Places: Hong Kong, Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay, Cat Ba, Hoi An, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat
We left Goa and 2 short flights later we found ourselves with a drink in hand – that cost more than a 4 star hotel in India – and an incredible view over Hong Kong. We had come to see Jamie’s sister, Claire and brother in-law, Ian who’d recently moved here. Although we’d both been to the Hong Kong before, it was great to be back visiting this amazing city! We’d come from feeling the richest people in the world in India to penniless, scruffy looking travellers. So much so that Jamie was refused into the bar as we were wearing flip flops. Whoops!
We spent a great few days in HK; losing every race at the famous Happy Vally Racecourse, visiting surrounding islands and beaches, attending a yoga class by the harbour, watching the light show and eating and drinking far too much! It was great to catch up with Claire and Ian, to see their new lifestyle and to spend a few days in a place we could call home. It was a wrench to leave!
After 5 days in HK we flew to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. And it rained and poured for two days! Nonetheless we enjoyed our time in this hectic city, visiting temples, markets and eating delicious food. The people were so friendly and we instantly knew we’d enjoy our time in Vietnam.
Our next destination was Sapa, a 9 hour overnight sleeper train from the capital. We’d booked ourselves onto a tiny four bed cabin which we shared with a father and son from Texas, and felt confident we’d have a good nights sleep. How wrong we were.. We’d managed to be allocated the ‘dodgy’ carriage that had some sort of fault to it. The yanks described it as a machine gun being fired constantly throughout the night – we couldn’t have described it better ourselves! It was a nightmare and we didn’t get a wink of sleep. The crowd of smokers outside our cabin didn’t help either..
Consequently we made it to Sapa rather bleary eyed and not exactly up for a days hiking. Nevertheless, we had no time to cat nap, so after dropping off our bags at our guesthouse, we started our trek. Not before buying a head-to-toe poncho with an inbuilt cap – we looked ridiculous! – but it was pouring and we were dry. Gosh we’re getting old! We’d hired a local Vietnamese girl named Shu to be our guide – she was half the height of us so we thought we’d easily be able to keep up with her and wonder about in our sleepless state. We were wrong again! Shu was incredibly speedy and incredibly fit, we had a job to keep up. The walk was stunning, despite the rain. We hiked through the most beautiful countryside full of staircases of rice fields. The following day we continued our trek through even more beautiful countryside, stopping for a traditional Vietnamese lunch at one of the many villages we passed by on the way. We loved Sapa and the surrounding area.
We caught the night train back to Hanoi and thankfully it was pretty uneventful. We had no time to spare as our next destination was a 4 hour bus journey to Halong Bay where our 3 day boat cruise was awaiting. Halong Bay consists of 2000 or more islands rising from the waters of the Gulf of Tonki. Our boat was lovely and pretty luxurious for the little we paid for it (Vietnam was so cheap!). Halong Bay was extremely beautiful but unfortunately it was tarnished a little by the amount of rubbish that had been thrown in the water. We spent three days in total here and were waited on hand and foot on the boat. We went kayaking around many different islands, visited caves and an opal farm, went on a bike ride, watched beautiful sunsets from the deck, visited secluded beaches and a big island called Cat Ba and even learnt how to make spring rolls. We has a great few days!
We then took a short flight down to Da Nang where we spent a good few days on Hoian. Hoian was beautiful and a personal favourite of mine. At night the streets were lit with multicoloured lanterns and the river was lit with coloured tea lights. The river was also littered with gondolas; it was very romantic! Hoian is also famous for having clothes made and before we knew it..one suit and 3 dresses later.. Whoops! The weather was lovely and we did very little here apart from enjoy the food and the beaches. Bliss!
We could have stayed in Vietnam for much longer but with time running out and so much more to see, we hopped on another short flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Siem Reap took us by surprise as it was very touristy, with one huge strip full of bars, clubs and Europeans. Maybe it was because we’d had our Western world fix in HK, but we didn’t really welcome this type of atmosphere (not in Cambodia anyway). It didn’t start well but it got a heck of a lot worse.. Jamie and I, on the first night, got food poisoning! It was horrendous! We only had 4/5 days here and we felt pretty awful for the entire time. We had come to Cambodia to see the famous Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples but there was no way we could even leave our hotel room for 3 days. On the 4th and last full day we had on Siem Reap, we dragged ourselves from our sick beds told ourselves to get a grip and we HAD to see the sights. It was 40 degrees in the shade (!!) so Jamie went off on a mission to buy us both hats. I stupidly told him not to worry about anything that looked good, just to buy us a cheap hat to keep off the sun. He returned with 2 large cone hats that Asian farmers wear in the rice fields. We looked ridiculous!! I ate my words of course, as there wasn’t a scrap of shade at Angkor Wat and it was unreliably HOT (especially whilst having to cover our knees and shoulders)! We hadn’t eaten in 4 days, we still felt pretty rough and there we were in the blistering midday heat looking at temples. It was such a struggle but so worth it!! The temples were incredible with Angkor Wat surprisingly (or maybe not so) the least spectacular. The region was huge and we could never of done it without our lovely tuk tuk driver, who ensured we were well hydrated and drove us between the temples. We also got to see sunset at the top of a temple which was incredible.
We saw what we came to see but sadly we weren’t sad to see the back of Siem Reap.
Next stop: Luang Prabang..!
Positive lessons: we shall NEVER be ill at the same time again! 😉
Love Charlotte & Jamie x x
Heading to the big budda
Overnight train to Sapa
Ha Long Bay cruise
Charlotte’s new pearl
Bike ride on Cat ba island
Cambodia – Angkor wat!