As soon as we fixed this bucket list destination for our next holiday, I started going through other Travel blogs for inspiration on things to do and experience. The sad part was in this case, I found a number of Travel bloggers talking negatively about Vietnam (mainly to do with their experiences with the locals). Having read this a multiple times we were taken aback, yet more than ready to head there. There is a certain kick about experiencing stuff (and places) others warn you about, isn’t it? Do you want to know if our first impression of Vietnam was the last? Read on to find out more.
Our journey to Vietnam:
So here we were in Vietnam after a long gruelous flight journey (to cut on costs we decided to travel in Air Asia, and what we experienced on it is the matter for another separate blog post). We entered Hanoi amidst torrential rain and gloomy weather. Hmm.. we thought to ourselves..should we have chosen another destination after all? Is nature giving us signs too?
To top it, the taxi guy who came to pick us and drop us to our hotel didn’t know a word of English. We tried our level best to communicate with him about the bad weather and the buildings we saw on the way, but no luck. At this point, my heart was pounding. Wondering if our trip will turn out the way we had envisaged it? Are you wondering if our first impression of Vietnam turned into our last impression? Hang in there and find out how the rest of our Vietnam Holiday turned out.
And the adventure begins…
As mentioned before, we were on a tight budget, but hey who says you can’t travel when money is limited ;)? We could have chosen a couple of nights break within NSW or Australia but Vietnam was very high on our bucket list and over the last few years of travelling as a couple, we have learnt how to cut costs and yet be able to see new places or backpack for a longer duration, for that matter. So we chose to stay in a budget hotel, located in the centre of Hanoi city (which by the way is where all the action and life is). It was a no-frill Hotel with minimum facilities. All though we entered Hanoi amidst rains, that didn’t really dampen our spirits. We took a few tips (and umbrella’s) from the friendly lady at our reception and stepped out to check out Hanoi. Just a few metres from our hotel was a shop selling raincoats and looking at the way it was pouring we figured it is a smarter idea to buy ourselves raincoats. That way we can walk freely with our bags and other electronic equipment (read Phone and Camera) safe inside.
Exploring Hanoi in the rains!
So here we were, in the middle of the bustling old town of Hanoi, in torrential rains donned in our colourful raincoats. Let the adventure begin, we told ourselves! We walked amidst the tiny streets, stopping now and then to take pictures of locals sitting outside the shopfronts in shaded areas, playing chess or just socialising. We even managed to buy a couple of local fruits at a real steal, using our much-acquired bargaining skills (Thanks to years of living in India). Being rainy, not many tourists were on the road, which made it even more interesting, because we got to see the real day to day life of the locals, as is.
We stopped by at a local Vietnamese cafe to enjoy one of the famous street food, named Banh mi (Vietnamese baguette). Whilst we have had Banh mi unlimited times in Sydney, having it in Vietnam itself was a different excitement altogether. There is always a different taste and charm to a cuisine, when eaten in the land it originated from. Don’t you agree?
We spent the rest of our morning and early afternoon, walking around Hanoi, finally reaching the very famous Hoan Kiem Lake, that surrounds Ngoc Son Temple. It turns out this beautiful temple was built in the 18th century on Jade Island in the centre of the ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’ or Hoan Kiem Lake. According to legend, an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty and in doing so saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the lake.
By the end of our city walk, the rains had stopped, making way for lush green surrounds. There is absolutely nothing that can replace the look of lush green surrounds and wet, earthy smell that follows a bout of rain! Do you love it too?
The destination that took my heart away-Hoi An
The next few days after this were beautifully sunny and we were able to experience not just Hanoi and surrounds but also Hoi An ( located in Central Vietnam). Needless to say, our first impression wasn’t our last in Vietnam. Every day was a new adventure, an exciting discovery. The people of Vietnam are very friendly and hospitable, we faced no issues with them at all. In fact, in Hoi An our homestay host went out of her way to help us with detailed day to day itineraries, travel and food tips and also offered to mark out relevant places to see and do on maps.
If ever given a chance, I would most certainly travel to Vietnam yet again. This time I would make sure I take a longer leave though 😉
Also read: The streets of Hoi An