Adventure of a Lifetime, Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon


February 2nd, 3rd and 4th

Days 8, 9 and 10

Saigon – everyone calls it Saigon and is known as HCMC for short

After a very early start and a packed but uneventful flight where everything, apart from check in, was done for us, we leave the airport, our bus is waiting and we head to Saigon. Everyone calls this city Saigon.

Our hotel is the Family Inn, Saigon Hotel once again very central, clean and with windows. Bob and I are doing well with our hotel rooms and all have way surpassed our expectations. Before we arrive at our hotel, because our flight was so early, our rooms aren’t ready so we are taken on a city tour of Saigon.

It is a massive city and was once the capital of Vietnam. Parts of it are incredibly modern and indeed you could be in any major European city with Financial Centres, Skyscrapers etc. There is a marked French influence in this city and is so much the opposite of Hanoi and yet not much different either. The traffic, as usual, is chaotic. Once you start to cross the road you just don’t stop, ever, of you will be stranded in the middle of the road with traffic, tuk tuks, motor bikes, cars, buses etc dodging you and blaring their horns. Don’t be fooled by pedestrian crossings either. Yes there’s a green man but in reality this means absolutely nothing as there seems to be a free right hand turn but everyone coming from all directions seems to be making a free right! It really does suit my natural jay walking skills, I love it and breathe in the intensity of this frenetic city.

Our first stop from the airport is the War Remnants Museum. 200Before you enter there are original US Armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons outside. Me, being a total pacifist, walk past these. Our visit to Vietnam, to date, has had some interesting propaganda. Most amusing were the clips of how well the US POW’s were treated in the Hanoi Hilton, celebrating Christmas etc – eh I don’t think so. By now I listen to it all and take what I believe to be true. I do believe this was a war between 2 super powers, Russia and the US with too many lives lost. Some of our group had no knowledge of this war at all. As a teenager I remember seeing the anti-war demonstrations on tv this was just before the end of the war. In this museum I was to see hundreds and hundreds of photos taken from around the world of anti-war protests. despite looking and looking I did not see one photograph that was taken in Ireland. Are we too neutral to even had an anti-war demonstration? Were we too tied to the US in the 60’s and 70’s to not speak out? Did we actually protest but are seen as such a tiny country no photograph was worth recording?

Entering the museum there is a room celebrating the lives of the Vietnamese since the war. It really does show how far they have come and the support they received to help rebuild their lives.

The exhibition takes place over three levels and I started on the top floor. I knew if I went to the 1st I’d just leave, but more on that later. On the top floor is the Requiem Exhibition. This is very moving. It was compiled by legendary photographer Tim Page and documents the work of photographers of both sides who were killed during the war. It includes the work of the famous war photographers Larry Burrows and Robert Capa. I cannot stress how moving I found this exhibition. Many of the photographs are the final rolls in photographers cameras which were only developed after they had died.

The second floor shows the experimental weapons used during the war by the US and also instruments of torture. This was so very upsetting. How on earth can a human mind even devise such instruments?205

When we came to the 1st floor exhibition Bob had to leave. I couldn’t as I felt it was my duty to honour the innocents killed in this war. It was awful and I mean truly awful. From photographs of atrocities to children, to a glass case of deformed fetuses either lost through miscarriage or abortion, to the photographs of children born since the war and deformed beyond anything that medical intervention can help. There are also images depicting the brutal My Lai Massacre The famous photograph of the napalm Girl. 206The words of wisdom from a child. the horrors that the dropping of napalm and other Dioxins have now got into the DNA of those who survived and future generations will be deformed beyond belief. The totally unneccessary and brutal massacre of a village. How is this a way of winning a war? How arrogant were they to take out random villages? Makes no sense to me. How can a human being do this to another? There was a quote from an US soldier to others saying ‘Don’t let this fucked up war fuck with your head too’ Will man ever learn from previous wars or is it a case of taking things to a next level? After all look at ISIS now. one thing for sure the force of evil definitely does exist.207

We were a quiet group leaving and we continued on our tour. This took us to Notre Dame Cathedral, 210a very imposing building which unfortunately was closed. We also visited the Central Post Office which is amazing. It is also a working post office still but the design and decor need to be seen215

It was now lunchtime and we found ourselves at Pho 2000 233This is tiny and is above a group of even smaller shops, you’d struggle for a sign but it is very close to Ben Thanh Market. Not only is this tiny restaurant famous for its food, what really put it on the map was a visit from Bill and Chelsea Clinton. 236 The food was fantastic but think fast food canteen as opposed to luxury. By now I am totally hooked on Vietnamese coffee and, as usual, order 2 at a time.

Following check in and refreshing we meet the Diamonds at 16.00 and head to the Alto Heli Bar, for sunset downers. This is on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower and we arrive after approximately 30 min walk – we’re still walking everywhere and probably driving people nuts! We are literally just in time for the end of the Happy Hour so once again, mojitos are ordered. It was lovely to be away from the hustle and bustle of this city, so high up and watching the sun set.241 We figured we would be eating in the market, which we had passed on the way, so instead of doubling back to the hotel we contacted Khanh and met them there. The market was its usual crazy market but yet again the meal was fantastic.

