April 24th, 2019

Passports, visas, flights, shuttle and hotel booked! We’re Off! We departed from Chiang Mai, Thailand and flew via Air Asia to Hanoi, Vietnam. The following photos are aerial photos of Chiang Mai .

The temperatures were similar to Chiang Mai (40 degrees) and sunny. The view out the airplane window showed the importance and influence of the mighty rivers as we neared north Vietnam.

I thought we were observing the mighty Mekong River, but upon further research the Red River, or Song Hong, with its source in the mountains of China’s Yunnan’s province flows past the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi before emptying into the Gulf of Tonkin. The river banks were lush and the countryside was green as we neared Hanoi.

After arriving in Vietnam, we learned that the population of this small country is enormous and growing quickly! The estimate for 2019 is over 97 million people in Vietnam with around 8 million in Hanoi in the north, and 8.6 Million in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south. This population makes Vietnam the 15th most populous country on our amazing globe!

Vietnam is the first communist country I have traveled through. There are red and yellow flags flying throughout the country and we were lucky enough to be in the country during their National Reunification holiday weekend.

Apparently, although temperatures were in the high 30’s to low 40’s and it wasn’t storm season, we had managed to hit low season (April-June) (September-November). I can only imagine the crowds here if it was a busier tourist season!

Travelling through this country was going to be a life changing experience.

After spending 3 weeks in peaceful, Thailand with its Buddhist influence, the first change we noticed was the ceaseless honking and aggressive driving in Hanoi. The numbers of scooters and motorcycles was staggering! Often the vehicles carried more than 3 people at once!

They drove everywhere… passing on both sides of cars…even over sidewalks! Crossing roads was a constant challenge. You needed to be aware at all times when walking on sidewalks or down streets.

This urban lifestyle is one of constant stimulation–sounds, sights, smells, touches, tastes, understanding of history and culture, art and architecture. There is so much to see and experience in Vietnam.

After settling into our hotel in the Old Quarter section of Hanoi at Hong Ngoc Cochinchine Hotel, we prepared for our Hanoi Street Food tour!

We met our young female guide then our group of 3 tourists and a guide were off for nearly 3 hours of walking through alleys around The Old Quarter, mixing with locals, and experiencing a myriad of Vietnamese tastes and foods. We went with Trip Advisor and the cost was $79.82 Can for 2 people.

Please click the movie to get a sense of our Hanoi Street Food Evening experience.

This was also our first real experience traversing the pathways and learning to move safely between all the masses of people and different modes of transportation coming towards us from all directions! By the end of the evening, we felt more confident!

Meanwhile… we had a fabulous experience trying 6 different types of Vietnamese foods and meeting locals. On our tour we tried the following: Green Mango Salad, Pho (noodle soup with Beef), Pork spring rolls, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Banh Rai sweet or savoury doughnuts, and a choice of egg coffee or beer. .

I would highly recommend this tour. Although I was quite shocked to discover that dried worms are used to add flavour in the Pho soup, I learned so much about Vietnamese food.

Tomorrow we have another tour booked Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure. Then at 6:00 pm we meet our Intrepid tour leader and group!