It had been 17 years since I last set foot in Vietnam and I was eager to see the changes that had gone on since. I have to admit, I was a little nervous that it would have become overly commercial and may have lost the authentic feel that had enchanted me when I was last there. I could not have been more wrong, as soon as I started on my street food tour on foot through old Hanoi the excitement I had known before came instantly back. The art of crossing the road was as tricky as ever despite the pedestrian crossings faced with motorbikes with whole families on board, fruit sellers balancing their loads skillfully on both shoulders in wicker baskets, cyclo rickshaws, buses and cars still proved a daunting prospect off ever getting to the other side. The trick is to just go and the traffic seemed to weaver around us – although having my private guide showing me the ropes does instill a certain confidence.
The next few hours flew in. so much to see and take in, snacks to nibble on, random trinkets to buy and beautifully adorned temples to step into for some quiet from the street.
I stayed at the Sofitel Metropole which was wonderful, great five star with a colonial feel and attentive staff. After a delightful breakfast I was ready for my full day sightseeing tour, starting with The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, temple of literature, Ethtomology museum and a few more temples later
I then headed to Halong Bay to board the Bhaya Cruise for a one night stay. Halong Bay was as stunning as I remember albeit with a lot more boats. After exploring a few caves we settled down to watch the sun set over the limestone Karsts.
A new area for me to explore was Hue in the central region. I was blown away with the citadel, a smaller version of the forbidden palace in Beijing. The complex is a Unesco Heritage site and although it has been through three wars is remarkably well preserved. The perfume river winds intricately through the city and right in front of the entrance. The intricate carvings, ceramic tiles and wooden corridors are a joy to walk around and transports one back to a bygone era….
After all this touring a few days at the fabulous Four Seasons Nam Hai was in order. Set over an expansive 2 km site the hotel offers complete relaxation, fantastic food, wonderful spa centre and to work off those extra calories you get a bicycle on check-in. Extremely handy for the heritage town of Hoi An and also Marble Mountain close to Danang.
Suitably relaxed I flew down to Ho Chi Minh to explore the city and the Mekhong Delta.
Fast, Hot, Chaotic are all suitable adjectives to describe Ho Chi Minh. I Visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Hall the very moving War Remnants Museum – a stark reminder of what Vietnam suffered during this period. I then spent a whole day exploring life on the Delta in a private longtail boat exploring the intricate waterways – cycled around a local village and had a wonderful lunch at a small homestay on the river.
All in all Vietnam was a fantastic experience and I would definitely recommend this for the adventurous and also great for families looking to do something a bit different.
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