Trip of a Lifetime: Northern Vietnam

When we signed on for Expat life, it was with the agreement that we’d do our best to take advantage of our time in Asia and travel as much as possible while in this part of the world.  For the most part, due to location and timing, we’ve ended up primarily at beach and tropical locations.  So in planning this year’s winter break, the husband and I really wanted to do something a bit more cultural and adventurous, and we planned a 16-day tour of Northern and Southern Vietnam and Siem Reap, Cambodia with The Cuties.

And what an adventure it was!

After culling through two full SD cards, and all of the smartphones photo albums, here are some of the many highlights of our trip  {broken into a few posts for ease of reading!}.

We started in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.  In preparation for the trip, we had The Cuties read The Vietnam War from the Usborne history series for kids to help them have a beginner’s understanding of the complex history of Vietnam, Communism and the War.  They were able to ask good questions of our guides, and it gave them a basis for our visits to places like Ho Chi Minh’s home on stilts, his Mausoleum and the “Hanoi Hilton.” {all very interesting, and well worth visits, but not terribly blog~photo friendly}

We visited The Temple of Literature where we learned about Confucius and the first national university of Vietnam.  We were fortunate to see graduation ceremonies on the grounds the day we visited.  You know I have two hundred photos of those amazing dragon and sun roof lines!


In addition to the beautiful structure, it was The Cuties’ first opportunity to see beautiful áo dài up close.


We spent a half day at the Museum of Ethnology learning about the 54 different native peoples of Vietnam.  It was extremely cool seeing all the different ways of life, manners of dress and styles of homes.  The Cuties especially liked this home, built with a very sloped roof to manage water run-off during the rainy season and up on stilts so that roaming elephants could pass freely underneath!


A big treat was stopping at the Metropole Hanoi for high tea.  The Cuties liked looking at the long list of famous people who had stayed there.  But the snack was loved even more!


While in Hanoi The Cuties were mesmerized by the traditional Water Puppet Show we attended.  These involve lacquered wooden puppets on long rods, and are performed in a waist-deep pool by performers hidden behind a bamboo screen.  The art form dates back to the 11th century and were originally performed in flooded rice fields.


The best part of Hanoi, however, was simply wandering the busy streets, dodging motorbikes, and playing our family game of Who Can Spy the Best Thing on Wheels!


After three days in Hanoi, we traveled east three hours to Hon Gai, the gateway to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  On the way, we stopped at My Company, Ltd, which employs people with disabilities in handicrafts.  It was fascinating to watch the incredible artisans at work and we bought a few of their beautiful things.  And in looking around the shop floor, we also said a prayer of special thanks that with all we’ve been through in Big Cutie’s life, we have had access to amazing doctors, early intervention, therapists and more.


At Ha Long Bay, we spent a night aboard a traditional junk.  The Bay was beautiful and our weather was superb.


One of the coolest things about spending two days on the Bay was seeing so many different kinds of Vietnamese boats.


The highlight of the Ha Long Bay trip though was the Thien Cung Caves.  Filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and lit with spotlights, each anteroom was more breathtaking than the next.  Well worth the hundreds of steps we had to climb to get there!


We then went for a small boat ride in search of monkeys.  We didn’t find any except the two we brought with us, but had a nice jaunt anyway.  😉


We played on the nearby beach with our girls to burn off some energy before bed and watched the prettiest sunset.


The North was great fun and not as cold as Tokyo {and certainly nowhere near as bad as our friends and family were experiencing back home!}.

Stayed tuned to hear about Central and Southern Vietnam next!

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5 Responses to Trip of a Lifetime: Northern Vietnam

  1. karen0221 says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip. Glad you enjoyed.

  2. Cute Grandma says:

    What an amazing experience all of you had, and you captured it beautifully.

  3. shelli says:

    What an amazing trip! We also enjoyed the photo stream that the husband sent me.

  4. Tracy S. says:

    That looks like an amazing trip!

  5. Hai Nguyen says:

    Glad your trip started out good. Now, let’s make sure that my southern compatriots show you our famous hospitality.

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