Tuesday 9th December 2003

Started the day with a 2 hour speed boat ride to the tip of Ca Mau.  A journey to a place of more sentimental value than scenic value.  The tip of Ca Mau is the most southern location of Vietnam.  For people in my parents generation, very few people ventured this far south because in earlier times it was a very hazardous journey.

BTW Vietnam just bet Malaysia in the SEA Games soccer tournament  4:3, the locals going nuts! (sorry boss)

Wednesday 10th December 2003

After a short stop in Saigon to visit family we headed towards Vung Tau, a city popular for its beaches.  Coming from Australia, a country with such beautiful and un-polluted beaches, the beach at Vung Tau did not impress me greatly.  However, for some of the old timers the advancement of this city was astounding, the modernisation of this city was clearly evident, modeling itself on locations such as Surfers Paradise in Queensland, and no doubt it will slowly become a popular destination for tourists.

By the way here in Vietnam they eat hot potato chips with butter and sugar, how strange eh!

I think this is pretty funny

Thursday 11th December 2003

Making our way up further north, we made a stop at Damb'ri Falls (See below).  The waterfall was absolutely stunning however, never before have I seen a waterfall where you have to access it via an elevator (its just too easy isn't it??).

Once again the slow traffic was a hindrance, however we finally got to Da Lat.  A town located at the top of a mountain. Arriving at Da Lat, the first thing that hits you is the much cooler and much more pleasant temperature, almost like autumn in Adelaide (18- 20C) (It was a bit strange seeing the locals all rugged up in winter gear).  The town itself is very clean in comparison to the other towns that I have visited in Vietnam.

I just realised today, that it has been a week since arriving in Vietnam.  I am enjoying every part of the journey.  Photographically speaking, the weather hasn't been great for us (cloud cover where you don't want it, if you know what I mean!), however photography is only secondary to the wonderful experiences of traveling a country once home.  At times in the journey I  would laugh out aloud with relatives as they would tell old tales (ones that I have heard a million times over, but also ones that are new), and at times the scenes of sadness and sorrow in the eyes of people touches you in a place deep within.  It has certainly been a time of mixed emotions, both happy and sad, however it has been a wonderful experience so far.


Damb'ri Falls

Friday 12th December 2003

Continuing our journey north to rest at Nha Trang.  As we journey towards Hanoi, we begin to see a change in the landscape.  South Vietnam consisted of many waterways and flatlands, however towards central Vietnam the landscape becomes mountainous and most noticeable it is less populated.  For me it is finally good to see some open country, however there are always signs of human intervention wherever you go, unlike the Australian outback.

We also visited Da Tan La, Gougah and  Pongour falls.  Pongour falls was the most spectacular.

Saturday 13th December 2003

Spending most of the day in the bus, we continued our journey north.  With rain persisting, most of our sightseeing was done from the bus.  Of note was the upgrade of Vietnam's motorways, especially as we move north, particularly the new coastal road towards Qui Nhon, on one side we have mountain ranges on the other we have coastal scenery  similar to Australia's Great Ocean road.   Although we spent all day on the move we only managed to cover 400kms, whereas a day's travel in Australia we would have traveled double that distance.  We now rest in Tam Ky.

Sunday 14th December 2003

Today we visited several places of historical value. Hoi An,  Da Nang, and finally Hue.  The most impressive part of today's journey was the drive along Hai Van pass.  Mountains next to unspoiled coastal scenery best describes the drive.  Unfortunately, the weather once again was unfavorable for sightseeing, nonetheless it was spectacular.  Larger vehicles struggle to complete this journey due to the steep slopes (several trucks laid stranded on the road), however our bus managed to finally crawl its way through.  The image below doesn't do the region justice, it was quite impressive!

By the way I am beginning to find it difficult to understand the locals, not because there is a change in dialect, but there is a  significant change in accent.  Strangely, variability in accent varies very little between towns in southern Vietnam, however in central Vietnam, there is a noticeable difference between one town to the next.


Hai Van pass

Monday 15th December 2003
Driving down Highway 1 (major highway that connects from north to south) towards the former Demilitarized Zone, there was a sense of eeriness about the highway.  Although there were few remnants remaining from the war, the thought of fierce battles and tragic loss of lives along this stretch of highway was somewhat haunting.  Arriving at Hien Luong bridge which crossed the river Ben Hai, the most historical passing in Vietnam, was a real milestone achievement for the oldies, who never thought that they would see it (the river Ben Hai used to divide North and South Vietnam).

Hien Luong bridge


Diverting from Highway 1, we entered the partially completed highway, formerly the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Once the major target of American B52 bombers, its becoming an extensive highway passing through spectacular scenery (spectacular times 10 to be exact).  The construction of this highway is a huge task, not only because it is a long stretch of road in mountainous landscape, but because most of it is manual labor (a lot of hard-work to be admired!).


View at Ke Bang from the new Highway, to be completed by 2004(definitely a Linhoff moment)


Men at work who help construct the Ho Chi Minh Highway

Phong Nha Caves was also visited, consisting of limestones.  The river cruise that takes you to these caves is worth the journey on its own.  The Phong Nha and Ke Bang regions are world heritage areas.  We now find ourselves in Vinh, after being lost in the partially completed Ho Chi Minh Highway (checking in the hotel at 10pm).