for any extras. The entire trip, this card hadnt been a problem until now. We had room service the first night and were able to charge to our room, the second day when we wanted lunch we had to pay at the end .. some things we had to pay upfront and some we didnt. We werent happy when we got a call at 10pm at night to come downstairs and pay for our dinner from that night. Not the end of the world though!

After two weeks in Vietnam we ate too much, drank too much and have very sore feet. We had a wonderful trip and would certainly do it all over again. Its not some where we ever thought we would go but would head back in a heart beat!

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