After arriving in Hue, we found our hostel (Dreamers) and we were pleasantly surprised how lively the town centre was. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from and an array of shops to nip in and out of. After a spot of western food for dinner (sometimes you need a break from fried rice) we wandered around in the evening where it was still so busy. One of the best restaurants we ate at was a tiny building called Madam Thu, Their food was so fresh and tasty, but make sure you either go early or make a reservation as it was heaving, we tried twice to get in!
One of the main ‘secret’ attractions in Hue is the abandoned water park. This place was incredible and also had an essence of sadness about it. To get to it you have to either order a Grab (basically Uber) or organise a car through your hostel as it is about 8KM from the city.
Although the park closed over 15 years ago it hasn’t been touched; many stories of new investors have come and gone but the park remains abandoned. Because of this, entrance is actually forbidden although the security guard who gates it will let you in for a small fee; he must make a fortune! To reach the park you have to walk through some dense forest before you begin to see the large mouth of the dragon that guards it. Once the main aquarium of the park, it is now been battered by weather and people. The place really has an eerie feel to it; walking into the aquarium you can see the smashed tanks where it held aquatic animals, which once would’ve been very impressive. It’s said to have had crocodiles living there long after it had closed which were neglected but we saw no signs of them so hopefully they were rescued!
The park also has an old stadium and ruins of holiday villas surrounding the area. It’s such a shame that it’s so neglected; the process of the park could’ve been amazing for the city but unfortunately it didn’t work out.
Surrounded by murky water are the old slides and pools, including a lazy river, now home to some fish and lots of rubbish. It’s almost picturesque how it looks now, as if it was always meant to be! If you love strange and spooky places this is one to add to your list!
The city of Hue is also home to the Imperial Citadel, once a fortress from the 1800 to the mid 90’s it now consists of mainly ruins. There are still some beautify buildings standing, painted and carved with such detail that many Asian countries are known to possess. The city is rather large so you can spend all day exploring and learning about Vietnam’s history of emperors.
After a short stop in Hue, the countryside was calling and wish it another bus journey (remember to check 12goasia.com for cheap bus tickets.) Our first stop was Phong Nha where we stayed at Tiger Tiger Hostel. A great busy hostel if you are in the mood to make friends and have a bit of a party; we actually bumped into two people we had already met on the trip. That’s what is great about travelling; you constantly cross paths with people!
Phong Nha is famous for its landscapes and people tend to rent motorbikes and explore. As I’m quite accident prone and have never ridden a bike before we decided to hitch a ride on the back of two local riders. You can book through your hostels to get reliable riders!
Although I spent most of the time holding on for dear life and getting soaked by the downpour the journey was pretty incredible. We visited Paradise Caves, (which were pretty but a super long walk to the caves) Eight Lady Cave and the Botanical Gardens (take insect repellent!)
Our next stop was Ninh Binh, another location with phenomenal landscapes. Because we were only there for one night we decided to hang out in our hostel (For You Homestay) as the front opened onto the lake and mountains so we didn’t need to explore. The beauty was on our doorstop! We spent the whole day in and out of the pool chatting with a couple we met at the hostel!
One of our final stops in Vietnam was to go and see the famous Ha Long Bay. Used as a location for numerous films it’s one of the world’s greatest beauties. To get to the bay you can either stay in Ha Long or Cat Ba. We decided on the latter as it was cheaper and closer to get to from Ninh Binh. There are multiple companies that sell Ha Long Bay trips (we chose Cat Ba Ventures) so it can be quite overwhelming! We shopped around and settled on a day trip. You can do overnight stays and multiple day trips but our budget wouldn’t allow!
Our trip took us on an old wooden ship to Cat Ba Bay, Lan Ha Bay and finally Ha Long Bay. We visited a floating fishing village, kayaked and swam in the lagoon and snorkelled in the bay. It was an incredible but exhausting day! We finished it off with a beer with our boat leader and dinner at The Secret Garden.
We left the islands in the morning to reach our final destination, Hanoi. Luckily we had lots of tips from a friend we made along the way which made it much easier to navigate! One thing you will notice with Hanoi is how busy the roads are. There is nonstop beeping and if you want to cross, you just have to walk out!
On our first evening we visited the famous Train Street (which you should check is still open) to have a beer and see the train pass. After waiting for a few hours we didn’t think a train would be coming but we were quickly told to sit down as one was approaching. It did not disappoint. A huge train came bustling through the little alleyway, I don’t know how it doesn’t hit anything; it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Health and safety here in England would hate it!
We started the next day by commemorating our trip with tattoos! We got them at Scarlett Inky Corner if you fancy one yourself! This was followed by a delicious brunch at Lifted, a visit to the cathedral, and to escape the rain a trip to the cinema! These cinemas are super luxurious for half the price you pay in the UK!
Although Hanoi is super busy, you can escape it by visiting the old town and picking up some bargains. The brunch scene is also one of the best we’ve come across so if you are a foodie you’ll love it! Our final night was dampened by a huge storm but we managed to get to the rooftop of our hotel to watch it pass over the city! As our time in Vietnam came to an end we packed up our backpacks again ready to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur in the morning!