I feel a little unsure about posting about this. I want to, but I'm internally cringing at the idea of foisting my holiday snaps on people. I've reconciled myself by remembering that most of my posts are plain self indulgent, and it's not as if I'm forcing anyone to read...
We LOVED Hanoi. It's a perfect place to feel comfortably disoriented in. It hustles and bustles and assaults all your senses - the word cacophony is irrisistable - yet we felt instantly relaxed and immersed in it. We kept getting lucky in Hanoi. We'd step into places that didn't look promising from the outside, only to find somewhere that delighted us one way or another. In hindsight this has little to do with luck, Hanoi is just that kind of place.
Walking around Sapa
Breathtaking in every sense. This area had good fit my preconceived mental image of Vietnam - paddy fields, misty hills, colourful village life. We organised this trip through Handspan and were really happy with it. The walking was moderately challenging (though had it been wet, it would have been tough), and we were given just the right amount of looking after by our guide and homestay hosts. We managed to get far enough away from the tourist hordes without feeling like we were intruding in places where we had no right to be. This is a tension I often feel very uneasy about - one of the reasons I'm rubbish at travel - so it was satisfying to get it right for a change.
Kayaking around Halong Bay
Another trip organised with Handspan, and another fantastic experience. Halong Bay has a landscape that seems more fantastical than real. Yet the floating houses populated by people subsisting on fishing makes the reality unforgettable. Kayaking is a great way to get around the bay, the pace and perspective are perfect.
Or Ho Chi Min City, if you prefer. We didn't spend long here, and didn't manage to get much of a feel for it. We stayed in a smart area with an anonymous 'big city' feel. We walked to the backpacking area, which had a full-on backpacking feel. In between we saw snippets of the real city, where people worked and lived, but didn't enough time to linger.
Boats and Bikes in the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta was a different world from everywhere else we saw in Vietnam. Low, lush and wet, drowned in muddy orange water. This was the first 'great' river I've seen, and the vastness of the mighty Mekong overwhelmed me. We were a little disappointed with our trip (organised with Sinhbalo) as we felt rushed, particularly while biking.
Our friends Jeff & Ingrid tipped us off about this island. The perfect place to relax at the end of a busy trip. We feel very lucky to have got to see it when we did. It's on the cusp of becoming somewhere very different. An international airport is planned for 2010, and there are a number of swanky resorts being developed.
The wonderful Tropicana is a place that has got the right things right. The drinks weren't free, but the beach was idylic and we adored our comfortably shabby bungalow with its rocking chairs and frogs. Friendliness was promised and delivered in spades.
We re-met American artists Joe and Mary here. We had initially bumped into in Halong Bay. Joe's going to be in the country for a while and is keeping a blog, Waterland Diaries about his travels and contemporary art in Vietnam. Two weeks was too short for me to get a satisfactory understanding of the people and the place, so I will be reading Joe's blog with interest.