After my trip to Cambodia, I will be headed on to Vietnam. For years I had never really given much thought to visiting Vietnam. Having grown up in America, I think that somehow war stories and history class had tainted the entire country for me. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I found myself on a train in Ansbach, Germany on my way to the airport in Frankfurt, that a very generous ex-patriot changed my mind. He helped me with my bags and offered me the seat next to him to save me from the two very angry women who were yelling at me in German. Thanks to his generosity we spent most of the ride chatting about my trip, his life in Germany, and his plans to visit Vietnam to take photos of the country. It was the first time anyone had ever talked about Vietnam like it was paradise, and I was intrigued to say the least. As we parted in the airport and wished each other a safe trip, I was thankful for all the help he had given me, and couldn’t get Vietnam out of my mind.
1) Ho Chi Minh City
Also known by its former name of Saigon, this is the first large city I will visit during my trek through Vietnam. I will be making my way to Ho Chi Minh City from Phnom Penh, and can’t wait to witness the obscene amount of motorbikes that are said to be zooming through the city. While I’m here I’m hoping to visit the Reunification Palace, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, and maybe even the War Remnants Museum along with anything else that catches my attention along the way.
2) Da Lat
From Ho Chi Minh City, I will be making my way to Da Lat. Judging by the few photos I’ve seen of both the town and the surrounding countryside, I’m in for some beautiful scenery during this leg of my trip. There are a number of waterfalls in the surrounding area so I’m bound to end up visiting at least one during my stay. Mostly I’m looking forward to the slower pace I’m bound to find here and the Hang Nga Crazy House which has been hailed as something out of Alice in Wonderland and looks very out of place among the Vietnamese countryside. I’ve also read about a train trip that can be taken from Da Lat to the small village of Trai Mat where there’s supposed to be an ornate pagoda worth visiting.
3) Hoi An
After I’m done enjoying Da Lat, I will continue on towards Hoi An. While I’m here I can’t wait to take in the sights of this easy-going city by spending time in its historic old town admiring the mixture of Japanese and Chinese influenced architecture. I plan on taking in everything the city has to offer and may even venture into the surrounding villages where “antiques” are made to sell or find myself on one of the many nearby beaches. If I plan my travel times right I may even find myself in Hoi An during their Legendary Night festival which takes place each month on the full moon.
Next I will make my way to Hue in Central Vietnam. For me the major draw to Hue is Citadel. This historic site used to be the former imperial city on the northern bank of the Song Huong River and has been well-preserved. There are gardens, a temple, and the city within a city known as the Imperial Enclosure. There are also a number of tombs and pagodas said to be worth visiting.
5) Ha Noi
Ha Noi will be one of my last stops in Vietnam. While I’m here I’m hoping to see a few more temples such as the Ngoc Son and Bach Ma, and no trip to Ha Noi would be complete without paying my respects to Ho Chi Minh himself at his mausoleum. I’m also looking forward to the Hoa Lo Prison where Senator Jon McCain (Arizona) was held as a prisoner, and the one pillar pagoda. If I have enough time left on my visa I might take some time to visit some nearby handicraft villages and the Perfume Pagoda.
6) Halong Bay
While I’m in Ha Noi, I plan on visiting Halong Bay. I’ve seen countless pictures of it online, and can hardly wait to see it for myself. Depending on the amount of time I have left, I may visit nearby Cat Ba Town and explore some of the islands in the area. No matter how much time I’m able to spend here, simply having the chance to see something as beautiful as Halong Bay will make the end of my stay in Vietnam fulfilling. Hopefully this will be the perfect end to what I hope is an amazing country.