What the Vietnamese call Tet is the celebration of the lunar new year & with Tet began our travels around Northern and Central Vietnam. Our first stop was Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, which was quite the contrast to the humid, hustle-bustle nature of Ho Chi Minh. The city was relatively cold, with more local Vietnamese-style buildings that brought about a calm that I didn’t know I needed from Saigon. My favourite place in Hanoi, and a must-see destination, was the Hanoi Train Street. The famous train tracks were surrounded by beautiful, brightly lit restaurants, which gave you the best seat in town. Only a couple of inches from the train when it whooshes past.
Our next few days were filled with full-day tours in both Ninh Binh and Halong Bay – the natural treasures of Vietnam. We were able to take in the amazing scenery and also visit the different temples, which posed as slices of Vietnamese history. As we followed our tour guides, they introduced us to different historical figures and truly gave us a sense of all the contrasting influences on Vietnamese culture. Particularly the Chinese & the French. A core memory from this segment of our trip would most definitely be biking along the gravel roads surrounded by green mountains & green lakes. But also being paddled in a boat by a local, who effortlessly used their feet to paddle us around using wooden paddles.
We slowly made our way down Vietnam to Da Nang & Hoi An towards the end of the week. And I have to say that Hoi An is by far my favourite city. The ancient village town provided a more traditional and authentic experience – which was distinct in its architecture and overall vibe. The old town surrounded a lake with boats lit up by lanterns and floated around in a heap. It lit up the night sky & felt more like a movie than reality. The markets within the old town offered a range of things to buy, from clothes to souvenirs. Hoi An was vibrant, and the locals were outrageously hospitable. As soon as I arrived in Hoi An, I knew that it was going to be just the best experience.
Each city we went to gave us a completely different experience each time. New flavours (especially with the different types of pho!), completely different temples, and contrasting scenery. Our Tet trip opened up my eyes to how broad the experiences are in this single country, & to put this into perspective on a global scale, the amount of historical learning and adventures is something I cannot fathom. There is so much to explore. This week of Tet has made me so grateful to be in Vietnam & eager to make travelling a priority.