Stranded in Saigon

Vietnam’s largest city, the mighty Ho Chi Minh City…Although many still refer to it as Saigon. We’re still not really sure what to call it-Saigon was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and then the independent republic of South Vietnam 1955–75. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after Hồ Chí Minh. Today it is Vietnam’s most populated area, with in excess of 9,000,000 inhabitants (with roughly 4,000,000 motorbikes!)

On departure from the train station you are immediately hurled into this heaving, bustling, thriving metropolis. Motorbikes everywhere, beeping and jostling for position, surrounded by the bright lights of a progressive and modern city. Certainly it had been a while since we were in the thick of it like this, it would definitely take some time to get up to speed with things and adjust to being back in a major city.

Our plan was to stay a few days in the city, and then travel south to Rach Gia to spend Vietnamese New Year (Tết ) with the family of our friend, Tu, whom we had met back in Vientiane.

Tết is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture-it is treated as Christmas, New Year and everyone’s birthday-all rolled into one. It is generally celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year, taking place from the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar until at least the third day.
In preparation for the celebrations Vietnamese families cook special holiday foods such as bánh chưng, bánh dày, dried young bamboo soup, giò and sticky rice; and everyone embarks on a ritualistic deep clean of their houses and businesses. Traditionally it is the time of year when everyone worships, celebrates and honours their ancestors, everyone wishes New Year’s greetings, and lucky money in red envelopes is given to children and elderly people.

As we made our way through the city, the excitement about the upcoming festivities was palpable. Huge flower displays had taken over parks and streets throughout the city, and the mass cleaning had begun-with some shops even emptying out their wares onto the street, to allow them to scrub and clean their premises.

Having gotten settled and rested, our first day proper into the city and we headed out to meet up with one of my friends cousins who lives in Saigon. Again it was great to meet up with someone who you had some level of familiarity with, and really interesting to get an insiders perspective, gaining a modicum of understanding what it is like to adjust to living in a city such as this. Oh, and obviously the advantage of getting taken to a great lunch spot, local knowledge and all that!
Left to our own devices, we hit the tourist trail and set off to find the museums, palaces and galleries that have become the standard procedure on city exploration. Given Vietnam’s recent history, it’s no surprise that the War Remnants Museum is particularly of note, painting a vivid an horrifying account of the atrocities of war, as well as the painful legacies that still impact the Vietnamese peoples today.
From the War Remnants Museum we made our way to the iconic Independence Palace, otherwise know as the Reunification Palace, the site of the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

Having been away from the intensity of a major city for a couple of months, you forget how draining it is to spend time walking around sightseeing. The heat is unforgiving, the franticness just doesn’t subside, unfamiliar sounds and smells bombard you from all directions. You soon become aware of the fact that you aren’t really taking everything in, as I found myself coasting through the modern art gallery-somewhat in a daze and just being thankful that I had found some respite from the traffic outside. It’s at times like this that travelling is difficult, and you start to become self aware of your desire to have some purpose, an objective, something other than consuming tourism.

Saigon coffee

Saigon coffee

The modern art museum

The modern art museum

Jo started rebelling

Jo started rebelling

Ben Thanh street food

Ben Thanh street food

DSC01886

Notre Dame Cathederal

Notre Dame Cathederal

The contrasts of the old vs new Saigon

The contrasts of the old vs new Saigon

View from the Reunification Palace

View from the Reunification Palace

Our saving grace was our planned exit strategy, to go and spend time with Tu and his family in the province of Rach Gia, away from the bright lights and sounds of the city. Unbeknown to us, travel becomes somewhat difficult around Tết as it’s an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. All Vietnamese visit their relatives and temples, erasing the troubles of the past year and looking forward to a better year ahead. Given this mass movement of people, public transportation become incredibly busy, as we were about to find out.
We arrived at the bus company office, and things weren’t looking good. Jam packed with people trying to get home, we eventually got to the counter to be told that the next available ticket wasn’t for another four days….nightmare! Feeling pretty dejected, the staff told us to wait for a while and they would check out some other options, and as luck would have it they managed to find us two tickets for that day-things were looking up once again! Feeling pretty happy with our fortune, we made our way to the bus station ready for our journey down south, alas things weren’t going to be as simple as we had thought.
On arrival at the station we found ourselves dropped into the middle of, what I would term, unintelligible chaos. There were hundreds of people waiting at the station for various buses, and it was hot….Really hot!
Still, we only had an hour to wait and then we would be on our way in air conditioned comfort-oh how wrong we were. 5 hours later and we are still in the bus station, melting, and surrounded by fellow disgruntled travellers. The bus that was scheduled for 11AM had just left, it was 5PM. Our bus was already 4 hours late and it was looking like at least another 2-3 hours before it would arrive, if at all. With heavy hearts we decided to retreat, return to the city and inform our friend that we would not be able to make it-we were gutted.

