As promised in my blog entry from Hue, I have finally uploaded, edited and captioned over 400 photos from my whirlwind two-week tour of Northern and Central Vietnam in late April/early May.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best sum up our action-packed trip – I could try to capture the absolute madness of Hanoi and how we mastered the art of crossing the street; I could go on and on about all the AMAZING, interesting food we ate; I could describe our adventures trekking through the mountainous Sapa region, including our night of drinking WAY too much home-made rice wine with our local tribal host family; I could tell you how incredibly delicious and addictive Vietnamese iced coffee is, particularly after wandering around for hours on a 100+ degree day in Hoi An or Hue; and I could attempt to convey the beauty of Ha Long Bay (well, minus the hundreds of other tourist boats).

But I think it’s best to let my photos (and captions) tell you all about my Vietnamese experience instead. Check out my album here or click below:

Highlights of Northern & Central Vietnam

There were definitely days, particularly in the beginning, where we weren’t quite sure we were enjoying ourselves, but we quickly got into the swing of things. Transport was easy and reliable, the locals were quite friendly (we found the people in Central Vietnam to be nicer than up North, for whatever reason), the food was awesome and cheap, there were tons of interesting things to see and do, and we never felt unsafe. Everything went very smoothly, in part because I had planned all of our transport, accommodation and our two short tours in advance. I usually don’t plan everything, but I figured it would be easiest given how much we wanted to cram into our two weeks.

If you’re thinking of going to Vietnam, it’s a fascinating country, and I’d recommend many of the places we visited as well as the restaurants and hotels mentioned in my photo album. Just be aware that Vietnam is VERY touristy – at least if you stick to the traditional tourist routes, which we decided to do because of time constraints. This of course comes as no surprise! I spoke with several friends who had been there and did a fair amount of reading while planning my trip, so I expected, for instance, that locals would try to sell us things incessantly, even in very random places, and that we would often be overcharged for things. It was annoying and at times dampened the beauty of some of the places we were trying to enjoy, but at least they left us alone after we said no a few times, unlike in Marrakesh. We also discovered plenty of great, local spots throughout the trip which felt more “authentic” – you just have to seek them out, like anywhere else I suppose!

It was a very busy and exhausting holiday, but as you can see we had a wonderful time and I’m really glad we went.  So now I can finally say that I have been to Southeast Asia…