Vietnam is an interesting country. The people are incredibly industrious, hard working, and always friendly. It’s amazing considering that Vietnam has had centuries of violent struggles with China, France, USA, and Cambodia. Even though the country is officially communist, we found little evidence of it as we traveled its length.
The cities are bustling with people, motor bikes, and open-air markets – full of energy, pollution, and noise. The rural areas are home to spectacular scenery – Sapa, the Mekong Delta, and especially Halong Bay were beautiful. We ate great food, had decent weather, and had a great time experiencing a culture very different than the one we live in in. I could spend hours people watching, but after nearly three weeks of traveling, I’m happy to be back in Canada, where the air is clean, cars don’t constantly honk, and I don’t have to haggle for every purchase.
Vietnam is popular with backpackers, but I found it difficult to leave the beaten tourist paths. If you want to travel and eat like the locals do, everything is shockingly cheap. However, the Vietnamese try so hard to cater to tourists that you are often herded onto separate buses, separate train cars, and separate restaurants. We tried to balance experiencing Vietnam like the locals do, and paying a few extra dong to get the tourist treatment.
The only problem was when we tried traveling independently, we were often frustrated by people charging us tourist prices, trying to scam us, or pushing us back onto the tourist path. When we gave in to the pressures and booked group tours, you couldn’t help but feel like you were being herded from sight to sight, along a tourist conveyor belt that gave a pretty sanitized view of the country.
Detailed posts about our trip:
- Halong Bay
- Hoi An
- Nha Trang
- Mekong Delta
- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
- Vietnam’s Motorbike Magic
- Vegetarian Vietnamese Recipes – Phở and Spring Rolls
Here’s a taste of the nearly 3000 pictures I took during our trip, with more on Flickr.