Apologies for the time gap between blogs but we have had some very real internet issues, especially on the laptop which has made it difficult to upload onto our blog, yes I know, first world problems.
We have had a fortnight in Vietnam and to quote a local expression it was ‘the same, same but different’. We started in Hanoi which at first glance is a little manic but once you got your head around the basics like ‘how to cross the road’ it was all good – well nearly, crossing the road was always scary in Vietnam. Our hotel was wonderful, especially the roof top bar and restaurant, so good that I had a one on one cooking lesson with the chef, market shopping included. A real highlight for me, especially as the food I prepared can more or less be repeated at home in NZ!
We had one night in Hanoi and then we went on a two day, one night trip to Halong Bay. For this we were with a crazy bunch of Kiwis who made the trip all the more magical, 2 ‘retired’ couples, Wolf and Jody, Ken and Pat, (absolutely no stopping these four!) a couple very similar to us, Shane and Loretta from Whangarei and a young Wellington couple, Rob and Steph who made the trip even better by becoming engaged! Halong Bay is everything the travel brochures said it would be and we loved our time there. We can now say we have been trekking in Northern Vietnam (well, we climbed up a VERY steep hill to see the view over Halong Bay), we have been ocean kayaking and we have swum in the South China Sea.
From here we returned to Hanoi for a few more days, and a few more nights of shared food and wine with our kiwi friends, then it was off to Hoi An – the best bit of our Vietnam trip. We shared this with Shane, Loretta, Rob and Steph. We caught an overnight train which was an experience we don’t want to repeat. The train was fine but in our carriage were 6 gentlemen who smoked, drank and talked loudly for half the night and much of the morning. Less than pleasant.
Hoi An is a quaint little town that is well preserved and showcases its architecture and culture well. It was wonderful to wander around the lanes and streets and soak up this slower paced life. People here were friendly and welcoming. We did a day trip from here to My Son (pronounced Me Sun) a Hindu temple, mostly in ruins, dating back to the 8th century. Well worth the visit. We also had a great time at An Bang beach where the water was just the right temperature and the waves wild enough to give us lots of fun! We experienced our first dose of tropical rain and it was amazing how quickly the water levels rose. The rain wasn’t cold and it was actually fun to go around in it. The food in Hoi An was so good and we also found a great coffee spot that we visited more than once!
Next stop was Ho Chi Minh City, or as the locals still call it, Saigon. This is a really large city, 9 million people and I am sure 46 million scooters. Thank goodness we got our heads around road crossings in Hanoi! We had a trip to a floating market – not as good as Thailand but still worthwhile, and we also did a city tour which was largely learning about the Vietnam war, or the American war, depending on who you are talking to. It was great to learn more about this event and one thing we heard repeatedly was ‘no one wins a war’. Certain parts of this day were very moving and bought one or two tears to my eye.
Our overall impressions of Vietnam?
- There is an amazing number of men who sit on chairs on the side walk and smoke, drink tea or coffee and talk.
- It seems that the women work really hard here.
- The amount of rubbish has to be seen to be believed, such a shame as this is a beautiful country.
- So many people smoke!
- It is amazing what you can fit onto a scooter (people and goods) and how you can change a scooter to suit your needs. I think this topic deserves a blog of its own.
- Just how many shop assistance do you need? Preferably one per customer so they can follow you from the moment you arrive in their shop/stall until the moment you leave.
- In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) many streets are organised by what they sell, silk road, furniture road, tool road, nappy road, toy road, dress road, shoe road. Some of the street names when translated from Vietnamese into English literally translate this way.
- Life happens on the footpath, engines are fixed, food is cooked, sold and eaten, goods are exchanged, shoes are repaired, scooters are parked, which of course makes walking on a footpath interesting!
- This is an amazing place to stop and people watch.
- English is so widely spoken here that we have not learnt any greetings or pleasantries.
We used a Grab One deal with Go Asia Travel for this section of our trip and it was, on the whole, really good. If you see one, grab one, it was very cost effective and we loved meeting the other Kiwis. Each couple did a slightly different variation of the tour so we were together for parts and alone for parts. How perfect is that?
There are so many photos to show you, it’s been hard selecting which ones, so here are a few…. well 32 actually. More to come and if you want go check out Mike’s flickr account go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebrebner/