April has been a month of stuffing my face and adventuring through the country of Vietnam. I worked my way north to south, from trekking in the highlands to lounging on the beaches and everything in between. My body has inflated like a balloon and I’m like a walking cup of jiggly jello, but every bite and drink and lazy day has been so worth it.
Vietnam has surprised me with its geographic diversity and the array of adventure activities and cultural experiences it has to offer. The country is like a long S-shaped string bean, arching over a thousand miles along the coast of the South China Sea. Its climates are so varied that it’s confusing. One minute I’m in the cool mountains and the next I’m in a desert. What?! Vietnam likes to mix it up.
The best thing about this month has been the happiness and freedom I’ve finally found and embraced. Wrapping up my life in Korea, visiting home, and embarking on this trip was such a whirlwind that I didn’t have any time to really process what was happening. I felt so uncertain, nervous, and overwhelmed by everything that there was no room for excitement or genuine thrill. But then one day a few weeks ago it struck me that I wake up when I want and go wherever I want, whenever I want. I have zero responsibilities or commitments. And then all of a sudden it all clicked: this is F-ing fantastic!
So here’s an overview of the month in which I became a fatty and learned to be really happy:
Buses: 6 (total 30 hours)
Trains: 1 (16 hours)
Boats: 7 (literal days)
Planes: 1 (1 hour—wohoo!)
Cities Visited: 6
Hanoi’s old quarter is quaint and scenic, though loud and chaotic. I didn’t do much here except walk around to get my bearings in a new country and stroll by the lovely lake. I went to the water puppet show, which I found strange and perplexing in how highly people speak of it. My last day, however, I went on a walking street food tour and was blown away by how delicious the food in Vietnam is!
I did a 3-day tour of the bay, famous for its jutting rock formations. We spent one night on a boat and one on a private island.
Trekking through the rice terraced hills surrounding the town of Sapa with a local guide from the Hmong Tribe was one of my favorite experiences.
I took a train down the coast, passing by strikingly scenic views, and stayed in Hoi An for 12 days—which is the longest I’ve been in one place since I lived in Korea. Katie, my friend from home, came for a visit and we spent a week getting clothes tailor made, taking a cooking class, exploring the town by bicycle, and eating dessert every single day.
After the cool mountains of Da Lat, Mui Ne was a shock to the system with its hot and wind-whipped climate. I took a wind-surfing lesson, which turned out to be much harder than it looks, and played in the sand dunes.
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City
My last stop in Vietnam was the capital city of the south. I spent one day on a tour to the Mekong Delta, which was so touristy it felt like a joke, but I got my stereotypical picture wearing a hat in a boat, so I was satisfied. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city but luckily I had quite a few friends from Korea living or visiting Saigon so my calendar was full with friend visits.
There really were no lowlights this month. I didn’t get sick, nothing was broke or lost, and no disasters happened. I’m probably jinxing myself for next month when my review will be a list of the hundred things that went wrong, but my month in Vietnam was just incredible!
One slight lowlight was my room flooding with a waterfall from the ceiling. Thankfully none of my stuff was ruined!
IMG_7566 <–can’t get it to post? click link for video of my waterfall incident
Hanging out with a friend from home for a week and getting to live it up in a very air-conditioned hotel room! (Such a luxury after crowded dorm rooms)
Canyoning in Dalat and getting a major adrenaline fix
Making tons of new friends and travel buddies along the way and seeing old friends from Korea