I was a little apprehensive about Vietnam as we were packing so much into two weeks – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sa Pa, Da Nang and Hoi An – six lots of accommodation, a flight, a cruise and a coach trip. I was exhausted thinking about it.
In reality though, it was fine and we had some spare time in Hanoi that in hindsight would have been better used elsewhere, here’s a breakdown of our time:
This was our base for the first 10 days and was actually too long as there wasn’t much for us to do. It’s a city that is a foodie heaven, with eateries, coffee shops and beer stops everywhere – literally everywhere. Each place specialises in one dish, so you could travel between three to four places to eat what we would consider a single meal. Great for singles or couples but not ideal for a family with a little one. Less ideal when it’s a vegetarian family….
We were invited to take part in a free food tour – something I have always wanted to try – it was a great way to discover foods and places we would not have known about. One of things to try was a Vietnamese speciality that I was looking forward to – Bahn Mi – a baguette filled with meat or scrambled eggs and different sauces of your choice. Unfortunately, despite stating we were vegetarian, we ended up with Bahn Mi’s that had meat paste in them.
Train street was the big highlight of Hanoi – a street where a train hurtles down at top speed, arm’s length from homes and shops on either side of the track. You can imagine how excited Ethan was about it, we spent a good amount of time just walking on the train tracks, which he loved! The families who lived along this street were really nice, minutes before the train arrived they would pop their heads out and pull us into their doorways.
The old town is interesting to walk around, there are streets that sell the same goods in different store, for example, electric fan street or steel pan street.
The only other thing of note in Hanoi was the Water Puppet Theatre show, it really was good. It’s done in a shallow pool with a curtain that the puppeteers are behind and there are musicians and opera singers that narrate the stories. Even though they were in Vietnamese, you could follow along and Ethan loved it.
With spare time on our hands we walked around a wholesale market which was interesting, stalls piled high with anything you can imagine from stickers to shoes. We had a look at the night market but Ethan was tantruming so we didn’t stay long, but it was selling the same things as the day markets.
We also took Ethan to a play centre called Play! cafe which was spread across four floors and had a role play area and a sand pit.
We got ripped off by a taxi driver on the way there, the meter wasn’t working properly, and he used the language barrier as a way of taking advantage of us. For our return trip I asked the venue how much it should cost to get back and made sure the meter was working properly, it cost us a fifth of the original price!
This is a place of great natural beauty, it’s a bay that has emerald waters and limestone islands dotted through it. We travelled from Hanoi to Halong Bay via a coach, it took around 4 hours and we stayed on The Garden Bay cruise ship overnight. Although Ethan was the only child on the cruise, he loved it. There was lots to do and see and the food was great, they catered well to vegetarians – we had six course meals for lunch and dinner! The cruise sailed us around the islands and included a trip out on a boat or in kayaks which took us to the fishermen’s village – small houses floating on a river.
This was a mountain town that we reached via a luxury minibus, think recliner seats and usb ports. It was also a faster journey than going by train with the bonus of being a daytime trip which meant we could enjoy the views and not worry about an uncomfortable night on a sleeper train, it was also cheaper than the train – win, win, win!
We cooked lunch in a tribal home, walked to a waterfall and had herbal baths.
I loved this place so much, I dedicated a page to it, you can read it here
Da Nang is a modern city with a famous dragon bridge which circles through different coloured lights and has a great fire and water show at 9pm every night. The dragon breathes fire so intense you can feel it on the road and then sprays so much water that you end up soaked!
We chose this as a base to explore Hoi An and Hue from, but when we were there we learned that there wasn’t much to see in Hue and Da Nang had a great beach of it’s own and a mall with a Kidszone in it which was great, it had a soft play, role play and arcade games in one. The only thing it lacked was food options and you couldn’t leave and come back inside, locals knew this and brought food with them to eat.
This was my favourite place in Vietnam! It was a quaint old town which had a beautiful beach, mostly secluded and a lake which was lit up at night with small boats and lanterns. You had to walk through the Old Quarter to get to the beach and in the daytime it was like stepping back in time to a French town, at night this too was lit up like a fairy-tale land.
Next stop on our adventure….Japan!