An Un-Pho-gettable Experience

December 9, 2018 Off By resignatedsurvivors

Hola dear readers, and welcome to week eleven of the RSBA. The last couple of weeks have been spent in the wonderful country that is Vietnam, and my goodness was it an experience!


The first day we landed in Ho Chi Minh City after a nine-hour bus journey across the Cambodian border (crossing a land border by foot is an experience in itself, we felt like clandestine immigrants doing something illegal), only to be greeted by a typhoon. The heavens opened in a way that we had never before witnessed and it was both enticing and scary as we were confined to our hotel room whilst the flooding worsened and we felt as though we were the starring roles in Hollywood’s latest disaster movie. Mr RS even dared venture through the storm to source us some dinner, heroically retuning with delicious Banh Mi – Bruce Willis eat your heart out! It was delicious by the way, the sandwich being one of Vietnam’s tastiest food items, even more so when your life is being threatened by an unpredictable feat of nature!

The hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City

Once the storm had passed, we were ready to get out of the big smoke and we headed south towards the Mekong delta, a stunning network of rivers spanning over forty thousand square kilometres. We hopped on to a river boat and cruised through the delta, rising very early one morning to witness the famous Mekong floating market, where rows upon rows of fruit and vegetable sellers line up their boats to offer that morning’s finest produce. Imagine hopping on your boat to the market to fetch ingredients for dinner, rather than popping down to your nearest Sainsbury’s Local. We fell in love with the idea and felt as though food shopping will never be quite the same again. 

The Coconut seller at the Mekong Delta
The famous Mekong Delta Canal Boats and of course the driver (skipper?)
An elderly couple at the Floating Market
It's a deal. A floating market transaction in full effect.
The rice paper maker. Rice paper is typically used for Vietnamese style spring rolls (translucent and very delicious)
Mekong Honey being made.
The Can Tho land market in the Mekong Delta. I just couldn't resist this row of hats.

Our next stop was the quaint town of Hoi An. Although remarkably touristy, we loved wandering down the colourfully lit streets, a reminder of what Vietnam would have looked like maybe fifty years previously. Small sail boats cruised a long the river, with heart shaped fluorescent lights illuminating their path, and young couples releasing beautiful lanterns into the river having made their wishes for the future. We wandered down charming alleyways, admiring old Chinese-made buildings, sampling the finest food and generally loving the beautiful setting. A must-do for any tourist to Vietnam. 

The beautiful Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An which dates back to the 18th century.
Hoi An is very well known for its lanterns, and its lantern market.
Now, we love a Banh Mi and having sampled many of the Banh Mi's in Vietnam, this one is our top pick. Incredible and like nothing you've had before.

We continued our journey north to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. There we spent a day wandering historical buildings and pagodas (no, there’s no specific “tower” contrary to popular belief) before hopping on to another bus even further north, towards the Chinese border. It was here that we found our calling, our spirit home – Sapa. A delightful wonder of a place filled with gorgeous mountains, lush green rice fields and all-round beautiful surroundings. We rented a wooden lodge overlooking the mountain range, and woke up to the most incredible views each morning. We rode a motorbike down into the valleys, and trekked on foot past waterfalls, local tribal villages and mountain passes. We were fortunate enough to befriend our guide during our trek, who took us to her home and shared some of her “Marianna” with us – prizes if you can guess what that was! We also visited the peak of Indochina’s highest peak – Fansipan Mountain (also known as the “roof of Indochina”). A precarious but jaw-dropping journey to the top via cable-car was the icing on the cake for us, as we were able to witness even further Sapa’s incredible scenery, which cemented our love for this beautiful land.

The pagoda in Hanoi.
A room with a view. D&D Eco Sapa, deserves a mention here as it's an incredible place.
A precious moment witnessed during our 10+ mile trek through the hills and mountains.
In landscape photography, getting the right light is a huge bonus. We were very lucky on this day.
The most incredible views. It's our top pick for a reason.
Our wonderful guide, May. May has grown up in the village and is from the Black H'Mong minority.
This local lady trekked with us (uninvited) for 5km just to try and sell us some handmade accessories. She was lovely and of course we did buy some of her goods, she deserved it. Note her stained fingers. This is from dying fabrics in Indigo which is locally grown. It's a fundamental part of their village culture.
Local village kids having some fun, while using extremely sharp knives to chop up stuff!
A lady sifting through rice grains. There are rice fields everywhere in Sapa and its surrounding villages. Villagers grow their own rice, not for sale, but to feed their families.
The scariest, and most beautiful cable car journey we've ever been on.
More amazing views.

Overall, Vietnam has emerged from the shadows of its dark history of war, into a stunning, progressive and inclusive country, with so much to offer to intrepid travellers like ourselves. It is definitely on our list of “must go back” (well, I think pretty much everywhere is at this stage!) and we were truly sad to have to leave. From its delicious food, charming cities and incredible scenery we were blown away at every moment and we are so glad to have had the opportunity to absorb every second of it. We love you Vietnam, thank you.


Highlight of the week: Sapa. If you don’t visit here whilst in Vietnam then what the hell are you doing there? In close second was a visit to a local Vietnamese chocolate factory. We donned our finest chocolate tasting gear and literally witnessed (and tasted) the entire process from bean to bar. YUM!! 

These colourful beauties are not a funky variety of mango, or papaya, or avocados. Nope, these are none other than the Cacao fruit. Where chocolate comes from. And yes, that means chocolate is basically fruit 🙂
My favourite kind of fruit juice. Chocolate. Pure chocolate (not quite sure what the green stuff is, but green is good).

Other notable things: Vietnamese egg coffee. A bizzare concoction intended to use egg as a milk substitute in coffee. Surprisingly delicious, and rather like a dessert so don’t let the name put you off. It is a must have for any traveller wanting a taste of the real Vietnam. Also all the Pho. Delicious Pho-sure (apologies Pho all the jokes…).


Lessons learnt: Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually really hard to come across the local delicacies of dog meat and cat meat on any menus (**sigh of relief**). Mr RS did however have a go at snake wine, which he concluded tasted rather “snakey”. Nice.