After getting my visa and tickets in Bangkok and arriving by plane to Hoi Ann, the first thing that struck me on leaving the airport were the green rice paddy fields, with people wearing traditional hats working in the fields. Looking out the window, I was amazed, as there are hardly any cars, everyone travels by scooter and it is scary how many people travel on just one scooter. I saw a whole family of four plus a baby on one little scooter, not to mention the mother actually breast feeding her baby while travelling. People stack pigs, weaved in baskets, and literally stack them on top of each other and travel around with their pigs on the back of the scooter.
I travelled down the coast of Vietnam and in those three weeks, saw loads of amazing sights and had some truly insightful, beautiful and raw experiences. I loved Hoi Ann the most, mainly as it is crazy, beautiful and incredibly different to anywhere I had ever been before. Hoi Ann's buildings are built around trees and on top of each other. They seem to be stacked one on top of the other and you wonder how they manage to stay up.
Hoi Ann's streets are full of activity: people live, play, wash, eat and do everything in the street. Each street seems to work by category of what is being sold, for example sunglasses street, where the entire street is full of sunglasses. The whole town glows at night with gorgeous red lanterns everywhere.
The food is unreal and as the French ruled it for a time there is a strange French/Vietnamese feel. You can eat in gorgeous cafes, Vietnam style or pretty much any style you could ask for. I preferred to eat the street food, which is amazing. Tiny old woman make you gorgeous Vietnamese wraps and sweet chilli dips, soups and delicious fresh food. These old women carry their whole café on their back. You have to wonder how they do it, as the food is the best.
A floating village in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
Markets are truly the way to buy food. Stacked in baskets you will find every herb, vegetable or flower that you can imagine. They have tanks with fish swimming around and you can pick out the fish you want to buy for your dinner. Handmade clothes and silk is also what Vietnam is known for. You can have a tailored suit made for you in half a day or anything else you desire. It's also cheap; personally I felt strange getting beautiful tailored clothes made for next to nothing.
There is a lot to see, buy and do in Vietnam, but you would have to be completely blind not to see the sad things too. There is a lot of poverty, child labour, street children, tired and over worked people, sex workers (very young girls) and people with disabilities or facial skin damage from the toxic agent, Orange, that America viciously used on this beautiful race of people.
The people work hard and I mean really hard. It felt like they never had a rest and worked from before dawn to late at night. They generally seemed private, sweet and very kind people. However, I didn't feel comfortable being a tourist there. I felt safe but as Vietnam is only starting to open up more to other countries it felt strange. I also felt like Vietnamese people didn't understand why we were there.
I recommend visiting Vietnam but go sensibly and with kindness, don't go if you want to get drunk with your friends and get a good tan. It's a special place and one that deserves respect.