Monthly Archives: October 2014

Nha Trang xxx

We loved Nha Trang! Voted as the 29th most beautiful bay in the world… Funny because after all we’d heard, I don’t think we really expected to love it as much as we did. Lots of people complain that the city is too touristy. Fine, it is a bit touristy (whatever that means anyway! what’s not to like? if you dislike lots of bars and choices of restaurant then go inland.. you’ll soon lose all of that!). We did over 400 km on our motorbikes through the Central Highlands, coming from places like Plie Kan in the middle of nowhere- from one extreme to the other- I know where I’d rather be!!.

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view from our hotel

view from our hotel

Also, everyone we talked to said it was ‘full of Russians’, like that’s a really bad thing (?) well… the Russians seemed nice enough to us: never rowdy and smartly dressed in the evening. They pretty much kept themselves to themselves. In fact, the worst behaviour we witnessed involved a group of British backpackers. They were gross: swearing, shouting that ‘the Russians’ were all rude and miserable, the girls were even worse than the boys. Think Magaluf. Quite honestly it was embarrassing.

We found a really good street food place that quickly became one of our favourites. It was the usual – plastic chairs on a street corner. A lady cooks your food to order right in front of you and it was so yummy! We went back several times.

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Our first hotel was the Phu Quy. Read it phonetically: ‘fook-you’ or going on how the staff treat you ‘f*ck-you’ might be more fitting! They really were terrible- either looking at you with a moderate level of disgust or (preferably) ignoring you completely! We’ve been in Vietnam nearly two months and I’m sorry to say but the service is seriously hit or miss. The Phu Quy Hotel was a mess. We checked out and into another guest house for £3.50 a night, and it was perfectly fine.

We spent quite a few days at the Louisiane Brewhouse. It was just over £1 each to rent a sun lounger, then you can use their pool for free. Jamie’s foot was almost completely better now too. We were very happy!

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A guy we met at the Brewhouse suggested a couple of good, cheap bars to us. We checked out the Watering Hole that evening and met an English guy named Steve who now lives in Nha Trang. He really looked after us while we were there. One day he took us to see a working temple on a hill that overlooks the city. We rode out through beautiful fields with grazing water buffalo and mountains in the background. Then up this little track to a reservoir where we sat and chilled for awhile. At the temple he showed us how to pray, and taught us the words. It was an amazing experience, very different to the temples you can visit in places like Hoi An. There it feels like nothing more than a tourist trap and everyone is using flash photography and talking loudly- no one covers up or removes their shoes. This place was different. It felt serene and peaceful. A hidden gem.

 

Nha Trang in the background

Nha Trang in the background

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Steve letting some cows cross the road...

Steve letting some cows cross the road…

 

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And we went up this little mountain track to a beautiful river, and a cafe in the thick of the jungle for an ice cold beer. On the ride home we went to Bai Dai beach- to a place owned by some French guys that Steve knew. Very beautiful. We’d never have seen any of this without a local’s knowledge, so thank you again Steve! We feel very privileged to be taken to such wonderfully hidden places . We miss you already!! We had such a good time just chilling too- drinking in the evenings, or just out to watch the football. It was one of those times when you meet someone and right away you just get along. Such a genuinely nice guy x

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Bai Dai beach

Bai Dai beach

burger with reblochon cheese on the menu!

burger with reblochon cheese on the menu!

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Unfortunately two of our days were wasted because I got food poisoning. First time so far so I guess I can count myself lucky- and guess what?! It was from a bloody hotdog!

After I’d gotten better Jamie treated me to a posh meal at the Sailing Club. We had a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon and watched the sunset over the ocean. Later we ended up in the Rooftop Bar (Steve’s place) and I had my first B52 shooter! They set it on fire!

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On our last night we went to the opening night of Steve’s friend’s bar. We had free steak and CHEESE!! I miss cheese so much- it’s so expensive here…. It was a lovely way to end our time in Nha Trang. We had so much fun there!

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Dalat

Dalat is a city like no other in Vietnam. The city was begun by the French as a mountain retreat and has been described as ‘like the French Alps in spring’. Surrounded by mountains, pine forests and lakes. Dalat is literally a breath of fresh air.

Nestled in the  South Central Highlands at abound 1,500 m above sea level, it’s much cooler up here than down on the coast. In fact, it was the first time we sat and (mildly amused by the fact) declared ourselves cold! Unfortunately the activities we had planned for this area were written off on account of Jamie’s foot: we really wanted to go canyoning (you abseil down through waterfalls and swim through rapids that form natural water-slides!). I hope one day we’ll go back and do all of this. It was such a shame but at least Jamie was getting better.

On the way up Jamie had to get the bus with Bell and I had a new riding partner. Our friends in Quy Nhon suggested we take the route in from Nha Trang as the road is better than the route from Cam Ranh, and- oh my goodness what a road! the climb is incredible and the traffic not too busy. You can literally feel the temperature dropping as you ascend!

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Our first night was in the Beepub hostel. There was live music downstairs every night, the staff were friendly and the whole place has a really quirky design.

