Saturday, 14 December 2013
Saigon to Shenzhen
It's been 15 years since I visited Vietnam - and I could hardly recognise the place! The swarms of motorcycle traffic were familiar - but that was about it... Nevertheless, it was great to enjoy the trappings of a developed tourist infrastructure - clean and cheap hotel rooms, menus with English, staff that are ready to help out tourists out, etc etc. This swings both ways of course - in some places like Halong we had to keep our guard up for cheap scams and dodgy taxi just a bit too frequently to make it an enjoyable sparring game. But I think we did fine, and it's been a great trip all the way up to the HK border! (including some mighty comfy night trains and buses - no kidding!)
We had set ourselves an ambitious task- HCMC to Hong Kong over land in 10 days-you can't reschedule Christmas!
HCMC (Saigon) and Hanoi were both bustling energetic places with lots of people watching, food sampling and motorbike dodging. I really enjoyed the energy of both and particularly liked the rambling streets of Hanoi. Ty and I spent a fair amount of time on the trains travelling through the country, but I was impressed with the comfort and cleanliness of them and enjoyed the long journeys and even slept. Like Burma, I also enjoyed their sweets, especially the hot che which comes in all different varieties (mine was coconut goodness with glutinous bean paste balls-yum)
After stopping in Nha Trang for a night, we continued via Hanoi to Halong City. Having both heard wonderful things about the area we decided to exit through Vietnam this way. However, the place was not our favourite. It was deserted and as a result people were trying their luck left right and centre. The weather was atrocious and we couldn't even see the karst mountains (see the gloomy photo). The only positive thing about the place was the cheap accommodation and the great seafood.Ty and I had a fun time studying the mantis shrimp in the tank at the restaurant and then researching about them on wiki!
The journey across the border into China was super smooth and easy and it was awesome to see the sheer size of everything in China, including the size of the guy in the poster enjoying his pampering at the spa! It was really great to meet up with friends on this leg of the trip.