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Exploring Vietnam with Carla: A Journey of Culture and Cuisine

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Join Carla as she immerses herself in Vietnam's rich culture and mouth-watering cuisine, uncovering hidden gems and local traditions.

Journey there

Who did you fly with?
Qatar from Edinburgh into Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) and out of Hanoi. Internal flights with Vietnam Airlines.

Did you get any connecting transport from the airport?
No

How was the journey?
Uneventful! First time with Qatar and service on board comparable to BA/KLM etc.

Did anything memorable happen?
Doha airport has been named World’s Best Airport, beating Singapore. It’s really easy to transfer and they have lots of funky art installations as well as an amazing indoor tropical garden called The Orchard. It’s an oasis of calm to recharge in-between flights.

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Hotels

Where did you stay? 
La Siesta Premium Saigon
Hoi An Central Boutique hotel & spa
La Siesta Classic Hang Thung Hanoi
Tam Coc Garden
Peony Cruise

Were there any special features?
La Siesta Premium Saigon has a rooftop pool, great to relax in afternoon after exploring the city. And the rooftop bar is perfect to watch the sunset and the moonrise. La Siesta Classic Hang Thung is classic Hanoi architecture with the building not being much wider than your room! Tam Coc Garden is a beautiful oasis in Ninh Binh designed like a traditional village, and has a strong focus on traditional values, nature and the local culture.

What was your stay like? Did you enjoy it?
Yes, each hotel had a great location and were full of character, the staff were all amazing.

Did you receive any special service/treatment? 
It was part of birthday celebrations so there were nice little touches in the rooms with bed decorations and a few cakes were also provided.

Any recommendations?
Definitely cocktails at the rooftop bars in both Saigon and Hanoi, watch the sunset and see the cities come alive.

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Activities

Where did you go? 

Saigon
-walking tour with local guide around the backstreets, communities and markets
-Scooter food tour, so much fun zipping through the streets to each place! We had 5 different stops to try bun bo xua (beef noodle soup), banh xeo (type of pancake rolled up), Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese pizza, and Durian ice cream
-Cu Chi Tunnels – we opted for a speedboat up the River Saigon to beat the tour bus crowds. Network of over 200km from the war. Our local guide, Kha, was so knowledgeable.

Hoi An
-visit to the market before a cooking class where we learned to make cabbage dumpling soup, barbecue chicken skewers, banh xeo (rice pancake) and green mango salad.

Hanoi
-Evening walking and street food tour with local guide, Van. We tried banh cuon (rolled rice batter pancakes stuffed with pork), Bun Bo (beef noodles), banh goi (pillow cake), egg coffee and salted coffee.
-Visited Mr Chuong who grew up in Hanoi through the war, his father was a professor who trained in France and was then persuaded to stay in Hanoi to assist the new government after Ho Chi Minh declared independence.

Ninh Binh
-Explored the Galaxy Grotto caves and sampan boat ride followed by cycle into the village

Lan Ha Bay
-Cruised around the quieter area of Ha Long Bay. Kayaking, tai chi and cooking demonstrations were included on board, as well a a day spent cruising to Cat Ba island and a cycle to the village.

What did you see/do?
As well as the tours above we also went to Bui Vien Walking Street in Saigon, got clothes made in Hoi An, had a beach day, took a train ride in Hanoi, had drinks and watched the train go past on Train Street, went for a run through the rice fields in Ninh Binh.

Did you learn any fun facts or see anything exciting? Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, I made my mission to try as much as possible, can definitely recommend the coconut coffee! Saigon has a population around 10 million and approx 7.6 million scooters... But they also have electric scooters and electric taxis.

What was the weather like? Very hot and got more humid the further north you went! They were going through a heatwave so it was unusually hot. Having pools at our hotels were get for a mid-afternoon cool down.

Any recommendations?
Try the food! Food tours in each stop was a great way to see how the cuisine changes as you move through the country. Also walking tours with local guides are such a good way to explore quieter areas.

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Food/Drinks

Did you go to any local restaurants/cafes?
Many! There were so many to choose from.

What did you enjoy eating/drinking?
Banh mi, coconut coffee, fresh coconut is great to rehydrate. There’s also a great local craft beer scene.

Did you try any new dishes? What did you think of it?
Yes, quite a lot was new with the banh cuon, banh xeo and the noodle dishes – not all noodles are pho! It was all very tasty, spicier in the south and more like comfort food in the north.

Did you go to any quirky places for food/drinks?
Reaching Out Teahouse, a social enterprise which gives opportunities for people with disabilities. The tea house is an oasis in Hoi An run by staff with speech and hearing impairments. You are encouraged to enjoy the silence as you appreciate the tea and coffee. There are blocks on the table in English and Vietnamese to assist communication with the staff. Through the back is a workshop where you can buy tea sets, coffee, lanterns, jewellery and more.

Any recommendations?
Both Reaching Out and Miss Ly’s in Hoi An.

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Conclusion

Would you recommend this holiday and who to?
Definitely! There is something for everyone with the bustling cities to the peaceful cruising on Ha Long and Lan Ha Bays. Lots of activities to get stuck in with the kids, romantic lodges for honeymooners, and lots of activities for foodies or adrenaline seekers.

 

If you want to embark on a Vietnam adventure, please get in touch with Carla at:

[email protected] 
0808 169 8208

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