Vietnam with family! Dragons, Water Buffalo, Paddy Fields, Lanterns, Temples…
20 September 2014
Vietnam with family!
Dragons, Water Buffalo, Paddy Fields, Lanterns, Temples…
Arriving on the afternoon flight our first impressions were ‘its hot’ (we were arriving in June), ‘its humid’ and ‘Oh boy, its busy’.
We had arrived from the UK with our two daughters aged 8 and 6 for a two week holiday starting in Hanoi but to include Ha Long Bay and Hoi An. We piled into the taxi carefully counting we had five bags, five teddies and two children for the transfer to our hotel. Mopeds, mopeds and more mopeds streamed along the road into the city. We couldn’t believe the sheer numbers of people on the road and were amazed at how much can be carried on the footplate and back of a moped: multiple farm animals, bundles of flowers, farm produce, car parts, air conditioning units(!) , children (families of four were common). As we began to relax and got our first views of the city we got a sense of teeming life.
At the small central hotel, which we were to make our base, we were made enormously welcome and a huge fuss was made over the kids, much to their delight and something we were to find would be a pattern for the holiday. Trying to settle down to sleep was a challenge as excited kids got to grips with choosing which bed they wanted and checking the teddies had made it to the room. The next morning we went walking through the old town, realising quickly that sidewalks were bustling places of business and not to walk along so this meant walking in the street amongst the mopeds. Hanging on to the kids we made our nervous way through the Old Town seeing the carpets street, the stainless steel implements street, the lanterns street and more. After a little time we understood that we weren’t taking ours and our kids lives in our hands; in fact the moped drivers were considerate, careful and remarkably calm as our nervous and clumsy progress was made. Our kids coped brilliantly and were fascinated by all that they saw. We had a wonderful invitation into a tube house (traditional, very long and very narrow) to see a demonstration of classical instruments – much more difficult to play than they look! then onto a great meal in a family restaurant with our first introduction to Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) which became our staple order everywhere we went. Negotiating our way home to the hotel from the Water Puppet Theatre through an enormous thunderstorm, we went to bed happy and excited to be in Vietnam.
Next day to Ha Long Bay – arriving there we were quickly taken to our magnificent boat that would be our home for 3 days. We cruised past thousands of cliff sided limestone islands and were well fed and looked after. In the Bay the crew helped us into kayaks to go paddling, we swam off the boat, had a tour of a floating village, visited a beautiful beach and had a stunning dinner in a spectacular cave amongst centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites – unforgettable.
Then Hoi An – what a contrast to Hanoi – quiet, calm and pedestrianized for part of the day. The girls and Mum rapidly came the conclusion that they needed new dresses, these were made to measure over two days with much fun to be had going back for several fittings. We visited a lantern factory to make our own lanterns and had a ride on a buffalo cart through local villages and between paddy fields ending with a ride on ’Lulu’ a very calm lady buffalo, sitting behind her wonderful singing owner splashing through a paddy field. With a couple of mornings spent on the beautiful beach and a visit to My Son - Ankgor Wat in miniature – we had an amazingly varied visit.
Back to Hanoi for our final day with a visit to the Perfume Pagoda – a drive through the country, a very calm and relaxing sampan trip and a cable car ride to the mountain top to see a beautiful shrine to Buddha in an enormous cave with a very knowledgeable guide made for a fascinating day
Saying a sad goodbye to our friends at the Hanoi hotel, we left with happy memories of a busy, vibrant, colourful yet calm, relaxing and safe country suffused with a long history and culture. We had eaten superbly wherever we had been and our daughters delighted us by learning how to use chopsticks.
…And we didn’t lose any teddies! When can we go again?