This wasn’t my first visit to Vietnam.
I always knew that I would return to this curious land. This time my first breath was taken from Ho Chi Minh City, the countries fast paced, dusty, concrete jungle. From the dizzying capital escaping to delightful Dalat, this is where Vietnam would begin to unfold itself to me.
Dalat presented a welcome break from the fast paced tourist attractions and mandatory museums in the hectic and heavily polluted capital and offered an opportunity for relaxation and exploration amongst a cooler, fresher climate, colonial architecture, lush greenery, colourful flowers and murky lakes. We feasted on Vietnamese noodles and morning glory in our homestay on a hill up from the main road where the young family made us feel utterly welcome. We hung out with local tour guides who took us to temples and out into the countryside on their motorbikes. We ate silkworms and crickets and sampled the famous weasel coffee, thoroughly immersing ourselves in their beautiful culture.This chance encounter, presented to us by the universe would lead to us spending ten days travelling through Vietnam on the back of grumbling motorbikes on route to Hoi An from Dalat along the Ho Chi Minh trail. This experience was to open up a whole new realm of my love for Vietnam.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s hard for me to pinpoint what it is that started me falling for Vietnam.
The friendly locals with their intent harmony and genuine smiles, positivity in a country that has dealt with so much negativity, happiness and contentment in areas of such poverty, laughing children despite overcrowded orphanages, outlandish cuisines of eel and frog washed down with bia hoi over the cheering and chattering of seemingly carefree locals, lush landscapes filled with delicious passion fruit farms, surprising pineapples growing from the ground, secluded waterfalls and fairy pools for cooling off under heat of the sun, richety bridges hanging unsteadily over racing rivers, winding, dusty roads and pit stops of sweet coffee lazing in hammocks- the list is endless. Every day we learnt more about the Vietnamese war… A war that is still raw and very much alive to many locals. We paid our respects at the memorials and listened to stories about the country and its history and people during the French colony and civil war. We sat cross legged on a blanket drinking rice wine and eating fish hot pot with a local family… Our different cultures and huge language barrier didn’t impact the atmosphere and laughter, and that evening sat around the kitchen floor, I marvelled at the this wonderful family and their customs and daily life. Somehow, in that moment, it did not seem so far removed from my own world.
Hoi An was a place of reflection.
A place to let my soul revel in Vietnam’s beauty. To stop and be still. To drink local beer and eat local food and be clothed by local tailors. To cross paths with new friends and meet new destinys. To share new beginnings. An ancient city buzzing with tourism, thriving on the trade of tailor made clothes and souvenirs, hundreds of cafes geared towards backpackers. Yet somehow, Hoi An remains so translucent and alluring, pleasing to the eye and captivating of the soul.
Ha Long Bay translates pretty much to “descending dragon bay”.
An apt name for a place that resembles, in my eyes at least… A fairytale land. What appears to be thousands of limestone rocks bobbing up and out of the calm, green sea. Ha Long Bay is a sight to behold. We were lucky enough to have some clear(ish) weather. Relaxing on the boat deck whilst marvelling at the hazy, eerie atmosphere. I heard mixed reviews about Ha Long Bay so went with low expectations. Take away the usual boring tourist traps, such as shops and average looking, lit up caves and the craze for party boats on the bay- if you can get a moment of peace, when there’s no other boats around, it is plain and easy to get caught up in Halong Bay’s raw and extraordinary beauty.
Just a few of the many reasons I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for Vietnam.
Anh yeu em Vietnam ❤