Leaving Hanoi we got on the first leg of our 5 stop bus journey down the coast of Veitnam. It was a very very exciting sleeper bus we were headed for Hue. This bus unlike all the other coaches we had been on actually had beds. Bunk beds to be exact. 3 accross the bus with an aisle between each bed then at the back there were 5 accross. Leanne and I picked our beds but didnt think it through fully and so were upwind of the toilet, our first error! The beds fit me perfectly but were a bit of a squash for 5"9 Leanne so we had a good laugh about how 6"2 Nate would have fit on his bus the night before. Anyway, off we went and after our first dinner/bathroom stop i was out like a light and slept almost solidly through till sunrise when we would stop again for breakfast and then onto Hue.
We arrived at Hue at about 9am and decided to stay one night and get the bus the next day at 1pm so went into a guest house next to the bus stop. On going downstairs after a shower to book our bus seat the next day it appeard Leannes ticket had gone missing between getting off the bus and unpacking and getting downstairs again. So we bought her a new one minus the first stop and set off to go and see the citadale of Hue.
Hue was the ancient capital and home to the imperial family of vietnam, within the citadale is the forbidden city home to the wives and concubines, one of the kings had something like 625 wives - it would take him over a year and half to see each one if he saw one a day! The citadale was being restored for an annual festival that would happen after we left so we wondered around in the sun and saw some of the silver and china work left and the buildings then headed out for some food. While we were on our way out we appeared to pass a tv challenge with groups of people racing through the citadale with camera crews to reach a 'big red spot' so as we were asked if we'd seen one we may be on tv. But we dont know what the show was or what country it belongs to!
After some food we went online and updated our blogs, but i was only upto somewhere in loas! That evening was the birthday of a friend of Leannes who had passed away earlier in the year so we had a drink in her name before heading to bed early as the next day I wanted to see one of the royal tombs before getting on the bus.
We got up and hired a xe om or moto scooter with driver. Our drivers both spoke excellent english and mine had been an interpreter for the US during the war. They drove us up to the most popular tomb, the tomb of the emperor Tu Duc and told us a bit about the country side we drove through passing the first harvest of rice drying on the road sides. We were then free to amble about through the tomb and look at the architecture, this tomb was built around the turn of the century (maybe 1910's?) though right now i cant remember the exact date. While beautiful it is bizzare to think that some of the tombs on the complex were built after europe had moved on to buildings like Versailles decades before. But given the weather there it is also plausible that they didnt necessarily need windows and doors as much and the open style was good for them! Tu Duc used his tomb as a retreat from the city and built himself a lake in the middle of the complex which was nice to sit on the side of and escape the heat thought it was only about 11am.
After this our guides suggested as we had a bit more time we take a trip to a pagoda near by as it was free to get in so we agreed and my driver took us on a tour around telling us a bit about it and the life of monks as he had been a monk when he was younger. This pagoda also has the car used by a monk when he set himself on fire in protest. The car he drove to the gates of the re unification palace in ho chi min city has been preserved as a relic by the bhuddist monks and stored with photos of the burning.
We jumped on our bus and were on our way to Hoi An where Nate, Sarah, Gene and Martin were already. As we stepped off the bus that evening we bumped into some of the Canadians we had met in Laos when we were tubing, while talking to them before finding a guest house sarah and gene walked past and so escorted us to the guest house saving some map reading and getting lost drama! The guest house's manager's sister had just opened a tailors shop that they had gone to the night before so we went with them to dinner with the tailors at a local restaurant. The meal was fantastic and certainly not something we would have found or been able to order ourselves. It consisted of hundreds of rice papers that you rolled into spring rolls with vegetables and a spicy peanut sauce, then came out prawn spring rolls that you rolled up in another rice paper with some vegetables and omlette with prawns in that you tore up and put in as well as satay sticks that you pulled off and put in the spring rolls. Completely stuffed we walked back with the owner of the shop who gets such bad travel sickness she can only travel by scooter or plane. Declining the taxi offer we decided to walk with her and headed to the shop so they could do the fitting on the clothes orderd the day before. So Leanne and I had a look and decided to get some things made ourselves! I got two shirts made for work, and a halterneck top as the one I had packed no longer seemed to fit quite right. Leanne got a pair of light weight brown trousers and two chinese style tops. It turns out we were remarkably restrained compared to everyone else there! The tailors had fallen in love with Gene's travelling panda and so had made him a waistcoat/smoking jacket.
