We head to Malaysia and Vietnam for our family vacation, this year. Two very different countries in more than one way. Malaysia is more developed; landscape is different, and holds a mix of cultures, from Chinese to Muslims, Indians and native Malays. While Vietnam is diverse and full of history. People here mainly follow Buddhism. The food in both Malaysia and Vietnam is great, provided you are a non-vegetarian. Vegetarians don’t have much of a choice, but that shouldn’t discourage you from visiting any of these places. This was my first international trip, post turning a vegetarian and I not only survived, but had a fabulous time.
We visited Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Halong Bay, during our time in Vietnam. While Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi is all about history; Halong Bay is purely nature offering stunning seascape.
About 4 hour drive from the capital city Hanoi, is the mesmerizingly attractive, Halong Bay. Don’t restrict yourself to the Halong city, go ahead and book yourself for a cruise tour, which includes sleeping on board within the bay. Having made prior bookings through Bhaya Cruise for a 1 night and 2 day tour, we traveled by road from Hanoi. Our cruise kicked off, with buffet lunch served on board. If you are a vegetarian, you need to inform the staff at the office, which is your converge point, before you are escorted to the boat. A detailed printed agenda is available in your room that lists out all activities planned, during the cruise.
Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, Ha Long Bay or Halong Bay comprises of spectacular islands, scattered all around the bay. There is something magical about these limestone formations which dot the bay area. How can it not be magical, when the nature itself carved and chiseled these formations, all on its own!
The limestone formations are a result of slow tectonic process over million years. You feel a sense of peace descending on you, as you watch these towering limestone pillars set against the emerald- blue clear waters. The soaring creations reminded me of Krabi, which I visited last year.
Amongst various activities that were planned, one was to learn how to roll a perfect rice paper to make a spring roll and then some vegetable carving techniques. It was nice weather, and hence the crew organised the cooking lessons on the sundeck, that very evening. I had my hand with spring rolls and even participated in the masterchef competition at the end of the class. If at all I knew, that the masterchef would be chosen merely by raise of hands from the public, not by who rolled the perfect roll; I would have asked my hubby to stop chilling at the back of the deck and support me. I lost by one vote. 😀
Post cooking lessons we were scheduled for a visit to dark and bright caves. We had the option to either kayak ride or go on a boat ride. We visited, few of the many grottoes (caves). Am sure the one we went under would be unapproachable, during high tide. The silence around was periodically broken by the lashing of oars against the water, the clicking noise from cameras and formal touristy chatter.
We enjoyed a sit down dinner that night (which was deliciously curated) with a spellbinding view to a full moon that looked stunning in the vast blue sky, with calm water to fill up this beautiful frame.
Post dinner, some of us head straight to our rooms to retire, while others went to try their luck with squid fishing. I went to sleep, looking forward to Tai Chi lessons, next morning. Tai Chi might look gentle but it left us all sweating by the end of 30 minutes. Light breakfast was served right after.
There was one more visit organised to a cave, which comprised of stalagmites and stalactites. Last of the activity on the list. After freshening up and packing up our stuff, all of us on the boat (30-35 of us) got together in the dining area for our last meal before the cruise ended.
It was all in all, quite a memorable experience. ‘Ha’ in Vietnamese means sunshine and warmth and we had enough of that, with rains thrown in for good measure. Contrary to my friend’s experience during her travel, weather was extremely kind to us throughout our time in Vietnam.
Da Nang, Dalat, My son, Nha Trang, Sapa…Vietnam has quite a few places to offer. This was our first visit to Vietnam and certainly not the last one.
Till next time, Tạm biệt 🙂