Vietnam Week 1

I’m back from my two-week trip to Vietnam, and it’s amazing how quickly the rubber band snaps right back and the whole thing feels like a dream. Thankfully, there are photos to remind of all the good times had. It was a big success all-around: great group and leader, a wide variety of experiences, yummy food. The weather was humid and got progressively hotter as we went further south, but other than sweating like a piggie I bore it surprisingly well. The only real low point came when I ate something dodgy couple of hours before boarding the overnight train. Food poisoning and bumpy Vietnamese train and me with my motion sickness… let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It’s probably a karma payback for all those times in Egypt and India when I was almost the only person in the group without tummy troubles.

Hanoi is not the prettiest of cities, to be honest, and the pollution level was the worst of the entire trip, but the Old Quarter is rather exciting and chaotic to walk around, with good food places and people watching. We spent half a day getting a crash course in the history of Ho Chi Minh, who I didn’t even realise was a real person (yes, my knowledge of Vietnam’s history was non-existent). Also got a crash course in crossing the streets lorded by the mopeds, cars and bikes with no traffic lights in sight. Hint: really can’t afford to be timid. Avoid the fast-moving vehicles and stop the slower ones with the power of your hand.

Ha Long Bay is as beautiful and impressive as the travel brochures suggest, even with the occasional pieces of garbage floating by. We had an overnight stay there on a junk boat, and a kayak expedition in the morning, enjoying the peace and quiet and the eerie misty beauty.

Had a motorbike tour of the countryside in Hue. I was a bit nervous beforehand, as I’ve been at the back of the motorbike once before and found it terrifying, mostly because of lack of control. I’m obviously more chilled with age now – after about a minute of trepidation the ride was enormous fun.

Going through the Hai Van Pass was an interesting experience. On the way up, the weather was overcast and the fog was as thick as milk, but as soon as we went down towards Da Nang, it was as if someone installed some kind of cloud stopper: perfect visibility and blue skies.

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