A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand North Island Part 1

all seasons in one day

Hello New Zealand

Kia Ora, from the land of the mighty all blacks and the cute little kiwi's, sweet as!!

After managing to make the connection flight in Sydney, it got to last call quickly, we arrive in Auckland. On first look flying in, the airport was surrounded with lots of green fields, some sheep and covered by a grey cloudy sky – are we back in Wales? Meurig made the mistake of leaving his flip flops and shorts on, a bit of a climate change from Singapore!!! Tim and his daughter Millie were kindly there at arrivals to meet us, and on the way into town he took us for a quick trip up to the top of Mount Eden, an old volcano and Maori fort, where we got a great view over down town Auckland and the harbour and got our bearings. Tim (Rich's brother) had kindly offered to put us up for a few nights before we picked up the campervan, but what we didn't know was where! As his friends/work mates were away for a month we were allowed to stay at their fab flat above Tim's office, 40'' plasma tv with sky, pub on the corner and a 20min walk from town. We definitely indulged in some home comforts and after popping to the local shop for some western food we cooked and chillaxed for a good two days, we were even treated to a chicken dinner at Tim's house. Awesome!

Auckland by far the biggest city in NZ with over a 1/3 of the country's population living in or around, is located in a big natural harbour created by over 20 volcano’s and the Waikato river, with a classic iron bridge connecting the two sides. The sky tower at the centre is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere and when we went up it was an amazing day, blues skies and as clear as the eye could see, not a bad place to have a coffee and cake, for a couple hundred dollars you could even jump off it, maybe next time! The underfoot glass panel in the observation deck was a weird experience, you shouldn't be able to see hundreds of feet below you! Down on the harbour front was where the rugby party was due to happen or party central as it was nicknamed, they had a stage, massive inflated rugby ball and a huge marquee bar. We were a few days early as party time didn't kick off until the opening ceremony on the 9th September, but visitors were allowed to have a wonder around some sections before the big day.

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The morning we picked up the van we started the day off with a fried brekkie (it had been a while) and made it over to Escape's office. We tried to guess which van would be ours and multicoloured is not the word to describe these vans. Whoever has the imagination and the artistic skill to paint these vans is one talented person. We ended up with Manga, a van covered in Japanese style animation and with our solar shower, heater, gas bbq, picnic table & chairs we were sent on our way for 7 whole weeks in this beast! At first you are a bit paranoid about people staring at your flashy van & it took a while to get used to but you do forget and it's kind of reassuring when you pass a fellow escape camper on the road. With a map and some instructions from Tim we set off north of Auckland and the aim was to get to Cape Reinga and back in 3 days in time for kick off.

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Up round and back to Auckland

Meurig offered himself up for the first section of the drive, probably best due to his previous vaning experience but we did have fully comp insurance just in case! It has to be said that NZ signs are clear and we managed to get out of Auckland no problems. Our mission was to quickly explore Northland and go back down to Auckland for the opening ceremony at the waterfront zone. Our first stop was about 3 hours away or maybe 2 if you weren't rubbernecking like us, seen as Wales gets plagued enough by those people in summer so we thought we'd return the favour elsewhere! The first camp was next to lovely Urititi beach, we paid the old lady in the caravan £4 each, and parked up. The only problem was it wasn’t 30° any more, more like 5° with a wind, so the cold showers weren’t so appealing and the sea water “refreshing”. First meal cooked in the van was a spaghetti Bolognese with lots of cheese, not so fast with one hob, and no cider because they now only accept passport for foreign ID (we'll have to pick them up from Tim in Auckland)!

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The next couple of days we drove up through Whangarei (Fangarai) and up the east coast road through the craggy bay of islands, getting used to the van and new Zealand (and finding out they have free internet for all in the NZ libraries!! Now that’s an incentive to go ) . We stayed on Cape Karikari in a DOC campsite(government run, bit like the forestry commission who should do this) right at the end of a long gravel track, with a hand full of vans in a massive site over looking doubtless bay. After a blustery night in the morning we even saw mini fluffy flightless birds, we don’t think they were Kiwi's because their beak didn’t look big enough and they were only jam jar sized, but we'll try find out. That day we motored north up the Auporei Peninsular to where the white light house stands, & where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific.

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From the northern most point of the mainland this is where the Maori believe the spirits of the dead fly to travel to the other world, the rocky out reach even has a sacred lonely wind swept tree braving the elements. Whilst we were passing we checked out 90mile beach, an impressive flat beach as far as the eye can see but more like 90km. You can even drive down it and miss out the road, but insurance null & void, so boringly we just took the road. We were given the details from Tim of a nice private holiday parking area we could stay but after stopping for fish and chips, and running over a possom (no it's fine, they're a foreign invader which NZ are trying to exterminate!! quite cute though lol) we settled for a beach side car park with a public toilet. A classic surfers place with a couple of estate cars parked up the body and board inside, lovely to wake up to! It Must be awesome place for swimming and snorkelling in the summer, one day!!!

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The day of the opening ceremony was here, the rugby world cup down the road!!! There was a bit of excitement in the air (or maybe it was just Meurig) all the radio stations were talking about it, flags flying on every street and arty stuff outside schools, and cars and campers plastered in all sorts of things! But as we were reaching Auckland we began to hear about the story that the Auckland city council were telling people not to come to the Party zone down the waterfront as there would only be 12,000 people allowed in to the Fan Zone and by some miracle there were more than that coming to the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup...... We parked out side Tim's Office which we were allowed to use again and wondered in town. The All Blacks were playing Tonga that night with loads of supporters already in town early afternoon. We didn't realise that Tonga would be wearing red so a few people shouted 'go Tonga'. Other than a red jersey I don't think we look Tongan somehow! There was a huge line of people waiting to get into the fan zone, about 1km in length and more people kept on coming! The area was meant to open at 3 but come 3.30 it was already full and we'd moved down a couple of yards!(so the radio stations were right after all) Oh well off to find a pub then. We found a backpackers pub, met a few Welsh guys there, watched the opening ceremony, ran outside for the fireworks & watched the game. There were loads of different nationalities in Auckland that night and was a pretty good night all in all. We watched most of the other games on the big tv in the flat, most notably the Wales v's SA game which was painful to take at the end!!

