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  • Vietnam. It's a country, not a war. And what a country it is.

  • (Epic music!)

  • Earlier last year, we spent 10 unforgettable days in this beautiful part of the world. 10 days of mouth watering

  • cuisine, epic countryside, a town full of lanterns, historic tombs of past Emperor's,

  • beaches, custom fitted dresses and beaches. In this video, we'll be taking you through

  • our time here, along with places we would recommend, trips that are worth checking out,

  • and how to make sure you return in one piece.

  • If you're new here, then welcome. We make travel movies from around the world, hoping

  • you might just find your next holiday inspiration. This is Suitcase Monkey spending 10 full days

  • in Vietnam.

  • (Gentle Music)

  • We arrived early morning into Hanoi. Its location provides the perfect

  • starting point to travel the country north to south.

  • Hanoi is Vietnams capital and second largest city, where we would be spending our first

  • 2 days. Still suffering jet lag, we stuffed our mouths with Pho, then started to explore

  • its buzzing streets.

  • (Upbeat, positive music)

  • Right in the middle of the city, is this Notre Dam inspired church. St Joseph's Cathedral

  • was one of the first structures built by the French and is a reminder of the hostile takeover

  • in the 1850s. This would be the first of many time capsules we'd see on our trip. We actually

  • returned to this spot for our second evening, which allowed us to sample some of Hanoi's

  • famous coffee culture scene.

  • Hanoi certainly lends itself to a walking city, that is, if you can avoid being run

  • over by a million motorbikes or in one instance, a train. This Instagram wonder sees homes,

  • bars and cafes packed along either side of a single train track. Even though this street

  • has become a little cliche to visit, it's a really unique experience and the friendly

  • service from our mother and daughter hosts was both attentive and fun. The trains only

  • run a handful of times each day so consult a timetable if you want to see a train pass

  • through here first hand.

  • (Train Honks!)

  • (Dark Piano music with beat)

  • As night settled into the city, we mostly stayed around the Old Quarter and enjoyed

  • our first of many Vietnamese massages on this trip. But it was this street that we returned

  • to on both nights, not just for its vibrancy, but the sheer quantity of great smelling street

  • food restaurants. On our first night we rediscovered the magic of sitting in a chair made for 6

  • six year olds and our second night, 5 doors down, we loved this mini BBQ right on our

  • table.

  • By this point, we'd relaxed well Vietnams city life - beer, coffee, massages and feasts.

  • So we thought it was now about time to also relax into its nature.

  • (Gentle Piano music)

  • 100 miles east of Hanoi, is Ha Long Bay. Spread over 600 square miles, this massive area forms

  • a fabulous seascape of limestone pillars pushing out of the waters. Mostly uninhabited, these

  • 1,600 islands and islets, as they're known, can be traced back 500 million years and are

  • themselves the main attraction. So of course what follows is the very human thing to do

  • and name these rocks after their obvious appearance. So be on the look out for the Fighting Cocks,

  • the Frog and of course...

  • ...the chopstick.

  • The most popular way to enjoy Ha Long Bay is to spend a night here on one of its many

  • boats. For the most part, they all offer a similar experience but the crew we had were

  • really welcoming. For the next 24 hours we were looked after incredibly well, with all

  • food included. The boat itself was rather grand in scale whilst still feeling intimate

  • but it was the view from our room that was the most peaceful.

  • (Loud Intercom playing - "Would you please gather at the reception..."

  • Well, peaceful until it was time to disembark.

  • (Gentle Piano music plays)

  • After sanitising our hands with acid water, we boarded ship for a spring roll cooking

  • class, which actually went surprisingly well. Then the real chefs followed up by offered

  • this excellent serving. The next morning, the early wake up meant only one thing: A

  • group Thai Chi class to limber us all up, as our boat moved towards its final destination.

  • Although Ha Long Bay is most uninhabited, 4 fishing villages make up the majority of

  • its total population. For generations, around 1600 people called this part of Vietnam, home

  • with signs of humans doing so dating back 18,000 years.

  • (Gentle Guitar plays)

  • Living off the land and water,

  • the inhabitants built schools, shops, homes, and apparently even its own police force,

  • creating a beautiful self contained society. In recent years, due to a government directive,

  • most inhabitants of these villages have moved to the mainland, citing better education for

  • the young and environmental protection for this UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Still, the fishing villages here are very real, with tourism now being their main source

  • of income. But travelling through this floating community is a breathtaking experience.

  • (Guitar picking music continues)

  • Once on land, we drove back to Hanoi Airport where we took a brief 1 hour domestic flight

  • to Hoi An. Now, in a move that's very unlike me, I'd done next to no research for this

  • part of the trip so upon checking in, had no idea what was waiting for us just around

  • the corner. After a spot of unpacking, we wondered into central Hoi An and were blown

  • away with what we saw. Over the next 3 nights, this would become my favourite place in all

  • our time here and somewhere you should definitely be adding to your list.

