Ruth recently visited Vietnam as a guest of Intrepid Travel, to experience the amazing adventure travel tours they do, and this beautiful, cultural country. She had an amazing trip and kept a fabulous blog for us to share with you!
My adventure started in Hanoi with a walking street food tour in the old quarter of the city. I loved the hustle and bustle, the vibrant colours of the food market and my first experience of the friendly Vietnamese people. We even walked down the railway track and saw how some of the local families lived and worked alongside the tracks. My highlight was definitely the delectable Vietnamese food we tried.
Today we travelled to Halong Bay, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here we boarded our private junk boat “Bien Ngoc”. It was stunning to relax on the top deck to take in the beautiful surroundings of the limestone islands and emerald water. We climbed the 50 steep steps to the impressive Hong Song Sot caves, and swam in the crystal water of enchanting Halong Bay, and climbed to the highest point to take in the stunning view and sunset over the bay. Back on the junk boat, we had a delicious meal and sat out on deck taking in the breath taking stars in the clear sky.
Back in Hanoi, after a little free time for shopping and sampling a Vietnamese massage, we visited the remarkable Temple of Literature, built in 1070 to honour Confucius. Dinner tonight was at the famous Bun Bo Nam Bo restaurant, where I had my best dish of the week – the Bun Bo Nam Bo Beef Noodle Salad! At 10pm we boarded our overnight train – the Reunification Express (named from when the train line reunited the north and south) – for our 15 hour journey to Danang. What an experience it was sleeping onboard in our Vietnamese standard 1st Class carriage! But it was comfortable and clean, and we did have air con!
From Danang we transferred to Hoi An. This was my favourite place on the trip – with its 1000’s of twinklings lights it is known as the lantern town. We visited a charity CHIA that runs a school for Vietnamese children with celebral palsy, to see the work that they do. This is part of the Intrepid foundation – every $ donated to their charities Intrepid match. We road tested the unique cycle & boat tour round the back roads of Hoi An and out to the paddy fields, where we had the opportunity to meet a local farming couple in their 90’s who still produce crops for their village. In the evening we had a lovely BBQ on the banks of the Thu Bon river. We also cycled to the delightful beach at Hoi An with its backdrop of restaurants and bars.
A quick flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), with its vast array of sights and sands, blend of old and new, and east and west. I had my best ever coffee here – and learnt that Vietnam is the 2nd largest coffee producing country in the world! One of the most moving experiences ever for me was the visit to the War Remnants Museum which tells the story of the American war in Vietnam. I was shocked to learn of the effects of Agent Orange, which even today is affecting 3rd generation Vietnamese with the effects of the toxic poision.
Mekong Delta today! We were transferred to My Tho for a private boat on the Mekong River. We visited an island with lush tropical gardens and sampled some locally grown fruit. We learnt about the local cottage industry which was Coconut Candy, saw the sweets being made, visited local villages and learnt about their lifestyle. We took a tuktuk ride deeper into the canals of the delta for a traditional lunch before meandering through the mangroves in our very own longtail boat. Our last day in Vietnam came to a close with a sensational cooking lesson with a famous celebrity Vietnamese chef, Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van. I am now an expert at knocking up a fabulous Vietnamese meal!
Throughout my whole Vietnamese experience we were lucky to have our amazing local guide TV. He was the best guide I have had on any of my travels. All Intrepid guides are local to their destination, and are invaluable in gaining the unique local insight and experience required on a journey like this.
Vietnam in one word was incredible, and I’m so excited to share this unique destination with my clients.