The following morning we were off on a boat trip through the Mekong Delta, 343also known as the River of Nine Dragons. We meandered along through canals between My Tho and Ben Tre. Ben Tre is famous for its coconut candy and we stopped at Huong Dua to watch local crafts people at work including sampling some coconut candy and rice wine, snake wine and some other shot! Leaving there we boarded an unusual type of Tuk Tuk – we’d to wear helmets, for a tour. It was hilarious. We arrived at a restaurant to sample the famous Elephant Ear Fish,290 I elected to go vegetarian again and following another fabulous meal we relaxed in hammocks. It has to be unbelievable that we have not had a bad meal in this fabulous country yet. After lunch we were back on the Tuk Tuks and off to the river again but this time we were on Saipans. There were four to each boat and as we paddled slowly through the Mekong Delta, all wearing tradition Vietnamese Hats, it reminded me of the mangroves in Florida. We arrived back on our boat and sailed through fishing villages on the way back to Saigon.315

Tonight marks the end of the Vietnamese leg of our tour and our final day with Khanh. Often some people leave the group at this stage and others join but we are lucky that all 16 of us are continuing on the Cambodian leg with a new guide who we will meet tomorrow. We all head for KOTO, for a group meal. KOTO stands for Know One, Teach One as learning should be passed on, knowledge is there to be served. 349This is a Training Centre in both Hanoi and Saigon for hospitality for disadvantaged children. We had a private room and it was really a lovely evening. The food was more similar to fine dining but was lovely. An official tip for Khanh was collected and I gave a short speech presenting him with it, a pair of chopsticks and thanking him. Debbie and I had heard of Bar Saigon Saigon, was worth visiting so we persuaded most of the group to go. This is set on the rooftop of the Caravelle Hotel and was the first 5 star hotel rebuilt after the war. Many of the war journalists and photographers hung out here during the war and the photographs that hang on the walls are fascinating. Cocktails were good too, mojitos of course! 078However, prices were expensive compared to what we were by now used to paying, view magnificent, more a place for the beautiful people to hang out with dreadful service. Don’t think our group were too impressed!

The following day was a free day as our Cambodian leg of the tour starts with meeting our new leader from Intrepid at 18.00. However, us being the group we are had other plans. the optional trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, 412was in the morning and a few of us elected to go. It/they were incredible, 200km of underground tunnels with the opportunity to go in excess of 100m down one. A few of us, including me, did it, one reversed out after a few seconds, Debbie and others chose not to go down fearing claustrophobia. It was very tight and for much of it you are on your knees crawling. There was a display of the many items of torture and ways of trapping POWs that the Vietnamese used. Just horrific and it really upset me. There was a constant drone of shots being fired, you had the opportunity to fire an AK47 and the noise, I found to be very upsetting. the entire place was too real and too horrible and I was happy to leave.

We return to the hotel and I find Vin at the PC very quiet. A guy approaches him and asks is he the fellow with the Intrepid Group who has had his bag snatched. Poor Vin, he’s 22, first time travelling on his own and his bag was snatched while he sat to look at a map. The snatcher immediately jumped on the back of a motorbike and took off with Vin’s passport, cards and cash. This totally sums up HCMC to me. There is an edge to it I don’t like. The hotel, when I go outside won’t let me continue if I’m wearing my necklace. It’s small with a few tiny charms on it. I’m travelling with a Pacsafe backpack and find myself locking it to everything. It is the first and only time in Vietnam I have found anywhere intimidating. The men are constantly being invited to massage parlours, which are everywhere, full of girls sitting as a group to the front of the shop, painting their nails and looking thoroughly bored. Drugs of all sorts are also being offered to the men and openly. In a bar on our last night there was a mafia type chap with minders and lots of girls. I have enjoyed what I’ve seen, enjoyed our time in Alto Heli watching the sunset and also the time we spent with some of the group on top of a bakery but I will not be sorry to leave and have no desire to return. The single travellers, unless electing to come with the group are going to a hotel with a roof top pool and relaxing, they just don’t feel comfortable wandering around on their own.

That afternoon Bob and I returned to the Reunification Palace 482–ho-chi-minh-city.html The gardens are splendid and again some American Fighter Jets are on display. This was the home to the South Vietnamese President until the end of the war. It’s opulence is phenomenal. Is is an oustanding example of 1960’s architecture, very airy and spacious with meeting rooms on the ground floor and reception rooms upstairs. There are the Presidential quarters including games room. On the roof top is the Presidential helicopter, ballroom/nightclub and cinema. The double basements are fascinating, war rooms, telecommunications centre, a warren of tunnels. It really is extraordinary. The Palace is shown very vividly in two world-famous photographs

  • 30th April 1970 The Communists Tanks arrived crashing through the wrought iron gates. A soldier ran into the building, up the stairs and hoisted a VC Flag from the balcony. In a private reception chamber, General Minh, who had become Head of the State 43 hours before, waited. As the VC Officer entered the room Minh said ‘I have been waiting since early this morning to transfer power to you’ the VC Officer replied ‘There is no question of you transferring power, you cannot give what you do not have’!
  • The other photograph is of people queuing up on the roof to board the helicopter and be evacuated at the end of the war.

Usually the Intrepid meeting with the new leader is at 6pm, however, we as a group, throw everything. The girls had discovered that the A OH Show were playing in the Opera House. This show is Vietnamese and is similar to Cirque du Soleil. The majority of us wanted to go and Khanh arranged the purchase of the tickets. It was an oppportunity to see not only this highly reviewed show but also to enjoy an evening at the opera house, BUT we would not be able to make the 6pm briefing. It was suggested that it be delayed but some of us didn’t want to be rushing back from the show so it was fixed for 4pm.

