Friday, 23 May 2014

Vietnam Part 3

Our next stop was Hue. We took a sleeping bus which was very comfortable and was worth the extra money. The driver did not speed which came as a surprise. After a 4 hour ride / sleep, we arrived in another ancient city of Vietnam. 

We checked in to Hotel Nino which felt more like a house than a hotel. Our room was pretty small but comfortable. The day continued with a wonderful lunch at the Confetti Restaurant. Our waitress was very friendly and provided great tips on places to visit in this historical town.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was our first stop. Although half of it was destroyed during the war, it is still an incredible place where you can spend a couple of hours full of amazement.    

The following day, we rented some bicycles and visited the tombs of the emperor (Khai Dinh Tomb), some pagodas and the city centre. Biking is one of the best ways to visit Vietnam apart from the big cities. On that day we rode around 25 km under the heat and were exhausted at the end of the day.
Khai Dinh Tomb  
The breakfast at 6am next morning was followed by a 4 hour bus ride to the Paradise Cave. It was an organised excursion and there are many companies offering the same tour with different prices. Do not hesitate to talk to multiple agents to get the best price. It was the most impressive cave I have ever seen. The ceiling is about 80 metres high and inside temperature is between 18-20 °C. You can walk 3 km inside of the cave and see incredible limestone formations. It is stunning! Here is a link to some images.

After a 2 hour visit, our tour was heading back to Hue. We said goodbye to them and got off at Dong Hoi to visit the Phang Nha Cave the following day. It is a 45 km drive from Dong Hoi. We rented a scooter from our hotel and started our adventure in the early morning. I have to admit that it was my second time riding a scooter and I was fearful.

Fear is a very powerful emotion and sometimes it can be life saving. However, irrational fear can also hold us back from having experiences that can bring joy and growth in our lives. One of my goals in this trip was to face my fears.

Most of my fear and anxiety is related to self defeating beliefs of “I am not good enough” and “I can’t do it on my own”. These irrational beliefs were developed during my childhood and were ingrained deeply in my subconscious. My psychotherapy studies, individual and group therapy sessions helped me to become more aware of these patterns. This awareness enabled me to make conscious choices rather than having blind reactions. Many of us have these subconscious blockages that restricts our lives. Are you aware of yours? 

A smooth ride!
I rode that scooter for 45km to the Phang Nha Cave, and it was a lot of fun. Once we arrived, we rented a boat to visit the cave from inside with a French couple and an Australian traveller. The boat took us into the cave and we walked 10 minutes inside. It was not as impressive as the Paradise Cave, so if you need to choose one, definitely go for the Paradise Cave. 

Boat ride to Phang Nha Cave

The ride back to Dong Hoi was challenging. It rained the whole way till we got back but luckily everything worked out well. After a hot shower and a nice meal at the hotel, we drove to the station to catch our train to Hanoi.

The trains are quite comfortable in Vietnam, and if you book a sleeper you can easily doze off and wake up at your destination. Our trip to the capital took 9 hours. We arrived at 5am and took a taxi to the Rising Dragon Hotel. This was the best hotel we stayed in Vietnam. The staff was very helpful and friendly, the rooms were great and the rates were reasonable. They had the best breakfast buffet during our time in Vietnam. They also organised a good deal for our Halong Bay excursion.

Alex getting interviewed by students in Hanoi
Personally, I liked Hanoi more than Ho Chi Minh City. There is less traffic and pollution. The people are friendlier and the food is better. During our time there, we visited the Literature House, National History Museum, parks, pagodas and of course Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. 

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