When I originally set out on my journey, I told people that I would keep traveling until the money runs out or the energy runs out. I said it a little jokingly, since I did not think it was possible for my travel energy to run out but guess what… it did. The heat and humidity of SE Asia sucked it right out of me, and my Asia-Pacific adventure had be moving at quite a rapid pace. Changing accommodations every night or two is a grueling pace – and very different from my leisurely jaunt around South America. So I was feeling pretty exhausted (poor me!) and definitely tired of living out of a suitcase – I swear if I ever see that turquoise fleece again I’ll scream.
And yet, I couldn’t leave that side of the world without going to Vietnam, which was probably the Asian country I had most wanted to see. I am not usually an organized tour kinda gal, but I just did not have the emotional and mental fortitude to navigate another SE Asian country where I didn’t speak the language. I had heard good things about Intrepid, especially when it comes to reasonably priced single supplements, and they were having a sale around black Friday. So I scooped up a headache-free Vietnam Express Southbound tour.
The whole thing, including the single supplement, cost $1,263 for a “10” (really, 8 as day 1 is arrival and day 10 is departure) day tour. Could I have done it for cheaper? Assuredly. Would I try to do it for cheaper? I would love to go back to Vietnam and do a self-guided/solo trip someday, but honestly – I found myself really enjoying the group trip. Much to my surprise!
It was nice after coming off three weeks of full solo travel in NZ to travel with others, and I think we lucked out with our group. We all got along well, even though the age range had a wide spread. There were a couple other youngsters I could hang with though. Plus, Intrepid max group size is 16, which is much more manageable than the 40-50 people on Gate1 (my parent’s usual choice of tour operator). And our tour guide, Huyen, was phenomenal!
She guided us expertly and effortlessly as we whipped around on motorbikes in Hue, visited the imperial lantern city of Hoi An, and got to know the bustling metropolises of Hanoi and Saigon. I went to train street, took a cooking class, learned about the Vietnam War, and ate everything I could get my hands on.
Much like my feelings in Korea, I was surprised at how far Vietnam has come given that up until very recently it was suffering through some extremely tough times. So it seemed like fitting bookends that I started this part of my trip in Korea and ended in Vietnam. Life has a funny way of working out beautifully like that.
To sum up: Vietnam definitely makes the list of countries I would love to go back to (although, there are admittedly few that don’t make that list). And now I’m dying to try out some of my recipes from my Peruvian, Thai, and Vietnamese cooking classes…