A Travellerspoint blog

Phong Nha Cave

rain 18 °C

We were picked up this morning by a taxi, although he didn't know where to take us and spoke no English. So after a couple of phone calls to the travel agent who arranged our bus ride, we got dropped off at a different travel agency to wait for the bus. While we waited, we were sold on the idea of doing the Phong Nha cave tour with the group on the bus, instead of just riding the bus and then arranging a tour after we got there. So after a four hour bus ride, part of which was thru huge sand dunes, we arrived in Son Trach and dropped off the people who were only taking the bus, Then we were taken to a restaurant where lunch was ready for us. Our group went down to the river and got in a boat with our guide. It took about 1/2 hour to travel up the river to the cave. It was a cold, rainy, windy day and wasn't really pleasant on the boat (although Don points our that we actually didn't get rained on, but everything was wet from the rain). But the cave was well worth it. It is huge, 7 km long, (we only saw about the first 1 km) with lovely rock formations all along. It is very well lit so the formations show up well. Words just don't do it justice and neither do the pictures, but I'll post a few and a short video Don took of part of the trip. After we went thru the cave to the turning around point and headed back out, they stop and let us out for a short walk back to the entrance. So this is the chance for everyone to take their pictures with some lovely formations.
In our boat

In our boat

The entrance to the cave

The entrance to the cave

A gnomish rock

A gnomish rock

More rock formations

More rock formations

Then we had to wait for the bus for quite a long time. It had taken part of the group to do the Dark Cave experience, where they zip line into the water and swim into the cave with headlights on to light their way. Not my cup of tea, but when the bus finally came the people said they had enjoyed it very much. We were taken into town and dropped off with our luggage just a short way down the street from our homestay. In this case, the homestay is more hostel than homestay. Pretty bare bones basic, but I guess we will manage for a few days. After settling in, we went out for supper at an Indian restaurant, Nameste. It was a good meal but more expensive than our usual.
After making our plan for tomorrow to visit the Paradise Cave, we retired for the night.

Posted by katdill 15:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Visiting the Thien Mu Pagoda

sunny 28 °C

I thought I would show you a few pictures of the place we are staying here in Hue. It is a private home, where we have a bedroom and a bathroom on the second floor. There are 25 steps up to the second floor, because the ceilings are so high in these houses. It is in quite a quiet location for a large city, which we appreciate a lot.
The front of the house

The front of the house

Just inside the front door

Just inside the front door


After a greasy, not very satisfactory breakfast in a local restaurant, we set out to walk the 5 km to the Thien Mu Pagoda. This involved crossing a long bridge across the river and then walking along the riverside street for the rest of the way. We found some water buffalo grazing in the park area beside the river and discovered when we stopped to discuss them, we provoked a threatening reaction from one of them. We moved along very quickly at that point.
Water buffalo

Water buffalo


We visited the An Hien Garden House as we went along. This house was built in 1883 for one of the princesses of the king. It was then sold to a mandarin (court official) and then sold several more times to end up with the family that owns it now. Four generations of this family have lived there. They have a nice garden with lots of fruit trees in it. Our visit was timed just right so we could join a tour group with an English speaking guide, who explained all the history very well.
We continued our walk to the Pagoda. It is a seven story tower, but you can not go inside. The main attraction is the extensive garden/park that accompanies the pagoda. Even with many tourists there, it was very peaceful and serene.
Thien Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda

Turtle sculpture

Turtle sculpture

Don with huge bell

Don with huge bell


Don negotiated a bargain price for a ride in a dragon boat back down the river to the city. There were only 4 of us in the boat, but the boatman didn't take us quite as far as we expected, although it was OK where we got dropped off.
Our dragon boat and boatman

Our dragon boat and boatman


We had lunch at the same restaurant, De Bo, that we had breakfast at yesterday. The waitress seemed quite happy to see us again. We then walked further downtown to a French bakery to buy some food for our bus trip tomorrow. We also stopped in at Lick N Bite for a gelato. Don asked for his dipped, so he got a fancy one.
Don's fancy gelato

Don's fancy gelato


We walked home to put the food in the fridge and cool it for a couple of hours. We then walked back to the riverside to the Ancient Town restaurant. This is located on a walking only street right along the riverside. Very quiet and peaceful. We sat beside the water and watched the bats come out and get to work. Sunset over the water, chanting from the temple across the river, and faint classical music from somewhere down the street. A very nice meal and a good end to our last day in Hue.
Cute light posts in the park

Cute light posts in the park


Once we got back to our place, our host was waiting for us and invited us to sit out on the balcony and have a beer with him. We had some halting conversation as his English isn't very good, but we did manage to communicate. Then his friend came to visit, so we got ready for our early morning tomorrow.

Posted by katdill 05:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

The Imperial City

sunny 28 °C

Breakfast is not included at our homestay here so the first order of the day is to track down some food. We tried a yogurt store we had seen last night, but the man there was just opening up and did not speak any English. So we continued to walk on and finally after several tries found a lovely restaurant which was vegetarian. The waitress also spoke English so that made it easy. I tried something I hadn't had before and when it came I wasn't sure how to eat it. So I was using my hand and the waitress came back and told me I could use a spoon and to put a little soy sauce on it. It was delicious and I appreciated her telling me the best way to eat it.
Our breakfast restaurant

Our breakfast restaurant

My breakfast

My breakfast


We walked over a long bridge to the Imperial City. This is a huge walled area that was built between 1803 and 1834 by the Emperors of the time. As well as containing personal residences for the Emperor and his extended family, there were numerous temples and other government buildings. Most of these buildings have deteriorated due to time and war, but some have been restored to their former glory. And they are glorious. The ridge lines on each building are so decorated and every inch of the interiors seem to be covered with poetry and pictures. Some buildings we could not take pictures in and had to take off our hats and sometimes our shoes as well, in order to enter. We came across the bonsai garden in our wandering and had lunch at a little cafe there. So we sat in the shade and admired the bonsai while we ate.
A ridge line dragon

A ridge line dragon

On the roof of the reading pavilion

On the roof of the reading pavilion

Inside looking at the ceiling

Inside looking at the ceiling

Enamelled wall screen

Enamelled wall screen


We spent most of the day exploring the Imperial City and in late afternoon crossed back over the river to sit in the shade in a park and rest for awhile. We were immediately joined by some young men who crowded round and took a group shot with us. This is the first time this has happened to us on this trip. We got quite used to it last year, but we are not such an oddity here, we thought.
Bonsai garden

Bonsai garden


I found a dragon to pet!

