Battambang

Unfortunately after reassessing funds while in Seim Reap I realised doing the south of Cambodia wasn’t affordable. I’m pretty gutted as I wanted to see the coast but the weather at the moment is really bad aswell so wouldn’t be worth stretching the budget to capacity and the transport alone would have cost a fortune.
I still wanted to see some more of Cambodia so I decided to go to Battambang, which is a town nearer the border and only a 4 hour bus journey away. We took the cheaper option of the local bus which was the usual sweaty, longer option but we made it in one piece.
The hostel ‘Here be Dragons’ were waiting with a free tuk tuk to the hostel so that was a nice bonus. I loved the hostel the minute we arrived. Friendly staff and really nice atmosphere. We went on a walk to explore and get lunch. The heat was immediately difficult to deal with, Cambodia is definitely the most humid place I’ve been in a long time. We found the market and decided to eat some noodle soup there, my usual.

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Duck egg skewers.

We walked for a short while after lunch. Everyone in the town is so friendly.The river isn’t great but the bridges and riverside is kept really nice. We relaxed in the hostel aircon for a while before venturing out for some street food across the river. I gave the beef lok lak a go. Still not that exciting but think it’s the places I’m getting it. We went to a bar that was set in an old building and had a quiet drink but we’re fairly exhausted at that stage so we had an early night.
Feeling more fresh the next morning we decided to rent bicycles so we could explore more. After a Bloody Mary breakfast we rented our bikes from a friendly local who we also booked our bus to Bangkok with. We went to taste the ‘best coffee in Cambodia’ and then cycled on the tourist trail around town. Locals waving at us all the way and saying hello. I love the people here.

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On our bikes!

We saw lots of huge, colourful monuments and a large temple. We got back just in time for a tuk tuk tour to the Killing Cave, the viewpoint and the Bat Cave. The driver dropped us at the bottom and gave us directions but it was still very confusing but we eventually made it to the cave which was quite eerie and to the viewpoint which was nice.ย  The bats were by far my favourite seeing thousands and thousands of insect bats flying out in formation from a cave. It was amazing. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the sun set because of the cloud but the trip was still worth while.

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Watching the bats

As it was our last night in Cambodia we went to a cheap local restaurant ‘Nary Kitchen’ recommended by our hostel. We cycled there and the owner immediately was out to help us with our bikes. I finally got to try Fish Amok which is the famous dish of Cambodia. It was amazing!! Fish in a coconut milk sauce in a banana leaf. So good. I heard Cambodian food wasn’t great before I came here but my experience has been fairly good in general.

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Last Cambodian meal

We cycled back to the hostel and had a nightcap as it was cocktail night. I couldn’t turn down an orange twist GnT could I?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Not excited about the 6am bus in the morning! :/

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Battambang River

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Surprised by Siem Reap

The overnight bus wasnt the most comfortable but was short and did the job. Arrived at our hostel at 6am to be told we couldn’t check in until 3pm! Joys of hostel life! We went on the hunt for some cheap breakfast and found a 1.25 rice and noodle lady down the road. People here again are so friendly and always smiling even if they’re not selling you something ๐Ÿ™‚
We explored the pub Street and market for a bitย but the heat was soon fairly unbearable so we went back to make use of the hostel pool and wait for a friend who was joining us. For lunch I grabbed some cheap fresh spring rolls at the market. I’m going to miss fresh spring rolls so much!

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Downtown hostel. 3dollars a night! ๐Ÿ™‚

I researched tuk tuk drivers as I had seen some recommended on traveller Facebook pages. It’s a huge business here because it’s the common way to go see the temples. We went down town for 25c beers and doing a really good local cheap restaurant that was our haunt for the few days.