 

 

I'm cold!! hahaha

I’m cold!! hahaha

charming little sink!

charming little sink!

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...I was allowed to!

…I was allowed to!

Dalat has such a good vibe, even though we were restricted with what we could do I’m glad we went- the nights of live music drinking in the Beepub were worth it!!

 

 

Recovery and Relaxation in Doc Let…

Following the snakebite, Jamie couldn’t put even the slightest weight on the foot for about a week. Our time at Doc Let consisted of sunbathing and playing in the pool. Thankfully after a couple of days J was able to sort-of-swim, we had lots of ‘no-legs’ swim races and handstand competitions! We’d bought a HDMI cable in Pleiku, so in the evenings we watched films and drank beer! He was still in lots of pain and the swelling kept creeping up his leg and then going down again. It was so horrible that there was nothing we could do but try and keep him cheerful, he put such a brave face on it all as well but I could tell it was getting him down. At least there isn’t really anything to do in Doc Let except relax, and the resort was lovely so we extended our stay and made the best of a bad situation.

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the fateful path where Jamie was bitten!

the fateful path where Jamie was bitten!

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Vietnamese Coffee

Had to say a quick word on this as its easily the best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted! If you want it white it comes in a glass with a dollop of condensed milk at the bottom, and on top of the glass sits a small single shot cafetiere. While you wait for the coffee to drip through you’re normally given a cup of iced Vietnamese tea to quench your thirst in the meantime. Once its done you add ice and you’re done. Its delicious! and its rocket fuel!!

 

Green Pit Viper Snakebite in Doc Let!!!!

8th of October, on a path in our hotel grounds in Doc Let, Jamie was bitten by a green pit viper. We’d had torrential rain for a couple of days and apparently the flooding can flush the snakes out.

It was early evening. Jamie and Dan were heading for the shop across the road for some beers. The snake was on the path and Jamie stepped on it. The snake bit him on the bony bit of his big toe (the place where you’d get a bunion). He said that at the time it felt like stepping on a bramble: a small pricking sensation, nothing more. The snake was about 20 inches, thin, and a vivid green colour with a red flick along the tip of its tail.
Almost immediately Jamie was surrounded by a dozen hotel staff, a tourniquet was tied just above the knee and the snake was promptly bashed to death and put in a bag- later to accompany us to A & E. Dan ran up to get me and I honestly thought he was joking! I said it was an awful joke and he was a terrible person to make up something like that… Sorry Dan! To be honest none of us took it very seriously until we saw the reactions of the Vietnamese. The memory is all a bit of a blur as we got bundled into a minibus and raced to the hospital. We didn’t take anything with us, everything got so hectic so quickly. Luckily Jamie had his wallet but we had no phones, no bags- I didn’t even have my shoes! (a thankyou to Bell who pretty much threw hers into the minibus for me!). We didn’t get any pictures of the snake but the images I’ve attached are an exact match to give you an idea.

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We pulled into Doc Let hospital at about 6:15pm. The took Jamie’s blood pressure and looked at the snake then told us almost immediately that we needed to go to Nha Trang where there is a bigger hospital.

I kid you not the drive was absolutely terrifying. We really thought it was all over at least twice. We were topping 120 kph which is insane on these roads. Our driver was very talented though, I don’t believe anyone could have gotten us there any quicker.

At about 7:15pm we arrived at Nha Trang A & E. Through the main doors the emergency room is basically the area immediately in front of you. There was a man of a bed next to us that I think had been in a motorbike accident: he had a massive gash on his head and was covered in blood with really awful grazes all up his legs. Anyone who knows Jamie probably doesn’t need me to point out that he is not very good with blood and that kind of thing! Poor J. His foot had begun to swell but the pain was only moderate at this stage. The hotel staff that came with us were still very worried. Around this time I think Jamie and I had begun to appreciate how serious the situation really was and we were frightened. For Jamie, his fear of needles was about to make things much worse. He had two jabs: one in his arm and one in the bum. His poor face when they asked him to undo his belt and roll over- he looked at me and he’s like ‘why?’, I made up some lie to distract him and then it was done. Turns out for future reference it’s his preferred jab site! No one around us spoke any English. A guy was hovering around the bed with the dead snake still swinging around in a little plastic bag. Then, it twitched and he yelped and lobbed it on the floor!! Honestly, things felt so crazy and unreal, I think otherwise I’d almost definitely of been crying. Instead, I was too worried about trying to comfort Jamie who at this point could see he was about to get stuck for a third time. Anyone who knows him knows how bad his phobia of needles is. If it wasn’t for his mum I don’t think he’d ever even of agreed to get the vaccinations for this trip. When I saw the nurse put a tourniquet around his arm and an empty syringe on her tray I lied to him again. He’s panicking again and asking ‘what’s she doing now?!’, so I just said ‘make a fist, it’s another quick injection’. I knew he’d hate the blood test but they had to identify the venom even though we brought the snake with us. We were told later that it probably ended up in a local market to make a snake-wine!!

