Okay, so the title isn't exactly pho-nominal [pun INtended], but it's true. Vietnam isn't too shabby.
I mean, it's a little shabby. In the whole, like, super gritty, but really cool kind of way.
And walking in the streets of Hanoi is like playing a game of real life Frogger. Except, you're the frog. And, you're never safe. There are motorbikes EVERYWHERE. Vietnam is to motorbikes as Amsterdam is to bicycles. As it would go on the SAT test, or something like that…
This city alone has over 5 million of them. And, apparently, it's worse in Saigon.
1 – Visit Hoan Keim Lake. Take pictures. Eat lunch with a view. Admire the gardens.
2 – DRINK THE COFFEE. And be sure to add the condensed milk… at least once.
3 – Take a local's advice.
If a local tells you some place you are planning to visit is going to be really crowded, it's going to be 10 x's worse than you could ever imagine.
4 – Visit Perfume Pagoda.
But not around Tet (the Vietnamese New Year). Trust me on this one – hence, the statement above.
On the other hand, it was one of the most intense cultural experiences I've had, as well as one of the best. The villagers come from all over the country to visit these pagodas to give their offerings. That said, a lot of them have never seen white people before… So the four of us that were there were quite the show — In a good way. Everyone was curious, but incredibly friendly!
There's also something said for getting to see something you would have never seen had you gone on a different day at a different time. It was stressful at times being crowded in small spaces, in the heat, for a while… but it's good to take a step back and appreciate the moment for what it's worth. Then get on the boat and take in the incredible view for the next hour and be glad a shower is soon to come.
5 – Take the 4 hour bus ride to Ha Long Bay. Yes, each way. It makes for a long day, but this is a must-do if you're in Vietnam. I don't know "Ha long" I can emphasize this, but just trust me add it to the top of your list.
6 – Relax on the beach in Phu Quoc.
"They" say it's the next Phuket. Maybe in 10 years, but if you're looking for peace, quiet, and amazing sunsets, this is the place to go.
7 – Go to the night market. Check out the nightlife. This is one of the best things about Asia. Get your haggle on for your souvenirs.
8 – Splurge and book that $40/night hotel. It's probably going to be nicer than any hotel you'll stay at in the U.S. for triple the price.
9 – Grab a beer and take a seat at a tiny table. Because, that's what you do there. People watch!
At the end of our 9 day journey, for me, it didn't feel like enough time. There's always more I want to see and do. There are caves to explore, rice paddies to frolic though, and more pho to eat!
Until the next adventure…