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Coromandle Peninsular, Bay of Plenty and across to Hamilton

Next destination after Auckland was the Coromandel Peninsular. It wasn't a very long drive and we soon found ourselves in Thames a small town where massive amounts of gold used to be mined. The drive further along the coast was beautiful, passing sandy beaches, rocky beaches & little harbours where the locals fish for mussels which are very tasty. Coromandel town is also quite small, we arrived late afternoon but decided to get to one of the local attractions before dark. So we headed a short distance out of town to the Water Works, a kind of adventure park with water features all made from recycled bits and bobs which rely on the pressure of the water coming down the hill. The place even has a zip wire and a hamster wheel which is a lot harder then it looks! We were offered to stay the night in the car park and were also given the chance to do some work in return for a meal. Meurig was off up the hill with the groundsman to fix a problem with the water flow and later helped planting tomatoes (the gardener passed on some tips so roll over Titchmarsh when we get back). We were given a home made fish pie for supper and even a baked fruitcake for pudding!! On the other side of the penninsula you will find more sandy beaches and one in particular is pretty cool – hot water beach. Literally if you dig a hole in the sand at low tide water will flow into it through the sand and it is pipping hot. So even on a fairly windy, chilly day you get beachgoers & the kiwi experience bus riders in boardies & bikinis bathing in the hot water! A couple of km up the road is Cathedral cove which is a secluded sandy beach where scenes from the film Prince Caspian were filmed. There is an archway carved from the rock which is passable dependant on tide and even a toilet block has been built hidden in the bushes with a sea view! Coromandel is a very picturesque area with some cool coastline which is also meant to be one of the best spots in NZ to snorkel, gutted it was too cold!

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On the way down south east towards the bay of plenty we visited an old gold mine with bits of salvaged machinery & huge furnaces left lying around, and walked a bit further on to a gorge walk but it was more of a river meander, nice water fall though. After a load of basic camping it was time to go posh, a “Top10” campsite, great facilities and showers and coincidently a night of rugby on their big TV! In the morning we climbed Tawaranga hill/Maori fort and continued further down the coast to the Kiwi 360. Did you know the kiwi fruit originates from the Chinese gooseberry, has been developed by the Kiwi's to what it is today, a furry long lasting super fruit and a high majority of them come from volcanic soil in the bay of plenty. We managed to stay in a village along the coast with a pub so we could catch the AB's play Japan, bit of a thrashing all in all and the pub felt very local but interesting. We had enough time on the Saturday morning to explore Whakatane town, climb the viewpoint for a view of the town & coast, but the main tourist attraction is a trip to the active volcanic white island which was way out of our backpacker budget – definitely do it next time we're in NZ. Unfortunately a few weeks later an oil tanker ran aground and there is a huge oil slick along the Bay of Plenty, it must be horrific because the water was so blue & clear.

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We left the Bay of Plenty and made our way to Hamilton via the top of Rotorua but not actually going into the town as we planned to visit there later on. Hamilton was the first of our rugby world cup matches, Wales v's Samoa, which would not be an easy task for Wales seen as they were in the group of death! We stayed at the Glenview club which was a members club in the suburbs but this weekend it was taken over by Welsh supporters and their campervans. They had a big screen with all the matches on and the main one of interest was the Ireland v's Australia game. It was amusing seeing all the Kiwi's supporting Ireland due to the Tasman sea rivalry and indeed Ireland won so everyone was happy, well apart from the 2 Aussies we met! The city centre had a fan zone set up with the street closed off and a huge screen showing the games. It felt like match day in Cardiff with all the red jerseys around, mainly in the pubs that is! The stadium was about a 20 min walk from town and was pretty full with plenty of support for both sides and a few neutrals thrown in. Wales won 17-10 but it wasn't the easiest or the best of matches but a win none the less. We were able to meet up with the Welsh lads we'd met on the opening night in Auckland and headed back into town for some celebratory drinking. We would be back in Hamilton for another Wales match in a couple of weeks so onwards we went heading for the east coast and Hawkes bay.

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Hawkes Bay over to New Plymouth

The easiest way down to Hawkes Bay from Hamilton meant we had to go via Taupo. It was a pretty grey & merky day by the lake so it was just a pit stop for lunch and on we went along the thermal explorer highway. What we didn't realise was that this road was by far the most secluded route we had been on so far which meant no petrol stations for over 130km and only a quarter of a tank left (and the gauge was also a bit dodgy just to add to the mix)! Sian has never driven so conservatively in her life, max speed 80km other than when we were going down hill in neutral to save as much fuel as possible. Meurig was getting more tense by the minute as road seemed to be never ending. Eventually after climbing a mountain range (yeah the road wasn't even flat they had to chuck in some hardcore climbs) we came down into Hawkes bay and a petrol station wohoo. A little tip from the guy who worked there 'don't do this in the south island or you will be screwed'. We found a nice lake north of Napier to camp next to and chilled for the rest of the night. Napier city was rebuilt in the 1930's after a massive earthquake which reclaimed a huge amount of land from the sea and flattened nearly all the buildings. So the majority of the buildings are in an art deco style, which is a world away from some of the traditional old buildings back at home. They have a lot of decoration around windows, doors and are painted quite brightly, it kind of feels like being in a 1920's film or something! Hawkes bay is famous for vineyards and fruit growing, and there are wine tours available. Unfortunately Meurig does not like wine so there was not much point in paying for the wine tasting tour and he would have to sit there watching Sian get sloshed (actually that wouldn't have been such a bad idea but I was being considerate). The coastline was also quite impressive especially the long walk along the bottom of some huge cliffs to reach cape kidnappers. You can only do this walk at low tide and we didn't get to the end unlike the woman who passed us jogging the whole way, crazy lady! On our way back we found a nice spot down the road with a toilet right on a pebbly beach to camp over night, with the beach stretching for miles. But during the night we were disturbed by a car driving around, parking and suddenly plonked something under the windscreen wipers. We didn’t get out but we pretty sure we'd just got a ticket as we were not a self contained vehicle, but to our surprise the car driving round at 11ish had only given us a warning flyer so no harm done.

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Next day we started our journey from east to west coast, and we took the scenic/direct route over the Kaweka mountain range on a part gravel part tarmac windy road. A nice drive full of rolling green hills turning into forested snow capped mountains with crystal clear rivers. On our way we stopped for lunch in a isolated DOC in the alpine feel mountains sheltered from the wind and in blazing sunshine, so after our sausage sandwiches and cuppa we just pulled out the cushions and lay in the sun to the sound of birds and the odd buzzing creature scaring Sian.

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We found this little town called Okahune at the foot of the Ruapheu volcano with a DOC camp just up the road towards the snow capped top. Great view but also a good breeze blowing down the volcano so very chilly. In the morning we decided to follow the busy traffic up the climb to the top and got waved into the ski resort car park right at the top where we took some photos and then left. The town it self had a ski resort feel to it but it also had a mountain bike scene. We went on a half day trail, following the old coach and train line from north the south. Sian was hopping for a gentle peddle but unfortunately it was a bit of a mountain bike trail with some good downs and obviously some up hills to, although a bit muddy so a bit hard going at times. To our delight on the way back to camp there was “the keg” a hot spa & hot swimming pool in an alpine looking cabin which we soaked in to relax and recover.