I think even now we thought we’d be going home that night but it was far from over. We were told he would need to stay at least one night and we were taken to a private room with two single beds so I could stay with him. The hotel owner arrived with an overnight bag for us. She brought water, food and toiletries for us both and kept trying to assure us everything would be ok. The spa manager would stay with us all night as our translator.

After more blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate checks a doctor arrived. He seemed quite relaxed about the whole thing and said that Jamie would be ‘under observation’ all night, we were to watch out for chest pains and any shortness of breath. Then, almost as a passing comment he told us that ‘kidney failure quite common after snake bite’ (!!!) he kept nodding and agreeing it was going to hurt a lot, then he high-fives Jamie and walks out!!!!!
By this time J was in tremendous pain. It was awful. The man with us lent me his phone and I called home and told his parents.
Jamie was asking for some pain relief as it was getting unbearable. A nurse arrived with the set up to put him on a drip. Initially this was point blank refused by J but I managed to convince him. Sorry Jamie! I lied again and told him the nurse said it would last just 30 minutes. It came out fourteen hours later. (We may have some small trust issues to work on after all this ((hahaha)) but all I cared about was that Jamie would be ok.) Jamie was given paracetamol through the drip then 2 L of glucolyte (or something like that, I can’t remember exactly). The pain got a little better while the foot was up and resting but the problem was that the drip kept making him need the toilet and as soon as he lowered the foot he was in agony again. Surprisingly, we managed to catch a few hours sleep. It’s funny- we’d been talking about getting up one morning soon to watch the sunrise in Nha Trang. I was up to see it that morning and I remember standing at the window thinking ‘its not quite what we had in mind!’.
Jamie was put on an ECG at about 7am (consisting partly of four clamps that look exactly like the grips on a car jump lead to grip his ankles and wrists). Because the results and all the tests throughout the night had been ok the doctor told us we could go. The anti-venom had been flown up from Ho Chi Minh City but they are reluctant to administer it because apparently it is really bad for you and can cause serious problems afterwards. Then, because Jamie’s foot still really hurt when he lowered it a nurse decided we should stay another night. The hotel owner was with us and she felt we would be more comfortable at the hotel where she would make sure we were well looked after. She also promised that if anything were to change she would ensure we had a private car on standby to take us back to the hospital immediately. She translated that the only concern was further injury caused as a result of the pain, like if he fell over or something. Needless to say we wanted to go home. After much thought we discharged ourselves. I had to sign some forms and write a disclaimer that basically said if anything were to happen to Jamie now it was entirely my responsibility!
We got back that afternoon and although Jamie was still in lots of pain nothing else scary happened.
It’s been twelve days since he was bitten and he’s been limping about for three days now. The foot is still very bruised and the swelling comes and goes. We are very grateful to be ok and we pay a lot more attention to where we’re walking now!!!!! We think this kind of thing won’t happen but it does… at least we got a story out of it xxx

Tuy Hoa

After 5 hours of riding (two punctures and horrible roads) we’d managed to get the 80 km to Tuy Hoa. It was completely dark by the time we arrived in the town and we couldn’t find our hotel for ages. Needless to say we were a little fed up by the time we finally checked into the Thuy Thien. Things got brighter though. The room was only £5 for the night and actually quite nice, we’ve stayed in worse for double the cost. The staff were friendly and helpful. The guy on the desk collected foreign coins so we gave him some spare change we had- he wanted to give us Vietnamese Dong in return but it was only worth about £1.20. Plus he looked so chuffed I just wanted him to have it! Later on he insisted on giving us beers, waters and fruit plate in return. It may not be a very nice thing to say but hotel staff in Vietnam are not always very friendly- most are but some are pretty rude. The reception we received at the Thuy Thien made us feel so welcome and it made such a difference after the day we’d had.

perfectly nice room for £5 a night!

perfectly nice room for £5 a night!

We ventured out but struggled to find anywhere for dinner- we’d left it too late. In the end we just pulled over at a locals place for a beer, we were expecting them to have finished serving. A group of guys were playing guitar and singing (and drinking lots of beer!) they had song-sheets they were passing around and asked me if I wanted a go! I think it was a locals karaoke night.

To our delight we were given menus and had a delicious meal. The owners were sat out front chatting with the locals and we were made to feel very welcome.Their fourteen year old daughter spoke incredibly good English and was such a little darling! We are now all Facebook friends! We chatted to her for ages- she was honestly adorable and we were so impressed by her English. She could teach some hotel receptionists a thing or two about customer service! She told us she wants to be a translator; I think she’ll get there with no problem!

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We lingered there in an attempt to wait out a downpour. But it rained and rained and rained! By the time we left the roads were ankle deep. The ride home was pretty sketchy! Tomorrow we head for Doc Let and some much needed luxury!

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Ganh Da Dia: The Cliff of Stone Plates

We took a detour as we rode between Quy Nhon and Tuy Hoa to visit this rock formation, The formations are like those found at Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Apparently there are more than 35,000 of these stone pillars along the cliff. Looking at it as you walk down the path it looks like a huge beehive; the plates sit like a puzzle. As tired and dusty as we were it was an impressive to place to stop and appreciate the beauty of the evening.

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