The scene at the bus station as crowds of people waited for their buses home

The scene at the bus station as crowds of people waited for their buses home

Settling back in the guesthouse and trying to work out what to do, our grey cloud presented it’s very own silver lining with the news of the impending arrival of some people that we had met in Cambodia at the start of our trip. Ricky and Bryan were part of the SCUBA diving crew on Koh Rong Samloem, and they were an absolute hoot! They were going to be spending Tết in Saigon as well, and so once again we had some familiar faces to look forward to seeing, and to celebrate the New Year with.

Still, a few days to kill before their arrival, and so our quest to relax in the city began. First up, we managed to find the public swimming pool-an old school art deco outdoor pool at that! You can imagine that it used to be absolutely glorious in its heyday, although now it’s somewhat fallen into disrepair. Still-it was a welcome break from the heat, and some much needed physical exertion. The pool brought with it the discovery of a local gym, and as mentioned previously our craving of exercise was something that needed stemming-with time to kill and access to a fully equipped gym, we were positive about making the most of our time stuck in the city.
All of this in the midst of the build up to Tết, which was now at fever pitch, the city had been transformed with huge flower displays taking over the streets and New Years markets populating some of the parks. Time to browse the wonder of Bonsai, flower arrangement, and the various ‘ode to goat’, for the New year coming!

People jostle for position to view the incredible street displays

People jostle for position to view the incredible street displays

A flower among flowers!

A flower among flowers!

Yellow and red being the prominent colours, both bringing good luck in Vietnamese culture

Yellow and red being the prominent colours, both bringing good luck in Vietnamese culture

Impressive displays of topiary

Impressive displays of topiary

Amazing examples of 'giant bonsai'!

Amazing examples of ‘giant bonsai’!

Year of the goat, bring it on...

Year of the goat, bring it on…

You have your individual goat statues..

You have your individual goat statues..

Groups of goats...

Groups of goats…

And mighty golden goats!

And mighty golden goats!

As per the alignment with Chinese New Year, there are many Chinese traditions and celebrations to be seen as well!

As per the alignment with Chinese New Year, there are many Chinese traditions and celebrations to be seen as well!

In Great British fashion, we all went out, got rather merry, and enjoyed the most spectacular fireworks to ring in the New Year. It’s difficult to describe what it was like to be on the streets of Saigon counting down to their New Year-the atmosphere was electric, and the streets were absolutely jam packed with bikes, cars and pedestrians all beeping their horns, people cheering and clapping….And us-wishing anyone who would listen ‘Chuc Mong Nam Moy’ (Happy New Year!)

Heading out for Tet!

Heading out for Tet!

Spectacular cityscape & firework extravaganza!

Spectacular cityscape & firework extravaganza!

Admittedly we had a few shandies!

Admittedly we had a few shandies!

Electric atmosphere as the crowd enjoyed the fireworks

Electric atmosphere as the crowd enjoyed the fireworks

Enjoying the party at Vespa Bar

Enjoying the party at Vespa Bar

Bryan and Ricky doing what they do best....Pose!!!

Bryan and Ricky doing what they do best….Pose!!!

Nursing hangovers, the next day we set about our mission to get our of the city; not to be perturbed by our earlier failed efforts-we were once again attempting to get to Rach Gia.

Advertisements

Nha Trang

Travelling South from Hoi An, our next stop on our Vietnamese voyage was Nha Trang-a popular SCUBA diving destination, as well as being a big hit with Russian tourists. Certainly it’s quite odd to be in a place where Russian is the second language you find on signage and menus!
If you’re looking to find deserted beaches and a sleepy seaside town, then Nha Trang isn’t where you’re going to find it! More like Vietnam’s own version of Miami, it’s dominated by huge hotel resorts and busy beaches-as well as having the worlds longest cable car over sea leading out to the island resort of Vinpearl-the Vietnamese equivalent to Alton Towers.
It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but we were there to find out a bit more about the SCUBA diving opportunities, and so made a beeline for the highly recommended Rainbow Divers. Promptly enough we were booked onto a try dive, and had our first taste of diving in Vietnam. It was absolutely superb-but further details will be covered in a later blog post, as we return for our PADI Open Water Course later on our trip.

