Hanoi, Sa Pa, and Hoi An | An Adventure Through Vietnam


Linda and I had the pleasure of making our way through Asia again this past Thanksgiving. We spent about three weeks walking and eating our way through Vietnam and Taiwan (a later post). Vietnam is beautiful all around but our favorite part was definitely trekking in Sa Pa’s beautiful mountains and valley’s. At the recommendation of my friend, we hired a guide named Chi through Sa Pa Sisters, a Hmong group that is female owned and works for equitable treatment for their employees. Our guide navigated us through terraced rice fields and villages and through it all, we were shared with each other about our lives, culture and family. This was all incredibly fascinating because I have some really close Hmong friends so it was quite an experience meeting their group of people on the other side of the globe. One of the sad parts Chi shared with us was the foreigner funded tourism moving in to Sa Pa, forcing her family and people out of their home region. And the landscapes, oh boy, I love seeing mountains anywhere in the world. Sa Pa had some the most beautiful scenery anywhere, just layer of colors, mountains, clouds, fog, all meshing together. I enjoy that first glimpse of some beautiful thing and this was one of them, seeing Sa Pa unravel itself in front of our eyes, the sun peaking through the towering clouds, cutting through to us and shining it’s warmth as we descended (more like slipped) down the muddy side. I LOVE that so much. Overall, I’d highly recommend this experience to anyone traveling to Vietnam because it was one of the best we’ve ever experienced.

Contrasting to other trips, we reserved about a week in Hoi An purely to relax (I got my infinity pool overlooking the rice fields) - we’re normally used to packing our schedule chock full with millions of places to visit but this time we tried to keep it chill, although that didn’t stop us from our endless food quest. After an incredibly busy year and having just moved into our new home just before the trip, Hoi An was exactly what we needed to chill out a bit. The other awesome part of Vietnam is the favorable exchange rate - everything is super duper cheap. Food, hotels, clothes, all of it. We would spend maybe $5 combined for a meal, boutique hotels were only $300 for a week and I got two tailored suits, two tailored shirts, custom shoes and a belt for about $600. Foodwise we had a spectacular time. Even with the options available to us in East San Jose, it was just no match to all the things we tried in Vietnam proper. Pho is literally just the beginning of it and the breakfast buffet spreads at our hotel just blew anything we’ve ever had out of the water.

We also had a fairly unique experience taking the overnight train back to Hanoi. Although we didn’t get to spend as much time in Hanoi, the time we had there was still remarkable. Coffee shops, or rather the back of the room of someone’s home, are like no other place I’ve been and just the fun experience of navigating through the streets where road rules are mot ore a guidance than anything else.

Overall, we enjoyed our trip to Vietnam. My fiancee felt a bit more stressed because we had to walk on the roads so often but the food more than made up for it. If we were to visit Vietnam again, the next locations to hit up would be Hanoi, specifically Ha Long Bay, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City… and perhaps another multi day trek in Sa Pa through the heavenly mountains.