My husband and I both love Asia, so it didn’t take long for us to decide to honeymoon there.
We went to Malaysian Borneo a few years ago together, and that was one of our favorite trips ever. I had been to Thailand and Cambodia back in 2014 and loved those places as well. Neither of us had ever been to Vietnam. We knew the food would be good, the birdwatching would be exciting, and several of our friends had recently visited and loved it. So it was decided. A Vietnam honeymoon.
Our friends Taylor and Madye, as well as our friend (and our own wedding photographer), Catalina, both visited Vietnam recently. We realized that they all preferred Northern Vietnam to the South. My husband only had two weeks of vacation time, so we decided to take their advice and stick to the north. They were right; it was BEAUTIFUL.
How to plan your honeymoon
When planning our trip, I used several resources. First, I purchased the Lonely Planet Vietnam book. I know people often have mixed feelings about using these types of travel books, but honestly, they are a great place to start! I almost always buy a travel book like this when I start planning an international trip. Since I knew we’d only be in the north, I didn’t have to read the entire book, which helped.
From there, we chatted with Catalina, Taylor and Madye, and other friends who had been to Vietnam. We created lists of must-visit restaurants and must-stay hotels. I used Facebook and Instagram to help crowdsource a lot of recommendations.
Finally, we talked about what WE like to do. This is essential, guys! You can do all the research and get all the recommendations in the world, but if they don’t align with your own tastes, they are useless.
Travel isn’t one-size-fits-all. Listen to your gut. Just because a place has a ton of museums and cultural stuff, doesn’t mean you have to do any of it, especially if you get bored with history. Or, just because somewhere has epic nature locations, doesn’t mean you have to get all dirty hiking if you hate being outdoors. You do you. My husband and I know what we like.
-Hiking, but not anything insane (I can maybe do 10 miles in a day tops)
-Eating (my husband likes street food, and I like fancy food, plus I’m a pescatarian)
-Sitting on beautiful balconies and drinking/reading/talking/relaxing. We enjoy views and the feeling of having a “perch.”
-Beer, wine, and coffee
-Wandering around aimlessly while taking photos
-Contemporary art - seeing it and buying it
-Being in relaxing/beautiful natural settings that feel peaceful.
-Swimming/hot tubbing/taking baths/being in a pool
-Renting cars or having flexible transportation options
We are usually less interested in:
-Spending a lot of time in super intense crazy cities
-Touristy stuff that you “have” to see.
-Big tour groups
-Shopping, unless it’s for art, haha.
If you are planning your own honeymoon, I definitely recommend writing out lists like this to help you create a trip that really resonates with what you love!
Once we had a general idea, we were able to find cheap plane tickets to Hanoi using Scott’s Cheap Flights. I bought tickets 7 months in advance, and they only cost $600 each from Seattle. Easy! I don’t think I have spent more than $700 on a flight in YEARS because I use Scott’s so religiously. If you haven’t heard of them, they basically find all the amazing flight deals on Google Flights every day, and then email you the deals out of your specified airports. The emails aren’t salesy or annoying, they are basically just instructions for how to find the same deal on google flights and book it yourself. It’s free to join, or you can get a premium membership for like $39 a year. Worth it. So so so worth it.
Our Northern Vietnam Honeymoon Itinerary
There are really two itineraries in this blog post. The planned one and the actual one. I haven’t mentioned the global COVID-19 crisis yet, but now seems like an appropriate time. Obviously, we booked our honeymoon flights WAY before the pandemic happened. Our trip was scheduled from Feb 27-March 12th. As February continued, things got worse, but at that point, many people were still traveling, and there weren’t coronavirus cases in the US yet. Vietnam only had a handful of cases, and its borders had been closed to China for weeks already. We considered canceling our trip (and almost went to Europe instead, which is ironic since the virus ended up getting so much worse there). But in the end, we didn’t cancel. We did, however, wait until the absolute last minute before booking non-refundable hotels and planning our actual itinerary.
