My boys and I arrived in the Vietnam capital – Hanoi after a long flight from JFK. After a restful night, we walked early morning to the Hoan Kiem Lake, which was a stone’s throw away from our hotel. The lake was so busy with several local young and old people doing Tai Chi with music – we joined them for early morning activity!!
The Old quarter in Hanoi has the charm and energy of a vibrant young city in- spite of all traditional shop houses. The Temple of Confucius also called the Temple of Literature was founded in 11th century was the site of Vietnam’s first University. We next went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where we saw the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. We explored the Old Quarter by foot discovering narrow alleys, with a stop at the delicious Street Food café and Vietnamese coffee.
We flew Vietnam Air from Hanoi to Danang and then transferred to Hoi An which is about 18 miles away from Danang. Our hotel was located very close to the Hoi-An Ancient town and Hoi An market. A very walkable, charming city with night market, lanterns and great cafes. Our Vietnamese cooking class was one of the best! We rode our bicycles to the market, explored it and picked up all the ingredients and then visited the vegetable fields where we got the flavor of their local farm life and cooked a delicious meal. The next few days , we walked around and explored Hoi An at leisure and loved all the local food and restaurant near the sea.
We flew Vietnam Air from Danang to Ho Chi- Minh city. It is still known as Saigon by many, even after the official name was changed almost 40 years ago to Ho Chi Minh city. As soon as you arrive you see bustling motorcycles- our guide told us that there are more than 8 million motorcycles in the city. One could feel swarms of motorcycles just bustling away- a different kind of moving energy!!
The next day we drove to outskirts of the city to Ben Tre. We rode bikes in small roads immersing fully in the local culture of the Mekong Delta and the rustic Ben Tre. We passed peaceful area of lush orchards, green rice paddy fields and coconut trees as we interacted with the local people. Lunch was delightful at a traditional Mekong restaurant and we stopped by at“ Keo dua”(coconut candy) where it was made.
We flew Vietnam Airlines to Siem Reap- the cultural capital of Cambodia .Our hotel was very centrally located so we could walk to the market, cafes, souvenir shops and immerse in its local surroundings. Our Quad bike Excursion took us to the backroads of countryside of Siem Reap with truly authentic and rural experience with rice paddy fields and beautiful scenery. We got a glimpse into the traditional Cambodian lifestyle.
The next day we rose early to see the magnificent Angkor Wat temple at sunrise which was completed in 12th century. It took almost 37 years to build this Hindu temple which later became the center of worship for Buddhism. It was stunning at sunrise to see the play of light on the stones.