As Meriwether Lewis was quoted as saying…”much pleased having arrived…
After over 40 years of waiting, wishing, and dreaming, I have made it to Vietnam! One of those bucket list items that I’ve had since the 6th grade! It’s been well worth the wait!
I stayed at The Reverie Saigon. Reverie means a state of being lost in ones thoughts. A day dream. And that is what this trip to Vietnam was for me! A complete day dream. The hotel itself is fantastic and in a great location – only about a 10 min walk from Park Hyatt near Times Square. It is lavish and reminds me of Dubai! Our check-in was on the 7th floor and you have to take a different elevator to go to rooms, spa, and the restaurants. It was something to adjust to, but not too much of a hassle. The rooms are good size and very nice. The staff was lovely and inviting.
The next morning, we headed to the Cu Chi tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple. The tunnels are amazing and incredible, to say the least. It’s hard to even imagine how people lived like this in the past. Over 7,000 workers dug the tunnels with help from 15,000 people that lived in the area. They have a shooting range for visitors who want to fire a weapon. It’s a bit weird at first, but when a clip of shots went off of what sounded like a machine gun. It was quite daunting. To close your eyes and take yourself back in time and imagine what it was like to hear this daily gives you a feeling of what war must sound like. It was just crazy to imagine and yet incredible to see what they created.
From here we went to the Cao Dai temple, which was a completely different feeling! Peace and serenity and the beauty of the temple. It’s impressive in architecture and design. Seven different religions coming together under one roof to live in unity is quite beautiful and soulful. Well worth a visit.
That evening we went on the Vespa food tour. What a riot and fun time this was! We all know how crazy the traffic is, but when you’re in the intersection and cars are coming from every direction – IT IS INSANE! They say Americans drive on the right, the British drive on the left, and in Vietnam they drive down the middle. The restaurants we stopped at were fantastic. The food was so good and no shortage of it. The guide was great in explaining the food and getting to know where the locals eat was a real treat. We went to several districts to enjoy different dishes including “jumping chicken” (code for frog legs)! I took a leap (no pun intended). Ended the night at a small club with a band who were fantastic. A really must do for anyone up for an adventure.
It’s now time to head to Hanoi! Two hour flight to Hanoi from Saigon. We stayed at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Great hotel and great location.
The following day, our adventure to Ha Long Bay begun! It took 3.5 hours, but it was a nice drive and really didn’t feel that long! We made a stop at Ti Top Island. I climbed the 427 steps to the top to see the most amazing view of Ha Long Bay, which is made up of 1,969 islands. It’s not an easy climb, but if you take your time it’s worth it. The heat can be intense depending the time of year so it’s a must to stay hydrated!
After this we stopped at a floating village, which was so peaceful. I have such admiration and love for people who live that kind of life. Sailing through the bay is an incomparable experience. Seeing different peaks, colors, and shapes of majestic limestone creations at every turn – this is Ha Long Bay.
We ate dinner outside as the sun set and a cool breeze came over, which made for such a nice evening. As the sun goes down, you can see all the boats light up and it’s a beautiful sight to see. Almost like a light parade!
Next, we hit Hue (pronounced Huay). Went to the ancient city and saw the Citadel. We also went to the Kings Tomb. An amazing structure with so much history. Beautiful and fabulous.
We then stopped at a Buddhist pagoda orphanage called Duc Son. Run by a Buddhist nun. She’s made it her life’s mission to take care of these kids from infants to teens. They’ve all lost their parents, not up for adoption, but she raises them to make sure they’re loved, taken care of and then move on to make something of themselves. She’s really quite something. The kids seem very happy and excited to see us. We donated school supplies and fun things for the kids. Then we went to the nursery section to play with the babies. It was truly a special day and I’m so fortunate that I work in an industry that allows me to give the gift of travel and the opportunity to give back. Any time it involves kids, I’m in! Really special day.
Something I recommend doing while in Vietnam is taking the time to get clothes made! It’s a true experience! It’s fun negotiating and they do really great work. We finished the day wrapping up our last fittings with the tailors, which was a hoot. These girls are adorable and we had so much fun with them!
While in Hue, Vietnam we stayed at the Banyan Tree. It’s a beautiful place. If you want a few days to relax, this is the perfect place to stay.
I’m really going to miss Vietnam. We’ve met some amazing people with emotional tours and incredible stories. A lifelong dream that finally came true. I am touched by the kindness, love, and friendship of everyone we’ve met. They all had their story to tell and I was eager to hear it all and ask as much as I could. I walk away from a country I knew I’d love, left wanting to know more and the overwhelming desire to return as soon as I can. I have been educated on a map and through the people I’ve met. Vietnam will always be special to me and I will return. A wrap to one of the best trips I’ve ever had. I truly can’t wait to return. I’m only scratching the surface!
~ Denise Schaefer