Stop 11: In the countryside from Nha Trang to Dalat

This really is just a bridge post. In these 2 days, I saw a lot from the beautiful country side of Vietnam.

Departing from Nha Trang, there are awesome rice fields on the road. Eddie took me then off road, showed me some sugar cane, and we headed into the hills to go onto the plateau.

(I ll finish the rest later so that I can work on Dalat, where more people are involved)

Me, waiting for diarrhea to be over in Bagan

Stop 10: Nha Trang

I arrived in Nha Trang early in the morning with the night bus.

But one funny thing was when I was picked up for the night bus. When I opened up the door of the mini van, I met Michi again. And there were another 2 Swiss girls in the van. A van full of Swiss people! And based on their face expression, they were surprised by an Asian speaking Swiss German too!

Being not too tired I decided to take a daily tour just as I did in Hue. The hostel did not recommend to ride by yourself so I decided to go for an easy rider. That is when I met Eddie Murphy.

So we started with the church in Nha Trang, did the pagoda on the church and went on along the coast side. When he were having coffee, he was of course pitching me his rides to other places. I had a quick thought about going to Dalat through the countryside and after seeing that some Swiss People in his booklet mentioned that it is really easy going with Eddie and there is no “Kaufzwang”. So I decided spontaneously to take a 2 day tour to Dalat through the country side. But also because so far, he gave me a good feeling about it since he is always smiling and not trying too hard.

Eddie also took me to the water fall and convinced me to go into the water even though I didn’t have anything with me and were wearing glasses. Just do it is what he some times says.

He also took me to the fields, showed me how to get rice from the rice fields and eat it. The cham ruin in the city was just overfilled with chinese tourists, 10 minutes were enough for that.

There was also Cao Dai and the mud bath. The Cao Dai being a weird religion in the region at the border to Cambodia. The mud bath is a good place to wind down a bit.

And Nha Trang really is just a huge touristic city filled with Chinese and Russian.

Me, after 3 days of Angkor and its temples, (not quite) ready for a last full day in Siem Reap and Cambodia. (not sure whether I still want to see more temples …)


Stop 9 Hoi An

I arrived in the evening in Hoi An. The old city town is a mixture of chinese style buildings and western buildings. The lampions in the street add an extra vibe to the city. That is probably the reason why people extend their stay here.

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But when you think about it, the scenes are created only for tourists. Even though the vibe is chilled, the setup doesn’t feel like an authentic life of the locals.

The next morning, I got into conversation with my roomies. It turned out that we are all roughly about the same age and we joked that this is indeed the oldie’s room since there are quite some party “youngsters” here.

There is Jenna from Wales. She was betrayed by her best friend and business partner. While Jenna was on holiday, her friend did crazy things with her car doing drugs and caused accidents. The car was even under her mom’s name and her best friend even tried to lie to her about what happened. Now she sold everything and came out for travels.

There is Alex from Copenhagen. He is doing social work back in Denmark and he is compensating his overtime with 3 months of travel (jeez he worked a lot). He went to South America before coming to South East Asia. According to him, you have older backpackers there compared to SEA (I guess I might head there after SG). He has been going out for a few times and seems just to be the laid back guy who embraces what he is doing now.

The hostel itself organizes a lot of group activities such as street food tour, spring roll cooking class or pub crawls which help you to get know other people.

In that short night of cooking class + pub crawl, I got to know some people. There is Pope whom I got to know after the Spring Roll cooking class. We were playing some card games and making some jokes. We talked more when we were walking back from the bar to the hostel, ofc, same stuff. But she seemed a good companion to talk to, easy going and making some good points. There was also Michi, the second Swiss guy I met during Vietnam. He is on his holidays between his master semesters.


The next night, I met a Dutch girl and another Swiss guy from Bern (Now in Hindsight, I don’t even 100% remember what we talked about, just some chit chat). The Dutch girl is working in the HR area. And she mentioned that a good question that you can ask someone to get to see who they are is: What would you do if you have a lot of fortune that you don’t need to worry about anything. Although she seemed straightforward with her dreams (which is have own company to provide them the best job they are suited for based on their qualifications and character) and likes to laugh, she seemed a bit disconnected. I can’t really say why, but you don’t feel like the real her is coming through even though you are not talking about shallow topics.

I didn’t do much here in Hoi An except walking around in the old town, going to the beach, went to My Son (Mini Angkor Wat) with the bike and spent a last lazy day with massage and reading before boarding the night bus to Nha Trang.

