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Visiting Vietnam



I was just talking with @JackFTwist about cruises and river cruises... and was reminded of this blog from a few years ago... also... I'm running late publishing the new entry... Thanks for reading.

I've been trying to put my thoughts together for another travel-adventure segment and mulling over discussing Vietnam or Israel... It's been difficult for me to write about both for entirely different reasons... so I'll start with Vietnam and move on to Israel sometime in the not too distant future.
I'm of an age that I distinctly remember the war in Vietnam and the protests and was touched by death as a result of both. I wrote once before I had a chance to be a part of the last USO tour Bob Hope did for the enlisted men and woman on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and regret the decision of not  participating to this very day... I really spent most of the remainder of the 70's after the war had ended and into the 80's and early 90's distancing my thoughts about Vietnam and the war and my personal  issues about it... In 1992 I saw the film Indochine with a friend and was sitting with the same friend a few months  later in the Incochine  restaurant in New York City... during the course of the dinner we talked about the film again and the meal we were having and of the lush opulent atmosphere of the restaurant and we both blurted out at the same time "I want to visit Vietnam!"...my first of three trips to Vietnam followed and I finally arrived in Hanoi the first time in mid May after decades of reservations about ever visiting and again a couple years later and my last trip was with another friend who persuaded me to join him on a river cruise through Cambodia and Vietnam (with a short side trip to Laos)... I got the best suntan of my life on the Mekong river.
There are some practical considerations I need to share before I continue with my travel experience... I said in a previous installment when traveling it's always a good idea to contact your embassy (the US, Great Britain and Australia all have an embassy in Hanoi)... most every embassy around the world has functions and events throughout the year and I've been to some pretty swell embassy parties because I stopped by and registered with them when I arrived. It's always a good idea to have someone you can call in an emergency especially when you are far from home.
If you have health considerations such as any unstable health related issue or  a lowered immune system, I would suggest you consult your physician before visiting this part of the world. You may also be advised by your doctor to have a booster vaccination for tetanus, polio, typhoid and yellow fever. This is where planning in advance is important... a typhoid vaccine is given in two doses four weeks apart and can not be given at the same time as a cholera vaccination that is also given in two doses weeks apart. You may need a  gamma-globulin shot to guard against  hepatitis. Discuss with your doctor any concerns you have especially if he/she suggests a prescription to guard against malaria. One of the most important thing about these immunizations is that you need to carry the World Health Organization approved international certificate of vaccination as you will most likely be asked for it by immigration officials before entering Vietnam  and again returning to your country. My biggest health tip for staying healthy in Vietnam... don't drink the water and don't use ice in your beverages... be a little leery of fresh locally grown vegetables that are pulled from soil because of the nature of some fertilizer... and always keep your hands clean and away  from your eyes and mouth. If you do get sick drink plenty of coke that has gone flat.
It's also important to plan ahead in terms of the time of year you want to visit; December in Hanoi and the northern areas can be bitterly cold (but no snow); however  Ho Chi Minh City and the south are always pretty hot and humid more so in the spring and summer. Rain has been an integral part of my three visits... The rainy season lasts from May until December. 
I never really had severe jet lag visiting Asia or Australia as I always spend a couple of days either in Bangkok, Tokyo or Hong Kong on my way to my final destination  and adjusted fairly easily by waking very early and needing a little nap in the afternoon.  Coming home is another story... If you can I would recommend stopping in Hawaii for about a week before returning to the US mainland or continuing on elsewhere. The time difference has always been easy to remember... if it's midnight Monday in New York it's Noon Tuesday in Vietnam.
Vietnam like almost every other place I've visited has many festivals throughout the year... The one that I would love go back and experience is Tet Nhat (Tet) It's the lunar New Year celebration that is the first day of spring between harvest and planting on the first  new moon of the lunar calendar. Tet is the quintessential Vietnamese holiday; many shops and business establishments are closed and children are out of school. Special food is prepared and there are dragon dances, fireworks and flowers everywhere. This is a very important family holiday and celebration... it's also everyone's birthday... everyone becomes a year older on the first day of Tet.
Before your trip you need a visa issued by the Vietnamese government prior to your arrival. It's not terribly complicated so visit the website  of your country as well as Vietnam's embassy.
Almost every major airline has connections to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City... so check with your preferred airline or their code share partner for the routes and rates for non-stop or connecting service.
If you are not part of a guided group I can't recommend highly enough that you at the very least use a daily guided tour in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City or at least hire a guide or interpreter for a day or so... other wise have a translator app on your smart phone or use a guide book with detailed translations... many people in my travels speak english but just as many do not... Don't be mad at them  because they don't understand you... after all you are a visitor in their country.
I've said previously I like to pack light... and make sure everything I take can do double duty depending on heat or cold and/or rain. For example on all my visits I took pretty much the same thing...  3 white tee shirts from The Gap and 2 white cotton shirts (like the one Sharon Stone wore once to the Academy Awards)... (I packed a bit more and a little more luxurious selection for the cruise as we were in a controlled environment  most of the time except for daily land excursions)