After the visit to the tunnels, earlier, we all said our goodbyes to Khanh who was taking a 3 day rest before starting again with a new group. As I entered the hotel I met him heading out for lunch before checking out, however, he didn’t even get his lunch ordered before he had to return to assist Vin and indeed gave up his free time to help him getting a temporary passport, giving him cash and going with him to the various official departments to get Vin sorted.

So we arrive to the meeting at 4, when eventually Fila, our Cambodian leader arrives. He thought the meeting was in the lobby despite the note specifying it was on the top floor in the restaurant. He began by saying that in his 6 years with Intrepid he never had a meeting changed from 6pm! Hmm not the best of starts in my opinion and it got worse. He talked and talked, a lot, so was interrupted and asked to be aware that the meeting needed to be over by 4.50 as we were heading to the Opera house. I thought he was quite put out and harassed, however, we were a group of now 15, 8 of whom were together 2 weeks longer. We had gelled well as a group, plenty of Irish craic with some quiet young folk and we were not afraid to speak out. Daniela, who works at the Sydney Opera house knew this was too good an opportunity to miss and had told us all about it. Fila was still going on a bit, said he needed our passport and insurance details all over again and wanted to talk about the group kitty. Well we were well ahead of him. Khanh had already given me a photocopy of all our details to hand over, we were keen on the kitty but said as we were not going out for an official group dinner we’d sort it out tomorrow. The group kitty was a great idea so far. It was used for tipping drivers, restaurants, bell boys etc of all the group activities. Khanh kept a running total, made us all double-check it before the KOTO dinner and handed us back any surplus despite it being a small amount and we all said keep it, he said no that it was ours and insisted we take it. So anyway, having heard what the plans were for the following day we abandoned Fila and took off to a great night at the Opera House and the fabulous A OH SHOW!527



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Adventure of a Lifetime, Hoi An

January 31st and February 1st

Days 6 and 7

Hoi An195

Hoi An is another UNESCO World Heritage site and is incredible beautiful.  Bob thought it full of tourists – it was – understandably though in my opinion because it is such a beautiful place.  Over 800 buildings are preserved in the Old Town.  We were blessed as our hotel was only a 5 minute walk away.  To enter the Old Town you purchase a pass which is valid for three days.  Most of these houses may be visited, the owners still live there and spend the day in their private quarters upstairs.  142The majority of these homes have been in the same family for generations, 6, 7 or indeed 8.  Hoi An is on a river and at night the entire place is lit up with lanterns.  196There is also a Japanese bridge which is very beautiful.414

Our journey from Hue was about 4 hours but made longer by many stops.  First we stopped at Lang Co Beach.  386This is a Vietnamese Tourist Resort but we were the only people there.  It is totally different during TET, Vietnamese equivalent of Chinese New Year which falls on the same date, as many, many Vietnamese travel here to celebrate the holiday.  After a welcome visit to the Happy House we ordered drinks – my 2 double Vietnamese Coffees – and I headed straight to the beach and in for a paddle.  It was so nice to be by the sea again and it was refreshing as days were getting hotter.  Soon it was time to get back on the bus and head to Danang but not before driving through the Hai Van Pass.  407On bad days there is an option of going through the tunnel but we were blessed with the fabulous views and many stops for pictures or just to take it all in.  As usual Vin was singled out by the hawkers!

Denang, otherwise known as China Beach, is being developed as a Vietnamese Dubai.  Speaking to other people it’s taking them a while!  Personnally I wasn’t impresed though.  Once again leave it to Khanh to know the good lunch spots and we all did enjoy the freshly filled baguette at the bakery he took us to.043

Bank into the bus and it wasn’t long before we arrived at our hotel in Hoi An.  Phu Thinh 2 A lovely small hotel with a pool in the courtyard and a brilliant location.  Once again we were in luck, 2 windows and a small balcony.

135After a guided walk with Khanh to get our bearings we had a very welcome free afternoon.  I cannot stress how pretty Hoi An is.  While on our tour Khanh took us to a tailor he would recommend.  Narurally we all went in.  They had many samples hanging up but also many books for you to choose a design from.  I didn’t think the samples looked great so left.  There was also the opportunity to mix and match.  Tops of one style, waistline or another etc.  I was conscious of Bob hanging around outside and I was too hot and sticky to be bothered stripping and being fitted.047

We returned to the hotel.  Bob hired a bike, all for $1 for the day and took off.  Meanwhile I booked 2 hours in the spa.  I had a body scrub, massage, facial, manicure and pedicure all for €24!  It was fantastic.

That evening there was an opportunity to do a Vietnamese cooking class.  Surprisingly only 3 of us choose to do it, Debbie, Pauline and myself.  We arrived at the cookery school, Gioan, to discover that we were the only 3 in the class.  Our teacher, Vina, was hilarious and if you learned nothing you had a full nights entertainment.  She had us laughing, singing and drinking wine.  She was fantastic.  We were taught and cooked ourselves. Our ingredients were prepared for us apart from the chopping.  We made Fried Spring Rolls, A Green Papaya Salad, Sweet and Sour Chicken Soup, Tuna Steaks in Banana Leaf and Chilli Paste.  OH MY GOD it was absolutely delicious. 776 We walked back to the hotel, got lost but eventually saw Vin and made it back in time to persuade the hotel to reopen the bar for more mojitos! Hoi An goes to sleep very early at night.  They were not happy and when it came to the bill we were overcharged for 3 extra beers, we eventually paid up but it was annoying.  Still for an extra €2 we weren’t too bothered, just annoyed at being ripped off.

