After Spending 9 hours on a motorbike to get from Moc Chau to Sa Pa we were ready to settle down and spend some good quality time in one place to let our butts rest! As we drove into Sa Pa ready to get a goods night rest we realized just how large Sa Pa really was. Our first impression of the city from the short drive to our hotel was that tourism has really hit Sa Pa hard! So much construction has completely taken over the city, every corner you turn to there is new buildings going up, sidewalks being reworked, remodels of old hotels & restaurants and so much dirt and debris filling the air and streets. We stayed one night in the city and decided that it was too much for us so we found a homestay about 15km from the city where we could escape the hustle and bustle of the growing center.
Our homestay (Stunning View Homestay) was nestled in the semi quiet area across from Ta Van Village. (It was right off the road which was convenient but a little noisy) For the price we could not beat it as it was $7 USD for a private room with breakfast for both of us included (with coffee too!) One thing to note, we witnessed the housekeeping not changing sheets in between guests. When one guest checked out they simply dusted off the bed folded the blanket and invited the next guests in. After that we used our own sheets and blankets that we brought as we couldn’t trust how many people have slept on the same sheets without being changed in between. They are a newly opened homestay, so of course we mentioned to them some things they could change, which they appreciated.
The best thing about the homestay were the people we met and the food that was cooked. We finally after a month on the road in Vietnam, met some ladies from America (Lexi from Washington & Jen from Oregon) and a sweet couple from England (Emily and Fin) whom we roamed about with during our 5 days in the village. We had a very eventful few days, exploring around the villages, visiting Silver Falls, walking around Sa Pa trying to find the best deals on outdoor gear for everyone, and eating our fair share of wonderful food and coffee.
We took some time yesterday and stopped for an oil change and a carb clean on the motorbike before settling in for the night ( the shop was right down the road from our homestay) The gentleman was so kind and young, him and Lucas instantly connected and chatted away via google translate. As he finished up our oil change and carb clean he kindly invited us to join him and his family for a home cooked dinner, so of course we accepted. We sat around the table eating a delicious home cooked vietnamese meal laughing the night away with this sweet young couple and there 4 year old son.
Today we went out for one last trek around the villages and had three young girls help us along the path to our destination, surprisingly they spoke english fairly well they made us crowns out of ferns and horses out of stems from the ferns. They were so sweet and very talented!
Our time in Sapa has come to an end today after 6 total days. We will surely miss our new friends but will forever remember our wonderful adventure in Sa Pa.
This time in-between our stops we just had a 4 hour bus ride instead of 10-11 hours like we’ve been used to. From Hoi an to Hue was just a short drive with great scenery so it passed by very quickly. We stayed in Hue for 3 nights and we could of stayed many more. The hostel was family run and were always there to help no matter the issue or if you just wanted to sit and chat with a cup of coffee they were willing and ready. Very easy going people who made our stay very enjoyable.
The first day we rented motorbikes and rode to the abandoned water park outside of Hue with a few friends we met from Canada, Carly and Kendra. We zipped all around the eerie park, climbed to the top of the dragons mouth and even slid down the empty waterslides. This attraction was definitely the highlight of our trip to Hue, and was completely free, short of the motorbike rental and fuel. The four of us jumped on our motorbikes and slowly started heading back towards town to the Thien Mu Pagoda which held some impressive statues and even a golden buddha! It was constructed over 400 years ago in the 1600’s and had some amazing craftsmanship work and even overlooks the famous Perfume river. It is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam standing an incredible 7 stories high (21 meters or 69 feet).
The second day we sat around the hostel and caught up on the blog and on the budget which we were writing down on paper until we found out about the amazing budget app Trail Wallet. You put in your expenses each day and it breaks it down into each category and averages out your total expenses. It also allows you to type in your expense in one currency and it automatically shows you what it is in your home currency (USD). So much easier than trying to keep track with pen and paper!