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Khmer cuisine isnt too different from Vietnam

This banana blossom salad was amazing and the local Khmer sauce/curry is a delicious peanut based sauce and they serve everything with coconut rice. Yum!
We had an early night as we were booked in for a 4.30am tuk tuk to Angkor Wat. Chay Chou was waiting for us bang on time with his very comfortable pink seated tuk tuk with a mini fridge with water and hand towels for us. We decided on the small loop as it’s the cheapest and just covers the main temples. It’s an expensive day out with the ticket being 20dollars plus 6dollars each for the tuk tuk after some of my well-practiced bargaining of course!
Unfortunately for us the morning was very cloudy so the sunrise was fairly non-existent but the temple Angkor Wat itself cheered us up. It was amazing!! So huge and so much to see. To go upstairs you must have your shoulders covered, we had scarves but they weren’t allowed so a woman in the line in front of us gave us two spare shorts she had I’m her bag! How jammy are we?! I also met a girl I travelled Cat Ba with roaming around the temple aswell, small world!

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Our disappointing sunrise

After Angkor Wat we saw some smaller temples, the Victory Gate, Bayron Temple which has all the faces inbuilt. It was amazing! Lastly we saw the Tomb Raider temple as it’s known now. Full of huge trees growing through the rubble, it was unbelievable to see.

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Angelina Jolie territory!

I didn’t think I could be impressed by Temples but I really was. Well worth the money. Our tuk tuk driver was a really good guide aswell telling us loads about each temple so that helped too. We were back by 11.30 and we got some early lunch and had a much-needed nap. We had a wander around the markets and got a few bits, bargaining is very easy here and expected. We got our bus booked and had some 2 dollar whisky bottles between us. Visited the cheap cocktail carts that line the river. I ate a fried tarantula and fried insects of some sort from a street stall. Pretty tasty actually just very chewy! We danced in the local bars for a bit with a mix of locals and tourists. Good bars here and good music and again everyone so friendly.

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Siem Reap is somewhere you could definitely get comfortable and spend a while as it’s small and condensed but cheap and friendly. There isn’t a huge amount to do other than the temples but its a well-kept town and nice to stroll around.

I made it to Cambodia! Pnomh Penh

So despite all budget problems I have somehow managed to get to Cambodia. I won’t be able to afford to explore the country as much as I would like but with a lot of street food only and cheap hostels hopefully I’ll make it for a week or so.
I got the easy 6hour bus from Ho Chi Min to Pnomh Penh. Border was no problem the friendly driver took care of everything for us. We arrived at approx 11pm and we were so lucky to be staying at a friend’s house we had both met in Chiang Mai! We stayed up late chatting and catching up.
Slow start the next morning with an amazing breakfast made by our friends mam. We were spoilt! We walked into the centre, to the riverside and checked out the monuments. We went to the cafe that’s run by women who were trafficked. Really nice cafe by the river. It was Christopher Street say so there was meant to be a tuk tuk race on but after searching and asking a lot of bewildered but helpful people we gave up and walked to the market instead.

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Central Market

The market was huge but not too chaotic so it was nice. We got some really good cheap lunch; a Cambodian Banh Xeo and the best fresh spring roll I’ve had on my trip. We were delighted to see cheap food because it’s immediately obvious that Cambodia is a lot more expensive than Vietnam.
We got back in time to meet our friend Paul after work. We went for good but cheap Japanese food near his place and then got some 2 dollar whisky to drink before heading out. As it was Christopher Street day,which Is basically gay pride we went to the gay club for the festival closing party. We had a great night! Free dance shows, 90s music and the Colombians are so friendly so I was making new friends all night!

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Making friends with the DJ!

As the next day was Sunday we spent it with Paul and his mam. Food and markets and the Russian market which is also a good market but a lot busier and chaotic but more handcrafts. That night we went to reunite with my friend Corina for some food, I travelled all of Malaysia with and a lot of Thailand! I love reunions! I got the famous beef lok lak it was nice but don’t think I had a great version.
Up early the next morning to go to The Killing Fields. It’s an expensive day out but it’s worth it. I had no idea the Khmer Rouge was so devastating, the audio tour is really well done too.

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After that we were back to the central market again for some cheap lunch,noodle soup this time. Pretty good aswell although the pork will never be like Vietnam!

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Still on the noodle soup!

