To make the most out of a two month hiatus from school in March and April, Phil and I decided to plan a few different trips, including one to Vietnam. Since I have been living in Thailand, it has been one of my goals to see not only as much of Thailand as possible, but as much of the countries that neighbor us as well. We planned a trip to go to Vietnam in mid-April for one week, and I am SO glad we did. To be honest, Phil and I both loved it so much we kept asking each other, “Why didn’t we ever consider teaching here?!” If I hadn’t already made plans to move back to America, I would seriously contemplate moving to Vietnam next.
We began our trip in Hanoi. Hanoi is one of the oldest cities in Vietnam, the country’s second largest city, and the country’s capital. There is a strong French influence all throughout Vietnam because of French colonialism in Indochina. Walking through the streets of Hanoi felt vaguely similar to Europe. My best way of describing Hanoi would be if Paris and Bangkok had a baby. It is chaotic and crowded like most typical SE Asia capital cities, but it also has the charming architecture of most European cities. It was stunning!
One of my favorite things about Hanoi was the FOOD! I am not ashamed to admit that one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Vietnam was to try authentic pho, and it was so good. The Vietnamese people have incorporated certain French foods (baguettes, crepes, etc.) into Vietnamese cuisine. As a vegetarian I definitely did not suffer, I actually found several vegan restaurants and most restaurants offered vegetarian options as well. Some of my favorite restaurants were Bahn Mi 25 for sandwiches (Hanoi’s #1 top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor), Giang Cafe for egg coffee, and Gecko’s for cheap/delicious breakfast foods.
After our time in Hanoi, we took the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa. This ended up working out wonderfully since it was the best way to utilize the short amount of time that we had. We left Hanoi at 9:00pm (this gave us the day to explore and visit the cultural museum), and then we arrived in Sapa at 6:00am the following day. When we arrived in Sapa, we took a bus up the mountain and then ate breakfast in Sapa Town before going to our homestay.
If you happen to ever find yourself in Vietnam, I personally would recommend staying in Sapa for a few nights. Sapa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains, far east of Hanoi and near the border of Vietnam and Laos. The H’mong, Tay, and Dao hill tribes make up most of the population and provide treks for visitors in the area. One of the best parts of Sapa was being able to trek through the mountains with a guide. Our guide, Lily, took us on a 5k trek throughout the countryside where we were able to see a lot of crops grown in the terraces and animals (cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and water buffaloes). It was a unique experience that I am very thankful for. During our two night stay, we stayed at Sapa Volunteer Homestay for about $7.00/person a night. Phil rented a motorbike from our homestay so we could explore Sapa on our own after the trekking tour. This was one of the BEST ways to see the rice terraces. Phil and I used my GoPro to document our trip in Vietnam which you can watch HERE.