When my parents decided to go to Vietnam and invited me to go with them- I said yes!
We stayed in a skinny yellow hotel in downtown Hanoi which had bread roll sellers on every corner.
My favourite part of the city was Haan Kiem Lake. Crossing the red Huc Bridge to get to the Ngoc San Temple in the middle of the island, we gazed at the Tortoise Pagoda. We also walked around the West Lake and saw the Swan boats on Truc Bach Lake.
Visiting Ho Chi Min Mausoleum at Bah Dinh Square was an odd experience. The locals treat it like a religious pilgrimage and the line past his mummified body shuffled by very slowly. Apparently, his body is sent back to Russia annually for a re-embalming.
I liked the yellow Presidential Palace with Ho Chi Min’s house and his personal fishing pool. The One Pillar Pagoda was a striking and interesting structure. We also went to the Ho Chi Min Museum and the Lenin statue- both great monuments to Communism.
We walked past many embassy buildings, the plane and tank out front of the Army Museum and found a street that sold only flowers. People were riding bicycles everywhere and in one part of town there was a train track running through the middle of the street with no safety barriers to protect passers-by.
My dad was not dealing well with the heat, so he took to eating club sandwiches and stayed inside the air conditioned room while mum and I went shopping. Reverting back to my teenage self we bickered without my dad there to be the peace maker.
On our last night in Hanoi, we went to the famous water puppet show which told the story of the tortoise legend. It was amazing and well worth the wait.
From Hanoi we travelled through a landscape of rice paddy fields to take a traditional dragon boat ride in Halong Bay. We heard the legend that the rock formations in the bay are the tail of a dragon and visited a fishing village on the water selling fish and turtles.
I loved taking a dive off the boat into the deep green water for a swim. I would have liked to stay overnight on the boat, but we had to stay on Cat Ba Island instead. We visited Thien Cung Caves and I had my first massage which was so hard that I hated it.
Our last stop was Tam Dao Hill Station- a tiny French colonial town in the hills. I liked the old derelict park which had been built by French settlers and the fact that the church had been converted into a karaoke bar.
A local guide took us to the silver cascade waterfall which was very tall and a pagoda on top of a hill. There was a great open air food court in town and we ate frogs legs back at the hotel.