Duration: 1 Month.
Hanoi > Sapa > Cat Ba > Nimh Binh > Phong Nha > Hue > Hoi An > Phu Quoc > Ho Chi Minh
Vietnam; there’s so much to write about, but so little space.
Well, it’s safe to say things didn’t get off to a great start. After being herded onto the tightest sleeper bus like cattle, eaten alive by bed bugs living in the blankets and spending 12 hours stranded in ‘No Man’s Land’, in between the Laos and Vietnam border, we finally arrived in Hanoi… just 32 hours later.
Having left the sleepy town of Luang Prabang behind, it was refreshing to be back in a bustling city again. And bustling Hanoi certainly was. In fact, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s like driving down through Sparkhill at rush hour – just ten times worse. Crossing the road was a whole new ball game altogether. There’s three simple steps to getting to the other side alive. 1) count your blessings. 2) hold your breath and 3) just peg it and scream. It seemed to work for the most part. Again, sorry mom!
Next up, we took the bus up north to Sapa. Stunning, but bloody hell it was arctic. We stayed in the cutest homestay, Nha Tra, which felt like the closest thing to home. And, a welcomed change from grubby and packed out hostels. Every night we all sat round the table for dinner, slept in the biggest beds with heated blankets and had an energetic 4-year old constantly begging to play. To top it off, it was the place I woke to find out my beautiful nephew, Charlie James, had been born.
Another definite highlight of Sapa, without a shadow of a doubt, were the people we met; Alex & Tess from Australia and Kat & James from Canada who we travelled the majority of Vietnam with. It was fab to finally to meet ‘real’ travelling friends – not these ones who live in elephant pants, forget to wash for a week and think they’re the greatest gifts on earth. You stumble across one too many of these creatures.
There’s 5 things I learnt while travelling in our little pack:
1. England has the worst holidays (Canadians get 5 weeks, just saying)
2. Cries De Thabernak in French means ‘fuck sake’ – always came in handy when the Chinese would try and wedge themselves in a queue.
3. Canberra is the capital of Australia
4. Distinguishing between a Canadian and American accent is a lot harder than you think.
5. Asians love to sweep. Eat, sleep, sweep, repeat.
Well, at least I can say I’m going home a little bit wiser.
Right, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Another one of my favourite spots in Vietnam has to be Hoi An; the place of lanterns. It was completely different from every other place in Vietnam we’d seen. Every street was decorated colour lanterns, tailor shops and tiny boutiques; It was heaven.
To wrap things up, I can’t talk about Vietnam without mentioning Ho Chi Minh. The sweatiest, busiest, and quite frankly, the weirdest place I’ve ever been too. We stayed in Ho Chi Minh for Christmas and what a Christmas it was. Christmas Eve consisted of; drinks in one of the city’s most famous sky bars and a boogie at Shaka, a tiny little club we found a few days before. As for Christmas Day? It had a bit of a twist. We swapped Buck’s Fizz for hungover pastries and Peter Kay in bed (…not literally) and traded the age-old turkey dinner for a delicious 6-course Vietnamese meal (followed by a few treats from 7-eleven, of course ).
Overall, Vietnam was incredible for a number of reasons. Its humble people. Its flavoursome food. It’s culture. But most importantly, its quality fakes.