Chiang Mai

We spent 11 nights in Chiang Mai in total, across two visits. This is the longest time we have spent in any one city on our travels, making it a pretty special place! We loved the relaxed atmosphere in the city, the cafe culture, the ability to walk most places and the variety of things to do – there was something for everyone! So how did we fill all these days I hear you ask? Well, here are some of our highlights from Chiang Mai…

Sunday night market

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Vietnam by train

After arriving in Ho Chi Minh City by bus from Phnom Penh we looked at a map and realised that it was quite a long way from there Hanoi – more then 1500km in fact. Speaking to friends from home, travellers we met and researching online we did not have the highest impression of bus travel in Vietnam. We heard stories of bad roads, ‘interesting’ drivers and poor vehicles and, when combined with the distances between the places we wanted to visit, we weren’t particularly keen to try them out.

Fortunately Vietnam has an excellent railway system that seems fairly well geared up for tourists. Further research showed that all of our stops between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi were along the main line that runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Relaxing on the train from Hue to Hanoi

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Sapa

The train arrived almost two hours late at Lao Cai station. In the UK this can happen on a 30 minute journey. It was slightly more acceptable here though as we had been on the train since 2030 the previous night, but it was 0720 before we finally pulled to a stop and the doors were opened. We had taken the overnight train from Hanoi and it was supposed to arrive at 0530 on Thursday 7th November, but the two hour delay meant that we would be able to enjoy the next part of our journey – the 38km, 1 hour bus ride to Sapa – in the daylight and be able to take in the views of the mountains, rice terraces and local villages as we passed.

The view across Sapa from the Heavens Gate viewpoint

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Hue

From Hoi An we took a daytime train for the two and a half hour journey north to Hue. After enjoying the views along the coast we arrived in Hue mid-afternoon on Friday 1st November and were met by a driver from the hotel. This was something we have now learnt – when you arrive in a new place it is so much easier if you have pre-arranged to be collected and taken straight to your hotel as it saves a lot of hassle and haggling with taxi or tuktuk drivers! It was only a fifteen minute drive from the train station to our hotel, which was located in the backpacker area of the city.

The Mieu temple inside Hue citadel

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Hoi An

From the hussle and bussle of Ho Chi Minh City we took a sleeper train (for 17 hours) to Da Nang, from where we were picked up and taken to our hotel in Hoi An. Arriving around midday on Sunday 27th October, we dropped our bags in our rooms and, after a quick freshen up, went for lunch in the hotel restaurant. After lunch we returned to our room for a rest and do some research on places to see and eat as well as tailors, for which Hoi An is famous for. Feeling rested after a few hours, we walked into town for an explore and to find somewhere to eat dinner.

Our room on arrival at Hai Au

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Tailor-made clothes in Hoi An

This is based on our experience of getting clothes made in Hoi An, but I am sure that it will apply to all other places that you can get clothes made.

Reading different reports, there are anything between 200 and 650+ tailors in Hoi An. Wandering the streets of Hoi An, almost every second shop in town was a tailor! It is hard not to consider getting some clothes tailor-made whilst you are here.

Phuong Nam tailors

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