Initially the plan was to do a grand tour of the whole of South East Asia, something the majority of fellow travellers we met seemed to be doing, but with time and money constraints we realised we wouldn't be able to see any country 'properly', rather a skimmed snapshot version. It was then a toss-up between Thailand and Vietnam, as these two countries seemed to have a lot to offer, but are so different. A pros and cons list was needed to make the ultimate decision; Thailand was well suited to first time travellers, has a great party scene, amazing scenery, ladyboys to study...but then Vietnam has so much history and culture (which I knew virtually nothing about), and it looked amazing on the Top Gear Vietnam Special, and their currency is 'Dong', which is always funny..."I have a pocket full of Dong", "Get your hands off my Dong" etc etc. It eventually came down to a coin toss to choose where to go, and as I was about to reveal whether our fate was heads or tails, we both realised that we didn't want to look, as it might mean that we couldn't go to Vietnam...problem solved!
While I was away, I conscientiously kept a diary of everything we got up to - where we went, what we saw, what we ate - so that I could jog my own memory, and so that I could have something to write about when I got back. Since I've been home though, I have to admit that I've found even just talking to friends and family about the trip a little difficult...someone asks "So, how was Vietnam?", and I answer "It was amazing," but as for further elaboration, well, I just don't know where to start.
The Vietnamese have a saying, which unfortunately has been immortalized on to tourist T-shirts, 'Same Same, But Different', and that pretty much sums up their culture in relation to ours. I was fortunate enough to travel the length of the country, as well as across the Mekong Delta, where there was a lot of differences in both the landscape and the people, and I think the only way to try and describe this country and culture to someone is to take it in little steps. So I'll start at the beginning; the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.