“See you in 4 weeks”
My dad’s attempt at humour as he drove away from me the eve of my holiday to Vietnam.
Coronavirus was slowly becoming a word used in daily vocabulary but it also still felt miles away, other side of the world.
On the eve of my holiday it was new news that Italy was infected, it made the virus slightly more real but even so the idea of coming home to isolation felt a long way off.
The two weeks I spent in Vietnam with my boyfriend were an incredible two weeks but with a very real and dark undertone.
Now almost 3 weeks after my dad’s poor joke the entire world is locking down, cases are rising and we all have our own experience of what has happened.
As ever I’m just sharing my experience & my journey of how that impacted our holiday & the very real situation in Asia. I should mention that Vietnam to this day is still has some of the lowest numbers globally, but that didn’t mean we were safe.
We travelled from London to Hanio (Northen Vietnam) down to Hio An (Central Vietnam) and then onto Ho Chi Mhin City (South Vietnam) back to Hanio then Home. I’ve split this into a three part series so you can see how the holiday developed.
Read it all, read parts or just look at the pretty pictures. Take what you want, like I sad I’m just sharing my experience.
So with that lets get into the desTEEinations part of my blog;
It’s only socially acceptable to set a alarm for 4am when you’re heading to the airport… and we were!
Suitcase in the car and no distrubtion to flights we headed to Gatwick to start the long journey across the world to Hanio, Capital of Vietnam.
26 hours later, about 1 hours sleep and standing in line to get my visa in my brand new passport. With a slightly dodgy look from the security guard while I tried my best to look like my own passport picture (surely I’m not the only one who does this?) after removing my glasses and taking my hair out of it’s 20 hour bun the passport was stamped and the visa issued, 15 days.
Fortunately we had prearranged our taxi from the airport (Traveling tip ALWAYS do this when traveling to Hanio, there is a local scam where taxi drivers will take you to hotels they want to take you to for commission and just leave you there).
Once in our Airbnb showered and trying to align ourselves with the time we headed out for food.
OMG! If you love food please go to Vietnam you will not regret it. While wondering the streets we found a small restaurant in an old French building I’d already read about.
Watered and fed we headed back for a full nights sleep.
When I awoke around 12 hours later I was groggy and a little confused. I heard the buzzing of my phone and got up to see what notifications I had. Yes I know you shouldn’t look at your phone first thing but lets move on… I had 5 AirBnB notifications from our host. I had missed the first few and opened the app to see urgent requests for copies of our passports, visa and flight numbers along with confirmation of where we had been in the last 14 days. We knew when we landed that your were prohibited from entering Vietnam if you had visited; China, Korea or Northern Italy in the last 14 days but now the authorities wanted to know where we had stopped over on our journey.
What we didn’t know when we landed was a flight had left London Heathrow 24 hours before we did that flown directly into Hanio. On this flight one passenger was confirmed to have Coronavirus 19 and during the long flight had spread the virus. Now Vietnamese authorities were out for anyone on that flight and locking down as quickly as they could.
Fortunately we were not on that flight and still okay to get on with our trip as planned but were told to proceed with caution.
So we did and my first stop was for coffee! Now in the UK I’m a coffee addict end of, my boyfriend however just has the odd when either when tired or on a weekend if we go out. If the food was anything to go by the coffee was going to be great!
When in Hanio the Note Café is a MUST! It’s adorable, the whole place is covered in notes written by guests. Kind, motivating, funny, wise all kinds… even in the toilet! I opted for the egg coffee which basically tastes like caffeinated cake mix while my boyfriend had he’s first and definitely not last coconut coffee.
On to some classic site seeing I marched us around the city to see some classic sites such as train street and the train tracks.
We finished our first day fighting jet lag & at a gin rooftop bar. Very chic & very us!
By this time the slight fear I had felt in the morning had passed and everyone seemed lovely. We were told to sanitise our hands before entering any shops, bars or restaurants but that was no inconvenience. That was until we continued on our little bar crawl and for the first time we were asked for tempeture checked before entering a bar, that felt very real! In the back of my slightly tipsy brain I just remember thinking, ‘shit what if we fail?!?!’
Fortunately, we didn’t and the bar had no real reason to be concerned as the cocktails they served I’m 90% certain are the cure, possibly for everything!!
Again, another amazing little bar and a must for drinks!
