Hoi An: A beautiful old town, beautiful beaches and shopping galore!

Exploring the old town, relaxing by the beach, a very successful cooking class and lots of shopping

After an extremely long journey, consisting of a 4 hour bus between Da Lat and Nha Trang and then a sleeper bus, we arrived in Hoi An at 6am. Being unable to check in until 11am, I slept on a sun lounger by the pool until 9am. I then ended up walking into town to explore with a German girl called Sarah who had also been on my bus. We went for coffee and had a look around some tailor shops. Hoi An is known for it’s tailor made clothing with a turn around of less than 24 hours for some pieces. We headed back to the hostel to check in and have some lunch but hired some bicycles and headed straight back into the old town to explore. I loved cycling through tiny side streets having to navigate between street vendors. The old town is painted yellow and filled with many lanterns which light up the streets at night.

On our second day, Tilly, Lucy and I (along with Olivia who we met whilst canyoning) went on a day-long cooking class. We started off wandering through the morning market and buying fresh produce that we would later cook with. Once we had everything we needed we got onto a dragon boat which took us up the river. After 30 minutes we were transferred into what I call ‘coconut boats’ as they look like giant half coconut shells. We paddled further upstream before being dropped off at the location of our cooking class. We spent the next part of our day learning how to make fresh spring rolls (my absolute favourite), crispy pancakes, banana flower and shrimp salad and Bun Cha (beef with noodles although we made BBQ pork instead). We also turned out hands briefly to fishing. We each caught and fish which we released back into the river but not before our hands were sliced by the sharp fins as we removed the hooks from their mouths. I have to say that for me this was the least enjoyable part of my day. There was no skill involved with the fishing – we attached bait to bamboo sticks and everyone caught multiple fish – and so I felt like the whole activity was rather pointless and cruel to the fish. At the end of the day I said goodbye to Tilly, Lucy and Olivia who were headed to Hue the next day and I moved hostel to Under The Coconut Tree on An Bang Beach.

The next day I hired a bicycle and headed back into town through the greenest rice padi fields that you ever will see! I bought some leather bags and had them shipped home (even though this cost almost as much as the bags themselves)! The following couple of days were spent relaxing on the beach until I got sun burnt and had to retreat inside to the safety of the shade.

On my last night in Hoi An, I stayed with Paul and his lovely, extremely hospitable family. They have built a gorgeous home (Song Em Hoi An) on the bank of the river and have recently added a beautiful swimming pool which you can watch the sunset over the river from. I was able to preview the video that we filmed in Ho Chi Minh City. As usual, I cringed hearing the sound of my own voice especially now that I know I will never be able to say the word ‘excursions’ whilst being recorded. The video hasn’t been signed off yet so unfortunately (or rather fortunately for me) you cannot see me stumbling over my words just yet. I will begrudgingly keep you all updated on this.

On my final day, I went for lunch with Paul and his family before hopping on a bus to Hue. I would like to say a massive thank you again to Paul and his family for hosting me for the night. It was the first time since Bangkok that I have had a room to myself – complete luxury!

I hope you are all keeping well,

Em xxx



Da Lat: Canyoning and abseiling down waterfalls

Canyoning and abseiling down waterfalls in the cool town of Da Lat

We arrived in Da Lat in the late afternoon and checked into what is my favourite hostel so far on this trip, Cosy Nook. It is run by a local family and  only 23 people can stay. Every night, including our first night, most of the people staying in the hostel gather round the table to eat together. I haven’t seen so much food on one table in a long time. And the food was delicious. We ate dinner like this both nights we stayed at Cozy Nook. I cannot recommend the hostel highly enough. The family go out of their way to help you in any way that they can – including cleaning and repairing shoes after you return from canyoning.

On our first and only full day in Da Lat we went canyoning with Groovy Gecko Tours. Our guides were fantastic – extremely entertaining and reassuring. We had an early start and were picked up at 7.30am. After 30 mins in a van where we had to introduce ourselves to the rest of the group we were transferred to an Army Jeep. So began a 40-minute off-road drive through pine forests and coffee plantations.

