I remember telling my friend that myself and my then boyfriend were about to embark on a backpacking trip to Vietnam. ‘Of all places you could visit, why?’ she asked. I think for some people the bad memories are just so hard to erase. But this country has such beauty, such kindness, such charisma that you just has to experience it first hand. Although I’ve traveled quite a bit, to me this backpacking trip remains one of my best experiences ever! Scanning through social media recently, I came across some nice images from Vietnam, which of course jolted some memories from 2012 when we visited.
There are lots of things to consider before embarking on such a trip so preparation is key. For me it was my first ever backpacking trip so naturally I was excited as a kid at Christmas. My first obstacle was of course the challenge of packing light, considering that the contents will be carried on my very back during the whole trip.
– Hanoi – Sapa – Hanoi – Ha Long Bay – Hoi-An- Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City –
Travel – On land, air and sea, this trip exhausted all modes of transportation. We traveled by planes, overnight trains, buses, bikes, boats but for me, I drew the line at scooters. Just never been the dare devil kind. The roads are a quite a circus in Vietnam and one needs to be an artist to perform in them, for sure! In addition some artists would try to play you. I recall a funny incident with a taxi driver who tried to rob us bling, luckily he was outsmarted.
Stay – there are lots of backpackers places so no issues finding shelter. One thing you ought to know though is that people are super tiny in Vietnam. I only measure 1.60m and I felt like a giant there, so you might want to check out bed sizes if you are above average size. If not, nothing else is out of the ordinary. If you are a nature lover, you might want to check out some eco-islands. We had a nice experience on one island where there were no gadgets, no gimmicks, just a peaceful and relaxing stay.
Eat – Food is so fresh and tasty in Vietnam. As I love vegetables and fresh herbs, to me it was a treat to eat every meal in Vietnam.
The locals – The memory of happy faces running around with no care in the world will always remain embedded in me. Kids usually roam around with no underpants. At first I thought that they had run out during changing or something, and I expected an adult to come out and chase after them. But the pattern kept repeating itself so I figured it must be the norm. So cute. So innocent. No play station needed by these to amuse them. Just their body strength and energy.
At some point of course you start to run out of clean clothes and become increasingly in need of a good old clean. We stopped for a couple of nights at this place on the right, equipped with an outside bath, a little pool and air-conditioned rooms, which was a real treat. While there, I remember grabbing the opportunity of having my old smelly clothes cleaned. The lady of the house brought the laundry back, washed and ironed within a day. But I was rather touched when I noticed that she’d actually sewn my torn-up top! It was just an old top that I wanted to leave behind after backpacking but this nice lady took time to patch it up together, how kind.
Ha Long Bay
Cruising along the Ha Long Bay is absolutely surreal. The gigantic rock formations around are just breathtaking. The atmosphere is also so captivating. Everybody is equally stunned by the natural beauty and trying to take it all in. However, it can be a bit crowded. As we went a long time ago, I can’t give you any valid tips. I’d still say be sure to plan it carefully and spend a little extra on a safer and less crowded boat. And whilst onboard, the hosts will surely try to entertain you, only as best as they know how. I think ‘Top Gear’ must have been on repeat for the entire duration. But one of some enjoyable activities on board for me was a cooking class. We learned how to make local dishes and got an opportunity to devour our creations. Wasn’t bad at all.
Highlights – There were many fun and adventurous moments but some just keep coming back in our talks.
Walking with tribal women in Sapa
Halong Bay excursion
Chasing the sunrise at 5am
Night train – with a snoring Buddha
Simplicity and happy faces
Food, food and more food- dragon fruit anyone?
My husband bargaining with a nine year old – and guess who won? 😉
Of course it’s the people with whom we share the moments with who make them so special. You’ve made my life a wonder from day one. Danke x