The Vietnam we knew of was the one we read about in history books—a country deeply damaged and divided by war. Although we had our reservations about this stop, our experience was full of culture, history and beautiful landscapes. On our trip, we opted to go north to the city of Hanoi, for two reasons: to see Ha Long Bay and learn about the history of Vietnam in the country’s capital.
Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site, was nothing short of spectacular. Patrick said it looked like a scene out of “How To Train Your Dragon” and we later realized that the name translates to "a descending dragon!” We spent two days and one night on a hawker boat sailing through the limestone islands. It was a little cold and very foggy, which only added to the allure of it all. Sailing through the bay we sat on the deck wrapped in blankets on lounge chairs in awe of what we saw.
On the boat, we were joined by about 30 other people. We all slept in cabins, enjoyed meals together, island stops, and even some morning Tai Chi on the deck! We met an awesome couple, Thomas and Shelen, from France and Turkey, respectively, who were living and working in Shanghai (and had also just gotten married a few months prior!). We loved hearing about their careers in the fragrance industry, experiences living in China and travel recommendations. Oh and Thomas also had a drone, which made us fast friends! Overall, Ha Long Bay was fantastic.
After Ha Long Bay, we set up camp in Hanoi for a few days. The city was very crowded for their Lunar New Year, Tet. Crossing the street was a challenge with all of the scooter traffic. We explored most of the museums and historical sites. Visiting the Hoa Lo Prison was fascinating. The last use for the prison was for U.S. prisoners during the Vietnam war. We spent hours reading about the war from the Vietnamese perspective. We also read first hand experiences from the American Prisoners of War, of which John McCain is the most notable. The prison was nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by U.S. soldiers because of the decent and humane treatment they received.
Our final day in Hanoi took us two hours south of the city to Ninh Binh province. Some call it the "Ha Long Bay on land” because it is covered with limestone mountains and caves. Our day in Ninh Binh was filled with biking, fishing and a canal cruise. Our guide, Qwynn, could not have been sweeter. We first bonded because she learned English from American movies like Forrest Gump and Titanic. When we told her we were married, she squealed and kept saying she couldn’t believe a “cute baby face" like Patrick was already married. It was hilarious and we had such a fun day with Qwynn!
Off to Hong Kong, our last stop in Asia!
behind the scenes
WE SPEND A LOT OF TIME WASHING CLOTHES IN OUR HOTEL SINK AND AIR DRYING THEM ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE. AFTER 2 DAYS OF OUR BATHROOM LOOKING LIKE THIS (AND CLOTHES STILL WET), WE CAME HOME TO FIND EVERYTHING PERFECTLY DRY AND FOLDED. WHEN WE SAW THAT OUR HOTEL TREATED US TO COMPLIMENTARY LAUNDRY, WE HUGGED EACH OTHER AND STARTED JUMPING UP AND DOWN. WE WILL BE COMING HOME WITH A NEWFOUND APPRECIATION FOR A WASHER AND DRYER!