When we arrived at the hut we changed into wetsuits and were geared up with harnesses, helmets and gloves. We were then shown how to abseil by attaching ourselves to a tree and ‘abesiling’ down a slope. When the guides were satisfied that we knew what we were doing we headed to the waterfalls. We abseiled down six in total with heights of 8m, 25m, 30m, 32m, 36m (dry abseil) and finally, after a break for lunch and some yoga stretches on the rocks, the biggest waterfall which was 65m.

After completing all of our abseils we had the opportunity to jump off a 10m platform into the pool below. Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I ended up doing this about 6 or 7 times. Each time I tried to make a bigger splash as I ‘bombed’ into the water – apparently my splashing abilities are quite impressive!

I’ve loved my adventure filled time in Da Lat. It was lovely to be in cooler temperatures and wander around night markets without dripping with sweat. I’m looking forward to my next stop in Hoi An (although not so much looking forward to the much warmer temperatures).

Lots of love to all,

Em xxx

Mui Ne: Sand dunes in Vietnam

Chasing sunrises and quad biking on sand dunes



I only spent two full days in Mui Ne – famous for it’s sand dunes and beaches perfect for kite surfing. Two of the British girls I met on the day tour of Ho Chi Minh City, Tilly and Lucy, ended up leaving for Mui Ne on the same day and same bus as me. We arrived at lunchtime on the first day and headed straight to the travel agent to book our sunrise/sunset trips to the sand dunes. We had wanted to watch the sunset that day but unfortunately the jeeps were already full. Having arranged to be picked up at 4.15 am we left to explore the beach. The beach was nothing special and the waves were quite big. We didn’t stay for long but it was obvious why so many kite surfers flock to the area.

On day two, we woke at 4am to be ready for our jeep at 4.15am. Unfortunately our driver was late. This meant that by the time we got to the bottom of the white sand dunes the sun was already beginning to rise and we still had a half an hour walk ahead of us to reach the top of the dunes. We ended up hiring two quad bikes between the two of us. One of the young guys who worked there came on with me and showed me how to drive the bike meaning that I successfully made it to the top of the dune in time to see the last of the sunrise. Tilly and Lucy weren’t so lucky. Their bike didn’t have anywhere near as much power as mine and they got stuck going up one of the first hills.

Eventually we all made it to the top just as the sun had risen. We spent the next 40 minutes taking it in turns to ‘play’ on the quad bikes on much flatter areas of the dunes. We were back at our hostel in time for breakfast at 9am. The rest of the morning and much of the afternoon was spent reading around the gorgeous pool. I had to retreat indoors as I was too warm and feared getting extremely bad sunburn. I was lucky that I did as both Tilly and Lucy and most others still around the pool ended up extremely sunburnt.

In the late afternoon, we headed to the red sand dunes which were closer to our hostel to sand board and watch the sunset. We arrived far too early so after Tilly and I had had a few go’s of sand boarding down the dunes on pieces of plastic provided by local children we sat down to wait for the sunset. After 45 minutes and a growing urgency for the toilet we ended up leaving right after the sun began to set. The sky didn’t look very impressive so we decided to head home early. This proved to be somewhat of a mistake as on the jeep home the sky lit up in a vast array of oranges and pinks.

On day 3, we had a lie in before our late morning bus to Da Lat. Mui Ne was extremely hot so I am extremely glad to be headed to higher ground in Da Lat which is meant to be a lot cooler – some people even say you need to wear long sleeves!

I hope you’re all well! Em xxx

The beginning of the sunrise on the way to the sand dunes


Tilly on a quad bike
Quad biking on the sand dunes
Looking very happy on my quad bike
Typical scene of cows on the road
Feeling like a fortune teller in the desert with the current Snapchat filters
Catching the sunset on our return home from the red sand dunes


Ho Chi Minh City – first stop in Vietnam

An extremely brief summary of Vietnam’s hugely complicated history

I’m sure many more of you will have heard about the Vietnam war that occurred from the 1st November 1955 to 30th April 1975. Like the last post I wrote about Phnom Penh, I thought I would start by briefly explaining Vietnam’s history (which gets extremely confusing – I am still trying to get my head around it).

