It was really special to experience this part of the world with my mom and aunt. Not only was it a great change of pace to have two more travelers join us on the journey, but it was fun to see Southeast Asia through fresh eyes after being here for over two months.
The two of them were also able to share their generation’s perspective of Vietnam, especially when it came to touring the Demilitarized Zone and other war sites. My Uncle (their brother-in-law) had been stationed right in that area some 40 years ago - quite a sobering experience to think about the sacrifices made right where we stood.
That was not the only time the country took our breath away… Crossing over the river in Hoi An at dusk was a spectacular site of endless, multi-colored street lanterns as well as votives floating by the boats in the water. Cruising (in luxury I might add, thanks again to the ladies!) past Ha Long Bay’s thousands of karsts jutting from the emerald water felt other-worldly. And playing “frogger” crossing the streets of Hanoi, literally dodging vehicles from every which way, got our hearts pumping. And thanks to Mom and Pam elevating our daily budget a bit, we ate quite well, having some of the best food we’ve tasted in Asia - fresh, subtle, sweet, spicy, crunchy… and only sometimes a gelatinous shrimp or two (Mik is very brave).
Wandering through the city street markets, large and small, we couldn’t help but stare in awe: scooters and bikes zipped by us, fish flopped out of their buckets right in front of our feet, and we haggled with some quite persistent saleswomen. We also got fancy and had some clothes custom made - we had to! From our first day, Vietnam grabbed our undivided attention and it was hard not to fall in love with it’s kind, welcoming people, colorful cities, bright green countryside, and endless coast.