Category Archives: Vietnam


Our first day in Hanoi we visited Hoan Kiem Lake,
ngoc son temple, which is said to date back to the 14th century, and the One pillar pagoda.
The Huc Bridge at night
Our second day we braved a walk through the city to visit the temple of literature van-mieu-quoc-tu-giam where fifty or more calligraphers were set up outside the temples walls selling their prints.
Upon reaching the front gates, I paid the entrance fee to at the ticket counter to this woman who miscalcualted when she gave me back my change.  After bringing it to her attention, she proceeded to take money from my husbands hand claiming it was part of the change she gave back to me!  Again, we tried communicating that she was mistaken, but she firmly waved us aside.  It was such a shame to be entering one of the holiest temples of the city, a place of honorable history, only to be ripped off at the front door.  It ruined the experience and made all the chaos of the streets of Hanoi that much more unpleasant.
After two incidents of nearly being hit by passing traffic, we decided we had experienced enough of the city and retreated back to our hotel and booked a cooking class at the restaurant next door.
That night we traveled, with the company of our large group, by foot through the city once again to see the Water puppet theatre
The craft is unique to North Vietnam and in ancient times was performed in ponds and flooded rice fields after harvest.
After the finale I sat in the theatre dreading the chaotic walk back to the hotel, dreading crossing streets jam packed with fast moving, honking mopeds.  I noticed that the audience was largely made up of retirement age travelers and gave myself a pep talk that if they could do it, I certainly could do it too.  As we walked out the exit I saw a huge double decker bus pull up and all the golden agers happily climbed aboard.  A fine example of the wisdom that comes with age!

Halong Bay

Halong Bay, like Hoi An, is a UNESCO world heritage sight, but it’s history predates the trading port by tens of thousands of years in terms of human habitation.  The area has 1,960 isles and limestone karsts that have been forming for the last 500 million years. 

From wikipedia:
“The bay consists of a dense cluster of over 3,000 limestone monolithic islands (although locals claim there are only 1,969 as this is the year of Ho Chi Minh’s death), each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hang Đầu Gỗ (Wooden stakes cave) is the largest grotto in the Hạ Long area. French tourists visited in the late 19th century, and named the cave Grotte des Merveilles. Its three large chambers contain large numerous stalactites and stalagmites (as well as 19th century French graffiti). There are two bigger islands, Tuần Châu and Cat Ba, that have permanent inhabitants. Both of them have tourist facilities including hotels and beaches. There are a number of beautiful beaches on the smaller islands.

Some of the islands support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Many of the islands have acquired their names as a result of interpretation of their unusual shapes. Such names include Voi Islet (elephant), Ga Choi Islet (fighting cock), and Mai Nha Islet (roof). 989 of the islands have been given names. Birds and animals including bantams, antelopes, monkeys, and lizards also live on some of the islands.
Almost all these islands are as individual towers in a classic fenglin landscape with heights from 50m to 100m, and height/width ratios of up to about six.
Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands. For example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst.”


These formations make a near perfect jellyfish relief
Halong Bay was the most serene place we experienced in all of Vietnam. The afternoon aboard our wooden ship surrounded by these mountains in the sea flew far too fast. We learned too late that there are options to stay overnight on sleeper ships. If we knew the chaos that is New Year in Hanoi, we never would have left this gorgeous area so soon.


Hoi An and Hue

Hoi An is a Unesco World Heritage Sight, Vietnams most important trading port from the 16th to 18th centuries.   Many of the picturesque buildings are protected historic landmarks, some of which show the heavy influence of China and Japan with whom trade relations were strong throughout the history of this charming city.

Women young and old carry produce for sale in these traditional twin baskets carried on the shoulder.  They often set them on passing tourists shoulders, encouraging to take a picture, which then makes the tourist somewhat obliged to buy some of their produce.

The most popular activity in Hoi An is having custom clothing made, the city streets are full of tailor shops offering beautiful wardrobes. 

                                   The Japanese Covered Bridge, built in the early 1600’s

The city is very foot traffic friendly, there are more people riding bicycles than mopeds, a welcome relief after Saigon.

Stephane took a Vietnamese cooking class, firstly touring the market to learn about the various fruits, vegetables, and spices.  The witty instructor would dryly offer such advice as “if onions make you cry, make someone else cut them” and “if they don’t have these particular ingredients where you live, move.”  

A four hour drive, some of which was along this pretty although grey coastline, and we were in Hue (pronounced Hway).

A short boat ride on the Perfume River takes one to the Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda), whose grounds contain several well manicured gardens,
One of the entrances to the Citadel and Imperial City
The walls and moats were impressive but unfortuantely no match for the French and American wars which destroyed much of the area.

In the Forbidden Purple City, the Royal Traditional Theater puts on free daily performances highlighting the ancient art of nha nhac, courtly music and dance.
  We walked through a textile museum and workshop and watched the embroiderers hard at work.  Then we wandered through the centers garden area leading to the bank of the Perfume River and noticed this picture out of the corner of our eye. Never thought we would have has such a randomn reminder of home halfway across the globe!

Saigon and Nha Trang

 We were warned of what to expect of Vietnam traffic but had no idea what an extreme sport it would be to cross a street in Saigon.  We rested up at a public park where there was a festive cultural performance before getting the nerve up to brave the walk back to our hotel.

  After a couple of days of the big city we were happy to have the opportunity to kick off our shoes and walk barefoot along the beaches of Nha Trang.  Our weather was rainy and chilly so a day at the Thap Ba Hot Spring Mudbath was in order.


On the way back to the city from the mudbaths we stopped at the Po Nagar temple, established pre 781 AD in honor of the legendary Queen of Champa (who may also be identified with the Hindu buffalo slayer goddess, Durga) .  A group of local women gathered around the temple entrance and chanted while a lone drummer dressed in traditional Cham attire kept time.  Our quide showed us a mini marvel; a tree that from the front looked to be a healthy thriving green srouting branch but from the back revealed an entirely burnt and dead carcass of a trunk.  
The view from the top


The following day our group decided to take a long cable car ride over to Vinpearl Land, where there was something for everybody between the amusement park, the water park,  
the  temples,

and the Aquarium where we caught sight of this mythical creature.


Just the views on the ride back alone were well worth the reasonable price for the entrance ticket.

Dinner and fresh brewed beer at La Louisiane  before boarding the sleeper train to Danang.