A taste of Vietnam with Intrepid
Student Flights consultant Nicole Kilgour of the Hawthorn store, recently whet her appetite for Southeast Asia on Intrepid’s Vietnam taster trip. Here she shares her journey. Hanoi has got to be one of my favourite cities. The smell of Asia is potent and there is only one speed of lifestyle there - freakin’ fast! The biggest thing to get used to in Hanoi is crossing the road, if you hesitate, you are showing weakness. Just start walking or you’ll stay on one side of the street for the rest of your stay.
After a free day of drinking 20 cent beer on the side of the road with the locals, bartering down friendship bracelets with women in conical hats and exploring the never ending market stalls, we met up with Chinh, our Intrepid Tour leader. First up, Chinh took us out for a meal where we discovered our love for pork spring rolls, anything lemongrass, garlic or soy sauce based and a dish strangely referred to as 'Morning Glory.' After dinner, a fearless few of us explored what Hanoi had to offer after dark by heading to an underground Club called Phuc Ton. And then it gets a little blurry.
Fast forward to the next morning and we weren’t exactly feeling fresh. The next stop was Ha Long Bay. Four hours on a bumpy road with a mad headache and a stomach that wasn’t quite accustomed to the petrol-like alcohol we’d consumed was all worth the pain. Ha Long bay blew everyone’s minds. We got on our boat, chilled by fans in every corner and stood in awe at the view. Part of our tour included a seafood dinner on the boat and even though I'm not normally a fan of seafood, it was incredible! We spoke to Chinh about going for a kayak on the bay and soon enough we were on the water gliding between rock formations and around floating houses. After a cultural/eye-opening experience on the over night train from Hanoi to Hue, we started to see the more Chinese influenced part of Vietnam. Hue is the home of the Emperor’s palace and grounds. Vietnam no longer has an Emperor and hasn’t for years, and the area is still being rebuilt to its original state. The grounds look like something off the movie Mulan. Unfortunately, November has a reputation for sudden explosive downpours and through the thick haze of rain I couldn’t capture a photo that truly reflected how magnificent the place was. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Hoi An was our next stop. Staying 2 minutes walk from the market place and a smooth 4km bike ride to the beach, this was our most laid-back sector of our trip. 15AUD got me an hour massage, some calming music and a complimentary glass of OJ. In my relaxed state I migrated from the confines of the spa onto a hired bike and into a beach recliner with a coconut in hand. Sidenote: if you want tailored clothes, shoes - anything! Do it in Hoi An. Shop around first though, ask your tour leader if they’d recommend anywhere, remember these guys come to Hoi An every month on tour so they know where’s best!
The last stop on tour was Ho Chi Minh City! In a morning whirl-wind on a cyclo, dodging through mopeds going all directions, we got led down a small alley lined with locals having their morning smoke break and into a restaurant where we sat down for breakfast. This restaurant was made to give the disadvantaged children of HCMC training in hospitality in the hopes they would have a better chance in changing their futures. Intrepid generally take their tours through the restaurant to create revenue for the local economy- which is pretty cool! It got to our last afternoon in Vietnam and there was only one thing that we hadn’t done in HCMC - the war museum. It’s difficult to put in words the experience of seeing what I saw and reading what I read on the walls of that museum. It was a sombre occasion and everyone who goes to Ho Chi Minh really needs to go in and have a look. Though one of the most productive weeks I had ever had in my life, I wished I had more time in Vietnam. There is so much more to see and so many things I didn’t have time to experience. All in all an amazing holiday! To find out more about Vietnam and Intrepid's tours, you can talk to Nicole at the Student Flights store located 642 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn in Victoria or call (03) 9920 5500.