Vietnam: Hanoi & Ha Long Bay


To be frank, Vietnam was a little disappointing. Our primary error was most likely assuming that the place would be broadly similar to Thailand; and given that the only bit of Thailand we’d seen up until that point was the über-touristy tropical paradise of Phuket, all the more silly an assumption to make.


Vietnam is, in a word, noisy. I can still scarcely believe the aggression with which scooter, car and bus drivers are prepared to use their (undoubtedly souped up) horns. The legendary traffic in Hanoi encouraged this behavior, but we saw it prevail even in sparsely populated areas and, bafflingly, even when there were few other drivers around at all.


A week of witnessing that lead me to question the sanity of this society as a whole – what possible benefit could these people derive from all the racket? Sure, you can write off these things as “cultural differences” but there is a point where you have to ask “are you mad?”. We reached that point.


We enjoyed several days on Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay, not least because its raucous atmosphere (surprisingly so for such a small town) was a delightful break from the Hanoi madness. Ha Long Bay is an impressive set of rocks, no doubt. We’ve seen a hell of a lot of impressive rocks on this trip, and these measured up.


We met lots of fun & interesting people in Cat Ba – it’s a major backpacker corridor, so we had an endless stream of new faces to spend time with. Many provided us with some very useful information for our upcoming destinations.


Surprisingly we weren’t particularly wowed by the food on offer in Vietnam. Granted it’s vastly superior to much of what we’ve eaten around the world, and generally offers good nutritional value.


Our expectations were set by the fantastic array on offer in Victoria St in Melbourne, although in hindsight I’m wondering if the cuisine there is generally of more Chinese influence than Vietnamese. On the upside the food was astoundingly cheap.


Rather than pushing on with our original intention to work our way overland to the far south of Vietnam, we booked some flights with AirAsia and jetted off to Bangkok for a few days, to be followed by the quintessential tropical delights of Krabi in southern Thailand. Right now that seems like much more our style.


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