That eve we booked another uber *successful* to our hostel in Ubud. This cost us 100,000 IDR. The hostel was lovely ‘Dormy Inn’ but a little bit out of the way so we rented a scooter the whole time which was great for us as Danielle is a confident driver but if your not so keen maybe stay somewhere closer or ask about taxi hire. Our friends hired a car for 400,000 IDR (2 people) for the day to take them round to all the attractions they wanted to see.
In Ubud we went to the monkey forest, 40,000 IDR, which we really liked. It’s a nice little walk as well as just being to see the monkeys. I was really scared about being attacked but didn’t need to be; if you don’t provoke them or have any food they won’t come near you.
In the afternoon we went to the trawangan waterfall. It was a fantastic scenic drive to the waterfall passing through jungle, rice paddies, hidden streets and dodging all the dogs! This was the best bit of the trip as the waterfall itself wasn’t really anything too special (this may be us in spoilt traveller mode as we have seen so many stunning things now, hopefully not!). The water was pretty murky so we opted out of the swim and it was just so busy.
After this we drove in convoy (at the waterfall we had met up with Katie, Charlotte and Daryl) to a silversmith. This was very cool as we got to see the ladies making the jewellery and then went into the shop for the finished products. Obviously they tried to sell us stuff but they let us walk around and have a good look and let us leave with no problems even though no one had bought anything. We then drove onto a local market where there was lots of clothes/local food. Whatever you do in Indonesia make sure you barter for everything, even if you think you’re taking the piss with the price, your not and try it anyway.
Next day we got the hostel shuttle (60,000 IDR pp) back to Denpasar airport and flew to Lombok. We had heard the weather was really bad for the boats going across to the islands so thought we would try this instead. It was only a 30min flight but travelling took most of the day with the faffing and the journey from our accommodation on both sides.
Off to Lombok!
From Hanoi we went to Halong bay on one of the ‘2 day, 1 night’ organised sleeper boat tours. We paid $69 USD each for this. It included; bus transfers to and from Hanoi, one night on the boat, one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner, entry to the cave, pearl farm and kayaking. The boat we were on was called ‘Golden cruise’ and was classed as deluxe. The quality of the boat and food was ok, it’s hard to tell without having seen the other boats! But we would advise go for the best standard you can and then try and haggle to the price you want. Looking back we may have paid a bit too much but we would do it again, it’s a really fun trip. Try and get to know the people on your boat, and take advantage of the free beer! We got chatting and completely forgot and then the free beer hour was up.
The kayaking was my favourite part, we went through a little archway into a secluded bay and saw a load of monkeys 🐒 swinging from the trees 😄.
Back on the boat we also did a mini cookery lesson, making spring rolls :).
We arrived back in Hanoi about 1800 and went straight back to our travel agent to book a tour to Sapa. We’d heard some good things from other travelers so wanted to fit it in.
Our agent got us on a bus that night which left at 2200, getting us to Sapa at 6am. Arriving in Sapa was a little stressful as we realised when we had got on the bus the night before we gave in our whole ticket for the trip which the bus driver then ‘couldn’t find’ the next morning. We called our travel agent who told us to go into the hotel next to the bus stop. They were really helpful and called our guide to come and meet us. There were a few of us in the same situation who had all given tickets in so if you do this make sure to get part of it back off the bus driver! A guide turned up and walked us about 20 mins to a hotel where we had some breakfast. We waited around a bit longer and a local Sapa lady called Zing then turned up saying she was now our guide for the two day trek. She was very sweet, only 19 but seemed much older! She was 7 months pregnant with her second child and managed to walk faster than any of us with a mountain 🐐 like ease. We left our main luggage at the hotel and packed a small over night bag to take with us on the trek. If your doing this in March make sure you have a raincoat, decent shoes and long trousers.
Once we were walking we were joined by about another 8 Sapa women. Who were just as fast and agile regardless of age or footwear (flip-flops).
We walked down the valley side and back up again through some stunning scenery until we reached two villages, we had lunch in the second one. At this point all of the Sapa women descended on us with their souvenirs which was mostly ‘silver’ jewellery. Stand up for yourself and try not to be taken in too much, they will all tell you how they need to feed their families etc.The lunch was great with spring rolls, sautéed meat and vegetables, rice and noodles – we are almost pro chopstick users now (practice makes perfect as there is often not standard cutlery available).
After lunch we trekked a little longer to the homestay where we all slept in one big room on mattresses on the floor, it was actually pretty comfortable and not too cold as there was a curtain to drape around each mattress. We helped cook dinner with the family which was a variety of Vietnamese dishes, and they tried to get us to do karaoke afterwards. We were a bit of a shy group and only Sam (an English guy) and two of the Vietnamese girls did it. More gin needed I think!
The next day we trekked for another couple of hours and then got a bus back to Sapa where we were catching the afternoon bus to Hanoi. We got to Hanoi about 2200 and crashed into bed.
