Vietnam. Part I: Hoi An to Hue

It all started on a lazy Saturday morning, when we were trying to decide where to go on our next holiday. We wanted an adventure holiday, though we would never believe that we would end up having the adventure of our lifes! (So far)

We booked the filght to Vietnam and before we knew it, we were in Heathrow downing a gin & tonic before getting comfy on the huge A380 that took us to Bangkok. As usual, Shay fell asleep pretty much straight after taking off, so I was left drinking more gin & tonic and ended up having a bad wrist after overplaying a Thai version of Pac Man. We didnt have much time in Bangkok, since we had to take another flight to Ha Noi where we met the one and only Tamar, Shays’ long time bestie that lives in Hanoi and helped us throughout the entire trip. After being introduced to Nouda (strong, iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and possibly one of the best types of coffee ever), we were in the air again heading to Da Nang. 17 hours of travelling took us to the other side of the world

Finally we arrived in Da Nang, feeling very grateful that our feet were back on the ground for the following 2 weeks. Even though the city isn´t the most beautiful in Vietnam, its beaches and food are amazing so we knew starting our trip here was the right idea! We ran to the hostel, dropped our backpacks, got our swim shorts on and ran to the beach, had a relaxing swim and got all rehydrated with fresh coconut water. We started to quickly realize that you have to forget about western standards, the roads are crazy in Vietnam, thousands of motorbikes coming from everywhere, not following any rules but these two: 1-Do not stop. 2-Let others know that you are driving by using your horn.

So a nice chilled day and when it got to evening time, we made our way through the crowded roads to the Dragon bridge: a massive dragon-shapped bridge that spits fire and water every Sunday evening!

Motorbikes are the cheapest and most accessible way of getting around Vietnam as you are not allowed to rent a car, for good reason! So we sorted our bikes out the next day and drove to the beutiful, Unesco World Heritage city of Hoi An. Imagine a colonial-style asian small city, full of charm, little tailor shops and… coconuts!!

We heard about a coconut boat trip with the locals who live on the river, there was no way we were turning down the chance to jump on one of these boats! It was one of those moments where even though you can’t understand each other, it doesn’t matter one bit.

Vietnam is well known for its textile industry and Ivan took advantage of the trip to Hoi An, where they spezialise in suits/jackets, he got a made to measure winter coat for a ¼ of the UK price (yes, he was pretty good at bargaining!). The whole process was extremely quick and, even though I wasn´t too sure when choosing fit/fabrics, the results are impressive. The tailor even came into the hostel at 7am to make sure that the design of the pockets were as Ivan wanted. An awesome made to measure coat designed, sewn and finished in less than 8 hours!!

They say that after a storm, comes the calm and after experiencing two Monsoon storms, the sun rose up in the sky and we were all set up on our motorbikes, ready for a 100 mile roadtrip (Ivan’s first motorbike trip ever) from Hoi An to Hue, through the Marble Mountains and the incredible Hai Van pass.

Gangsters…

The Marble Mountains are a group of 5 mountains, carved from marble and home of an incredible Temple carved in the mountains. We were blown away by the sheer size of the Budha. We climbed steep stairways to reach different sections of the temple and even caved through very narrow tunnels to reach the peak of the mountains, this is a beautiful place. Time was ticking, so we headed back down the one thousand steps and jumped on our motorbikes again, that was after briefly stopping to sort a minor situation of Ivan loosing his bike keys… Thank god for the lovely lady who realized that he left the keys in the bike and kept them in her pocket to hand back! The longest part of the roadtrip was just about to begin: 80 miles of winding roads, ruthless goats and daring locals!

Soon we started riding the Hai Van Pass an impressive mountain pass that hides a gem from the war: a well preserved american bunker with its walls full of bullet holes. Being there was quite something… We took a few moments to enjoy the views across Da Nang Bay and the long journey to Hue awaited. On the road again!!

The trip was going perfectly well: an easy road surrounded by beautiful rice fields, buffalos and the mountains behind us… We stopped for a quick relief and a coffee, somehow that turned into Ivan having an arm wrestle with a local. The last part of the trip was without a doubt the most challenging part, what seemed to be innocent rain, turned into a Monsoon very quickly. So we pulled over and found oursleves in the middle of nowhere, completely drenched, with the sun setting quickly in the horizon and about 15 more miles to go before getting into Hue. Oh! And Shays’ lights broke! What a roadtrip!!!

Finally we arrived safely in Hue, checked in, got dry and went to check out the town. This is where we observed first hand the Vientamese health & safety standards, whilst having a well deserved dinner. Builders in their sandals were dealing with heavy machinery, drilling holes in the ground and connecting electricity cables above the road. One of the cables broke, causing a power fault in half of the city. One builder then decided that the best way to repair the cable, was by climbing on top of the digger to reconnect the cables with his bare hands! We literally couldn´t watch how it ended so we paid quickly and left! After a few drinks and checking out the delights of a Vietnamese nightclub, we made our way home to have a well deserved rest… We had another big day ahead in the morning!

We will post Part 2 soon, including the visit in Hue, our adventure through the jungle to reach the 3rd biggest cave in the world and our trip to Halong Bay.

Speak soon!

Shay & Iban. 👬 🇻🇳

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