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Welcome to our blogs. We document our family adventure during this year of travel.  Wishing you well on your journey!

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Central Vietnam : Dong Hoi, Hue, Hoi An

Central Vietnam : Dong Hoi, Hue, Hoi An

21.11.2016

Night Train Hanoi -Dong Hoi

22.11 - 25.11.2016

Dong Hoi

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.

 Day 1

Day 1

 Some youths spotted Emma and wanted a photo with her.  Turned out they were the same age!

Some youths spotted Emma and wanted a photo with her.  Turned out they were the same age!

 First smoothie! since leaving home.

First smoothie! since leaving home.

 Day 2

Day 2

 Babysitters on site.

Babysitters on site.

 Where we hung out drinking ice coffee :)

Where we hung out drinking ice coffee :)

 One morning, we needed to get to town.  Since there wasn't enough bicycles, we opted to try the motorbikes.  This is Alvin!  Me?  Not so good.  i fell twice.  I bicycled instead.  Emma and Myka took turns biking and riding.  What a highlight to the day!

One morning, we needed to get to town.  Since there wasn't enough bicycles, we opted to try the motorbikes.  This is Alvin!  Me?  Not so good.  i fell twice.  I bicycled instead.  Emma and Myka took turns biking and riding.  What a highlight to the day!

 We bought food from this market tucked between shops.  They were great fun.  They even helped Alvin as one lady selling him meat was trying to cheat him so all these ladies came to his defence!

We bought food from this market tucked between shops.  They were great fun.  They even helped Alvin as one lady selling him meat was trying to cheat him so all these ladies came to his defence!

 Recycled Tire Garbage Cans.

Recycled Tire Garbage Cans.

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 entrance.

The entrance.

 Just one small part of the main chamber.

Just one small part of the main chamber.

 The variations!

The variations!

The drive was really pretty even though it was raining hard.

 A common sight in Vietnam.  Cemeteries in the fields where families grew crop.

A common sight in Vietnam.  Cemeteries in the fields where families grew crop.

 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. 

 There were 3 levels ranging from 10 to 30 meters underground.  This was a well for fresh water.  Amongst the various rooms, there was a communal kitchen, an infirmary where babies were born, a meeting room.

There were 3 levels ranging from 10 to 30 meters underground.  This was a well for fresh water.  Amongst the various rooms, there was a communal kitchen, an infirmary where babies were born, a meeting room.

 Entire families would stay here...

Entire families would stay here...

25.11 - 28.11.2016

Hue

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 

 Everything was near perfect including the friendliest staff.  Breakfast was an exciting 'event' the kids looked forward to the night before.  Free fruits anytime and complimentary drinks.  Eli had 'craft' time with one of the staff and they gave the kids personal parting gifts. It was wonderful to experience such generosity in a hotel!

Everything was near perfect including the friendliest staff.  Breakfast was an exciting 'event' the kids looked forward to the night before.  Free fruits anytime and complimentary drinks.  Eli had 'craft' time with one of the staff and they gave the kids personal parting gifts. It was wonderful to experience such generosity in a hotel!

 Yummy green bananas at La Perle.

Yummy green bananas at La Perle.

Two - Viet.

 Our friend Minh Minh from HCMC introduced her friend Viet to us.  He and his wife brought us to various places to eat throughout our stay.  Hue is known to have a very unique menu and Viet introduced many of them in which we've never tasted before.  At this vendor, we were able to eat at local's price.  If Viet was not here, the price would double but double is still very low.

Our friend Minh Minh from HCMC introduced her friend Viet to us.  He and his wife brought us to various places to eat throughout our stay.  Hue is known to have a very unique menu and Viet introduced many of them in which we've never tasted before.  At this vendor, we were able to eat at local's price.  If Viet was not here, the price would double but double is still very low.

 Viet's favourite seller of steamed dumplings.

Viet's favourite seller of steamed dumplings.

 The Fabulous steamed dumplings we brought back to the hotel.

The Fabulous steamed dumplings we brought back to the hotel.

 We did visit the Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda).  It is one of the oldest in Vietnam set beside the Perfume River.  Viet was our tour guide - he had a book we took turns reading from as we went along ;)

We did visit the Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda).  It is one of the oldest in Vietnam set beside the Perfume River.  Viet was our tour guide - he had a book we took turns reading from as we went along ;)

 Real or a painting?

Real or a painting?

 Lunch was more familiar.

Lunch was more familiar.

 On a bicycle!

On a bicycle!

 Key maker

Key maker

 Myka left her glasses with the sand castles back in Dong Hoi which before we could track it down was swept off to sea.  Optical shops here are quick, efficient, 98% accurate and cheap as long as you have no other complications.  He checked her eyes, found the lens, cut them and fitted them all in an hour's time!  All for <$60!

Myka left her glasses with the sand castles back in Dong Hoi which before we could track it down was swept off to sea.  Optical shops here are quick, efficient, 98% accurate and cheap as long as you have no other complications.  He checked her eyes, found the lens, cut them and fitted them all in an hour's time!  All for <$60!

 Kids were happy to find frozen yogurt in Hue! &nbsp;They are made on the spot by pouring dry ice onto yogurt &amp; ingredients. &nbsp;

Kids were happy to find frozen yogurt in Hue!  They are made on the spot by pouring dry ice onto yogurt & ingredients.  

 The next day :)

The next day :)

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. 

 Alvin took this very cool photo from within the bunker.

Alvin took this very cool photo from within the bunker.

28.11 - 2.12.2016  

Hoi An

 Early morning without the flood of tourists.

Early morning without the flood of tourists.

 Most buildings converted to shops and restaurants.

Most buildings converted to shops and restaurants.

 Back of a 'home' museum.

Back of a 'home' museum.

 In the 1770s when Hoi An was still a center for trade,&nbsp;the Chinese built a few of these assembly halls. &nbsp;Some of which were also transformed into a temples later.

In the 1770s when Hoi An was still a center for trade, the Chinese built a few of these assembly halls.  Some of which were also transformed into a temples later.

 Pretty ladies.... i'm not sure where or what they were in the middle of doing.

Pretty ladies.... i'm not sure where or what they were in the middle of doing.

 Popular destination for groups of Asian tourists.

Popular destination for groups of Asian tourists.

 Tired looking at 'old' homes.

Tired looking at 'old' homes.

 Free bikes from our hotel!

Free bikes from our hotel!

 Playground!

Playground!

While biking around, we took a random turn and ended up at a Silk Village.  It was really educational and fun.

 Mulberry Bush

Mulberry Bush

 Boiling the cocoons with the silkworms inside.

Boiling the cocoons with the silkworms inside.

 The lady uses chopsticks to connect the thread from cocoon to spinner. Amazing.

The lady uses chopsticks to connect the thread from cocoon to spinner. Amazing.

 They invite the Cham people from Central Vietnam to stay at the village to show outsiders their traditional methods of weaving. &nbsp;It's really mesmerizing watching them work.

They invite the Cham people from Central Vietnam to stay at the village to show outsiders their traditional methods of weaving.  It's really mesmerizing watching them work.

 Raw silk

Raw silk

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.

Southern Vietnam : Ho Chi Minh City,  Mekong Delta Region

Southern Vietnam : Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta Region

Northern Vietnam : Hanoi, Ha Giang, Halong Bay

Northern Vietnam : Hanoi, Ha Giang, Halong Bay