Tag Archives: Vietnam

Quang Binh Province, Vietnam – Part Eight

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The region is bordered by the Laotian Khammouane Province to the west, the North Pacific Ocean to the east, Hà Tĩnh Province to the north and Quảng Trị Province to the south is home to the World Heritage Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park.
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And it’s the A Team who are going out on the Adventure trip today whereby they’ll be kayaking, swimming and climbing. On occasion they’ll be in complete darkness – you can see I’m not joining them.

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Instead the remainder of us feel a more comforting day out would be to head off to Son Doong Caves by way of boats on the river.

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Wonderful scenery all the way.

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With our guides who are taking us in long boats through to the main network. Incredible stalactites ahead of us.

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Son Doong cave (Vietnamese: Hang Son Doong) is the world’s largest cave located in Son Trach, Bo Trach District. It was found by a local man named Ho Khanh in 1991 and was recently discovered in 2009 by British cavers led by Howard Limbert.

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Son Doong cave is hidden in the rugged Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park near the border with Laos, there’s approximately 150 or so caves, many still not surveyed in the Annamite Mountains.

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Once out we’re treated to some lunch and there’s some souvenir shops around as well.

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Now we’re back where we started in the morning and ready for some ziplining.

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Dressed for the part but unfortunately I piked out … Not known for being a sport when it comes to adventurous outings, especially when it includes heights. Yes, I know I’m tall but that’s my limit – clumsy enough as it is …

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Everyone who took the opportunity to Zipline and then soak in a mud bath really did have a fab time.

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Back at Sun Spa, it’s been a big day out and so worth the effort, time to cool off in the sea breeze.

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End of the day comparing notes with each other and finding out about our different activities during the day, especially having a cocktail is one we all agreed on!

Hue to Quang Binh Province, Vietnam – Part Seven

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Typical sunset in Vietnam – overlooking the Huong River Hue.

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An integral part of any travel agent’s expertise is to view hotel rooms and site inspections offering potential clients a first-hand experience of the property.

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Site Inspection at the Century Riverside Hotel in Hue which has 135 room and incredible value when you compare the price of hotels outside of Vietnam.

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Looking out over the Truong Tien Bridge and fast-flowing Huong River.

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One of the most popular attractions in this romantic city, a boat ride or cruise on the “Perfume’ River at night is included in a lot of classic city tours.

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Next day we’re heading north to the Quang Binh Province.

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Stopped off for a break to find some of Australia’s native trees’ leaves being boiled up. You guessed it … Eucalyptus oil in the making.

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It’s ok, we didn’t ‘get high’ on any of it. Just happy to have a pit stop.

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The Railway System in Vietnam was established over a hundred years ago by the French colonist in the past century, then recovered and further developed by the Vietnamese Government after the Reunification in 1975. The Vietnamese railway system now has the total length of about 2.600 kilometres, connecting most cities and provinces all over Vietnam including many cultural, societal and tourism destinations from the North to the South of Vietnam.

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We’re fast heading towards the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – better known as the ‘Kingdom of Caves’.

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A warm welcome from the staff at Sun Spa Resort on the banks of the Nhat Le River.

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Lovely Zen feel to this property.

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Ummm wish this was my bathroom at home …

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This property is also on the edge of the Bao Ninh Beach.

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A delectable bite to eat and the desserts in Vietnam are my favourite, not overly sweet and to be enjoyed with a coffee.

Soon we’ll see the UNESCO World Natural Heriage Site of the Natural Park nearby. Stay tuned.

Imperial Citadel, Hue – Part Six

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Floating along Huong River on the Dragon Boat gives you an insight to everyday life and fishing is a major part of it.

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I don’t think this Dragon boat likes being tied up. We’re now on our way up the hill to the Imperial Citadel and surrounds.

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Stunning views looking back over the river.
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Photo opportunity and you literally have to line up for your turn.

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The Bell in the Ngo Mon Gate.

Hue, the city of imperial palaces and tombs is on most travellers’ itineraries when they visit Vietnam. The city’s most famous attraction is the ancient Imperial Citadel and the Imperial Enclosure within – it’s home of Vietnam’s last royal dynasty, the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1945).

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In the early 19th century the Emperor Gia Long consulted geomancers to find the best place to build a new palace and citadel. They chose the present site at Hue. The Emperor wished to recreate in an abbreviated form a replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

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The Emperor decided to locate his own palace within the walls of the citadel along the east side nearest the river. A second, smaller set of walls and moat defined the area of the “Purple Forbidden City,” where the Emperor built a network of palaces, gates and courtyards serving as his home and the administrative core of the Empire.

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By the time the last Emperor of Vietnam stepped down in the mid 20th century, the Purple Forbidden City had acquired many dozens of pavilions and hundreds of rooms. Although improperly maintained, the city suffered from frequent termite and typhoon damage.

