#SETRAVELS: From The North to The South in Vietnam

Vietnam and Cambodia have always been destinations that were on my bucket list. This long, narrow country offers splendid views of the South China Sea and borders China, Laos and Cambodia. Last month, my boyfriend and I planned a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia where we barely scratched the surface. For three weeks, we travelled from the north (Hanoi) to south (Ho Chi Minh City), then made a short trip to Cambodia. Here’s what we did in Vietnam (to read about our Cambodia trip, click here).

After about 20 hours of travel (as there are no direct flights), I landed in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Since I only travel with hand luggage, I packed for the hot weather of the south without paying much attention to the weather of the north. Big mistake. With temperatures in the 5°C mark and only one sweater, to say it was frigid would be an understatement (note to anyone visiting Hanoi: it’s cold, pack accordingly). But despite the weather, we wandered around the town visiting various sites, including their Water Puppet Theatre and even stopped for Vietnamese egg coffee, a specialty in the north where egg yolks are used to substitute milk. After a few days to acclimate to the climate and jet lag, we set off to Halong Bay.

Hanoi by Night Hanoi Water Puppet Theatre Hanoi, Vietnamese Egg CoffeeHalong Bay, meaning “descending dragons”, is known for its thousands of limestone islands, which boast inspiring caves and spectacular floating fishing villages. It was amazing cruising around Halong Bay on a 2 day cruise. Unfortunately, the photos don’t do justice to the beauty of this UNESCO heritage site.

Halong BayHalong BayHalong Bay CavesHalong BayFrom Halong Bay, we took an overnight sleeper train to the imperial city of Hue. We did most of our travels with overnight trains or buses because flights were either unavailable or offered inconvenient timing. When we arrived in the former capital (from 1802-1945), we scoped out the old imperial palace and temples from Vietnam’s past. With much of the country destroyed by the bombing in the Vietnam/American war, seeing these sights in all their glory was simply stunning.

Hue Imperial CityHue, Thien Mu PagodaHue, Minh Mang TempleHue Khai Dinh Temple SoldiersHue, Khai Dinh Temple MosaicHue Khai Dinh TempleOur next stop was Hội An, but before our arrival, we made a quick pit stop in the Marble Mountains, a cluster of mountainous rock of marble and limestone in Da Nang (just north of Hội An).

Da Nang, Marble Mountains Da Nang, Marble Mountains Da Nang Marble MountainsAfter our quick pit stop, we arrived to Hội An, which many travellers referred to as “the Disneyworld of Vietnam”. We quickly understood the reference upon our arrival. The ancient town of Hội An is a mix of Chinese wooden shophouses and temples, ornate Vietnamese houses with lanterns lining the streets. After a day in the ancient town, we cycled around the smaller locales to get a glimpse of local life and dine on local delicacies, including their infamous White Rose dumplings.

Hoi An Ancient TownHoi An LanternsHoi An by NightHoi AnHoi An HamletsHoi An, White Rose dumplingsAfter Hội An, we continued onto Mui Ne, a quiet beach town in Southeast Vietnam. We woke up at an ungodly hour to catch the sunrise in the Vietnamese sand dunes and then wander around the red and white desert before the sand became too hot. Aside from long stretches of sand and sea, Mui Ne is home to an original fishing village where locals still outnumber tourists. During the peak sun hours, we retreated back to our resort and relaxed poolside. After a few days on the go, a quick break was much needed.

Muine Red DunesMuine Fishing VillageMuine Fishing VillageMuine Cliff ResortOur last stop in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Ho Chi Minh was once Prime Minister but more importantly, he was one of the Vietnamese communist revolutionary leaders who fought the colonial forces for the liberation of the Vietnamese people. After the Vietnam War, Saigon was renamed after their leader.

HCMC buildingsHCMC, Post OfficeHCMCOur time in Vietnam was all too short but utterly compelling. I didn’t know what to expect prior to visiting Vietnam but the country offers an interesting past and some breathtaking beauty. If you’re planning to visit South East Asia, don’t skip past Vietnam. For the second part of our trip, read “#SETRAVELS: Sunrise to Sunset in Cambodia”.

– Chenessa Lam

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