Nate had discovered a bar that did free rum from 10 till 11 where he had been for the two nights before and met a girl called Nicola who joined our travelling party. We visited the bar but given our early start and busy travelling day Leanne and I did not last very long and headed home to sleep. We had also made plans the next day to hire a scooter with Sarah and Gene and see some other parts of the country side. We headed off to china beach and the marble mountains with Leanne driving her first kick start scooter. Not realising she had never driven a car before Sarah and Gene assured her it would be fine so with me explaining you cant change gear while accelerating as we drove we made our way along the highway to the marble mountain and after a small detour also made it to china beach where I instantly shed my clothes and leapt in the sea as it was ridiculously hot again! The leaping was also necessary as the white sand becomes insanely hot during the day.
Once we were done with the beach we headed back into town and went to a posh hotel that is the sister of our guest house and we were free to use the pool. we found Nate and Nicola there in the sun shine but given our scootering we stayed in the shade as you always get more sun than you think while driving and despite sun cream were feeling as if we'd done enough time in the sun! We also grabbed a bowl of soup (Pho) form the hotel before Leanne and I headed back for our fitting. While at the fitting we discovered that as Leannes tops were trimmed in black and her trousers were brown it would probably be best if she got a black pair as well, and I decided to get a dress made in a blue/purple silk.
Sarah, Gene and Martin left Hoi An to stop them buying any more clothes and headed for the beach. The next day Leanne and I got up slowly, went to find a shoe shop and get some nice flip flops/sandles made and I found a pair of heels that were beautiful and just happened to fit perfectly so got them as well. While waiting for our shoes to be ready we had a fitting for the dress and new trousers then headed over the pool to cool down before getting on the bus. We collected our shoes and clothes, Nate and Nicola and headed over to the bus stop grabbing the back row this time as there were four of us.
One more night bus journey done we arrived in Nha Trang a little more tired as it was 5 am and I didnt sleep as well as the last time. Sarah and Gene had sent a scooter to come get us so we hopped in a taxi to the guest house they were in. The taxi driver stopped to get breakfast so Nate and Nicola joined in his sandwhich buying meaning they got them at the local price not tourist price so we were very happy and arrived to find our rooms wouldnt'be ready till 8:30 but the internet was free so taking it in turns we checked our emails then Leanne and I headed off to find some breakfast. Nate and Nicola shotgunned the first room ready so were able to go up at 8, sadly ours wasnt ready till 9 so in a zombie state we waited till then to get a shower and a lie down.
We then headed out to meet sarah and Gene who were on the beach outside our guest house, unfortunately we turned right not left and walked for an hour up the beach and back before finding them 10 minutes to the left! That night was Martins last night as his free 14 day visa meant he had 24 hours to get out of Vietnam so had to mission south to Ho Chi Minh City asap. The next day we were booked on a boat tour of some of the islands around Nah Trang which involved lots of swimming and a floating bar at lunch time with wine that tasted so awful none of us could really manage our shot sized glasses.
Back on dry land we showered and headed out for dinner with all the people we had accumulated by bumping into and so dinner was for about 13 people that night. While waiting after ordering Gene and I booked ourselves on a diving trip the next day, my first dive since qualifying in Krabi. Sarah and Leanne were to snorkel and the guys taking us were appropriately rude about non divers so the next day promised to be lots of fun.
We headed out for the dive with almost more crew than divers! Gene and I had two divers from the shop leading us, one who was qualifying for his dive master and one who was already a dive master. Our first dive was at Maya bay and then the next at octopus point, we saw eels hiding in coral and all kinds of exciting fish... Gene and I also managed to fit in time to play underwater charades while decending. After our dives and some lunch (at 11 am) the crew told us that it was their pay day and they would be at a bar called Guava and we should go. This left the south africans in hysterical laughter as apparently Guava means something else in Africaans. We spent another afternoon on the beach after the dive and napped while Nate and Nicola went to the mud baths and we all met up for dinner and some drinks again that evening. We headed out to a club called the Sailing club on the beach that night and got in for free as the manager was a south african and Sarah and Gene had met him a few nights before. When we got too tired and hot we walked home along the beach in the surf. I think this option should always be the way to get home from a club! Stopping for sandwiches on a street corner Nate took the opportunity to drive a cyclo while soaking wet! The next day as we were tired we just flopped on the beach and planned our next travel moves deciding to book our bus ticket the next day. Sarah and Gene convinced us to go to Mui Ne another beach stop with them before going on to Ho Chi Minh City so that night we packed up and found somewhere to add movies to ipods and some more music.
