Russian-Stronghold and Lantern Festival in Hoi An
After the days in Dalats mountains and a short intermezzo at the Russian hotspot Nha Trang, the Mui Ne-pack got reunited in Hoi An. Meanwhile, the group was even bigger. 3 nights later all the 12 of us drove together to Hue with the motorbike. Only James from South Africa, unfortunately had to go directly to Hanoi, because he started to work as an English teacher there. But more on this later…
Hoi An was especially an architectonic beauty of Vietnam. The houses in the old town are in many places in Colonial style, but you also find hundreds of years old buildings in between, that gives the city center a special atmosphere. Eminently during the lantern festival, which is only once a year. Coincidently at the same weekend we were there. The river shines in countless paper-lanterns, floating on the water. We were even able to rent a boat and drive over the nightly sea of lights and put our own lanterns on the river water.
Apart from that, I enjoyed mostly the beach and the swimming pool at the Sunflower Hostel. Conveniently, Hoi Ans bars were only at a stone’s throw, so that the nights with the pack were at least as entertaining as the chilled days.
We participate at a pub quiz in a small bar, close to our hostel, which present us a bizarre side of Vietnam. For example, kids do not wear helmets till their 8th birthday, because the Vietnamese believe it impairs the growth of the child and furthermore diminishes the intellect. Just incredible how myths can transfigure the reality, especially in uneducated parts. The icing on the cake at the end, when we could try the “National dish”, a dead fetus, directly out of the egg.
Shirley’s Angels on Tour
We decided to drive to the next place with the motorbike. A whole new experience for me. I never drove a scooter, Vietnams most popular vehicle, before. Those of us, who didn’t own bike, had to rent one. It was super easy, because we could just leave the bikes in Hue. They even transported our big bags separately. And all of that for relatively small money. Shirley’s Angels, how we named our biker group, were ready to rock the streets of Vietnam.
We needed the whole day to get to Hue, including some breaks and a stop at natural pools in the mountains. It was definitely worth it. The landscape was just gorgeous. I enjoyed stunning views while the airstream on my face cooled me down. When we finally arrived in Hue it was already dark. In our hostel was Ladies Night…
Although all of us were pretty tired, we went to the party. And what should I say, at the end it was one of the most memorable nights in Vietnam. We danced in the drenching rain to “It’s raining man”. It was just legen… wait for it DARY 😀
The Myth of Hue
We spent the next day on the bike again. This time I only sit on the back of Micheals bike. Shane, our American guide, showed us Hue and its surroundings. The tour was quite interesting. We drove to the arena, where tigers fought against elphants, whereas the tigers got cut off their claws to make sure the holy elephants win the fight. For me, the highlight of the tour was the abandoned waterpark at the outskirts, quasi in the jungle. There are many myths about this waterpark. Some say it never opened, the Vietnamese think this place is cursed. In the main pool are still the very expensive water fountains installed. Meanwhile, some locals even use the area for farming. This is definitely a creepy place. The park includes, among others, a flight simulator, which is completely surreal in this jungle scenery.
The Caves of Phong Nha
Micheal, Andreas, Clemente and William from Denmark went to the next place on their own bikes. Nick from Australia and Simone, also from our Northern neighbors, left Hue one day earlier. Annelis and Thomas from Holland decided to go to another place. So at the end only Eva, Carmen (Holland), Daniella (Switzerland) and I were left. The girls and I took the bus to Phong Nha, were we met most of the Shirley’s Angels again (except for Simone and Nick).
There are only one hostel and a few hotels in this tiny village. Because the Easy Tiger Hostel was already booked out, we decided to stay in the new hotel right next to it. A truly fluke, for 3€ a night we got a private room with a really nice bathroom and could even use all the facilities at the hostel next door.
The reason why to go to Phong Nha are the caves. So we rent motorbikes again to make our way to the Paradise Cave. A huge underground world revealed. Nice and cool compared to the tropical heat outside. On the way back to town, we stopped at the Dark Cave, where the action part begins. First, you zip-line over the river, then you go in the pitch-black and muddy cave and at the end you paddle to the start with the kayak (in my case, I paddled and Carmen just chilled in the front).
The same night we all took the sleeping bus to Hanoi. Even the motorbike owners changed to the 4-wheel-vehicle this time. In Hanoi, we met Simone and Nick again, so Shirley’s Angels were ready to go to Ha Long Bay, where we stayed for 2 nights at the Castaway island. A party marathon waited at this paradise scenery for us…