Again we got back in time to see Paul after work and enjoy some rare couch time! Miss a comfy couch so much! Looking forward to my home recliners when I get back ๐Ÿ™‚
Paul shares my live for fresh spring rolls so we decided to make use of having a kitchen and make our own. So easy and fun at the same time, not to mention so tasty!!

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Spring roll making

We decided to go to Seim Reip next to meet another friend I met in Thailand and also because the weather on the islands is bad at the moment. Probably not the most sensible decision since I’m going to Bangkok next but no point seeing beaches in the rain :/ decisions decisions….
So we got a night bus that night at 11pm and said goodbye to Paul, his mam and the comfy couch ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

On the bike again…Mui Ne

I was delighted I was able to put my bag on a bus and hop on the bike again from Dalat to Mui Ne. We left at 9am for what should have been an easy few hours drive. The road was nice and wide and surprisingly good views which we wernt expecting. We met a group of Asian bikers at one of the main viewpoints and we’re straight away surrounded by selfie sticks and they all wanted pictures with us.

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Selfie Stick gang

What I loved about this drive was that in a matter of hours the road went from mountainous and green to barren and dessert like. Such a huge contrast in a short amount of time.

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About an hour in to the drive me met two friends from the Dalat hostel on their scooters. Within minutes one of their scooters broke down. We pulled in at a rest stop with tons of hammocks and a really friendly family who gave us a huge jug of Vietnamese tea and helped us find a rope so Nick could tow him to a mechanic nearby.
So we arrived to Mui Ne later than planned, hungry, sandy and in bad need of a shower. We got to our hostel Mui Ne Hills and couldn’t believe our luck when she upgraded us to a villa for free!! A pool with a sea view and all!!
So we immediately changed our minds to stay 2 nights instead of one.
We got some much-needed food and then went to the red sand dunes for sunset. The views on the way of the fishing boats were really nice. The red dunes themselves I didn’t find to be anything to spectacular bit after the dunes of Peru I’m a bit of a dune snob! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We had a look at the beach aswell which wasnt the best but watching the kite surfing was cool.

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Fishing boats

Chilled out with a cheap bottle of red wine that night at our villa feeling like flashpackers! ๐Ÿ™‚
Got up bright and early the next morning foe a swim in the pool before going to The Fairy Stream. It’s only 5000 to get in and you walk through ankle-deep river water to see a nice canyon wall with random cows hanging out and an ostrich farm where you can ride ostriches! No thanks! Stream was worth a look though.

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Frolicking in the stream

We had some delicious lunch in a local plastic chair restaurant. Vietnamese chicken pancake Banh Xeo. Best one I’ve tasted.
After lunchย Nick surprised me with a motorbike lesson on a dead end road we found. I loved it! I had great support from a local and his son sitting in the shade giving me the thumbs up every time I passed.

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Delighted with myself!

Then it was back to the pool to relax for a bit before reuniting with Dana again. We went on a mission to find ‘Soup Taxi Stand Lady’ย  that I had read about in travel blogs and we found her. Well we think we did anyway! The soup was a noodle soup with dumplings and pork and it was unreal and only 20000!
Mui Ne was better than I expected but still not amazing. The villa definitely made it and the landscape around it is worth a trip.

Last stop in Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh

Arrived into HCM on an easy 4 hour bus that dropped me at the bus station right in District 1. On the short walk down a few streets to my hostel I immediately knew I was going to like HCM. It doesn’t have the same chaotic charm as Hanoi but it’s close. Street food at every corner, little alley ways filled with beauticians and massage parlours and the usual noisy but entertaining traffic.
My hostel ‘Vintage’ was right on the busy Backpacker Street where at night it was packed with blue and red plastic chairs on the street selling really cheap drinks. I pocked the right spot! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Blending I'm with the traffic

I had an explore around the surrounding streets, got a Vietnamese ice coffee and enjoyed some people watching. I got some local Hu Tieu soup for dinner and met my friends for some cheap GnTs on the street where you can equally meet locals or tourists.
I had as usual read a lot of travel blogs before arriving and they all raved about the street food. So we decided to a mix of a food tour and sight seeing the next day as we still had the bike.
We tried some delicious food. Banh Cuon is one of my favourite dishes to date!

