Shaped like an elongated ‘S’, Vietnam stretches along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula full of natural beauty, ethnic culture, and imperial history. Our Flightie Drew Banks shares his experience leaving his comfort zone to explore Vietnam with Contiki Holidays:
Yes its true, Vietnam is far. When I think of flying the 8 hours to Europe from Toronto the flight just seems like an overnight jump. But thinking about Vietnam, (16 hours away) is daunting. In reality, spending an extra 8 hours on a plane to see one of the most interesting and exotic destinations in the world, is a small price to pay!
I can truly sum up my experience in Vietnam in three words that start with “S”: scooters, suits, and spring rolls!
My fear of the distance subsided when I arrived in Vietnam and realized that it wasn’t so bad . Stepping out of the airport into the shuttle to the hotel, one immediate thing struck me: the scooters; they were everywhere. Vietnam is a small, long country about half the size of California, yet there are over 80 million people! And let me tell you, it feels like each one of these 80 million people has a scooter! The horns, engines, and near accidents, worried me at first, but after the first day I came to realize that this is just part of the culture.
On my Contiki trip, our guide Luke explained to us that only 10 years ago Vietnam only had bicycles, and now all those were replaced with scooters. The scooter is more than just a mode of transportation, but it shows also the major growth and development this country has made in the past decade. What was once a backwards, communist country, is now a leading industrializing economy. The rise of the scooter symbolizes Vietnam’s modernization.
Riding a scooter through the busy streets of Saigon is one of my many Vietnam adventures. After touring the bustling south of the country, we moved onto the quiet central coastal town of Hoi An, probably one of the most quaint, picturesque cities I’ve ever visited. If you are someone who enjoys the beautiful smaller villages and the water, than Hoi An in Vietnam is right up your alley. Our afternoon free time allowed me to do what I do best: shop! Vietnam is known for its cheap shopping, especially the custom suits, shirts, and coats. The benefit of having a knowledgeable tour guide with us was that he could point out the best and most reliable clothing shops in Hoi An.
Luke knew exactly where to go, and I felt confident that I wouldn’t end up paying for clothes that would fall apart. Needless to say, I bought a custom suit, coat and 2 pairs of slacks all for $250! I got to design my clothes, pick out all the fabrics and had the items custom made to fit me perfectly.
After three days of shopping and designing my own clothes, our Contiki tour had arranged for our group to have dinner on our last night in Hoi An at a cooking school. Our group came prepared with only our cameras and an appetite. During my stay in Vietnam, I couldn’t stop eating the delicious spring rolls. They were so light and healthy and a perfect dish to eat during the hot days.
The head chef prepared the food and we all sat at our tables and learned a few of the specialty dishes of Vietnam such as pho, mango salad, and my favourite, the spring roll. After, we had our chance to prepare and cook our own food and then, we ate! As if the fresh, flavorful food wasn’t enough, the cooking school sent us each home with a recipe book of everything we made!
With a full stomach and a heavy heart, I left Vietnam feeling so lucky to have the opportunity to have travelled to such a unique country. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip. From adjusting to the scooters, to designing my own suit, to cooking my own spring roll, I truly left my comfort zone and experienced a new culture that blew me away.
Looking for more information on travelling to Vietnam or booking a Contiki tour? Drew Banks is a Manager at our Yorkville location in Toronto, Ontario and can be reached by E-mail or calling 1-877-815-4906.
Vietnam is highlighted on the Flight Centre map.