In October, myself and 12 lovely ladies returned home from a whirlwind, week and a half long trip of Vietnam. The aim of this trip was to indulge in affordable luxuries whilst immersing in the incredibly unique culture and history of this exotic destination. Whilst ages varied on this trip, we included plenty of different sites, stops and experiences that would showcase all the different facets of Vietnam. We did good! Here's a snapshot of some of our best experiences from Hanoi to Hoi An. 1. WALKING TOUR OF HANOI Hanoi is absolutely best explored on foot! Of course, before you get going, observe the locals for a first hand lesson on how best to cross the busy streets... Rule #1: Look straight ahead in the direction you're walking, and stay a steady pace. This really does help if you're aiming to steer clear of causing road accidents. Thankfully, I've fallen in love with the crazy traffic of Hanoi before and was prepared. Be sure to get a good guide to show you around the Old Quarter - the heart of Hanoi, and be sure to brave the many narrow and steep staircases to roof top restaurants and cafes overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake, which is especially lovely at night.
2. HIGH TEA AT THE SOFITEL METROPOLE, HANOI
It was a great pleasure to treat the ladies to the amazing spread that the Sofitel Metropole put on at their High Tea. Not only, do you get to dine at THE best hotel in the city, the food and deserts on offer are top shelf. We enjoyed the afternoon setting at 3pm which led perfectly into happy hour by the pool bar sampling yummy cocktails. Honestly, we could have also spent hours upon hours here just taking pictures of this beautiful hotel... but that would leave little time for the massages and pedis.
3. OVERNIGHT CRUISE ON HA LONG BAY
How could you possibly travel to Vietnam and not include a visit to tranquil Ha Long Bay? Even with grey skies (inside monsoon season), this 'Natural Wonder of the World' is still breathtakingly beautiful. Emerald green waters abound the hundreds of towering limestone islands as white junk boats take visitors swirling through the bay, including stops to islands, caves and giving the opportunity to take part in onboard activities and facilities such as cooking classes, cocktail happy hours, kayaking, squid fishing, Tai Chi at sunrise and nature walks. We highly recommend Pelican Cruises.
4. MOTORBIKE TOUR OF HUE
As predicted, there were a few apprehensive travellers in our group who were unsure of getting on the back of a motorbike, let alone in Vietnam of all places. I must say though, the the absolute highlight of my time away with this group of ladies was watching the transition of unsure faces at the beginning of the day to beaming smiles that could not be wiped off by the end of the day. These drivers were FANTASTIC and we got to see so much more than you ever could from a bus... or any other means of transport. It was great to be amongst it and we got to see some beautiful sites, learn a huge amount about the culture and history and mingle with the locals in different ways! A great day indeed!
5. STAY @ PILGRIMAGE VILLAGE, HUE
Hands down, this is one of my absolute favourite hotels in Vietnam. Not only are the staff beyond accommodating. The property itself is like stepping in to a scene of Jungle Book. Hanging plants, creeping vines, ponds, rainforest surrounding and tranquil sounds of nature. We enjoyed the incredible meals, Western, International and Authentic cuisine on the menu and all done to a great standard - possibly THE best vegetarian spring rolls our entire trip. The highlight of this property were the massage treatments which included hot and cold spas and the sauna. We also made good use of the swim-up pool bar in the resorts large and amazing pool.
6. RED BRIDGE COOKING CLASS, HOI AN
If you've decided to include Hoi An in your Vietnam trip, chances are that you already know that it is a haven for tailor-made clothing and accessories. Dress makers, jewellery makers, shoes, belts and handbag makers line the Ancient Town, a World UNESCO Heritage Site. It's so easy to get around this beautiful city, with the best days spent chilling in cafes, getting massages, doing some shopping and admiring the sunset. If you're looking for a cultural experience that is both fun and scenic, you must try the Red Bridge Cooking Class. This experience starts with a walk through the markets by your Red Bridge Chef, you then jump on a colourful wooden boat and glide down the river to the cooking class location, taking in the beautiful scenery along the way. The cooking class is informative, the recipes are amazing, and the final product is delightfully tasty. I give this experience a 10 out of 10.