My Intro to Vietnam
Tue 1 Sep 2015 - Thu 10 Sep 2015
The best way to plan a vacation? Sit around one evening with your buddy drinking a few beers watching a Top Gear special that takes place in some far away location, if the two of you are there less than two months later, success.
This isn’t an exaggeration, I was watching the Top Gear Vietnam special with Corey one day at work in Mali, and we said let’s do it, and we did. The initial plan included the riding of motorcycles across the country, but some concessions had to be made for time. Between both our work / vacation schedules, we found a gap of 10 days in country in which to plan a vacation. While planning we came across the tour operator Custom Vietnam, and within 12 hours of our first email to them with some of the top places we wished to visit we had a full draft itinerary sent to us. We ended up signing on with them, and we were not disappointed!
Ten days is way too short to explore a country like Vietnam. I feel we ended up experiencing the taster pack (really, each region had their own beer that we stuck to while in it!) of what was available to see and do. This isn’t a bad thing, after all it was my first trip to Southeast Asia, and aside from popular movies etc. I was not sure what to expect. Well the trip was a blast, the people, food, and landscape was just amazing. I left the country wanting to start making plans for the next excursion.
My travel companion for this adventure was my coworker Corey. Corey is a good friend I made since starting this overseas racket, and I couldn't have asked for a more easy going fella to have this experience with. Thanks Buddy!
Of course after every trip, you think about what you would do differently next time, and next time would be much different for me. In an effort to see as much as possible, we did spend a lot of time travelling, while not usually ideal, it was good for us. I saw large portions of the country and now know which places I would like to focus more of my time and energies on next time. The one big location I wanted to get to, and didn’t, were the caves along the coast of Central Vietnam. An impressive array of caves that require hiking to get to, they just look so beautiful and still relatively untouched by humans. But that’s for next time, so if anyone is interested in doing a hiking trip in Vietnam (with some more hiking up in Sa Pa or elsewhere) let me know!
Our 10 days were broken down into five major spots; Saigon, Hanoi, Sa Pa, Halong Bay, and Hoi An. This allowed us to see a bit of the south, the north, and the central regions. This provided us some variety in geography, but also setting, mixing the largest cities with the rural areas of Sa Pa and bay complex of Halong Bay.
I don’t think I mentioned the food enough across the posts on Vietnam. It was just so good, every meal, no misses in 10 days, I mean how often can you say that! Most mornings started with Pho soup (a traditional Vietnamese soup with rice noodles and a beef/chicken stock as base) for breakfast, also from the French influence they had good baguettes. Lunch is their largest meal of the day, and we would typically stop for a five plate meal or so. Usually it would include a soup, a fresh salad (they don’t use lettuce or leafy greens really, lots of vegetables and fruits like mango), and then the main course which contains a few plates. The main course normally had a rice dish and one meat and one fish dish (sometimes we had two meat dishes). Typically the dishes were heavy on fresh ingredients (especially the salads!) and they loved cooking with nuts, often having peanuts with the salad and say cashews cooked with a chicken or pork plate. I think our best supper was in Hanoi, we were taken on a walking tour through the Old Quarter and given a chance to sample a bunch of the famous street food that’s available (the sticky rice dish is world famous I’m told – and I understand why). Growing up I was never a big fan of Mango, but that had to be my favorite surprise ingredient in dishes, it just added a fresh and sharp tang to meals.
If you ever get the chance to visit Vietnam, I can’t recommend it enough, and if you need someone to go with, call!