Other than the beach, diving and the shops and restaurants, there isn’t a huge amount to explore in Nha Trang. It’s very much about the beach and a lot of sun worshipping-obviously that’s not at the top of my list when it comes to things to do! One top recommendation that we did find in Lonely Planet came in the form of Long Thanh photography studio.
His black and white photos of Vietnamese life are absolutely incredible, and have won many international awards. The reason why it needs noting is that it has had a very obvious effect on my own photography efforts, and from this point onwards you shall see more black and white photos included in my posts.
You can check out his work on his website; Long Thanh Gallery
Like a kid with a new toy, as soon as we stepped outside of the gallery I was trying my hand at some B&W photography!

First photo upon leaving the gallery...Streetlife

First photo upon leaving the gallery…Streetlife

Allez!!!

Allez!!!

B&W Coffee time

B&W Coffee time

On wandering the beach front we did stumble upon quite a grand building that prompted further investigation, and it turned out to be the recently opened Nha Trang Water Puppet Theatre. Not actually being aware of what water puppetry is, a little research uncovered the fact that it’s actually a tradition that dates back to the 11th century in Northern Vietnam. It originated when the rice fields would flood and villagers would entertain each other using puppet play. Nowadays the performances take place on a stage which is a 4m square waist deep pool, the puppets are made of wood and then lacquered, supported on large rods under the water, and controlled by a team of puppeteers in waders hidden behind a large screen. During the performance the puppets appear to float on the surface of the water.
Obviously we had to go along and see what it was all about, and it was a right giggle. To be honest the content of the show was probably beyond us a little, it was a series of Vietnamese folk stories depicting local Vietnamese life. With no narrative to follow or accompanying explanations we were hard pressed to figure out the gist of the stories-but certainly that didn’t prevent us from taking immense pleasure in the performance!

DSC01864

DSC01865

DSC01861

Up against a deadline to get to Ho Chi Minh to meet a friend from our time in Vientiane, our time in Nha Trang was brief, but we would return…..More of that later.

Hoi An….ya like it!

If you asked a group of travellers what they miss most when they’re on the road, I would guess that the majority would say, unsurprisingly, friends and family. Certainly that is true for us, as is evident as we clamour for bandwidth to Skype home whenever we get a good internet connection! So it came as quite the welcome surprise when I logged on to Facebook to get a message from a couple of our friends from Leicester asking for tips on things to do in Laos-as they were currently in Vietnam and heading over there in a few weeks. I had no idea that they were in Asia at all, and as supreme luck would have it, we were on a collision course. With some excitement we left Hue and made our way to Hoi An for a catch up with some familiar faces!
As is the common theme with my posts, I have to allude to the journey once again. What makes this reference different is that there is no hint of a mention of discomfort, terror or confusion! For the first time in over a month, we were going to be basking in the wonder of train travel once again, and boy what a luxury it was. The Reunification express stretches all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, right down the coast of Vietnam. The views are spectacular, and the trains are clean, spacious and generally lovely. We were like excited children, overjoyed at the prospect of leaving white knuckle bus journeys in the dim and distant past…..Well, until we return to Cambodia at least!
From Hue to Da Nang took just 5 hours, and then a 30 minute taxi to Hoi An-simple. We were fortunate enough to bump into a South African couple who were heading in the same direction, and so managed to get a good deal on the fare, and as it turns out-make some friends that we would bump into at various points throughout our time in Vietnam.

Ahhh, the luxury of Vietnamese trains!!

Ahhh, the luxury of Vietnamese trains!!

