Vietnam.

taking refuge in the shade of conical hats.

Vietnam is a land of cultural complexities and staggering natural beauty! Well dressed in a riot of colours, Buddhist pagodas, beaches and dynamism, this Southeast Asia country in the South China Sea is simply magnificent. Harnessing the power of local brews and delicious foods, we travelled around Vietnam, absorbing her through a multitude of lenses; history, ecology, tourist, street, and high end local.

First stop – Hanoi. On the banks of the Red River, Vietnam’s capital city is known for the Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences and cultures that shape her character. 

The colonial architecture left behind from the French, Indo-China era is one of the positive legacies to Vietnam's turbulent history © Nisha D'Souza

The colonial architecture left behind from the French, Indo-China era, in Hanoi, is one of the positive legacies to Vietnam’s turbulent history. In the chaotic Old Quarter, the narrow, crowded streets are loosely arranged by trade © Nisha DSouza

The innate Vietnamese ability to over-stack all two-wheeler with the oddest of items ranging from hats to pigs, is flabbergasting (Hanoi)© Nisha D'Souza

The innate Vietnamese ability to balance on over-stacked two-wheelers, with the oddest of items ranging from umbrellas and hats to pigs, is gawk-worthy © Nisha DSouza

Second stop – Halong Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is a popular stop for tourists. Towering limestone structures and island forests rise from the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Two nights on a boat will give you plenty of happy experiences in mid-night squid fishing, kayaking and sea-cave explorations. 

Beneath the calm waters of Halong Bay sleeps a dormant dragon © Nisha D'Souza

Legend says that beneath the calm waters of Halong Bay sleeps a dormant dragon © Nisha DSouza

Third stop – Hoi An. This delightfully historic and colourfully grand little town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Blissfully free of 21st century traffic and pollution, Hoi An’s architectural treasures, peaceful residential lanes and riverside entertainment, are best explored by cycle. Three days weren’t enough in this charming town.

A young girl peddles candles by the riverside in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An © Isheeta Sumra

A young girl peddles candles by the riverside in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An © Isheeta Sumra

The bustling street-side food vendors of Hoi An are never short of business; Vietnamese coffee can empower one with Flash-like abilities and Pho will give you the courage of an ox (if it's beef) or the gentleness of a women (if it's chicken). © Nisha D'Souza

The bustling street-side food vendors of Hoi An are never short of business; Vietnamese coffee can empower one with Flash-like abilities and Pho will give you the courage of an ox (if it’s beef) or the gentleness of a women (if it’s chicken). © Nisha D’Souza

Street-side jazz over a drink; THIS IS THE LIFE. (Hoi An) © Nisha D'Souza

Street-side jazz over a drink; THIS IS THE LIFE. © Nisha D’Souza

The Thu Bon river and its tributaries, cutting through Hoi An, were an ancient transport network for the Cham Kingdom. © Tara Shahani

The Thu Bon river and its tributaries, cutting through Hoi An, were an ancient transport network for the Cham Kingdom © Tara Shahani

Across the Japanese bridge in the Ancient Town of Hoi An await artistic treasures to be discovered (Vietnam) © Nisha D'Souza

Across the Japanese bridge in the Ancient Town of Hoi An await artistic treasures to be discovered © Nisha D’Souza

In the many back lanes of the Ancient Town of Hoi An, a quiet domestic life prevails (Vietnam) © Nisha D'Souza and Isheet Sumra

In the many back lanes of the Ancient Town of Hoi An, a quiet, domestic life prevails © Nisha D’Souza and Isheeta Sumra

The funky new-age decor of shops in Hoi An stand in stark contrast to the colonial architecture of the town, Vietnam © Nisha D'Souza

Funky new-age decor of boutique shops in Hoi An contrast with the colonial architecture of the town © Nisha D’Souza

Bicycles are by far the best way to roll around Hoi An, Vietnam

Bicycles are by far the best way to roll around Hoi An, Vietnam

Fourth Stop – Hue. The capital of the Nguyen Empire, this tiny town still resonates imperial glory! With imposing statues and towering structures, Hue may seem more like an action-movie filmset. 

The hauntingly beautiful tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh amongst the hills of the former imperial capital city of Hue © Nisha D'Souza

The hauntingly beautiful tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh amongst the hills of the former imperial capital city of Hue © Nisha D’Souza

The former imperial capital of Hue came under heavy bombardment by the Americans during the Vietnam war; abandoned ruins stand as a reminder of the time © Nisha D'Souza

The former imperial capital of Hue came under heavy bombardment by the Americans during the Vietnam war; abandoned ruins stand as a reminder of the time © Nisha D’Souza

Fifth Stop – the Mekong Delta. A maze of rivers, mudflats and marshes, the Mekong River is a lifeline for hundreds of communities in Vietnam. Dotted with floating markets, rice paddies, colourful villages, it can be accessed from nearby Ho Chi Minh city. Our boatman gave us conical hats as protection against the hot sun as we paddled down the Mekong.

Lazy afternoons on the Mekong river © Nisha D'Souza

Lazy afternoons on the Mekong river © Nisha D’Souza

Adventures under the shade of a conical hat, Mekong river, Vietnam © Nisha D'Souza

Adventures on the Mekong, under the shade of a conical hat © Nisha D’Souza

We weren’t able to spend more than one night in Ho Chi Minh city, which was regrettable but provides an excellent excuse to return to Vietnam in the future :) 

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