After Emmanuelle's third anti-rabies injection, we can now travel freely! Not quite, but we also know that there are many hospitals on our route capable of delivering the famous VERORAB!
So we bought an open bus ticket for 47 USD per person. We plan 6 stops before reaching the final destination which is Ho Chi Minh City.
A big favorite for this step despite the bus 11h to join from Hanoi. We spend 2 nights there but could have stayed longer. Here is the paradise of the caves, there are more than 300, but only a few are open to the public and others ask to be speleologist or adventurer hardened! Moreover, the movie King Kong was shot largely in Son Doong Cave, the largest known cave in the world, more than 9 km, we will visit it because it takes a license (more than 1000 USD) and spend several nights in this one.
We will visit Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave, both beautiful.
Phong Nha Cave. Accessible by boat only, measuring anyway 7km, the boats enter it via an underground river on more than 1km. It is pleasant and calm and the navigation in the cave is done with the gondola method of Venice. Very nice but a bit pricey: 10-15 USD for 2 people
Paradise Cave. It is located 45 minutes drive from the village of Phong Nha, so either you go on a tour (very very expensive, 40-50 USD per person), or you can rent a scooter and loop through the National Park. We took this option. The car park is 3 km from the entrance and a "small" hike is required to access it. The cave is organized in a series of rooms all different from each other. The first piece is gigantic over 100m in height, and has the size of 2 football fields! Only the first kilometer is laid out to the public, to go further you need a guide and caving skills. Then we will return to the village before the rain comes stopping at the Botanical Garden (40000 Dong / pers), which is more like an adventure course when approaching the waterfall! In addition there is little information about the flora present in the park. It is still necessary to be in leg to go up the river along the waterfalls!
It is already time to leave Phong Nha and we enjoyed our stay as much as thehotel, it was great and very central, modern and clean
We arrive very early in the morning in the city, we join the hotel which offers us a free breakfast.
Hue is the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam until 1945. The monuments of the imperial city of Hue are classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. Among these monuments are the citadel and the forbidden purple city. The city is crossed by the Perfume River. Despite a really bad weather (heavy rain) we still managed to visit this beautiful place and steeped in history.
We had originally planned to stay 2 nights, but because of the weather and the fact that it is a big city we decided to leave quickly the next day.
To reach Hoi An, it's faster, just bus 3h. We thought that after crossing the famous cloud pass over Da Nang, we would be quiet (it in the Vietnamese tradition retains all the clouds and it allows a more lenient weather to the south). Unfortunately the elements are raging, we arrive in the middle of a monsoon episode, and it is set to last.
The city is cute, the river's surroundings are picturesque, this place is the second most romantic destination in Asia. The city teems with artists' studios, bars, restaurants, ... in the evening there are plenty of lit lanterns from everywhere, which makes it even more beautiful. We stay there for 2 nights and it's only at sunrise on our last night that the sun comes up.
We still appreciate the place, but not fully, the river is in flood, the boats that normally pass under the bridge, are docked! We take the opportunity to write the article on Indonesia, do the laundry ...
Finally we find the weather, but at what price! 636km of road, this seems reasonable for a stage. But what we did not know when buying our open bus ticket:
- Hoi An - Dalat is actually a Hoi An / Nha Trang then Nha Trang / Dalat
- We leave from Hoi An at 18h and arrive at Nha Trang at 4h in the morning, OK, except that the bus for Dalat leaves at 7h in the morning 🙂 and even the bus company's agency is closed until 5: 30! So we are like souls in pain in the street, but it is good, and it does not rain!
- The bus Nha Trang / Dalat is not a night bus so, uncomfortable!
- The Viet Nhat Travel Bus Company is saving some money on the coolant. Balance, during the trip Nha Trang / Dalat forced to stop at all water sources to complete the coolant during the long climb to reach the highlands near Dalat!
Joking aside, Dalat is very nice because even though this city is in tropical latitudes, it is 1500m altitude! This prevents temperatures from rising too high and allows locals to grow a lot of fruits, vegetables and flowers that would not grow in the plains. We also understand a little better why the French settlers had established the capital of Indochina in Dalat, much more bearable than Saigon, Hanoi, Nha Trang, Da Nang and other major cities of the country lying in plain or seaside with stifling temperatures.
We arrive at the end of the morning after a short night and almost 17h bus but we go directly to the hospital so that Emma gets injected his 4th shots anti-rabies, which is very fast, and we will therefore take a well deserved nap after that.