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Pork dumpling heaven!

We went to the War Remnants Museum because it was close and we were so happy we did! We ended up there for over 3 hours, it was very intense and moving. Made me want to learn more about the war.
Dinner was another blog recommendation which was also amazing!

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Bhan Thit nuong

Il be rolling home at this stage! Too many good food to try! We popped into the markets on the way home but we were fairly tired at that stage so we saved it for the next day.
We booked into an early half day tour of the Cu Chi tunnels. I’m very wary of tours and try to avoid lately but the museum made me want to see them even more. I’m so happy I went. It was amazing to see the intelligence of the Vietnamese to build these unbelievable tunnels with built in kitchen and ventilation etc. We got to walk through some Aswell I don’t know how they lived down there for.do long.

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Getting into a tunnel

We gave the market a second chance after the tour and its actually a very good market and I practiced my bargaining skills hard here. As it was Danas last night before flying home we went to the Saigon skydeckfor a look. Very fancy so we didn’t stay but very nice view. I went on the hunt for salsa but unfortunately it was cancelled. Really missing my salsa fix lately!
My last day in HCM was pretty hectic as I had organised to visit the International School at 8am. I observed some classes and met the staff, such an amazing school! Made me really think about Vietnam as a place to work.
By the time I got back I had just enough time to sell my helmet and find delicious Street food for our last Vietnamese meal ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Going to miss the food big-time! Don’t feel ready to leave Vietnam at all but has to be done. Next stop…Cambodia!

Next stop Dalat

The next leg of the journey was quite a long one by bike so I left Nick off and I hopped onto a 12hour night bus from Hoi An to Dalat. I majorly regretted it. I was sitting behind the bus driver who smoked the whole way, beeping the deafening horn and talking loudly to some locals at the front. Even a sleeping tablet didn’t put me out! To make matters worse we got to our half way stop (Nha Trang) at 4am and they threw us off the bus to sit on a footpath for 3 hours to get our connecting bus to Dalat!!ย  To top it all off the road from Nha Trang to Dalat would have been beautiful by bike but by minivan it was windy and sweaty as hell! Safe to say I was very happy to see Dalat!

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Biking around Dalat

I had booked a hostel called Dalat Family hostel because I had heard such great things and I wasn’t disappointed. An American girl I met on the bus and I arrived to big kisses from ‘Mama’ and she immediately starts cooking dishes upon dishes of food for us for free! By the time we checked in I had to sleep off the food coma and sleepless bus journey.
Nick arrived shortly after so we got straight on the bike, after a Vietnamese coffee ofcourse,and went for an explore.ย 
We decided to go to the Datanla Falls. The waterfall itself is nice but not too impressive but the best part is the looging you can do to the bottom and back up. We sped down as fast as we could and got our money’s worth. It was great craic!ย 
We got back just in time for family dinner at the hostel which happens every evening. Mama and her team cook up dishes and dishes of food that everyone shares and puts in their small bowls with rice. The food just keeps coming and is followed by huge banana pancakes that are to die for! Once again major food baby after it. The food is too good to resist. They also do cheap cocktails which is a rarity in Vietnam. We all sat around and chatted and drank before going to the 100rooftops bar which is an amazing bar built lie a mazeย  with little tunnels and cubby holes everywhere. A must see! The owner is so nice aswell.

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Rooftops Bar

Canyoning is the big thing to do in Dalat but it’s very expensive and I have already done it in Equador so I gave it a miss. We went for an explore of another waterfall called Tiger waterfall which is a neglected but beautiful waterfall just outside the town. We went to the flower garden and the Buddha got some good Pho Ga and then did some repairs on the bike before another huge family dinner at the hostel again.

