#ProjectMVietnam | Halong Bay

I don’t know anyone who isn’t happier on a sailing boat.

We raced down to the marina to begin our journey towards Halong Bay.

Halong Bay is on the UNESCO heritage list.

I don’t think I need to explain why. (Brace yourself for views that will make you head over to SkyScanner.com. My bad!).

It’s not every day that a local family cooks a fresh seafood banquet for you on a private boat.

Crunchy crabs, spicy squid and flavoursome fish.

The Vietnamese eat seafood with a blend of salt, pepper, chilli and lime. A bit like wasabi mixed with soy sauce for sushi. It adds that extra kick to your dish.

Let the lime see the fish!

They kept stocking us up with noodles, chicken and spring rolls. They knew I was coming.

After dinner, I couldn’t resist a snap with those kinds of views behind me.

 

 

This is Halong Bay. The land of thousands of giant limestones.

Through the mist, it captures a scene from a painting and it’s hard to separate art from reality.

 

 

The pictures don’t even do it justice.

We hopped into the Fisherman’s village where we hopped onto a smaller boat so we could waive our way in between rocks and admire its beauty up close and personal.

How beautiful are these crystal caves?

We climbed on board, and our tour guide (who spoke very basic English) gave us a brief overview of the bay. He starts waving his arms to tell us something.

“Meow, meow, look”. He points towards the rock.

(We were so confused as to what he was trying to say.) “Cat, meow, meow”. Then Emily said, “Oh, he’s trying to tell us that the sculpted rock is in the shape of a cat!”.

It totally does, don’t you think?

Welcome to the ‘Colourful Cave’. In Vietnamese, it’s called ‘Dong Thien Cung’. (I can’t help snigger at the name Dong).

I swear there is something in the air of this cave because we were in a state of giggles throughout the whole tour. I’ll tell you why. The tour went something like this:

The tour guide whips his laser torch thing out.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Us: “Erm”.

Him: “It’s an elephant”.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Us: “Erm”.

Him: “It’s a fish”.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Us: “Erm”.

Him: “It’s a dragon”.

Us (amongst ourselves): “Is he just saying these rocks look like any animal he can think of?”.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”

At the same time, we all burst out laughing, you know when you laugh so hard you can’t breathe? Some of us couldn’t get up or look at him in the eye.

Him: “What’s so funny?”.

Us: “We’re sorry, but that ‘snake’ looks like a willy”.

Him: “Hahaha!” (He definitely thought we were weirdos).

Then after that, all we saw were boobs and willy shaped rocks and we couldn’t stop laughing every time he said, “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Then when he said, “It looks bigger than mine!”.

That’s it, we had enough, we needed to get out of there because we couldn’t handle our own giggling.

I was enLIGHTened. Hehehe.

Top tip: don’t forget to bring a cardigan / jacket inside, I oversaw my outfit. It’s cold, damp and very cavelike in there, obviously.

We were then taken to the Pearl Oyster factory.

Legend has it that the hundreds of islands in Halong Bay were formed by a dragon which spat jewels across the water.

Fun fact: did you know that it takes at least five years before an oyster becomes mature enough to produce a pearl, and the success rate is about 40%? Ooooh.

We were taken to a very interesting demonstration of how they grow and extract the pearls from fishing to production.

Conveniently they have a pearl jewellery shop next door which looked like a department store.

I brought my mum some Pearl Oyster cream. They say pearl extracts are good for the skin.

Have a browse of some of the pearl creams sold on our doorstep below.

Location: Vietnam – Halong Bay

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#ProjectMVietnam | Nha Trang


It’s an incredible feeling to soak your feet into the sand on a serene beach, especially after escaping the hustle & bustle of chaos in the city.

You just think to yourself, “Ahhh, what is life?”.

Let’s step into luxury.

Welcome to Nha Trang.

Nha Trang is a oopular holiday destination for honeymooners (disclaimer: do not attempt to flash your bum and drink honey on this beach, I am talking about the newlywed kind) and tourists.

Sandy beaches against a dramatic backdrop of mountains, surrounded by nineteen islands. Hello, Paradise.

We found a little spot called the Sailing Club, which transforms into a nightclub for the ravers, if that’s your thang.

