Reasons to visit Vietnam…
Oh, my goodness…where does the time go? I cannot believe how long it is since I posted.
It’s a year now since we had the holiday of a lifetime, we were so very lucky to visit Vietnam…I started writing this then but life got in the way, another house move (and can you believe we have another one imminently) and a new job, this post has just sat in my drafts ever since.
I was slightly hesitant at posting this because well, Vietnam is still relatively unspoiled by tourism and I don’t want millions of people to go and ruin it, but on the other hand its level of tourism is only at 30% and I’d like the lovely people there to benefit too.
The younger three children (18, 14 & 10 years old) and I went to Vietnam last summer. We started in Hanoi and worked our way down to Ho Chi Minh City over two weeks by boat, train, bus and plane and it was bloody wonderful!
I get a little lump in my throat every time I think of it, it was totally out of my comfort zone, I didn’t really know what to expect, I very rarely want to visit somewhere twice but I felt we just scratched the surface and I want to explore so much more of this wonderful country.
There is so much to say about Vietnam it is hard to know where to start…, but if I had to give you a few reasons to visit Vietnam here they are!
We couldn’t get enough of the food, and it was so diverse from Bánh mì (Vietnamese baguettes) to noodles noodles everywhere for every mealtime including breakfast, to the most wonderful street food. One of my favourite memories was in Hoi An, we were so lucky to be there on a full moon where we were able to witness their lantern festival. As well as the beautifully coloured lanterns lining the streets, candle lit lanterns are placed on the river, it is very magical. We had planned to find a restaurant to eat in but stumbled across a long long road of street food sellers and in the end went from stall to stall trying different things; rice paper spring rolls, deep fried spring rolls, banana crepes, Vietnamese banana pancakes, pork kebabs, rolled up ice cream in a tub!?
In Hoi An the four of us attended a Vietnamese cooking class, I can’t wait to share the recipes and tips. What a great way to get a ‘fussy’ ten year old to try new things.
Another fabulous memory was made whilst we did a homestay in the jungle on the Mekong River! Making spring rolls with the women of the family and M and his new friend cooking very fresh prawns on a makeshift barbecue.
Not so nice, for us, but all part of the experience was the snakes on offer to eat, and some of the very pongy food in the markets, I still imagine I can smell this sometimes and it turns my stomach.
If you’re feeling brave definitely try durian (it’s a fruit), it’s interesting…and it was so funny sneaking around the side of the hotel to eat it- it is so smelly it is not allowed in hotels.
Finally, food is so cheap…four huge barbecued pork and pickled vegetable baguettes from street stalls for £1.60, in total! I think most of our meals in very good restaurants never cost more than £20 for the four of us including a few beers.
Oh the gorgeous, friendly smiley people of Vietnam really made our trip extra wonderful. I’m surprised I managed to come home with three children as the locals took a shine to M, I’d turn around and he would be the centre piece for someone’s selfie. Our guide took great pleasure introducing him to her friends and colleagues as we made our way around Vietnam, taking him on bike rides around the streets (my heart in mouth moments) and teaching him Vietnamese. Small children were always delighted to practise their English with us, and we loved playing football with the local children in Children’s Hope in Action Centre (CHIA) in Hoi An.
Where do I start? It’s rich and so so varied incorporating many nations and cultures. We were fascinated visiting the Pagodas (they are all so different) but one in particular sticks in my mind, Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue because of the Buddhist monks who live there. It was slightly heart wrenching and fascinating seeing boys as young as six in training. I could have listened to them chanting for hours…
Obviously the Vietnam War featured a lot, not just in it’s visible scars but from talking to our guide, you can still feel the pain and anger so it was with much apprehension that we visited the War Remnants Museum in HCMC. It turned out to be a good call, despite having to cover little eyes from some very graphic images. M was really engaged here and I was very interested reading the accounts of journalists covering the war.
We loved Hoi An, I could quite happily live there, a beautiful ancient town jam packed with history and also close to some spectacular beaches. There is a huge Chinese influence on the town, and we enjoyed visiting the temples and marveling at the famous 18th century Japanese covered bridge. By chance we were lucky enough to be there for the Full Moon Lantern Festival, buying lanterns to send down the river with a wish.
A highlight of our trip was to the Mekong Delta, a fascinating area of rice paddies, floating markets, and millions of coconuts. We stayed in a family home sitting right on the edge of the river. Our journey there was amazing, navigating the maze of waterways on a little row boat and then a ‘trek’ through the jungle passing family homes before arriving at our home for the night. I must admit I didn’t get much sleep that night, the jungle noises and heat much to blame.
I had read a lot about Halong Bay before we left home and really wasn’t sure what to expect, some reviews made it seem as though we would be another boat in an overcrowded and polluted area. I was so happy to find it was nothing like that, it was beautiful, eerie, calm and I really wished we could have spent another night. After a huge feast of fresh seafood & traditional Vietnamese food, most of the night was spent on top deck playing cards with our fellow travellers and star gazing. The next day I stepped out of my comfort zone as we went kayaking at sunrise, probably one of the best things I have ever done. The stillness of the early morning, watching jellyfish in the water, I still cringe at the undignified way I climbed out of the kayak (actually was hauled out as it was so slippery) as we went to explore caves…it was all truly magical.
This trip certainly gave me the travel adventure bug, a beach holiday will never be quite the same. I wish I had found this company years ago offering holidays especially created with youngsters in mind. Thanks Intrepid Travel.