Appropriately Hoi An actually translates as ‘peaceful meeting place’, and the ancient town is yet another UNESCO World heritage site to add to the ever growing list on our travels. Checked in and freshened up, we headed into the centre to explore what was promised to be a well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th century. It used to be the largest harbour in south East Asia, and as such retains architectural influences from many of the Japanese, Dutch and Chinese spice and ceramic merchants that once resided there. As you can imagine, this used to be an area of incredible wealth and upon discovering the old town, it still holds the grandeur and charm of an extremely affluent area…Although now you’re more likely to find tailors and restaurants than spice and ceramic merchants. The town and harbour have remained pretty much unchanged for the last 200 years, and they certainly don’t disappoint. It is absolutely picture perfect, along with a number of temples, communal houses, merchant houses and other historical points of interest to explore. Even more spectacular is the way that the town comes alive in the evenings, with lanterns lighting the streets and people sending candles to sail on boats in the harbour…It’s a very enchanting place!

The harbour in all its glory!

The harbour in all its glory!

The 'typical' style architecture found throughout the town

The ‘typical’ style architecture found throughout the town

The old Chinese Bridge which actually contains a temple half way across

The old Chinese Bridge which actually contains a temple half way across

Vietnamese street vendors here love to have a photo...But then you have to buy something!!

Vietnamese street vendors here love to have a photo…But then you have to buy something!!

Vietnamese woman in traditional dress walking down one of the main streets

Vietnamese woman in traditional dress walking down one of the main streets

And once the darkness hits, the lanterns light the way!

And once the darkness hits, the lanterns light the way!

Suitably dazzled by the surroundings, we then had the fortune to just bump into Josh and Aimee on our first evenings’ exploration, before we got the chance to actually plan meeting up-and so headed out for drinks and dinner and a good old chinwag. One of the things that is great about meeting up with people you already know is that you don’t engage in the standard ‘opening patter’ that is inevitable when meeting fellow travellers for the first time. Not that it isn’t great to share stories with those that you meet, just that sometimes it’s nice not to have to give people your back story! By the end of the evening, and a fair few ‘Fresh Beers’ (local beer that is brewed that day)-we decided to book ourselves onto a cooking class, and also a lantern making class….Hoi An was most certainly rubbing off on us quick time!

The following day was an absolute blast, it started in the right manner when we bumped into a guy in some form of ceremonial dress in the street-Josh and Aimee being experts in fancy dress barely struggled to contain themselves! Pictures snapped and it was onto the lantern making which turned out to much more fun than I expected, however now we find ourselves carrying round a couple of these lanterns on our travels-real useful I tell thee!
Moving on to something a little more practical, at the cookery course we learned to cook spring rolls, a crispy noodle dish, banana leaf curry and a hotpot-all of which were fantastic, sure to be attempted once we grace our homelands again. Rather more useful than lanterns to impress friends and family back home…”Oh this dish, I learned this when I was travelling in South East Asia don’t you know” (read with appropriate smug voice)

It was fantastic to get to explore the town with Josh and Aimee, a real giggle. Props to Josh for introducing us to the most incredible Vietnamese sandwich (Banh Mi) shop. It may sound like an odd thing to rave about, when you think about Vietnamese food, baguettes aren’t necessarily the first thing that pop into your head, however Banh Mi are very much a Vietnamese speciality (albeit initially influenced by the French). At it’s most basic they are baguettes filled with pate, pork, pickles, chilli, salad and other unknown entities to the uneducated Westerner (by that I refer to myself)…Delicious!

To our delight, just before the lantern making class. this guy popped out of the door opposite...yeah-really! Very 'Big Trouble in Little China'

To our delight, just before the lantern making class. this guy popped out of the door opposite…yeah-really! Very ‘Big Trouble in Little China’

With dexterity, poise and enviable attention to detail, josh led the way

With dexterity, poise and enviable attention to detail, josh led the way

It all became quite serious, and a remarkable amount of pride was being poured into our work!

It all became quite serious, and a remarkable amount of pride was being poured into our work!

Four very satisfied lantern makers

Four very satisfied lantern makers

Watch your fingers son!

Watch your fingers son!

First happy customers!

First happy customers!

Vietnamese cooking is quite brilliant for its use of just one pot and stove!!

Vietnamese cooking is quite brilliant for its use of just one pot and stove!!

Dish 1 of the cooking class, our new found staple of spring rolls

Dish 1 of the cooking class, our new found staple of spring rolls

Curry in a banana leaf-oh yeah!

Curry in a banana leaf-oh yeah!

The daily fresh beer...And yes, that is a rather flimsy plastic bottle!