Vietnam was conquered by the Chinese in the 2nd century. During the 1000 years that the Chinese occupied Vietnam, the Vietnamese adopted Taoism and Buddhism. In 938 AD, Vietnam finally gained independence from the Chinese. In 1858, French and Spanish military stormed Da Nang. By the next year the French had seized Ho Chi Minh City then known as Saigon. In 1941, Ho Chi Minh leader of the communist party, gathered troops to fight for Vietnam’s independence from the French – later known as the Viet Minh. In 1946, France tried to regain control of Vietnam starting an 8 year long battle between the French and Viet Minh. The Viet Minh defeated the French in 1954 and the country was divided into the communist-ruled North and a republic in the South. Ho Chi Minh became President of the North and remained so until his death in 1969. In 1959, communists supported by North Vietnam began causing conflict in the South. The United States sent 60,000 combat troops to Vietnam in 1965 to try and stop the spread of Communism into the South. Vietnam was invaded by the US because of geo-politics. If the US could secure a position in Vietnam then it could have a strategic position against its Communist neighbors: China, Korea and Russia. However, in response to protests at home in the US, American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1973 and the US signed a peace accord with North Vietnam.

During this time, soldiers from the north established a huge network of tunnels to aid the transport of troops and supplies. One of the most famous of these networks are the Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City. The village of Cu Chi ended up living underground for 20 years throughout the war, only returning to the ground during the night. Americans realised the how valuable these tunnels were to the communists so launched operations to bomb the tunnels which were unsuccessful. The complex network of tunnels and rooms were so cleverly designed that the completely outsmarted the American soldiers who tried to find them. The underground village had kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. Staircases were designed so that rooms could not be flooded and the rooms were ventilated so gas sent down by Americans did not have an effect on those living inside. Bamboo was used to make chimneys leading from fires in the kitchen and terminating in termite mounds that wouldn’t be searched for obvious reasons by Americans. The Vietnamese guerilla fighters would collect the uniforms of dead American soldiers during the night and rub them near entrances so sniffer dogs recognised the scent as friendly. All Vietnamese wore shoes with reversed soles so that it appeared they were walking in the opposite direction. Life in the tunnels was extremely difficult though. The tunnels were so narrow that you had to army crawl through them. The tunnels opened up for tourists are now more than double the size of the original tunnels and are still a tight squeeze for most.

South Vietnam surrendered to the North in 1975 and in 1976 the two states were reunified under Communist leadership. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honour of Ho Chi Minh.

During the war somewhere between 800,000 and 3.1 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed alongside 58,000 US soldiers.

I am somewhat confused by the history despite a lot of research. I have missed out huge chunks simply because there is so much to learn about I could be here for years.


Trap door to the tunnels hidden beneath the leaves


Some of the traps laid by the Vietnamese


Inside the widened tunnels
Standard food within the tunnels; tapioca and ground nuts
The Reunification Palace

I went on a tour around the city in the morning which involved a stop off at the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and the War Remnants Museum. The War Remnants Museum was extremely biased towards the Vietnamese and although I didn’t have enough time to fully explore it I was happy to leave after feeling extremely uncomfortable reading what was basically communist propaganda.





Notre Dame Cathedral


The Post Office


Watching those affected by Agent Orange making beautiful mosaics from eggshells

Market in Ho Chi Minh City
Street exercise that occurs every evening. Many Vietnamese join for a small fee.


During my time in Ho Chi Minh City  I ended up acting in a film produced by the British Consulate about keeping safe in Vietnam. The film hasn’t been signed off yet but I have seen a preview (very embarrassed to hear my own voice) and I will update you when it is ready. It ended up being a really fun afternoon and I got a beautiful conical hat as part of the deal.


Outside the Reunification Palace

I really enjoyed my time in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh city but I’m really looking forward to my next stop, Mui Ne, which is a relaxed beach town.

Good bye for now!

Selfie for the film