The next day we booked a tour "cultural and tradition" and we were not disappointed with the program:
- Visit the old Dalat railway station, dating from the French colonial era.
- Visit Elephant Waterfall, a beautiful waterfall but without much interest apart from climbing to reach the bottom! Manu will stop at two rock jumps!
- Not far from there is a big Buddhist temple with a big Happy Buddha!
- Visiting a cricket farm with the tasting included, YES Thomas tasted and NOT Emma ran off!
- The visit of a silk weaving factory! Fascinating to see the process from A to Z and see the machines on the way!
- Visit a flower plantation and also a coffee plantation. It must be known that despite the altitude, Dalat is one of the main coffee producing areas!
After that busy day, it's time to have a good restaurant and then sleep, because the next day we go at 13h in the aftertoon to Mui Ne.
Only 5h bus to reach the resort "seaside" of Mui Ne. The city stretches on a long bay. Why seaside in quotation marks, because it's not really the paradise of the beach, or at least we missed it. We arrive late at night and take a taxi to reach our hotel is great, clean room, comfortable, nice staff, and very well located.
The big points of interest of the place are gigantic sand dunes slightly inland, we arrange with the hotel a tour for the next morning, departure 4h30, to see the sunrise from the dunes, all for 2 EUR / pers!
So we have a quick dinner in a great place for tourists: Dong Vui Food Court, You can find everything there ! Delicatessen, French cheese, wine, Indian food, kebabs, Portuguese dishes ... great place! We will opt for a plate with Brie and Spanish cold cuts for 6 EUR!
The next day, awakening that stings the eyes! And especially big disappointment, we arrive somehow at the top of the white dune after paying twice the price of the tour, certainly we speak 4-5 EUR / pers, to 5 minutes of quad to reach the top, but above all, the sun is hidden behind the clouds.
Right next after the white dunes, we visited the red sand dunes, which are closer to the city, then went to see the fishing port, impressive to see all these boats but not sure they all fish, looks more like a cemetery of boats !
Before returning to the hotel we stop at the fairy river, a barefoot walk of 1km in the river (only a few inches of water the day we were there) to go up the river and discover the canyon. A resemblance with some Utah landscape, but in much smaller, but red, white, yellow land, beautiful to end the morning. It is only 11h and we are back to the hotel 🙂
That night, it's big football night in Vietnam, there is the final return of the ASEAN Cup (a kind of Euro of South East Asia). The match is played in Hanoi, so much to tell you that the whole country is in front of the TV that night. We take this opportunity to find a restaurant projecting the game on the big screen and we enjoy drinking a few beers before the game. The first leg ended on the 2-2 in Malaysia, so there was big change that Vietnam is sacred 10 years after their last victory! The end result is 1-0 for Vietnam, Malaysia loses, so they are champions! Parades in the streets of Mui Ne begin, the vuvuzelas are out! Big atmosphere!
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
We did not do much and spend only 2 nights. There is a lot to see and do. For us it was only a transit before leaving for Thailand. The only paid visit we made was the War Museum, which is a must for any visit to HCMC. The photographic galleries are sometimes atrocious and not adapted to a young audience, but it tells the story of Vietnam from the post-war 2nd world until the opening to tourism in the 90 years with a particular focus on the 70 years and the American invasion.
For the rest we wandered the streets and spent time in the Bến Thành market, seeing the Notre-Dame cathedral of Saigon, and our hotel was in the 1 district, on the bustling Bui Vien Street, so we We did not have much to walk to find food, drink, and things to do.
Summary of Vietnam
- Hanoi, Dalat, Mui Ne
- Our unbeatten tracks outings in Cao Bang and Phong Nha
- The kindness of locals
- Emma's monkey bite, but nothing really serious
- Bus transportation sometimes chaotic
- Halong and Sapa, destinations suffering from mass tourism, and still being in the must do of any guides
- Beer everywhere: Saigon, Hanoi Bia, Ha Long, Larue in the center
- The red wine of Dalat, a bit better compared to Albanian wines!
We have less and less desire to follow the daily expenses, because we made the fact that we travel simply and with certain limits, we no longer use the application Expenditour and suddenly it is difficult to know. But :
We spent the equivalent of 1434 EUR on the spot in Dong including 108 EUR + 60 EUR in various hospitals for the anti-rabies treatments of Emmanuelle
+ 436 USD (380 EUR) for Hanoi-HCMC open bus and the tours in Ha Long bay and Sapa
That is, a total of 1814 EUR for a budget of € 1,643.56 for 25 days.
However if we remove the 160 EUR hospital costs the budget seems respected!