Our last few days were in Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. I've referred to it as both, but I think Ho Chi Minh City is official. It lacks the charm of Hanoi, but it did have a lot to offer, which we enjoyed - like more banh mi, some theatre, shopping, and museums. I'll have to do some research to dig up the name of the hotel, but it was a splurge at about $100/night. Very nice and had afternoon tea, which we partook of, as you can see below.
We had heard mixed reviews about Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam's most famous natural attractions. The negative reviews were that it had become too "touristy," too busy, too competitive. The positive comments were about how beautiful it was, how unique, a "vision of ethereal beauty." (Lonely Planet.) We decided that if we were going to go to Hanoi, we had to go to Halong Bay. One of my travel companions, Polli, did a lot of research and it was thanks to her, I believe we had a good experience.
In our planning for our trip to Vietnam, Hoi An came up again and again, as one of the "favorite" places to travel to in Vietnam. We agreed this would be on the "definitely go" list. In the travel articles, there always seemed to be a qualifier, it's great, but touristy. Hello. We are tourists. But I get the point, when you go to a different country, you are supposed to want an "authentic" experience, i.e., not "touristy". I hope I can say this in the future, but in Hoi An, there is a blend of authentic encounters and an appreciation for us, the tourists. On the airplane, I had a conversation with a nice Vietnamese woman and she said even Vietnamese people like to travel to Hoi An.
My niece, a digital nomad, was in Vietnam at the beginning of the Covid pandemic until she was able to come back in late summer 2021. She hadn't planned to be there that long, but she also fell in love with the country, as I had. So we have a lot to share. She asked me a question and I referred to this journal to answer it. To my horror, it seems I got distracted and never did finish entering my whole account of my time in Vietnam. I had left out Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). I am thankful for Facebook and the habit I had of using it to share my travels. I also had a computer mishap and lost most of my photos! In recent times, because of so much ugliness around politics, I had stopped posting and going to FB, I am thankful for it for saving my memories! This post is a summary of Hanoi, using Facebook as my memory jogger.
Banh Mi, the Vietnamese submarine sandwich, is such a delicious meal for sandwich lovers who also love that Asian twist. It is a symbol of multi-culturalism and cultural appropriation. I love extrapolating narratives from tasty food. In this case, French were former colonizers of Vietnam, so the bread used is based on the French baguette. But the Vietnamese made it better - to be able to handle the pickled and fresh vegetables as well as the meats and pate', also from the French. (Not all banh mi include the pate', in case you are pate' resistant.) The quality of the banh mi, in my opinion, is judged by the bread, which varies from place to place.
One of the questions that we get asked a lot, and was actually the most confusing part of planning for our trip to Vietnam, was the visa process. Yes, you do need a visa, and no, you do not have to send your passport away to get it. Here's how we did it:
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.