So we were looking at our calendar and saw a big gaping hole of ten days at the end of January where we had nothing on the cards. We toyed with the idea of going away but the budget was getting a bit stretched.
2 days later and Jess received a phone call at 10pm with a job offer and naturally we high fived, looked at each other and said “VIETNAM!”.
‘Nam has been on the to do list of as long as we have known each other and had come close to going so many times but were prevented by exuberant airline costs.
After having a quick play around on skyscanner we discovered it was a feasible destination. A couple of days later we were locked in with a trip to Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hoi An.
After knocking off work at 4am, we headed off at 7am on our connecting flight through Kuala Lumpur with a seven hour layover at the airport. We discovered a cheap container hotel at the airport and it was a life saver after a severe lack of sleep. After a shower and quick nap we were on our way to Hanoi.
Rolling into our accommodation into the Old Quarter we were excited to get out and about and explore. After a quick walk to get our bearings we settled into our undersized (not for Jess) plastic chairs on a bustling street corner. It was a people watching paradise. Sitting down to enjoy a few beers and snacks we managed to get a couple of hours in before the local Police rolled down the street rambling out Vietnamese roughly translated to “night over”.
There was plenty more exploring to be done in the days to come, drinking coffee (lots and lots of coffee), buying fruits at markets, visiting lakes and absorbing all the hustle and bustle of life as it goes by.
To Ha Long Bay for two nights on a junk boat. The first lesson learnt when booking our stay on the boat; haggle like a boss! There are plenty of discounts to be achieved and the prices are very flexible with many of the companies.
Having booked our stay, we took the 4 hour bus ride out to Ha Long. As with all bus rides, they’re never going to be a highlight, but we watched as so many other travellers where only
heading out for a one night stay on the bay. We were so relieved that we had got for the two nights. The bay is such a peaceful place and you can get lost in the awe of its beauty, but too only stay for a single night I think we would struggle to get that serene feeling.
Heading down to Hoi An and the French influence becomes ever more clear. The bustle of the tailor shops surrounded by the quiet of the river running through the town created a fun balance. While absolutely loving the feel of Hoi An we were excited to get further away from some of the tourist traps of Hoi An as we headed off on our motorbiking (scooter) adventure.
Scoring some great weather we headed off with our guide as we passed through many cities, towns, and villages in Central Vietnam getting to experience Vietnam away from the tourist destinations. When we hit the Ho Chi Minh trail, it was every thing we wanted from our trip to ‘Nam. The food was amazing; the scenery was like we were travelling through Jurassic park, and the people were some of the friendliest we had encountered and certainly the most accommodating.
The experience that will stay with us for a long time will be randomly stopping off at an ethnic minority village in the mountains of Ho Chi Minh trail were we walked over a rickety bridge to
the village being surrounded by kids excited and inquisitive of our presence. As soon as we got to the top of the village we were promptly invited into a room where 6 guys were seated around a rug drinking beers. As soon as we sat down, one of the local produced a large 15 litre barrel of their local concoction. The concoction was a mixture of rice wine, ginseng and fermented mushroom and surprisingly tasty. It was one of those times where you even though you can’t speak the language a few drunken hand gestures and laughs we all got on like a house on fire.
Hitting the road again soon after with thankfully not too far to travel we were yet again welcome into another home at another village where the ladies heated up a big vat of water mixed with lemongrass that we could use for a relaxing shower. Then there was the spread the family put on… home cooked Vietnamese food; it doesn’t get much better!
While we had some long days on the scooter together it has to be one of the best ways to get in touch with day to day Vietnamese life.
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