I took full advantage of my firm’s closing Christmas period and headed over to glorious Vietnam for 3 and half weeks during the festive season. Although it meant missing out on Christmas and New Years with family and friends and that gorgeous Australian summer, it was such an unforgettable experience! So here’s a quick list of my top recommendations to inspire your next trip to the Pearl of Indo- China:-
- Post Office – Ho Chi Minh City (or simply Saigon)
This was my first stop in Vietnam and Oh My God anxiety never hit so hard! The traffic is crazy, just imagine a school of fish and replace each fish with a motor cycle and never ending flows. After waiting on one side of the road for nearly 15 minutes trying to figure out how to cross, I literally held my breath, made my determined face, clenched my fists and lugged my bags across. I made it across alive but never stopped doing the exact same routine every time I came across an intersection.
I had Matacha green tea everywhere I went since I am obsessed with it and it tastes so much better in Asia. The Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office with Matcha tea in hand is a MUST! Make sure you buy an iconic Ho Chi Minh post card and send it to loved ones or even yourself back home. I paid 11,000 dong for card and postage.
2. The Sailing Club – Nha Trang
Top resort and beach club in beautiful coast city of Nha Trang. It was probably the most expensive place i went to on my Vietnam trip as price of food and drinks are similar to back home but it was completely worth it. Gorgeous and chic restaurant with bars and live music right on the beach. I had a lovely Christmas dinner with friends here followed by dancing the night away til early hours of the morning with live international DJs performing. The food was great, they offered awesome drinks and the whole vide was luxurious.
3. Imperial Palace – Hue
This place was just history class on tap. The beautifully maintained palaces and surrounding gardens were heaven sent on hot humid ‘winter’ days. I took a cyclo ride from near my hostel to the Old City where the Citadel and Imperial Palace stand and it was the best mode of transport! My cyclo man ( lack of better term!) was so lovely and pointed out different places along the way for me to take photos of or just stare at in astonishment, for example family of 4 on one teeny tiny motorbike.
4. Streets of ancient city- Hoi An
Nearly everyone I’ve met who has travelled to Vietnam easily says Hanoi is their favourite city. I am no different. I was blown away and in awe of its old beauty. The narrow lanes, french colonial buildings, fading yellow and blue painted walls, trees growing out of all cracks in buildings with exposed thick roots, low narrow colourful fishing boats along its river and the luminous lanterns at night. I got MANY times during my trip and this was the one city I got excited at when I got lost wandering aimlessly one evening. I cannot think of a more perfect place to be lost in.
5. Custom/ Tailor made Shopping- Hoi An
Every visit to Hanoi MUST include a shopping list of tailor made goods, from suits and silk blouses to leather shoes and bags. The most famous and reputable being Yaly Couture, known for its celebrity clients. Make a list and trust me you’ll thank me later! Every time I see a weekender duffel bag, i regret not purchasing a beautiful leather one in Hanoi. But hey, more reason to go back!
6. Cruise on Junk Boat- Halong Bay
Whether it is a 1 night, 2 night or 3 night cruise, make sure you don’t miss this. My cruise was a 2 night stay on a luxury junk boat going along the spectacular bay. Every minute was picturesque; from the hundreds of island cliffs raising above the water, to the floating fishing villages selling goods as you travel by. Most junk cruises offer kayaking tours and day trips to the bigger islands. These made days spent on the boat relaxing seem more productive and also worthwhile.
7. Egg Coffee – Hanoi
The French introduced coffee to Vietnam during French colonisation of the area and the Vietnamese put a little twist or two on it. Vietnamese locals sitting on little chairs on the pavement with their coffee each morning is quintessentially Hanoi. A day without Vietnamese coffee is a day wasted! In the south, vietnamese coffee is made up of roasted dark coffee and sweet condensed milk on ice. In the north, the specialty is egg coffee; sweet, fluffy light and rich. A must visit site is Dinh Cafe, the oldest egg coffee shop in Hanoi. It’s out of sight and a bit tricky to get to, making it a hidden gem! Located in front of the Lake, you go through a little dark alley, up narrow wooden stairs to the 2nd floor and there you’ll find a taste of authentic old Hanoi. Only coffee is served and its cheap! There’s a little balcony facing the Lake so try your luck and steal a delight.