Travel is one of the best ways to get inspired. It often shakes off the cobwebs by forcing you out of your comfort zone. You have the opportunity to try unusual food & activities, meet new people, and learn about different cultures. It also renews your appreciation of home and everyday life.
I recently returned from an incredible travel adventure through Vietnam. We started in Sa Pa, a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwest Vietnam where we visited a hill-tribe village called Cat Cat amoung others. Cat Cat is home to the H’mong people, who emigrated from China 300 years ago. The dramatic landscapes, terraced farms, and bucolic villages of rural Vietnam were incredible and the hiking was very challenging over this rugged terrain.
We then traveled to Vietnam's capitol, Hanoi, to learn about the city and it's rich history. We also had a little warm up ride around Hanoi's West Lake on our bikes in preparation of the upcoming cycling adventure starting in the Mai Chau valley. It was wonderful to cycle through small villages, greeted over and over again by the locals who stopped what they were doing to wave and shout hello as we rode past. The children were especially unforgettable in their surprise and enthusiasm at seeing such new and strange looking people. We slept in an open-air stilt hut in a small village that we cycled all day to reach. It was 7 degrees and we slept under our mosquito net and blankets listening to the music of the rooster crows...oh, they don’t just crow at dawn, it’s an all night affair, lol! I fell asleep that night hearing to echos of “hello!” ‘xin chào!”...an unforgettable day.
Once we reached Ninh Binh, we caught a bus to Halong Bay, with its towering limestone islands topped with rain forests and gold-sailed junk boats cruising along the water. We spent a couple of days kayaking through this beautiful area, unconnected from the world, exploring mysterious caves, and sleeping on a lovely ship at night.
The final leg of our journey took us to fascinating Ho Chi Minh City and area. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterized by a vast array of sights, sounds and smells, and is an interesting blend of old and new, East and West...and oh, the traffic...something to be experienced! We were also lucky to get out of the city and stay with a lovely family in the Mekong Delta enjoying local food such as a delicious lunch of elephant ear fish. The Cu Chi tunnels located at the end of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail were an interesting experience as well. We learned about the conditions the people lived in, the hardships they faced, and the amazing ingenuity employed to maintain life in the tunnels.
After all that, it was time to head for home to ruminate over all these experiences. Vietnam is an incredibly beautiful country and its people are so welcoming and kind. I'm looking forward to painting some of the places and faces we encountered and I'm so thankful for this inspiring adventure.