For our (very delayed) honeymoon, we decided to go somewhere a bit different from our regular excursions, somewhere we had dreamt about going. It had to be Vietnam! It was a trip of a life time. We flew 2 hours to Paris, then 12 hours to Hanoi. it was totally worth the 33+ hours in total from the front door of our house, to the hotel in central Hanoi.
Hanoi is AMAZING! There is so much culture to see and experience. The city can seem extremely daunting to people just arriving, with the 2,000,000+ scooters on the chaotic streets, seemingly going in no direction – it is incredible to watch. However, we found out later on that approx 25 people are killed A DAY on the roads, which after seeing how they weave in and out of traffic jams and around obstructions, you can see how that number would be possible.
After wandering about Hanoi we found so many hidden gems. This railway track seems to have been built through the back gardens of houses. People seemed to leave stuff on the track, so I guess it mustn’t be too regular. Even still, I wouldn’t like to have that in my back yard!
This is another little hidden gem we had stumbled upon – a bamboo shop. Those ladders to the right of the door are what they use to fix the electric lines (well, add on more lines). One guy would hold the ladders vertical while another would climb up it – No no, the guy would literally be holding the ladders by himself. They weren’t propped up against anything else while someone else climbed up the other side. Impressive.
About 4 hours outside of Hanoi is an incredible build up of mountain peak-like limestone rocks that pierce through the sea. Here, we hopped on a cruise boat which took us round the 1,600+ islands. Ho-ly-shizzz! It is one of the most amazing places on earth! The boat, which had 12 staff, looked after 6 of us tourists (Two of them where also from Northern Ireland – what are the chances, eh?!). We stopped off at different locations around the bay to swim, kayak, climb and explore caves and floating fishing villages. Unbelievable.
After a few days back in Hanoi, we moved on and flew to Hoi An – right in the middle of Vietnam. It is a more relaxed and quiet part of the country. Here, we spent a week trying all the local food, beer, and activities. It’s definitely worth noting that the local beer worked out at 14p a pint!
This town is a bit more touristy and less chaotic. It is built around a river running down the centre, with many gondolas and candles constantly floating up it, especially at night. The town is well known for it’s suit tailoring, which, yes, I got a suit jacket tailor made, and yes, I went for camouflage… because I am an idiot, but where else are you ever going to get a camouflage suit like Ali G… Had to be done.
During our stay here, we took a trip to the ‘Mỹ Sơn’ ruins about a 2 hour car journey outside of Hoi An, near the mountains which was quite eery, yet absolutely breathtaking. The ruins were originally built from as early as the 4th century up to the 14th, with bullet holes and bomb craters surrounding them from the war. The Viet Cong used to hide inside them, which is why the Americans targeted them so heavily.
Unfortunately the ancient language used on the stone above has been completely forgotten and a lot of artefacts were destroyed in the war. Having our own personal tour guide take us round the site was great.
A little note on the ALL the cameras and gear I took with me – I took very little. After watching nearly all of David Hobby’s videos and tutorials on how he works as a traveling photographer, one ‘pro tip’, is:
“EVERY POSSESSION IS A BURDEN”
This is amazingly true and helped me to not cart around more crap than I needed. I took my Fuji X100T and my iPhone 6 as the backup. We did find it entertaining looking around at other tourists with an incredible amount of gear, especially in Hoi An. The worst offender had two large DSLR’s with flash guns strapped to herself with their other half looking miserable holding the camera backpack and tripod. Once more, as David says:
“IF YOU AREN’T GETTING PAID, ENJOY IT FIRST AND FOREMOST”
Don’t let a once in a life-time trip become an assignment, which can very easily ruin it not only for you, but others that are there with you.