Our blog has grown so popular that we’re now commissioning (beauftragen) guest posts! This is a post from the World-renowned (renomiert) travel critic Porko Hare who also happens to be Tom’s brother. What a coincidence (Zufall)!
As stated (angegeben) in the previous (vorherig) blog post, after landing in Da Nang, instead of being reunited (wiederverinigen) with my luggage (Gepäck) at baggage claim, I was actually informed, via a notice board circulating (kreisen) round the carousel, that my bag had seemingly disappeared (verschwinden) into thin air.
After a couple of phone calls and 15-20 minutes of waiting at the customer services department (a desk (Tisch) in the corner of the arrivals room) I was informed my bag would arrive there at Da Nang Airport the following (folgend) evening. After another few minutes of persuasion (Überzeugungskunst/ Überredung), I managed to get them to agree (einwilligen) to deliver (liefern) my bag to the hotel – how kind (wie nett) of them to reunite me with my bag that THEY lost (verlieren)!
Considering (Wenn man dedenkt, dass…) I was only staying with Tom and Tessa in Hué for two days and the airline had been less than enthusiastic about the location of my bag, I was little nervous about getting it back in time. I’d usually have been very nervous but I think my mood (Laune/Stimmung) was helped by the large amount of rum I’d consumed (konsumieren) on the plane journey with my seatmate/new friend from South Korea!
After finally leaving Da Nang airport, my next task was to get to the train station and catch the train to Hué. Walking outside, I was greeted with a long line of taxis offering (anbieten) me a lift. However, for a good 5 minutes I was continuously (ununterbrochen/ immer wieder) turned down (ablehnen) and sent away (wegschicken) once they realised I only wanted a short lift to the train station. Some offered to drive me all the way to Hué but eventually I managed to persuade (überzeugen) one to take me to the train station. I wasn’t having much luck in Vietnam so far!
Due to the extra time spent in the airport, I missed (verpassen) the train I had originally planned on catching and had to wait for the next one. This journey was the same that Tom and Tessa had done a couple of days before but, fortunately (glücklicherweise), my train was deadly quiet and I managed to get a good view out of the window which soon put me in a better mood.
Unsure whether (Unsicher, ob) Tom had got my message that I had no luggage and had missed my original train, I was over the moon (überglücklich) to see him waiting at Hué train station for me. Rather nervously, I jumped on the back of his rented moped and we weaved our way through what felt like a never ending line of horn beeping (hupend) cars, back to the hotel to unpack (auspacken) my bag…NOT!
After informing me that they were going to get me thoroughly intoxicated (komplett betrunken) to make up for my nightmare (Albtraum) journey, Tom and Tessa stayed true to their word (Wort einhalten) and I finally rolled back to my room just after 2am. But not before searching the streets for the Vietnamese equivalent of a greasy doner kebab. I ended up with a meal which I have since named stir-fried rat (gebratene Ratte), as I have absolutely no idea what I actually ate and ended up chucking half of it away (Er hat keine Ahnung was er da eigentlich gegessen hat und hat die Hälfte davon dann weggeschmissen)!
Up bright and early for breakfast the next day, we (OK, Tom and Tessa) planned to visit the Citadel, also known as the Imperial Palace. Originally built (erbaut) for the emperor (Kaiser) Gai Long, the Citadel was a series (mehrere/eine Serie an) of grand buildings, courtyards (Höfe) and gardens built especially for the emperor to stay in when he was visiting. Many of the original buildings were destroyed (zerstört) in the war (Krieg), but it was clear to see, in its day, it would have been an extraordinary place with no expense spared (man konnte klar sehen, dass es zu seiner Zeit ein extraordinärer Ort gewesen ist, keine Kosten wurden gespart)!
Later that evening, Tessa dragged (schleppen) me and Tom down to the lively DMZ bar to watch the football and rugby. Although it was a fun night watching Scotland and Ireland battle it out in the Six Nations, it was a quiet walk home as Tessa was thoroughly disappointed (komplett enttäuscht) in her favourite football team (Lieblingsfußballmannschaft); the ever underachieving Liverpool FC receiving a 2-0 pasting from Hull City.
The following day we packed our bags and headed down to a moped hire shop, where we had arranged the previous day to hire 3 mopeds and have our bags delivered to our next destination, Phong Nha.
Shortly after setting off on our 200km+ journey, Tessa’s bike started overheating (überhitzen). After a quick trip to a local garage (Tom: “where the mechanic relieved us of 100,000 dong (4.20€, £3.60) for an oil change (Ölwechsel) – no idea why an oil change would cure overheating?!”) and a couple of phone calls to the hire company, we were told to ignore (ignorieren) all warning lights and carry on regardless (trotzdem weiterfahren)!
We made a slight detour (leichter Umweg) to our route to visit the Hien Luong bridge. This bridge spans (überbrücken) the Ben Hai river which formed part of the North-South divide before reunification (Wiedervereinigung) of Vietnam in 1954. Our journey took us north along the highway through acres upon acres of terraced rice fields; all planted and harvested (ernten) by hand until we got to Dong Hoi, where we turned off the highway and headed out into the hills (Berge) towards the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
Tessa’s bike somehow managed to survive (überleben) five hours of overheating (überhitzen) and we arrived in the small town of Phong Nha. Once settled into (niederlassen) the Heritage by Night Hotel, we headed down the street to Bamboo Café, where we were told we could book our tour for the following (folgender) day with “Hai’s Eco Conservation Tours”. The owner (Besitzer) and lead guide (Reiseleiter), Hai, comes from a poor background (armer Hintergrund) but, after working in the national park for a few years, he set up his tour business to try to promote the conservation (Erhaltung) of the national park and support (unterstützen) local workers. He now owns the very successful (erfolgreich) Bamboo Café and part-owns the large Easy Tiger hostel. He is also very active in funding (finanziell unterstützen) the local wildlife rescue centre. As well as speaking impeccable (einwandfrei) English and being an absolute wealth of knowledge about the Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park, he really was an incredible guy!
