Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Best of Vietnam

Other than hearing about the horrors of the war and seeing photos of the world-famous Halong Bay I didn't know much about Vietnam before I joined a G Adventures Best of Vietnam tour last month. From reading travel blogs about others experiences, it seems to be a place you either love or hate so I wasn't sure what to expect but after two weeks travelling the length of the country, for me it was love! From the bustling streets of Hanoi, to magical Hoi An and beautiful Halong Bay it was an amazing trip .

Here are a few highlights:
  • The food! I can't believe I had never tried Vietnamese food before going on this trip, it's so vibrant, fragrant and fresh. From Bun Cha in Hanoi and Cau Lau in Hoi An to Pho and Banh Mi in Hanoi, the food was out of this world. Now I just need to recreate it at home. Or find a good restaurant. 
  • Drinking too many shots of rice wine at the Sapa homestay (we couldn't quite work out what this was, it tasted like petrol but didn't get us drunk).
  • Being blown away by magical Hoi An. We arrived at night when this gorgeous little town was lit up by  chinese lanterns and this was my favourite place that we visited.
  • Getting wonderfully lost in the beautiful maze of streets that make up the Old Quarter in Hanoi. I could have spent a lot longer just walking the streets and snapping photos of the people and the architecture.
  • Treking through the rice terraces of Sapa. And being stalked by crazy ladies trying to sell us souvenirs.
  • Sweating. A lot. And singing the praises of the person who invented air condition on numerous occasions. It was very hot and very humid. I won't scare you with photos of this one. I've never showered so often in my life.
  • Marvelling at the beauty of  the thousands of limestone islands of Halong Bay.
  • Smoking shisha and trying (unsuccessfully) to blow rings of smoke Gandalf style. Definitely going on my list of things to do before I die.
  • Getting clothes tailor made in Hoi An.
  • Wondering if I was the victim a scam when my taxi driver seemed lost driving to my hotel from the airport (note to self - take a map next time!) but eventually arriving at the beautiful Church Boutique Hotel in Hang Ca and collapsing into bed after about 26 hours of travelling. I would totally recommend this hotel in Hanoi, it was a gorgeous little hotel with clean, modern rooms, great customer service and a tasty breakfast.
  • Doing some serious people watching at Hoan Kiem Lake at 6am. I can't believe how many people were up at that time to run, cycle, do tai chi and dance around the lake. There were also some very interesting stretches going on...
  • Cursing the cat, cockerel and person snoring like a train at the Sapa homestay.
  • Feeling very honoured to have met and travelled with these lovely, fun bunch of people.
  • Being very scared of the massive flying beetles at the Mekong Delta homestay and jumping out of my skin when one girl screamed after finding one in her bed. I'm starting to think homestays aren't my thing. 
  • Visiting a local village in Sapa and being very grateful for all the luxuries I have back at home. 
  • Being horrified at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and feeling very lucky for never having experienced war.
  • Crossing my fingers, closing my eyes, saying my prayers and hoping for the best every time I crossed a road, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Feeling like a millionaire for the first time in my life but getting very confused with the currency.
  • Eating rat! It tasted just like chicken. But deciding that eating dog meat was a step too far.
  • Feeling claustrophobic at the Cu Chi tunnels.
  • Learning to cook with a karaoke cooking teacher. And discovering I love green mango salad. And deciding that aubergines aren't too bad after all.
  • Clinging on for dear life on a motorbike tour of Hue and then getting cocky towards the end of the day and casually resting both hands at my sides and enjoying the breeze.
  • Enjoying the lights of Ho Chi Minh City on the last night and not wanting to leave...

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