A few years ago, I remember Jeff randomly telling me, 'Vietnam is the new Thailand!' At that time, I don't think he knew that we would actually be going there. (We will reserve comparison with Thailand until after we visit both places.) More recently, our friend Bri told me, 'I'm planning on going to Vietnam with Marie and Chip!' (or something like that...) Jeff and I thought it sounded like a great time, so we pretty much invited ourselves on their vacation. These rockstar friends have already starred in some other blogposts- back in June when we were in Sweden and again in Italy!
Here are the places we are planning on visiting in the next 2 weeks:
We started our Vietnam adventure in Hanoi, which is the capital and is in the North. We'll be spending our time here gradually working our way south to Ho Chi Minh City. We flew into Hanoi two days after Christmas and upon arrival found out this is probably the one country we will visit that our Google Fi phones don't have coverage in. Good thing the airport had free wifi and we were still able to get an Uber to the AirBNB we stayed at. Uber makes things very convenient when there is a language barrier because you don't have to explain where you want to go, it's all taken care of via the app. Courtesy of offline Google Maps we were still able to follow along and make sure we were going in the right direction just to be sure.
After arriving in town and getting checked into the house for the four nights we spent in Hanoi, we went to a restaurant our host recommended. It turned out to be more like a tapas place, but it allowed us to try several different dishes which was awesome. This started setting the tone for Hanoi, which really became all about the food. Note: We have never had Vietnamese food before!
After a good night's sleep our friend Lauren (from our India tour) showed up to spend a few days with us. We spent the day exploring the city, including the Temple of Literature (Vietnam's first university, a Confucian temple/education center), the Vietnam Military History Museum, and getting plenty of food. During the day Lauren booked an overnight excursion to see one more area of Vietnam prior to her moving on to Laos, so early the next morning she left. I also got a haircut on the street corner right near our AirBNB, which also happened to include a shave. Things got a little sketchy, but I survived, and it was less than $3.
The next day our friends Bri, Marie, and Chip made it into town about lunch time and toughed it out until night time, despite having been traveling for a really long time across way too many time zones. It's great to have some familiar friendly faces around and a great start to sharing this leg of the trip with them! We went to the Women's Museum and thought that we had dinner at the restaurant that Anthony Bourdain and President Obama recently dined at together, but turns out Google Maps gave us the wrong address.
The next morning we explored some more of the city and got lunch at the real Obama/Bourdain location (also delicious, but our favorite spot wasn't either of these, it was another random place we went with the same type of food). We spent the afternoon exploring town before getting our first bowls of pho for dinner and checking out the night market, which was much bigger than we expected. After the market, we caught a water puppet show, which is a traditional Vietnamese show where the stage is a pool of water hiding the mechanisms that operate the puppets. It was a really interesting experience: the entire performance was in Vietnamese, but you could still understand most of what was going on.
We got up early the next morning for our trip to Cat Ba, and we'll have a post about that soon! Hanoi was a great intro into Vietnam, and the food was phenomenal at every turn.