It turned out that we were fine, the trip was fine, and everything went exceptionally smoothly until day 10. Aside from having most tourist locations virtually to ourselves, wearing masks in public, and doing an extra lot of hand washing, the trip was relatively unaffected by coronavirus. Social distancing measures were not yet in place, and everything was pretty fun and normal. Until that 10th day.
But I can go into that later. For now, let me explain the fun itinerary we planned!
We did something a little different on this trip. Instead of making a loop around a country like we usually do, we used a hub city. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this, but I ended up LOVING it. Let me explain why.
We flew in and out of Hanoi, and ultimately ended up using Hanoi as our hub. All of our adventures took place north, south, or east of the city, and it made sense to come back to the city in between for a night. This was our planned itinerary:
-Land in Hanoi midday, explore Hanoi, sleep in Hanoi one night at the O’Gallery Classy Hotel and Spa.
-Drive 5 hours north to Sapa, stay at Topas Ecolodge for 3 nights
-Drive back to Hanoi, arrive late, sleep at the Oriental Jade Hotel for one night.
-Wake up and drive 2 hours south to Ninh Binh, stay at Lotus Homestay for 2 nights
-Get picked up by a birding guide through Vietnam Golden Holiday and stay in Cuc Phuong National Park for 3 nights (very close to Ninh Binh)
-Drive back to Hanoi for one more night of eating and shopping. Sleep at La Siesta Trendy Hotel.
-Get picked up in the morning and spent 3 days, 2 nights on the Azalea Cruise on Ha Long Bay
-Return to Hanoi and spend our final 24 hours at the Grand Peridot Hotel before flying home.
We booked four different hotels in Hanoi’s Old Quarter so we could experience a different place each time. The trip began with a super-luxurious ecolodge in the north, then continued with a chill, relaxed, nature-adventure-birdwatching jungle vibe, and finally, was supposed to end with an extremely luxurious cruise through Ha Long and Lan Ha bay. The itinerary included a lot of relaxing nature time, hiking, birding, as well as convenient stops in Hanoi to eat fantastic food in between.
I was worried that I wouldn’t like Hanoi because, as I mentioned, I usually prefer nature over cities when I travel. Wrong. I LOVED Hanoi. It was vibrant, friendly, easy to navigate, and full of fascinating people, food, and art. I was excited we spaced out our time there because I never got overwhelmed or tired of the city. I loved the food and honestly felt so at home.
I wish I took more photos in Hanoi. The first two nights we stayed there, I was still feeling very jet-lagged and tired and just couldn’t bring myself to take pictures, haha. I felt lazy, and I also was operating under the idea that I could take more later. Turns out, that got complicated. Oh well.
Hanoi Food Recommendations
The food in Vietnam was phenomenal. My only gripe is that I wish I got to eat more of it, haha. We only had a few meals in Hanoi, and the rest of the time, our meals were limited to the remote locations we were staying at. Large portions of our trip included meals, meaning we didn’t have a choice about what we ate or where we ate it, haha. It was still amazing, though.
I’m a pescatarian, which makes food a lot trickier since most things have meat! But we still ate really well. Even the meals where they just made random food and put it in front of us, they always respected my dietary restrictions everywhere we went. I learned how to ask for “Anh Chai” or vegetarian, which was easily understood.
A few places stood out that we really enjoyed and would recommend:
-Banh Mi 25 - I had a tofu banh mi with egg and cheese, and it was SO GOOD. Definitely add the egg and cheese to any of them. Also, their passionfruit smoothie was incredible.
-Garden House Restaurant - we found this place on our own, and it had good google reviews, so we tried it. Lots of vegetarian and pescatarian options! It’s a sit-down style restaurant with quirky decor, and the staff was amicable. Not too high-end, more casual vibes. We loved the fried rice, salad rolls, and, most of all, the Cha Ca. Oh my gosh, what an incredible dish. The fish is marinated in advance, then brought to your table and grilled in front of you on a tiny stove with tons of herbs and dill! Then you eat it with bites of vermicelli, more herbs, salty peanuts, and more marinade for dipping. It’s unreal good.