 A pair of khakis, a pair of lightweight cotton draw string pants (navy) 3 pair of shorts one that was actually a swim suit and one a festive pair of boxer shorts, another long sleeve shirt (turquoise blue), 2 polo shirts (1 white & 1 navy), a pareo(that serves multiple purposes from a beach cover to a robe and afternoon lounge wear), a pair of loafers (that I wore mostly on the flights) a pair of sneakers and a pair of rubber slippers (flip-flops) 2 pair of sox 1 for buggy nights and 1 for cold aircraft... and of course my signature baseball cap and sunglasses and a lightweight cotton sweater worn tied over my shoulders mostly on cold aircraft. I learned from the first trip to carry a few large zip lock bags to guard against things getting wet and/or moldy. I take full advantage of hotel laundry service when traveling, in Vietnam it's quick and  inexpensive. If you pack anything electrical you will need an adaptor. For practical purposes make sure you have sunscreen, insect repellent, band-aids, antibiotic ointment... and I can't tell you how much I appreciated having premoistened towelettes on my second trip. All of this in addition to soap, moisturizer, shampoo and toothpaste, I also take about 6 packs of those travel Kleenex packets... toilet paper is always in hotels but not always in restaurants and airports. I learned a long time ago when traveling take four extra passport photos in addition to the two needed to process your visa... Finally  take about five hundred dollars of clean new untorn US currency in denominations of $5, $10 and $20 and a few hundred dollars in travelers checques... The Vietnamese monetary unit is the dong or VND; US$1 is worth about VND 22,760.00. When departing you will be asked to account for all currency brought into the country so keep a record and receipts.

My first visit was part of a tour group... we landed at the Noi Bai Airport ( new Terminal 1 was completed in 2014) about an hour from Hanoi. Transportation by  airport bus VND 30,000 or taxi VND 250,000.

 We spent a few days there touring and sightseeing and then took a cruise along Halong Bay

and the next day flew to Danang and spent a day and a night and then travelled by bus to the Imperial City and then a boat trip on Perfume River

and returned to Danang and then to Nhatrang and then Bengtau and finally Ho Chi Minh City

there we toured for two days and then a boat trip to a Delta plantation and then had a free night and departed Ho Chi Minh's Tan Son Nhat International Airport to Bangkok.
There is a great deal to see in the cities and countryside but my first traveling companion and I felt more comfortable taking a tour for the first visit... my second trip was more of what I like in a holiday because I don't really need to spend a great deal of time in cites as I live on one I prefer seeing more of the country.

The second trip I arrived in Hanoi on 19, April and spent a day and night at the Thang Loi  Hotel...
Hanoi At Night
Thang Loi Hotel

from there we went to Haiphong for a couple of days
Hai Phong

 and then sail Halong Bay
Lan Ha 

 to The Citadel finally to Hue and Imperial City

 and then to Vung Tau

  and a long, long, (12 hour) boat ride to the Con Dao islands

... and a flight back to Ho Chi Minh City for a day and night before returning home.

My third trip was probably the most luxurious and deluxe of three and it was interesting to see the country from the vantage point of the water. Everything was really nice and if you don't want to get dirty or too drenched in sweat I highly recommend it... I had a great time and the food and company were superb...

... the 8 day itinerary was very carefully thought out...

But truth be told I had a better more authentic time on the two previous trips...But I'm happy I experienced all three and would eagerly go back to take each one again...but I have to add that as much as I saw a beautiful country and learned and experienced a new culture  and met wonderful people in my journey the emotions and and memories I carried with me were always somewhere between the shadow and the act in all my  thoughts particularly when I was alone in prolonged silence. The war in Vietnam was the first historic event that I took a stand against that I was actually an active participant in it's day to day reality and the subsequent consequences.

I may write about all of this sometime... but I doubt it.

See you next time! Have a great week!

Edited by Kawika

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hey Kawika, i`m not as adventurous when visiting other countries as you!! most of my trips were spent in America, visiting a good friend in Fort Myers Florida. i`ve been to Kissimmee St. Cloud and Orlando to visit Disney World and Universal Studio`s with family because i love theme parks!! 

thank you for sharing your adventures traveling to other countries!! with love from Wes!! Hugs!!! 

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9 hours ago, bakersman94 said:

hey Kawika, i`m not as adventurous when visiting other countries as you!! most of my trips were spent in America, visiting a good friend in Fort Myers Florida. i`ve been to Kissimmee St. Cloud and Orlando to visit Disney World and Universal Studio`s with family because i love theme parks!! 

thank you for sharing your adventures traveling to other countries!! with love from Wes!! Hugs!!! 

Thanks for reading Wes... anytime you step out of your comfort zone and visit someplace new is an adventure in my book. I believe we have to look at new vistas and sunsets to recharge and get back to our lives.

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