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Next we headed down the forgotten highway south east towards Stafford, the route of an old Maori road through the hills, valleys and gauges of the Whangamomona area, it gets pretty remote and the road is gravel for a big section, good job it was mainly sunny and nice. It was the night of the NZ v's France game, so after checking out the town we head for the biggest pub/inn we found. As it had a large car park we popped in and asked if we could camp down in there car park after the game and have some drinks, the landlady was obliging. Inside above the bar to our surprise were Cardiff blues and Wales rugby shirts and all relatively new, all belonging to the previous owner apparently and the landlady had just left them up. To our surprise the pub emptied in the run up to the game, everyone had gone home to watch it (On a Saturday night)! So we ended up watching the triumphant kiwi's pummel the French with only a handful of locals, but we did get a free jug of beer from a hen do traveling through and met Luke McCallister's (ex all black) drunk aunties in the pub who updated us with his situation and said getting away from his manager/dad to France was the best thing he had done, although his best rugby years were behind him lol.

With the weekend of rugby upon us we travel round the Mt Egmont/tTeranaki volcano which forms the western peninsular, stopping off for a walk to a waterfall and past the oldest hydro generator in NZ before skirting up the surf coastal highway to New Plymouth where we found a car park in the centre of town over run with welsh coloured vans parked for the night & just over the road from the fan zone, so we joined them!

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New Plymouth is a nice little place no bigger than Aberystwyth, and has really embraced the rugby world cup and the fans, with flags all over with the pubs and shops making the most of it. There's even a Celtic pub except for the fact all the walls inside are only covered in Scottish and Irish memorabilia (Says a bit about how the Welsh are regarded down here, not much!!) On match day we stumble upon a small gathering of welsh vans/supporters in the swimming pool car par (getting a shower) right on the seaside on the outskirts of town and they had been camping without hassle there for the week so we decide to join them and crack open the cider and get out the camping chairs in the blistering sunshine in preparation for the Namibia game. As the afternoon disappeared with more cider and more campers slowly joining inn, the three welsh boy's from first night in Auckland + Hamilton even turned up from Wellington. The atmosphere at the game was good and bubbling, we even got the chance to shout over Shane Williams for a picture & a chat before the game which he was happy to do. The result was as hoped with a decent performance whilst resting some players, so in celebration we joined with the others after the game and headed into town to hit a couple of pubs and have a take away kiwi burger, ie + egg and beetroot.

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Posted by Meurig ac Sian 06:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Last Leg to Singapore

After escorting Kimberleigh down to her new local shops to meet Andy after work, off we went to the Airport. Only a 3 hour flight back to Penang but we arrive at midnight and get very efficiently taxi'd over to Old Penang Guest house where we stayed on our way up. Only time for a 5hour kip before getting picked up by a mini bus to get shuttled to the east coast of Malaysia and our port destination of Kuala Beshut. This little town is the gateway to the Perhentian islands a small cluster of tropical islands, and only one way in, speed boat... After a bumpy speedy cruise with 20 other tourists and luggage we land on Coral Bay, Cesil Island, no real way of booking in advance so off we go trundling down the beach. On the opposite side of the bay we found a nice basic hut on the rocks with a pretty great view, and didn’t really venture too far for the first couple of days.

Coral Bay

Coral Bay


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Yet again the beach destination meant that there were plenty of seafood bbq's available and Roti Chanai for Sian. The other side of the island was home to Long Beach which as it says on the tin is longer than coral bay and a lot more touristy so the prices go up. Funny really as you only have to walk 10mins from one to the other through a small patch of jungle! Half way through our stay we decided to move from the hut high on the rocks to a hut a bit more central on the beach (plus they had the electricity on for longer during the day!).

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There were various little beaches along the coastal path on which we spent some time lazing in the sun and snorkelling a bit. Meurig took advantage of a snorkelling trip whilst Sian sun'd her self up on the beach, mistake!!! Never seen so many fish in one place before, and at shark bay I actually saw a black tip shark at least 15.m long and a huge see turtle too!!! So it's official the Perhentian islands are the best place to snorkel in SE Asia!

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Our next destination was in land into central Malaysia to Taman Negara the country's largest nature reserve but first we had to get the boat back to the port and sit through another seven hour bus journey which as usual took longer than that! We arrived in the village of Kuala Tahan early evening and started to look for accommodation for the next three nights. We bagged a river view hut with en-suite (descriptions are deceiving as it was very basic!). The next task was finding food which we didn't think would be difficult as we looked down at three floating restaurants but little did we know that we had landed in Taman Negara during an Islamic religious holiday period! The only cafe/restaurant serving anyone not included in a organised tour was this nice rustic tin roofed floating shack not far down river from our hut, but as it was a limited buffet you served your self, it probably won't be going down as Sian's most glamorous birthday meal but at least the company was great! ( No Roti = :o( Sian )

The town/2 streets/ park gateway is located on the river one of the boundaries for the national park. A big brown river with dangling trees and muddy/sandy banks, with the occasional long wooden boat motoring up or down the river separated the village from the park. To enter the park and buy our 40p park licence you catch a little boat from a floating shack and take the 25m journey over to the other side. The park head quarters has a huge 4* chalet resort with lovely facilities, there are only less than a hand full of native villages in the park area, home also to wild elephants, tigers, monkeys, snakes and loads of colourful singing birdies. Within the park there is also the longest canopy walk in the world, so after a bit of wondering/trekking we planned to finish with a birds eye view of the forest. After a wonder up the banks of one of the smaller rivers and laying low in a hide out with no success, we avoided most of the wriggling leaches and took the direct trail in the direction of the the walkway. The limiting factor of a simple free photo copied map is that it doesn’t show contours or levels just highest points of hills, and as we were under the forest canopy you cant really judge how far up tracks are going. To Sian's enjoyment “Meurig's short cut” passed over the only proper hill in the vicinity and even though there were some steps it just kept going up and up and up, some bits even had ropes to help pull your way up. Sian can nearly laugh about it now, but there was a nice view at the top. Unfortunately due to the week long public holiday even the opening hours of the canopy walk were effected (usefully not advertised in the plush park offices) so by the time we arrived, slightly later than anticipated 4.30pm we had missed the closing time by about half hour. As you can imagine both of us were a bit annoyed, but Sian definitely wasn’t comforted by the fact we had to come back in to the forest the next day, ahhh well back to the hut for a lovely cold shower!!!