 My friends will know that one of my favourite activities is napping. I’m like a little cat; I just love naps.

Four poster beds with pretty bright white lace drapes. I wanted to pounce and crawl under the duvet.

So, am I in heaven or?

Presented with the most fancy-pants Pho Ga (chicken noodles), the waitress came out with my bowl; she started laying down a rolling mat, condiments box with a selection of chilli, oyster, hoisin or fish sauce & vinegar.

And a bamboo case with chopsticks & spoon — and a plate of veg. Oh, the suspense!

They charge you approx’ 10,000 Dung (30p) to sleep on the beds on the beach. I had the best nap, I quickly forgotten about those four poster beds I saw earlier.

Welcome to the Po Nagar.

The temple played a significant part in the history of Vietnam. We were giving out lots of “ooohs” and “ahhhs” at all of the shiny pagodas in the different areas of the temple.

With being up a mountain, you get a good view of the beautiful landscapes of Nha Trang.

Street food in Vietnam deserves a mention. We were taken to eat Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) on a street corner.

PC, our tour guide told us that the soup is boiled for 24 hours so that the meat and veg’ creates a full-flavour fragrant broth, which is exactly how my mum makes her homemade Pho. Just the way I like it.

I mean look at it.

Thap Ba Spa is famous for mud baths.

I am a spa enthusiast. If I ever need cheering up (I have to admit I didn’t need any on my travels) a body massage, a slump in the Jacuzzi and a hit in the sauna will always brighten up my day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you think of mud, you think of the gritty stuff. When we got into the tub, we were surprised to it’s thin, slippery liquid texture. It’s warm and looks like hot chocolate.

It’s apparently real mud mixed with essential oils.

It’s good for your skin and hair so I made sure I got a proper dosage into my scalp.

Has anyone got any spas for me to try? The Geothermal spa in Iceland is definitely on the list.

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Location: Vietnam – Nha Trang
Beach rating: ****
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#ProjectMVietnam | Homestay

I highly recommend a Homestay experience.

Why?

It’s an opportunity to meet a family who will guide you through what it’s truly like to live in the heart of the destination you’re visiting. Oh, and the locals are waiting to share their inspiring stories with you.


To embrace a real travel experience, you have to stay somewhere that’s completely different to home. I never been to Vietnam before my travels and I learnt how much we take for granted in the UK.

I got used to sleeping next to a mouse that I caught scoffing my Oreos (to be fair, it was my fault for leaving them in my bag). When an animal discovers snacks, they invite their mates in for a rave. After a few days, medium-sized creatures just didn’t bother me anymore.

I forgave the mouse in the end; we named him Bob.

Let’s go and meet our hosts.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to walk across a breezy walkway surrounded by fresh green taro.

And I wish you saw my face when they served this taro to us later in spring rolls!

This was my bed; the pink net was to keep those jammy mosquitos from biting my bum (they loved going to that area of my body for some reason).

Our host ran through our dishes for the evening.
I can still remember the charcoal smell as I write this post.

Banh Xeo is a Vietnamese pancake wrapped filled with minced pork, onions, carrots & spices served with a fish sauce dip.

I said goodbye to the chief mouse, Bob, as it was time to head to Saigon / Ho Chi Minh.

Before saying goodbye, look at this view.

I could just watch the sun melt into the sea all day — but it was time to float across the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong Delta is a river where the locals ride their boats to buy and sell fresh fruit, vegetables or, wait for it, iced coffee?!

This man rocks up on a boat selling his coffee, I was like, what the…?

I had a sip out of a fellow travellers cup. Best. Coffee. Ever.

Nice work coffee man and wife.

Then our Mekong Delta tour guide whipped out his microphone and started singing Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’.

We had too much fun jumping up and down on the boat edge.

We were careful not to fall in, though; the tour guide told us that in some parts of Vietnam, they have poor water sanitisation. You can read about that here.

 

Pineapples anyone? Yes, I did pretend to be a boat shopkeeper.

Keen to visit a homestay and see the Mekong River? Hop on a boat here.

Location: Vietnam – Phường Thượng Thanh

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#ProjectMCambodia | Sihanoukville

Welcome to Sihanoukville, the beach town in Cambodia. All hail the beach.

