70 Facts: Our Four Month Backpacking Trip

backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

It’s hard to summarise in words everything we’ve done so the best way to showcase it is through some facts… 

Travel

 
117 hours of self driving
44 hours of coach journeys
26 public bus rides
15 flights
14 boat trips
12 rented bicycles
11 train journeys
1 crazy tuk tuk

Accommodation

21 Hostels
15 Hotels
8 Air bnb’s
2 Boat sleeps
1 Sleeper train
1 Airport sleep
1 Tent

Highs

42 cities/towns
29 beaches
16 amazing sunsets
15 lakes
12 waterfalls
7 countries
7 temples
6 museums
5 kayaking trips
5 snorkelling trips
4 rides down the luge
3 caves
2 paddle board sessions
2 mountain bike rides
2 shooting stars
1 surfing lesson
1 shot over jet ride
1 cliff jump
1 whale watch
1 black water rafting experience
1 mountain climbed
1 game of mini golf
1 trip to the zoo
Infinite amounts of walking and hikes

Lows

13 bug exterminations
3 bouts of The Bali belly
2 bouts of The Thai tummy
2 bouts of The Saigon squirts
2 packets of Imodium
2 scars
1 foot wound
1 leg wound
1 earthquake
1 missed flight
1 monsoon
1 migraine
1 lost bum bag (later found in a basket)
Infinite insect bites
Infinite repacking of bags

Miscellaneous

109 days without any major fallouts
60 litres of sweat
60 unnecessarily bought protein bars
19 nationalities befriended
18 dogs we named Alfie
14 books read
14 bottles of suncream
7 vodka buckets
6 massages
4 haircuts
4 near death experiences crossing roads
2 kisses from a ladyboy
1 new year in Thailand
1 birthday
1 anniversary
Infinite amounts of street 

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@jamiedenison1993

109 Days Later 

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

Well, it’s finally upon us and I cannot believe this is the final blog but we certainly ended this incredible adventure on a high. We booked onto a two day, one night cruise around Halong Bay. As I mentioned in the previous post, by paying for the top ship known as the ‘Dragon Legend’, we were allowed access to the unexplored Bai Tu Long Bay where only two boats are allowded to sail (this is in direct contrast to the two hundred boats that have access to the main section of Halong Bay). It was worth every penny from the moment we stepped on board. The room was twenty seven square metres with a king size bed and five star furnishings, it had a jacuzzi bath with panoramic views of the islands. The food was seven courses at every meal and consisted of fresh seafood the crew members caught. We always dined on the outdoor deck as we slowly passed all the islands around the bay (one thousand nine hundred and sixty to be precise). 

The first day we sailed to one of the islands, departed the boat for kayaks and then made our way across the still ocean to a secluded beach where we relaxed for an hour or so. It was quite surreal that we were the only people in the world on a paradise island in the middle of Vietnam! After another incredible seven course dinner we did some night time squid fishing and although we were unsuccessful, the crew managed to catch a few which were served for lunch the following day. 

The second day (after an absolutely glorious sleep) we sailed to a cave (again only two companies are allowed in it as opposed to up to four hundred people in the main halong bay caves) and saw some pretty stunning views from the top. We met some really cool people on the cruise and this, combined with the night time Vietnamese musical performance from the staff, the exceptional food and perfect weather, it was the best end we could have had for our travels. On the four hour drive back to Hanoi, we all converged at a local water puppet show and watched an impressive performance which demonstrated the culture and lives of the Vietnamese population, all illustrated by handmade puppets. 

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Lanterns Of The Night

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

So after 10 hours on the sleeper train sharing with a family of Vietnamese above us we arrived into Hoi An pretty shattered. Hoi an is definitely Vietnam at it’s finest. The beaches are paradise, there are working water buffalo and rice paddies all around, miles of vibrant green in every direction, all viewed from bicycles which we took out for the day. As you can see from the video, the roads remained pretty manic and it wasn’t perhaps the safest mode of transport but it was definitely a highlight of the country. 

As impressive as the day time is, visiting An Bang Beach for instance, what really makes Hoi An special is the night scene. Every single evening, thousands of lanterns are displayed in the ancient town and can be seen from miles away. You walk through a floating world of these multi coloured displays to find your restaurant and then have dinner while you listen to the locals play music and perform shows, it was genuinely stunning. We went here both nights of our stay and have also decided Vietnamese food has surpassed thai food for us!

