We left Vietnam on the 1st day of the Tet last Thursday, which is a very colourful celebration of the Lunar New Year. In the Vietnamese calendar, it’s now the year of the cat. If someone can explain why it’s different from the Chinese calendar which is entering the year of the rabbit, I’d be most grateful as no-one could tell me so far!
After the midnight fireworks, Hanoi streets were empty as we drove to the airport, a strange feeling in a city normally filled with noise and thousands of motorcycles.
So it wasn’t the usual Hanoi, but we enjoyed sharing this special holiday, an enriching cultural experience for all of us in the family. The Year of the Cat has arrived in Vietnam…Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year!
Vietnam is a very easy country to travel with a family, but the country lacks in tasteful infrastructure for the tourist, as if culture and good taste have gotten a bit lost in the fast pace of development this past decade. I searched and searched for charming guesthouses or relaxed cafes, but most places were either geared to the backpacker or the package tourist, or the very luxury end.
We went from South to North. Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh city) & the Mekong delta by boat on an overnight trip. Then a flight to Danang in Central Vietnam to visit the charming town of Hoi An and the beautiful sites of Hue. After one month of intensive traveling, we recharged the batteries at Nam Hai for a few days, a very pampering beach resort near Hoi An. Unlucky for us, it was chilly chilly but the heated pool was perfect. And we finished in the North: Hanoi, and Halong Bay on a boat overnight. We skipped Sapa in the mountains because it’s an overnight train to get there, and a malaria zone but would have happily gone otherwise as it’s famous for the scenery and different tribes living there.
Here are some of our Vietnam favorites:
– Dinner in HCMC at Nha Hang Ngon. The concept is genius! The owner gathered the best street food vendors and turned them into chefs cooking at various stations in his restaurant. Super child friendly, well priced and delicious. The place is becoming very successful and has opened branches in Hanoi and Pnomh Penh too. We also had a very good meal at Temple Club in HCMC (848-3829 9244), more grown up than child-friendly though.
– Visiting the tumbs and the citadel in Hue, a former capital of Vietnam
– Chilling out at Nam Hai resort, a very pampering place outside of Hoi An.
– Riding with our very kind driver& guide Mr Pierre (bilingual French & English: firstname.lastname@example.org) from Hoi An to Hue. There’s a very scenic road going through the mountain peak…Really worth it on a sunny day. We had to take the tunnel that day..
– Taking a cooking class in Hoi An at the Red Bridge restaurant and having dinner at the Secret Garden restaurant (te: 84-510-2212 6400) lost in a tiny street in Hoi An.
– Admiring the miniature wooden boats at the shop Dai Phu Giao in Hoi An.
– Getting some of our favourite clothes copied (booouh!)at Bao Khanh Silk, one of many tailor shops in Hoi An where you choose your fabric and they’ll deliver to your hotel in half a day. But plan on a few fittings for a perfect fit.
– Staying at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi, a legendary hotel from the colonial times.
– Sharing the frenziness of Vietnamese New Year preparations in Hanoi.