One day in Da Lat was enough to eat a lot of amazing street food (the earlier the better) and try out new Vietnamese desserts, drink morning coffee with local men, stay at a hostel run by the craziest and most welcoming family and where they make family meals and encourage spooning your neighbor by putting the beds very close to each other.
In order to avoid the tourist masses I took a motor taxi at 6 am to My Son to see what remains of the Hindu temple built between the 4th and 13th century. When I arrived after an awesome 75-minute motor ride, I was the only one on the site (a rare thing in touristy-Vietnam). The ruins were breathtakingly beautiful, the weather was perfect, the sky was blue and I experienced all of this before 8 am. Getting up early was so worth it.
From Hoi An I took a night bus to Nha Trang, aka mini Russia, and arrived the next morning at 5 am, just in time to see the beautiful sunrise. Me and my two best friends, sunblock and after sun, enjoyed two scorching sunny days at the beach, playing with the waves and reading in the sun. A nasty sunburn was obviously unavoidable, my back turned into roasted meat. Was definitely missing a travel companion for that reason. Other than lying on the beach I also drank many fresh passionfruit-aloe juices and ate fresher than fresh sea food.
From Hanoi it takes about 4 hours by bus to get to Halong Bay, from there you board one of many boats available and sail the bay in one, two or even up to ten days. My time was limited and the weather wasn’t too great, so I was only able to go on a day trip. We cruised around the incredibly beautiful bay, passed by water villages and kayaked through some caves. Life is pretty sweet.
For my meals in Hanoi I mostly relied on this genius and the recommendations of my hostel, which actually pretty much overlapped. My big time favorites: coffee with condensed milk and sticky rice, xoi. Oh boy, I’m just salivating at the thought right now.
Of course I had the must-have Phở, aka beef noodle soup, in the city where it originates from, but I was just too greedy to have the patience to take a decent picture before devouring it.
Cha ca – Fish sauteed in dill and turmeric and served with rice noodles, peanuts, fresh herbs and fish sauce.
My first stop in Vietnam: Hanoi. Looking back, it was the best city to start my trip through the blistering hot country, coming from depressingly cold and smoggy Beijing. The people I met travelling in the other direction, from south to north, were constantly complaining about the chilly weather, but by me it was welcomed with open arms.
I only got to spend two full days here, but I enjoyed every second of them. The city, just like the rest of the country, is overflowing with motorbikes, amazing food and nice people. I spent most of my time wandering around and observing the chaos in the small streets: motorbikes coming from every direction, street vendors trying to sell fruit or flowers, and people enjoying their food or coffee on little stools on the side of the road. Loved it!
Just close your eyes and go.
Happy Chinese New Year!
When I visited Shanghai last March, I decided I would also visit the nearby city Suzhou for a day. With its characteristic canals and its stunning surroundings, Suzhou is known as “the Venice of Asia”, but one should realize that this city is growing very fast and there are already 10 million people living there. So it’s by no means a small town and it’s mostly the old part of town where you can find the romantic scenery.
Because that day was a national holiday – aka the worst time to travel to these kinds of places – we decided to skip the tourist spots, like the beautiful pagodas and gardens, but just take a walk next to one of the canals. Even though the weather sucked, it was still very clear that Suzhou is a beautiful and special city.