-Bun Cha Huong Lien - This is where Anthony Bourdain and Obama ate! We weren’t sure if it would live up to the hype - but it did. Mikael devoured his Bun Cha, and they were kind enough to bring me a bowl of broth, herbs, and noodles without meat so I could try some too. SO GOOD. The broth is sweet and tangy and spicy. We loved it. Super casual vibes, metal tables, and only 1-2 things on the menu. But very fun.
-Cafe Giảng - this place is known for its egg coffee! It was SO GOOD. Egg coffee is like a custard latte. So tasty. Lots of places in Hanoi sell it, but this one is especially good.
-Ha Noi Social Club - We ate here one night when I was feeling a little off, and it was pouring down rain with thunder and lightning and already pretty late. We ordered the vegetarian laksa and loved it. I liked the coffeehouse, artsy, moody vibe of the place. Dark and cozy, like somewhere you’d go to write a book.
We had a HUGE list of recommendations from friends that we didn’t have a chance to try. Here are a few from that list:
-Quán Bún Riêu Hải Béo - famous for their crab noodle soup.
-BBQ Chicken Street - a street famous for vendors that all make BBQ Chicken! We didn’t go since I don’t eat chicken lol, but we heard it was incredible.
-Hải Xồm Beer Restaurant - supposedly has delicious cheap beer!
-Street Food Tour - we heard numerous accounts from other tourists who had done a street food tour on the back of motorbikes and LOVED it. My stomach gets upset easily, so we didn’t do this. But you should!
After our first night in Hanoi at the O’Gallery Classy Hotel and Spa. (it was lovely), we departed for Sapa and Topas Ecolodge in the north.
I discovered Topas Ecolodge while I was reading the Lonely Planet Vietnam book about Sapa. The short paragraph mentioned that the lodge was WAY out of town, perched on the literal top of a mountain and that it was very environmentally conscious. I was intrigued. Two minutes of googling later, and I was sold. This place looked INSANE from the photos. It was absolutely the type of eco-friendly, yet ridiculously nice honeymoon splurge-hotel that I wanted. They had limited availability, and it was the first place I booked. Our hotel included transport in a luxury van (with snacks and wifi!), as well as a two-day guided hiking tour.
Topas Ecolodge is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, a list I did not know existed until now. I’m probably going to try to stay at all of them, now that I know how awesome they are, haha. “Each lodge is deeply rooted in its community and dedicated to protecting the surrounding habitats and cultures—and harnessing their magic to safeguard them for the future,” according to National Geographic’s website. Topas embodies this by employing the vast majority of its staff from the local minority villages, providing them with training, English language skills, and education. The food at their incredible restaurant is all locally sourced (or grown on-site) and organic. The food might have been my favorite part - all fresh, local ingredients with lots of European fusion and traditional meals.
Guests are encouraged to embrace an experience that is simultaneously luxurious, yet rustic. There is only wifi in the main lodge, and bungalows don’t have TVs. The roads to the lodge are long, windy, and admittedly terrifying. Still, there are TONS of trails and free mountain bikes available for rental. Their heated infinity pool is to die for, and the views are unforgettable. I would come back here over and over. I cannot recommend this place enough.
If you do go, the hiking tour with a local guide is terrific. They take you across tiny trails through rice paddies (practically rubbing up against water buffalo) to small villages where local hill-tribes reside. You learn all about their unique ways of life while helping support their culture. It was pretty rainy during one of our hiking days, but we still had the best time. Also, it’s important to note that the local Red Dao tribal women may follow you through your ENTIRE hike to sell you some handicrafts. Come to terms with this and enjoy their company. They are chatty and friendly, and their crafts are worth purchasing. We bought some beautiful scarves from them and respected their hustle, haha (they walked like 7 miles with us one day!)
These are photos from day one of our hiking tour. We hiked roughly 7 miles in the hills directly surrounding the lodge.
