Your Southeast Asia: Tales from Vietnam
Audley clients Nigel Bell, Janice Leeming, Ivan Good, John Turner and David Piggott recently visited Vietnam on separate trips. Highlights included visiting villagers in Vietnam's remote Ha Giang province and a night time scooter ride around Saigon.
I suspect the trip highlight was our visit to Hoi An on the coast. This was very relaxing in a well located hotel in Hoi An.
I met my son in Hanoi after he had been travelling in Australia and New Zealand. I suspect the trip highlight was our visit to Hoi An on the coast. This was very relaxing in a well located hotel in Hoi An. We stayed for four nights here and enjoyed the bustle of Hoi An, having suits and shirts made and seeing the busy market place.
The people were always friendly and smiling without being too pushy or demanding with their desire to sell their various goods and products. We enjoyed relaxing in the hotel and catching up with each other's news. The hotel staff were also all very friendly and helpful.
Halong Bay was another memorable experience and the views were fabulous. I was expecting the bay to be over commercialised in catering for visitors but it wasn't. The process of arriving at the bay and getting to the boat was very quick.
No photo can do this area justice to what the eye can see and to have the added experience on a junk will be with us forever.
It was surreal being on the Indochina junk sailing around Halong Bay. No photo can do this area justice to what the eye can see and to have the added experience on a junk will be with us forever. Another favourite experience was in Hanoi.
To see the students, firstly in their finest clothes and then in caps and gowns on graduation day at the Temple of Literature, was something out of the ordinary. The Puppet Theatre was also an unexpected delight and so was the magic of seeing the lanterns in Hoi An of an evening.
But it is the memory of the Vietnamese people, their humour, patience and gentleness, with the most beautiful smiles that make this country so compelling to visit.
We were the only visitors there and for the most part, completely ignored and left alone to explore.
Ha Giang is the poorest of all provinces in Vietnam yet considered to be the most beautiful. It borders China and has been cut off from visitors (including backpackers) who require a permit to travel there.
We journeyed by 4x4 to Sin Cheng market where perhaps 2,000 tribespeople from surrounding villages had assembled just prior to the Vietnamese New Year. We were the only visitors there and for the most part, completely ignored and left alone to explore.
All kinds of local produce were traded — from rice to cabbages to sugar cane, from pigs to water buffalo, from shoes to elaborate tribal costumes. All the women, young and old, wore their traditional hand woven costumes.
We really enjoyed meeting the local people here and seeing how they lived.
We had a very rewarding trip to Vietnam in November 2013. We travelled from north to south but for us the highlight of the trip was our stay in Sapa. The town is truly beautiful and is backed by the Tonkinese Alps which in the early morning showed their peaks through low cloud.
We went on a couple of treks with our very competent guide, to visit villages of the minority people who live on the slopes of the mountains. When we were dropped off at the starting point we were soon met by some very colourful minority group ladies who joined us on the early part of the walk.
We travelled through absolutely breathtaking scenery and there was plenty of wildlife too; colourful butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies, huge cricket-like creatures that could fly and the occasional snake. We really enjoyed meeting the local people here and seeing how they lived. They are extremely gifted needle workers which is demonstrated in their colourful clothes and the items they offer for sale.
I'm sure we will carry memories of Vietnam for a long time but we particularly won’t forget Sapa.
Our other joint memorable experience was our scooter evening in Saigon.
First of all, in Laos we visited Luang Prabang, which was good enough in itself, a really lovely town, but an early start on the Tuesday morning from town took us to the Kuang Si waterfalls. After climbing gently up to the lower falls and visiting the bear sanctuary, we arrived at the main falls only to discover that our driver had set out breakfast on a table in a prime position facing the falls. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast for at least half an hour before any more people arrived. A magical experience!
Our other joint memorable experience was our scooter evening in Saigon. After some trepidation (neither of us had been on a scooter for about 40 years), we were whisked off at 6pm from our hotel by two genial riders and taken off among what seemed like thousands of other motorcycles and scooters to the first of our venues for the evening, a pavement café for light drinks and nibbles.
Then across town to a wonderful fish and shellfish restaurant and then a pancake café, and finally a quiet upstairs room down a side-street into which we were ushered. Here we experienced some exquisite singing and music — a haunting fusion of Vietnamese and western music that we could have stayed listening to forever.
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