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During the Vietnam War, Huế’s central location very near the border between the North and South put it in a vulnerable position. In the Tết Offensive of 1968, during the Battle of Huế, the city suffered considerable damage not only to its physical features, but its reputation as well, due to a combination of the American military bombing of historic buildings held by the North Vietnamese, as well as the massacre at Huế committed by the communist forces. After the war’s conclusion, many of the historic features of Huế were neglected because they were seen by the victorious regime and some other Vietnamese as “relics from the feudal regime”; the Vietnamese Communist Party doctrine officially described the Nguyễn Dynasty as “feudal” and “reactionary.” There has since been a change of policy and many historical areas of the city are currently being restored.

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Our guide gave us an in-depth tour of the surrounds highlighting as much as possible in a short time. Make sure you take the day to explore as there’s so much to take in and enjoy.

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Peace and serenity is amplified within the grounds.

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Monuments were inscribed in the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage in 1993.

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Famously in 1963, Thích Quảng Đức drove to Saigon to protest anti-Buddhist policies of the South Vietnamese government and set himself on fire on a Saigon street.

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Hue was based on both a physical and spiritual foundation from the turn of the 19th century.
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In Huế, Buddhism is taken a bit more seriously than elsewhere in Vietnam, with more monasteries than anywhere else and the nation’s most famous monks.
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At times abandoned children are taken in and cared for. During adolescence they are given a choice if this is the life they wish to pursue.

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A plethora of relics.

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Duyet Thi Duong Theatre within the grounds cannot be missed and is known for its superb performances and exquisite architecture.

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The oriental traditional court music has been uniquely conserved in Hue.

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Royal dancing – Mother Unicorn bearing its baby.

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Well it’s the end of the day for us and we now move on for hotel site inspections as part of our daily routine.

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A transfer back to our hotel in Hue – only this time by bus and yes it’s busy. All the marketers are trying hard to keep the heat off themselves and their produce.

Tam Giang Lagoon, Hue Vietnam – Part Four

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Ngu My Thanh Village, a typical fishing community near the Tam Giang Lagoon. Some architecture today can still be seen as having had a French influence.

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Tourism is a new and welcome source of income for the fishing families in Ngu My Thanh and Tan My villages of Quang Dien District.

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Tam Giang lagoon supports a range of wetland habitats making a nature lovers paradise the livelihood of 300,000 people who live along the shores rely upon its aquatic resources.

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Glad they’re tied up!

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Our delightful host Ms Huang from Travel Town Saigon welcomes us onto the small sampan for the morning tour.

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Because of the heat, it was an early 6:30 am start which was ideal.

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The lagoon system of Tam Giang-Cau Hai stretches 70 km along Thua Thien-Hue seashore. It’s the largest lagoon in Southeast Asia with a total surface area of 22,000 hectares.

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You can see closely how the fisherman divide up the areas with hand-made nets which are staked out to maximise their catch.

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Every day large volumes of fish caught at the lagoon are then sold in local markets or to wholesale traders. Occasionally locals keep some of the goods to make fish sauce.

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Not much happening for us. Someone’s going hungry.

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Approaching our retreat for a hearty pre-packed breakfast and lunch.

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This is what you do when you’ve finished breakfast and fishing all morning. So what am I thinking now? I’m wondering what’s for lunch … Again something spicy I trust.

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Here with funny boy Thuy, the next Anh Do is my prediction.

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Bob having a cool beer before our Pho lunch. Very impressed with his new-found Aussie mannerisms.

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Time to say bye and move onto the next venture. More food I suspect.

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And I was right. Water Land Bar and Restaurant in Hue is great value with a variety of dishes.

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Waterland offers Banh xeo (crispy pancake filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts) with fresh summer rolls – must-try dishes here. Western food is available however, don’t expect it to be great as the local food because it’s not what the eatery is dedicated to. You can join and have a bit of fun in a cooking class too.

Hoi An, Central Vietnam – Part Three

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The centre of Hoi An is very small and pedestrian-friendly, so you will be walking around most of the time.

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The main thoroughfare in the Old Town is Tran Phu. Just south of the Old Town across the Thu Bon River are the islands of An Hoi to the west, reached via Hai Ba Trung and Cam Nam to the east via Hoang Dieu.

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Hoi An Hoi An (Hội An – ĐVHưng) is a beautiful city in Vietnam just south of Da Nang and the Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World site.

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Street sellers are prominent.

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No shortage of merchandise which is of excellent quality – and cheap!

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Typical street scene and authentic.

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Entrance to the Chinese Temple.

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Bob checking the seamless and individual handmade needlework which is exceptional by any standard.

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Entrance to the Japanese Covered Bridge.

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This beautiful little bridge is emblematic of Hoi An. First constructed here in the 1590s by the Japanese community in order to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream.

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The entrances to the bridge are guarded by weathered statues: a pair of monkeys on one side, a pair of dogs on the other. According to one story, many of Japan’s emperors were born in the years of the dog and monkey.

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Once a major port, Hoi An boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage.

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Within the Covered Bridge is a small temple for all to pay respects regardless of their beliefs.

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I can’t wait to try this – ‘May Peace be with You’.