For day two, it rained heavily and was CRAZY muddy. This time we took a van and went deep into remote hilltribes and foggy rice paddies. We hiked for hours and then had a delicious lunch and foot bath at a homestay in the mountains.
After doing two days of a hiking package with Topas, we spent our 3rd day in the north exploring the gorgeous city of Sapa. For context, Sapa and Topas are like 30 km from the Chinese border. So when I say north, I mean north haha.
When I read about Sapa in the guidebook, it seemed to have some unkind things to say about the type of buildings, structures, and expanding nature of the city. I remember a line that basically said: “don’t expect a quaint mountain town in the alps.” So my expectations were low, but the transport into the city was free, so I figured why not. As a result, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised. To us, Sapa was astonishing. It sits at 1500 meters or almost 5000ft above sea level, and the town is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The streets are bustling with colorful vendors, hill tribe minorities, a few tourists, and there is something to see or eat in every direction. We loved the reflective lake, the enormous indoor marketplace, and the Art Deco train station that looked straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.
We wandering around aimlessly for several hours, shopping and taking pictures. We ate lunch at this beautiful restaurant with a great outdoor view and friendly service, but food that was just okay (it was a little bland). We were only there for a few hours, but we could have stayed several days.
Lotus Homestay in Ninh Binh
After our time in the north, we took the luxury van back to Hanoi, spent a short and stormy night at the Oriental Jade Hotel, and left the next morning for Ninh Binh! We had Lotus Homestay arrange private door-to-door transportation from Hanoi. Getting around in Vietnam is SO easy (and cheap).
Lotus Homestay was a dream. The owners treat you like family, and everyone eats a big dinner together each night for $5. You get to mingle with the international guests, drink rice wine together, and taste amazing home-cooked meals. The staff is SO NICE. We had such a fun time just sitting on the porch drinking cheap beer and chatting with Anh.
The bungalows at Lotus Homestay are simple but lovely. But the views are unbeatable. The cottages are nestled under a massive limestone cliff, looking out over the rice patties and surrounding mountains.
We spent our first afternoon at the homestay relaxing and exploring. We wandered the surrounding rice paddies, took photos, and birdwatched on our own.
Things to do in Ninh Binh
We only had one full day (two nights) at Lotus Homestay, so we had the staff help us plan our day and hire a local guide! Lotus provides bikes, motorcycles, and car rental options (ranging from free to like $50). There are a TON of cool things to do in Ninh Binh, but we settled on a tour that took us to Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Lu Temples, and included the Trang An Boat tour through caves and karst mountains.
My husband is a BIG history nerd (listens to history podcasts and reads a lot of historical literature). I, sadly, am not. But on this particular day, I gave in. He was STOKED. The only problem was that it rained the entire day and was very cold by Vietnamese standards. But we wore our ponchos and mustered on. Our guide taught us ALL about the history of Ninh Binh and how it used to the capital of Vietnam many centuries ago. We learned that the karst mountains made it very difficult for intruders to attack. So difficult that they were able to defeat the Mongols, twice. We also learned about the difference between pagodas and temples. It was a lot of education and a lot of rain, but still very fun.
Our first stop was Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda in SE Asia! It has a building that is over 1 km long. There are usually 100000 visitors each day. Because of the coronavirus, the place was completely empty, and we were some of the only people there. Eerie.
The second stop was Hoa Lu Temples of the Dinh and Le Dynasties.
My favorite part of the day was definitely the Trang An Boat tour. We did the #2 route that took us to several more temples, pagodas, and multiple caves. In the pouring rain, during the coronavirus pandemic, this usually-busy boat trip was virtually empty, and we had many of the temples entirely to ourselves. Only accessible by boat, these locations were beyond epic. This is also where they filmed King Kong Skull Island. Even though we were physically cold, wet, and miserable, it was totally worth it.
Cuc Phuong National Park
The morning after our rainy adventure in Ninh Binh, we were picked up by Vietnam Golden Holiday for the next part of our vacation; 4 days and 3 nights of birdwatching. Roll your eyes all you want, but this was a blast.
