Our brief encounter with Ho Chi Minh 

Ho Chi Minh was our final destination in Vietnam, we arrived the morning of the 1st September and we were on a bus to Cambodia 24 hours later.

In our short time we changed hotel rooms to escape the bed bugs we found. (Free upgrade). Walked around the city, tried to go to the War remnants mueseum (but it’s closed for 2 hours over lunch) so instead we went to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and saw a range of equipment used in the war. From weaponary to transport and the history of Vietnamese currency.

The city is the most “English” of those we have visited in Vietnam, with large numbers of shops and restaurants with English signs. The streets are filled with hotels, mini marts and travel agents; it’s definitely a city catered to tourism.

We booked ourselves on to a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, which is about 60km out of the city, for the afternoon. We learnt about the tunnelling system the Vietnamese used in the war against the Americans.

Tiny entrances:

the real entrances were 10% smaller than this one

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Nha Trang

Our time in Nha trang was less culture and more sun, sea, sand and beer (too much beer).
We enjoyed a Vietnamese sandwich called a Bahn Mi when we arrived. The locals sell these sandwich rolls from little carts on the streets all over Vietnam but this was the first time we’d seen a vegetarian stand. We enjoyed 2 hearty crusty rolls filled to the brim with veggies, tofu and homemade sauces all for a bank-breaking 30p.

We spent the afternoon chilling on the beach discussing foreign politics and the difference between the Canadian, American and British education system with our international dorm friends. Conclusion: despite the £9,000 tuition, I’m glad I’m studying in Britain!

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Hoi An

We arrived in Hoi An about midday, after travelling on a sleeper bus that was a big downgrade from our previous buses (no toilet on board and not as modern). It was okay though because this journey was only about 4 hours. As soon as we hopped off the bus we were bombarded with creepy taxi drivers trying to take us to our homestay. But, as independent women, we walked there and found it ourselves. We’ve learnt to ignore the taxi drivers because they lie to try and get you to go in their taxi.

The homestay was more of a hostel, the owners just showed us our room and left us to it. But, our private room was massive AND had a fridge so I could chill my sexy chocolate milk (this is a really important point because these 25p cartons of goodness taste 10x better cold).

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Extremely hot and somewhat unremarkable…

Hue was kind of a pit stop for us, the bus stopped in Hue anyway so we thought we would too. We spent 2 nights there and the first day was pushing 40 degrees, glorious if you’re lying on a beach, not so nice if you’re walking around the city.

The city has a much more chilled vibe than the capital city of Hanoi, and the river running through it is beautiful, particularly when lit up at night.

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Phong Nah

Phong Nah, not far from the city of Dong Hoi is famous for its caves included the worlds largest cave costing $3,000 to enter.
We stayed in a lively backpackers hostel, Easy Tiger, a business started up by an Australian and his wife to draw tourism to Phong Nah.

On the first day, we arrived at 5am in the morning after our first night bus experience (which was surprisingly okay). Once we’d refuelled, we joined some friends in going to visit Phong Nah cave. You have to travel by boat to the entrance of the cave and then you are steered through the cave on a smaller paddle boat. I’m not exactly a cave enthusiast but this was pretty cool…

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First of all, Vietnam is the country of bikes. If you feel comfortable riding one, go for it. It’s cheap, and they’re everywhere. You can buy one and then sell it on in another city, or just rent for a few days, or hours at a time. Bikes are everywhere!
However, as whimpy girls, not covered for any sort of motorbike or scooter we had to explore other options to get to each destination. So this blog post is about the other public transport in Vietnam.

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How to (and not to) travel in Vietnam

Exploring Cat Ba Island 

This morning we headed down to the bus station to catch a bus to the National Park, only to discover that (apparently) the only public bus left at 8am. This left us with a dilemma… Ride on the back of a motorbike (definite no! Not covered on our travel insurance and I like all my limbs in tact), get a taxi (too much money), miss it completely (but we really wanted to go) OR, find another way… So we did. We bartered with a coach driver, who was heading to Monkey Island (another attraction), for a lift.  He agreed to take us for £1 each – dropping us directly outside the park. True traveller status is reaching us.

“true travellers”

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What we have learnt so far in Vietnam (and the journey to Cat Ba Island)…

Since arriving in Vietnam we have learnt:

  • Walking 6 or 7 km (to get bus tickets) when you don’t really know where you’re going is a very long way in 35+ heat
  • Never get a taxi from the bus station in Hanoi (big money scams – charging 10x the normal price)
  • Withdrawing cash from ATMs is much more difficult here – these cash points do not like our cards!
  • Sleeper buses in Vietnam are a big no! Quotes from trip advisor go something like: “travelling long distance on a sleeper bus is a death wish” “suicide” “never again” “crazy lunatic drivers” (keep reading for pictures)
  • We are both definitely vegetarian… The sights we’ve seen of how they keep animals, prepare and store meat are a BIG NO. First class ticket to salmonella and food poisoning

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