So, this was the first part of our trip to the North of Vietnam. Our first stop was Nha Trang, a small Town with a huge beach. There was nothing to see and do here other than sit and sleep on the beach and by the pool, so that is exactly what we did, Enjoying the peace and quiet after the hustle and bustle of Saigon.
From Nha Trang we had a great little day trip to a mud baths and spa, set on a hillside overlooking the forest, where we spent the afternoon covering ourselves in green slime then washing it off with hot mineral water. The day was finished with a massage in which a tiny Vietnamese lady walked up and down my back, sliding off to either side then digging her big toes into my spine, a very strange experience indeed.
From Nha Trang we headed North to Danang. The train left Nha Trang at 5.00am and when we first boarded we thought we'd made a big mistake, it was smelly, freezing cold, dirty, and all the windows were covered in a thick wire grid, but as the sun came up and the carriage warmed up, things started to change. The scenery outside started to emerge as huge hills covered in forest, paddy fields and small villages, so peering through the dust and metal grid, we both relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. The train food turned out to be rather good, a lot better then a GNER-4-quid-plastic-egg-sandwich. For a start off it was free, and consisted of rice, vegetables, meat and soup, all wrapped in individual cartons, very tasty indeed. The journey passed quite nicely and we arrived in Danang in the early evening.
Danang was a pleasant enough little city, aside from being informed that our first three choices of hotel were 'broken' everything went according to plan. We visited a pagoda, a museum of native Cham sculpture, where a friendly little old chap called Louis showed us round, giving us a little sweet if we answered his questions right. Later that same day we took a bus to Hoi An, one of Vietnams best preserved Heritige sites.
We both thoroughly enjoyed Hoi An and ended up staying there for four nights. The old part of town is an atmospheric mix of Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese architecture, with some of the buildings being over 300 years old and passed down through seven or eight generations of the same family. At night the streets become a pedestrian only zone (unheard of in the reat of Vietnam) and are lit by Chinese lanterns, making you feel (almost) like you have been transported back 200 years. Hoi An has always been a trading place for whatever goods happen to be passing through, and that is still the case today, travellers are basically seen as walking wallets that contain an endless supply of dollars. Aside form the millions of tailors ('what you want? You want buy something? Come into my shop') and Kids selling postcards, tiger balm and Necklaces, Hoi An is a very peaceful place, with a beautiful beach nearby and a great watery, mouldy atmosphere. Luckily the old town is protected, so the big, brightly coloured concrete boxes that are spoiling most of Vietnams coastline and countryside should be kept at a safe distance.
From Hoi An we got a bus to Hue, The ancient Capital of Vietnam . . . .