Every year I commit to visiting somewhere I've never been and exploring a new destination. This year, that country is Vietnam and I have been extremely happy with my choice. It’s a country that gives you something on all fronts
There is a deep history to understand, a rich culture to explore, amazing cuisine to enjoy, and beautiful beaches to relax on. This country has it all. And the nice thing is all of it is easy to combine together and enjoy in one multi-stop trip.
HANOI The first portion of my trip was spent exploring the city of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and second largest city. Here you can see both Chinese and French influences, and time spent here allows you to gain a deep understanding of the culture and the northern Vietnamese cuisine.
I appreciated having a private guide in this city to really learn more about Vietnam and it’s people. We toured Ho Chi Minh 's Mausoleum, and spent time at the Museum of Ethnology, learning about Vietnam 54 ethnic minorities through their fascinating display. I chose to do our day or touring on the back of motorbikes seeing the city, because you aren't really experiencing Vietnam, and specifically Hanoi, if you aren't on a motorbike. To top it off, there was plenty of time spent stopping to taste the authentic cuisine the city is famous for.
For me, Hanoi felt like an urban city experience. It was fast-paced and chaotic, but mostly in a good way. I found a few days here to be plenty enough time to see the parts that interested me, and get my fill of street food, and then it was time to slow down the pace and relax. Next stop: Ha Long Bay.
HA LONG BAY Located 160 kilometers from Hanoi, is the scenic Ha Long Bay. It is the perfect compliment to a city stay in Hanoi, and allows you the opportunity to see some of the most magnificent scenery up close and personal as you sail along emerald waters in between towering limestone islands.
For our 2 day/1 night cruise we sailed on Indochina Sails. There are over 200 boats overnight in Ha Long Bay every night, and another 400 that do day trips. My advice is to definitely do the overnight, and be particular about the company you sail with because it makes a huge difference in the experience you have. Our boat was beautiful and the food and staff were top notch.
My favorite moments here were simply just staring out at the passing scenery. You do have the option to do activities like hike through Secret Cave (not a secret, since everyone else visits as well), kayaking, and heading to a beach for a quick stay and a hike up to a scenic overlook. The beach stay is rushed and full of other tourists, but the view at the top of the stairs is quite nice.
This is definitely an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting Vietnam. Sure, it’s touristy. But it is also beautiful and the type of adventure you don’t get pretty much anywhere else in the world. I took a bajillion pictures but none of them come close to even scratching the surface of how beautiful it is to stare at in person.
If you are interested in learning more about how to plan your own customized trip to Vietnam, I’d love to hear from you. This is a destination not to be missed, and I’m full of exciting ideas on how to create your own personalized experience.