Highlights of VietnamVietnam
Vietnam is an amazing country full of contradictions. You can go from the beautiful serenity in Halong Bay to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, or from the picturesque town of Hoi An to the horrors of the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. I find differing views on Vietnam from fellow travellers, they either love it or really don’t like it. Be prepared for chaotic traffic, being hassled in markets, trying some “interesting” food, and for some sobering history lessons.
This was another country I was keen to do with a group, so I booked myself a tour through Intrepid (who are AMAZING!). They really give you an insight into the history of the country and (similarly to Travel Talk) you get a local guide who takes you to great local eateries and basically organise your life while you enjoy your trip!
This blog will give you an overview of my time in Vietnam, there will be more detailed blogs to come! But a few tips:
-Be prepared to haggle! Being a tourist the locals will try and charge you a higher than normal price, stand strong and walk away if the price is too much, if the seller is interested/your price is reasonable they usually come after you.
-ALWAYS ask for the meter to be turned on in the taxi. Me and my travel buddy had a run in with a taxi driver after they tried to charge us almost triple the price.
-Keep a calculator or currency converter handy. The local currency is Vietnamese Dong and it comes in high denominations. To give you an example, the average price of water is 5,000 dong.
Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam) was my first stop on my trip, and boy was it a fitting introduction to this crazy country! Even crossing the road was an adventure and a half! Here you will find locals hustling in the market-lined streets, motorbikes galore, some local food choices, but also to find some peace and quiet at Hoan Kiem Lake. I loved watching the women walk past with their traditional hats and carrying poles stacked with fruit and flowers!
This is usually a 2-day excursion from Hanoi, and WELL worth it. Halong Bay was definitely on my bucket list, and even with foggy weather it was still beyond beautiful. Cruising through the limestone towers and sleeping overnight on a junk boat on the smooth waters of the bay was an experience I will never forget. You can also walk through Hang Sung Sot cave and get gorgeous views of the bay from above.
Hue was once the Imperial City of Vietnam, so here you find everything Royal. I caught an overnight train from Hanoi, which was basic but comfortable and had beautiful views of rural villages along the way. Once in Hue you can visit the Imperial Citadel, the Royal Tomb, take a cruise down the Perfume River or a motorbike ride to the Forbidden Purple City which was destroyed during the Vietnam War. My favourite visit was to the Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda where you can see car of the Monk who drove to Saigon and set himself alight, the famous “Burning Monk” photo.
This was possibly my favourite place on my trip. The Old Town is a World Heritage Listed Site and walking around seeing the beautiful buildings by day, and the lanterns and city by night was a sight I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Take a bike ride out through miles of beautiful rice fields to a farming town and see how rural life in Hoi An works, and come back and enjoy some street food in the streets of the Old Town.
Ho Chi Minh City
Commonly known as Saigon, Vietnam’s biggest city lives up to it’s reputation. Visiting the War Remnants Museum gave me a sobering lesson on this country’s horrific past. Seeing photos and hearing stories about the Vietnam War, it’s almost unbelievable that these things actually happened. Follow this up with a visit to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels which were used by the Viet Cong soldiers during the war as shelter, and as a means of communication and supply routes during the war. You can squeeze into the opening of a tunnel and (if you’re not too claustrophobic) walk/crawl through an underground tunnel to see just how trying these times were for the soldiers.
To lighten the mood, spend the day boating down the Mekong Delta River. Visit a coconut candy factory and try some delicious sweets, drive around in a tuk tuk to a local village, and paddle back to the mainland in sampans (local boats) through the beautiful scenery that surrounds the Delta.
There is so much to explore in this amazing country, and this blog just a glimpse!
Xin Cam on Vietnam!