Leaving Lao Matt and me took a local over night bus from Savannakhet Lao, to Hue, a city on the coast of Vietnam. This meant that we found ourselves half asleep at 4 in the morning in no mans land, the border. I will let you know that we had become more and more suspicious as to the business of the bus we were on... It was carrying about 10 people along with 100rds of burlap sacks full of cole. It began to be a questionable subject... why was this bus carrying cole across the border? Did they not have cole in Vietnam? The only answer we found plausible was that cole is a great way to hid something that you don't want the border control to find. It's dirty, no one's gonna want to dig around in it; and it just so happens to be a ideal way to clog up a drug dogs nose. Of course we were a little less relaxed about our bus journey than we had began feeling. By the time we made it to the border our nerves were buzzing back and forth, so much so that we (the travelers that we are now) let ourselves get coned into giving some random man on a motor cycle our passports to get them stamped. Luckily the $3 that we were paying him was enough to draw him back but we both spent a good half hour on the verge of hysteria. We got our passports back and of course the middle man was not necessary, we had to walk passed the stamping office regardless. Our next hurtle was getting though the bureaucracy before our bus left without us, the bus driver seemed to have no problem with that. In the end I had to chase them down the road yelling as matt collected his last stamps, they had our bags you see. Unfortunately the excitement doesn't end here, it's about 9 in the morning now and we're dew to arrive in Hue at 11. There's always the lingering question when your on a bus 'where are they going to drop you off.' Now we've been dropped off in some fairly strange places all of which were totally manageable but not this time. The bus driver beckoned to us to put on our massive back packs and make our way to the front, they tried to convince me to get off while the bus was still moving, i refused. So they had the decency to stop for 30 seconds and chuck us and our stuff our the door on the side of the road. So here we are in Vietnam, no currency, a foreigner on the the side of the high way only to find that we're 15 km out side of the Hue. It takes the cake for bad bus experiences for sure.
Now there were no Taxi's or Tuk Tuk, only motorcyclist who are trying to convince us that they would take me into the city for $5 and then come back and get Matt. Not a good plan we thought. Just as we gave up, with us and our bags in a heap on the road side trying to catch a car to take us together into Hue, Lady luck came to our rescue at last. A little mini bus (local) pulled over and beckoned us in, we had just enough money to pay for a ticket and figured that where ever it was going was better than where we were. It actually took us within walking distance of our hotel, a bit of a walk with our bags but we weren't complaining.
So that's day 1 in Vietnam.
In Hue we went to see the old Imperial City and the forbidden Purple City where the Emperor Gia Long and the Nguyen Family would lounge around in their fortress surrounded by concubines. It was really nice, not completely restored which gave you the feeling that you were discovering it yourself. I think that because this is a Communist state (awful way to use the word communist but...) they haven't put much energy into preserving it. They have tried so hard to get rid of the monarchy and religion that keeping the palace in good condition is not one of their priorities i guess.
After Hue we found ourselves wondering around Hoi An, another beautiful Unesco World Heritage Site. It's a city full of scenic streets dotted with ancient teak houses and adorned with with little red lanterns. It really does look like something out of a fairy tale. Apart from it's appearance there is nothing to do. We've found on our travels that Unesco World Heritage site are generally quaint, beautiful, boring, and completely over run with uptight (usually french) tourists. So we moved on fairly quickly to Qui Nhon. Qui Nhon is quite little beach town, similar to Hoi An in the way that it's beautiful and boring... but it is much more enjoyable because it's almost completely void of tourists. We had a good few days there, but there is really nothing to do besides swim and even that left you wondering why you never saw any one else doing it. We gave up in the end when Matt decided that this bay was home to the 'Vietnamese Man o' War' which our imaginations let us believe was some kind of sting ray or jelly fish or creature from the deep that you really didn't want to meet.
From Qui Nhon we went to the next beach town along the way, Nha Trang. Nha Trang has got a lot to offer, a lot of restaurants, water sports, islands, you name it; it is also a major tourist destination but not only for westerners, even other Vietnamese people find them selves vacationing there. We spent our days here laying on the beach (we soon forgot about the Man o' War) and dinning on cheep beer and crab. Matt got a new hair-do here from a road side barber... it's basically a mohawk with a little something else going on. The 'Do' brought a crowd of locals all flabbergasted at this strange haircut, I don't think they'd ever seen anything like it. He debuted his mohawk at a fabulous drag show that night. With out any effort at all we found ourselves in the midst of some outrageous Drag Bar where we played pool till the wee hours of the morn.
Nha Trang is also home to the famous 'VinPearl' which is like something out of a movie. An Island resort which along with a Spa on the other side of the Island is a massive Amusement Park. Of course we went right! We payed 360 Dong ($18) to take the gondola over to the island and then every thing was free. They had Water Slides, Monkey acrobatics, Roller Coasters, an Arcade, a beautiful beach, and even an Aquarium. It was a good day, running around like little chillies. Matt was Water Sliding until the sun went down.
Nha Trang brought us to Dalat, a beautiful mountain town. But we did absolutely nothing here because Matt was running a fever of 102. Exciting really, having a fever in the land of Dengue. But he's recovered nicely, really only a 2 day bug, and now we're here in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the rest of the stories will wait until next time.