Vietnam: Sapa

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 ūüźź 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).

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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, saut√©ed meat and vegetables, rice and noodles – we are almost pro chopstick users now (practice makes perfect as there is often not standard cutlery available).

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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!

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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.

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Northern Thailand – Pai

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!

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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!

Vietnam: Hue – Hoi An

From Hanoi we then got another night bus to Hue. We only stayed here one night but had a great day exploring; took a dragon boat trip (300,00 for two people) to the pagoda and then got off by imperial city. We only walked around the outside as the entrance ticket was 150,000 and you can see so much from the outside anyway. One thing we would recommend is a little cafe called mandarin orange, lovely food and the owner gave us some really nice postcards of pics he had taken himself.

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From Hue we rented a scooter to do the next leg of the journey to Hoi An; The Hai Van Pass made famous on Top Gear.¬†This was really fun, got some great views of the scenery. If you’re not confident driving you can pay for someone to drive you. On the way we stopped at Lang co bay, a massive white Buddha and marble mountains.

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Hoi An was really lovely and the first night we stayed in a great homestay called golden bee, sadly it was really busy so we could only book one night but we’d definitely recommend and they have free bicycles to use. We had a lovely day cycling to the beach. We then went to a hostel closer to the old town which was still good just a bit more expensive, Hoa Binh.

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Next day we hired a scooter and drove to ‘My Son Temple’. This was beautiful, a definite must if you’re there! Be prepared for the 150,000 entrance fee but we thought it was worth it.

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From Hoi An we got another night bus to Nha Trang, which is basically a holiday destination for Russians. Imagine southern Spain for the Brits. We had a really lovely time mainly relaxing here and taking couple of days out of travelling, especially as it was Dani’s birthday. We treated ourselves to a facial where they wrapped us up in cold cucumber, much nicer that it sounds!!

Indonesia РJava 

Banyuangi

We stayed at a great hostel in Banyuangi called Panorama homestay. It was a 10,000 IDR pp local taxi ride away from the ferry port. The rooms were nice and clean and there was a lovely pool with a great view :). That night we didn’t get to enjoy the hostel too much as we set off for our Mount Ijen trek. The hostel helped us organise this through a contact they have. For the whole trip we payed 275,000 each. We were picked up from our hostel at 1130 and then taken to the base of Mt Ijen where a guide met us and lead us on the trek. We commenced around 2am and got back to the base about 8am. This was by far the best thing we did in Indonesia. The views were stunning, well worth climbing vertical through the night. The locals nick name it blue fire mountain because the heat from the sulphur creates a blue fire which you can see at night.

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After the trek, we were driven to a waterfall which is included in the trip. This was lovely but I think we were all a Little to tired to enjoy it properly!

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When we arrived to the hostel we jumped straight in the pool and then for a nap. The hostel owner let us stay in the room until after check out so we could sleep which was much appreciated.

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At midday we had booked a cab to Banyuangi train station to get to Probolingo, where we were planning to climb mount Bromo. Sadly there were no train tickets ūüė¶ so after a (small) stress from Lara we booked a ticket for the next day to Yogyakarta which meant we couldn’t do Mt Bromo but we have heard really good things about it so we would recommend to try and do it if you can!

So we stayed in a Homestay close to the train station, it was not anything great but was in walking distance to the station which was great as our train to Yogyakarta was at 0630 the next morning! We bought economy class tickets for 90,000 each. The journey was 13hrs which was an interesting experience! The seats were bench style, rows of three facing each other so pretty cosy, especially when Indonesian style is to spread out, take up as much space as possible, make lots of noise and make a 5 course meal at their seats. Luckily we had downloaded a load of things from Netflix so this kept us occupied most of the journey, if you havn’t got it people it’s a must! So after surviving the journey we reached Yogyakarta at about 1930 and walked to our hostel about 10 mins away. We stayed at ‘Laura’s Backpackers’ which was fine but the bathrooms were pretty dirty and they kept loads of animals in tiny cages and didn’t seem to be looking after them very well. The staff were all really nice but I think just a bit lazy.

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So things we did were; muin temple, chicken church and prambaran temple. I don’t want to have too much of a rant here but we were getting a little sick of Indonesia by now and the temples just exacerbated this. For ‘locals’ and they would accept anyone who vaguely looked Indonesian for this, the price was 30,000 IDR pp and for anyone else it was 260,000 IDR pp so for Bodora we put our foot down and did not go in but we decided to pay for Prambaran as it was a bit cheaper at 230,000 IDR pp. We understand that locals may be allowed to have a cheaper entry fee but the difference was extortionate and after being ripped off since day 1 we were bored of it.

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