Me, after an early day in the Angkor Wat for the sunrise and seeing the outer circles of Angkor.


Stop 8.5 Hue to Hoi An with MotorVina aka Top Gear Hai Van Pass challenge

This post will not be about the people but just a simple day trip from Hue to Hoi An. I only knew it later in Hoi An, that there is actually an Top Gear episode about the Hai Van pass which they call the Hai Van pass challenge.

When I was at the breakfast in Hue, somebody told me I should just do the trip myself instead of an easy rider. So I did. It is super easy to organize, for 400k Dong you can have your luggage delivered and get a good bike in front of your homestay.

I went along the coast line, which Gijs recommended to me. On the road, I saw local weddings which was cool.

And the rice fields on the road are nice too.

It is quite a experience to drive yourself. You would even end up on the high way with your bike, driving faster the a truck does. On the way, there is elephant spring, where I missed the entrance road 3 times. I ended up going back and forth to find it.

The pass has nice sceneries with the view of the ocean. The curvy road is particularly nice to drive on. I realized in the middle that I might not have enough fuel to reach the other end, so I turned back mid way. Good thing that I was also able to see the pass from the other direction, which is closer to the sea.

Da Nang is a big modern city with not much to offer. The hotels are all very close to the beach and it looked very touristic. The marble mountain on the road is a good spot to step by but the small (limestone?) mountain looked a bit misplaced in that area.

I finally arrived in Hoi An at 6:30. It was a nice ride and I am glad that rented bikes don’t give you much trouble compared to guys who bought their bikes somewhere and always need to repair on the road.

Me, just arrived in Siem Reap, deciding to go to Myanmar after this stop.

Stop 8: Hue

We arrived in early in Hue, 6:30 in the morning actually. The night bus ride was not too shabby, I was able to sleep most of the time even being close to the toilet.

Viet, the owner of Hue Happy Homestay made me felt very welcome. Despite being very early in the morning, I was able to check-in already. I even booked a daily tour to discover the city. At the breakfast table, I also had some wonderful conversation with a German guy who wanted to travel in Southeast Asia, but after his stop in Taiwan, he liked it so much that he decided to rent an apartment and stayed there for a few months. Reason being, that Taipeh is not that touristic. People are not changing their lives because of tourism. (I believe in modern developed cities, this would always be the case?)  He is now travelling for the rest of the time he still has, 2 months I believe.

The city trip is just the usual one that people from different hotels, hostels get pulled together to form a group. We have 2 older couples, american and dutch, a mid-aged Austrian guy, an old bold round guy to whom I didn’t talk to (Also he didn’t bother to join us at any activities), 2 vietnamese girls, one mid-aged Vietnamese from Australia with her daughter (I assumed, and she looked a bit Korean and only bothered to take selfies everywhere), and another German PhD student who was forgotten to be picked up and was “allowed” to take the tour with us. (there are others, but I didn’t really remember them)

During different spots, we get to know each other a little bit better. The Austrian guy came from Myanmar, so he gave me some very brief tips while walking to the Citadel. We talked a bit with the older couples at the tea house after the Citadel. After one of the tombs, I got to know one Vietnamese girl a bit better, whose name is Phuong. The Vietnamese from Australia told me about his background for coming back to see the country. Me, not knowing too much about the war time back then, was not able to find out more. (Now after the Ho Chi Minh war museum, I have more questions that I wanted to ask)

At the end of trip, Phuong took me to the market on the other side of the river. She “escaped” from Hanoi from her previous job and the pressure from the family. She is not able to pursue her goals to get advanced in the career for communication and events in her company before. Of course, family pressures are on other matters, too. You can guess once what is. Her English was not too bad at all since she occasionally translated for some E-sport events (FIFA3, it’s a thing in Vietnam). Now 10 days later, I can’t really remember what we talked about, but the conversation was quite easy going (that’s why I am catching up with the posts). One thing I do remember was that she initially made a joke about how some trees don’t grow flowers. I was like “Really?”. That was her being funny. I felt like in the recent months, I have lost my sense of humor a bit. I take things too seriously. Maybe it was after the development forum, where the one instructor said that if I would joke too much, people wouldn’t take me seriously any more. Now I figured, I am too much on the other extreme … due to whatever reasons.

