There is so much to share about Vietnam. This is a country very rich in both ancient history and modern history. The food is fantastic and the best so far. There are countless motorbikes and navigating through the traffic (either riding or walking) is an art. People are always smiling and most folks I have met are kind, helpful and generous. They haven’t let their recent history hold them back.
It is a country full of hope, enthusiasm, high in spirits and trying to grow and become better. And that it is why I love Vietnam. This is not to say there are no problems. The tragic death of 15 Vietnamese stuck in a lorry in the UK is a reminder that not all is well and perfect but I can confidently say that Vietnam is one of the best countries you will visit. It is one of the best country to dive deep in nature, binge eat amazing food, get close to smiling and happy locals and last but not least, get caught up in the spirit and enthusiasm that permeates the Vietnamese fabric of the society.
My favourite highlight was in Hue where I got close to the family I was staying with in the hotel/homestay. We ate together. I entertained the kids who couldn’t get enough of me (and I would say the same) and I didn’t feel like a tourist but rather as a guest.
I have found Vietnamese to be very proud. They are very passionate about their country and their tough history, recently with the Americans and historically with the Chinese/French.
The horrors of the American War (here it is called the American war) are displayed in the most gruesome manner (Agent Orange is quite fucked up). The tunnels, both at Cu Chi and at DMZ (Vinh Moc), are testament of the resolve to defeat the Americans. There is a lot of dynastic history in Vietnam. A lot of this can be experienced in Hue and in Ninh Binh.
Buddhism is highly influential in the society and one can visit many Pagodas in the country. The Marble Mountains in Da Nang and the largest pagoda complex in the region (based in Ninh Binh) represent the influence of Buddhism.
Food, as I have already mentioned, is a highlight in Vietnam. I have tried a lot of food, some in restaurants and some at road side stalls. Most of my experience has been just fantastic. Though after a couple of weeks, I binged ate salads for a couple of days.
But nothing comes close to the natural beauty that Vietnam has to offer. And the Ha Giang Loop is the best way to experience this beauty. It is by far the best experience of my Asia leg. Riding on a motorbike through the mountains peaks and valleys while absorbing the breathtaking landscapes is a thrilling experience. In addition, the rice fields/mountains of Ninh Binh, the Karst rocks of Ha Long/Cat ba, the cool altitudes of Da Lat all added to the natural charm in Vietnam.
I leave with a bit of regret. Not knowing how to ride a motorbike is a big handicap though you can sit on the back of a bike and do most of the country (that’s how I did Ha Giang Loop). I also feel a month isn’t enough. I reckon another 2 weeks is needed, maybe another 3. I missed out on Sapa Trekking, Phong Nha, some additional days in Da Lat etc.
But I do leave with a lot of warmth for the Vietnamese and a lot of hope for them. I hope the country continues to grow and the people continue to smile, shine and be happy. I will miss you Vietnam.