The daily fresh beer…And yes, that is a rather flimsy plastic bottle!

The next morning Josh and Aimee set off to continue their travels, we were left with a day to do a little more exploring of the old town, and try to avoid spending too much money in the shops here. If it weren’t for the fact that we have a long time travelling ahead of us, for sure we would have bought an extra backpack and had a whole load of clothes and shoes made-as well as kitting ourselves out in some ‘North Face’ gear! As it is, that just isn’t practical and so our bank account survived without any significant damage. We did buy a ‘North Face’ bag (after much research on the internet), not for extra space-but to replace our other battered backpack. Top tip here is to note that you are not buying genuine ‘North Face’ products, but you are buying a cheap, high quality imitation. The standard does vary, so just try to forget about the brand, shop around, and find something that will work for you.

These are what the streets look like OUTSIDE of the Ancient Town!

These are what the streets look like OUTSIDE of the Ancient Town!

One of the many international 'Assembly halls'

One of the many international ‘Assembly halls’

Into the depths of Hoi An market

Into the depths of Hoi An market

Courtyard of one of the old communal homes that are dotted around the town

Courtyard of one of the old communal homes that are dotted around the town

Ornate decoration in Tan Ky House, an old Chinese merchant's house

Ornate decoration in Tan Ky House, an old Chinese merchant’s house

The architecture of the house is a fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese influences

The architecture of the house is a fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese influences

Where the streets have no name!

Where the streets have no name!

Don’t come here expecting to have the place to yourself though, it is a fairy tale picture perfect town and as such it is extremely popular with tourists. It definitely isn’t a hidden gem, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.

Leaving Laos, Viva Vietnam!

Travelling is about the journey, not just about the destination; as is so often the case, our adventure begins with a journey of note!
Having returned to Pakse from 4000 Islands, it was now time to traverse southern Laos and cross the border into Vietnam. Our bus was due for departure at 5.30AM, and we were going to be crossing the less ‘touristy’ Dansavanh/Lao Bao border (a border that we have since found it out much more popular with smugglers!).

Bleary eyed, we arrived at the departure point and, amongst much chaos and confusion, we were herded onto the bus. This was to be our first experience of the bus that resembles a cattle transporter, with two level seat/bed hybrid accommodations suitable only for people who are 5’8″ or shorter! Having jammed ourselves in, observed that we were the only foreign tourists on board and the only English speakers, the real work on the bus began as they promptly set off about their business collecting the other cargo for the trip; a few hundred weight of rice and sugar that would be piled in amongst us for the entirety of the journey-you couldn’t help but laugh as the walkways in the bus slowly loaded up with various goods to be shipped across the border.

As all of the journeys begin, with pure and unadulterated optimism!

As all of the journeys begin, with pure and unadulterated optimism!

Slowly but surely, apprehension and confusion start to manifest...

Slowly but surely, apprehension and confusion start to manifest…

Ahhhh, here we go, the aisles start to fill up!

Ahhhh, here we go, the aisles start to fill up!

Keep it coming lads, plenty of room to fill the bus up!!

Keep it coming lads, plenty of room to fill the bus up!!

Bus fully loaded, we watched as the last of Laos passed us by and Vietnam loomed ever nearer. Eventually we arrived at the border with the bags of rice and sugar, and were promptly ushered off the bus to negotiate the Visa and passport formalities. It became apparent that all those on the bus with a Laos or Vietnamese passport were being looked after for this part of the process, and so we headed in to face the most difficult of border crossings to date.