Later we met up with Craig and Olga for lunch and dinner who we met in Saigon originally. We found some amazing burgers just a short walk from the hostel and some not so good spaghetti that we had to wash the taste out of our mouths with some ice-cream! (can you tell we were trying to get some western food after all the noodles and rice we’ve been eating LOL)
On our last day the bus didn’t arrive until 5pm so we rented another motorbike through the hostel and drove out to “bunker hill”! We checked out a few old concrete bunkers with bullet holes from the Vietnam/American war that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s. As we walked around we spotted some monks that were studying and enjoying some tea while overlooking the Perfume river. On our way back to town we stopped by the Incense village when Cynthia learned the process of how they make the colorful incense sticks that are used for religious and traditional ceremonies.
On our way back to Hue from the American bunker hill we stopped to grab a bite to eat at a small local street food stand. There we walked up to a large group of students who had just graduated and were celebrating. They welcomed us over as they clapped and cheered as we sat down with them. They kept pouring us glasses of beer and shared there food with us as we exchanged conversation for a few hours with the few that knew some english as the others translated through each other and listened carefully. Hue turned out to be an amazing 4 days!
When we researched Hoi An, what caught my eye were the beautiful lit up lanterns that lined the streets at night and the bold history of the ancient town. It just looked like a really neat, cool vibe city.
When we arrived on our bus at 6:30am we walked around scoping out a place to stay for the next week. We found a nice family run homestay on a “quiet” street with a private room and A/C for just $8 US per night. (We negotiated price down $2 per night). What we didn’t know at the time was that the traffic would wake us up at 6:30am each morning, there was construction going on across the street, there was no blanket offered (just a flat sheet), we would be offered the same breakfast each and every morning (which after the second day the baguette, fried eggs and same fruit got kinda old) and the large family was pretty loud at night downstairs, especially their son who constantly cried (we were on the top floor and still were able to hear him with our door shut). One of the first days we were there we took a mid day nap and woke up to one of the ladies opening our door to clean the filters out of the A/C. No knock, just came right on in 🙂 And from what we were told by the room next door, they had suspicion someone was coming into their room and turning off the ac each time they left the home because it would always be off when they returned. After that we took our personal gear with us each day and kept just our clothing and basic stuff at the homestay. The hardest thing about our stay here was the language barrier with the owners, only one lady spoke english and seemed to be gone most of the time so when we had a question or needed something we had to wait for her to come back. We tried to use our translator app on the phone but they didn’t want to use it and insisted we wait for the lady to return. We planned on staying a week here but after a few days we were ready to move on, I don’t think Lucas would be able to deal with another morning of fried eggs, baguette and dragon fruit.
Even though our homestay wasn’t everything we were hoping, the city ended up being really neat, especially at night when the town was lit up and the air was filled with the aroma of street food cooking. The center market was always in full motion throughout the day and night, and it hosted some of the cheapest food we could find in the area so we spent each day walking down there at least once as there was so much to see there.
One of the top things in Hoi An that we wanted to visit was the My Son sanctuary, it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip here in Hoi An. We rented a motorbike for the day and drove an hour and a half one way to see the amazing abandoned hindu temples that were built. The scooter ride there was definitely a little more scary than our last rental in Da Lat as the drivers here in Hoi An are so much worse! 🙂 A lot of history there between the Vietnamese and the Americans, as thats were a few bombs landed during the war in 1960. You could still see one of the bomb craters on site and the ruins and exhibits are really fascinating to walk around. At one time, the site encompassed over 70 temples as well as inscriptions in Sanskrit and Cham languages which were showcased in the exhibition hall.
One of the best things about our homestay was it was right on the river, so a night walk on the boardwalk was a great way to end each night (minus the humidity which made you sweat 5 min into your walk!) But overall our stay in Hoi An was a good mix of things, from relaxing at the homestay (when it was quiet) to site seeing during the days to nice strolls along the river at night.