When I went there: October 2014
I went to Vietnam on my year of travelling with a friend. I went here after Singapore and I got a real culture shock. Nothing in Vietnam was in English and I didn’t recognise anything.
We flew into Hanoi from Singapore and it was so busy. I felt completely out of my depth with the amount of motor bikes whizzing along the streets. We arrived there at night so could not see very much but we were not impressed with our hotel. It didn’t look like anything we had seen in the pictures. We put up with it and went to bed ready for the day ahead. We spent our first day in Hanoi just walking around. The streets were very narrow and cramped with people selling all types of food and items. Cables ran along all the buildings and fog rose up from the streets. Trying to cross the street was a nightmare as there was no traffic system. We found a temple not to far from our hotel and ventured inside. The weather was hot and clammy so we did not stay out for very long. We went back to our hotel looking for the in house spa to be told that we had to be drove to it. We both booked in for a Vietnamese massage to relax. After out massage we went out for dinner in a nice restaurant overlooking the lake in the middle of Hanoi. The view was stunning but we were sitting outside and the heat was ruining our meal. We headed back to our hotel through a market full of food and trinkets. We stopped to buy some bracelets and at this point my friends purse was stolen. We then had to drunkenly call the UK and have all her cards stopped.
We went north from Hanoi up to Halong bay – we had both been told good things about the tour we had booked. We booked a 2 night stay on a boat and had 3 full days in the bay. The drive was 3 hours so we arrived around lunch time. We took a speed boat out into the bay where we boarded our home for the next 2 nights. We settled down for lunch which was literally a ten course meal! Plate after plate of food kept appearing and we were struggling to eat it. We soon discovered that every meal was to be like this. That afternoon we visited the floating village where people live in floating huts, it was so interesting to see how they live without a care in the world in a hut, no bills, no car, no outside world. The weather was awful and it kept raining. We decided that if the weather did not pick up we would only stay the 1 night instead of the two and it seemed that was what the majority onboard our boat were already doing. We decided to stay for the second day and started off with a hike up 300 stairs to a view point. The sun started to brighten and our spirits lifted. We went back on the boat and headed through the mountains, it felt like we were sailing though Jurassic park. The only people on the boat was me and my friend and a Dutch couple, they were lovely. We next visited a pearl farm where I purchased a pearl necklace and bracelet. We then spent the afternoon kayaking through caves and mountains. This experience was incredible and one of the best things I did when I was travelling. Our last day we went to more caves inside one of the mountains.
We then went from Hanoi to Hoi An. Arriving in Hoi An we could tell it was more tourist friendly. The resort we were booked into was amazing with two swimming pools, one an infinity pool, a gym, spa, restaurant and a private beach. We had found heaven and needed it from all the chaos in Hanoi. The town of Hoi An during the day was hot and busy. We ventured in and took a look around. The town is known for its cheap tailoring so I got a playsuit to wear. My friend bought an ice lolly but was soon repulsed to discover it was onion flavour while I was admiring some baby chickens with their mother to then be asked if I wanted chicken soup at which my friend being vegetarian made throwing up noises and ran away. We decided we didn’t like Hoi An during the day but at night it was pretty. They had something special, hundreds of lanterns hanging everywhere.
We went into town quite often at night for dinner and found a restaurant we really enjoyed until they served my friend meat in her salad when she asked for it without. We did a lot of tanning by the pool which was lovely and relaxing.
Verdict: I really liked Halong Bay and looking back on pictures I do miss it. Hoi An was very pretty and again looking back at pictures brings back memories. There isn’t to much to do in Vietnam apart from a few temples and museums. Hanoi was far to busy and I would never want to return there. Go back? Probably not as I’ve seen it already but if the opportunity arose I would.