Central Vietnam : Dong Hoi, Hue, Hoi An
Night Train Hanoi -Dong Hoi
22.11 - 25.11.2016
Dong Hoi is what one needs after a busy city like Hanoi. It's got a beautiful beach, a National park, three large caves and an easy hop off the main train line. It is near the dividing line between north and south Vietnam, the DMZ and was completely bombed flat during the war except for a few singular structures.
We wanted to be close to the beach. We found in Ocean View a spacious room for a mere $54CAD/night. It is a peaceful place that's steps away from the ocean but far from the city and all it's food choices. The goal the first morning of arrival was simply to find food. Of course, we end up walking down the beach instead of the road and of course, we ended up playing at the beach instead of just walking. It so happened that the section of the beach we stopped at was near a hostel with a restaurant - The Beachside Backpackers. That was where we hung out for the rest of our stay. It is owned by Anh, a Vietnamese and his Irish wife. They have a great love story and a newborn baby. We met a colorful range of people - most wanting to escape the touristy scene they've been travelling.
The last day was all rain which was alright as Anh helped arrange a driver for us to visit 2 caves. We've been to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico so we did not expect to be wowed. Well, we were. We were totally stunned by the amazing Paradise Cave. It's by far the most beautiful cave yet. These are photos from Alvin on his phone.
The drive was really pretty even though it was raining hard.
In the afternoon, Myka, Emma and Alvin visited the Dark Cave which is purely for fun! Zip-line, swimming in the dark, mud bath, kayak. Unfortunately, because of the rain and water levels, Eli and Lucy were excluded from it. They hung out with me kayaking around, a short zipline where Lucy took the lead as it falls straight in the water! For you who know i cannot swim and therefore secretly scared of water above my neck, i was terrified but because Lucy and Eli did it, i did it too. And survived.
Between Dong Hoi and Hue, lies the demilitarized zone, the DMZ. You can still see many crater size dips in the ground from intense bombing of the area. We took a private car to visit the impressive Vinh Moc Tunnels. It is a sophisticated system of underground living for entire villages.
25.11 - 28.11.2016
Hue is known as the Imperial City with many historic sites to visit. We knew we wouldn't sightsee much but we didn't really know what we would do. It turned out there were three things we loved:
One - Hotel La Perle
Two - Viet.
We needed to continue our journey to Hoi An. One more stop before our train to HCMC. Even though Hoi An was once a thriving port town and is a UNESCO World Heritage town, i've been warned it caters mainly to tourist now. Our problem was that it was windy and rainy much of the time. We biked mostly but visibility was terrible and at times, dangerous. Food was also more expensive.
Viet set us up with a friend of his who drove us all the way to Hoi An in his comfortable and very big SUV. It's a lovely drive that takes you up the Hai Van Pass. The top of the mountain overlooks both sides of the coast including the view of the booming city of Danang. There is an old French fort at the top where you can freely climb the bunkers that the Americans used during the war.
28.11 - 2.12.2016
While biking around, we took a random turn and ended up at a Silk Village. It was really educational and fun.
Back in Hanoi, we bought our tickets from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City. Since then, we've been told how much cheaper plane tickets are compared to train tickets. Of course, if bought early enough. Ah well, we like trains.