Places we visited: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Length of stay: 15 days

High point: Watching life in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, eating some of the best food in
Asia in the small and tranquil city of Hoi An, meandering down the ancient streets of  
Hoi An which are lined with tradititional homes, gazing at the amazing rock formations
rising out of Halong Bay and the distinctive floating villages, being part of the frenetic
energy of Christmas Eve in Ho Chi Minh City.

Low Point: Arriving at the Ho Chi Minh City airport to board our flight back to Texas,
excited to see our family and friends, only to be told our ticket was invalid. We had to
hightail it back into the city to a British Airways ticket office and wait for over three
hours for our tickets to be reprinted.

Local food/flavor: Fresh spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, Vietnamese coffee, cau lau,
white roses

Language: Vietnamese

Currency: Dong (yes, that is really the name of the Vietnamese currency)

Unique Sights: Seeing petite Vietnamese women in slippers selling all kinds of goods
which are displayed in two baskets that hang from a pole slung across their
shoulders,  witnessing the many, and we mean many, tailor shops in Hoi An,
discovering that our visit to the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam included a stop at a firing
range where you could  fire an AK-47's and order a six pack of beer while doing so
(CREEPY!!!!), watching thousands of families on motorcycles fill the roads of Ho Chi
Minh City on Christmas Eve to look at the lights and storefront decorations, seeing
dozens of Vietnamese toddlers dressed up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in Ho Chi
Minh City

Purchases: Weasel coffee, Vietnamese coffee, clothes, clothes and more clothes, silk
sleep sheets, DVDs

Things we did:
  • Enjoyed bia hoi, the cheapest beer on earth, on the streets of Old Quarter in
    Hanoi (roughly 15 cents per glass!)
  • Browsed in and out of the many shops in Old Quarter selling silk, lacquerware,
    and of course, pirated DVD's.
  • Visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi
  • Visited the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's oldest university, in Hanoi
  • Dined on delicious Vietnamese cuisine in every city, especially  Hoi An.
  • Attended a performance at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, a unique puppet
    show originating from the Red River Delta
  • Watched the frenetic pace of life in the Old Quarter from sidewalk cafes and
    avoided injury by dodging the mopeds that buzz through the streets of the Old
  • Soaked up the incredible sights of Halong Bay from the deck of our wooden
    boat. Halong Bay is dotted with gigantic rock formations jutting straight up out
    of the turquoise sea.
  • Marveled at the floating villages of Halong Bay where people live year round in
    the middle of the bay
  • Spent one night on Cat Ba Island in the middle of Halong Bay
  • Visited the Dau Go caves in Halong Bay
  • Gave in to the unresistable temptation of Hoi An's tailors and spent three days
    choosing designs, selecting fabrics and attending fittings to have clothing
    custom made
  • Delighted in Hoi An's peaceful riverside ambiance and enjoyed the traditional
    architecture, interesting shops and exquisite food
  • Took a cooking course at the Red Bridge cooking school in Hoi An and learned to
    make rice paper, spring rolls, Hoi An pancakes, calamari salad and eggplant in a
    clay pot.
  • Did plenty of last second Christmas shopping in Ho Chi Minh City. We even had
    to wait outside one shop for the princess of Thailand finished her last minute
    shopping. The shop temporarily locked its doors so she could shop in private.
  • Visited the thought provoking War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Walked through the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Crawled through the claustrophobic Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City
    that the Vietcong used to elude the American troops during the Vietnam war
    (which is referred to as the "American War" by the Vienamese)
  • Were adopted by the sweetest 92 year old French-Vietnamese lady at our hotel
    in Ho Chi Minh City. Every morning we enjoyed her sarcasm and loving attention,
    even though she did not speak a word of English.
  • Celebrated Christmas Eve with thousands of locals by cruising the festive
    streets of Ho Chi Minh City.  Of course, most of the locals were on mopeds full of  
    four or even five people while we simply walked.
  • Spent most of Christmas Day at the British Airways office trying to work through
    an unexpected last minute problems with our airline tickets back to the States
  • And after over NINE MONTHS away from the United States, we finally boarded
    our flight to the U.S. to see family and friends on Christmas night!
Vietnam Overview
Halong Bay