When Kelsey and I first began traveling in Indonesia, our trip through northern Vietnam (which we’d debated even doing!) seemed ages away. But before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to our boyfriends and meeting up again for the tail end of the journey, through the North and Hong Kong. Our first stop was Hoi An, a charming beach town in central Vietnam known for its custom tailors and leather shops. We proved great customers, walking with a combined haul of two leather duffel bags, a messenger bag, two dresses, and five pairs of shoes. With all this and our yoga mats still in tow, we’re definitely pushing the limits of the term “carry-on.”
After Hoi An, we headed further north to Hanoi, a cultural gem of a city booming with art galleries, museums, and endless street food. Even with its cooler weather, Hanoi ended up being one of our favorite cities. The cuisine there was some of the best we’ve had in Vietnam–we were able to take a street food tour lasting a total of four hours and still had dishes to hunt down the next day. Some of our favorites were: vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, crab spring rolls, pho (classic beef noodle soup), fresh spring rolls with turmeric-fried fish, steamed buns (just plain, so pillowy!) banana flower salad, coconut rice wine, banh mi sandwiches with egg and green papaya, roasted duck, sweet rice cakes, local fruits, egg coffee (sweet and custardy–much better than it sounds!) and fresh rice paper with shrimp, fish sauce and herbs you just can’t find in the US. It’s safe to say we’ve officially undone all of the progress we made at yoga school in Indonesia.
From Hanoi, we took a side trip to Halong Bay, a must-see if you’re in the region. We spent the night on a junk boat with a great group of people. There were Robert and Kent, the fabulous gay couple from Bordeaux who had retired early to travel the world, some Spanish women who drank us all under the table, two handsome artists from Paris who charmed just about everyone, and the sweetest, friendliest old Canadian ladies we’ve ever met. In between meals (which were early & often), we went kayaking through the limestone peaks, visited a floating fishing village, and hiked through a gigantic cave with some very interesting rock formations. The weather was not ideal, but the fog hanging over the limestone peaks and on the water was eerily beautiful.
After spending our last week in northern Vietnam, Kelsey and I have finally arrived at our final stop in Hong Kong, where we’ve initiated the re-Westernization process before heading home. Nearly two months of traveling through third-world countries has made four days in Hong Kong a blissful vacation from questionable food ingredients, frustrating language barriers and unspeakable toilet conditions. A perfect collide of Eastern and Western cultures, Hong Kong has been incredible; Kelsey and I have agreed that if we were single, we’d both be canceling our return flights home.
At times the transition has been startling: Public transportation?! Huh? Where are all of the crazy Vietnamese women dragging us into their shops? And why are there not entire families living in the back of the restaurants? Driving in from the airport, our mouths hung agape as we marveled at the beautiful buildings along the waterfront. “What are those luxurious structures?!” we asked our cab driver. “Government housing,” he replied. Projects! Yep, definitely been traveling for too long. Luckily we have a couple more days in Hong Kong to better prepare us for our release back into the Western world. America here we come!