Should we? Shouldn’t we?
These were the questions around a possible visit to Vietnam. People love it and people hate it. With the constant hassle and the never-ending beauty, it’s a land of many contrasts. We wayed up the pro’s and con’s and the pro’s seemed to outweigh the con’s considerably. So it was a ‘yes’ from us and a big hello to some great food again and the oddly delicious Vietnamese coffee! (Ca Phe Sua Da)
Steve had been to Vietnam previously, way back in 2004 and wasn’t a fan, but this route was different. He only managed the South of the country upto Nha trang. We were starting in Da Nang and heading North to the capital Hanoi. Not too many stops in between, but plenty of beach time, as these were to be the last ones of the trip and to our surprise some of the most beautiful and relaxing. Yes, we said relaxing and Vietnam in the same sentence!
Da Nang is Vietnam’s third largest city, however is a world away from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. That’s maybe something to do with it being a beach city. The beach by the way, is possibly the nicest city beach we have seen. It’s a bold claim, after laying our bodies on the gorgeous sands of Sydney, Rio and Tel Aviv, but we’re standing by it, so there!
We had arranged a homestay through workaway.info for our first week there. The deal was, we had free accommodation in return the eldest daughter got to practice English with us for an hour or so a day. The reality was her English was far superior to our native tongue, leaving us concerned we would only pass on some ‘Northern slang’ and confuse her considerably. Not all of us speak the Queens English after all.
The family could not have been nicer. They were so generous and kind and treated us very well. Da Nang though, was 40c+ and we had no A/C, barely a working fan. This my friends, is not something to be taken lightly. You may say we should be acclimatised? But we don’t think you can acclimatise yourself fully to this. We lasted five days and broke. Not completely broken, but enough to pack the bags and head out in search of some cool air. A couple of hours later, we were checked into an air conditioned guesthouse in Hoi An. Beautiful.
Hoi An also has a beach. The same beach as Da Nang, well the same stretch of sand, all 40Km’s of it.
A week in Hoi An was to follow and it was super chilled. It took us four days to visit the ‘old town’. It’s a well looked after old town, however being firmly on the ‘must do’ list of Vietnam, it’s very busy throughout the day and especially in the evenings. Its also not cheap. Yes you can find yourself some nice suits and shoes at a reasonable price, but compared to other neighbouring countries, we found it a bit on the pricey side. It’s still a nice town, just go early doors, ideally around sunrise. There will be very few tourists around and most of the temples will be unlocked, with not a ticket collector in sight. Bliss.
After backtracking to Dan Nang again and a goodbye meal with our Vietnamese family, we had our first taste of Vietnamese railways on a short hop to the old capital of Hue. The train followed the route of the Hai Van pass, which is a well known road route connecting Da Nang with Hue. In the heat of the Vietnamese summer, doing this on a motorbike is not for the faint hearted. Though we did see a few ‘Western’ faces from the comfort of our A/C carriage. Would we have swapped places? Not a chance.
We only had one night in Hue. Two would have been nice, but we had a date with the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and still had to figure out how to produce the numerous documents they required. Anyway Hue was standard fare for us really. We saw a temple, sweated profusely in the baking heat, then hit the beach in the late afternoon, for a dip in the South China Sea. Marvellous.
Romantic, historical, out right mental! All these words, can in some way be used to describe the Vietnamese capital. Having not visited Ho Chi Minh in a long time, we cannot compare the countries two main cities ourselves, however we heard that they are still very different in almost everything. Most people stay in Hanoi a few days, either passing through on the way to Sapa or heading off to Halong bay, others can’t wait to leave. We ended up staying a week and quite liked it. The weather was still stinking hot, but we found plenty to do as a family and a few great places to escape the heat.
It was also going to be the last place we had a motorbike. Having had a motorbike in most of South East Asia it afforded us the chance to get off the beaten path and gave us the freedom to visit places that otherwise we wouldn’t have seen. However with a 2yr old child, it’s not a decision taken lightly and certainly not a move for every family. Also if your thinking about hitting the road with your own wheels for the first time in Vietnam, we would suggest you think again. The driving is, shall we say different. Best leave it at that.
As we mentioned before, Hanoi has a Chinese embassy and that was the main reason for our week long stay. We nearly ventured into China from the Philippines, however decided against it and went to Thailand instead. It was firmly back on the agenda though and other than Hong Kong, Hanoi was realistically the only place we could obtain a visa. We’d read that it could be a bit of a nightmare, but after a little creativeness, we managed to secure a double entry visa to China. It wasn’t much hassle really and being located next door to Lenin park, it gave Betty a chance to practice her steps with the regulars at the early morning dance sessions next to the statue of Lenin himself. Only in Hanoi.
We ended up loving Vietnam and wished we could have seen some more of the country. We skipped Sapa because of the weather and missed Halong bay because it just seemed too touristy, so if we ever come back, then maybe we can go. But the time had come to leave and head to Vietnam’s big Communist brother.
So onwards it was to the Peoples Republic of China. Who knows what we’ve got in store?………..
- The food in Da Nang. The best of the trip.
- Da Nang beach. Glorious.
- Banh Mi sandwiches in Hoi An. The best in the country?
- Play Cafe Hanoi. A great A/C space for the little ones to play.
- O’Gallery hotel Hanoi. A bit like faulty towers, but we loved it. They even gave us $15 to take to China, this was after an upgrade!
- Pizza 4P’S, Hanoi. Best pizza of the trip. We’d like to know of a better pizza in SE Asia.
- Do you like dip dip mummy? No. Do you like dip dip daddy? No. I do, I’m weird! (Betty)
- How loud do the Vietnamese sneeze!?
- Give us a Pho Bo (noodle soup) over a Nasi Goreng, any day!
- This place is faulty towers. (O’Gallery hotel, Hanoi)
- Da Nang beach. Who knew!?
- Why? Why? But Why? (Betty continuously)
If you like our blog and want to buy us a beer, Betty a princess or even contribute towards a new lense for our camera, please feel free to do so!! We will be very grateful for the contribution!! Please click here to donate some dosh!