By Roxanne Davis
I was always jealous of people I knew who went off travelling the world on their own. I wanted that freedom and adventure but was also scared to be somewhere completely alone. My brother found a company called G Adventures, he booked and holiday for him and his fiancé and they spent three weeks travelling across South America, but with a group of people their age. I thought it was a fantastic idea, travelling on my own but with a group of strangers, all experiencing it together. The thought of going on tours and travelling across countries became even less scary when I found out you have a tour guide from the area you’re visiting to take you on your adventure.
Fast forward to my birthday and my brother had booked us on a tour to Vietnam.
After visiting Thailand, a few years previous with my family, I was desperate to get back to South East Asia no matter where I went. Although Vietnam always stood out. The ancient history and architecture were enough to spark a fire in me that made me hungry to visit. The thought of their delicious cuisine also had my belly rumbling to get on a plane. It also helps that it is a beautiful place with postcard picture perfect views to make you wanderlust for the rest of your life to be there again.
My brother booked us on an 8-day long tour that went from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, starting in mid-October. During our stay, the weather varied depending where we were. The weather can vary across the country, and the rainy season stretches roughly from May to September (depending on the part of the country you visit.) If you are touring the country and visiting lots of different places, like we did, I would say the best time to visit would be around October – December. You’ll experience hot sunny weather in the north, some monsoon rain in the center, and hot sun again in the south.
During our time in Vietnam we took a few different modes of transport but also spent a good amount of our time exploring on foot. Due to the nature of our holiday being a group tour we had a bus that took us from place to place, however for our longest part of the journey we took an overnight train. For one day of our tour we travelled round the city on the back of motorbikes. This was fun and a little terrifying, having never been on the back of a motorbike before, this was a new experience for me.
There’s a difficulty in picking the highlights of my trip to Vietnam as every day was a highlight and new adventure. Here’s what I could narrow down.
Our second night in Vietnam was spent on a boat. We sailed out to Ha Long Bay where our boat stayed for the next day. During our first day on the boat we took a kayak out in and watched the sun setting over the bay. It was tranquil and beautiful. After kayaking we boarded the boat again for dinner, not being a big fan of fish, I was worried I’d dislike the meal. I was extremely wrong, the fish was cooked to perfection and flavoursome. We spent the evening dangling our legs over the back of the boat and fishing for squid. The next day we woke to sail to an island to visit a cave and have a higher view overlooking the bay.
During our time in Hue, we had a motorbike tour organised for us. Strapping on a helmet, jumping on the back of a motorbike and holding on to a stranger’s waist was something I never thought I’d be doing. I’m so glad I did though, we travelled round the city, stopping off in various places to look at views and gorgeous temples. Temples in Vietnam are beautifully made and are a thing of wonder to see and walk around. From the roof tops adorned with intricate dragons to the red and gold lined walls and ceilings. Driving on, we also visited markets where we saw local art and incense.
We had a couple of days in Hoi An, which was brilliant. We had a chance to explore the Old Town (ancient town), which although small is packed with thing to see. Whilst being shown on a walking tour round Hoi An we visited the tailoring streets, shop upon shop of tailors, we even purchased matching dresses for me and my sister-in-law’s sister. We picked them up the next day, two personal purple bridesmaid dresses made in a day! That evening we were sat at a long table and enjoyed pork, lettuce, cucumber and a whole spring roll all wrapped up in rice paper. Later we watched the canal, as people set a candle alight and placed their lantern in the water and watched it float down the water. The next day we took part in a cooking course where we learnt to make spring rolls and curry. This was a fantastic thing to do as we got to learn how to make authentic Vietnamese food and given the recipes to make it at home too!
Our final stop on the tour was Ho Chi Minh, from here we visited the Cu Chi tunnels. These are long tunnels dug underground, often by hand, during the war so soldiers could hide, set booby traps, transport supplies and execute surprise attacks then disappear to the safety underground. They are now a popular tourist attraction where you can actually crawl through shorter and safer sections of the tunnel. This was a really informative and interesting trip, finding out what it would have been like during the war there.
Our last visit was to part of the Mekong river, the seventh longest in Asia and the twelfth longest river in the world. We took a boat ride along the river, drank from coconuts, and tasted local fruits.
I would recommend a tour of Vietnam to anyone that wants to go a little outside of their comfort zone and experience new cultures and cuisine. Travelling with G Adventures meant I didn’t have to worry about us getting lost or misunderstanding anything, it also meant that I got to experience things that I may not have known about if I had done it all alone.