This was my first visit to Vietnam and my first experience on a Dreamliner aircraft. We arrived in Vietnam early in the morning and it was a short drive to the centre of the very crazy city of Hanoi. After a quick nap we got an early lunch in the cafe virtually opposite our hotel, the first of many delicious meals we would experience in Vietnam.
Our half day tour began at 2 pm and it was excellent value as we had an informative guide. We were all quite tired by then as jet lag had caught up with us but we didn’t want to waste a single moment and we wanted to experience as much as we could in our limited timeframe. Our guide took us to a temple, the history museum and the bridge by the lake and from there the tour included an electric cart round the highlights of the city and a water puppet theatre. Water puppets I think are unique to Vietnam. Several puppeteers stand in a pool of water up to their wastes and they manage the puppets on sticks from behind a curtain. It is difficult to follow but it seems to be based on legends and stories of ancient Hanoi with musicians playing at the sides of the stage and it is spectacular so worth seeing even if you don’t understand it. Our 3star hotel was more than adequate with flat screen TV, hairdryer and a safe and quite central too.
Hanoi can be very nerve wracking as traffic lights are few and far between and are arbitrary anyway. You simply step off the kerb and carry on walking while mopeds drive round you and forget walking on pavements where they exist. They are for parking mopeds and dumping rubbish. Cars are very expensive and way beyond the reach of most Vietnamese people so they ride mopeds. Despite this complete and utter chaos the traffic moves albeit slowly so we didn’t see any traffic jams during our stay at all and somehow it all works
We had an early start the next morning as we were going to Halong Bay for our overnight cruise. We were keeping our fingers crossed for good weather as we knew it was the rainy season but as it turned out the sun shone brightly so we endured the high humidity to enjoy a lovely and well equipped cabin which even had a small balcony and the food, wow we had four endless meals, dish after dish of absolutely delicious food came out. The cruise was amazing. I went on the boat and the rest went kayaking through the caves, then we got some free time on the beach and time to relax on deck and watch the sun go down over the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. The next morning we had an early morning trip inside the limestone caves.
After another night in Hanoi we got a flight to The Impetial City of Hue. We had a look around the Museum of History and the Citadel before taking an hour long cruise down the Perfume River on a Dragon Boat.
A two and a half hour scenic drive along Hai Van pass got us to the pretty old town of Hoi An. At night it was lit up with lanterns and by day it was lovely to walk round the pretty streets full of tailors and shops. Beware of ticket sellers on every corner asking for 120k (about £4) to get into the ancient town. Just keep walking around until you can slip past them. We had a morning on An Bang beach which was a lovely beach with some beach bar restaurants. You do get hassled unfortunately by hawkers selling just about anything.
Overall Vietnam was excellent value, great service, people were friendly and curious, really good food, all our transfer buses were early apart from one and they called to say they were delayed. Guides were all very patient, flexible and knowledgable. Language was rarely a problem since almost everyone spoke English. Flights were less punctual and somewhat chaotic so be careful of short connections or tight planning.