It's funny how a holiday quickly seems like a dream, once you're back home.

By the end of my Contiki tour of Vietnam, it felt like I'd been on the road for weeks - but now that I'm back in the office, it's like a blink of the eye.

A lack of decent wi-fi at my last few hotels thwarted my best efforts at travel blogging, as did the urge to not miss anything while holed up over my laptop.

Following a dreamy couple of days in Hoi An, we were off to the former capital Hue - home to the massive Imperial City fortress, where Emperor Gia Long once lived with the Nguyen imperial family. We're transported there from the hotel on individual cyclos.


The citadel was built in the 19th century, but was badly damaged during the Vietnam War. Bullet holes still remain in the temple walls and many of the buildings are being restored. It's an epic complex to walk through in the midday heat. I stopped for a rest and decided to feed the hungry koi that crowd around the side of the bridge where the fish food is sold.

I love feeding koi

A post shared by Eli Orzessek (@nimbiwit) on

Also worth visiting in Hue is the seven-storey Thien Mu Pagoda - the tallest religious building in Vietnam. Overlooking the Perfume River, it's a peaceful location, with a bit of dark history.

Latergram of the Thien Mu pagoda in #Hue #Vietnam - Eli #travel #nzhtravel #contiki

A post shared by Herald Travel (@nzhtravel) on

Back in Ho Chi Minh City we were shown the intersection where Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burned himself to death in protest against the Diem government, led by a Catholic. Here, you can see the Austin Westminster sedan he drove from Hue to his self-immolation in Saigon.

After a day of history, I decide to go out for "just one drink" at local bar Brown Eyes, but that quickly changes when I discover that drinks are two-for-one - which seems to be the case in nearly every bar here. And the drinks seem a lot stronger than they would be back home.

Hue is a university town and the joint is quickly crowded with young hip types. After my "one drink", I head home at around 2am - trying not to think of the early start the next morning.

From Hue, we're moving on to Hanoi - our local tour guide tells us that while Saigon is "the Beast", Hanoi is "the Beauty". It certainly is a pretty city, with mosaic murals lining the main road and Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of town.

While the others go on a guided walking tour, I one-up them and head off on a motorbike with some locals - friends of a friend back home. We have some tasty noodle soup and pancakes at a place on the street, before heading to a bar for some Hanoi beers and chitchat about art.

The next morning I have to leave Hanoi as fast as I arrived - we're off to famed Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone islands tower out of the sea. I'm feeling a bit dubious about spending a night on a boat, having seen a similar looking boat burn with tourists on board just the day before.

While it's nice being away from the city, peacefully floating amongst the big rocks, I do feel it's a bit overrated and I'm itching to get back to the city and finish my shopping.

Arriving back in Hanoi at about 4pm the next day, I spend my final hours walking around in circles through the Old Quarter, just trying to find the best place to buy beer singlets. I have my last Vietnamese iced coffee at about 7pm and it keeps me up to 1am that night - not very good when you have to leave the hotel at 6 the next morning.

And that's it. Before I know it, I'm at the airport eating a disappointing and overpriced last bahn mi sandwich. But I'll be back - and next time, I'll be starting in Hanoi.