This is a busy crowded city. Most visitors will enjoy exploring the old streets and colonial building in the Old Quarter area including the temples around Hoan Kiem Lake. This is a great introduction to Vietnam. What’s more impressive in this city is experiencing the craziness of the daily traffic. There seem to be few if any rules of the road and trying to navigate road crossings as a pedestrian requires bravery and quick study. The vehicles are mainly scooter sized motorcycles, and most carry an entire family, their recently purchased groceries as well as any purchased furniture, tvs, and whatever will fit. It really is something to see.
The food in Hanoi is really good. It’s fresh, flavourful and cheap. Our favourite dish was the noodle dish Bun Bo Nam Bo. It’s very popular in Hanoi and can be found in most street side restaurants.
The Dong Van area is like Halong Bay without the water. There are thousands of small, steep, peaks coming up from narrow, green valleys. The area is very under populated so the trek is between farm lands and small villages. You have to do this trek with a guide and there are no facilities. The guides arrange various stops for the night, mostly in local one-room school houses. We were lucky one night to stay with a local family in their home. They were very gracious and hosted us as VIPs, all of their nearby relatives came over to meet the Canadians. The house, as are all in the area, is built over the barn. I slept in their daughter’s room while she went to a cousin’s house to sleep. The cows weren’t as nosy or smelly as I expected!
What a beautiful area. We took a 4 day, 3 night cruise around Ha Long Bay. It’s definitely an area not to be missed. There are thousands of small, steep islands poking through the water in all directions. The cruise took us between these islands. Local fishermen still fish here many in wooden canoes, others live on rustic house boats. We went kayaking through holes in the mountains and into ‘secret’ bays, had a small hike through caves and to the tops of the hills. The meals on our boat were amazing with ‘fancy’ (aka gaudy) presentation. It’s all pretty touristy, but worth it.
Hue and Hoi An
Hue is an old Emperor’s Capital we visited on a day trip from Hoi An. The Capital museum is where most of the centuries old buildings are located and you can walk around and explore them on your own. It still has its original outer wall surrounding many buildings for living, dining, meetings and daily life for royalty. It was interesting to see and really well kept but a day trip is enough.
Hoi An – Hoi An is a really interesting old city. The downtown Ancient Town has many historic buildings and most of this area is a Unesco World Heritage site. The area is home to many ancient homes, temples, pagodas, bridges and other buildings, set up along the river. Today many of the non-UNESCO buildings are restaurants and shops, all set up for tourism. We spent 2 ½ days wondering around and visiting the sights. You do need 2 days to see it properly. There are also many beautiful beaches as it is set on the China Sea. Most hotels have bikes you can borrow to get around. I wouldn’t plan on a long bike ride because they’re in poor condition, but it’s a great way to get to the beach or downtown. We had amazing meals in Hoi An, the best on our whole time in Vietnam. Marigold is very busy and popular with tourists, but for good reason, the food is really good.
We took a bus from Ho Chi Minh to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. The bus station in Ho Chi Minh is crazy and we ended up taking the slow bus rather than the express. Our bus stopped every few blocks picking up and dropping off people. Vendors hoped on and off selling everything from drinks or food to religious times to watches. It was definitely not a tourist bus but in hindsight was kind of fun, but not recommended if you’re in a hurry. Can Tho is a large, busy city but its access to the Mekong and its floating market make up for the city’s lack of charm. We booked a tour to the floating market through our hotel. You can also book it directly from the boats at the waterfront. The ‘tour’ is a local lady paddling you on a small wooden boat throughout all of the market boats for a couple of hours. The market was really incredible. It begins at sunrise, and is full of farmers bringing their boats full (almost over flowing) of their produce (e.g. pineapples, watermelon) to sell to the boats who are buying and then reselling at the markets in town. There are also small boats quickly moving around selling bread or morning coffee and tea. The farmers live on these boats until all of their produce is sold so may not make it town for their own supplies for days. It’s really a full service market on the water.
For more pictures from out trip check out our YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rhx7RK_uno
For more pics from our blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca