On arrival in Hanoi I got my first taste of the sights, sounds and smells of Vietnam. This hustling bustling city will have you on the edge with an adrenaline rush as you simply try to cross a main road. Scooters zip by, cars dodge in between lanes of traffic and pedestrians do their upmost not to get run over, amidst a never-ending cacophony of sound.
A city tour is a great way to see the temples, visit the ceramic workshop, take a walk through the park by the river or visit one of the museums. Trying the street food is a must!
A 4-hour drive took us on to Halong Bay where we embarked on a junk boat in order to navigate between towering cliffs. The mouth-watering fresh seafood on offer for lunch provided us with the energy we needed to climb the 800 odd steps in order to get to the best viewpoint, overlooking the whole bay.
After an overnight train to Hue we made a lunch stop at a restaurant nearby the hotel, where the very attentive waitress provided a quick and thorough service and some light entertainment; jenga games with room on the jenga blocks for us to write little messages to other travellers.
From Hue we travelled by minivan to a fabulous little shopping hub called Hoi An. Here you can go to the main shopping street, Le Loi and buy arts and crafts, local food, have clothes tailored and replicated or enjoy a 1 hour cruise along the riverfront. You can rent a scooter or motorised bike and drive to the lovely beach for a refreshing dip, or just zip around town at your leisure.
Taking an overnight bus to Nha Trang we were pleasantly surprised to visit a picturesque beach lined with beach umbrellas and locals offering sun loungers and coconuts, water, soft drinks, even massages by the beach. The nightlife here is worth a mention if you like mingling with tourists and locals alike, with nice warm nights and glowing lights providing the setting for a pleasant evening.
Driving by minivan to the Mekong Delta a small boat cruise with coconuts on board was a lovely way to experience the floating markets. You can buy a variety of things such as fruit, vegetables, jewellery and clothes.
An overnight homestay at a guest house along the river was a highlight. With a group of local university students stopping in to say hello we welcomed them and had a conversational group class, exchanging stories and helping them practise their English.
Continuing on by overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City we embark on an excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was the home to many people during the Vietnam War and provided cover for the army when they were under siege. You can enter the tunnels should you choose, however, it is not recommended for those that suffer from claustrophobia.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, offers the War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum and Ben Thanh Markets, as three highlights of the city.
Vietnam has so much to offer; the people, food, night life, temples and museums made it a wonderful experience worth revisiting someday.