The next morning we got up early to set off on our jungle tour. Unfortunately, Tessa couldn’t come as she was suffering (leiden) from sun stroke (Sonnenstich) from the day before.
Jumping on the back of yet another moped, we were led into the National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, where the vast (rießig) area of dense jungle (dichter Dschungel) is nothing short of beautiful. After visiting the animal rescue centre we set off on our trek through the jungle. Expecting (erwarten) it to be a walk in the park, I was quite surprised (überrascht), as well as glad (froh), that we really were heading off the beaten track (abseits der ausgetretenen Pfade) into the jungle. After a morning of trekking through the thick undergrowth (Gestrüpp) we arrived at a cave (Höhle) where the local men that had driven us into the park had made a fire and started to cook our lunch. We made our own rice paper rolls (a traditional Vietnamese dish a bit like a spring roll but not fried) with the barbecued pork, rice and fresh vegetables, using banana leaves (Bananenblätter) as plates (Teller). After a pretty spectacular lunch, we had a long slog uphill through even thicker jungle. Before finishing our tour, we stopped for a swim in a deep pool in the river and Hai also showed us a large enclosure (Anlage) where the animals from the rescue centre he helps at are eventually released (freilassen) into. There were many monkeys swinging from the trees and porcupines (Stachelschwein) chasing each other around. Along one side, there was a rabbit hutch (Kaninchenstall) with a gigantic python in it. Accompanying the python in his play area was a duck (Ente) splashing around in the water! Hai said the python eats once every three weeks so the python is probably now alone again!
The following day, it was Tom’s turn to feel the effects of the previous days heat and he spent nearly all day in bed while me and Tessa chilled out by the pool at the hotel. Following the trend of their South-East Asia tour, I decided to apply too little sunscreen and got thoroughly toasted (Sonnenbrand) by the red hot sun, resulting in a fairly uncomfortable (recht ungemütlich) few nights to follow!
For our last day in Phong Nha, we decided to hire a couple of mopeds and explore the National Park and local scenery by road, as well as visit one of the well known caves (Höhlen) in the area; Paradise Cave. The heat from the day before had again got to Tessa which made the long walk from the car park up to Paradise Cave hard work. The cave itself was pretty impressive (beeindruckend) and well worth the walk (der Weg lohnt sich) but it was slightly spoilt (zerstört) by the sheer amount of selfie stick wielding (extreme viele Mensches, die nur Selfies machen), robot-like tourists wandering around staring (starren) at their phone screens. This was something Tom and Tessa had got used to over the past few months but it still baffles (verblüffen) me! (Tom: “Oh, it still baffles us too!”) Luckily, not many of them ventured (sich wagen) very far into the cave so we got a bit of peace and quiet once we were away from the entrance.
On our way back to the town, we took a tour around the National Park and through some small, very rural villages. It was a real eye opener for me to see, technology wise, how far behind the western world they are in the rural areas of Vietnam. It was actually really enjoyable seeing the locals ploughing (pflügen) the fields using a cow-drawn plough and hand sowing the fields.
We headed back to the hotel to get showered, collect our bags, and get a taxi into Dong Hoi to catch the 21:00 sleeper train up to Hanoi. Unbeknown to me, this was going to prove to be a whole new experience from my usual holiday transport!
We stepped onto a battered (arg mitgenommen) train and the only thing that hit us before the 1970s decoration was the smell (Geruch) of cigarette smoke. It turned out to be the crew of the train smoking and drinking at the end of the carriage! (Tom: “Apparently, about half the sleeper trains running on the line were completely refurbished in 2015. I guess we ended up on the unlucky side!”)
We were staying in a ‘soft sleeper’ cabin but the beds were about as comfortable (gemütlich) as a plank of wood (Holzbrett) with a blanket (Decke) over it so I hate to think what the ‘hard sleeper’ is like! One saving grace (Rettung) was that we had our four-person cabin to the three of us so we at least had some privacy.
As the nine-hour journey rumbled (rumpeln) on, we all managed to get a limited amount of sleep before we were awoken (aufwecken) by one of the crew saying “Hanoi. Hanoi.”. “Hmmm. According to the map, we’re still about two hours away from Hanoi”, Tom informed us. And he wasn’t too far wrong (Hat nicht allzu sehr daneben gelegen).
However, we did get one fantastic comedy moment from the last part of our journey which we have since called “The Pissy Legs Incident”. As Tom returned (zurückkehren) from the toilet one time (the toilets were so small that you had to actually climb ONTO (raufklettern) the toilet seat to close the door behind you!), he said “I’ve just had a nightmare. I accidentally (aus Versehen) slammed the toilet down (zuschlagen) and piss sprayed (sprühen) all over my legs!”. “Yes, we can smell!”, Tessa and I both said together! As you may be able to guess, there wasn’t any toilet paper left so Tessa supplied Tom with some wet wipes and he did his best to clean up. Disgusting (ekelhaft) but VERY funny for Tessa and I.
We ended up rolling into Hanoi just the four hours late at 11am and walked to the Queen Light Hotel where we’d be staying for the next two nights.
Thanks for writing Porko!