In the evening, I met a German / Ghana guy Lukas and an ABC girl Andrea. We went to some Indian restraurant and ended up chatting a bit about music. Lukas has his ukulele with him and will be changing his studies to music production. Hope to hear some things from him soon. And the nicest thing was that, before his departure, he left a note in my bag wishing me good travels. Obviously, such small things are romantic (no homo) and these small surprises are things you could do for your loved ones too. (I read this somewhere else as well)

The abandoned water park is a highlight. Just 40 minutes bike ride from Hue, you can find a complete water park in ruins. Windows shattered, greens outgrow the original facility. Butterflies add an additional flavor to the mysterious scenery.

The last night, I also got to know Gijs, Rafael and a Swedish guy with an English girl. Gijs worked in a brewery before and is now riding with his Honda Wing through Vietnam. He has been on the road for a while now and is very enthusiastic about this Honda Wing. He also had his guitar with him and would play it if the mood is right (when there is no conversation going on, according to him, which is actually the right way). He is super helpful and very welcoming in his way of conversations. Rafael, a 20 year old German kindergarten employee is travelling because his boss told him to do so. (What a nice boss, she even gave him a backpack as a present) He seemed shy in the beginning but I assume he will open himself more after one or two days. Because on the way back, he met a Canadian girl they met in Sapa and you can see from his smile that he is way more comfortable with people that he is more familiar with. The Swedish guy with the English girl are more down to party so we didn’t end up talking much.

Me, after a heavy day in Phnom Penh with genocide museum and killing fields, realizing that I need to really catch up with the posts, because there are details that I am slowly forgetting.

Stop 7 Ninh Binh

I took the train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. The train looked old fashioned and were really slow. Most parts of the train tracks were one way and sometimes, you can even see mopeds going faster than you.

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After 2.5 hours, I arrived in Ninh Binh. The hostel is actually remade from a railway station. I only realized that after someone told me that. At the restaurant beside, I ended up listening to some girl’s story. She is originally from China, but ended up being adopted by her UK parents. It would be interesting to know more about it, (I am reading Steve Jobs’ bibliography and he is actually adopted as well) whether this fact planted some curious thoughts in her life.

Back in the hostel, I got to know a British easyJet pilot. Compared to the prejudice of pilots and their lifestyles, he is just totally different. Maybe it is not too fair to say that, but budget airlines apparently just offer mediocre salaries. He did his education right after high school and has being flying for a while now. He especially enjoys the flights over the Alps and apparently, there are also long distance flights to Egypt for easyJets. The schedules are tight for them of course. You fly to one place and the next day, you are flying back already. Now, he wants to obtain further qualifications for instructing and hence, would be only flying half of the time and teaching the other half. Good luck mate!

After, we (2 UK guys, 1 canadian, 1 polish girl and 1 australian girl – thanks to her who invited me) ended up playing games to guess other people’s mimicking of animals or actions (the part where you need to hold the phone on your forehead and flip up if you got it right is particularly funny), and of course, some more drinking games (King’s cup). In the end, me and the australian girl were taking the same night bus to Hue. She is a pre school teacher and quite the Yoga fan. She sort of wants to go to China because being able to speak Chinese is now a big thing in Australia, a big plus for her pre school ed job qualifications. Before the bus ride, we also ended up talking about some esoteric stuff my friend Oli mentioned to me (if you wish something good to happen, it will reflect in your expression and eventually it will). Her reasoning being that thinking about these things would in the end make you more attentive to these matters when you wander around. I have tried this quite yet (and while I am writing this in Phnom Penh, this place is just too touristic to do that) and I think Myanmar would be a great place to just wander around without any goals in mind.

Oh, and of course, I enjoyed riding a semi automatic bike in Ninh Binh for the first time and went to Tam Coc. Floating on the river is so chilling. Listening to the sound of rows touching the water is just so satisfying. The boat also went through 3 caves and the sound effect there is also mesmerizing.

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The other pagoda spot is really just created for tourists. In the giant fenced off area, you would need to pay for the entrance and for the electric car to bring you 2km into the temple.

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Me, just signed my new contract for the 1st of August – meaning that there is actually an end to the travelling … not sure how to feel about that, but 6 months is a good number!

Stop 6: Hanoi

My hostel is located in the center of the old quarter. Despite being central, it is quiet in the rooms.

Downstairs, I met a Swiss 20 year old girl, volunteering in Vietnam to teach a bit of English and will be travelling afterwards until April. Back then, I can’t recall that anyone I knew were already brave enough to travel out to the world on their own.

There are also 2 English guys having their vacation in Vietnam for 2 weeks. The one guy always had a big smile on his face and is quite outgoing and easy to talk to. He and his friends are from Plymouth and are having their vacations here.

