Having embarked on our trip to Vietnam on 15th March, we have been enjoying the tastes and sensations of this remarkable country and its people for 10 days already. Time has passed with great speed as I have only just now managed to find the time to write about our journey so far.
The Vietnamese people are friendly and accepting, particularly given our small group of women travellers. Vietnam has not long been a destination for tourists, so the opportunities to see and feel the true culture and the people are great.
Hanoi is a bustling city with few foreigners. Our accommodation in the old town was the perfect location to wander down to the lake in the early morning and witness, or in fact join the locals in their morning Tai Chi activities. It seems that absolutely everyone living in the city was by the lake at sunrise, exercising, meditating, socialising, walking or practicing Tai Chi in their own way. The people of Hanoi socialise with their morning exercise, then socialise all day, lining the footpaths outside the small shops, then socialise again in the evenings while meeting in the central plazas with family members and friends to skate, play ball or simply stroll.
The city is full of life, and all the living happens on the streets. The buzz of motorcycles, bicycles, cars and the general city traffic is a constant. The streets are full all the time. Footpaths are filled with locals sitting, cooking and eating all throughout the day, from very early in the morning until late at night.
After the city, Halong Bay was an amazing experience, staying aboard a junk boat for the night while exploring the tranquil waters, bays and limestone caves. Halong Bays rocky outcrops conceal caves, with one massive cave in particular that we walked through, having been a refuge for the local people during the war. This huge cave hid about 200 people for a period of up to 2 years, while life went on with around 20 babies being born there during that time.
Hilltribe trekking in Mai Chau was next on our agenda, a huge contrast to the busy city life of Hanoi. In country areas the people work very hard, bent over the rice fields all day. Our small group have been welcomed with traditional serving of tea into the very basic homes of local people in the farming villages, witnessing first hand how life in the country is lived. We stayed in a small village, off the beaten track for 2 nights with a lovely family, sleeping in a village longhouse. It was a great experience, walking and cycling through the countryside, among rice fields, with our local guide.
The next night we visited the Cuc Phuong National Park where a walk was enjoyed, while staying in our own private house just outside the national park, in the jungle, surrounded by the amazing sounds of different monkeys and hundreds of birds.
Have I told you about the food?
Check back here is a few days to learn more while we journey south to Hue and Hoian, then onto Saigon.
– Marika at Women’s Own Adventure signing off
Location:Vietnam, Hanoi and Halong Bay