The next stop on our trip was Hue. Hue was the old imperial city and the ruins of the city are still there. Hue is built on the banks of the Perfume River, so it is worth taking a boat downstream to watch life go by as well as visit the Thien Mu Pagoda. If you can, stay in the old part of town right behind the walls of the imperial city. Rent a bike and cycle around exploring pagodas and the markets.
One of the highlights of my trip was renting a motorbike and driver and touring the countryside for the day. We journeyed through villages, rice paddies, war remnants and had the most incredible lunch at a monastery. Then we visited another monastery while the monks were chanting, saw joss sticks getting made along the side of the road and drove by canals with canoes made from pieces of American war planes. It was just a fantastic day and I think, the highlight for everyone.
From Hue we took the Reunification Express overnight, north to Hanoi. It was a great 12 hour trip. The train was spotless and the service was terrific. You may wish to pack your own cheese and French bread though!
After arriving in Hanoi we took a bus directly to Ha Long Bay. This takes about 3 hours and we then spent the afternoon cruising the bay and marveling at the limestone peaks that rise from the waters. There are hundreds of them. It was a very misty afternoon, not really warm enough for swimming, although some brave souls took the plunge! We explored some great caves and then had a sumptuous seafood feast onboard!
Back to Hanoi the next day along ‘dog alley’, so named for the many restaurants along the route serving dog! Hanoi is lovely. You can easily while away several days here wandering through the old quarter, strolling tree lined boulevards and admiring the beautiful lakes and faded colonial architecture. A definite must see is the water puppets. The troupe does several shows a day and the variety of puppets and stories they tell is incredible!
This rounded up the trip aptly named ‘The Spirit of Vietnam’. I toured with a small group and the trip went off without a hitch. Whether you decide to go with a small group or tour Vietnam on your own, its a wonderful destination that offers a very special travel experience.