We have only travelled outside of Australia once, and that was in response to our critics, who challenged us to look beyond our beautiful shores and have a different experience. So we booked to go to Vietnam in our fortnight of school holidays.
Our excellent travel consultant, Joan Newbery, from Phil Hoffmann Travel, advised us that if we planned to attempt the whole country in 11 days, we would go far and see little. She advised us to do the north, the south or a region. Researching weather and places of interest, we decided to do the north. Ha Noi, Sa Pa, Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An.
Day 1 – 10 hours of flying to Ha Noi, then familiarisation
Day 2 – Tour that included temples, lakes, museums, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Centre of Ethnicity, the Temple of Literature and an on-the-spot art gallery. Water puppets in the evening.
Day 3 – Hoan Kiem Lake, Museum of Revolution, St Joseph’s Cathedral, walking Ha Noi, overnight train to Cao Lai .
Day 4 – Drive to Sa Pa (most marginalised region of Vietnam), guide through the town and villages, then back to Cao Lai and overnight train to Ha Noi.
Day 5 and 6 – chauffeured to Ha Long Bay, via Dai Vien factory (worked by victims of Agent Orange), for 2-day cruise.
Day 7 – chauffeured to domestic airport in Ha Noi, via Dai Vien again and a massive Catholic Church. Flight to Hue.
Day 8 – Hue. We walked to the tourist operator area and booked a driver for 4 places, at $27. We went to the Citadel, Thien Mu pagoda, Thế Miếu temple, The Tomb of Khải Định and another that I can’t recall. We were taken to lunch at a place near the temple and the driver also stopped at the incense village where we made incense and then we bought some. We were also taken to Khai Dinh Tomb. Much more than the agreed destinations so we tipped him well.
Day 9 – Drive to Hoi An with a guide, via a roadside stop at the birthplace of the last queen, also known for eucalyptus oil manufacture, then Hai Van Pass, fish farm, Red Beach for lunch, arriving at Hoi An. The Central Markets were an interesting haggling experience and then food choices were plentiful.
Day 10 – Old town, tailors and lanterns.
Day 11 – Private car to My Son. 11th Century buildings. Took a shuttle to the beach in the afternoon – pretty chilled.
Day 12 – A morning at the pool, then flights from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City, then to Melbourne and then home.
A lot of distance, a very different experience from Australia, so much colour, so many people.
I’ve tried to keep this blog short, so if you have any questions or want more detail, please let me know, as I am happy to add anything if I can.
Make sure you tip. Wear a hat, do tours and shop in the remote areas.
Would we go overseas again? Vietnam is unforgettable.