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The next day was easy in comparison, just an hour trek to the canopy entrance, but so did quite a few others, quite a strange experience queuing in pristine rain forest. But the canopy walk was well worth the effort, at the highest point you're probably 20m up walking from tree to tree looking down over lots of foliage and plants. On the way back we even caught a sight of some wild monkeys, monkeying around in the canopy above the track. If Taman Negara national park wasn't there guaranteed the area would have been destroyed and cleared for palm oil trees like much of the rest of Malaysia!

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We left Taman Negara & headed for the nearest train station in Jerantut to make it down to Singapore. To our amazement the ticket for the 7 hour journey was only £3 each, if only we'd known the trains we so cheap in Malaysia earlier. They even have a 30 minute stop for lunch and direct you to the nearest KFC (which was heaven after the very limited food over the last few days). So, back in Singapore 4 & half months after we started there & this time it was all a little easier. We recognised places, knew where we were going and enjoyed staying in Little India again. We decided on a different hostel this time, The Inn Crowd, which was in the thick of backpacker land & next door to The Prince of Wales where we had our first drink in SE Asia. We had a couple of days in Singapore before our flight left & it was mainly some time to visit/do the things we missed the first time.

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So first stop was Sentosa Island which is kind of a holiday resort/ theme park and where we got to experience the luge. We'd seen a guy record himself going down the course on a discovery programme whilst somewhere in Asia and decided we had to give it a go once we got back to Singapore. It was good fun and you got to ride back to the starting point at the top of the hill on the cable car. Those little carts move pretty quickly once you get the hang of them and after some expert cornering by Sian, Meurig was soon knocked off his winners perch – who says women can't drive eh! But on the third run clear of traffic, Sian couldn’t handle pressure and lost on the final straight!!! The island also has some nice beaches and a little off shoot piece of land with a plaque telling you you're apparently standing on the most southerly point of mainland Asia. We found a Hawker food centre down next to the spiky theatre (esplanade) which was absolutely packed. Sian get some roti chanai and curry sauce probably for a long while! As we finished eating the Singapore light show began in the harbour & various buildings were flashing in lots of colours to music with water fountains! Probably not at spectacular as the Hong Kong light show and it definitely wasn't as packed but the lasers were better! Our final day in Singapore started with some retail therapy, even Meurig agreed as he needed new flip flops! There were signs & railings around town which meant the grand prix was coming to town and we headed down to see if we could get any closer to the pit stop area! Unfortunately they had fenced off the area and we had to have a look from a distance, shame we weren't in Singapore 2 weeks later! Finally we went to the massive sands resort hotel (the three towers with a surf board on top) and pretended to be guests because apparently if you follow guests into the lifts you can make it right to the top to floor 57 where they have bars & an infinity pool! It was totally nuts at the top, a massive swimming pool overlooking the rest of Singapore. Unfortunately our luck ran out when one of the hotel staff asked us for our residents card, oooops we must have forgotten it!!! So all we had to do then, was collects our bags and metro it to the airport to jump on the flight for the southern hemisphere. No free upgrades available :o(

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 21:20 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

China & Hong Kong

Our bus from Hanoi to Nanning set off early morning, so quite relieved not to travel on another night bus and at least we could see where we were going for a change. First stop was the boarder crossing and the difference couldn’t be more obvious the Vietnamese a chaotic shabby mess and the Chinese organised modern and imposing. The roads in China were a huge improvement and within a couple of hours we were arriving into Nanning, which was just full of modern residential high rise buildings lined up nice and tidy or in patterns with plenty being built. We had made sure that our hostel was booked and we had the address in Chinese symbols ready to show the taxi driver when we got off the bus, simples! Or so we thought. Turns out either the guy couldn't read the symbols or he didn't have his glasses so we had to wait for a young girl at the station who spoke a little english to try to come and help us. Eventually she understood where we were trying to go and with Bernie in toe (an Australian guy looking for a hostel) we got a taxi and headed off. The Nanning City Hostel was in an apartment block much like some of the ones in Cardiff bay but run by a guy called Western from Texas. When we arrived Anna & Chris were already there and the hostel itself was pretty cosy with a flat screen tv, big sofa, xbox, playstation, loads of dvd's & a big kitchen area. So if you're ever in Nanning then stay there!

The main issue with travelling on a bus all day is you're not always guaranteed to stop when you need to so absolutely starving Western took us to one of the noodle shops own the road and had the best bowl of spicy noodles we’ve ever tasted, kind of a sour sauce but with plenty of chilly kick to it. To wash it down we went to a pub nearby called Secret Secret run by two English ex-pats. They were into their sport and were able to stream sky sports so lucky for us they agreed to play the England- Wales match for us the next night. After a fair few beers we were told that the best place head to was the nightclub over the road where we were told that the Chinese people would have a good old look at us but also want to share their drinks with us, sweet onwards! The nightclub had about four different floors, the main one being cheesy (Vodka Rev style) with the very camp lads getting up on the bar and trying to sing to lady gaga! A lot of the people there were friendly and did keep topping up our glasses with more lager, plus one guy gave us some Jonny Walker whiskey and iced tea which was lovely. The night had a bit of a strange ending, after Chris had asked one of the guys if he would take a photo with his friend, this somehow caused him offence and picked up a bottle ready to lamp Chris & Meurig over the head. Sian & Anna were totally oblivious to this as they were too busy dancing & drinking with some Chinese girls but after a second go with a glass jug this time, we were subtly asked to leave!! (It was just this one guy, his mates were not happy with him and everyone seemed as surprised as us, Western said it was a first for him) So off we went to bed! The hangover the next morning wasn't too great but we indulged in some KFC too cure it and went exploring the riverside and town centre. We wanted to go to the science museum but turned up 5 minutes before they closed so a no go. We again ended back at Secret Secret in the evening in time for the rugby. But twenty minutes into the game the internet froze so they put on the bloody football on instead, so no other option but to sit and drink some more beer! After chatting to some more of the ex-pats during the evening it seems it's fairly normal for a man to have a wife & a Chinese girlfriend or in this case 2 girlfriends who both happened to be there in pub. Now we know why it's called Secret Secret! After a long night of rugby, football, beer and the girls debating the “morality of multiple women” we end up leaving at 6am with just enough time to grab something to eat and catch our 8.30am bus up north!!

