Vietnam is a country I had looked forward to visiting for years and on Christmas last year, the much awaited trip commenced. Arjun and I had planned a 10-day holiday around the country, and while we were both pretty darn excited, I reckon that neither one of us had anticipated this would turn out to be one of our most memorable holidays till date!
From getting a crash course in Vietnamese history while exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter to being blown away by the stunningly beautiful Halong Bay on an overnight cruise with Paradise Luxury Cruises; from falling in love with the charming lantern-lit streets of Hoi An Ancient Town to ringing in the New Year Saigon-Style in Ho Chi Minh City; Vietnam is a microcosm of all that is loveable about Southeast Asia.
I usually share real-time updates on my travels through social media, particularly Instagram; so if you follow me there, you would have a pretty good idea of what all I was up to during my vacation in Vietnam. But for those of you who don’t, I thought I’d start off by sharing some of the highlights from my trip.
So without further ado, here are some of my favourite vignettes from Vietnam, as seen on Instagram.
A Cold & Rainy Day in Hanoi
It rains a lot in Vietnam, and even more so in the North; of this I had been warned aplenty. But as we only had one full day in which to explore the Vietnamese capital city, I had still hoped that the weather gods would be kind and give us clear skies. Au contraire, it rained pretty much the whole time we were in Hanoi! We are determined little ninjas though, and vowed to not let a little something such as too much rain put a damper on things.
We began our day with a visit to the Trấn Quốc Pagoda next to the West Lake (pictured above), the oldest pagoda in the city, and then made our way down, past the imposing Presidential Palace, to the Ho Chi Minh Complex on Ba Dinh Square. The Vietnamese take great pride in their first President – Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as he is fondly remembered, and revere him as a National Liberation Hero. His body lies embalmed in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, despite his own wish to be cremated, so that successive generations can come and pay homage.
It was right about this time that the rain began to pound us quite hard, so after a quick jaunt around Ba Dinh Square, we sought cover indoors. After a quick lunch at a recommended restaurant nearby, we continued our rainy explorations of Hanoi with a visit to the Vietnam Military History Museum for its display of Soviet and Chinese equipment alongside French and US-made weapons captured during years of warfare; followed by a visit to The Hanoi Hilton. And no, this isn’t the luxury hotel, but the name given to the Hỏa Lò Prison, infamous for its captivity of U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War.
We wrapped up the day with drinks at The Summit Lounge, the rooftop bar at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel, while enjoying the stunning panoramic views of the skyline over Hanoi’s West Lake!
Views to-die-for on-board a Paradise Luxury Cruise to Halong Bay
We oscillated back and forth on this one prior to the trip, I’ll be honest. I was pretty convinced I wanted to visit Halong Bay but Arjun was never sold on the idea. He doesn’t like a very hectic pace when he travels, and the 3-hour journey from Hanoi just for spending one night on-board a boat simply wasn’t appealing to him. And then we met friends who had some pretty nasty experiences to share from their trip a few years ago, and he almost had me convinced to let this one pass.
But I can be a pretty stubborn little lady, and fortunate as it was for me, this was one time he actually thanked me for being as annoyingly headfast and stubborn as I am.
We booked our 2D/IN Cruise to Halong Bay with Paradise Luxury Cruises, and right from the time that their shuttle bus picked us up from our hotel, they ensured we had the most amazing time! I am so glad we went ahead with our plans, and even more so with our choice of Cruise companies.
But more on that later!
The Laid-Back Vibe & Lantern-Lit Streets of Hoi An
From Hanoi, we travelled to Hoi An, a coastal city in Central Vietnam that was once an important French colonial settlement. Hoi An Ancient Town has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to how well-preserved it is as an example of a South-East Asian trading port.
I found myself captivated by the charms of Hoi An right from the moment we first arrived. Its narrow walkways and meandering streets are delightful as it is; but come nightfall the entire town begins to sparkle.
A photo posted by Upasna (@upasna_lifeonmyplate) on
Colourful hanging lanterns sway gently in the breeze as they cast their glow across every street, every corner and every shop; multitudes of wooden boats float by on the murky waters peppered with paper lanterns lit and released by people for good luck; and soft music streams out of the rows upon rows of restaurants lining the waterfront. If there’s one place in Vietnam you must visit to be enchanted, let it be this!
Celebrating New Years Eve Saigon Style
Scooters & Sparkles. That’s the best way to describe NYE Celebrations in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived in HCMC without any real plans on where & how to see in the New Year, but as our hotel was located right in the heart of District 1, we needn’t have worried. This is literally where the party’s at!
The highlight of ringing in the New Year in HCMC, ask anyone and they will tell you, are the magnificent fireworks over the Saigon River. In the hour leading up to midnight, the streets fill up with thousands and thousands of scooters, as if the entire city had congregated in the streets in one massive outdoor party. We made a reservation at the Rooftop Bar of The Grand Hotel to enjoy the spectacle from, and as the clock struck 12 amidst free flowing drinks, the skyline exploded in a dazzling display that went on glittering and sparkling for almost 10 minutes.
It was truly a Night to Remember!
What I Ate in Vietnam
Food in Vietnam was a revelation, to say the least. My love affair with Southeast Asian Food is no secret. I’m the girl who counts Pad Thai, Laksa Curry, Nasi Goreng & Khao Suey amidst her favourite dishes.
Why, then, was my knowledge of Vietnamese food limited to Pho prior to this trip is a real mystery to me!
Cao lầu – a regional Vietnamese dish made with noodles, pork and vegetables & one of the specialities in #HoiAnAncientTown #WhatIAte in #HoiAn #Vietnam #Travel #TravelBlogger #Food #FoodBlogger #LifeOnMyPlate
A photo posted by Upasna (@upasna_lifeonmyplate) on
But what made eating-my-way-through-Vietnam even more remarkable was the immense diversity in cuisine within the country. All Vietnamese dishes rely on a mélange of sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours with fermented fish sauce or Nước mắm pha being a common ingredient, usually served with rice or noodles and some form of meat. But that’s where the similarity ends. Dishes vary greatly from the North of Vietnam to the South, and as our trip included a stay in the North, Central and South of Vietnam, I’d like to think we got a pretty holistic picture!
Stay tuned, there will be a full post of everything I ate while in Vietnam! 🙂
So there you have it, my highlights from a beautifully brilliant holiday!
Have you ever visited Vietnam? What were your impressions? Did you love it as much as I did? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
I’m linking this post up to #TheWeeklyPostcard