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Another trip, another country… Vietnam this time! I was wanting to do the SAPA trek in North Vietnam and that’s where it all began! With time constraints, we didn’t do the trek but ended up visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for sightseeing only! Some hiccups, lots of fun and heaps of memories & another huge photo album…that’s what every trip is about after all 🙂

We landed in Hanoi, a small-ish city in North Vietnam! For a population of 600,000, there are 550,000 two-wheelers here so you can imagine the kind of traffic in the city! It was scary but we kinda knew HCMC is going to be worse, and yes it was!

Anyway, Hanoi is a pretty quiet city. We roamed around the city on the first day….

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This was around Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which was under renovation.

 

Ho Chi Minh Museum in the vicinity is quite good and we spenta good couplee of hours inside! It was much better than what we expected TBH in terms of the info. and setup!

And a quick visit to One Pillar Pagoda!

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Communication is an issue in Hanoi as hardly anyone except (some of) the hotel staff understood English! And finding something vegetarian to eat was a nightmare! 

Next two days were for 2D1N Halong Bay Cruise and that was the highlight of the trip for me! Halong Bay is just exquisitely beautiful!

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Two days in the bay, climbing few hundred stairs on the Tree Top island for a great view, the night in the bay amidst heaps of mini islands and many other ships around you, and a visit to surprise caves the next day before coming back  to the mainland..everything was just too good!

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One of the Panoramas…

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The hospitality on the cruise was one of the best I have experienced… The food was amazing…I ate like a pig to compensate for two days of tasteless noodles in Hanoi!!

View from on the way to the top of Tree Top island…

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And this…

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No pictures can do justice to the sheer beauty and serenity of the place! Wish it was not so cloudy for both the days we were there for!Still heaps of pretty pics for more posts :)! If I go to Vietnam again, it will be for Halong Bay and for a longer cruise next time, for sure!!!

And they take you to a Pearl factory, where you can Kayak as well!

Surprise caves are nice, though they are a bit glamorized to appease tourists!!!

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Hanoi is basically the main tourist hub for going around in North Vietnam, Halong Bay and Sapa being the most popular!

If nature did not fail us, we would have visited the Central Vietnamese City of Hoi An and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Son Sanctuary. But because of the typhoon and resulting floods, we flew directly to HCMC from Hanoi after a mad run around the airport to get things organized!

The extra two days in HCMC actually made the trip quite relaxing. Roaming around aimlessly, sipping Vietnamese Coffee in cafes staring out the window and spending $$$ shopping was all we did 🙂

HCMC inhabitants are grumpier than people in the North, once again proving the general notion that bigger the city, crankier the people get! The traffic is crazy and I used to literally mumble a prayer before crossing the road every single time! And that’s when I understood what all the fuss about road-crossing in Vietnam was according to the people who had traveled there! 

Visit to the War Remnants Museum was very confronting! I couldn’t  even completely see all the sections, but one must go there to understand why the things are the way they are in Vietnam today!

These are the least uncomforting pictures from the museum…

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One more Pagoda called Jade Emperor Pagoda in the city and some giant turtles lazing around there…

 

And around the city…

Mekong Delta full day tour is something that all tourists do from HCMC! And lots complain that the river is so dirty! Its muddy and it is what it is!

It’s 3 hours drive from the city and the stop-over point is quite beautiful …

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The Mekong River…

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There’s a lot to see and experience throughout the day… Honey tasting, local fruits and food, traditional music, visit to the coconut candy factory where you can see it being made live in action, coconut fiber factory for a lot of fiber products (not all tours do this but it’s worth visiting). And the classic boat trip…

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And the last day was for Cu Chi Tunnels, another must-do from HCMC. The visit to the Vietnam War tunnels also takes almost a day!

They take you to the real War Forest…

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A Bomb Crater…

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The arsenal…this is all real….

The horrific traps…

The tunnels…

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And the camouflaged vents for the tunnels…

And don’t forget to actually shoot at the Cu Chi tunnels, they have AK47, Carbines etc. I did 10 shots from Carbines! Just few people shooting around made the environment so disturbing that I couldn’t imagine the situation war soldiers faced for real!

HCMC has simply amazing food, I was actually surprised to find quite a few PURE vegetarian restaurants around the place where we stayed. There are motorbike hoping tours just take you around for food joints!

Don’t forget to take few tuk-tuk rides, buy some eggshell, lacquer and coconut fiber paintings/handicrafts. I bought few from a Government factory run by handicapped people who are mostly war victims, something for a  good cause!

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