This was the hardest part of the trip for me to plan, and we booked the tour two days before it happened, just in the nick of time. After reading about various birding locations in the Lonely Planet book, as well as researching birding spots online, I discovered Cuc Phuong National Park. This vast park was one of the first in SE Asia and is one of the last places you can find untouched primary rainforest. It’s also got some really amazing endemic bird species, mammal species, and several awesome conservation parks. The problem is that I had a hard time getting ahold of the park to book the tours they listed on their website. After multiple attempts, I finally found the correct email address. I received an immediate response from Vietnam Golden Holiday, who apparently manage the tours in the park. Our tour included a local birding guide, as well as a host/driver. Our host assisted in transportation, fed us, and coerced us into taking multiple shots of local rice wine with him every night. Not bad. He was fun.
Because of the heavy rain, some parts of our birding tour got adjusted. We didn’t end up hiking 17 km to a minority village in the middle of the park, like we had planned (not mad). Instead, we spent 3 days walking through the park, looking for pittas, partridges, and other endemic birds, as well as visiting the primate and turtle sanctuaries. If you’ve ever birdwatched in a jungle before, you already know this: it’s tough. You can’t see shit. We definitely experienced our fair share of frustration and slow days. Still, in the end, we were rewarded with an up-close and personal encounter with a blue-rumped pitta.
We spent our first day in the park birdwatching around the main entrance. We also visited the endangered primate rescue center (a truly incredible place), as well as the turtle conservation center. And we hiked through the botanical gardens.
Day two was spent entirely in the primary rainforest in the heart of the park. We spent all day sitting in bird blinds and hiking with minimal luck. I saw a lot of really cool insects and plants, though!
Van Long Nature Reserve
Our favorite day of the birding tour was when we actually left the national park and spent the day birding at Van Long Nature Reserve. The reserve is a stunning, quiet wetland amongst karst mountains. Our guide arranged a boat for us, and this time it was NOT raining. He also encouraged our kind boat lady to take us through thick water-lilies to a section of Van Long, where we were utterly alone. Away from all other boats, tourists, and everyone. And that’s when we were lucky enough to find two different family groups of wild Delacour’s Langurs. These beautiful creatures are considered some of the most critically endangers primates in the world, and we saw over 10 of them in one day (out of the 200 that are currently alive). It was such a treat. Their white butts make it look like they are wearing diapers. I was so incredibly happy and felt so lucky to have this experience.
On the last day of the tour, we returned to the primary rainforest at Cuc Phuong and were successful in seeing the pitta! The weather was MUCH better this day.
Vietnam Birdwatching tips
Apparently, Vietnam Golden Holiday arranges a variety of private tours around the country! So definitely reach out if you are interested in a birding tour or any other tour. We loved working with them, and their prices were super affordable.
We also discovered the most incredible birding app while we were there! Usually, we use Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s birding app called Merlin and download whatever “pack” for the location we are in. It’s a free app, so please, if you don’t have it, go get it! It has a series of questions that help you identify birds based on location, shape, color, and activity. They have “bird packs” for tons of places across North America, South America, Europe, and even a few in Africa and Asia. Sooo useful. But they don’t have a Vietnam pack yet. But Mikael discovered another free app that was just as good! It’s called Vietnam Birds, and it was created by Wildtour Co and Specialists in Vietnam Birding Tours. It has photos, bird calls, and bird names in both English and Vietnamese, which is helpful for your guides! It also has quizzes and maps. We used this app SO MUCH in conjunction with our two SE Asia bird books. Game changer. Highly recommend. And if you want a really hardcore bird tour, definitely reach out to the guys who made the app. They definitely know their shit. I think they are based out of Ho Chi Minh City in the south.
For bird guides, we purchased both The Collins Field Guide to Birds of South-East Asia by Norman Arlott, and Birds of Southeast Asia by Craig Robson.
Hanoi and getting quarantined
This is the part where things go downhill fast.
