“I don’t want to leave Vietnam.”
Greetings Vietnam for the second week,
On the second day of the trek in Sa Pa, it set in that my time in Vietnam was coming to a close and for that, I was truly sad. Similar to how I felt as I wrapped up my time in Samoa, I knew it had to, but I wasn’t ready. The second half of my time in the country continued my trek North. In order to maximize my time, I took my first foray into night buses. Pros: travel happens at night, while you’re sleeping. They’re crazy cheap. Most everyone sleeps right away, so if you’re up, you have time to yourself (even if it is in public). Cons: the bus rides are long (longest was 14 hours). They’re pretty bumpy (obviously), making things like working on a computer tough. And, I might just be a few inches too tall for sleeper buses in Asia. So now I’ve learned what we can call night-bus yoga.
Hoi An was super touristy, and despite that, a total gem. It’s the jumping off point to visit My Son sanctuary, another UNESCO site. These structures, like Po Nagar, trace back to approximately 500. It is pretty incredible to see, nestled in the jungle. The sun came in and out, bouncing off of every detail. It bears the scars of the conflict in the country. You can see where the bombs landed, creating craters and blasting land up into formations, unnatural as they are haunting. Hoi An is also known for its tailors, boasting tailor-made clothes all over the place. So naturally, I got a tailor made piece, for under $20. The best part of Hoi An was walking around and taking in the ancient city. It made me a bit sad that I’m not going home any time soon, because there was so much good shopping – particularly art and home décor. Maybe I’ll need to swing back through Vietnam before I head back to the States. At least to get some lanterns.
Da Nang isn’t on most tourist routes, and I didn’t understand why. Friend of How Dare She, Kimmie, wrote a great post about it and unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore as much as she did – I was sidelined with a nasty cold. I did get to spend some time on the beach, enjoying the sunset and stumbling upon a random beach concert, so it was a win. I’ll look forward to checking it out more when I go back for my lanterns.
Hue is a small town further North from Da Nang. Here I made some new friends and went out with the locals. We went on a walking tour the next day, but it was raining the entire time, so it put a bit of a damper on the visit. But at this point of traveling, rain isn’t going to stop me. We got to see a lot of the city, with its mix of French and Mandarin influences everywhere. I have to admit, it was a bit shocking to see a communist flag waving strong while visiting the Forbidden City.
Sa Pa. Incredible. And I almost missed it. When visiting countries for such a short time, there is only so much you can fit in – even with two weeks. Based on my timing, I realized I was only going to have time to visit one of Sa Pa and Ha Long Bay, or just spend all that time in Hanoi. It had been rainy and cold in both places, so I was leaning towards skipping the two and using all of that time in Hanoi instead, when fate stepped in. Two different friends, who don’t know each other, posted pictures from Sa Pa (their visits there were even months apart) on Facebook, and I had to go.
Arriving in Sa Pa, it’s so cold. And wet. And everyone is talking about renting boots for the hike. I realized that maybe I should have done some more research. Or at least not left my beanie and gloves in Hanoi. I was thinking about just trekking in my sneakers when I looked at all of the guides’ feet. They all had on boots and all of their boots were covered in mud. $1 boots it is! I was so thankful for the next two days as we splashed through mud and rivers and waterfalls to have [mostly] dry feet.
This valley is covered in green and rice paddies and is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
Lastly, I had some time in Hanoi before flying out. It’s the capital of Vietnam and the chaos of the city was even more shocking coming straight from the serenity of Sa Pa. But with that chaos comes the pulse of a big city. Culture everywhere. Lakes and temples. Street markets and food. Because I’ve been so obsessed with Vietnamese food, I decided to take a cooking class while I was there. I booked mine through Tinggly Experiences and made sure to tell them no seafood.
The class was awesome and I hope you got to see my Snapchat story. Mai is a professional chef and has traveled quite extensively to cook. She and her husband picked me up, took me to the market, and then to their home, where we made several traditional dishes. And by “we made” I mean mostly she made, and I sat in awe, taking notes, pictures and Snapchat shots, and eating. This week, you’ll get a full post with pictures and recipes, so you can try it at home. Just make sure that while you’re cooking, someone else is sitting there to ask stupid questions about herbs and document the whole thing.
The two weeks in Vietnam flew by, as I knew they would. My worries about having built it up too high were definitely misplaced. Now, not only am I sad that I didn’t have enough time, but I feel a bit strange about what to look forward to. For the past 8 months, Vietnam is where I’ve been most excited about, and now it’s done. I guess I’ll have to find somewhere else that is just a little extra special.