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Tiger Waterfall

I felt that two full days in Dalat is enough especially if youbhave a bike to explore. I really enjoyed my time there especially because of the hostel. Dalat itself is quite hard to navigate around but again the people are very nice.
Next stop Mui Ne and this time I’m going by bike! ๐Ÿ™‚

Time out in Hoi An

After two long days on the bike we decided Hoi An would be a resting spot for us and our sore bums! Unfortunately for us accommodation here is quite expensive because hostels aren’t allowed here so it’s all guesthouses and homestays. We were also quite a long walk away from the old quarter or the centre so we were dependant on the bike a bit.
On first impressions Hoi An looked like just another Vietnamese town packed with tailor shops, street food, tourist shops etc but a stroll through the old quarter at night changed my mind completely. It is definitely touristy but it’s hard not to appreciate the old style buildings, colourful lanterns everywhere and the night market across the bridge is brilliant for souvenirs without being crowded.

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Japanese covered bridge

Our second morning we took the bike to the beach. There are two and we were told An Bang beach was the best. I was pleasantly surprised by the beach. Sea was a little rough but the beach was clean and we found a little laneway further down the beach where a woman let us park and have loungers for free and sold us cheap beers. What more could you ask for?! Before coming to Vietnam I heard mixed reports about the Vietnamese people but I honestly have only found them to be so friendly and helpful.
We took a drive to the other beach for a nose and it was an eerie feeling. It was like a neglected tourist area with half built buildings and a sand bagged beach. We stuck to the 1st beach for the next few days.
We found a cafe that did amazing Cafe Sua so that was frequented daily and we also found a great Street with the famous Banh Mi Queen (for Nick) and various Street food stalls for 20000dong (for me!) Perfect lunch spot.

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Not sure what it is but it tasted good!

Hoi An is famous for its tailoring so I felt the pressure to get something. Unfortunately I’m at the very end of my budget so it was tough to come up with something I could afford. There are literally hundreds of tailor shops so it’s a bit overwhelming. We eventually decided on a shop that seemed the cheapest and most helpful. I couldn’t get anywhere near what I wanted but I eventually decided on a smart jacket which was measured and tailored to me over two days. I was disappointed to realise the lining wasnt included in the price but the jacket was made very well and I’m happy with it.

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Lanterns at the night market

By night we ate cheap local food at the night markets and drank cheap fresh beer for 4000 a glass! That’s less that 20cents I’m not a fan of beer but at that price is drink anything!ย  We met up for drinks with other friends we had met at a local hostel and the pubs were good by the bridge but we’re expensive.
Overall I really liked Hoi An but as a backpacker it’s hard to fully appreciate it as it’s an expensive place by backpacking standards. It’s different from other places I’ve been in Vietnam so definitely happy I made a stop here.

Hello Haivan Pass!

We were both so excited about biking from Hue to Hoi An. We got up bright and early. Dropped our bags to a transport office nearby, sat down to our free breakfast of omelette and mixed fruits and planned out the route.
The drive towards the pass was really interesting. We passes through lots of small fishing villages and rice fields where we could just see all the Vietnamese hats peeking through the long grass. We passed plenty of colourful graveyards and temples. There was always something to look at.

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We made many stops at beaches along the way. We stopped at Lanh Coc beach for lunch but ended up eating in the town because prices were crazy at the beach. I had a disappointing chicken soup and then we were back on the road again. This was where the pass started. Immediately it was beautiful we were both surprised. A well kept wide road with stunning coastal views all the way

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One of the many views on the pass

We made it to the top to see the bunkers, have a drink and chat to some locals trying to sell us souvenirs ofcourse! Then it was time to make our way down the other side of the pass, still with beautiful views.
Our only disappointment was how short it was. It only took us about an hour, taking our time and taking pictures. Hearing all the hype beforehand we thought it would be longer.
Saying that by the time we got to The Marble Mountains we were feeling the tiredness and moreso our backsides were feeling the pain of two days solid on the bike! Marble Mountains were very mediocre and majorly touristy. The dragon bridge In Nha Trang however was very impressive!

