9 days in Vietnam, Part 1: Planning...
Asia isn't just for affluent adventurers or time-rich travellers...
My boyfriend (Dan) and I had neither time nor money on our side. Yet we wanted an adventure. A real ‘we-had-to-sleep-in-Kuala-Lumpur-airport-because-we-missed-our connection’ adventure, where experiences aren’t tied up in a neat and cosy all-inclusive package. (Yes, we did actually do that due to my idealistic confidence in on-time flights.) We weren’t entirely sure where to go because everywhere in Asia seemed like an impossible holiday fantasy, at least when considering our budget and time constraints. However, it wasn’t long before Vietnam lured us in with its promise of a vibrant and captivating culture. Here’s how we got on….
Before you do anything I recommend checking out www.skyscanner.com. My preferred method of travel shopping is using the ‘everywhere’ function. You simply enter your preferred flight dates, home airport and then your destination can be simply set to ‘anywhere in the world’. This is a wonderful way of finding out where in the world is going cheap. We were surprised that flights to Kuala Lumpur were extremely reasonable and at great times. So we booked it. Boom.
We had sorted the continent. Now to pick a country.
Skyscanner is still useful for short-haul flights. However, don’t let this be your only guide. You may end up booking the cheapest flight, but finding your self in an Asia’s version of Magaluf. So after some research we decided on Vietnam- not only for its prices- but for its promise of unspoiled land. A place touched- but not inundated- with a tourist market.
As we were only going for 12 days we decided to limit ourselves to two locations: Hanoi and Hoi An. It’s tempting to try and experience an entire country in one short trip. Yet in reality you get what I am calling 'snapshot culture': seeing only surface level stereotypes. Our choice came down to what we wanted from our holiday: we wanted to relax and explore.
To sightsee and to top-up our tans.
For this sort of balance, Hanoi and Hoi An were the perfect holiday combo. Hanoi overwhelms the senses with so much to see, smell and experience. It is simultaneously chaotic, colourful and captivating. Hoi An offered a much more calming counterpoint, characterized by lanterns, lazy beaches and long lunches on the riverfront. (Separate blog posts on these are coming soon!!)
As I mentioned earlier, our flights didn’t exactly go to plan: we ended up spending a night in Kuala Lumpur airport, so I’d strongly recommend leaving at least 3 hours between your connections (we only left 90 minutes!) Minor hiccup aside we arrived in the Vietnamese capital the following morning (only 12 hours later than expected) and began our adventure. 3 nights (well actually 2 in the end) and 2 whole days in Hanoi before flying down to Hoi An for 6 nights. Inevitably the trip felt too short; I never want to go home after a memory-making holiday. However, neither of us felt rushed or unsatisfied; we felt rejuvenated and relaxed and yet had experienced so much. Vietnam is both dynamic and humble, peaceful and poignant. A place like no other and quite possible my favourite country (I say ‘possibly’ because I am yet to visit all the world’s 196 countries!)
Don’t worry this is just a teaser blog post…. there is so much more to come.
Watch this space.