Vietnam’s history dates back 4,000 years and in that time, it has seen many changes both positive and heart-wrenching. This place is synonymous with war, but by learning it’s history and indulging yourself in its culture and people, you will be significantly rewarded.
We were lucky to spend two weeks in this country in July.
Vietnam now has a modern slogan, “Vietnam is a country, not a war”.
The Vietnamese people are very warming, friendly and welcoming people; always asking us, “Where are you from? How long are you here? Why are you here?”
Vietnam, with its bustling cities, has captivated us. From HCMC, where crossing the road is a challenge, to Hoi An, an ancient city rich in history and cultural importance. Followed by Hanoi in the North, with it tree-lined streets and where it’s French and Chinese influenced architecture takes pride of place.
The now familiar sight of women on the streets through out Vietnam selling colourful fruits, such as the pink Green Dragon or the red, hairy Rambutan in their baskets. There are many images that stay in your mind after this trip, the traditional Vietnamese hat, “Non La” along with centuries-old pagodas, bicycle tuk- tuk, millions of motorbikes with their precarious loads.
This was a trip to remember.
Ho Chi Minh City
HCMC would surely have to be the buzzing place of Vietnam. The locals still call it Saigon. The first thing that hits you (and certainly not literally) is the amount of motorbikes. A city of 10 million people and 7 million of them ride a bike! The buzzing motorbikes fill the streets carrying anything from pigs to panes of glass and whatever else fits on them. The constant noise of beeping horns fills the air. Our adventure in HCMC involved Cu Chi tunnels, The War Remnants Museum and The Reunification Palace. We travelled to the The Mekong Delta, 85 km south of HCMC, to discover the world of coconuts.
The Mekong’s main industry is coconuts and there are trees as far as the eye can see. We visited brick and coconut factories, while getting rowed down rivers by a lady as old as 70. Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are only accessible by rivers and canals, we were fortunate to visit some.
We spent four wonderful nights at the Victoria hotel which was located right on the beach, 5km away from Hoi An. Our room was directly in front of the private beach, so a hop, skip and a jump and we were submerged in salt water. As the weather was around 38 degrees each day, swimming was a must!
Hoi An is a picturesque town and the streets are like time capsules from centuries past.
It has been declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Here, we visited the tailor for some well made shirts and trousers, (for Tim of course), rode in a side-car, took a bicycle tour through the rice paddies and water buffalo’s, walked the ancient street and bought art as cheap as $22. And not to forget the early morning trip to the Fish Markets. Four days seem barely enough time.
The local people in the rural outskirts of Hoi An tend to their organic vegetable and herb gardens. We came across a 72 year old women picking out the weeds that grew between the spring onions. The seaweed from the local lake makes this land fertile and as we travelled around, we were delighted with images of the vast array of herbs and vegetables being raked, sowed, watered and picked.
Hanoi is a noticeable contrast to HCMC.
The Metropole Hotel is absolutely beautiful. It has exceeded all expectations, we feel lucky to be staying here. After settling into our room we walked around the Hoan Kiem Lake. A shrine, built in the 15th century is dedicated to a heroic turtle, sits in the middle. The streets are wide and tree-lined and in the afternoon the Vietnamese enjoy a game of badminton. This city is charming with is monuments and French colonial architecture and there is a picture to be had every second.
In Hanoi, we braved the heat and wandered through ‘The Old Quarter’, 36 streets that are all named after the various things it sells. We enjoyed the Water Puppet show, dating back to the 11th century. We dined at Bobby Chinn, famous celebrity chef. We took an art tour viewing artefacts at the Fine Arts Museum, dating back as far as ancients times. We took a bicycle tuk-tuk through the streets to visit Saint Joseph Cathedral built in 1886.
We had three days here and we barely scratched the surface, we will be back…
No fashion on this trip, but if you’re up for a Jimmy Choo pair of shoes for an 1/8th of the price or a Ted Baker shirt or Hermes Handbag, then don’t forget to take some images and head to Hoi An, they will make you a copy in one day. You won’t be disappointed, I ended up getting made a pair of Prada boots from last season!! ( OK I lied about not buying fashion)
There a wealth of antique shops around the area and lots of art and photography gallery’s not to mention the Propaganda poster shops.
I ended up coming home with a 2 metre long antique scroll with a painting of a Vietnamese King, a mahjong set, 12 small propaganda posters, 5 photographs by a local photography in Hoi An, plus 2 random painting ( jury still out on them!) Also a beautiful ornate antique incense burner, exquisite design! A hand crafted water puppet, plus some books. I’m glad we always pack an extra suitcase when we travel!