I was excited to go to Vietnam. People who had been there raved about it, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I loved it!! I’m not quite sure I can put my finger on it. Was it the people? The food? The landscape? Maybe it was the experience of all of that together. The minute we walked off the plane, Dave and I knew this would be different.
From the drive to our hotel, you could just see the liveliness of the people – they were out cooking at the sidewalk cafes or just hanging out, or on their scooters going all directions, and I mean all directions. There seem to be no traffic laws that people followed, but somehow it all works. It was a little crazy for the girls – walking the streets of Vietnam is an adventure in and of itself. We were told to just walk with purpose across the street and stick together in a group. If you wait for a space in the traffic, you literally could wait all day. Plus, you never know what they might be carrying on their scooters. They use them like cars and they can get a lot strapped on them. It’s a wonder they stay upright.
The area we stayed in, Tay Ho, was awesome and had a good mix of things to see and do with both locals and expats. There were lots of restaurants, shops, spas, etc. Some of our favorites were Cong Caphe – this great coffee shop new friends of ours showed us. I got the coconut coffee, it’s like a dessert! We loved La Bicicleta – a Spanish restaurant in Vietnam. I know, sounds weird, but it was so good we went twice! The chef was from Spain, so it was authentic and delicious! The gourmet market, Annam, in the mall next to our hotel was a treat – some days I might have gone in there 5 times! They definitely knew who I was by the time we left. We ordered Indian food, sushi and of course the delicious Vietnamese food. I loved it!!! With all of the fresh vegetables Vietnam has, their food was amazing – spring rolls, pho, just to name a few of the basics and simply because I can’t remember the names of all the food that we tried.
Our friend, Cynthia, who has been living there for a year, took me to the local market one morning. What a treat! To see all the beautiful fruits and vegetables, flowers, fresh tofu and coconut juice reminded me of the farmer’s market back home. The only difference was that they also had chickens, fish and other meat products sitting out which we don’t normally see. And truthfully that might be a good thing. But I did buy tofu – which Claire said was the best she had – coconut juice for Dave and some fresh carrots for the twins.
The farming fields were literally a bike ride away, so everything was so fresh. We also had a view of a floating vegetable garden right outside our window where people in boats would paddle by hand in the morning to go and pick fresh vegetables to sell in the market or on the street.
The old quarter was a quite an experience. It was super busy with scooters outnumbering the cars and even people it seemed!! I mean thousands of scooters. It was the craziest experience. We all just had to take it in and watch our step. There were scooters with two people as well as families of 4 all riding together, one kid in the front and one sandwiched between the two parents, sometimes standing on the floor board. Many didn’t have helmets, which seemed insane to me with how crowded and nuts it was on the streets.
It was a little more difficult at night in the old quarter, so we ventured down there a few more times during the day to shop. The shopping is a trip – streets dedicate to one particular item – sunglasses on one street, backpacks on another, and office supplies and toys on yet another. I wonder how each stall stays in business with so many to choose from. We had fun looking at the local art and the girls each picked a painting to send home along with the one Dave and I chose. Should be fun to open all these boxes we are sending home when we get back next summer.
We all are enjoying the spa experience when we can – I might be enjoying it a bit too much, but I realize once we leave Asia, I’m back to American prices and these prices are just to good to pass up!! The girls each enjoyed their first spa experience and I keep telling them not to get used to it 🙂
I think we are going to like Vietnam.