Up at 7 the next morning for a bus to Mui Ne we got on to the bus and after the first hour of napping we had breakfast. For Leanne and I that was peanut butter sandwhiches and for Sarah and Gene cornflakes with long life chocolate milk. Sadly as i took my camera out to take a photo of cereal on the bus it got tangled in the blanket and despite checking my seat for any left items for possibly the first time in my life i didnt see the camera and so it was lost... In Miu Ne we found a beach bungalow for $5 and i realised the camera absence. Our guest house were great and called the bus office who called the bus but as it had been filled up they couldn't see it. Not thinking clearly i didnt offer a reward which apparently guarentee's your objects being returned to you once you get to the end of the bus line but we just thought we would ask there and see. Leanne and I decided we needed to keep moving and as she was developing a cold agreed to stay one night there then get a bus at 1am to Ho Chi Minh City.
The next day before we left we hired a scooter per pair and set off to find some sand dunes. AFter a few detours again including a broken wheel that had to be repaired we arrived and slid/lept down the sand dunes till we could no longer climb up them again and so headed back for lunch and showers. Leanne and Gene had a sled each but didnt get up great speeds, Sarah and I jumped in various fashions... one of which involved me ending up rolling down the sand dunes so some washing or rinsing was needed urgently! Another afternoon, another beach and some more reading. On this beach we (leanne) discovered star fish burying themselves in the sand as the tide moved out. Digging them up we dropped them back into the surf watching them bury themselves, this kept us entertained for at least half an hour!
Then it was just dinner and sitting on the side of the road till our bus came... we were told it would be at 2am not 1am so when 2:30 rolled around we were exceptionally glad to see our bus roll up and stop for us unlike all the other coaches that had just sailed past us! We arrived in HCMC very early again and had instructions from Nate and Nicola as to where they were staying so after asking at the tourist office for our coach company for the camera (again a no) we found what we thought was the guest house. But apparently had gone to the one next door! As it was the same price and had very happy owners we just stayed there leaving a note explaining what we had done. Leanne was feeling pretty awful with a cold and nasty chesty cough so I left her in our room to sleep and wondered around the corner to the pharmacy where the conversation went like this
"Hello, can i get some antiboitics?"
"yes, how many"
".... 1 sheet thanks"
"....."<-- the eqivalent of about 40pence.
And that was it, feeling very proud of myself for remembering the name of the antibioitic for chest infections back i went to the guest house and presented them to Leanne who was equally surprised about how easy it was to self prescribe yourself - or someone else!
Eventually we set about getting something to eat and finding the Quantas travel shop to change our flights as persuaded by everyone else. No problems there either, the flights were changed for 5 days later and we were good to go. That evening while standing on a pre determined street corner waiting for Nate, Nicola, Alex and Claire the bus form Mui Ne arrived (2 hours late) with Gene and Sarah on board waving manically at us, we escored them to the guest house and went for a beer all together. (It actually turned out ours was full as was Nates so they were in the one the other side of Nate ... but still on mini hotel alley and the owners of all three were perfectly happy for any of us to wonder in to use the 'reception desk' phone to call up to the room to demand they get ready faster) That night the two new arrivals were tired, Leanne was feeling the effects of the anti biotics and so everyone agreed to call it a night. Alex and Claire had had their bag with a very large camera stolen from the downstairs of an internet place/guest house so were also feeling a bit low - though luckily Claire had moved the passports and wallet into hers earlier. The next day Alex, Claire, Half Pint, Nate and Nicola went to a water park and Sarah Gene Leanne and I were off to the Cu Chi Tunnels at 8am.