To my dearest friends, family and fellow culture cravers,
Since our time in Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam we’ve been making our way North.
First stop – Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh is a cosmopolitan city, which boasts bouts of history.
Before arriving, I didn’t have very high expectations of HCMC and had written it off as just another overcrowded bustling metropolis.
However, I was very mistaken.
Ho Chi Minh is a melting pot for locals – young and old, tourists and backpackers. Locals watch the world go by with a strong coffee and/or tea in hand at a street stall, young Vietnamese gather with their latest flings in the hippest of bars in town or sing karaoke at an outdoor restaurant and backpackers merge in like they belong.
You can dine at high-end restaurants and drink cocktails at roof top bars or, you can blend in with the locals at the back alley restaurants and enjoy a tinny of Saigon at your hostel. It’s diverse, clean and caters for all kinds of travellers, which is why it’s such a desirable place to visit.
Whilst we were there we learnt a heck of a lot about the history of Vietnam at the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels as well as, wandered around the many scenic parks, pagodas and Banh Mi stalls the city had to offer.
Next, we made our way to Dalat, a city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Located 7 hours into the mountains, Dalat has a cooler climate to its neighbouring areas in the South and is therefore, a major region for growing fruit, veg, flowers and grapes (of the wine variety).
On our first full day we decided to go on an Easy Rider tour of the city’s surrounding countryside (sorry Dad – it had been highly recommended to us by two girls we’d met at our hostel).
The Easy Riders are a group of friendly bikers who originated just after the war. Due to their extensive travel around Vietnam during the war, the group decided to put their in-depth knowledge of the country as well as, particular areas into use. Think a cross between Greece’s T Birds and The Hells Angels. They now do tours around the area you’re in or, can drive you for multiple days from one city to another.
We were unsure which company to go for as we’d read that there were a lot of copycat Easy Riders in the area. We ventured around a couple of agents claiming to offer the ‘authentic Easy Rider experience’ before stumbling upon an office with a group of men smoking, eating, laughing and drinking beer (it was around 9pm by this point). They welcomed us in with big smiles, handed us a beer and told us that they were celebrating Tet (Vietnamese New Year).
Obviously, the free beer sold us.
Even if they weren’t the ‘original’ Easy Riders they were exactly how we’d imagine them to be, which was enough for us.
We spent the next day cruising around Dalat’s colourful countryside sampling the local coffee, rice wine and silk worms (which we do NOT recommend) and trekking up mountains, through flower fields and around pretty pagodas.
Our drivers were extremely friendly, informative and safe.
The next day we hopped on a night bus to the World Heritage Site city of Hoi An.
Hoi An was the epitome of charming. Renowned for its huge number of tailor shops, mustard coloured, shabby chic buildings and clusters of luminous lanterns strewn across every house, shop, restaurant and bar, it screams charisma.
(Yes, that is a cat in a frilly dress…)
Topped off with the surrounding rice paddy fields, beaches and river, I fell in love with the city instantly.
Although there isn’t a huge amount to do in the city other than shop ’til you drop, it’s a wonderful place to people watch from a street side cafe, cycle along the scenic river front or get lost in its many winding back alleys.
This week we’re heading even further North stopping off at the imperial city of Hue and cave laden town of Phong Nha.
Until next week…