Having had a much earlier night, we were all up early and ready to be collected to travel over the Hải Vân Pass to Huế. We had booked a private car a few days previously so were very surprised to see a minibus parked up outside our hotel to collect us.
Taking a row of seats each we enjoyed spreading out with the air conditioning blowing for the half hour journey to the outskirts of Đà Nẵng and the Marble Mountains.
The Marble Mountains are a cluster of five hills made from limestone and, you guessed it, marble. It's a well known pilgrimage site with caves, peaks, tunnels and, of course, temples. We had the option to either pay 30,000VND (~£1) (on top of our 40,000VND) to get an elevator up to the top or to take the stairs. Being the cheapskates we are, we opted for the stairs. At the top of the stairs we were greeted with a temple building towering above us with hidden speakers blaring Monks chanting. Next stop was the view point with views out to Đà Nẵng beach and the sea although a new hotel development rather wasted the view. Our final stop was the caves, which were our favourite of all the stops. The large cavernous areas were filled with engravings and statues of Buddha, it was easy to see why many people find it to be such a spiritual place. Although sunlight peaked through the ceiling of the caves smoke and incense lay thick in the air giving a foggy illusion.
We made our way back down the stairs and ran the gauntlet past the many, many ladies selling their marble wares (who takes marble home from their holidays!?) The reduction of tourism in Vietnam due to the borders being closed meant the ladies were clearly desperate to make a sale and therefore their sales tactics were much more aggressive than we had seen so far here.
Back in the safety of the minibus and we headed on towards the Hải Vân Pass. We passed Đà Nẵng beach on the way which was a sparsely populated stunning white sand beach. Our driver told us that normally at this time of year it is heaving with tourists from China and South Korea however we could probably count on one hand how many people were there.
The road from Đà Nẵng suddenly changed into the Hải Vân Pass and we wound our way upwards towards the top looking at the beautiful views of Đà Nẵng, nestled between the mountains and the ocean. We stopped off to take in the view from the top however, the clouds had other plans for our photos!
After making our way back down the other side of the Hải Vân Pass our final stop off was at Lập An Lagoon where we snapped a couple pictures and jumped back into the minibus. An hour and a half later we arrived at our hotel, the Nice Hue Hotel centrally located in the city of Huế.
After dropping off our bags we headed off out in hopes of seeing some of the tourist attractions. The receptionist had given us mixed information about whether the attractions were still open so, feeling hopeful, we set off to see the Imperial City. We arrived to find the place locked up so wandered around the outside wall before walking to the Museum of Royal Antiquities hoping we might have better luck. Unfortunately the gates were locked, however we did get to see some of the artillery guns, planes and helicopters just out of reach over the fence.
Feeling a bit dejected, we headed back to the hotel and made the decision to get the ball rolling with coming home, with increasing border closures and cases of COVID-19 increasing in Vietnam, we decided we didn't much fancy spending 14 days quarantined in Vietnamese army barracks!
Beginning to feel a little peckish, we set off out in hope of finding some dinner, however we had absolutely no luck as just about every restaurants was closed, from Hà Nội's instruction, so we headed back to the hotel and ordered KFC on Grab! The hotel graciously let us use their cafe area to eat. Unfortunately, both Craig and Emmet ordered what had looked like chicken burgers on the app (which was a pretty fair assumption given, you know, Kentucky Fried CHICKEN) turned out to be some form of fish burger, along the scampi/prawn line! Not exactly what they were looking for or expected!
The next morning we headed out to Highlands Coffee for one final Bánh Mì for breakfast. So, 2 hours south of the DMZ that used to separate North and South Vietnam, we were collected by our taxi, said our goodbyes to Emmet, and set off on our 2 hour journey south to Đà Nẵng airport. It was a completely uneventful journey and we arrived into the surprisingly busy airport where we were ordered to put our masks on and use hand sanitiser before we could enter. We checked in, cleared immigration and security and were surprised to find a Costa Coffee (Craig has missed their coffee) airside so we got ourselves a coffee and waited for our flight to be called.
3 hours later, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport ready to wait the 3 hours until we could check in for the next flight. McDonalds was all that was open so we grabbed ourselves a table a waited it out (1 restaurant away from being a Fast Food Rockers tribute band). Over "dinner" Craig made the decision that to ensure we got a little sleep he would ask if there was any seats in business class. When we arrived at the check in desk we were delighted to be told we could indeed upgrade our seats and for a fraction of the cost it would have been to book business outright. Bonus!
We headed through immigration one last time and made ourselves comfortable at Starbucks (water only, no caffeine!) whilst we waited for our flight to be called. We passed through security at the gate then took the escalator up as business class board on the second floor of the A380 - oooooooh!
On the flight the seatbelt light was barely off before we were offered mattresses and a light bite before heading to sleep. Craig opted to head straight to sleep whereas Katy made the most of the business hospitality and had a small butter chicken before heading to sleep.
We both enjoyed a few hours sleep (a first for Craig on a long haul flight) and were woken to a delicious breakfast, gingerbread French toast for Craig and an omelette for Katy accompanied by a glass of Moet of course! After breakfast we got to freshen ourselves up with the complimentary wash bags we had been given. We were actually a little sad when the pilot announced we were coming in to land as we had been so comfortable and changing over to economy for the next leg was quite the thought!
Transiting through Dubai was very straight forward and we had no sooner sat down at the gate when boarding started. We boarded and were pleasantly surprised to see we had booked extra legroom seats (thank you over-tired Craig and Katy from the night before) however the flight was packed and absolutely crammed so we did not have the comfiest of journeys. However we made the most of the inflight entertainment, we both watched Jojo Rabbit, then Craig watched academy award winner, Parasite then, Ferris Buellers Day Off and Katy watched Hustle and, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. A long 7.5 hours later we touched down in Glasgow and it became a very sad reality that we were now home.
Neither of us were really ready for our trip to end, having already shortened it from 12 months to 9 months to then have it reduced to 8 months so abruptly was really very sad for us both. We definitely have unfinished business in both Vietnam and Malaysia and we can say for sure this is not the end of the Wild Salisburys.
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