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From Nha Trang it was a short 40minute drive into Hoi An where we eventually found a homestay (Accommodation is expensive and not central here!) collected our bags and found some good local streetfood to finish the night off ๐Ÿ™‚

Biker chick time! Phong Nha to Hue

This had to be a separate post due to the unexpected eventfulness of the trip. I was so excited to be able to do part of the Vietnam trip by bike as it’s a common thing for travellers to do and it’s meant to be amazing. I feel like I’m missing out on the buses. Most backpackers buy a bike at the start and sell them at the end but my budget wasn’t flexible enough for that and I was nervous of having enough time to sell it. Lucky for me my friend Nick offered to take me on his bike. I couldn’t let that opportunity pass me! I bought a helmet and paid for my bag to be taken on a bus to Hue.
We got off to a late start due to unplanned repairs on our friends bike. We set off eventually and the road was immediately beautiful. The National Park is huge and the roads were perfect for driving.

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Taking a break to admire the view

Our plan was to go off route a little to see old war tunnels so we trusted Google maps which brought us down a road that doesn’t really exist yet. We came to an unfinished bridge but the workers confidently ushered us to take the dirt road beside it which we soon realised was flooded! Nicks bike was no problem but Andys Honda Win struggled. We were delighted with ourselves when we got both bikes and luggage across but that was only the start of it!
We came to bridge after bridge all unfinished and the dirt roads got worse. Andys bike eventually gave up and some workers helped us fix it again. It sounds like torture but it was so much fun! It was like a challenge to find some decent road.

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One of the many unfinished bridges

Needless to say when we did eventually find road we hours later we decided the tunnels were not going to happen and we needed to get moving to make Hue before dark.
We stopped for some much needed water and energy drinks and it was straight back on the bikes to hit the highway all the way into Hue.
We arrived filthy, hungry but hyper from the day to a small guesthouse where our bags were waiting for us. I took a very long much needed shower before exploring Hue a little.
I didnt see much of Hue but it seemed like a nice city with lots of street food and friendly people. I managed to fit in the famous Bun Bo Hue (noodle soup with pork and crab) it was really good.

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Learning some Vietnamese!

Phong Nha

Sleeper bus wasn’t as comfortable as usual but wasn’t too long at least. Arrived into Phong Nha at the very awkward time of 4.30am but luckily they give a dorm room in the price of the bus so I could lay my head down for a few hours when I got there.
Once I was someway alert I met up with my friend Nick for some exploring on the motorbike! I’m turning into a proper biker chick  all I have to do now is learn to drive one myself! ๐Ÿ™‚
We took a route recommended by a worker in the hostel, that most don’t do because it’s more off the beaten track. Nicks bike is a dirt bike though so it’s well able for it! The scenery around here is beautiful. Lush, green, dense forest and huge bridges, buffalo swimming in the rivers and again friendly locals waving as we pass by.

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Surrounded by green!

We found The Pub with Cold Beer which I had read about, you can order your own lice chicken and kill it yourself but I decided against it and just went for a safe beer! We also found a Wild Boar Eco Farm where we met the owner Cuang who sat with us for hours teaching is Vietnamese and even came swimming with us in the river!

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Selfie with Cuang at the Eco Farm

We drove through the National Park for a while and it was beautiful. A bike is definitely needed here to properly explore. We had some local pork noodle soup for dinner which was delicious and so cheap. Food in Phong Nha was a huge improvement on Tam Coc!
The main hostel here is Easy Tiger but very expensive so we stayed across the road but the Easy Tiger bar is really good with live music and cheap happy hours so we spent our nights there socialising with all the other backpackers that gathered in the same place nightly.
Phong Nha is known for its amazing caves. They all have a hefty entrance fee so we decided to choose one. We picked the Dark Cave because it sounded the most fun. Three of us drove our bikes through more gorgeous scenery to get to the dark cave. We ziplined into the cave and then walked through mud that got up to my chest and then swim out to wash it all off and finish off with a kayak back to another zipline. It was a great day, so worth it! We took the long scenic route home through the National Park. Landscape is amazing!

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I made it!

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Biking back from the cave

We booked our bags onto a bus so I could ride on the back of the motorbike to the next stop, Hue. We went to a local restaurant to try some local dishes like corn sticky rice and flat shrimp dumplings. All delicious! Followed by a few happy hour drinks ofcourse. Be rude not to!