The best part of the Vietnam trip was getting the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to experience 24 hours in the Mekong Delta, a rural area dominated by rivers and canals. Hence, much of our time was spent on a boat. We started the day going through a floating market with lots of boats scattered around selling fruits and vegetables.
Hoi An centre
Next stop from Hue was three nights in Hoi An, a chance to stop somewhere properly and relax a bit and it could not have been a better place to do so. The morning after the night before, I was feeling delicate (an understatement) but I managed to survive the four hour bus journey. We stopped on the way to take in the view of China Beach with another break to take a look at an American bunker left over from the war.
After the dramas of Halong Bay, it was time to head to Hue which would involve an overnight train. On the way, we stopped off at a herb farm on the side of the road where they have plots of land and grow everything from lettuce to basil to sage to spring onions. I later discovered that after the Vietnam War, the country was quite poor and many families existed on rations using government coupons. Growing herbs like these was one way where they could try and supplement their diets and their incomes and the tradition of keeping such plots has continued.
No visit to Vietnam would be complete without a visit to the World Heritage Site of Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. The harbour is home to around 2000 limestone islands jutting out of the water – similar to the landscape you see in Thailand, but the sheer scale of this bay makes it spectacular. This was the part of Vietnam I was most excited to see and it did not disappoint – it really does look picture post-card perfect.
After my stopover in Singapore, it was time to head to Hanoi, Vietnam for two nights. I booked myself on another Intrepid food tour, following the success of the Mexican trip. I have always loved Vietnamese food and there is a big Vietnamese community in East London so I have tried my fair few dishes, love the fact that it is rice-based and largely gluten free, and have always wanted to see the spectacular scenery of Vietnam, especially Halong Bay. Also, I have never visited a communist country so was intrigued to see how different it would be.
I was given some fast facts about Hanoi by my taxi driver. There are 7 million people and 4 million motorbikes (yikes). The airport was shiny and new and only about a month old and the old airport was going to be used for domestic flights. The bridge linking the airport to the city centre was also new – 27 days old to be precise. The driver had been married two years and had a four month baby boy called Bun (meaning beautiful boy).