Friday, April 15, 2016
Our Vietnam Adventure: First Impressions
So, Vietnam. We just got back from almost 3 weeks away and I'm filled with thoughts on what we experienced and the joys of laundry, grocery shopping and returning to work after a big stint off during part of the busy season.
Much to the disapproval of many, our trip wasn't an extensive, unplanned many-stop, action packed set of cities. Part of doing travel our own way means we were after some R&R as much as seeing part of the world we've yet to see, so we spent 3 nights in Hanoi (our point of entry into the country), 2 days and 1 night on a boat cruise into Ha Long Bay, and 12 blissfully chilled nights in a resort style hotel in Hoi An.
So Hanoi- first impressions.... Humid, busy and well hello there motocycles and scooters. We landed at about 5:30am after an almost 11 hour flight and caved into a short nap after checking in at around 10:00 but made sure we set an alarm so we didn't succumb too hard to jet lag. Over the course 3 days we managed a walking food tour (amazing), a wander around the Temple of Literature- considered to be the site of the first university of Vietnam in the time of Confucius, lots of walking the Old Quarter and a fair few varying types of coffee and beer and street food.
Ha Long Bay (hello World Heritage Site) is pretty incredible- green water and hundreds of tiny limestone islands rising up from the bay, cruises are popular and leaving the newly built harbour is akin to the D Day landings (Tom's words...) with hundreds of boats of varying sizes all departing for cruises. We only did a single night, with tours of a floating fishing village and caves on the first day, and a visit to an island on which a beach has been made for swimming and a stairway path to the top of the hill- we opted to walk to the top for amazing views on day two. It was incredible to take everything in on the cruise and it's truly amazing to see, but there were definitely some ethical challenges for me (relocating of fishing villages, ecological protection, the purchase by tour companies of parts of the bay).
Hoi An- a super popular tourist town that's way more chilled than cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. It's popular for it's beach resort hotels and buoyant old town. It seemed we were bucking the norm and staying much longer than most with 12 nights to stop and unwind and enjoy a gentler pace. Hoi An is also famous for tailoring with dozens of tailors shops where you can have pretty much anything made to measure in as little as 48 hours. We came home with 20kg of assorted clothes and shoes. Whilst Hoi An is a much slower pace than Hanoi, I still found the constant hard sell approach of anyone with anything to sell- shop fronts, door steps, street food corner set-ups or just someone who had a mother with a laundry service or a brother renting bicycles. It becomes wearing to have to politely say no to someone every two minutes when all you really want to do is take everything in.
So, 21 days later, I'm fairly tanned and we're properly home and drowning under the ironing pile. and I can say we definitely had a great holiday- it would be an out and out lie to say we didn't. Would I go back to Vietnam? I'm not sure. These are my first impressions, stay tuned for more holiday spam including some of the highlights, and some our lessons learned in hindsight were we to do the trip again.
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