I thought I’d kick my blog off by writing retrospectively about two of my favourite layovers to date: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I flew to both cities during my very first month of flying (July, 2018) – fresh, jet-lag free and eager to explore. They spring to my mind and often feature in my conversations with those who ask me ‘do you have any favourite places so far?’ And so, they fit very nicely into my first blog post detailing all things Vietnam.
The first of my two layovers was spent in Hanoi, Vietnam’s vibrant capital, where you can find just about anything and everything at the well-known night markets. This is how I spent my evening in the city. Thankfully, some of the crew I had flown with were also keen to explore so we shared a taxi to the city and headed straight for the stalls. As a newbie in Asia, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, having no expectations is probably the best advice I can give anybody who’s new to travel or new to a career in flying. Making your own mind up and absorbing all that a new place has to offer, free from pre-made judgements, is the best way to enjoy it.
Hanoi’s centre is filled with people – a constant hustle and bustle, wonderfully chaotic and charismatic and a joy to be in the thick of. At one point, in the middle of the square, locals, of all ages, gathered in the middle and danced an impressively seamless, improvised routine to what I can only assume was a Vietnamese pop playlist. I wish I had a picture of this but if you are intrigued to see just what I’m talking about, feel free to check out the ‘Hanoi’ highlight over on my Instagram!
The main choice and mode of transport is by far, the scooter, and not even the narrow streets filled with stalls and hundreds of people stop them from travelling at surprising speeds. Thankfully Hanoi’s locals aren’t afraid to use their scooter horns (at all, haha), and so I didn’t have any accidents or injuries to report at the end of my first night in the city.
Fortunately, I had all of the next day to explore what else Hanoi had to offer, and I happily spent it wandering around the city, somewhat tired and slightly sweaty, taking in its beautiful sights. Despite the heat, a lack of mobile data to map my way, and a serious language barrier, I somehow managed to squeeze in a trip to Hoàn Kiếm Lake and Hanoi’s famous ‘Train Street’. Lastly, I enjoyed a well needed pitstop in a cute and authentic little café/restaurant called ‘Nola’. It offered a classic outdoor seating area with an array of colourful umbrellas that made fit for some shelter from the sun.
Around a week or so later I was due to fly back to Vietnam, this time to Ho Chi Minh City, perhaps more commonly known as ‘Saigon’ – a southern city famous for its role in the Vietnamese War. With a little less time to explore, I had to prioritise what I wanted to do most. I had the pleasure of flying with another new joiner, Momoko, who like me, was eager to make the most of our short stay. We decided to visit the Big Buddha at Vĩnh Tràng Temple, and whilst we were there, we couldn’t say no to a boat ride down the Mekong Delta!
My most vivid memory of Vietnam is probably my trip down the Mekong Delta – a river which makes even mud-brown water look good, shadowed either side by an array of glorious greens. Momoko and I, with our iconic rice/bamboo hats on, didn’t hesitate to hop into the small wooden boat (made for no more than about 5 or 6 people) that awaited us at the river’s edge. At the front of our boat you can see the little barefoot Vietnamese lady who was steering the way.
I sadly didn’t manage to bring my Vietnamese rice hat back to Dubai with me (I had no idea how I’d fit it in my suitcase without completely squashing it). Then, of course on my return flight to Dubai, probably about half of the passengers came onboard wearing theirs either on their head, strapped to their bags or tied round their necks. I guess that means I’ll just have to add Vietnam on my list of ‘must go back to’ places.
Until next time Vietnam!