Scott and I were eager to head to South East Asia for a more distinct change in culture, climate, and general atmosphere in travel. Hanoi was our first stop. We stayed in the Old Quarter in a sweet homestay owned by Luan and his family. While the busy city and unbelievable amount of scooters was only a block away, our street was relatively “quiet”and provided a great vibe of tiny cafes and travel agents.
Our time in Hanoi was spent wandering the streets, tasting the food and relaxing into a more relaxed vibe. The kids began their new career of daily mango smoothies and amazing Vietnamese food, while Scott and I contemplated the benefits of the 75 cent beer on a hot day. Scott tried Egg Coffee which is a must do in Vietnam. This is essentially whipped egg white foam, a yolk, condensed milk, and coffee to create a sweet, rich delicious latte treat. Pho was definitely on the menu and we finally enjoyed a great cup of coffee, tea light included. This was welcomed after 4 months of expensive European adventures.
Old Quarter Homestay
We had a wonderful welcoming experience from Luan and his family. You are truly treated as family here, invited to share in diners and provided with outstanding help in navigating travel plans.
Ha Long Bay
Once rested in Hanoi we took an overnight journey to Ha Long Bay (Descending Dragon) where the over 1969 Islands create something magical. As this was a short 48 hour side step it was the perfect way to pass the time while we awaited on Uncle Colin’s arrival to join us for this leg of the journey. The overnight cruise was a bit fancy for our backpacker style, although we we gladly enjoyed the luxury of having everything planed out for us from arrival to departure , including Kayaking, cave visiting, evening party and cooking class. It was unforgettable.
ETHOS - Spirit of the Community
With Uncle Colin once again part of the team, we headed on the night train to Sapa for a three day trek. ETHOS is an outstanding trekking company run by Phil and Huan. This organisation runs on a social enterprise principles giving back to Sapa and all ethnic minorities through engaging in various community projects. They continue this work while also providing outstanding trekking tours for all ages and levels of fitness. We were fortunate to spend 3 days with So and Chi our Hmong guides who demonstrated excellent knowledge of the area and outstanding hospitality as we were invited to stay and eat with their families. Their fantastic sense of humour made for great laughs and a truly memorable experience. This has been the highlight of my kids trip thus far.
Following the trek we spent an additional five days in Sapa, and while covered in mist for the majorityof our stay, we did manage to catch a quick glimpse at this beautiful mountain community.
Endangered Primate Rescue Center
Following our northern adventures we travelled to the Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh Province to start our long awaited week of volunteering at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center. This not for profit organisation is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, breeding, and conservation of Vietnams critically endangered primate species specifically the Gibbons, Langurs, and Lorises.
We spent the week learning about the care needed to support these animal while the kids participated in making enrichment toys for the animals each day. We joined in the 6:00 am cage cleaning, meal preparation and anything we could participate in. Elka and the team of people that work here provided such a great example to us all about dedication and caring. A little hard work was welcomed bu the kids. Thank you Elka and family.
In addition the kids got to live with and meet other volunteers, students, and researchers from all over the globe as we met each day for our 5km walk to the restaurant for meals. Unforgettable all around.
On a side note – I must mention that on our spare time we hiked and cycled around this beautiful park. With Colin’s encouragement at the beauty of the hill top view point, I walked the “path” that he promised would be snake free. Had I been more savy I would have heeded the previous warnings of our volunteer coordinator regarding dangerous paths and king cobras and the like. However away we went. On the way down we encountered a speedy large bright yellow metre plus long and fat snake that crossed everyones path and I was in true form quite dramatic of the whole even, but alive.
Christmas at the Resort
So now a bit fancy again. We spent a few days over Christmas at the Tropicana Resort near Hoi Ann. This oranate ancient coastal town in mid Vietnam provided a nice change of perspective in our travels. We opted to stay just ourside of the main town at hte beach where hte kids could engage in wave jumping and swimming laps. Days were spent riding bikes around the town, wlalks along the canal and a day trip to Ba Na Hills to check out the The Golden Bridge.