Visiting a new continent is always an exciting adventure. Here, guest writer Anna Mitchell shares her experience visiting Vietnam for the first time…
Being my first trip to Asia, I can say with certainty it will not be my last! Vietnam was completely different to my typical family holiday and it made for an exciting change. Each stage of the holiday felt like a new adventure, continuously immersing ourselves in the local culture and traditions.
Each city was very different to the next, more so than I expected, with my favourite being Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Its local cuisine scene creates a humble and warm atmosphere and our guide encouraged us to try a traditional Vietnamese cake – an interesting concoction, to say the least! He also had endless knowledge on Hanoi’s temples and their traditions and we witnessed monks scurrying past, which was a fascinating encounter.
On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City – to my shock – felt very westernised. It was a lot more industrialised than the other cities we visited in Vietnam, with rooftop bars providing amazing aerial views of the city. If you’re after a modern, up-and-coming atmosphere, then this is the place in Vietnam for you.
An aspect of Vietnamese life I didn’t fully prepare for was the immense traffic on the streets. It made crossing the road a near-impossible task but, despite this, it was a unique thrill and meant we could experience a snapshot of what it was like to live in a busy Vietnamese city. It didn’t help that we couldn’t stop looking at the ever-present array of brightly coloured lanterns, which lit up the rivers and charming architecture.
My highlight of Vietnam was the breathtaking Halong Bay. Cruising past the most spectacular views while aboard a boat as luxurious as something you would find on land made for a truly remarkable couple of days. After taking a quick dip in the Jacuzzi on board, we had the opportunity to explore one of its several inhabited islands. While we were there, we saw a single chair with a wonky mirror placed above it – the local hairdressers! Grasping the stark differences between my life at home and the life these locals lead proved difficult for me. Despite my high expectations, this excursion to Halong Bay topped them massively.
The best hotel I have ever stayed in (in Vietnam or otherwise) was, without a doubt, Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai in Hoi An. Both my sister and I received a pair of sunglasses in our room upon arrival and that turned out to be just one of the many extras which made our stay so special. The wide variety of food on offer was outstanding, too. We were also given the opportunity to choose our own specific piece of seafood, which just proved how fresh the food was. Finally, the staff were especially helpful when recommending places to visit in the surrounding area, as well as activities we could do. That extra help and advice made our stay very relaxing and care-free!