Hanoi and Phong Nha in Vietnam

We arrived in Hanoi late afternoon on Friday 31st July but didn’t have anywhere to stay so we shared a taxi with a Chile couple we met at the airport to the Old Quarter which is the backpacker hub of Hanoi. We got out at their hotel as we knew we would be able to have a look around and find somewhere quite easily. Natalie wasn’t feeling very well so we decided to get a private room for one night and found a small hotel on one of the main streets, Mai May. We went for a wander to get our bearings and had dinner in a great little restaurant called Linh’s Kitchenwhere you can cook your own food. It was a little bit pricey but you got a lot for your money and the food was delicious.

 

We had the Korean BBQ option which was chicken, beef and pork belly with vegetables that you cook on your own hob. We then continued to walk around the city and enjoyed some music by a group performing in the middle of the street. As Natalie wasn’t feeling great we had a relaxed evening in the room catching up on the vlogs Jordan had missed due to the awful wifi in Sri Lanka.

The next day we missed breakfast in our hotel as we were both knackered and slept in so we went in search of food. We found a nice restaurant called Gecko that was still doing breakfast so we decided to eat there. It was then time to find a hostel to stay in as we needed to save our money. We originally went to Downtown Backpackers Hostel which looked really lively and fun but they didn’t have any rooms so we kept walking to find Hanoi Rocks Hostel which also seemed really cool and booked two nights there. We were still knackered from the flight the day before so we had an afternoon nap in some of the comfiest beds ever! If you want a good night sleep in a hostel in Hanoi, we definitely recommend Hanoi Rocks. That night we went for dinner at Lantern Restaurant which was recommended by a couple in our dorm. They raved about it but we didn’t think it was anything special. We also had a massage (has to be done in South East Asia!) in Happy Salon and then Jordan had a few drinks in Backpackers Hostel. Natalie still wasn’t feeling great so she stuck with water but it was still a fun night. When we got to Backpackers hostel at about 10:30pm we wondered why everyone was so drunk already, but then when last orders came at 11:30pm we realised why. Backpackers Hostel is only really somewhere to go to start the night and then move on afterwards.

On our third day in Hanoi Natalie felt as though she needed a pamper after feeling ill the last few days, so (after a slightly disappointing breakfast in Hanoi Rocks, which was included in the price of the room) she went back to Happy Salon and got her nails and eyelashes done as a treat. We then went to a really cool gym we found in the centre of the city called Fusion Bodyworks which was huge and brand new. It had all the latest equipment and we both had a really good workout. We’d worked up an appetite and we wanted something cheap to eat so we found a very small restaurant called Mr Tom’s for lunch which was such good value – a bowl of beef Pho was only 30 dong, less than £1. The rest of the afternoon we chilled at the hostel and then went back to Linh’s Kitchen for dinner with some people from our hostel as we had raved about it so much to them. Like most things, it wasn’t as good the second time. The staff completely forgot our food and they didn’t have great English so couldn’t understand us. It took us over 45 minutes to actually get them to understand what we meant. After that nightmare with our dinner and Jordan getting “hangry” we both needed a drink, so we went out with a couple from our hostel to Backpackers hostel, then on Hangover Bar, and finally Hero Bar. For most of the night though the boys sat on the side of the road next to a massive keg of beer which cost 5,000 Dong per glass. For every one vodka and orange that us girls were having, the boys could have bought four beers for the same price! Woops! 

We spent our last day in Hanoi hungover, chilling in the hostel with our friends, and writing the blog, before catching the night bus to Phong Nha.   

The night bus to Phong Nha was actually quite comfortable and we both had a fairly decent sleep. We arrived early morning (about 4am) and had breakfast at our hostel called Easy Tiger. We had time to kill until check in so we got together with some other backpackers checking in that day and went on boat trip to Phong Nha Cave and Tien Son Cave. We left from Son Trach village and the boat cruised along the Son river past bathing buffalo, colourful houses and church steeples to the cave’s mouth.

‘Phong Nha’ means ‘Cave of Teeth’, but the ‘teeth’ (stalagmites) by the entrance are long gone. The engine was cut and we were paddled through the cave looking at the beautifully lit stalagmites and stalactites. The cave is one of the biggest caves in the world. We then got off the boat and climbed up A LOT of steps (330 to be precise) up to Tien Son Cave, a dry cave in the mountainside. It was very cool inside and fun to walk around.

 

Once we got back to the mainland we had a late lunch with everyone on the boat at Bamboo Cafe. The special fried rice and pork kebab was really good but we had to wait a long time for them (and we were starving! Standard). It was then time to chill by the pool for a bit and catch up with friends and family. There’s not very many restaurants or places to drink in Phong Nha but we didn’t want to eat in our hostel as it was a bit pricier so we went for dinner at a small, local restaurant with Natalie and Fliss from our room. This could have been a big mistake – Both Natalie’s had chicken for dinner but shortly after eating we saw a man plucking the chicken on the men’s bathroom floor! We definitely thought we were on a time bomb but luckily we were both ok the next day. After dinner we had some drinks in our hostel and then bed.

On Wednesday we rented a moped and drove to Dark Cave where we zip wired into the cave and then climbed through the cave covered in mud and chilled/floated in the mud pool for a while with Natalie and Fliss and the rest of our group. It was really fun climbing through the squelchy mud and getting more and more covered in the clay. The mud pool was very slippery and you could float really easily so it was hard to move through it. We then climbed back through the cave and slid down into the fresh water to wash the mud off. Our guide then told us to swim from one end of the cave to the other. Once we did, he asked us all to turn our head lights off and we swam back in darkness. Very freaky, especially when you could feel a hand on your arm or leg – we were all swimming fairly close to each other. But luckily we could see the light at the end of the tunnel *ba-dum-tshh*.

We then kayaked to an area where there was more zip lines and an obstacle course in the air so you fall in the water. Jordan successfully attempted a backflip off of the zip wire, and unsuccessfully attempted the obstacle course – falling after the second obstacle. The scenery in Phong Nha whilst we were driving around was stunning. It really reminded us why we love South East Asia so much.

When we got back we had lunch at the hostel which was good and the rest of the day we chilled by the pool and Natalie posted another blog. We had dinner at the hostel that night too as we couldn’t be bothered to move. We both had the Vietnamese paella which was delicious! After chatting to some people we had an early night as we were getting up for 4:30am to catch the bus to Hue.