Vietnam has so much to offer with its rich culture infused by Chinese and French influences that it is one of the top 10 most attractive tourist destinations to visit in Asia. I was very happy when my Travelling companion suggested we go there as our first stop.
Hanoi the capital of Vietnam is very well known for its centuries old architecture. We stayed in the heart of Old Quarter in the midst of “36 streets” a space of ancients streets arranged by trades which you can see even to this day.
As a tourist Hanoi at first sight appears to be a very chaotic place to visit. Crossing the roads can be a nightmare, but there is a sense in this traffic madness. Busses, scooters, cars, pedestrians all vying for space on the road however, we did not encounter any traffic accident nor road rage among drivers, who were very considerate of pedestrians and had a knack of avoiding them. We stayed in the down town core which was walking distance to many points of interest. This provided us with exercise and the ability to witness the local scenes. Hoan Kiem Lake area with its tree lined boulevard is a major scenic spot and a meeting place to encounter locals. We were approached by many groups of universities students wanting to talk to us a way of improving their English. This is a great opportunity for us too, to meet the locals and get to know some of their culture. Hanoi Kids is a similar organization where students take you around the city and show you points of interest or places to experience unique Vietnamese cuisine. My favorite dish was Pho Bo, noodles with chicken which I found very delicious.
No visit to Vietnam would be complete without a visit to Halong Bay, the lighlight of our trip. This Bay is recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage site. It comprises of 1969 islands formed through geotectonic processs for millions of years surrounded by sea which has untouched natural beauty and exquisite landscapes and rock formations jutting out of the sea. We took a two days one night cruise, ate some exquisite Vietnamese cuisine, met some wonderful fellow travelers and enjoyed some breath taking views from the deck which is something that will last for a very long time.
Another side trip that we took was to Ninh Binh. This was the ancient capital Hoa Lu. This place is also known as Halong Bay on land. It was quite an adventure going by row boat on the water way through beautiful landscapes, natural caves very primitive and ancient created by limestone systems. We throughly enjoyed the grandeur of nature and the spectular scenes of this very unique site.
We were also fortunate to see the spiritual side of the Vietnamese people. Our Lady of La Vang is a pilgrim site where Our Lady appeared to the Vietnamese Catholics who were being percuated during the tribal wars in the 17th century. This site is about two hours from the city of Hue. We took an overnight sleeper bus ride to Hue which was quite an adventure too as we had never travelled by a sleeper bus. We met some wonderful fellow travelers from different parts of the world who were very friendly and it was nice to be in a bus with like minded travelers.
Vietnam has lots to offer and we did see quite a few unique things that we had not experienced before on our travel to Asia. Hopefully if opportunity provides we will visit South Vietnam the city of Ho Chi Min where the cuisine is quite different from that of the north.
Until next time fellow travelers, my travel companion and I will keep you posted about our adventures.