There is Maya, a Canadian student exchanging in Singapore. After the water puppet show, we went for some drinks where we found some other hostel people. Particularly the English girl. Even though we talked only for a short time, well, ofc again about the recent problems, there is just something in her eyes, when she seems so concentrated to being listening to you, something mesmerizing that makes you feel that she totally can relate. This gaze gave me a warm feeling and somehow makes you think less about your problems.

And I also met up with the girl on the bus with whom we shared a taxi with, She is 33, (didn’t look like that) and is running now some taobao business with clothing. Now she wants to open up her own brand. (based on what she told me apparently just rip off some designs and put her own logo on it)

We actually ended up talking about different topics. Housing and general pressure within China, vietnam society that does not have housing pressure, business back in her own town with pottery and politics, behavior of the younger generation which is more daring. In general I had a feeling we could talk about anything, and she has a good view of all them. I guess age does matter …

Otherwise despite the crazy streets with mopeds, the museums are quite shitty in Hanoi. I visited the military museum and Ho chi ming museum. Hoping to see more of the history or stories of vietnam war, there were mostly just public displays of old machineries. The one for the founding father also did not explain even a bit where he was when young and how the communism got into his head.

Another thing I noticed is that people are more social here. Street food, cafes, people sit together and actuallt talk to each other without looking just at the phones.

Me, in a wooden house somewhere on the central plateau, with internet, and need to revise this post



Stop 5.5: From NanNing to Hanoi

I travelled from Guanzhou to Naning, spent one night in a hostel and took the bus to cross the border.

Without expecting much I checked into the hostel after the train ride from Guangzhou. Nanning seems to be a modern city with clean and new metro. The cars are even stopping at zebra stripes to let pedestrians cross the road. In the hostel, I met the crazy guy from New Zealand.

He was doing interior design in London and has decided to move back to NZ. However to reach NZ he is cycling through! He started in May and cycled across scandinavia, russia, mongolia, and went into china from beijing to xian to chongqing, along the yangtse to shanghai, took the boat to japan and came back, went down the coast line all the way to HK and ended up in Nanning to get the visa for vietnam. With 13k pound budget, this is just all sort of crazy. He is camping his way though in abandoned houses, in the bushes, even in monus degrees on the fuji mountain.

He also met some people who helped him in extreme situations and seems to enjoy his travel in his own way. I would never do such crazy things. Even your fund would be limited, it should be doable when budget travelling to come to same amount of budget (if you would calculate the equipment cost)

There I also met 2 people helping out at the hostel. 1 is 18 (she didn’t seem 18 at all) and another grad student wanting to take her postgrad exam in Nanning. It feels actually inspiring that young people nowadays would do such things in their holidays.

There was also an English teacher from Greece who is teaching Eglish in China. (Kind of funny that her background qualifies her, not saying thought that she is not good enough) She is teaching kids and one sad thing that she told me about is that, when the kids get asked what color the sky is, they actually say grey.

There was also the outdoor designer who went travelling in Vietnam. She was saying how finding interesting people on the way was a nice way to travel. Did not have time to ask her though what she considered interesting.

On the bus to the border, I got to know a guide who lives in Nanning but sometimes has to pick up tourist groups in Hanoi and guide them. There was also another young uni student who studied sport marketing. She sort of is alike the girl I met in Guilin 3 years ago. Without any fear and chats whatever is on her mind. We ended up taking the taxi together from where the irresponsible bus driver sent us off to somewhere close to the city center. The uni sport marketing student ended up missing her flight to Danang and had to spend a night at the airport and booked a new one next morning. We took another girl as well and had 4 large luggages within a tiny taxi. The last girl ended up almost hugging her luggage within the taxi. More on her later in the next post.

The Vietnamese border crossing also was an interesting experience. After the chinese check point, we had to walk 10 minutes to the Vietnamese side. The interior looked actually nice with beautiful stones as building material. We heard that they sometims ask for a tip of 10 RMB at the border. When it was my turn, the guy was not able to scan my passport and another guy just completed my process without asking for the tip. (there was also 3 guys who had “business” tickets, that are supposed to be picked up from one border crossing to the other and not having to walk, they ended up not taking a business van but was travelling with us on the same big bus, they were not amused)

I slightly feel that my person descriptions are getting not precise enough … but it is getting increasingly hard to catch up with the posts …

Me, spending a night in Nha Trang and am about to go on a 2 day 1 night easy rider trip tomorrow.