The following morning, after breakfast, I just wasn’t well.  The tums had decided it had enough.  I stayed by the pool until I felt it was safe to venture out.  Bob went off on his bike, another $1.  Debbie, meanwhile, had ordered 2 dresses so I said I’d meet her at 13.30 for the first fitting.  I was hugely impressed and raging that I’d missed such an opportunity.  She said she was unsure exactly what she was getting as the designer more or less took over. The dresses were incredibly well made, one for the office and one for a wedding.  There were a few minor adjustments and a 2nd fitting 30 minutes later and they were delivered to the hotel, packed, ready for travel, that evening.  The total cost of the dresses, fully lined, including fittings was $70, Debbie did well.

Following a free morning where we could wander around at will, some did a tuk tuk tour, others relaxed by the pool, some went to the spa but 7 of us, Vin, Debbie, the Diamonds, John and us choose to go on a cycling tour and BBQ that afternoon.  It was hilarious.  Helmets – yes, gears – no and we left Hoi An and took off through tiny villages over Paddy Fields with barely a walking track much less a cycling one, there were many stops along the way.  Not only did we cycle through Paddy Fields we were also cycling along the Mekong Delta.  Eventually we arrived at a boat – a tiny boat! To much amusement the bikes were loaded on first, then us.  We found a coolbox of beer, sodas and water and duly shared them around. Now we’re sailing on the Mekong.  It was fantastic.  Loads of people were out in their boats fishing, two people to every boat, one at the front with sticks, banging them repeatedly to get the fish to the surface.  We arrived at an island for our BBQ, ok, now, this wasn’t what we’d expected.  It’s a deserted island! Tables and chairs are somehow found on our little boat.  The fisherman also produces a BBQ and proceeds to cook us all dinner.  We laughed.  Here we were, all 7 of us, on a tiny deserted island, somewhere in the middle of the Mekong with only a Happy Bush, having the most fantastic BBQ ever while listening to the clap clap of the fishermen.  Just before sunset we were back on the boat and returning to Hoi An.  Another brilliant Intrepid experience..777

Soon it would be time to leave Hoi An and we were taking lots of memories.  Denang disappointed though I can see why the Americans were sent for R & R to China Beach.  It was time to head back to the hotel to shower, change, pack our case and backpacks as an early start in the morning, 4am, we are flying to Ho Chi Minh City

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Adventure of a Lifetime, Hue

Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese Coffee

374January 29th and 30th 2015


I’ve discovered Vietnamese Coffee.  Delicious!  When served properly it comes in a cup with a drop filter on top.  When dripped through you add some sweet condensed milk.  I loved it.  Others found it way too strong and added extra sugar, I couldn’t get enough of it and started ordering  2 at a time.

Hue was the nation’s capital for 150 years in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  It’s situation on the banks of the Perfume River is wonderful.  It’s famous for the majesty of the Hue Citadel with royal residences and elegant temples.  On the edges of the city there are impressive pagodas and royal tombs in natural settings.

As a group we’ve discovered the Brown Eyes Bar.  We got a table in a section the first night, following welcoming shots which were repeated everytime some new joined our group, Jenga was produced.


  • Only 2 fingers allowed
  • If is collapses you sing a song

Some people sang many songs, I sang once, the 2nd night! 376We also ate at the Mandarin Cafe,, This is owned by Mr Cu who is a photographer.  His walls are amazing as was the food..

249Hue (Hway) is an beautiful place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site  and once again we were in a superb hotel – Gold 1 Hotel The first day was a day on motorbikes. We were on them for the entire day and visited the Citadel and Royal Tomb.  We also have a cruise on the Perfume River with a visit to Thiem Myu Pagoda and a fabulous private meal, vegetarian, of course, at a monastery.  This meal was to be one of the highlights of the trip. Cars were provided for those who didn’t was to ride pillion on Bikes.  We went everywhere, totally off

Vegetarian Lunch at a Monastery

Vegetarian Lunch at a Monastery

the beaten track and yet again confirmed for me that doing an Intrepid Tour was the right thing to do.  We saw and went to places an independant traveller would never have found.

Perfume River

Perfume River

On the first night a group of us went on an optional homestay dinner.  Some thought it would be touristy but it was far from it.  As a student Khanh decided to travel around his own country.  When he arrived by train, like us, in Hue he asked a local motorbike taxi to show him around.  At the end of the day he was invited to Mr Tu’s house for dinner.  They became friends and he told him of his plan to become a travel leader and that one day he would bring a group of visitors to his house.  Four years later he did.  We were so very glad we went.  This was a real home with fantastic local food.

Hometstay dinner

Hometstay dinner

The children came and played with us and I have fantastic memories of this night.

The following morning we were back on our bus again visiting Tanh Toan Bridge, Japanese and a sleepy village that tourists would struggle to find.  We also visited a farm equipment museum where an elderly lady, who was hysterical, showed us not only how everything was done manually years ago but frighteningly these mothods are still used in rural areas.  Truly back breaking work.  The only Royal Tomb not enclosed by a wall, Tomb of Thieu Tri, was visited as part of the tour.  Again a rural one and we were the only tour bus.

