Vivacious Vietnam – By Jayne Peirce

Having arrived in Ho Chi Minh we were a little over whelmed by a busy, noisy city, but we were soon amused by the chaos of bike riders whizzing around the city – there seems to be no rules and amazingly no prangs! It’s not unusual to see multiple people on one bike, including children carrying all kinds of things.

With map in hand, we walked around the city taking in the Post Office, Opera House, Cathedral and Ben Thah Market. Apparently there are enough bikes in Ho Chi Minh for each person to have two each. There are plenty of places to stop to grab a Vietnamese Coffee (served hot or cold) or a beer. We finished the day on the roof top bar at the Caravelle Hotel, taking in the view whilst consuming a cocktail or two.

SnapCrab_NoName_2014-10-8_10-26-43_No-00

The following day our guide took us to the Cu Chi tunnels, and despite it being tight going in the tunnels, it was fun and experiencing. It was interesting to see what it would have like down there during the Vietnam war. We only managed 20 metres but you can scramble your way through a network of 120 metres if you have it in you.

On returning to the city early afternoon we visited the War Museum, and nothing could have prepared us for the exhibition – it’s graphic, but an absolute must visit. The War Museum leaves you feeling quite sombre, the war in Vietnam clearly had an effect on the people, and that’s reflected here at the exhibit.

SnapCrab_NoName_2014-10-8_10-31-6_No-00

The next day we went to the Mekong Delta and it can seem a little ‘touristy’. We saw how the locals used the land to make all sorts of products – it was fascinating! Our highlight of Ho Chi Min was the Back of the Bike Street Food Tour. Three students picked us up from our hotel and we jumped on the back of the motorbikes, we travelled around the streets stopping five times to eat the beautiful fresh street food.

SnapCrab_NoName_2014-10-8_10-29-16_No-00

The students tell you about the city, and it’s a great way to get an insight whilst dashing through the streets. I expected to experience some weird and wonderful food, but the final stop produced something I hadn’t expected – a duck egg… The duckling is formed inside and considered a Vietnamese delicacy, hesitantly I declined but others in the group had a taste. It was the biggest giggle for the whole family.

Ho Chi Min Top Tips

• It’s hot, rather than sweat it out take a taxi they are cheap as chips and everywhere

• Go to the War Museum after the Cu Chi Tunnels

• Try the ‘Back of the Bike’ Street Food Tour

 

Hoi An

Hoi An is an amazing part of Vietnam and set on a river, the town has an excellent choice of restaurants to cater for any tastes. It boasts a laid-back atmosphere and is the ideal place to unwind after Hoi Chi Min. Wandering through the streets there’s lots of opportunity to buy gifts, and at night the town lights up with lanterns, creating a pretty hub of activity and night markets – by 10pm it goes back to a quiet town.

Fotor01008124115

One of my favourite parts of Hoi An was the cookery class with Green Bamboo. We were picked up at 8am and our host took us to the market to buy all our ingredients, it was buzzing and bright with colour.

SnapCrab_NoName_2014-10-8_12-36-37_No-00

With the shopping baskets full we returned to the house to commence the mass cooking session. With 11 in the group we enjoyed a banquet that included spring rolls, stir fry, caramelised pork and soups. It was hot work but the beers flowed which was hugely welcomed. By the time we finished we were stuffed to the brim. It was a fun experience and even my young daughter had fun.

Hoi An Tips

• Buy your gifts, t-shirts and bags here – much cheaper than anywhere else in Vietnam.

• Take a cookery class, you’ll experience the markets whilst having fun sampling lots of delicious food.

• Have a massage. My husband says it’s the best he’s ever had – £12 for 60 mins. 

 

Halong Bay

We drove our next stop Hue and with the amazing scenery on show, it is more than worth the three hour journey. Hue gave us the opportunity to take in the more historic attractions that Vietnam offers. The Imperial City was amazing and it’s easy to get around by boat or taxi.

The 4 hour drive to Ha long Bay was also well worth it, and offered a breath-taking area of natural beauty. We opted to stay by boat and the cruise ships are well equipped, with the staff very attentive. The quality of food was also of a very high standard.

SnapCrab_NoName_2014-10-8_12-57-12_No-00

We visited a local floating village then went to the beach for swimming and kayaking. By opting to stay on a boat we had the opportunity to take in more of Ha long Bay. With a party of just five of us we docked in a quiet location, before jumping into Kayaks and going through caves – a great way to see some usual hidden gems of the bay. On our final morning we saw a huge cave before returning to shore – Amazing!

Tips for Halong Bay

• Book a suite on the boat for that extra cabin room

• Two nights in Ha Long Bay is perfect for seeing all the sights. 

 

Hanoi

Arriving in Hanoi for our final two nights, you soon sense a more commercial feel that was backed up by a Maserati wedged in between lots of bikes on a busy street. The little streets are packed with locals selling anything and everything, we were amused by the fact that each street sells the same thing – electrical equipment in one street, hats in another and even a whole road selling bike seats in any groovy material you can imagine.

Fotor0100815323

We walked around Kiem Lake and headed towards the commercial end of town, taking in the Sofitel Metropole Hotel and designer shops.
In Hanoi there are fewer restaurants and bars and this is because most locals cook at home, it’s therefore good to get some recommendations from your hotel or guide. 

Hanoi Tips

• Be prepared to get lost, it’s the best way to see the city.

• Shops in Hanoi will not negotiate with you, and prices tend to be higher than elsewhere in Vietnam – don’t leave shopping till Hanoi.

 

Vietnam Round Up

The diversity that Vietnam offers is inspiring, it’s a growing country where its younger generation are keen to learn English, and embrace change whilst keeping its traditions. Its people are extremely friendly, open and hugely welcome tourists.

SnapCrab_NoName_2014-10-8_12-55-56_No-00

The quality of hotels is very high and offers something for every budget. Travelling as a family it was hugely educational, fun and will leave us with fond memories for a very long time. Definitely a place to visit in the next 10 years as I worry it might not be the same.

Final Tips

• Take an extension lead to charge all your gadgets. They don’t quite use European adapters but we managed to get them to work

• Use a currency convertor – download an app before going Currency – you can go into any bank to change money although ensure your UK pound notes aren’t written on as some won’t accept them.

• ATM’s are everywhere if you need to withdraw cash an evening meal will cost approx. £15 Wine tends to be around £6 a bottle Beer £1 a can/bottle Taxis – paid no more than £1.50 to travel 10 mins in a taxi across town.

For information on how you can a book a holiday like Jayne’s, visit the Holidays Please Vietnam page or contact Nichola Luke below.

Nichola Luke
Direct Dial: 0845 365 1659
nichola@holidaysplease.com

Comments are closed.