Our final domestic flight came after the short but brilliant stop in Hoi An. Another standard early start to the airport, accompanied by a strange Vietnamese breakfast and we made it to the capital Hanoi! We can’t quite believe that this is our last major stop before our return home but have made the most of our time in order to squeeze as much in as possible. This included a trip to Hoa Lo prison which was used both in the French colonisation of Vietnam and the American war. The prison still contained the guillotine used to behead revolters and all the cells on ‘death row’. It also displayed the actual sewer that over 100 prisoners managed to escape from (how grown men fit through those spaces is crazy). We also took a trip to the women’s war museum which showed the impact and contribution women all over the country made during the brutalities of the war.

I cannot believe I am writing this but our final activity of the incredible four month trip is a visit to the world heritage site ‘Halong Bay’ on a one night two day cruise on a ship called the Dragon Legend. The boat is one of a very small number who are allowed to travel around the unexplored ‘Bai Tu Long Bay’ which is off the beaten track from the hordes of boats which now saturate mainstream Ha Long Bay. We feel this will be a special way to end the trip and the pot noodle dinners are not a particularly difficult burden to bear. We will let you all know how it goes and include it in the final blog before we make our way back to home soil.  

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Time For A Bit Of History

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

It’s scary how quickly time has passed us by and that in in a few days time our final week of the four month adventure will be over. We’ve definitely saved one of the best stops until last in Vietnam and are already half way up this beautiful country. 

Up first was the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh city where we stayed for two nights. As a prime spot for robberies and taxi scams we kept our wits about us more than ever. A few little tricks like playing google maps on full volume at the start of a journey seemed to do the trick. As we only really had one full day in Ho Chi Minh we had to maximise time and therefore had a full day of activities planned. First stop was the famous war remnants museum which illustrates all the awful incidents and war crimes which occurred from a Vietnamese perspective (a lot of people think the Viet Cong were ruthless but after seeing what the Americans did it is seems it was a pretty level playing field). As sad as it was, the museum was really interesting and had war tanks, planes and helicopters that the Americans left behind. There were also genuine photographs of the continued effects of agent orange which still impacts two generations of Vietnamese families.

Next up was the Cu Chi tunnels which were absolutely brilliant to see. Our tour guide took us through the jungle where we saw just a snippet of the endless tunnels built by the Vietnamese and crucial in their efforts to repel the Americans. He showed us how all the Americans weapons and equipment was constantly recycled into deadly traps laid out amongst the tunnels, we also got to try the potato meals they lived off. As you can see from the picture, I volunteered to go inside a genuine tunnel (the ones tourists usually enter have been widened as a couple of people died of heart attacks in them). It was an extremely tight squeeze and when they shut the lid it was a weird sensation to think people lived in them for years (30 seconds was enough for me). We finished with a lovely claustrophobic 60 metre walk through the tunnel and popped up out of one of the many concealed exits.

A quick 30 minute flight took us to Da Lat which was quiet but stunning. Although this stop wasn’t jam packed with activities, we had some great meals including a picnic by the lake, met some cool people in the world’s strangest/most dangerous bar and visited the ‘Crazy House’. So this bar we came across on trip advisor was called 100 roofs and they were not lying. You enter into what can only really be described as a cave, buy your drinks and then are free to literally ‘get lost’. There were just so many exits and routes to take, down small tunnels and then up some very tight spaces in the roof (not a good place for anybody with claustraphobia). There were two toilets but they took us about half an hour to find as they are situated deep inside the maze… Surprisingly there is a pretty social atmosphere inside, mainly because you end up asking every other randomer for directions with each person knowing as little as the next. We hit it off with some Londoners and spent most of the night with them.

We sweated out the hangover the following morning and caught the public bus for 4 hours to Nha Trang which was interesting to say the least. You have an arched bed on two tiers which caused both Brogan and myself some travel sickness as it’s not natural to be laid down so high on a bus but we eventually got over that and relaxed. The buses have a fairly bad reputation for crashing and theft but all we experienced was excessive honking of the horn and a few of the usual long stares at the Westerners. One thing we weren’t expecting when we were told about the ‘toilet stop’ was that the bus literally just stopped in the middle of some tarmac and about 10 old ladies got off the bus, whipped their trousers down and squatted their bare bums in front of the entire bus (you’ve got to admire their distinct lack of care for what people think). When the yellow waterfall was finished, we carried on and made it to Nha Trang.

There wasn’t a great deal here other than a nice beach, a theme park and some relaxation. The last of our brutal journeys is now over as we have just completed a ten hour train journey in the soft sleeper berths (we’ve been up since 3am). This afternoon we will have made it to Hoi An and that leaves two more stops before the journey back to reality begins. 

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