Vietnam was an incredible place to visit with the kids. It allowed us to immerse in a rich culture of tradition, food and a sense of family on every street corner. A little bit of walking and you blend in to the vast array of side walk vendors and food served on a sidewalk. The kids are somewhat familiar with the staple serving of fried rice and protein like chicken and beef. A little gamey to the palette was a delicious broiled duck meat seared in an aromatic sauce of dark and playful sweet paste with a hint of some greens and wonderful serving for two. You cannot miss a small business without the famous pho served in a medium boil and an authentic home made noodle with a choice meat. Find an open stool in the sidewalk and you fit right in. Welcome to home away from home. It’s that simple.
Vietnam on the first layer of street hunting is a blend of food coma that invites you to a nice cup of coffee. I learned very early that a traditional coffee was prepared with a whisked egg and condensed milk. Legend has it that during the war when milk was in shortage they substituted it with heated and beaten egg, it also made for a nice foam and creamy texture. It was very sweet, delicious and comforting.
The first step to visiting Vietnam coming from the states is to secure a tourist visa. Follow the steps here. At the airport on arrival they process the application with all required documents and 2 x 2 passport ID. The wait was a very short 15-20min. The time it takes to soak in the atmosphere and the people. We chose to use the pre downloaded grab app (comparable to uber here in the states) to book a taxi ahead of time and there are plenty of them in Vietnam. The fair is decent and the cars are clean. The kids used a portable car seat the minifold grab and go that can be stowed away in a back pack after the taxi ride. We have been using this for all of our international and domestic travels.
We stayed at one of the hotels in the heart of the Old Quarter Hanoi. The taxi had to maneuver us around a sea of people from every direction and fully seated restaurant on every corner of the street. The smell of grilled food and ghostly smoke penetrated the cab even before we got out. This was 9 pm on a busy weekend. But the children were fast asleep idle on my shoulders disfigured facial expression in deep sleep after a two hour flight from Bangkok Thailand. As we made our way up the hotel room we were greeted with a bowing gesture from a lady and the street noise slowly faded away in a near distant muffled base mono tone. The street that never sleeps during the late hours cradled us to bed. The hotel’s generous bottle of wine presented on the center table did the trick as well.
The next day was a walking tour around Hanoi. This was in late September and it is usually cooler around this time of the year. A student guide Mai took us around with a very fascinating historical background. She was very patient, intelligent and really attentive and good with kids. She also understood frequent rest stops. She took us to the back alleyways and local vendors. My favorite part was the model house which had different quarters in them that served a different purpose in the house. In the middle of this historical house was a garden thoughtfully placed where the living room and the kitchen was separated but visibly inviting guest from both ends. It also separated and served private talks with two parties if need be. Upstairs is a nice open balcony with nice ratan laced around it that made its way around the garden below overseeing the guest in the living room. This tour made a lot of nostalgic remnant of how the Vietnamese are a closely knitted family and inviting at the same time. This reminded me of home.
Bring mosquito repellents that the kids can wear on their wrist. The Asian countries are tropical and has mostly rainy days year round for mosquitos to thrive and breed.
Make sure to look both ways several times before crossinng the streets of Hanoi. Embrace the obstacle course and be brave about your body language. Don’t hesitate because the signs you speak on the street will get you run over by a bicycle. Take every precuation and time when traveling with children or better off just take a nice cyclo tour around the city. They are very friendly and will stop for ice cream breaks!
Don’t miss the wonderful water puppet show at The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre for a visually entertaining display of creative arts that date back 11th century Vietnam. Watch puppet display on water accompanied by stringed instrument transporting you 100 years back to vietnam and its rice fields of aesthetic imagination and dance.
At night time is where the many streets come alive and are closed for the sole purpose of an open fair. Sometimes the sidewalks are transformed into canteens and dining set up ready for hungry costumers.
Mai took us to a local coffee vendor where every gram was carefully weighted on a scale. This special coffee –copi luwak is one I have been looking for. The coffee bean is supposed to be eaten by an Asian palm civet, digested and grounded up and processed naturally., And viola! you have an authentic Vietnamese coffee. I for one am a sole believer that in order for you to enjoy your travel you must immerse yourself in the company of the people, its culture and most especially its food! Vietnam took my family in with a grand gesture and a smile.
I absolutely adored Vietnam. The stories of hard work, determination- passively ignoring life’s little bumps and cycling through the tides to see a glimmer of hope, surfacing through another day. That is instilled in my blood. I wanted my children to see that, and they did. Joel bought a shirt for a child he hadn’t met. He went through the department store sifting through the neatly piled children’s clothes and brought a twinkle on the receiving father’s eye as he held it close- close like he was holding his own son that he has not seen in 26 days pedaling cyclo for a living. I made sure I remembered that moment in time. To this day.
I cannot end this article without talking about the very food that’s captivated and captured me in a very simple but a symphony and harmony in my mouth. The crunchy, airy baguette with thinly sliced meat mixed with pickled- savory ingredients. A fusion of tradition, to go. It surely is a simple and humble meal that historically tie the past with the present in a manner painting a picture of warm, resilient and rich extensions of family., all in one bite. Fresh and warm. Vietnam has captured me with an incredible love that I will come back for. Again and again.
Like the people that’s captured me. I will always look for banh mi wherever I may be.
I leave this last few sentiments with incredible and serene photos I captured from Halong bay. An upgrade was given to us for free and an almost 180 degree view from our room. What a privilege it was to end the trip to this part of Vietnam. What a gratitude to look back on to this beautiful country. Read my review and article on our Ha Long Bay Orchid cruise here. See you on the next blog post as we catch our next leg of our flight to Phuket, Thailand.
Orchid cruise | read my Orchid cruise review
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