 We spotted a lovely seafront shack called Angkor Beach. They make yummy fruit shakes. I might have mentioned this, but Pineapple shakes are my favourite. I had about ten shakes by this stage, if they were those protein ones, I’d be super Hench.

A word of warning to anyone going to Cambodia, do not order Western food. I know I know, while travelling, you end up missing home and you just want a burger. I had the worst burger which I’m sure was made of soy sauce and mince.

On the other hand, local Khmer food is ridiculously delicious. Opt for that option.

Being British, we, of course, couldn’t resist getting our kit off and going for a dip.

I give the Sihanoukville beach a rating of 3 out of 5 because, even though the water is super warm and clear, it’s over flooded beach with tourists & floating trash. Children surround you selling bracelets, fake Ray Ban sunglasses and then you have ladies offering to thread your eyebrows, legs, and, *ahem* bikini line (I’m being deadly serious). If you want peace, don’t expect it at this beach.

On the bright side, (like my sunny yellow bikini) all souvenirs & services are super cheap. The nightlife is insane. Similar to the Thai islands, there’s a wild beach party every night.

I’m about to write about one of the favourite moments. Ah, gosh, when I think about it now, I just daydream about how heavenly the whole experience was.

We told a small private boat to Bamboo Island.

Floating on top of the waves, the ticking of the engine and the ocean beneath me, our boat pushed Sihanoukville further and further behind. We were surrounded by layers upon layers of endless shades of blue in the sea and into the sky.

On the way, we brought crabs from another boat who went fishing that day. They’re so pretty right?

Here’re me and my crabs, I mean erm, crab… Oh, you know what I’m saying.

One of the things on my bucket list was to go snorkelling in the sea. If it’s on your list too, do it. You’ll wander around all sorts of exotic fish and plant life, plus, just look at that water. Beautiful.


Welcome to Bamboo Island. A secluded island where a handful of people reside.

One of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Beach Rating: 5 out of 5. I don’t think I need to explain why…

I couldn’t spot any crabs on this island so I thought I’d do my own. #yoga

The locals on the island made dinner for us, a choice between BBQ chicken or barracuda, after being photo bombed by a rooster earlier, my inner cave woman went for the chicken.

Would I recommend Cambodia? Erm, yes!

You will see a lot of hardship which will change the way you see life. I recommend it to anyone (in an organised tour group).

Besides the people, It’s absolutely beautiful. Vibrant and humid. Delicious food, beautiful coastline, cultural treasures, all for ridiculous prices.

On our last night, the girls set off a lantern into the sky.

A wonderful way to say goodbye to Cambodia.

 

Location: Cambodia – Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville beach rating: ***

Bamboo Island beach rating: *****

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#ProjectMCambodia | Phnom Penh

Cambodian roads are not the smoothest; there were moments when we thought we were going to die.

We all waddled off the bus. Never felt sexier.

Dizzy, bleary-eyed while bashing into the coach struggling to carry my bag pack, I noticed the others point to the direction of the swimming pool. Ah, now we’re talking.

Welcome to Phnom Penh. The capital of Cambodia.

Black Cami

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I & Claire hopped into a Tuk to explore what Phnom Penh could offer us.

We found a nice little hut restaurant called Aniali. We, of course, ordered our favourite drink of refreshment, fresh coconut juice. The perfect way to cool down.

 Oh wise words, Aniali. I like this place.

After we had finished playing with our lovely bunch of coconuts (oh behave), we took a walk through the market.

This was a fresh foods local market, so, fried insects anyone?

There’s something wonderful about walking through fresh veg, knowing that it has probably been plucked that morning.

I love how they slap-dash hot or cold food into a plastic bag for you in Asia. It’s great.

As soon as we walked into the fish section, we slowly walked backwards, and both looked at each like, ‘erm, yeah, let’s get out of ere’.

The grand Royal Palace caught our attention. Full name: The Khmer language is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol. We were pleased with ourselves that we didn’t have to ask for directions.

Yellow Bikini

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After a long hard day of sightseeing, we all went for a dip in the hotel rooftop pool.

Location: Cambodia – Phnom Penh

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