Eugene’s Journey through Vietnam
My recent trip to Vietnam began in Hanoi. I arrived to streets that looked like a sea of helmets and I quickly learned the method to get through the endearing traffic. Women wandered the streets carrying bamboo poles and wooden baskets filled with fruits and fresh baguettes that I picked up as a snack while making my way around the city center. Although filled with tourists, Hanoi did not seem to succumb to the tourist trap ways that affect so many other Asian cities. Street food was abundant, locals drank iced tea and coffee from plastic tables that streamed into the sidewalks and there were no Starbucks or McDonald’s to be found. After days of strolling the streets and people watching by the lake, I would often retire to one of the many cafes to catch some live music and have a drink. Hanoi Social Club was my most frequented café as they served fresh and unique dishes, had an artsy décor and was a top choice to indulge in the popular music scene.
Perhaps even better than the city itself were the places that were easily visited on a weekend trip from Hanoi. I first traveled to the gorgeous Ha Long Bay, spent my time gazing at the Limestone Mountains, kayaking in the crystal waters and taking a party boat cruise with other travelers. My second weekend getaway was to Sapa. This mountain town and its villages were the highlight of my trip to northern Vietnam. I went on a private trek with the Sapa Sisters Company. My tour guide was sweet and showed us the rice terraces, the villages and the workshops where they made their handicrafts. I shopped for handmade clothing, wandered around the small town and had a few glasses of wine with my tour guide after our trek together.
As I made my way south I first stopped in the historical town of Hue. I saw the famous citadel and associated bonsai gardens. After only a short stay, I took a bus to Da Nang, wandered the city and waited to watch the dragon shaped bridge breath real fire after dark. I finally decided to take a break from all of the sightseeing and give myself a little beach vacation in the coastal city of Nha Trang. I lounged around the beaches, took a snorkeling tour and enjoyed the vibrant night life. Yet again, I hopped on a bus and made my way to the highlands of Dalat where I spent only one day canyoning down waterfalls and jumping off of cliffs.
My travels ended in Ho Chi Minh City where the modernity is a drastic change from Hanoi. Woven within the skyscrapers and trendy clubs were hidden markets selling street food, produce and clothing. I spent time wandering around the park and made sure to see the imperial palace and the war museum. I took a few daytrips while in Ho Chi Minh and visited Monkey Island, the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong River Delta. Between all three journeys I got plenty of nature, history and entertainment.
My journey through Vietnam was an incredible one. I learned about history, faced some of my fears of heights and closed spaces and got to really soak up the culture in the markets and cafes. I recommend adding this interesting country to your bucket list as soon as possible!