Lee river cruise

Lee river cruise

just about to enjoy a hard earned beer at the summit

just about to enjoy a hard earned beer at the summit

Next destination Xingping and world away from big modern Nanning, and after a long snooze it felt like it too. This small old town is at the centre of a valley surrounded by steep limestone peaks (similar to Halong bay without the sea) with rivers flowing between them. This is the area famed by the HSBC advert in the UK with the cormorant fishing bird and the old man on the Boat, but its is also a mekka for Chinese tourists with a certain scene which is a national landmark and printed on the back of the Chinese 20 Yuan note. So as you can imagine if you arrived during the school holidays, during the day the place is packed, with the boat trip up and down the river and a visit to the old section/street a must for the package bus holiday groups (With the popular thing to do, buying a water shooter and squirting people on your river trip, one way to keep the kids/adults amused). At night on the other hand, the place slumbers in to a peaceful sleep with only the odd tourist staying in the town walking the dimly lit streets and sampling the Chinese or western food (not sure why you wouldn’t eat the Chinese food because it was lush with some great recognisable classic available, saying that our hostel did have a stone pizza oven so we did sample a couple of good pizza's for lunch). After recovering from our antics in Nanning the four of us set off on bikes for a bit of a wonder around the local countryside and tried to find some caves, and eventually getting on the right track and bumbling and bouncing through some villages and fields, we regretted not getting mountain bikes for sure. After failing to find the first cave and taking a dip in a passing river we again eventually found the lotus caves, which with the help of a local women the gentleman opens his office and sells us each a ticket. The cave was a lot longer than expected with a little bit of a French groto feel to it, with a concrete path cutting through what ever got in its way, all the way past some cool cave structures to the flat mineral deposits which did kinda look a bit like some flat lotus leaves. After arriving back we ingeniously decide to walk up the hill nearby and watch the sun set, all 1075'ish steps to the top, challenging enough without a days cycling on top. But we made up all the dodgy steps with plenty of time to spare to enjoy the view and watch the sun slowly set with bottle of Chinese larger, well worth it. Our last day at this idyllic setting was planned as a long walk up the river to the furthest point and catch a boat back down and saver the view, what actually happened was after about maybe 2hours, we got a bit confused by a local telling us we had gone too far for the river crossing on the only road for miles (dodgy map) so, hot, bothered and “lost” we cut down to the river and hailed an empty boat down, just like a taxi (the river gets that busy) and bailed on the exercise and cruised the river in comfort, only to find round the first bend the river crossing we where looking for all along, oh well!!!

Sunset from the summit

Sunset from the summit

Lotus cave

Lotus cave

To catch our buses/trains onwards we all went to Yangshuo, a decent size town where most of the tourists who do day trips to Xingping and around stay. People had told us that Yangshuo used to be like Xingping years ago before hundreds of people started to come visit. We got our bus to Hong Kong sorted pretty quickly but yet again another night one, yey! On our first evening there we went on the cormorant fishing trip to see if it really did look like the HSBC advert. Meurig is convinced that the old man we saw on the trip is the same one as the advert!? The birds bobbed around in the water and dipped down now and again, sometimes coming out with a fish in their beaks. Unfortunately for them they couldn't swallow it as there was a rope around their necks and the fisherman tilted them upside down so that all the fish collected in his basket! It wasn't the most delicate of things to watch but quite fascinating the same. We were dropped off back in town and headed for dumpling dynasty to try the Chinese dumplings and they certainly didn't disappoint, along with the rest of the feast we had! The next day we hired bikes to explore the area but we definitely learnt from our last biking experience and opted for the mountain bikes with a bit of suspension! We followed our map of the area and headed off into the countryside, getting a bit confused at times but following the right path most of the time through a limestone valley & eventually back to the main road. A few km down the road we headed for Moon Hill which looked like an upside down half moon on top of a hill or just an archway (apparently China has a lot of cheesy names for sights). Nobody fancied the trek to the top so we admired the view from the café at the bottom. On the way back we did a bit of offroading instead of just following the main road and probably ended up doing a bit of a detour but got back to the pandemonium of tourist Yangshuo before the bikes had to be back. We needed to catch our bus in a few hours so a quick last meal with Anna & Chris (more dumplings) and off we went on our overnight trip to Hong Kong. This would be the last time we would bump into each other, with them heading toward Nepal and us off across to HK and then back south to Singapore.

Cormorant fisherman (apparently on the HSBC advert)

Cormorant fisherman (apparently on the HSBC advert)

Meurig & the cormorant bird

Meurig & the cormorant bird

We arrived in Shenzhen at sun rise after a decent night bus journey and are bundled off the bus, probably at the wrong stop, but after a taxi ride we arrive at the train station/boarder control with Hong Kong. Coincidently Andrew and Kimberleigh have recently arrived ready for Andy to start his new job on Hong Kong island, so the first thing we do in meet up with Kimbo (lady of leisure) and have some food. They have also only literally days ago got the key's to there new harbour view compact flat, but haven’t moved in as there is no furniture. But with a trip to IKEA (which looks exactly the same when your trapped in the viewing maze and pick up floor, but they did have a better choice of cheap food though + the ice cream was good) they bought a rug and duvet and other heavy goods and let us kip on their new floor with furniture already booked to arrive in a couple of days, when they would move in out of their hotel. Hong Kong itself is more than just Hong Kong island, the peninsular of main land called Kowloon and new terrorizes is included also lots of outlying islands which cover a decent area. It even has it own Disneyland and a airport built on a artificial island. There's not a lot of flat land, everything especially on Hong Kong Island is built round the coast with a steep hilly centre giving the place a bit of a Sim city look from the viewing point on the hill above. Area's of Hong Kong and Kowloon are the first and second highest densely populated area's in the world and with apartment/flat high-rise buildings everywhere that’s not surprising. A lot of them look a bit knackered though, giving the sky line in a lot of places and bit of a scruffy look which we didn't expect but then in the business and shopping centres you've got these posh sleek and random shaped buildings overlooking you from high above. Andy had a bit of a work's do so we headed down to the harbour side to have a drink and meet up with some partners' of teachers that Kimbo had met earlier and we had our first pint of cider in about 4 months (flat strongbow has never tasted so good). In the group we had some “as the locals call” FILTH (failed in London try Hong Kong) British business/banking/insurance men wow! Just your typical public school boy chauvinist business guys, they get everywhere! So it was off to sample the night life and on to Hong Kong's version of St Mary's street and it was serious westerner central. Turns out HK's population is 7 million and 2% of it is western, they must all have been in Lan Kwai Fong that night!

