Vietnam is one of those places where if you haven’t been, you won’t understand, a real “if you know, then you know”. Coming from Hong Kong, we left the luxury of air con and sky scrapers behind to enter into a world of pho and fun.
Hanoi was our first stop with the old quarter being one of our favourite hang out spots. With freshly brewed draft beers for £0.20, an array of awesome food and some great people, Vietnam was quickly becoming one of our favourite countries.
If you are thinking about taking a trip to Vietnam you will almost certainly be looking at carrying out a variety of excursions and spending a lot of your time travelling the country. A trustworthy and reliable service operator we found was “The Sinh Tourist“, they diligently sorted the majority of our travel plans and also offer travel to neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Laos.
Our first trip took us North to the mountainous region of Sapa. This was our first view of the real Vietnam and we loved it! Taking the night train journey North was confusing but after a little help from some new Vietnamese friends we found our way. Sapa is a gorgeous town with endless eating opportunities but you come to Sapa for one thing and one thing only. Trekking.
Trekking up the rice field mountains, we were led by a group of tribal women who had lived in the mountains their whole lives. This was one of our best experiences yet, the classic phrase of “don’t look down” was used more than once! Walking on the very edge of a mountain side with a water logged rice field in front of you and a 50ft drop behind you, was literally living life on the edge.
Following a few days in the mountains, our next trip took us to Ha Long Bay which was incredible on a whole other level. Rated as one of the natural wonders of the world we knew why as soon as we arrived on the boat. The name Ha Long actually translates to “descending dragon”. This is in reference to the legend that a dragon came and placed hundreds of mountain islands scattered across the sea to stop rivalling countries from invading Vietnam.
Beautiful, amazing, wonderful, unbelievable, describe it how you will but words cannot do it justice, just make sure you visit this heaven on earth if you get the chance.
Two moments stick out strong in the memory from this trip. The first of which was our time canoeing through the open sea from island to island after visiting “Surprise Cave”. Free from the world you canoe to your own private island, each unique and each magnificent.
Watching the moonlit sky across the open sea and through the islands we witnessed one of the biggest lightening storms we have ever seen. Forks of electricity shooting across the sky in utter silence as we gazed through our open window was a once in a lifetime moment, never to be forgotten.
Heading further south our next stop was Hoi An. A beautiful little town with a real French heritage located along a river, this was one of those places where you could liver forever while doing very little but never having nothing to do. You should definitely give this place a visit, especially if you are after a tailor made suit for a cut price deal!
Back to the adventure, next up was canyoning in Da Lat, one of the scariest but most fun days of our travels! Starting with a simple trek through the hillsides we made our way to a river and spent the morning sliding through fast flowing streams. Great fun but still quite easy and safe, this soon changed…
Arriving at a huge waterfall the harnesses were strapped on, as one by one we abseiled our way through the water. The current was ferocious as it lashed against our legs, with strict instructions to follow, legs shaking and water almost suffocating our face came THE moment.
A slip of the foot and both of us had fallen and began smashing against the rock. Water pounding on our heads, the rock sliding beneath our feet, we were holding onto the rope for dear life! It really was a do or die moment (maybe a slight exaggeration but that’s allowed).
With sheer determination we made it to our feet and climbed down the final few metres before jumping into the deep pool of water below. With a crazy cackle as we climbed ashore we made it, only to realise this was just the beginning as we were given the good news… We had another, bigger, fiercer waterfall to abseil down.
With a genuine fear of falling to our deaths driving us on, we climbed down this waterfall with less drama, practise makes perfect after all. With instruction to keep our arms and legs tucked in when reaching the bottom, we were forced underwater for what seems an eternity as we bashed against the rocks before finally reaching the placid lake. Canyoning was one of those things which you look back on and think, “I loved it and so glad I did it but I will never do that again!”
Once leaving Da Lat we moved down to our last stop Ho Chi Min City, previously known as Saigon. Most of our time was spent volunteering with the YMCA, which you can read about here.
When not volunteering we happily spent our days wandering the busy, motorbike filled streets, finding new places to eat and enjoying a Saigon beer.
The War Remnants Museum is unmissable. This beautiful country and their welcoming people were put through enormous agony and strain. Now thriving with its independence, this is a country which is proud of what it is and where it has come from and so it should be. With people still bearing scars from the war with smiles on their faces, it is a clear reminder as to just how lucky we are.