From: 17/10/1018 (Hanoi)
To: 03/11/2018 (Bangkok)
A Two-Week Journey
Bustling South East Asia is known as a paradise for travelers – it’s said to be filled with incredibly delicious food, beautiful landscapes, and friendly people. That’s why I was so thrilled to be flying to Hanoi for about two weeks of exploring Vietnam, with a stop in Bangkok as well. I couldn’t wait to experience all that Vietnam had to offer and be wowed by the Thai capital.
I left my home town of Lisbon, Portugal bound for Hanoi. The flight was long but comfortable, and eventually, the pilot announced we were soon to be landing in Vietnam. Looking out the window, I could already see the lush tropical landscape below us.
With over 7.5 million people living in Hanoi, I was amazed by all the traffic on both the roads and footpaths. It is such a bustling place, filled with life everywhere you look; there are so many great food stalls, as well as many fantastic museums and art galleries. I particularly loved the beautiful Old Quarter, where some parts are said to be more than 2,000 years old.
After two fantastic days in Hanoi, we visited Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s most well-known attractions. Its name means “descending dragon,” and it is such a truly magical place. Cruising over the water on a wooden boat, looking at the hundreds of dramatic islands rising from the sea, was incredible. You almost can’t believe your eyes as you look around to take it all in.
Following our fantastic adventure at Ha Long Bay, we returned to Hanoi briefly, before heading out a little bit from the city to Dong Hoi, a laidback beach area. It was a friendly place, with more than 12 kilometers of beautiful sandy beaches to laze on. We had a great day enjoying the warm Vietnamese sun and the gorgeous beach.
We then journeyed on to Phong Nha, a place of absolutely indescribable beauty. It is home to what is thought to Asia’s oldest “karsts,” or huge limestone rock formations, as well as an incredible network of underground caves and rivers. You could spend weeks exploring all the caves under the national park, but of course, we only had two days. Still, it was a truly incredible experience and one that reminds you of how beautiful and unique the world is.
Not too far from Phong Nha lies Hue, a beautifully picturesque little town that was a great place to stop for a couple of days. It is incredibly historic and charming, with a famous Citadel that is surrounded by a moat and high walls. There are also great restaurants and some excellent shopping, so we enjoyed our two days.
Just a little bit on is Da Nang, probably Vietnam’s best-known beach area. Both locals and foreign visitors love this bustling beach town, which has many hotels, bars, and restaurants. We especially loved lively Non Nuoc Beach just south of Da Nang, which has five kilometers of amazing full sand and crystal-clear water. No wonder it’s been featured on several lists of the best beaches in the world! We also made a trip out to My Son, which is a group of abandoned Hindu temples not far from Da Nang. They are eerily beautiful, as many have become overgrown with grass and plants as the earth has tried to reclaim them over hundreds of years. There are dozens of the temples – which were built between 300 and 1300 – in a valley that spans about two kilometers in total. It’s an incredibly fascinating place, especially if you love history, architecture or culture.
After spending the morning at My Son, it was time to move on to our next stop: Ho Chi Minh City! Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam’s largest city, and I was amazed at just how busy it is. The town is a real assault on your senses and filled with smells, sights, and sounds. With about 8.5 million people, it’s a city that never sleeps – and that’s what makes it such a fun place to visit. You need to watch out for the motorbikes! We had a fantastic few days, eating as much Vietnamese great restaurant food as we could and also checking out the famous sights of Ho Chi Minh. There are lots of beautiful old colonial buildings from when the French were in town, as well as fascinating remnants of the war like the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Independence Palace is also incredibly impressive!
I was a little sad to leave Vietnam, after all the fantastic things we had seen, done and eaten! From the beautiful landscapes to the frenetic cities, Vietnam is such an exciting and varied destination.
However, we had one last stop – Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok! Bangkok is roughly the same size as Ho Chi Minh, and just as lively. Peering out of the window of the taxi, I could see how busy life was in the capital – there were so many people, street food stalls, little shops, and parks. It was amazing. We spent an incredible three days discovering Bangkok and its many charms. From the stunningly extravagant Royal Palace to the famous backpacker street of Khaosan Road, there is so much to do. The city also has many beautiful pagodas and incredible markets where you can buy everything and anything you could ever dream of. Plus, the food in Bangkok was just as good as what we’d had in Vietnam.
After an amazing three days, it was time to say goodbye not only to Bangkok but to the entire region as we were due to fly back to Lisbon. It had been an amazing two weeks filled with incredible sights, and people – I could only hope I’d get the chance to return soon, and discover even more of the delights of South East Asia!