I am beyond excited to be starting my first post about Vietnam because it means that I get to completely reminisce about every little detail of my trip. I cannot put into words how I felt after returning from this trip. I mean obviously I was sad to be home but apart from these obvious and expected feelings, something in me had changed. I had begun to realise the difference between going on a holiday and going travelling.
Before Vietnam, my daydreams consisted of relaxing by the pool and staying in beautiful 5* suites with private plunge pools overlooking an obnoxiously blue ocean. I quickly learnt that spending more money than necessary just to stay in a nice room is probably the quickest way to waste your budget. Sure, the room is lovely and all and it is nice to get a taste of the high life that I can’t really afford, but how much time do you actually spend in your room on a holiday? We were gone straight after breakfast and most days would return after dinner. The best hotels we stayed in were magnificent and comfortable however I found that I actually enjoyed the cheaper, traditional hotels more because I had come all this way to experience Vietnam as it is, not as us western tourists have made it.
Gotta love snapchat filters
I guess I should start from the beginning of my trip for obvious reasons. My partner Eddy and I met up with Krystal and David inside Sydney airport and began waiting in a check-in line that I could swear was bigger than the airport itself before we managed to quickly stuff some food in our faces before running to catch our flight. Because I planned my trip so that we would travel from the north to the south of the country and also because it was the first time I had ever booked international flights by myself, I decided to book two one way tickets rather than a return so we accidentally ended up spending way more on flights than we should have. I do not recommend this at all. I booked our flight to arrive in Hanoi and our returning flight to depart from Ho Chi Minh City. Our plane over there stopped in Ho Chi Minh City anyway and we had to transfer to a domestic plane which would take us to Hanoi. Considering how cheap the domestic flights are in Vietnam, if I had booked a return flight to Ho Chi Minh City and then booked a separate domestic flight it would have been a lot cheaper. So when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh we had a 2 min walk from the international to the domestic terminal (they were so close!) to catch our plane. It was so humid I could literally feel the moisture in the air, the heat was so intense it was like standing in a sauna and we were all wearing jeans and warm clothes since we were headed to Hanoi where it was only 20 degrees.
By the time we reached Hanoi it was quite late and we were exhausted. We had been told by a couple different people that “the drive from the airport should not cost any more than 150,000 VND”. What we did not realise was that all these people were referring to Ho Chi Minh and the trip from Hanoi airport to Old quarter where we were staying was a lot longer. Finally we seemed to figure this out and piled into a taxi. It felt like a really long drive because we did not know where we were or where we were going. The driver did not speak any English so we weren’t sure whether he knew where to take us, we basically just communicated by handing him a piece of paper with the address.
Eventually, he pulled up in the middle of a street next to an alleyway and said our hotel was up the alley. We were super confused, it did not look like there were any hotels around and we immediately thought we were lost until we noticed the sign for Skyline Hotel in the alleyway he had pointed to. We walked up the alleyway and into our hotel and we were awestruck. The hotel was so quaint, with one room on each floor and a beautiful little lobby, not at all what we expected to step into from the dirty little laneway. The staff were amazing and greeted us with watermelon juice while they ran through some safety tips for getting around Hanoi and dealing with hagglers. After finding out that we had chosen a great hotel, we put our bags in our rooms and met up downstairs to go for a late-night stroll around Old Quarter.
It was really late and we had no idea where we were going but we wandered around and found some street shops. They were selling all kinds of things like clothes and socks and food. Around midnight everyone started to pack up and we noticed some uniformed men coming around as if they were enforcing the clean up. We figured they must all have to close up and decided to go home. David went out by himself and said it was really different. People in cars and on bikes were pulling up trying to talk to him and trying to tell him to get in and that they will get him marijuana. I guess that’s why the hotel staff advised against travelling alone at night.
I woke up in the morning and had a look out the window. We were so high up but the alley was narrow so we were really close to the building next door. It didn’t even look real, I looked down and it just looked like a tunnel. I was absolutely in love so I got ready and we met Krystal and David on the first level for breakfast. After breakfast we went out the front for a cigarette and the alleyway had transformed. There were bikes going by, kids running around, old ladies carrying fruit and people sitting on the ground with food or other people. It was absolutely bustling and everything I could have imagined, I knew instantly that I had picked the perfect hotel in the perfect location. We took a group photo with the alleyway in the background and posted it online saying “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!” and then we walked off aimlessly to start our first day in Vietnam with no plan or care in the world.
Until next time.
– Kels xo.