To my dearest friends, family and fellow culture cravers,
Since our adventurous first week in Vietnam (read about it here), the fun has only continued. After Hoi An we caught the train along the Hai Van Pass to Hue.
The Hai Van Pass has been voted one of the most jaw-dropping stretches of road in Vietnam. Treating you to alcoves of deserted golden beaches, stretches of rolling green jungle and a fair few hair-raising vertical drops, a lot of backpackers choose to travel this route on a motorbike over a couple of days.
However, the $2 train and Lizzie’s fear of heights swayed us to take the train and experience the views from a rather hard seat instead…
Once we’d arrived in Hue, it was all about uncovering the Chinese history and architecture of the city. Previously the capital of Vietnam during the Chinese rule, Hue has an intriguing history with a beautiful Citadel at its core.
We spent our first day wandering around the Citadel’s Imperial City and its many ancient quarters. Doused in romantic, lily-pad-strewn ponds, intricately decorated residencies and peaceful, manicured gardens, it was interesting to see how the Chinese influence still remained in the country.
The next day we took a trip to Ho Thuy Tien, an abandoned water park my friend, Spence had told us about. Situated around 7km outside of the city centre, this intriguing park isn’t a well-known sight in the city and therefore, seems to gain its visitors by the old school method of word of mouth.
On arrival, we skirted the tranquil lake the water park was built around before approaching a mammoth dragon protruding out of the water.
There was no doubt we’d found it.
The deserted park had an eerie feel about it and we hadn’t even entered the dragon yet…
As we tiptoed into the dragon’s belly we had two thoughts. One – what the hell happened here?! Two – what an amazing party venue it would be!
We stumbled upon a pile of shattered thick glass scattered below old smashed fish tanks. We were in the old aquarium.
It was dark, glass crunched below our flimsy flip-flops, graffiti covered the walls (including one saying ‘you’re about to die’ – great) and the silence added to our already paranoid state and creepy surroundings.
We ran up the spiral staircase towards the light and emerged in the dragon’s mouth, which overlooked the glistening lake and the rest of the park.
Ah, a breath of fresh air.
We took some obligatory abandoned water park photos (whatever they are)…
Before moving on to the deserted slides, space simulator and amphitheater…
It was quite the experience and one you don’t come across often.
Next, we hopped on a bus to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.
This place blew us both away.
Offering jagged limestone cliffs draped in blankets of fluffy foliage, azure blue trickling rivers and ginormous caves boasting extensive and unique rock formations, Phong Nha’s landscape was like a scene straight out of Avatar.
We spent the next couple of days cruising around the countryside soaking up the unbelievable scenery, exploring the fascinating Paradise Cave and trekking in the blissful Botanic Gardens.
Lizzie was not at all happy about trekking up a waterfall…
But I forced her to the top for views like these…
It was the perfect end to our second week in Vietnam and was voted by both of us as our highlight of the country so far.
We are now moving further North to the capital, Hanoi and to Ha Giang, a province a stones throw away from the Chinese border!
Until next week…