nice pint of strongbow on HK Harbour

nice pint of strongbow on HK Harbour

Hong Kong from the peak

Hong Kong from the peak

Welsh names do travel

Welsh names do travel

View from the appartment

View from the appartment

Next day we decided to visit one of the islands which was home to the giant Buddha and a cable car ride up to the top of the mountain. We were able to get a cable car with a glass floor which made the views a bit more real/scary when it was just a piece of glass beneath you. The Buddha was indeed pretty big and the steps to the top were tiring but worth it when we saw the views at the top. That night we went for a meal with some of the people we'd met the night before and it was tapas and really tasty stuff. Best of all (in Sian's opinion) was the Spanish red wine, it's been a while. So HK was good for eating & drinking some of the things we'd missed whilst being in Asia but of course it does come at a bit of a premium, but worth it. Sunday was D-day for Kimbo & Andrew, they finally moved into their flat so we left them too it and headed off up to the peak to get a good look of HK from above. At the top there were some houses (not apartments, these must be the wealthy people because they get a bit of space and a garden) and yes you've guessed it a shopping mall, that doesn't surprise me in HK. The views were great, the sky was fairly clear and it surprises you actually how many high rise buildings there are. We were able to get the tram back down to town and had a quick walk through the botanic gardens. We headed back to the flat just in time for the Ikea delivery and it was time to do some DIY (heaven for Meurig). Sian & Kimbo were in charge of building the bed whilst Meurig & Andrew were in charge of building the corner sofa/sofa bed, easy peasy. Our penultimate day in HK was spent mainly on the Kowloon side of the island, by day we explored the old part of the area, some markets, indulged in some roasted pork & duck Cantonese style and by night watched the symphony of lights with Kimbo & Andrew. It certainly drew in the crowds and added an extra something to all those high rise buildings come darkness. Everything was in tune to the music and the lasers were cool. To finish off we headed off for a few beers and a curry. Our flight out of HK was not until the evening so we spent the last day switching between the different sight seeing buses and stocked up on any bits we needed to buy before we hit NZ & Australia. We said goodbye to Kimbo & Andrew and the next we see them back in the UK they will have a baby with them!

Symphony of lights Hong Kong

Symphony of lights Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline

Hong Kong skyline

Big buddah from the cable car

Big buddah from the cable car

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 23:31 Archived in China Comments (0)