With no real idea of what we were supposed to be doing, we entered the border offices and found ourselves in what can best be described as a frenzied maul! It was at this point that it transpired that the Vietnamese do not engage in the art of queuing, and that the general rule of thumb is that it’s every man for themselves. As a pair of very typical Brits, we found this extremely disorienting and could not fathom what was going on. There were no English speakers, people elbowing us out of the way, pushing, shoving and throwing passports with money in at the officials-it was chaos. In no time at all we realised that we were going to have to put up a united front, and so we staked our claim to a spot at the front of the queue and guarded each others backs with ‘necessary force’. The situation was exasperated somewhat by seemingly inert border control staff, they were literally just sat there looking at the hoards of people gathered in front of them. From what we could muster the computer systems were down, and so ensued an uncomfortable stand off until the systems refreshed-and the border control staff lurched into action. Finally our passports were taken to be stamped and Visas checked, and after a little bit of an uncomfortable delay with my passport-we were granted leave of Laos, and formally entered Vietnam….We had made it!
The confusion at the border was not to cease there, during the time in which we were inside, the entire contents of our bus were being unloaded and passed through an x-ray machine outside. With the afore mentioned stock pile of sugar and rice this was not a speedy process, and so we were left mulling around in what we discovered to be no-mans-land. Now we were completely clueless as to our course of action, each time we made movements towards the bus we were barked at in Vietnamese and waved away…To where we did not know. It turns out that we actually needed to walk across the entry point into Vietnam proper, have our passports checked by yet more officials, and wait for the bus to pass through so we could re-embark. After a lot of head scratching and hanging around, we eventually made it back onto the bus and began our journey on Vietnamese soil-to Huế!

We actually arrived around two hours ahead of schedule, quite how that transpired I don’t know-but for sure it was a pleasant surprise.
It is an odd place to start your adventure in Vietnam, usually people head to the either Hanoi in the north, or Ho Chi Minh in the south, but as our start point was southern Laos, we headed to the middle of Vietnam and the city of Huế.

Hurrah!

Hurrah!

It was the capital of Vietnam until 1945, until Emperor Bảo Đại abdicated and the following communist government was established in the northern city of Hanoi. During the fateful Tết Offensive in the Vietnam War, the city suffered considerable damage to many of the grand buildings situated in the central citadel, a monument to the cities illustrious past; not only due to American military bombing, but also during the massacre at Huế committed by the communist forces. Mass killings were carried out by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army during their capture, occupation and subsequent exit from the city.

The killings were perceived as part of a large-scale purge of the social class systems, including anyone ‘pro American forces’. Press reports also exposed South Vietnamese “revenge squads” had been at work in the aftermath of the battle, searching out and executing citizens that had supported the communist occupation.

Today the citadel is undergoing extensive renovations, but still serves as a great sight to spend a day exploring. A walled city 10km squared and with a surrounding moat, the grandeur and opulence of what once lay there is obvious, and is fantastic fodder for an inquisitive imagination. Tales of the various Vietnamese kings and how they conducted their court are told throughout the grounds, they even had teams of eunuchs who were responsible for the administration of communities of concubines… It really was quite the eye opener.

The highest flag mast of them all...Well, in Vietnam anyway

The highest flag mast of them all…Well, in Vietnam anyway

One of the Citadel gateways, and the obligatory Vietnamese fisherman on the moat!

One of the Citadel gateways, and the obligatory Vietnamese fisherman on the moat!

One of the many 'contemplation spots' in the palace

One of the many ‘contemplation spots’ in the palace

One of the many grand walkways in the Forbidden Palace

One of the many grand walkways in the Forbidden Palace

Within a walled city, you have a walled palace! One of the many ornate 'inner gates' within the palace area

Within a walled city, you have a walled palace! One of the many ornate ‘inner gates’ within the palace area

Aside from the Citadel, Hue proved to be a lovely place to expose ourselves to the ways of Vietnam-things to note that will prove to be ever-present:
1. Fantastic food at rock bottom prices.
2. Food markets where you can get any ingredient, dead or alive, fresh or dried
3. ‘North Face’ jackets/bags for sale at ridiculously low prices (just to be clear, they aren’t genuine North Face, but they are extremely high quality copies)
4. Tailors-if you want to get yourself kitted out in some custom made gear, then surely Vietnam is the place to come.
5. Traffic…More specifically-motorbikes! The place is heaving with motorbike traffic, and crossing the road is hilarious! You just have to put your trust in chaos, and all will be well.

Our first Vietnamese market, 'hustle and bustle' doesn't really do it justice!

Our first Vietnamese market, ‘hustle and bustle’ doesn’t really do it justice!

Obviously if you wanna get your teeth fixed, just pop down here and take your pick from the many roadside dental clinics...

Obviously if you wanna get your teeth fixed, just pop down here and take your pick from the many roadside dental clinics…

Traffic....Tremendous!

Traffic….Tremendous!

Motorbike madness!

Motorbike madness!

All in all a great place to begin our Vietnamese venture, and the perfect springboard for our onwards travels-next stop the picture perfect Hoi An, and a reunion with some friends from the UK.