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Ready-made clothes are abundant although a little small for me, would suit many others looking for a bargain.

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The biggest mistakes visitors make are not staying long enough in the city and not letting their tailor know how many days they have in Hoi An. Expect alterations and multiple fittings to ensure it’s right and one reputable service is A Dong Silk located in Le Loi Street.

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Arriving at Sabirama Cooking School, this was a definite highlight of my journey.

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One of the best travel experiences is the ability to cook some of the local dishes you sampled on your journey. Look out Luke Nguyen!

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I’m trying to learn how to make rice paper and it’s not so easy I’m afraid. I’ll appreciate those Vietnamese rolls much more next time I order them at home …

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Sticky rice cooked the traditional way and although looks uninviting is incredibly delicious.

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So at the end of the day here in Hoi An if you need to transfer to the airport the nearest is in Da Nang which has domestic connections to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hue. Some international flights to Bangkok, Singapore, Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat) are available.

Marble Mountain, Central Vietnam – Part Two

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On our way from Da Nang to Marble Mountain which is located on the outskirts of the city.

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In addition to the swing-bridge of Han River, Da Nang also boasts the Dragon-shaped Bridge (seen here), the Tran Thi Ly sail-shaped bridge, and Thuan Phuoc Bridge – the longest cable-stayed bridge of Vietnam.

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Firstly, morning tea at a marble factory with all monuments and merchandise carefully crafted on site.
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Just a bit overweight this Buddha (with our guide Tham), the company can ship home any purchases made.
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Don’t tempt me?

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Beginning with Xa Loi Pagoda, a beautiful stone tower which overlooks the coast. Immediately to the left as you enter Ong Chon Gate, is the main path to the rest of Thuy Son.

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This spectacular Pagoda captures your attention immediately giving a sense of peace and serenity.

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At Marble Mountain we’re briefed about the importance of this region as Ngu Hanh Son includes five mountains: Kim Son (Metal Mountain), Thuy Son (Water Mountain), Moc Son (Wood Mountain), Hoa Son (Fire Mountain) and Tho Son (Earth Mountain).
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Looking back over the township with the South China Sea to our left.
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Ty shows us the way around some places of worship before negotiating the caves.

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A steep climb but so worth it.

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Tami shows us to perfection how it should be done.

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The entrance to this spectacular chamber is guarded by two administrative mandarins.

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I’m glad this is not the way out …

The temples being of Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian shrines are significantly important and admired for their sheer beauty within these caves. An easy three hours were spent exploring the area before we moved onto our next place of exploration.

Stay tuned for Part Three.

Good Morning Vietnam, Da Nang – Part One

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Good morning Vietnam and great to be back after an eleven-year absence.

Australians require a visa and the cost is AUD95.00 per person. Or if In a hurry the same day issuance is approximately AUD170.00 – cash only at the Vietnamese Consulate located in Edgecliff, Sydney. Other nationalities reading this need to contact their own country’s Consulate for further visa information.

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There’s quite a number of airlines which fly into central Vietnam and on this occasion my trip starts in Da Nang. Flying across from Hong Kong as a stopover, it’s an easy couple of hours flight with Dragonair which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific – being an affiliate member of the Oneworld airline alliance.

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An early stroll along the beach area shows relatively calm water and appears to be quite clean and warm.
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This funny guy telling me about the places I should visit whilst in Vietnam – very friendly and helpful.

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Motorbikes are still the main mode of transport for carrying goods and passengers.

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A stay at the Eden Plaza Da Nang proves to be a mixture of European Classic and modern architecture with 110 beautifully furnished rooms.

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The pool area at the Eden Plaza Hotel, very clean and quiet.

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Just next door to the Eden Plaza is the Military Museum. It covers all Vietnamese resistance to foreign occupation from the Chinese, the First Indochina War with the French, the Vietnam War and the current standoff with China over the Spratley Islands and the Paracel Islands.

The Museum’s opening hours are from 07:30 to 10:30 and from 13:30 to 16:30 daily except Monday. Admission is free for Vietnamese and VND 40,000 for non-Vietnamese, plus VND 10,000 to take photos.
(On today’s exchange rate VND10,000 = AUD0.62 cents.)

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By far one of the best Vietnamese restaurants I’ve eaten at ever! Khu Vhdl Khong Gian Xua, Da Nang.

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And the food was incredible – easy to see why the premises fills so quickly.

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For dessert, sliced fruit with a combination of spices, but mostly salt and chilli. Yum!

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Lovely gardens manicured to perfection.

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The obligatory dragon.

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Vietnam historically is one of the most interesting countries you could ever visit. Here with our guide for the next week Mr Trinh from Travel Town based in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Often seen as a symbol of peace, it’s seen often and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

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Having a cold coffee on ice and it’s just what I love to drink on a hot day. We’re preparing to move onto Hoi An, central Vietnam.

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Luckily we’re not being transported like this family. Great to see helmets are now mandatory to wear as the last time I was in Vietnam it wasn’t the case.

Stay tuned for Part Two Hoi An.