North Vietnam

30 °C

So after our first night bus experience we arrived in Hoi An (if you ever decide to go on a night bus be sure not to get a seat at the back because they are for midgets, not good!). We managed to find a hotel with a decent size swimming pool & off we went for an early morning dip. Hoi An itself is a lovely city, not exactly big but packed with traditional Chinese shop fronts and buildings. The generals of the north and south during the war agreed to designate Hoi An as a no go zone as it was a popular holiday get away and therefore escaped unharmed and in its original state. There are hundreds of tailors, shoemakers, jewelers etc, all at very good prices. So “we” couldn't resist and ended up buying some made to measure shoes, trousers & a dress for Sian (girls always need more clothes!) and new shorts for Meurig. On a day trip we went to visit an old Cham (ancient civilisation) holy site which was about as old as Angkor Wat but as bombed as the rest of Vietnam so in bits, with craters still on show, all by the Americans because they thought the Viet Cong were hiding there – wrong, again some quality intelligence! After a day of cycling round the town and visiting some original town houses we peddled off out of town to a stretch of white sandy beach, which you can see curve all the way up the coast to the next city Danang an hour away (where we picked up our visa extensions and didn't see much). There is also plenty of good food to try, our favourite being the fried wontons, couldn't get enough of them.
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The next journey was pretty short in comparison to some of the others, a nice 3 hour train ride up the coast to Hue passing some gorgeous beaches and rocky scenery, meant to be the best train ride in Vietnam. Hue itself is old and new, it has the old royal citadel within the old walled city which is now surrounded by the new parts of town. The royal complex has lots of traditional Vietnamese buildings however yet again the majority of the original palace complex within the forbidden walls was bombed!!! From the sounds of things Hue suffered quite a bit during the war because of it's location, i.e. slap bang in the middle of Vietnam close to the demilitarised zone where some of the worst fighting occurred. So to find out a bit more about all the conflict we went on the DMZ tour. The best bit of the tour was the visit to the Vin Moc tunnels, where north Vietnamese people lived during the war. They were really narrow, dark, deep and pretty depressing, it's hard to believe that people lived in the tiny family rooms plus they also had a hospital area where 17 babies were born in the tunnels! Some of the group had to turn back because they freaked out. Eventually the guide led us to one of the exits which overlooked the coast, not a bad view considering! The rest of the tour was pretty bland consisting of some old army bases, army look out posts and the start of the Ho Chi Min trail. The guide's english was amusing at times 'ladies & rentlemen' but all in all she was pretty good. Funnily enough there was an Indian restaurant next to the hotel so we couldn't leave Hue without trying the buttered chicken, it was damn good as well! So onwards and upwards and the next sleeper bus to Hanoi, and luckily we didn't get the back seats so managed to get some sleep, yey.
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Big bustling capital city Hanoi was definitely busy, with its stand out feature seeming to be the 7 million or so motor bikes around the city. With half of them parked on the pavement and the rest motoring around, beeping and weaving, walking down the street was a big enough challenge let alone crossing the road, even at the “pedestrian crossings”. We stayed in the standard touristy old quarter area with its narrow one way streets and tall thin buildings. Excluding crossing the road the biggest challenge was probably the heat and the humidity, it was just bloody hot and sweaty! Wandering round we visited the temple island and large hoan Kiem lake with the sacred ancient turtle reportedly hiding in the depths, bidding its time before surfacing and bringing good luck to who ever sees it. We wondered through the historical museum (always good for some aircon). One of the main attractions and a must see freebie was the mausoleum of Ho Chi Min him self (their revolutionary leader), no cameras allowed unfortunately as you were shuffled around in a big line up the stairs in to this massive concrete air-conditioned cube and then guided into the chamber. Quite a surreal atmosphere inside with 4 army guards standing at each corner of the glass box with further guards placed along the queue, shuffling people along to minimize gaps, and in this dim lit room there he was lit up as if they had shoved a 1000W light bulb up him, nearly glowing and looking pretty dead (apparently he’s only on show for 9 months of the year as he's sent to Russia for maintenance, so he still gets around). Next door to the mausoleum was the national palace (French), one column pagoda (A pagoda on one column, re built after the French as their last act bashed it down) and the presidential residence of Ho Chi Min. As a “true communist” and humble man he only wanted the simplest wooden house on stilts (a nice one mind) to live and work from, with the only problem being if he had lived in it the Americans would have bombed the hell out of it so apparently he didn’t get much chance to stay there (but knowing the quality of the intelligence he was probably there all along). On the whole we found Hanoi to be a nice city, if not busy and hot. but you can also escape the big roads and even find your self drinking a Beerhoi, a cheap, locally brewed beer on the street (literally on the kerb, if your lucky) and meet random people from random places.
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Next stop was the treat we had been looking forward to throughout Vietnam, a three day cruise in Halong Bay. It was a three hour mini bus ride to the port and on route yet again we saw hundreds of motorbikes but this time a bit of a surprise to see a live cow strapped on to the back of a bike. At first we weren't sure if it was dead or alive but the cow waggling it's tail and the bike swerving every time the cow tried to move was a give away. Anyway we got on board the boat and were shown to our lovely cabin with probably the best ensuite bathroom we've had all trip. The crew were all very nice and off we went kayaking around a fishing village and some of the limestone karsts. The village was built from mainly wood and floated on some polystyrene blocks (not the best idea, you just end up with white bits floating round the place), they even had a tiny floating school there. Back to the boat for our welcome drinks, unfortunately the only thing on offer was wine, bad luck for Meurig so maybe more for Sian? Oh no it's surprising what Meurig will drink if it's free! Next we had a cooking class, how to make spring rolls. Not exactly rocket science because they had already prepared the mixture so we got to fill and roll them up, and of course sample them afterwards. We had an hour or so before dinner so most people took advantage of the time and went for a swim. Jumping off the boat was great but actually trying to swim was tough because the current was strong so it was a case of swimming to stay in the same place! At first we thought dinner was going to be a bit on the small portion side as only a few dishes came out and we were sat on a table of six, but the dishes kept coming and included some fresh fish, sweet & sour pork, squid, stir fry prawns, salad, veg, chips, rice, watermelon and the list goes on.... There were only four of us staying for the three days so on the second day we were taken to another boat for our separate day trip. We travelled through the gorgeous limestone karst scenery and arrived at a more open expanse of water. We were taken kayaking by a local guide to a huge lagoon past all the fish and clam farms and then back to the boat where another massive lunch was waiting for us. We had some time for swimming then off we went to a beautiful island to lounge on the beach before returning to the main ship. The new group had arrived on the ship and so we had another drinks reception and cooking class. Again the food was amazing and just kept on coming, luckily for us some of the people on the table weren't big eaters! The last morning consisted of a quick breakfast, a visit to the biggest cave in Halong bay and then back for lunch before setting off back to the port. The trip definitely didn't disappoint and we wished we could stay longer. However our overnight bus was already booked from Hanoi to Sapa so no chance of an extension.
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Sapa is a small hill town right in the north west of Vietnam close to the Chinese boarder. It is famed for it's rice terraces, trekking and local minority hill tribes. We had been warned previously that the ride up to Sapa was a windy one so we weren't expecting much sleep on the night bus but it turned out we were able to nod off for a while. As we arrived the local tribeswomen were already waiting for visitors to get off the bus. They are friendly enough but persistent when it comes to following you!! We managed to get a hotel with a balcony with a great view of the valley and the rice terraces. Whilst wandering around the town we were befriended by a local tribeswomen called chichi ( I think that's how you spell it!), who offered to take us on a trek the next day, about 12km to her village and make lunch for us. We met her early-ish the next morning and off we set also followed by another two tribeswomen (it's quite hard to shake them off), on the plus side we now had three guides. We offroaded for a while to avoid some of the other guided tours and for some more interesting terrain, which took us through and down the rice terraces and passed the homes of the rice farmers. When we eventually reached chichi's home the view from her house was stunning, so we rested after our trek and took in the scenery whilst her family made lunch for us all. Luckily enough we didn't have to walk back up the valley, only down the hill to where the some motorbikes picked us up and delivered us and Chichi back at the hotel (that’s Sian's kinda trekking). That night whilst looking for a bite to eat who did we bump into but Chris and Anna (that’s the third time since Laos) so over a pizza we had a catch up and realised we were all heading to Nanning, China, just different routes so we planned to meet up in a couple of day's.On our final night at the hotel we had a bit of a shock, at stupid a clock in the morning a drunken Vietnamese man and his friend came storming into the hotel causing ructions and ended up kicking our room door in, scaring Sian and waking Meurig, but strangely enough after we let out some swear words in shock, they instantly apologised, closed the door and went back down stairs. After a bit of a lie in we couldn’t get much sense out of the receptionist but as we were leaving that evening we packed up and just wondered round town, had some food and caught the night bus back to Hanoi in preparation for our journey to China.
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After a bumpy, windy ride, an early arrival (5am) and a kip in the reception (floor and table) of our hotel we only had one day to spend in Hanoi and after joining the oldies down the park for a really early stroll round the lake, we had a coffee and watched the rush hour go by (quite funny when you don’t have to get involved :o) So all that was left to do was post a couple of things and go and watch the “the world famous” water puppet show, with live music. The show was quite amusing and consisted of many puppets on underwater sticks telling a Vietnamese story about life in the area (which was set in a some rice paddy fields and included a dragon).
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Next stop China

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 02:52 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

South Vietnam

sunny 30 °C

Sin joy... Sin jaw... Sin jow, from the country where if you don’t have a moped your missing a limb, horn honking is considered compulsory , and the only country to repel the flex of the American army mussel (possibly because they were just under ground and no one knew)
We never, not without lack of trying, got to grips with hello in Vietnamese, when we used it they tended to laugh, and it definitely changed as we traveled north but they generally use hello themselves.

Chau Doc

Chau Doc

After meandering down another section of the Mekong we cross into Vietnam via a floating border control. The long boat with deck chairs at the front and a 3 piece suite at the back, slowly takes us past the many working boats pottering on the river and past the scattering of floating villages along the banks. Drop off point was Chau Doc and from our dodgy copy of the lonely planet guide book we picked up from the streets of Phnom Penh we were expecting a bit of a back water with no ATM's, what we found was a bustling town which just happened to be in the Mekong delta (not sure the date on the book cover matches the content). We were only stopping over 1 night so just an evening to soak it in, which included a bit of a dirty walk through the central market (Sian wasn't impressed with her blackened feet) and a drink along the water front during sun set. We got mistaken for some package tourists at this floating restaurant, as were western we were obviously with the tour staying with them, we weren’t even given a menu just handed a very average vegetable noddle stir fry and given a drink. By the time I had eaten my stir fry we had worked out the situation, and as we were never asked, we paid for our drink and off we went (free food whoop whoop)
Can Tho 6am sunrise

