Monday, August 27, 2012

Saigon a steaming hot city too bad I was sick would have liked to try more foods

On our last day in Mui Ne, my stomach wasn't feeling very good and it was pretty much the same for our weekend in Ho Chi Minh city, I know thats its name but the locals we asked including myself still like the old name of Saigon. We had arranged our second couch surfing experience with Hang Dinh. Can't say enough of this young girl she works as a TV news reporter, writes for travel websites, travels herself and still has time to host complete strangers in her downtown flat in Saigon's centre. Every night after a long hot day of work she still managed the energy to take us out, showing the city and telling us great stories of her life and travels. 

bike parking at our host apartment, can you spot mine?

famous Ben Thanh Market, in the centre of Saigon has everything, but don't forget to bargain
checking out the War Remnants museum 
Ji, riding our host scooter was exciting. just for the picture Hang did the driving 
enjoying ice cold Saigon beer, with seafood along the river

were not coffee drinkers, but we loved Vietnam's strong sweet ice coffee
During the hot afternoons Ji and I would venture out to see the city ourselves and also did some last minute repair to my bike. One of the pedals were acting funny had them both replaced for $6, cheap. Saigon has had its troubles in the past and you can see evidence at the War Remnants Museum but from what we saw the future looks bright for Ho Chi Minh City. Loads of great restaurants, cafes, shopping new buildings and felt safe, but what stands out most was our time with our CS'rs host, thanks Hang for a great time.

Next we will ride the Mekong Delta while making our way to Cambodia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

3 days of scorching sun but made it to Mui Ne for much need rest

We caught the 10 hour sleeper bus from Hoi An to Nha Trang cost us about $17 each. The bus was full with backpackers and some of the packs were larger than our folding bikes. When we arrived in Nha Trang, there was lots of people trying to get us to stay at their hotel showing us photos and pricing some guys even promote multiple hotels. Jieun already knew which hotel to stay at but we still let one guy take us to the place so he could make some cash. Nha Trang is clean modern beach city, nice to see has high end to budget accommodations and loads of bars and restaurants also it an interesting night market street off the main part of the boardwalk. 

Nha Trang harbour
Po Nagar temple over looking Nha Trang
mud spa just outside Nha Trang

night market street short and full of Vietnamese sweets
Next 3 days were spent riding down hwy 1 during the hottest time of the year. Temperatures were in the mid 30's add in the scorching sun, we found ourselves stopping every hour to rest in the shade lucky Vietnam has plenty of resting areas along the road equipped with hammocks and the people selling sugarcane ice drinks were also a god sent. I like to say those 3 days were worth it when we reached Mui Ne, nothing against Mui Ne, its beautiful but getting there was hot and hard as hell. In Mui Ne we treated ourselves for 3 nights at relaxing resort with a pool overlooking the sea. It was $35 usd a night included breakfast and afternoon tea and fruits, its the most expensive place we have stayed since arriving in Asia but totally worth it. 

road to Mui Ne

often saw farmers dry their rice on the roads
water was crystal clear
exhausted but made we it Mui Ne, 3 days later
After a few days of doing nothing we did manage to check out the local sites, like the sand dunes, but the most interesting site was the Fairy stream walk with its unique eroded banks and while on the trail we found a place where you can ride an ostrich. Jieun got an short ride for $2 but I think I would have been too heavy for the big bird. Next up Ho Chi Minh city but we like to call it by its old French colonial name Saigon. 

we quickly checked into the Sunrise Resort
thats says it all of what we did the next few days
the narrow strip of sand beach in front of the our resort
unique strawberry spring rolls tasted sweet and savory
fish we ate almost everyday while in Mui Ne

small fishing village outside Mui Ne, look like a fleet of battle ships
sand dunes was too hot to even walk on in the afternoon
strolling down the fairy stream 

looks like chocolate milk 
at the end of the fairy stream was a refreshing waterfall
reminds me of old Atari video game Joust where people ride flying ostriches 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toughest ride to the charming beach town of Hoi An

We left Hue, really early in the hope of making to Hoi An the same day. The day started out perfect, cloudy and flat for the first part. Then we started to see hills and then a cliff side mountain road known as the Hai Van pass. They have a tunnel but locals told us its too dangerous to ride bicycles through so we had to take the high road. The twisty road takes you up with amazing views of the sea, soon the sites are whiteout with fog, not too many cars on the road now with the tunnel but we see lots of motorbikes zipping by us and looking back and smiling. I not sure if they are friendly or just think we are crazy biking up this hill. We finally made it to the top after 2 hours of mostly pushing the bike, it was damp, foggy and cool with a small strip of vendors. After a few photos we started the nice downhill decent, it took 20 minutes of effortless bliss except for the fingers on the brakes, by the time we reached the bottom it was dark and we were in Da nang, to rest a night. After a much needed shower we headed out to get something to eat and found the best tasting Pho to date, I don't know it was the fact we were starving but we both ordered another bowl cost $1 a bowl. 

perfect day to ride, until we see the hills coming
tombs outside Hue

taking a break on top of one of the hills
this restaurant saved us with great food and views

$3 usd for a plate of great seafood spring rolls
the mother of all hill climbs in Vietnam
enjoying the views at the start
not so happy in the middle

just glad we made it to the top
Next day after sleeping in we went back to the same Pho restaurant to try it again and yes it is the best Pho we've had, savory broth with fresh sprouts and noodles plus free cold ice tea topped it off. This time for breakfast we only had 3 bowls we split the last. Lucky for us its a short ride to Hoi An because the sun was blistering compared to the day before. We checked out the famous China beach which was made famous by American G.I's needing a place for some R&R. Four hours later we reached Hoi An because of the strong head wind and the extreme heat slowed us down. We stopped at the beach to enjoy a cool drink and snack, while watching the old ladies round up customers for their respective establishments. After waiting for the sun to go down alittle we head to town and found a good value ($20usd without breakfast) place to stay the Grassland Hotel just 5 minutes outside of town and 15 minutes from the beach by bike. 

owner of the best Pho we've ever tasted just north of Da  Nang on route #1
round fishing boats in Da Nang 
the legendary China beach in Da Nang
wishing for cloud and no hills 
Hoi An, is famous for its hand made silk clothes, suites, pants, dresses you name it, if you can imagine it they can make it for you in silk or other types of fabrics. You won't have any trouble finding a shop because they are everywhere in the centre. The night life is around the river with restaurants and bars really nice place to relax and kill a few days. Also alot of the restaurants offer cooking classes if your so inclined to learn and you get to eat what you prepare. Hoi An has something for everyone, we only spent 2 nights but I can easily see why so many people end up staying longer here. 

beaches in Hoi An less chimerical than those of Da Nang

attractive night life alone the river

this tasty cool drink was made with avocados and mixed fruits  (never though to use it like this)
streets are lite up with cute lamps all over Hoi An
Jieun trying out the round boats parked in front of this great eat restaurant
cooked to perfection squid with garlic and ginger $3.50 usd
if you in Hoi An and looking for great value seafood check out this place
enjoying a cold beer in the hotel room
cute indoor pool at the hotel but never saw anyone using it
back court dinning area of the hotel