A second evening at Brown Eyes bar but not too late a night.  Case is pack, backpacks packed, alarm set for 5.30 as tomorrow we set off for Hoi An

Such wonderful children  Nguyen Van Dinh Vu Nguyen Dday Ngoc Hoai Nguyen Thi Minh Chau Le Van Huan Shu Hong Le Kier Oarh Hong Le Kier Chau

Such wonderful children
Nguyen Van Dinh Vu
Nguyen Dday Ngoc Hoai
Nguyen Thi Minh Chau
Le Van Huan Shu
Hong Le Kier Oarh
Hong Le Kier Chau

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Adventure of a Lifetime Halong Bay,Hanoi Street food and Overnight Train to Hue


Halong Bay

Day 2 and 3 Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th January 2015

So, what is to be the norm for our tip is early morning starts.  The bus is due to leave at 7.30.  Reality is, set alarm for 90 mins before, pack the night before and be ready to go.  As we are returning to this hotel our cases stay behind and we just need an overnight bag.  Our total luggage consists of our case and 2 backpacks.  Bobs is 30lt, mine is a Pacsafe, but is bright orange.  It is anti slash and has RFID, also each zipper has a locking mechanism.  Packed carefully it takes loads.  Our case has compartments and is divided in half.  I’ve all our toilitries, meds etc in one half and clothes in the other.  We’ve a 30kg allowance each and our case is only 25kg  We’ve packed lightly!  I also bought packing cubes, which prove invaluable.  Our clothes are sorted and have a cube each.  Packing for overnight is now easy.  We grab a cube each and we’re ready to go.  Khanh has also given each of us an Intrepid shoulder bag which is a huge help.

Our drive to Halong Bay takes approx 4 hours in a mini bus.  There are stops along the way, usually every 2 hours, either at a local craft industry or a small cafe.  This is to allow us use the ‘Happy House’ – you’re happy when you see it and twice as happy when you use it.  When we arrive we are shown to our junk boat, it looks incredible inside, and lunch is ready for us.  062We have two vegetarians in the group.  When the meal is over we are shown to our Cabins.  Ours is fabulous .  The weather is overcast but this gives the Bay a very ethereal quality.  We slowly sail out through this incredible landscape.

Double Cabin

View from bathroom

We visit Hang Sung Sot cave, otherwise known as Surprise Cave.  It is incredible with 3 deep chambers and magnifient views from the top. 102When we return the group decide to go kayaking.  Wonderful experience, in and out of lagoons.  The sight of Vin and Tracy trying to do it is hilarious and has us all laughing.  We kayak for approx 90 mins and are all hungry when we return to freshen up and have dinner.  Another wonderful meal.

As we continue sailing along there is nothing nicer that to go onto the top deck and watch the stars as we continue through this incredible landscape.  It is truly unbelievable.

Halong Bay by night

Halong Bay by night

Meanwhile, back at the bar, we have discovered the cocktail menu and we all appear to have a liking for mojitos.  This was to set the tone for the remainder of the trip. Daniela has a set of Uno cards, we are taught the game and many hours of pure laughter continue.  This was to be a bonding night  126One  of the crew gets drunk and proceeds to show us his cutting skills using vegetables.  He was also insisting that we all take photos!  The following morning we head back to Hanoi where we’ve a few hours before we head to the train station.  Shared rooms are arranged for us to freshen up and repack our overnight bags as we will not see our cases again until we arrive in Hue. A few of us choose to do the Tour of Street Food in Hanoi with Urban Adventures, It was fantastic and took approximately 90 mins where we walked all around the famous streets for food and ate our way around.  It also included a visit to a fresh beer bar.  I tried but I just cannot drink beer, however, the beer lovers said it was good.  The tour ended in an Hanoi BBQ.  It was fantastic although the men who tried the Happy House told us ladies not to bother.

A selection of street food

A selection of street food

We arrived back in time to purchase some food from the local bakery for our breakfast as Intrepid don’t recommend the food on the train.  So into the bus again and off to the station where we are met again by more bedlam

Overnight Train to Hue

Overnight Train to Hue

Overnight Train to Hue

We had been told that we might have to share with others from outside our group, that nothing was guaranteed.  Everyone was anxious about this trip.  The carriages were small and we got to share with the Diamonds.  It was tight!  Khanh had bought the makings of mojitos so we all had a laugh and a few drinks squashed in one compartment.  Originally it was supposed to be ours but with all our luggage, Diamonds have 2 cases, there was no room.  When we turned in both Bob and Philip went out cold straight away whereas Beth and I struggled.  I just found it very difficult to get comfortable.  My sciatic nerve started and eventually I gave up and took painkillers.  I got a few hours in the end.

We all woke early and watched the country pass us by.  An interesting sight were the number of tombstones in peoples gardens.  Vietnamese do not have to bury their dead in cemetries, they may be buried in rice fields or outside their kitchen door! This is really having your loved ones close to you!!!


Me trying to get Beth’s attention

The train made a couple of stops on the way and I was able to hop off.

It was hot after Hanoi.  Hanoi was in early 20’s but now I know it’s just going to get hotter and hotter the further south we go.  Before long the train had stopped and we got through he bedlam unscathered and had arrived in Hue.


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Adventure of a Lifetime Hanoi

The excitement had been building for weeks and finally Rupert was in kennels, house clean and we were packed and ready to go

Saturday 24th January 2015

And we’re off.  Plan is to park car in long stay car park in Dublin airport as Ciaran is in France skiing he will collect it when his flight lands on Tuesday, so checked in, ready to go and we’re off

Abu Dhabi

Only a 2 hour stopover which, by the time we found where we had to go it was almost time to board again.