Can Tho 6am sunrise

Floating market Can Tho

Floating market Can Tho

After a roller coaster mini van drive we arrived at Can Tho the capital of the Mekong delta and following a moto ride on a bike each with our backpacks we find a hotel we want to go to, eventually! Our main reason for visiting was to experience the floating markets and the hustle & bustle of the Mekong delta, an area of islands and canals. We were picked up from the hotel at 6am and escorted down to our boat for the half day cruise by Wee our 14 year old guide and his mum the driver. We pottered down the canal and watched the the sun rise before arriving at the first market, where there were a mass of boats spotted around, selling fruit, veg, meat and all sorts, and who of all people did we see passing, but Chris and Anna our travel buddies from Laos. As it happens our two boats then paired up as we went the same route. We visited a smaller quaint local floating market where we had some fruit of an apply/pear description for breakfast, later visited a rice noodle factory with a bit of a walk and past through some smaller canals on the way back. Throughout the day Wee our guide and his mother (whilst she drove) made various trinkets made from reed/ banana leaves which included roses, grasshopper and earrings and bracelets and keeping us filled in about the surroundings. We finished the trip hugged under a tarpaulin with Wee, sheltering from the harsh rain whilst he “tried” to help us with Vietnamese & his mother delivered us back to the landing.

After a fairly luxurious bus ride (well compared to others, free water & pillows) from Can Tho we arrived at Saigon. We got a bit lost trying to find the hotel so decided to take some moto taxis assuming they would know where is was after showing them the address! Not quite, it took a few u turns in the hectic roads and asking pedestrians along the way. The hotel was hiding down a narrow alley in the tourist part of town, then to top it off our room was on the fifth floor, thank god for aircon. After wandering around the park we met a local Vietnamese guy called Andy (A Chelsea supporter mainly because they were not Man Utd) who wanted to be a tour guide so was keen to practice speaking english. He gave us some tips about the city and after chatting some more he told us that he thought that rugby was ice hockey! So we sent him off to the web cafe to check out wikipedia for Wales and rugby! We checked out the Reunification Palace (very communist looking), the hectic indoor market, the river front & the surprisingly popular War Remnants Museum. It was a real eye opener about the Vietnam war with some pretty graphic images of the fighting and the effects of the highly toxic agent orange sprayed by USA over the country (one of many illegal weapons used). The nightlife in Saigon didn't disappoint and it lives up to the reputation of the ''Saigon girls''! Did a bit more of the cultural thing with a visit to the history museum (free aircon) but the main attraction next door was the zoo (or what was meant to be a botanical garden!). Not the biggest zoo in the world but it had a good selection of giraffes, goats, crocks and some sorry looking elephants on chains! The city was modern with big wide roads/boulevards, parks, modern tower blocks and streets full of posh shops but a very busy & noisy.
Saigon

Saigon

Next destination was the coastal town of Mui Ne and back to the beach and we treated ourselves with a resort for a couple of days for relaxing & recharging. The resort had its own private beach, nice pool and the bungalow was a stones through from the sea. Mui Ne itself was a fairly quiet 10km stretch of hotels/resorts lining the coast but it's also home to some quite impressive sand dunes. We rented a motorbike and headed north in search of the red & white dunes. On route, took a couple of wrong turns, one leading us to the fishing village port which had the strongest smell of fish sauce I have ever smelt, apparently this area produces tonnes of the stuff and they dry off millions of smelly small fish on wooden racks anywhere possible!! The dunes themselves were piping hot and we tried out the local tourist attraction, dune surfing. With some thick plastic sheets from the local kids (for a small haggled fee of course!). It felt faster than it actually was and after the first slide down you soon learn to keep your mouth shut rather than choke on the sand again. After filling our shoes with red sand we wondered up the coast further searching for the white dunes but as the fuel tank was emptying we settled for the coastal view and rolled back into town to have pancakes & beer on the beach front for our final evening.
Sand dunnes Mui Ne

Sand dunnes Mui Ne

Mui Ne coast

Mui Ne coast

Next destination Dalat, this Alpine style retreat for, you guessed it, the French, is nestled near the top of the central highlands. With the windy steep roads, pine tree forests and cool climate it felt very different from the rest of Vietnam so far. Unfortunately only time for a one night stay, and at one stage it felt as we were not going to get a room for the night. As it was the weekend and school holidays this popular Vietnamese holiday destination was full of bus tours. We should have listened to the guest house on the outskirts of town where we were delivered to, instead off we went on our own way strolling into town. Eventually after a door to door guest house tour, probably over 20 hotel/guest houses, we gave up at went to a travel agent who sent us back next door to the original guest house. HA, first time we'd had any trouble finding anywhere and it would have to start raining! Not much to the town its self, definitely not located on the flat, perched on several hills along side of a lake but in a lovely location in the mountains. Didn’t get up to much except wander around the lake sampling the odd coffee shop, and take in the sites, the “crazy house” (a collection of building designed and built by a old lady artist with some Gaudiesque/natural style design), the Eiffel tower inspired communication tower and the usual old but not old church. We did get a nice meal in town and Sian got a chance to appreciate the local Dalat wine (not bad, but after 3months without wine it's a bit hard to tell if it was quality or just craving!)
Crazy house Dalat

Crazy house Dalat

After arriving late at Nha Trang, we found that the hotel had given away our room early (we weren’t impressed), so we venture off and find a nice cheaper hotel with a balcony and a lean out view of the sea. Unfortunately our fist day there was a bit of a non event following a morning stroll down the beach to get breakfast. With a combination of heavy rain, and meurig ill we got some stuff done and slept, but we did manage to organise a trip for the next day!
As soon as snorkelling is advertised off we go, the boat took us to a collection of islands just of the beachy turquoise water coast, past some fishing villages and floating fish farms. Really nice sunny day thankfully, spent exploring the water for coral and fish, (the best coral we've seen so far), and the lunch was a feast, (more than the other people could eat), from fresh fish, squid, spring rolls , fried chicken and some good veg mixtures. The the following final day was spent on an island opposite to the main beach in a theme park/resort called Vinpearl World, to get there you had to ride on the longest over water cable car in the world, probably the reason for us going plus a hankering for a water park. With a great collection of slides, from fast to wiggly, open to closed and single and double slides it was great refreshing fun with a great view of the coast line and the locals didn’t stare at Sian to much!
Nha Trang beach

Nha Trang beach


Blue fish Nha Trang

Blue fish Nha Trang


Coral Nha Trang

Coral Nha Trang


View from slides in Vinpearl waterpark

View from slides in Vinpearl waterpark


Vinpearl

Vinpearl

After a shower and arriving back it was time for our first sleeper over night bus to Hoi An for some culture.....

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 08:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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