Then in the morning we went to Pai. We had been recommended Pai a lot by various travellers. Its about a 2/3 hour journey from Chiang Mai, and such a beautiful drive through lush Thai jungle. We stopped along the way for a nice rice lunch in a little road side cafe. When we arrived we went straight to our hostel; Spicypai, another recommendation from a travelling friend. This was a nice friendly hostel, just beware of the mosquitos and spiders. The rooms are bamboo shacks with holes in the walls and the beds are crazy uncomfortable….but for one night the hostel has a good vibe. I can’t say there’s much to do in Pai but enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, a big buddha and a canyon, pick one to watch the sunset, we tried to do both and kind of ended up missing it. Just about managed to get a couple of snaps over the canyon which was amazing. In the evening we went to walking street and had a few drinks, the night life is pretty good here if your interested!
After our outdoor shower we started making our way back to Chiang Mai, goodbye hippies and mushroom lovers! Just as we were winding through the middle of nowhere enjoying the northern Thailand jungle..bang! we managed to get ourselves a puncture :(. The roads to Pai are in perfect condition so we realised it was because the inner tubing had melted in the heat!
Next day we took a day trip to Chiang Rai and the golden triangle.
We left at 7am. Got into the usual minivan, where every Thai and other Asian seem to have permission to drive like an F1 racer. We first stopped at the eggy hot springs. These have been encompassed into mini wishing well like creations and dumped in the middle of a car park so everyone can visit and eat at the same time. They were pretty hot and steamy (with the usual sulphur odour). The difference here is that some very cleaver ladies started up their own boiled egg business, plopping small baskets if eggs in the boiling ponds to then sell on.
We then drove onto the white temple which is a must see! Even if it was rather rushed and very crowded, it’s still beautiful.
We then kept driving and went on a boat trip over to Laos For a quick stop. After a buffet lunch we went to the viewpoint where you can see Myanmer, Laos and Thailand. We had a great local guide called Tik who was a really interesting guy.
The hill tribe and long neck was the final stop and we just about managed to get a quick photo and chat with one of the ladies before a storm decided to set in!
We all bundled into the van and then about halfway back to Chiang Mai the van broke down…It was our lucky day! Tik was very good about it and 40 mins later another van turned up to deliver us back to the hostel…sleep time!
We had a chilled out day in Chiang Mai after this, walking around the markets.
The first night we arrived we decided it was time for a drink as we hadn’t had one in a while…anyway a few Long Islands later we were both extremely worse for ware and have vowed not to drink again 🙏. Local Vietnamese spirits are lethal!
The next day we made it across the river to Dani’s friend Clair’s flat. She lives on the 29th floor and has stunning views over the city, after a tough day nursing deadly heads this was a glorious feeling! We bought ourselves copious amounts of crisps and pot noodle.
So the main (tourist) things we did in Ho Chi Minh were the war remmenants museum and a day trip to Cu Chi tunnels. The war museum is a must if you’re there, it’s only 15,000 dong and gives an interesting account of the Vietnam with some really eye opening photography.
The Cu Chi tunnels we are not so sure on, it was what felt like a really long day with not much time actually at the tunnels. It was over a two hour journey from HCM. It was good to see the surroundings and try to understand what it must have been like but it was quite pricey ~180,000 dong (bus and tunnels entry fee) and a long trip, the museum in the city centre was much more informative and you could get a much better feel of what really happened. The Cu Chi tunnels tour was interesting but much less informative…if you have a penchant for small spaces though you’d love it! you get the chance to crawl through one of the tunnels, Danielle got half way before freaking out, but I couldn’t even go in 😦
Whilst staying with Claire she took us to two lovely restaurants, one aimed at the expatriates; pretty classy food with a price tag to match. We had a lovely ‘English style fish and chips’ which was perfect after being away from home for so long! The other one was a Thai restaurant.
Next bus journey took us to a little place called Dalat, we stayed in a hostel called ‘Dalat Green’, the owners were lovely; we had nice breakfasts and a free dinner one night. However, it was very small so quite difficult to meet people and was far away from the town (we would advise to stay near the lake). The main thing we did here was rent a scooter and enjoy a proper tourist day going to; Pongour waterfall, Elephant falls, a silk factory, a temple with a huge laughing Buddha and a coffee plantation (worst coffee we’d had in a while!). It was a beautiful day and quite easy to fit it all in as all fairly near each other…Pongour is just a bit further away and be prepared for about 500m of a bumpy scooter ride down a dirt track.
So after our busy day we had a good nights sleep and in the morning got the bus to Mui Ne. To be honest the only thing we would recommend here is the sand dune sun rise tour which was pretty stunning even though our driver got us there late and we missed the first part of the sunrise….also our jeep didn’t actually drive on the sand which we thought it was going to so check that out when you book, we paid 70,000 dong so maybe you have to pay a bit more to get a better service. After the sunrise we also got driven to the red sand dunes where you can surf, to the fairy stream which is a stunning little walk, then finally to the fishing village which is quite sad as they don’t know anything about conservation and throw away scraps they don’t want and leave the poor little fish to die on the sand instead of putting them back in the water. We are not sure what/if anything we can do about this so if anyone knows or works in this area please tell us!
From Mui Ne we took the us to our final destination in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, we found they were both used interchangeably).