Vietnam Preconceptions and First Impressions

3 October 2011

Alicia Keese succumbs to the allure of Vietnam. She visits Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hoi An, Danang and Marble Mountain. Alicia's favourite spot is Halong Bay. Alicia was also surprised at the wonderful array of good restaurants and has some great tips about where to eat.

 Halong Bay

Preconceptions and first impressions

I had never considered a holiday to Vietnam. But as a travel agent I have had many enquiries about travel to Vietnam. I found myself wondering why? I decided to check it out. The Peregrine ‘Essence of Vietnam' trip fit so perfectly in my holidays that I thought it was meant to be.

On Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City I was greeted with a wall of people outside the airport. There must have been at least two thousand people waiting for their family and friends, maybe a taste of the craziness to come? That first drive through the city with the crazy traffic, and motorcycles galore was quite an experience. When you see families of four on one motorbike it definitely makes you look twice.

Eating and drinking

On the first night we walked around Ho Chi Minh City. It was a great experience but I was still not completely sold on it until I sat at a bar and ordered a cocktail, and realized that it was only $3.00!  So, I found myself exploring restaurants and bars for the whole trip. One of my favourite restaurants to try while in Vietnam is Pho 2000. It is a chain so you should find them everywhere.

In Hoi An, we dined at 'The Green Chilli'. Considering I am from North Queensland, I thought I had seen BIG Prawns. Nothing like the monster prawns at this place. One prawn was the length of my plate.

In Hanoi, I have a couple of favourites. KOTO Training Restaurant (Know One, Teach One) trains street children in all aspects of the catering industry. KOTO is situated next to the Temple of Literature at 59 Van Mieu St, in Dong De District. Not only does it provide a stepping stone into a career for disadvantaged Vietnamese youth, but the food is fantastic!

Another restaurant that was recommended in Hanoi was called ‘The Green Mango'. It was the most expensive meal we had in Vietnam. The total for two adults, including entrées, mains, desserts and drinks, was AUD$60.00. This is the best restaurant in Vietnam. It is a really funky little restaurant. The address is 18, Hàng Quạt, Q.Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi.

Marble Mountain and Hoi An

Before heading to Hoi An we stopped at Danang and Marble Mountain. After climbing the horrendous steps to the top, as unfit as I am, I truly got the reward of the climb. There are amazing views of the sea and also the caves on the mountain which have amazing carvings of Buddhist figures. Hoi An was such a unique place, definitely a much calmer environment than Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. There are beautiful restaurants, lively markets and tailor shops on every corner. My favourite location was Halong Bay. We stayed overnight on a Junk and woke to the most beautiful views. I did not expect a tranquil location in Vietnam. Vietnam was an extremely surprising experience for me. I enjoyed the food, the culture and the people.

Looking for more information about travelling to Vietnam? Contact Alicia Keese, an International Travel Consultant with Flight Centre based in Mount Pleasant, Queensland who can be reached at 1300 078 473.

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