As I have already briefly mentioned in the past, I took a substantial trip recently, as I was on the road for 3 weeks. I went to Vietnam during December and January, escaping the winter for a little bit. On the way there, I also made a brief stop in Qatar, meeting with some relatives. And I must say, it was fun.
This all began on 14th December, which was a Friday. I still had to work that day: I even had some important meetings, a lunch meeting with an acquaintance I haven't met in a while, and a company Christmas party. I was able to fit all of that (I only showed myself for an hour during the Christmas party), before I had to go home to quickly take a shower, change, and head to the airport. I had an overnight flight from Berlin to Doha.
The morning after, it was a bright and warm day, winter is all forgotten now, and I produced an electronic copy of my transit visa, entering Qatar. I had about 40-something hours in the country: my next flight was departing the evening the next day. I had booked one night in a centrally-located hotel, who offered an airport shuttle, so after picking up my checked luggage, I headed to the Arrivals section and found my vehicle. It was early still, so I had to wait some minutes at the lobby before my room could be ready, but nevertheless, the staff were nice and allowed me to check in earlier than usual. After dropping off my luggage, I opted to do some sight-seeing during the afternoon. And during the evening, I was able to meet my uncle, as well as my cousin's husband. They kept me company that evening.
On Sunday, 16th December, I used the morning to do some more sight-seeing. After lunch, I headed back to the hotel, who offered me a late checkout. That was quite convenient since my flight leaving Qatar didn't leave until 20:00. I headed to the airport during the afternoon, got my passport stamped out, and boarded a flight to Hanoi.
Monday, 17th December was my first day in Vietnam. I arrived in the morning, and after getting some money at the airport and picking up my bag, I took a bus to the city centre. 45 minutes later, I found my hotel. And an hour later, my husband showed up: he was already in Vietnam a week earlier than me, where he spent some time in the south. As I was flying into the country, he was flying from the Mekong Delta. We stayed in Hanoi for two nights, exploring the Old Town, the French Quarter, and other places. Oh I loved the coffee here!
After two nights in Hanoi, we boarded a bus going to Cat Ba Island, where we stayed for three nights. This was our base, as we explored Ha Long Bay, as well as Cat Ba National Park.
We didn't have any fixed plans, so when we got to Cat Ba, we started planning where to go next, based on the available bus connections. We ended up choosing Ninh Binh, where we stayed for three nights. This was a fantastic place: we liked everything, from the things to see, the local food, even the guesthouse that we ended up in was fantastic. We almost decided to stay another night, but then we were also keen to see other parts of the country, so we opted to move on.
On 25th December, we found ourselves in a rickety bus heading to Mai Chau. This is a rather rural part of north Vietnam, where we spent two nights in a Thai-style stilt house. It is a village for hiking, as well as for exploring the minority groups.
We originally wanted to stay in the north for the entire three weeks, but we also saw the weather forecast, and bad weather was approaching (we later learned that this was an unusual weather pattern, given the time of the year). So we opted to head back to Hanoi for one night. We also found cheap domestic flight tickets to the southwest. So we flew to Pleiku, and immediately after landing, we took a taxi to Kon Tum. This turned to be a very good decision. We enjoyed our three nights in Kon Tum: we did a coffee plantation tour, and we even got invited to an ethnic minority wedding party! It involved plenty of rice wine, fried pork blood, gooey rice, and papaya salad.
After Kon Tum, we moved on, taking a bus to Buon Ma Thuot, where we spent two nights. We checked out waterfalls and other natural attractions. Then we headed again by bus to Da Lat, which was an interesting city, given its rather unique climate and location.
After spending a week in the southwest, we then took another domestic flight, flying from Da Lat to Hanoi. We spent our final two nights in Hanoi, before waking up early in the morning to catch our flight back home. After an 8.5-hour flight to Doha, and a 6.5-hour flight to Berlin, we were back in the neighbourhood. It was again time to pull out our jackets, as it was winter.
Pictures, of course, will follow. Stay tuned!