Happy New Year! Vietnam celebrated its Lunar New Year, otherwise known as Tết, on January 22 2023, and we were lucky enough to be here to experience it. Tết is the most important celebration of the year in Vietnam, and in our first weeks here saw the city come alive in preparation. For Vietnamese people, Tết is about spending time with family, honouring one’s ancestors, and wishing good luck for the new year.
For our group of Kiwis in Vietnam, the Lunar New Year celebrations were also an opportunity to explore more of this beautiful country. We live in the south of Vietnam, but we’ve been told since we arrived about the beauty of northern Vietnam and how we had to visit while we were here. It’s just out of reach for a weekend trip from Ho Chi Minh City, so Tết was the perfect time to visit. We had ten days off work for the holiday, and we needed every minute of it to see as much as possible. Below is a summary of all the places we visited:
Hà Nội, the capital city of Vietnam, was the first place we visited. It’s such a beautiful city and very different to Ho Chi Minh. We were staying in the Old Quarter, which is where most of the tourism is concentrated, and it was lovely to just wander the streets and enjoy the atmosphere. We saw museums, pagodas, and markets, but the food was definitely the highlight. I think the bún chả might have been my favourite meal of the trip so far, and that’s really saying something as everything has been so good.
Hạ Long Bay
Where the Dragon Descends to the Sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of 1,600 islands scattered throughout beautiful blue-green waters. We chose to do a three-day cruise, which was a luxury I’m definitely not used to, and it was the perfect way to experience the bay. The boat itself was beautiful, and we loved just sailing around the bay. Our day trips for kayaking and biking were incredible as well.
I have done a lot of amazing things on this trip, but I think the Hà Giang Loop might have been my favourite. We went straight from our luxury cruise to this 3-day motorbike tour, and they were definitely two contrasting experiences, but both were incredible in their own way. Motorbikes are the main form of transportation in Vietnam and are the best way to see the remote northern province of Hà Giang. Everything about this part of the trip was incredible, from the landscape to the food to the people we met.
We only had one day to visit Ninh Bình, so we did a day tour to try and see the highlights. Our tour guide was great, and we learnt a lot about the area’s history while also just seeing another beautiful part of Vietnam.
Our visit to Đà Lạt was actually an accident, as we left it too late to book a flight directly back to Ho Chi Minh City from Hà Nội. To make the most of this, we decided to fly to Đà Lạt and spend a day there before catching a sleeper bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. And I’m so happy we did. Dalat was such a beautiful town, and it actually reminded me of Queenstown in a lot of ways. We did a day tour to see as much as possible in our one day, but I feel like we only scratched the surface.