An uneventful if long flight and we’ve a 5 1/2 stopover.  We found somewhere to park ourselves and charge our devices but time crawled by.  Finally it was time to board again.

Hanoi Sunday 25th January

27 hours and 10 mins door to door and we’re exhausted.  Our driver is waiting for us and we set off to the hotel.  Traffic is bedlam with motorbikes everywhere.  There seems to be no rules of the road and its hot and we’re tired.  Our hotel is the Having read reviews I was dreading a noisy, windowless room so was pleasantly surprised when we were seven floors up and had windows.  It’s not a luzury hotel but it is clean.  We have 2 nights here as our trip with Intrepid doesn’t officially start till Monday at 6pm  this means we have a day and a half to ourselves and so it was time to explore.

Our hotel, we discovered, is in a terrific location, right in the middle of the Old Quarter.  One thing we must buy are 2 silk sleeping bags.  Our journey includes an overnight on a boat and an overnight on a train.  We’ve been advised that, although, many of the hotels are basic they should be clean but a silk sleeping bag is recommended.  So the hunt starts.  It is bedlam. We cannot cross any road.  Cars and bikes are everywhere and everyone uses their horns.  005I decide the only way to cross is to go on the safe side of a Vietnamese and follow them.  It doesn’t take long to learn that once you step forward you keep moving, constantly looking and don’t hesitate or you’ll be stranded in the middle of the road.

We make our way to Hoan Kiem Lake and take a walk to the entrance of Ngoc Son Temple, which means Crossing the Bridge. 011We decide not to pay to enter and then I spot the Water Puppet Theatre.  As we were determined to stay awake as long as possible we decide to go to see it.  However this meant crossing a major junction with traffic everywhere and suddenly an old Vietnamese lady using a walking aid, grabs Bob to help her across.  This was truly the blind leading the blind.  Meanwhile I’ve decided that I’m a natural Jay Walker!  The 18.30 show is booked so we go for coffee and buy tickets for the 20.00 showing.  It is fantastic and I’d recommend everyone to go.  Very clever production despite me nodding off! We head back to the hotel, God if only it was that easy!  We ended up smack bang in the middle of the night market.  Finally we were glad to see our beds and fell in

Monday 26th January

Breakfast was ok, yet again I am travelling with my kettle, coffee, sugar, creamer and my travel mug.  I just need my coffee.  Just as we are about to leave we meet the Diamonds, Philip and Beth, from Northern Ireland and discover they will be part of our group.  I do find myself looking at people wondering if we will be travelling with them.  For a city as large as Hanoi it’s very weird that we keep bumping into them.  Our day takes us to many interesting places 043Hoa Loa Prison usually known as the Hanoi Hilton.  Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex , Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Stilt House, 016The Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh Museum.  We walked all around the lake and I also bought a pair of Vietnamese trousers and before long it was time to return to the  hotel, shower and meet the other members of our group.

017Hanoi 18.00 Day 1 of Intrepid Tour – Best of Vietnam and Cambodia

We arrive to discover we are a group of 16 of whom 9 are late as they’ve just arrived from Laos.  Our group are as follows

Khnah – Leader

Vin, 22 – Australia

Ben and Janelle, 26 – Australia

Daniela, 27 – Australia

Marissa, 28 – Switzerland

Debbie, 38 – UK

Bob and I – Ireland

Philip and Beth – Northern Ireland

Ed and Debbie – Canada

Pauline – Australia

John – Ireland

Tracy – UK

Bill – USA

So out of the 16

5 are Irish

5 – Australian

1 Swiss

1 American

2 Canadian

2 from UK

There are 4 couples, 3 single men and 5 single girls.

It is decided that the 9 who have travelled from Thailand through Laos to Hanoi will continue to share so of that 9 the single girls are Pauline, Tracy and Daniela.  As no one has paid a single supplement they will rotate among each other with one having a single room. The 3 single men will do the same and Debbie and Marissa will share the whole way through.  Vin is the youngest of the group and I hear from the others that he has to be minded as it is his first trip and he sometimes gets lost.  Bill is the eldest, quite odd and not chatty at all.  Khanh, our leader, seems very nice and after giving our insurance details and kitty money – for bus drivers, porters, etc we head off for a group meal.  Khanh made the recommendations and we ate a delicious meal and then John, Bob and I headed for a bar.  John is determined to make this a good holiday.  We are too but I’m not sure I want him latching onto us.  He’s 66, separated and enjoys ‘Thai Women’!  Finally I get them out and we return as we’ve an early start in the morning028038029



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Day 6 Thursday and we’re homeward bound

Day 7 Thursday

The following morning, before I went to look at books, we went for a long walk – well tourist office said 90 mins – we didn’t walk that fast and did it in just under an hour. I would recommend getting the trail sheets as the walks are well worth doing. Then coffee and I hit the book shops – actually I was very restrained and only went into one – Murder and Mayhem. There were books everywhere, nooks and crannies, rooms, floor to ceiling, you look and there were books. There have been quite a number of murders locally over the years and I was just fascinated. Yes I left with books including 2 by a local author whom I hadn’t heard of before but has a great following in the States. I was sad to leave Hay but would love to return some day for the I would be in my element.

