Over the Easter holidays, Jan and I took a well-deserved break and jetted off to Vietnam.
If you’ve been following us for a while you’ll probably already know that we’re big fans of South East Asia and will try to visit as often as we can. (You can read about our holiday in Cambodia here). The food is amazing, the people are friendly, it’s so different from anything you can find in Europe, there’s sunshine and it’s great value for money.
We started our trip in the completely chaotic Ho Chi Minh City. With a mixture of jet lag and general tiredness from travelling for over 20 hours, it was amazing that we didn’t get run over the first time we tried to cross the road.
There are thousands of motorcycles and scooters on the streets, there a people everywhere, what little pavements there are full of vendors selling everything from various fresh fruit and delicious street food through to sunglasses and other touristy trinkets.
From Ho Chi Minh City we hopped on a plane up to the more central area of Vietnam where we spent the majority of our time. We started with a few nights in Hoi An which had the South East Asian flair that we love so much. The streets are lined with quaint little shops, bars and restaurants and there are lanterns everywhere.
At night the city is particularly beautiful. It’s so colourful and the lanterns glow like jewels in the sky. It’s one of the prettiest places in Asia we’ve seen.
Although this was our fourth trip to Asia (as well as Cambodia, we’ve also visited Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei) something we never managed to fit in in our previous holidays was a cooking class which we finally got to do in Hoi An.
It was such a fun experience and I wish we’d done one sooner! The food was really tasty (I still can’t quite believe that we cooked it!) and we definitely learned some new skills!
After spending a few nights in Hoi An, we headed up towards Hue (with a slight detour back to the airport because someone had left his Kindle on the plane, but luckily was found) which is the old imperial capital of Vietnam.
Our hotel was rather special, so we spent most of the 3 days we had there relaxing around the pool and enjoying some spa treatments. Of course, we visited some of the sights like the citadel, but relaxing was by far a priority.
The next stop on our itinerary was the north of Vietnam. We flew to Hanoi where we just spent a night before getting the bus over to Ha Long Bay to relax on a 2-day cruise around the bay – or so we thought.
It turns out, that these kind of cruises are anything other than relaxing as you get pushed from one attraction or random event to the next. The first day – after sitting on the bus for four hours to even get there – was 10 minutes rest, lunch, an oyster farm visit, a cave visit, evening meal and evening entertainment which mainly consisted of karaoke which isn’t exactly our idea of fun and apparently no one elses either (except for the waiters!).
Considering we thought that these two days would be where we relaxed most it was a bit of a shock. After all, how much can you possibly do while stuck on a boat? – Turns out a lot!
The second day of the cruise was luckily much more relaxed and a group of 6 of us headed out on a smaller boat to do some kayaking around the islands and caves before spending some time on a small secluded beach relaxing. It was lovely to get away from it all for – at least a few hours – and it was a much-needed break from the chaos and noise of the last week spent in busy cities.
After the cruise, we headed back to Hanoi where we spend 2 further nights. Both Jan and I liked Hanoi (much more than Ho Chi Minh City), although it was extremely busy. Apparently, there are over 5 million motorcycles in the city and you could really feel it.
It’s so chaotic, you always seem to be in a cloud of motorbike and car fumes, there don’t seem to be any traffic rules and you constantly feel like you’re going to get run over at any moment.
There are people crouching on the middle of the street filleting fish, there’s constant noise, we saw chickens freely wandering around and there are people trying to sell you everything from dodgy looking sunglasses and phone cases to durian and donuts.
The streets are lined with so many little shops and there seem to be areas and streets that are dedicated to just toy shops, or just bamboo stick shops, motorcycle seat repair shops or just sunglasses shops. We really had to laugh about the location of our hotel (which was right in the heart of the old town), but also happened to be in the DIY shop area as all of the shops sold paint, caulk and other DIY supplies.
Overall we had a great time and a fantastic holiday, although we both didn’t love Vietnam. The country itself is beautiful, but we often felt like we were seen as dollar signs and not people. We were always overcharged (which you almost expect as a tourist, but this was much more than that), we often felt like we were being ripped off and on more than a few occasions people tried to scam us. Basically, we always felt like we had to be on guard and possibly for that reason we never quite managed to relax and just enjoy the country as much as we would have liked. There are still areas of Vietnam that we’d like to see (mainly Sapa in the very north) and I wouldn’t discount ever visiting again, but there are just so many other places to explore first.
Where are you off to on holiday next? Do have a favourite holiday destination? Have you been to Vietnam – what did you think? Any tips on where to plan our next holiday?