chuc mung nam moi

sarah in hanoiVietnamese New Year, or Tet, is a bright display of blossoms, fruit offerings and red envelopes carrying lucky money. As the chant of “Chuc mung nam moi” rings out around Vietnam this week, wishing friends and family happy New Year, we join Intrepid’s Sarah Moore on her recent Reunification Express adventure…

“Last night I met the eleven travellers I would spend the next 14 days with. A mixture of Kiwis, Aussies and Brits, we are (amongst other professions) a doctor, hairdresser, lawyer, two school teachers, a semi-retired courier driver and a diesel mechanic, ranging in age from eighteen to fifty-six years.

So I’m in Hanoi – a city many friends in New Zealand told me was their favourite in Vietnam. They failed to mention the overwhelming heat. For the first time in my life I felt the sensation of sweat trickling down my back. They also failed to mention how absolutely chaotic the streets of Hanoi are. One of my fellow travellers called it organised chaos – I’m not sure it’s that organised at all. Taxis, cyclos, buses, and so many motorbikes clutter the roads swerving in and out of each other and expertly avoiding pedestrians and unpredictable tourists learning how to cross the roads.

It is against your better judgement not to run, but be warned – running across roads leaves drivers unsure of what you’re doing and you’re likely to cause confusion and frustration. Just do what the guidebooks and any traveller who has been there for more than 24 hours will recommend you do – walk slowly and do not stop!”

We started our day at KOTO restaurant – a Hanoi institution that gathers street children and provides them with rigorous hospitality training for two years – producing some of the most highly sought-after employees. KOTO’s staff all have an amazing grasp on English and are courteous and charming. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was closed for maintenance so instead we gathered in the unbelievable early morning heat while our lovely guide Huong (Rose) gave us the history of the much-loved leader Uncle Ho. After a visit to his house on stilts and a wander through the grounds of the One Pillar Pagoda, the afternoon was ours to explore the city further. A group of us headed off to find the famed ‘snake village’, but first we found a beer and some air conditioning to regulate.

We met our group again early evening, all of us jumping aboard a cyclo for a relaxing ride through the Old Quarter (so good to feel a cool breeze on my skin and a truly lovely way to explore the city). We were off to the Water Puppets – a unique theatre experience that entertained a packed hall for an hour. The hidden puppeteers manipulate fire-breathing dragons, quirky puppets, fish, swans and other fauna from behind a colourful set, knee deep in water. Afterwards we sat at a roadside cafe and enjoyed beers with the locals at a bia hoi outlet, sitting around a table embellished with a large photo of an innocent looking Britney Spears. All this and it’s only day-two – as Britney would say, “Bring it on!”

Sarah’s blog will continue in Express over coming weeks, so jump on board Intrepid’s Reunification Express and travel with Sarah from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City!

About the author

intrepidexpress@intrepidtravel.com'
Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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9 comments

On Vietnamese Tet holidays i worked as a localguide for Dara’s group in the Central Highlands. It can be said that I really liked that tour so much. A wonderful tourleader and humorous tourists! You know what,we also spent the first days of the Tet in an ethnic village in the forest*_*. So cool! What a free experience for me and my tourists!:) I hope to have more tours like this in the Central Highlands. Now, travel with Intrepid^^

csedgwick7@bigpond.com'

I went to Vietnam 10 years ago c/o of Intrepid Tours, and it was great (though you have to have your wits about you alot of the time).

dmc3009@yahoo.com.au'

I travelled through Vietnam and Cambodia in October last year. Lovely time of year. Especially loved Hoi An even though it rained the three days we were there. Enjoy the trip!! Little tip-do as many of the “optional” activities as you can as you see the real Vietnam from the back of a motorbike…

intrepidexpress@intrepidtravel.com'

Hi Lesley,
In regards to the best time to travel on The Reunification Express, the weather can be quite different in north and south Vietnam. Generally July, August and September are the wettest months throughout the country, but are still normally OK for travelling. May to September are the warmest months up north. It can get quite cool in Hanoi in December/January – around 20 degrees Celsius, but with layered clothing and something warm for the evenings it’s fine. In southern Vietnam the temperature is a pretty stable mid-30s year-round.
The tourist season is varied, so my personal favourite times for travel are March to May and October-November.
Happy travels in Vietnam!
Sue – Intrepid Express Editor

kenfam@bigpond.net.au'

A group of friends and I are planning to experience the Reunification Express trip within the next twelve months. Could we please get feedback on when is the best time to go, taking into account the weather and the potentially busiest time for other tourists? Can Hanoi actually be cold in January?? Looking forward to reading more of Sarah’s experiences.

tonyholloway@xtra.co.nz'

My partner, Rae, and I just finished Intrepid’s Spirit of Vietnam Southbound as part of a longer trip from Hanoi to Cambodia and Bangkok. We had a fantastic time in Vietnam with a great group of people. Loved the water puppets and everything about Hanoi, including the traffic. An amazing journey.

killen@yahoo.com.au'

I am planning my trip to Vietnam mid this year – looking forward very much to the experience and enjoying this ongoing blog. Have a great trip.

I totally loved this trip a few years back..the memories and photos are ever present. I loved Hanoi so much I now live here!!!

lynette_edwards_9@hotmail.com'

An amazing trip which I experienced last year. More excitement is yet to come and I have lots of great memories and photos.

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