Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Walking tours through Vietnam

In December 2010, my 12-year old son Oliver and I went to Vietnam - the first outside Europe to a destination in a developing country.

The arrangements were excellent throughout and the planning nothing short of brilliant. There were no mishaps or last minute changes of plan, all eight hotels were comfortable and clean, the itinerary was varied and the places visited all fascinating.

More than that: it was very thoughtfully done, with our leader and his side-kick, Mike, giving an impression of effortless coolness that masked an awful lot of truly hard spadework. They were terrific! And they really knew their stuff…..

The Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Oliver was the youngest in the group; the oldest celebrated her 84th birthday when we were in Nha Trang. She received a cake and flowers to celebrate the event……

The group was mixed and interesting and fun to be part of; several had traveled widely, others less so. All loved

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vietnam: A journey from past to present

If Hanoi is the grand old dame of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City is the brash young floozy, then Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An are the alluring mistresses you encounter along the way. Here landscape, architecture, culture and cuisine work their seduction via subtle charms rather than sensory overload.

The first stop on our north-south journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City was a side trip to the unchanging wonders of Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone outcrops rear from the placid aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
The voyage, on a luxury sleep-aboard wooden junk, was an immediate immersion in oriental serenity as we glided calmly through the narrow channels past floating fishing villages where life is lived on the water as it has been for centuries.

After the vessel anchored under a moonlit sky, we dined against a spectacular backdrop of pinnacles and towers that, by sunrise, seemed to have morphed into strange sea monsters