We are often asked, “Why Vietnam? That is not your typical honeymoon destination.”
We are anything but “typical” and wanted to take advantage of our three-week break from work to embark on our first big adventure together as husband and wife. Although our original reason for honeymooning in Vietnam was because of the delicious cuisine, Vietnam provided us with so much more. The Vietnamese people are perseverant, proud, delightful, hospitable, and some of the most genuine and kindest people you will ever meet. They truly made our honeymoon special and unforgettable.
We traveled throughout Vietnam from September 26-October 17th, 2015, which is technically their rainy season; however we were blessed with bright and sunny skies for a majority of our time and only experienced rain when we were leaving to go to our next destination within the country.
We initially flew into Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in the south and spent a day exploring the city by foot and on the back of motorbikes before departing to the northern city, Hanoi for a few days.
For our first day in HCMC, we took a foodie tour on the back of motorbikes with the locals and tried cuisine from the traditional Pho to the more adventurous cuisine of Balut (a partially developed duck embryo). When you are challenged as a married couple to win a contest by eating even the most adventurous foods in the country, you’re going to do it! That is what marriage is all about, right?
After a long night on the back of motorbikes, we rose early again and traveled to the airport to fly to our next destination: Hanoi. Hanoi is the city of perfect chaos. How the city functions with thousands of buzzing motorbikes, taxis, bicycles, and pedestrians on narrow roads at all hours of the day is still beyond us, but it was hands-down the best sight worth seeing.
When we arrived in Hanoi, we traveled to our JW Marriott hotel via taxi and saw anything imaginable on the back of motorbikes from pigs, dogs, hundreds of diapers, glass, and families consisting of five or more people. Needless to say, after all our traveling and taking in the sights, a luxurious bed in the Executive Suite was more than appreciated. This is just one of the many examples of the hospitality that we experienced in Vietnam. When the man at the front desk found out that we were honeymooning, he upgraded us free of charge to the nicest room in the entire hotel and welcomed us with access to the Executive Lounge where we filled our bellies every morning before venturing out into the city and Old Quarter. They accommodated our sporadic schedule and held our bags when we departed on two or three-day trips out to Halong Bay and Sapa.
Halong Bay was breathtaking and unlike any experience that we have ever had before. We took a two-night and three-day tour that included a cruise on a junk boat through Halong Bay for one night and then ended the tour with a homestay in a local fishing village, called Yen Duc Village. This entire experience was the highlight of our trip because of our hostess, Na. She made us feel so welcomed to not only her village, but also the country of Vietnam. With her, we had deep conversations ranging from the Vietnam/American War to the blessings of being married and starting a family. During this homestay, she taught us how to cook, had a friend serenade us at dinner, and biked around the beautiful village to visit a local market and a man who lived there during the war. We had lots of tea because as Na states “no tea means no talk.” Therefore, we never turned down a beverage that was offered to us. She helped us to better realize what a blessing it is to be married and to have family and friends that love us. This was just one of many connections that we made throughout our honeymoon, which far exceeded our expectations and brought meaning to our new marriage and humankind in general.
After sadly leaving Yen Duc Village, we traveled to Hanoi and then up to Sapa where we would stay with a H’mong family in the rice fields. Again, this was a truly unique experience and provided us time to reflect on what is important in our lives and how we would proceed with our new life together as a married couple.
Pen, our guide, is the same age as us and lives a completely different life in the rice fields as a tour guide. She is inspiring and a tough lady. She trekked over eight miles with us up and down the muddy rice fields the first day and educated us about her life in Sapa and the H’mong culture. That is her world and she does not aspire for anything more; however, she impressively took it upon herself to learn English from other tourists in the area-mainly those from Australia and Europe-so that she can tell her story and teach others that come to visit. It was so enlightening to meet people throughout Vietnam, such as Pen and Na, who are proud of their home and want to share their knowledge and experiences with others.
A main factor for us when we chose to travel to Vietnam was the food because we are obsessed with Pho. But, the food that our host family prepared in the rice fields of Sapa was the best we have ever had! We enjoyed it with another couple from Bristol, England that was also staying in the homestay. This certainly was not your typical honeymoon, as we shared a large room with our guide, her sister-in-law, the couple from Bristol, and the man and woman who owned the home.
Sleeping on a large piece of elevated wood within a room full of new friends is one of the experiences that we will look back on in twenty years from now and still make us laugh and smile. Our sore legs from trekking throughout the rice fields eventually had to come to an end, but we did look forward to returning to our luxurious hotel again in Hanoi for more of a typical honeymooner’s sleeping arrangement.
After our days of touring Hanoi, we flew down to Phu Quoc Island, which is an island off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia. We stayed in a bungalow-style accommodation called “Freedomland” that was within walking distance to the water and gave us time to truly reflect and relax.
We were welcomed again with open arms from the owners and their employees who were from throughout the world, such as Denmark and Germany. We were immersed in nature for a couple of days and again enjoyed some of the best food and rum with others from around the world and the community dinners. We met couples from New Zealand, France, Spain, Canada, and the United States.
Again, although we all came from different ends of the earth, we still laughed and learned from one another. We look forward to visiting these couples someday when we have the opportunity to travel abroad again. While on the island, we spent most of our time biking around and swimming in the beautiful ocean. Fortunately, we were able to experience this island before it is built up for tourists. We noticed a lot of construction occurring throughout the island and it is only a matter of time before these waters are no longer as tranquil and inviting as they are today. Relaxing as a couple together after our busy adventures throughout the country was much needed at this point of our honeymoon.
At every destination along our way in Vietnam, our honeymoon was celebrated in some way whether it was with a cake, a song, an upgrade, or just well wishes. We experienced this again when we returned to our final destination: Ho Chi Minh City.
On our tour to the Mekong Delta, our guide bought a cake for us to celebrate our honeymoon and marriage together. When we were enjoying lunch at a local beach, the staff at the restaurant brought the cake out with candles while playing the song, “Happy Birthday” overhead. We all laughed and again were reminded that this is not the typical honeymoon destination, which made it constantly exciting and in wonder of what the next destination would bring.
We discovered the stunning country of Vietnam by plane, boat, taxi, motorbike, and foot. It was the first of many adventures that we hope to take together as husband and wife.
Although we originally chose Vietnam because of its cuisine and affordability, we experienced so much more than we had anticipated and would strongly recommend it to others for a honeymoon if you are looking for an extraordinary trip other than the typical warm and sunny areas in North America.
If you are looking to converse with genuine people who want to share their country, culture, and values with you then Vietnam should be at the top of your list. In total, our three-week honeymoon’s cost was about $4,000 (including airfare), and it was worth every dong!