So began our journey back to Holyhead. By now we had given up on both the sat nav and the heater and checked local maps for the best route – he was not doubting himself cause most of the road was so narrow and there were many hairy turns and me with my eyes shut! As we were not sailing until 2am Friday morning we decided to stop in Shrewsbury on the way, it rained, like serious rain so after a short walk we headed back for the motorhome and decided to park alongside the river for a bite to eat. I went off and investigated the theatre where The Kite Runner was being performed that night. I didn’t know this was a stage production also, I loved the film and book, and I was sorry we didn’t have the opportunity of seeing it but I will keep an eye out for it should it ever be staged here in Dublin. We did finally get out for a long walk along the river where we passed 2 boat clubs getting ready to head into the water. Shrewsbury seems like a lovely place to visit, it was just a shame that the weather was so awful.

We arrived in Holyhead early and joined the queue. The return journey was uneventful, however, Rupert never settled in the kennels and, with hindsight, he was by now so used to the MH we regretted not just leaving him in his own bed. Sailing into Dublin as dawn was rising was lovely as too was greeting my own bed for a couple of hours.

It was a great week, far better than I had expected despite the problems with the heater and Rupert settled down so well. Despite the expense of getting his pet passport none of us were asked for any form of ID Bet if I didn’t have it I’d have been asked for it. Murphy’s Law

Since our trip the MH has been returned to the dealer to have some minor glitches repaired under guarantee and to find out exactly what has happened to the heater. Finally a result – a fan was broken which necessitated the part being ordered from the UK so we did not have the use of it for the Bank Holiday weekend which was a shame. I am also waiting for a quote on an alarm system to be installed. Yes we are insured and no I’m not concerned with someone trying to break into it while we’re asleep – Rupert would put them off – I’m more concerned with someone happening to it while we are off rambling around and feel it would be necessary specially on the continent. Can you imagine it being robbed while we’re off somewhere abroad and being left with nothing!

Update on heater

  • Bad gas – nope
  • Fan broken, new one ordered and installed
  • Supposed to collect MH but told heater still not working properly
  • Finally he admits he hasn’t a clue what’s wrong with it, suspects frost damage in 2010.

–          Result for us – we’re getting a new heater

No quote for getting an alarm system installed in MH and on bike racks so if someone could direct me to somewhere reputable I’d appreciate it.

Thanks for taking the time to read


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Day 6 Wednesday

Firstly this is the sight I wake up to this morning IMG_1264That’s just one – they were everywhere.

Day 6 Wednesday

Today we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast after taking Rupert for a run in the in the park, this site has what I’d call a proper dog run unlike the narrow piece of a field we’d seen on an earlier site. So up the the fabulous Riverside Bar and Restaurant on site for breakfast and to access wifi – fail – doesn’t open for breakfast mid week. So motorhome packed up, us showered and washed and away we went again. Our journey today was to take us to Hay-on-Wye as recommended to me by @_Sians who like me is a reader. On the way, as we drove through Tewkesbury we just felt compelled to park and investigate. What a glorious historical town with a fabulous mix of shops on the High Street and a variety of walks on the Severn and Avon. We were so glad afterwards that we had gone with our instincts and stopped. As a result we were late to Hay-on-Wye but it was so worth it.

In Hay we parked at the craft centre/tourist office car park, again following consultation with the local authority. Motorhomes are permitted to overnight here for 1/7 which is think is very reasonable. Once again, boots on and off we took to investigate. As we were so late most places were closed but OMG what a fabulous place for anyone who has an interest in books. Every second shop is a book shop and not just a run of the mill book shop but each one has a speciality. I could easily have spent weeks here. As we were passing we naturally had to stop for a drink. We returned later where we sat in front of an open fire with Rupert lying on a dog bed. This is a pub/hotel, very old and haunted and is a fascinating place. IMG_1263




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Day 5, Tuesday, NEC and Stratford-on-Avon

Day 5 Tuesday

An early start to get Rupert walked and we had to be out of the site by 10am. There were no shower facilities but our heater managed to get enough hot water for a decent wash. The car park was adjacent to the camping area so after a short drive, we settled Rupert and away we went into the show with my shopping list.

If you haven’t been to the NEC it is huge, fortunately I’ve been before at Crufts so knew to wear some sensible shoes and light clothing and bring my bottle of water. We stayed at the show until 3pm and saw enough. We were both glad we hadn’t seen the new MH’s before we bought ours, as OMG the fitting out on some of them has to be seen to be believed. Breakfast bars, marble work tops, you name it, they have it and the price to go with them. Still we are happy with what we have. I had a shopping list and was disappointed as only got about 1/3 of what I wanted. I could’ve bought some camping chairs but with the incessant rain I wasn’t bothered. I feel that much of the little things I’m looking for I will get online at similar prices. I did, however, buy external silver screens. I had been advised that these reduce the amount of condensation inside so thought it was worth a try. Also the internal silver screens we have are missing some loops in places. Now external screens can be a huge price, no, I didn’t splash out, got a mid-priced range and am happy to report that they are grand, not sure how long they’ll last but definitely reduce the problem with the condensation on the windscreen in the mornings. We were also looking for a 4 hub car light usb, best we could find was a double but did buy 2 double usb charging units so we can fully charge everything while we drive. I also bought a long lightening charger, works for phone but not for iPad so looks like I’ll have to buy an official one! One of the things we miss most on our travels is wifi so a lot of time was spent discussing options at 2 mifi stands. We left with nothing and it appears we might be better investigating the roaming arrangement 3 have. I know some people are happy to spend 2 days at these shows, we, in total, only spent about a ½ a day as we were out to Rupert a few times, he was fine, happy to sleep after all his walks. We ended up leaving before we had anticipated and headed to Stratford-upon-Avon. Once again we had been in contact with the local authorities and knew there was overnight parking at the Leisure Centre Car Park but with the wonky heater we had decided to check into a campsite so we headed to This is a lovely campsite with everything you would need apart from breakfast mid-week. It is situated on the river with boats that run every 30 mins into Stratford, as the last one was due to leave shortly we quickly parked up and we, including Rupert, hopped on the boat for our journey into Stratford.

