My visa ran out on the 15th of December, and in order to get a new one I had to go to a different country and reapply for another 3 month visa. With the other interns either having to leave the country earlier than me, or only wanting to do a quick border trip I decided to go to Vietnam with Jess, an intern who was finishing her time here in Thailand at the same time I needed to leave.
We left Huay Pakoot on Friday 9th December, in time for my flight which was on the Sunday. The weekend was a fairly sombre and emotional one, as the girl who I had become closest (Laura) was leaving, along with other volunteers and interns who had been here for a considerable length of time.
I arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam at 8:30pm on the 11th after a very long day of travelling. Jess met me in baggage claim and we got the fanciest taxi to the AirBnB we were staying in. It had a bath (couldn’t pass up the opportunity so I was in there the next day).
The next day I got up early to go to the Thai embassy. My walk there gave me my first impression of Hanoi- busy. Crossing the road is almost impossible, you just have to be brave. There are also parts of pavement you’re not allowed to walk on, which I quickly found out when an armed soldier asked me to go to the other side. I didn’t go up that road again! Once I found my way to the embassy I filled in the paperwork and handed in my passport and there began one of the most nerve wrecking 36 hours of my life (even though I know I’m not a criminal).
Hanoi is a lovely city, full of hidden gems, one of which is the lake. I had coffee in a cafe on the lake front, and had lunch in a floating restaurant. That evening we ate in an Irish pub (fish and chips!) and played pool, and despite it being a first for me, me and my partner won!
The next day I waited anxiously until 3pm, when I went to pick up my passport, complete with a brand new Thai visa, yay!
That evening Jess and I found an amazing vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant, where I had tofu and vegetable stew and she had porridge with potato. It was so good we went back with our other two friends later in the week.
On Wednesday we got a taxi to the bus station and caught a bus (and a ferry) for a 4 to 5 hour drive to Cat Ba island where we spent the next couple of days. We spent the whole of Thursday in kayaks, exploring the multitude of mountainous islands surrounding the island. It was on this day that I saw my first wild monkey! After kayaking through a cave we came across the park rangers who were observing 5 black langur monkeys just sitting on the mountain rock face.
Kayaking was fantastic, I love being in a boat and the scenery was just incredible. I took a lot of video on my GoPro so eventually I will make some sort of film from it.
We ate lunch at a beach resort. It was full of fish, shrimp and amazing spring rolls. I played beach volleyball with Jess after we ate but managed to stand on a shell and puncture the bottom of my foot. It bled but wasn’t too painful and had basically healed by the next morning.
It was a good thing too because the next day I climbed a mountain! I went to the national park, saw Hospital Cave, where the whole island lived during the war, and followed one of the trails up to a viewing platform and then to the very top of the mountain. In most places there were steps carved into the side of the mountain but every so often you just had to scramble up the cliff face. It proved worth it for the views though. This particular graffiti artist obviously thought the same.
We spent our last day back in Hanoi, exploring the old city and citadel. It was a beautiful place, but full of subtle reminders of the Vietnam War, including tanks and planes from both the American’s and Vietnamese lining one road. I especially loved the North Gate, which showed craters from French cannonballs from a war in the 1800s.
Seeing Vietnam was a real treat slotted into the middle of my trip here to Thailand. I would highly recommend it- very easy for British citizens to enter, but if you’re American be prepared to fork out $200 for your visa! A beautiful country, with so many things to offer.