Hi. It’s been a while. I have been pretty busy lately. Feeling overwhelmed and totally consumed with this foreign London life that I seem to have found myself in. I find myself dreaming about Melbourne every day, and I honestly miss it with every fiber of my being. Like always, I have so many feelings about everything that has happened, but I will save that for another time. For now I will put a temporary close to my ‘Travel Blog’ by updating you all on the last adventure of a two and a half year trip.
Vietnam seems like a lifetime ago now. It came shortly after my very emotional goodbye to Melbourne, and I was honestly in bits. I was leaving the place that literally meant everything to me, (means everything to me) and although I had Vietnam to look forward to, I knew that really this whole journey was coming to an end. What started as an idea to maybe go travelling for six months, had turned into my life, everything that I knew, and I didn’t know how I was supposed to just get onto a plane and leave. But that’s exactly what I did. I boarded a plane to Ho Chi Minh, and after an eight hour flight with some random Aussie company, I found myself in a totally new country. Again. Although I started this whole adventure on my own, I had never really traveled a whole country completely independently, so I was a bit of an emotional wreck. I had no real plan, just three weeks to travel up the coast of Vietnam.
I had a lovely first few days with a new friend, Sian, learning all about the culture. We visited the Ho Chi Minh tunnels and saw first hand the extremes that the Vietnamese people had to go to in order to protect themselves. We also took a local tour to the Mekong Delta and cruised around the river to the floating markets. After visiting a local workshop and trying specialty coconut candy and rice water shots, we got rowed to a tiny cafe where we all had veggie lunches waiting for us. I was pleasantly surprised by how much is on offer for vegetarians in Vietnam. I visited several vegan health food cafes in Ho Chi Minh, and they were all incredible. (And ridiculously cheap…!) The main issue I had was actually finding my way there. Crossing the roads over there is possibly the scariest thing I have ever experienced. Picture about ten lanes of traffic all going whichever way they please, hundreds of motorbikes on the pavement, and a traffic light that tells you it is apparently your turn to cross. It was absolute madness, but I soon found out the only tactic was to confidently start walking and pray to God that everybody stops for you! Before I said goodbye I took myself to The War Remnants Museum, which is definitely not a place for the faint hearted. I went on another emotional roller coaster whilst walking around and learning more about the Vietnam War.
I hopped on another plane and flew to Hoi An; a beautiful and quaint Ancient town. Being alone was both a blessing and a disguise. I was meeting new people all the time, but was in such a strange head space I genuinely wanted nothing more than to just be on my own. I think in some ways I was trying to find closure on my time in Melbourne and trying to find a way to accept that I was on my way back home. It didn’t really work and as a result I spent a lot of time caught up in my own head. Hoi An was absolutely stunning, and a very picturesque place at least, for me to be in my own head. I stayed with the kindest family at the cutest homestay and had the best few days walking around the town and admiring all of the stunning architecture. I visited My Son – a UNESCO World Heritage Site believed to be longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. My beautiful vegetarian friend Josie had told me about all of the secret restaurants and cafes, so I spent another afternoon eating delicious smoothie bowls and reading and writing. I think I now have a bit of an obsession with going to dinner alone. There is just something so refreshing and calm about it. It is crazy how much more comfortable I am with my own company than before I went away.
After a final morning of homemade banana pancakes and green tea, I waved goodbye to the wonderful Hoi An and took my first Vietnamese train ride! If you don’t know my obsession with trains by now, then do you even know me? I went up the coast to the imperial city of Hue, and was welcomed with the worst storm I have ever seen. It was impossible for me to venture outside so I basically spent a day and night trapped inside a hostel watching the unforgiving pouring rain soak everything in sight. I woke up to the entire town being flooded and watched as locals went down the street in boats. The bottom floor of the hostel was totally drenched in water, and people were swimming in the streets to try and save their possessions. I desperately wanted to get out of the city before things got even worse, and was told the only way out was to walk uphill for fifteen minutes through the water, to a place where some buses were running. I put my 18kg backpack on my back and trudged through waist deep water for half an hour, as it gushed downstream, against me. It started off being so ridiculous that it was comical, but needless to say the funny side didn’t last long. I made it, and after sitting totally squashed up against soaking wet strangers, I found myself in Phong Nha.
There is a hostel in Phong Nha called Easy Tiger, which has become a bit of a legend in Vietnam. It isn’t on any booking website, yet every single traveler has heard of it, and is either going there or has already been there. Everybody that I met told me I would love it, but in actual fact I hated it. Don’t get me wrong, I can see where the appeal lies. It is absolutely massive, filled with backpackers from all over the world getting absolutely wasted every night. It really is a huge party hostel, which is basically everything I wanted to avoid on this trip. Still, I had a good time and even bumped into somebody that I knew from Melbourne. Phong Nha, another World Heritage site, is home to the largest cave in the world, along with many other incredibly impressive cave systems. It was still pretty rainy, but a group of us took a boat ride to some of the caves and spent the day exploring the insides and eating more traditional Vietnamese food.
The storm was still raging on in the South of Vietnam, and as a result basically all public transport was affected. Therefore I spent an entire morning sitting and waiting at the train station, before finally managing to get myself onto a sleeper train all the way up to Hanoi. I had a whole cabin to myself and tried to make the twelve hour journey pass by watching every episode of An Idiot Abroad. I had a random mini anxiety attack so spent a couple of hours silently crying…(Yay.) But other than that I had a wonderful time looking out of the window! I checked into my favourite hostel of the whole trip; a tiny little independent place called Daisy’s Hostel. It is run by Daisy, who is the kindest, sweetest lady I have ever met. I was reunited with Sian, and we spent days wandering around Hanoi eating everything we possibly could, and shamelessly bartering with the locals.
I met a lovely girl at Daisy’s and we decided to go to Cat Ba together and have a couple of days relaxing at the beach! We ‘treated’ ourselves to a £2 private room, which turned out to be exactly what we paid for. Wooden benches with a cold shower. We did have a very chilled couple of days eating good food (another fellow vegetarian!) and trying to sunbathe. I am very bad at sunbathing but was determined to go back to England at least a little more tanned than when I left. After a rocky boat ride back to Hanoi, a flight to Ho Chi Minh, and two nights in a luxury private room it was almost time to go back home. To be completely honest I spent most of my last two days lying horizontally in bed, worrying worrying worrying about everything. I thought about Melbourne. I cried. I thought about seeing all of my friends and family back home and felt a little better, but mostly I felt pretty devastated. I genuinely had a lovely time in Vietnam, but I know the whole experience would have been something entirely different, had my head not been somewhere else.
Vietnam, you were great. Sorry that I was a little distracted but you gave me some awesome memories. Hopefully more updates on my ever-changing life will be coming your way soon.