  • (Music builds with drums and positive intensity)

  • Once an important trading route for Chinese and Japanese merchants, Hoi An is fed by the

  • Thu Bon River. Despite its Old Town bursting with restaurants, markets and street food,

  • it still feels surprisingly laid back, thanks in part to its partial ban on motorbikes.

  • But despite its growing popularity, it still maintains some of its authenticity and traditions.

  • Influenced by those 16th Century Japanese traders, coloured lanterns would be placed

  • outside homes, in exchange for good luck. This has now become the calling card for Hoi

  • An, where glowing lanterns and flickering candles are placed on the river, with a wish

  • of happiness, luck and love.

  • (Final build of music until calms)

  • Situated along such a busy trading route, it's no surprise that Hoi An built an industry

  • around silks, suits and Ssss Dresses. A staggering 400 tailors fit into this tiny town, each

  • offering a personalised outfit, unique to your design choices and style. And that's

  • why we found ourselves on Chong Hung Dao, THE street for a one of a kind outfit. The

  • process was pretty simple: First, choose styles you like from literally thousands of photos.

  • Maybe you like the waist of this, the length of that, the neckline of the other. Stick

  • all of that together and you have your complete design. Now as I'm sure you can imagine,

  • this was all incredibly exciting for your narrator. Second, chose your cloth. This is

  • where we were levelled up and whisked away to the fabrics room where there is obviously

  • lots of talk about. And it was at this point that I questioned all decisions that had led

  • me to this moment. Fabrics, fabrics, fabrics, fabrics. Although brief, I did for a second

  • question that maybe, just maybe I myself wasn't bringing my full sexy A game. Ha, but that

  • was of course, just a fleeting moment.

  • It was as quick as the next morning where Chiaki returned for a final fitting and we

  • picked it up, all finished, a day later.

  • Probably the most iconic landmark in Hoi An is the Japanese Bridge. Indeed, if you ever

  • look at the back of a 20,000 Dong note, you'll see it for yourself. Built in the 15th Century,

  • it was constructed by those same Japanese merchants who settled here, seeking quick

  • access to the Chinese communities across the water. The bridge represents Namazu, a giant

  • underground catfish which was said to cause earthquakes and was therefore tied down at

  • both ends. Unable to move, Namazu could no longer cause the ground beneath it to shake.

  • (Upbeat music)

  • After some more aimless meandering, we wandered into this cafe and it was time to taste another

  • Vietnamese staple. The Egg Coffee orPhê Trung is a bitter coffee, blended with the

  • sweetness of egg yolk, condensed milk and sugar. This necessity came about with milk

  • being in short supply during French colonisation. You can still actually visit the place where

  • the original egg coffee was invented in Hanoi.

  • Let's just say we filmed this a few times and this was the most positive reaction I

  • had. It's a really bitter coffee, albeit with a dense creamy layer on top. But, I'm

  • just a low life single shot Latte guy, so what do I know?

  • (Upbeat music continues)

  • (Music drains away, stops suddenly)

  • (Upbeat music continues)

  • Another walk, and more signature dishes, this time with great success. The Cao Lau is Hoi

  • An's definitive dish, and is only available here since it's cooked with water from local

  • wells. With barbecued pork slices sitting in fat udon type noodles, greens, and a pork

  • based gravy, this really hit the spot. We also tried a dish known as White Rose, named

  • to reflect the appearance of its pork wrapped up in light flattened dumplings. Both essential

  • dishes to taste.

  • For dinner, I have to highlight this restaurant here, since it was my absolute favourite in

  • all of Vietnam. These pork steamed buns were incredible with a delightful lingering aftertaste.

  • I also ordered the Bahn Mi which translates primarily to baked goods, so often referring

  • to a sandwich or baguette. The plate did have bread but it was more of a side dish to this

  • succulent juicy chicken, dripping in sauce. If you're ever in Hoi An, I would 100% recommend

  • you check this place out, especially when this epic 3 course meal coming out to a total of £15.

  • (Sounds of cars)

  • Our last day in Hoi An was a relaxed one. Renting bikes from our hotel, we took a 30

  • minute cycle to the local beach and lounged around with some cocktails.

  • Later that evening, we thought we'd end our time in Hoi An, returning to the place

  • where we first fell for it. Albeit this time, we travelled the same path as they would have

  • done 500 years ago.

  • (Sentimental piano music)

  • 3 hours north of Hoi An, lies the important city of Hue, Vietnams old imperial capital.

  • Since the 1800s, it's had an illustrious history, primarily for being the home to the

  • last of its Emperors. Situated close to the border that divided north and south Vietnam,

  • Hue saw much combat during the Vietnam War or American War as it's called here. Indeed,

  • the Battle of Hue, in 1968 became one of the longest and bloodiest of its time. Now the

  • city is a lively one with a busy nightlife, restaurants and cafes, all sitting very comfortable

  • amongst its historical roots which have not been forgotten.