I went to boarding school and as with many other schools there was a trip to go to Stratford, see a Shakespearian plan, visit Shakespears and Anne Hathaway’s house and return, however, I wasn’t allowed go – you’re in school to study not go on trips etc. so I was excited as we were coming into Stratford despite it still raining

What a lovely place to visit, we walked and walked then walked some more. The latest joke was my husband trying to buy the Irish Times. No matter what place we were in they only ever seemed to stock it one day a week and it was never on the day we were there. Same was true of Stratford and it looked like he was going to go into meltdown by not having his daily crossaire fix.

By now we were really enjoying taking Rupert into local pubs and Stratford was no exception. We decided to visit the oldest pub. Now there’s a huge debate about this and it boils down to two pubs, both of which are fantastic and very welcoming to both humans and four legged friends. claim to be the oldest pub but so also does The Garrick Inn, however, we were reliably informed that the Old Thatch Tavern had its licence first. I will leave it to the locals to fight amongst themselves and only say that both are worth a visit.IMG_1262

We returned to the campsite via the river walk, lovely walk although some of it is via the road and it was getting very dark, however, we arrived eventually.

Heater still not working, dealer insisting its bad gas!

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Day 4, Monday and our journey through the Peak District

Day 4 Monday

To be honest we were both a bit disappointed in Buxton, yes the scenery is fabulous but the town itself left us feeling a bit meh so we decided to visit Castleton which is considered the pick of the Peak District. Despite the incessant rain we could see the attraction. It is really a lovely place to visit with many caves to explore on boats and walking, wouldn’t interest me, and I felt it was the typical picture postcard village.

Sat nav – now is the time to share the sat nav fun. Intelligent – definitely not. It took us the most roundabout way to places imaginable, up and down narrow, one car roads and even a 15 deg hill. Nerve wracking isn’t the word. As our MH is a left hand drive, I was the one in the passenger seat constantly ducking and tensing as yet another lorry came towards us and I expected the mirror to go with it – never happened but I can guarantee I lost pounds and also lost much of the beautiful scenery due to my eyes being closed. We fiddled with the sat nav, doubled checked we were on fast route etc. but still we were taken up and down lanes that our car would struggle on. We managed. I didn’t drive. This was to continue for the remainder of the week so online maps were consulted whenever we could as we obviously didn’t have any hard maps with us, doh, memo to self, make sure we’ve road maps with us wherever we travel to. We are now also looking at buy a higher quality sat nav where we can input the MH proportions etc. thereby avoiding unsuitable roads. On a positive note we never hit a bridge we couldn’t be under but then again we do have a small, dinky MH.

Our plan on the Monday was to head to Birmingham as the Motorhome and Caravan Show 2014 was starting in the NEC the following day. The UK Caravan club had set up a temporary camping site and we had booked into this for one night. It was fine and I enjoyed wandering around checking out other MH’s. I’d never seen so many in one place.

The rain continued!

Heater is still very much hit and miss.

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Day 3 so time to head to Buxton

Day 3 Sunday

Our plan today was to drive to Buxton but we made a stopover en route at Rupert is used to his crate but we felt with the constant use it was going to damage something in the MH so the decision was made to buy a soft crate and a new food bowl! Now I had bought a very good quality one before at a show only to discover that there was a fault in one of the zips so it had been returned. IMG_1258On our way to Buxton we found what we were looking for, obviously you get what you pay for and this was substantially cheaper than our original one but it seemed fine and after all Rupert wasn’t a pup anymore so it was unlikely he would eat his way out of it. We had previously booked a night at This was our first time to stay in an official campsite and we were interested in how it would work. The staff were very friendly and we soon got sorted and decided to take off for a walk into Buxton through the peaks. My OH had read somewhere that we were only a mile and a half from the town – eh maybe as the crow flies! The talk of having a walk before dinner quickly went out the window and in Buxton I spotted a café offering student rates for a chip butty and can. Now you know yourself when you’re walking along, it’s now raining and getting dark, you’re feeling just a bit hungry and you see a sign for a chip butty well you just have to have it, like right now, not dream, nothing just get and eat. While OH is inside ordering I’m outside he’s told that they’re dog friendly and in we troop, sit and eat while Rupert gets some fish batter. Ooh glorious and why don’t they do that here. A long walk via road, back to MH, couple of glasses of wine – have I mentioned the wine before, we did have wine, just a few bottles, like you do, and we were all set for a night’s sleep. Out comes the new soft crate and you won’t believe me when I tell you that one of the zips was broken – talk about bad luck! We manoeuvred it so Rupert wouldn’t get out unless he was really desperate, he wasn’t, he was exhausted, again, and another good night’s sleep.

And there was rain, a lot of rain, we heard later that a months rain fell in 24 hours, back to the de bugging – we had no leaks, phew!

Following showers etc the following morning we packed up and off we went on our travels again.

Heater still playing up

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