Greetings! Well this post is about Northern Vietnam. Let’s go to the map shall we! My Southern Vietnam post was up to Hoi An, this post will be from Hoi An to Hanoi. So on the right side up to the top.
We departed Hoi An to Hue by private bus on Oct 2. The drive was beautiful. You really see the terrain change from more flat beachy to mountains. It was quite scenic. We stopped at one spot to take a pic, right away these guys wanted to sell us postcards, after getting no across to them, the guy said, where are you from? I said Canada. His face lit up, he pulled out a small plastic bag of random coins and said I need a Canada coin, I collect. So I found a quarter in my purse, he seemed pretty happy about it.
Our first stop was Hue, I’ll just call this place the armpit of Vietnam. Our guide warned us the people in the north are less friendly than the south as life is harder in the north. Visually, Hue itself was okay, but the people were not only unfriendly, but downright rude. Sounds like many travellers have this experience. We stayed 2 nights, that’s too long, one day max and move on. There’s a citadel with a forbidden city, and a boat ride. I didn’t find any of it that exciting. There’s more interesting places in the country, don’t be disappointed if you have to skip this one. I hear Sapa is very beautiful, didn’t make it there, but it would have been more worth the time and money than this dump.
Halong Bay is a known tourist spot for Vietnam. I found it weird there. Very beautiful scenery if you are out on the water. I highly recommend the boat ride out to the limestone cave, but there’s nothing to the town. Which is very surprising for being a tourist town. Apparently it’s also controlled by the Chinese mafia, which makes sense as there were only a few shops there, and they only sold Chinese stuff. The pictures below are of the islands and limestone cave. The limestone cave isn’t colourful, they just shine colourful lights everywhere. You also can’t swim, in Halong Bay there’s only 3 designated beaches that you can swim due to government regulations, but the water didn’t really look the best. Even a lady pulled up to our boat trying to sell us fruit from her boat.
The capital. Out of the north, I suppose Hanoi was my favourite. If you are looking to shop, do it in Hoi An, but you can here as well, but not as good. But Hanoi is busy, lots to do. Vietnam has fantastic museums, they really put money and care into them. I enjoyed all the museums I went to. People were less douchey here. Watch out for the pick pocketers, and tons of motor bikes, can be challenging to cross the street. Really the trick is to just walk and they’ll go around you. The only time I almost got hit was by white foreigners driving the motor bikes not looking where they were going. I felt very comfortable yelling at them to pay attention to the road. But locals, nah, they know what they are doing. You also see lots of people just holding their babies or small kids in their arms, no car seats or helmets.
Make sure you take in a water puppet show. Very unique to Vietnam, and there’s no talking, only live music and singing. It tells the story of the different people and life of Vietnam. Very cute and interesting. The puppeteers are behind the wicker looking blinds, and the puppets are on these long sticks in the water.
Museums–not to bore you with museum pics, but I just think they are so interesting, diverse and well done. If you go to Ho Chi Minh city or Hanoi, you must visit some of the museums!
Ho Chi Minhs museum mausoleum and palace. I was disappointed we just missed seeing the embalmed Ho Chi Minh. They close the mausoleum 2 months a year for repairs and he goes to to Russia for upkeep with embalming. So he was gone. He died in 1969 and travels every year still, not too shabby. You can still see his museum and the outside of his mausoleum. Even with him gone, still very high security. He’s very beloved in the country. He’s known as uncle Ho. Anytime I said uncle Ho, I always got a genuine smile or giggle from a local.
The women’s museum! Loved this one so much. It was all about women of Vietnam, their contribution to the war, their day to day lives in different areas of the country, how they dress, their jobs, marriage, kids etc. Very interesting and well done. I think we spent the longest time here.
The army museum. I still think the war museum in Ho Chi Minh City was more interesting, but the focus was on the Vietnam war. This one was on all wars. Keep in mind most museums close an 1- 1 1/2 hours for lunch, we got shoved out of this one promptly at 11:30. She was not messing around. Physically pushed me out with the door slammed and locked behind me lol.
The Hanoi Hilton Prison is very interesting too. It was a prison used for a few wars, very brutal treatment. By the time they used it for the Vietnam war, the POWs got humane treatment. This is where John McCain was a POW.
I’m not sure what these plants are called, Racine calls them a shy plant. I saw them in Thailand as well. The leaves are fully opened, but when you touch the leaf, it instantly will close and reopen again later. I like touching them. Here’s a before and after of the same leaves.
This wooden cut out is outside many pharmacies, she looks like a nurse, nothing to say about it other than I just like it.
We tried some of the fast food here in Vietnam. Often travellers develop an attitude that some how eating western food is “sad” or “you caved”. My opinion is its sometimes fun to do something you know and see how another culture does the same thing; such as going to a movie, a mall, fast food chains or Starbucks. Me and Racine went to a mall, I was the only white person in the whole place. So not a tourist spot. You saw the middle and upper class Vietnamese going to the movies, teens having date night at KFC, people grocery shopping in a place that looked like superstore in Canada, but with different products of course. You see different menu items in a restaurant you know. I like doing this because often when you travel, you do the tourist stuff. So you might only think all Vietnamese shop at roadside markets or all people are poor farmers or fishermen. Not true. So it gives another cultural experience. KFC was pretty much the same taste, but we tried Vietnams big chain Lotteria. I tried a burger that was very similar to McDonalds Big Mac. This one was better, maybe it was made from real meat? Lol I dunno. Fun to compare sometimes!
I spent 16 days total in Vietnam. The south was by far my favourite, and the best shopping was in Hoi An. My guide was alright, very knowledgable but you can tell he’s done with doing this line of work. I arrived in Laos a couple days ago and am really loving it here so far. We have a new guide with some new travellers who joined which has been so great, we dumped some dead weight after Vietnam. The downside of group travel with strangers, you never know who will join and we got a couple of duds in the Vietnam leg. But anyhow, Laos will be my next post, so far so good. Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian peeps, I had a chicken sandwich for supper in honour of the day!