Back home now!
The return journey from Hanoi, Vietnam back home gave me time to think about the last three weeks and the fun we had in Vietnam. It also gave me time to think about where I would love to visit next.
Read on for my thoughts!
My journal, sunglasses, and walking shoes that have been by my side the whole trip.
Do not drink the water!
I honestly thought I knew what to expect when we got to Vietnam. Like a lot of people in this current age, I spent a lot of time just watching, and reading various blogs and videos talking about the food in Vietnam, where to go, what to visit, the cost of things, don’t drink the water!
However I was not sure I quite expected the amount of scooters we saw, and that we would be seeing over the course of our trip.
What we did find out over the course of our stay was that it was incredibly hard to find food that was bad. Over the course of our holiday I can honestly count twice where our meal did not leave us full, happy, and in absolute bewilderment over how much we just paid for it (o.k. maybe three times, but two of those were in Cat Ba)
Now in the main, we ate at the more mid-range places. Mainly because of a self-imposed rule I made of not eating anywhere that would require us (or rather, me) to sit on plastic chairs (please see here for my reason as to why I avoid plastic chairs)
But it should be said that the food I saw at the more local places always had me drooling as we walked past.
One thing I should note about the “do not drink the water” point I made earlier. There is a massive coffee culture here in Vietnam with coffee shops all over the place. Examples include
- Phuong Nam, and The Workshop Coffee in Ho Chi Minh
- Aroma Coffee in Hue
- Cong Caphe in Sa Pa, and Hanoi
- Giảng, Hanoi Social Club, and The Note Coffee in Hanoi
I digress. They do a lot of iced or cold coffees here in Vietnam. This generally involves a lot of ice being dropped into your drink. “Don’t drink the water”
I had around five iced coffees over our first full day in Vietnam. I paid for it over the next two days.
“Do NOT drink the water!”
Places to go, Things to do
Vietnam has a great many things to visit.
It is a country where there is something for everyone. Ruins, temples, museums, palaces, mountains, hiking, diving Even riding scooters if you are so inclined (or sadistic).
The list goes on and on and it would be difficult to tell people they “Have to visit x, y, or z” since it would so depend on the person.
However, for me, some of the more memorable ones have been
- Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum (caution, this place can be distressing) in Ho Chi Minh
- Ancient Town in Hoi An
- Tombs, Pagodas, and the Imperial Citadel in Hue
- So many natural wonders in the mountains of Sapa (seriously there are lots)
- Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, and Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hanoi
Our itinerary had us going from place to place at fairly frantic pace. We barely stayed more than 3 days in any one area and yet…
…we could spend another month here and still barely even scratch the surface of where to go and what to do here.
The Emperors’ New Clothes
I was going to title this “The Three Wise Men” however neither I nor the other two guys on this trip could be considered wise (they will kill me for that).
…although I doubt we could consider ourselves emperors either.
So I will echo the sentiment that others have before me (and that we did not pay attention to).
“BRING AN EMPTY SUITCASE” or at the very least, buy one in Hanoi (however it may be a knockoff).
One of the main things people do when they come to Vietnam is getting some new clothes. This can be either getting bespoke clothing made up in Hoi An, or just buying loads of cheaply priced goods in Hanoi.
In our case, we did both.
One of my main reasons for going to Vietnam was to get a new suit, and maybe some shirts.
However, I also decided that I would pack as light as possible
Hindsight is 20/20, and also a *****
Either way, the first thing we did after settling into our hotel in Hoi An, the absolutely fantastic The Beach Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa was to go into the centre of town and start getting some suits done.
This can be a bit of a daunting task though since there are tailors as far as the eye can see all wanting your custom, and all with differing levels of service.
I had decided on Vanda Tailors following a number of recommendations from friends, as well as positive reviews from other sources on the Internet (TripAdvisor, travel blogs etc).
What I was not expecting is that 20 minutes after deciding on fabric and design that I would be standing half-naked (top half, I was allowed to keep my jeans on) in the shop front being measured by a tiny Vietnamese lady.
As a note, please do some research on the type of suit design you want. If possible, bring pictures, and this goes especially for the women who might want to get dresses made.
You can get nearly anything made up, leather jackets, shoes, coats. You name it, there is likely a tailor who can do it.
In two days, my travel buddies and I had a fully tailored suit made up (after the initial measurements, and 2 additional fittings).
Now if only we bought a suitcase to put these in.
In terms of cheap goods in Hanoi, one of the girls ended up buying 20 items, including multiple jackets, silk/cashmere scarves, various backpacks…. and 4 nail clippers (beware Korean goods, at Vietnamese prices).
As a result, we seem to have a lot more luggage than we started with 3 weeks ago.
Vietnam has ruined holidays for me!
I say this in jest, however, there is a more than a modicum of truth in it too.
Because as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was pondering where my next destination would be during the flight home.
….and I cannot think of anywhere I would go except back to Vietnam!
First off, if I have not already mentioned it a thousand times, the food here is fantastic. In the last three weeks, everything I have eaten has been tasty, and healthy (at least by my previous standards of burgers, pizzas, and fried chicken).
Also, the people here have been generally on the friendly side, with people saying hello to us as we walk by without any other agenda. Yes, there have been the few times where someone would roar up on a scooter and ask if I would be interested in some less… “legal” goods or services. But a quick no, and possibly a chat about where I was from, and they were off.
Yes, there was less of a language barrier if you were in the major cities, but nothing that could not be solved by some frantic waving, pointing, and smiling. Or just using Google Translate (download the language file while you’re connected to WiFi).
Speaking of WiFi, it is everywhere. At one point in Hanoi, because I had visited so many coffee shops I was basically bouncing from WiFi spot to WiFi spot.
Also, for better, or worse. The country is just so damn cheap. Messaging friends back home that I am paying 50 pence for a local beer (the imported stuff like Tiger being more expensive, but not prohibitively so), and that a meal I just posted on Instagram cost us less than £4 per head was usually met by expletives and disbelief.
So, it may be that my next major holiday would be to go back to Vietnam and do the stuff we did not have time to do before.
Or can someone tell me where I should go next???