I found a dragon to pet!

Guides getting off work at the end of the day

Guides getting off work at the end of the day


We had supper at a nice vegetarian restaurant and then walked home along the river. As we walked, we passed many fruit, fish and other vendors just sitting on the sidewalk with their wares. I wanted to get some bananas for Thursday morning, as we have to leave early to catch a bus. We picked out a little bunch of bananas and the woman selling them refused to take any money for them. She gave us a gift! A very nice thing to do and the first time any vendor has done such a thing.
Some street art - don't know what or why!

Some street art - don't know what or why!

Posted by katdill 15:44 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Strange Travelling Today

sunny 26 °C

We started the day with a bike ride over to the kayak rental place along the river, that Don had discovered yesterday. Some of it was a nice ride along a shady riverside path, with the rest being in traffic. We rented the kayak and crossed the river to an area of mangroves and water palms. We had a very nice time cruising on the quiet water, watching birds and we saw a man crabbing, I think. He had a large wooden tool which looked like something I had seen in the folk culture museum. He was dragging it across the bottom with rhythmic motions. After an hour or so in the kayak, we returned it and rode back to our homestay to shower and check out.
Kayak selfie!

Kayak selfie!

Man crabbing??

Man crabbing??

Fruit of the water palm

Fruit of the water palm


Our homestay had arranged our bus tickets for today. We thought we were going by mini-van to Hue. We were picked up by a mini-van, but then taken to larger bus for the trip. This bus was a sleeper bus, the first time we've ever experienced one. Three rows of individual seats, that recline almost flat, and an upper bunk (seat) on the top. It was strange, but quite comfortable once we got the seat adjusted.
Don in his seat

Don in his seat

Doubledecker

Doubledecker


We arrived in Hue about 4:30 and with the help of a friendly girl, got a taxi which brought us to our new home. After settling in, we went out looking for supper. There are lots of coffee shops around here, but not many restaurants. We ended up trying one on the list suggested by our accommodation but were not very happy with it. No one spoke English, even after reading my card in Vietnamese they brought us food with pork in it and a green salad we didn't order and didn't eat. (I don't trust greens that aren't cooked after all the problems we have had.) We had a beer and ate a little, but went on looking. We found a hotel/restaurant down the street, where there was at least one English speaking waitress. Don ordered another dish of food and we had more beer. The food was good but the noise levels were like a crowded bar on Saturday night. So noisy! When I ordered a beer, they brought me about 4 or 5 bottles in a cooler filled with water and ice. The beer wasn't cold! So Don went over to the cooler he could see and got his own cold beer! This place had a bonsai tree by the door with a Buddha carved into the trunk at the bottom. It also had mushrooms growing on a log at the foot of the tree.After all this adventure, it was time to go back and chill out.
Vietnamese quilt on our bed

Vietnamese quilt on our bed

Beer cooler

Beer cooler

Bonsai Buddha with mushrooms

Bonsai Buddha with mushrooms

Posted by katdill 16:14 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Dragons, Dragons, and more Dragons

sunny 29 °C

We have breakfast every morning down in the garden of the homestay. A lovely shady patio with many different trees and plants around it. This morning I ordered coffee for the first time in Vietnam. In came in this little cup, the grounds in the top with the water filtering down into the cup. Very strong and bitter!
My morning coffee

My morning coffee

Part of the garden

Part of the garden


Don took advantage of the first sunny day since we've been here to go off for a long bike ride thru a more rural area on the outskirts of the city. He followed a bike trail and ended up riding about 15 km. He rode along the river, followed little dirt paths, visited Cau Dai beach and passed lots of rice paddies. He saw a water coconut palm area which is unique. He watched a fisherman swim out in the ocean to bring in a net and the ocean was not calm. Watching the little bamboo boats in the midst of the whitecaps was amazing. How one person with a paddle can control where it goes and get there safely. He even saw a cock fight in a village. At one point, he negotiated a ride across a channel in a round woven boat.
Part of the path Don followed

Part of the path Don followed


The boat with the bicycle in it

The boat with the bicycle in it

The cock fight

The cock fight


I stayed home and did the laundry, as it was a lovely sunny, breezy day, perfect for drying. I also visited a nearby beauty salon and got a pedicure, which was fun.
After Don got back and had a bit of a rest, we walked to downtown, visited the post office (where they have a lovely dragon on the ceiling) and then we tracked down some more of the historic houses and temples to visit. Dragons everywhere, they play a big part in all the temple decoration.
One of the many dragon sculptures

One of the many dragon sculptures


We had supper at Mix, a Greek restaurant, which was fantastic. I wish we had discovered it earlier in our visit here. After supper, we waited a bit for the Light Festival to start. They project pictures on the wall of a building and tell a story about Hoi An. It was very well done and yes, there were dragons in it, as well.
The light show

The light show

A dragon just for selfies

A dragon just for selfies

Posted by katdill 15:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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