The definition of exotic: ‘intriguingly unusual or different, excitingly strange.’
Infinity Consultant, Rose Seggie can definitely describe Vietnam as exotic, though perhaps make that “charmingly different and unusual”.
“Having been to Bali and Thailand, I suppose I had expectations that Vietnam would be similar but I could not have been more wrong. The food was amazing and the people were fabulous and so beautifully warm and hospitable to us,” said Rose.
In November this year, Rose flew into Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s tourism centre.
“There is a lot to see in Ho Chi Minh City like the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, all sorts of museums, theatres, and cultural houses.
“It is nice to know after more than 300 years of development, Ho Chi Minh City still has plenty of ancient architectural buildings to see and visit. There is a great mix of Eastern and Western influences.
“I got to see the Cu Chi Tunnels which are a network of cramped tunnels that became famous during the Vietnam War; they were not only living quarters, but were essential supply routes and hospitals for thousands of guerilla fighters.
“We were only in Ho Chi Minh for a short time but a real highlight for me was the walking Street eat food tour we did.
“You get away from the tourist areas and get right into the heart of the city where the locals go to eat and you also get to see all these pop up restaurants that come out at night but disappear during the day. It was like a progressive dinner over about three kilometres – and we got to see interesting back streets of the city along the way.
“Our next stop was Danang where we went stayed at Bac My An Beach. This area is known for its stunning white sands and upmarket resorts. These high-end resorts are all in one particular area and are just the ticket if you are in desperate need of some serious pampering with a range of spas and dining options on offer.”
Close by and considered to be Vietnam’s most picturesque beach, is the white sandy 20-mile stretch of China Beach. This was named by the American troops who visited the beach during the Vietnam War for some battle relief.
“I know here in Australia we are spoilt for choice for beautiful beaches, but seriously China Beach is right up there. And despite being so well known, there were relatively few people there.
“A short trip from Danang by road is the city of Hoi An. It was in Hoi An where I got to experience what I thought was the highlight of the trip, the Hoi An Boat and Bike Tour. This cycle/cruise combo was just the best way to see Hoi An.
“I think cycling through emerald green rice paddies and villages, high-fiving the local children and stopping to talk to the villagers will be a memory that will stay with me forever.
“After that beautiful bike ride, we then boarded a boat for a sunset island-style barbecue with the most divine food.”
On the subject of food, tourism in Vietnam is embracing cooking schools and classes.
“I was fortunate to do a half day cooking class at the Red Bridge Cooking School.
“It takes half a day because you start your class with a visit to the market with a local chef who will explain all the different herbs and vegetables. Once your purchases have been made, you board a boat and head to the cooking school for a hands-on lesson.
“I was there rolling rice paper into spring rolls, making a clay pot, and slicing and dicing fresh vegetables to create all of the garnishes to decorate the food. I had the whole cooking thing really going on.
“Of course at the end, the best bit was getting to eat the results of all your hard work!
“It is hard to sum up my short stay in Vietnam into one word – I loved the architecture and the sense of history I got when I was walking through the cobbled stoned streets of places like Hoi An. The cities themselves, even Ho Chi Minh are not so busy that as a visitor you feel isolated – on the contrary you get to feel very involved in the life of the place, to truly experience the destination that is Vietnam.
“And of course the people, they were so hospitable and kind, and just wanted us to have the best time in a country that they are so rightly proud of.”