Also known as International Women’s day. Which included for us… more site seeing & coffee.
We headed for the Temples of Literature and was surprised at how quite everywhere seemed. We put this down to it being a Sunday and continued about our day.
We ended the evening in a small restaurant called Granma’s and it was honestly some of the best food I’ve ever had! The whole place was stylish and authentic with a homely feel. They even gave me a little gift when we left as it was International Woman’s Day.
Before our trip both my boyfriend & I did research into what we wanted to do while in Vietnam, there was so much to do & see that we made a list of none negotiables and Ha Long Bay was one of them.
I’d tried to get our host to help us arrange this but had little response from him on anything more than the growing number of Corona cases and advice. He had also highlighted that the authorities were collecting British tourists known to have been on that flight from Heathrow and putting them into isolation. By this time, it was very much in the news and I’d read articles of British tourists who claimed to have only 30 minutes to pack their belongings together & could hear the sirens coming for them before they had even finished…
Meanwhile we were carefree and still getting on with our trip as planned, we also found a genuine tour provider who booked us on to Ha Long Bay and at a great price as tourism was dropping quick.
So, we made plans to take the 3 hour coach from Hanio to Ha Long Bay, get on a boat for the day and explore caves.
Again if you do travel to Vietnam I’d make this a must see!! It was so beautiful, and the caves were amazing, we were fortune to see the sunlight coming through Heavens Gate at the right time which added to the day.
With the threats of the growing pandemic at the back of our minds we got back on the coach to return to Hanio.
We jumped off before our allocated stop to find food and again met with the realties of Coronavirus.
Again we were asked for temperature checks, to clean our hands before entering and as we waited for a table I connected my phone to wifi to see again several messages from our AirBnB host.
This time he’s concerns seemed more urgent as he advised that we do not take the trip to Ha Long due to the increased cases there thanks to the high volume of tourists, but this was too late. I thanked him for he’s concerns and decided best not to mention that we had already been. It turns out our host worked at a hospital and the cases were rising quickly. Unfortunately for us these cases kept coming back to that Heathrow flight or Brits Abroad.
Once shown to our seats we ordered pizza and mojitos and for the first time this trip we sat in silence as we both scanned the news for updates on Coronavirus not only around the world but in the UK.
Okay so I didn’t just google Coronavirus… I dived into the world of doctor google and focused my energy on malaria & Zika virus. I happened to have two blistered & infected mosquito bites on my leg that ached quite a bit especially after a day walking around, not only that they’d started weeping. Coronavirus maybe the worlds new killer but before that first mojito was placed in front of me I was convinced I had something else!
Spoiler alert… two days later the blisters popped and my leg (although now scared) healed quickly.
Our last day in Hanio and I had a surprise for my boyfriend! What he didn’t know was I was planning a 5 mile walk to the north of the city to see a pagoda and because I love a step count. But first I had found what travel bloggers were calling, the best iced coconut coffee in Hanio. It didn’t disappoint.
We had awoken that morning both checking our phones for UK updates, being 7 hours ahead most of the UK activity happened while we slept. The UK stance at this time was very fluid with the only advice to isolate if you had any symptoms.
Admittedly this put our minds at easy and we continued as planned.
We ended the first part of our holiday on a high note.
We’d seen everything we had intended to.
For the final night we ate at a small Pho place where we had two massive bowls of Pho for around £6, I was amazed!!! As Pho was my choice of the evening beer was my boyfriends.
Pasteurised Brewing Company is something you’ll see across Vietnam and although I personally can’t stand beer I insisted we went for the experience.
I even refused to order a taster as I thought it looked too girly haha!
As my boyfriend finished he’s second drink I caved and he had to finish mine. We checked in with the UK news which hadn’t changed much and called it a night.
We still needed to pack before our flight to Hoi An and had heard that the airports were getting strict now so we intended to get there early.
So that was part 1 of our Vietnamese Pre Pandemic Holiday. Slightly longer than usual but honestly this was just the start of what was to come.
I’ll be posting the second part tomorrow and you’ll see how quickly things unfolded from here.
I’ll also be posting my Vietnam Look Book along with my travel light toiletries & makeup Look Book.
How were you feeling about the Coronavirus 3 weeks ago, were you taking it seriously and isolating early or were you still going about life?
Everyone’s story is different, like I said I’m just sharing mine.
Love Tee x