  • Those roots are on no better display, than the Imperial City. This whole citadel, complete

  • with its vast landscape, palace grounds, and gateways took 27 years to complete, and is

  • one of the largest architectural complexes in all of Vietnam. On approach, the walls

  • of this massive fortress are striking. The insides tell stories of those who both lived

  • and died here, with only 10 major buildings remaining, out of the original 160.

  • Hue is surrounded by 7 royal tombs, all elaborate resting places for the Nguyen Dynasty, ruling

  • from 1802 to 1945. There are countless tours that visit these tombs, with 2 of the most

  • popular being Ming Manh and Khai Dinh .

  • Minh Mang was the second monarch of the Nguyen Dynesty and was generally a well liked Emperor

  • due to his policies expanding and stabilising Vietnam. Covering 15 hectares, it's easy

  • to spend an hour here as the tomb and grounds still stand in great condition.

  • A short drive away is the tomb of Khai Dinh. This is a much smaller tomb, possibly reflecting

  • that he was largely an unpopular Emperor at the time. Reigning during French rule, he

  • was generally perceived as a puppet, with little actual power. Kie Dinh was the countries

  • second to last Emperor ever, with his successor ultimately abdicating, thus ending the Vietnamese

  • monarchy in 1945.

  • Unlike Hoi An, Hue felt much more lived in by its locals. When we weren't peeking into

  • its history we were seeking out its hospitality. We rediscovered a Vietnamese coffee that didn't

  • involve a chicken, and stuffed our mouths with some great food here. The hotel we were

  • staying in actually had its own spa which as you can see here, we enjoyed thoroughly.

  • These 2 days flew by and we were already packing for our final domestic flight which would

  • take us to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnams most populated and forward looking city.

  • (Slow hopeful piano music)

  • Especially after the relatively laid back Hoi An and Hue, Ho Chi Minh City was a bit

  • of a shock to the system. As we had been sinking south, the temperature had been climbing.

  • Now hovering at 30 degrees, this was double what we had in Hanoi. Previously known as

  • Saigon, the city was officially renamed after the Vietnamese revolutionary and politician,

  • Ho Chi Minh.

  • One thing we finally did get to witness here in all its glory, is what it really means

  • to cross a road, with over 7 million motorbikes in this city alone. SoInspired by the

  • locals we semi confidently, put our lives into the hands, of the oncoming traffic.

  • (Fast drum music plays)

  • Not deterred, many a road here would be crossed and conquered as we strolled around the city.

  • (Upbeat electronic music)

  • After getting some high quality drone shots, dusk began to settle on the city, with the

  • neon signs energising the streets. It was here where the uniqueness of Ho Chi Minh really

  • became apparent. Walking into the main promenade that leads up to City Hall was one of THE

  • moments in this trip, and where the City truly comes alive.

  • (Electronic music builds)

  • Before arriving in Vietnam, I'd asked our followers if you had any dining suggestions

  • for the trip. In response, we'd been informed of the lovely sounding Secret Garden Restaurant.

  • We liked what we saw on Google Maps and thought we'd give it a go. Upon arrival to this

  • rather inauspicious entrance, this was either a genuinely secret restaurant or we were about to die!

  • (Scary, intense, dramatic music playing)

  • To everyones surprise there WAS actually a secret garden on the rooftop and we were sat

  • down, near the coffee machine. We were soon served up yet another lovely feast, and again,

  • with a bunch of courses falling under £15.

  • Just hours before our flight, on our very last morning, we visited the War Remnants

  • Museum. This is an incredibly powerful and palpable experience, telling stories of war

  • from those who experienced it in Vietnam. This museum is not for the faint of heart

  • and most of the horrific photos of death would not be appropriate on this video, but I can

  • tell you they have left a lasting impression. It presents the very human side of war and

  • its prolonged effects. For example, one room chronicles the use of napalm within Vietnam,

  • and then in the next, you meet real life humans in the flesh who are still affected by it.

  • This is an unfiltered reminder of the atrocities of war and something that shouldn't be forgotten.

  • I opened this video sharing a T shirt slogan I'd seen in Hoi An. To be honest, it was

  • only when we later got to Hue and now this museum that I actually started to think about

  • this side of things. I can only speak from the limited perspective of a tourist, but

  • I realised that during our 10 days, I'd felt safer here than any other country we'd

  • visited. There was a feeling of peace.

  • Vietnam in general certainly seems like a country that hasn't forgotten its past,

  • but is clearly one that has already moved forward and will continue to do so, especially

  • for what it offers to travellers. I first visited Vietnam in 2009 and even since then,

  • I noticed a massive difference in infrastructure and preparation for the future. It just might

  • take me a little while to get used to an egg in my coffee.

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  • Until the next video, thanks for watching Suitcase Monkey.

Vietnam. It's a country, not a war. And what a country it is.

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NEW! 10 Days in VIETNAM: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, Hue | Full Travel Vlog & Guide

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    許景發 posted on 2021/06/19
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