Our long stint in Cuc Phuong National Park was sooo lovely, and we adored the peaceful accommodations with the sounds of gibbons calling every morning… but we missed civilization and food variety. We ate well at the national park, but we did have to eat pretty much every single meal in the same restaurant for like 3 days. There is only so much tofu, morning glory, and egg that a girl can take. I was excited to head back to Hanoi for a brief change of scenery. And I was BEYOND excited to end our trip in a luxury penthouse suite on a cruise in Ha Long Bay. We went all out on that final booking so we could live it up on a boat with 5-course meals, swimming, kayaking, hiking, squid fishing, tai-chi, cooking classes, and more. My friend Catalina highly recommended it, and we were really looking forward to the experience.
Once back in Hanoi, we had a really fun afternoon post-jungle. We wandered the city and drank egg coffee. We explored contemporary art galleries, looked at ceramics, and enjoyed some fantastic cocktails. Finally, we finished off the day with a delicious dinner at the same restaurant Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate at. SO FUN.
But then the fun ended. In the middle of dinner, I got a short and curt email from Azalea Cruises. “Because of the coronavirus, all of boats need to be canceled of the tour as the government’s policy.” It was March 8th at 9pm. We were supposed to be picked up for the cruise in just 12 hours. And now it was canceled.
I was SO disappointed. Mikael bought me ice cream on our long walk back to our hotel to cheer me up. It didn’t work. Once in our room, we started frantically researching options for what to do for the next three days. We were concerned that maybe the cruise line was trying to screw us since other cruises still seemed like they might be operating? After brainstorming for about an hour, we decided to go ask the front desk for help.
This is when shit hit the fan.
“Our cruise in Ha Long bay got canceled,” we explained. “Are all cruises canceled, or are they trying to scam us?”
“Yes, all cruises are canceled,” the front desk person explained. “The whole province is being quarantined.”
Wait, what?! We asked a few more questions, and they said something about new coronavirus cases spiking that day. No new cases had developed in Vietnam for 2+ weeks, and the country had been virtually “safe” from the virus throughout our trip.
Mikael and I were overwhelmed, so we walked outside the lobby for fresh air. Big mistake. As soon as our feet were out the door, the front desk people had chased us down and pulled us back inside.
“You should stay inside,” they told us.
We can’t leave?”
“We can not force you to stay, but we strongly recommend that you don’t leave.”
It was then that we noticed the government employees and police outside the building. They were implying that we could try to leave, but if we did, we’d probably be taken somewhere by the police. Great.
We went to the rooftop bar and pounded a cocktail to calm our nerves. It was unsuccessful. We drank a few more beers in our room and ultimately decided to go to bed.
I had literally just fallen asleep when the hotel phone rang and woke me up. “You need to come downstairs immediately,” was all they said. No other details. Panicking, in our pajamas, we dressed quickly and gathered up our passports, SD cards, laptop, and kindles into a backpack and went downstairs. Every hotel occupant was in the lobby, spilling out onto the street out front. The road was barricaded around our hotel with police everywhere and doctors in masks. No one knew what was going on.
Soon, we learned that our hotel was being disinfected in its entirety. Why? I blame it on a wealthy Vietnamese Heiress. This rich lady from Hanoi went on an epic European vacation in early March, visiting fashion shows in Milan, Paris, and London, living it up with her socialite lifestyle. She had a cough and ignored it. Then she boarded a plane from London to Hanoi despite feeling unwell. While on the flight, she became very ill and managed to infect 15+ passengers around her with the coronavirus. This all happened 5 days prior while we were in the jungle. But as people from the plane begin testing positive, the Vietnamese government started tracking down every single person on her flight, and every hotel they had stayed in since. And someone on her plane had stayed at our hotel four days ago.
So yeah, it was the heiress’ fault. We watched with horror and fascination as people in hazmat suits entered the hotel, wearing these strange contraptions that looked and sounded like leaf-blowers. But instead of leaves, they blew disinfectant everywhere. Cool. They finished the hotel pretty quickly, then hopped back onto their motorbikes (still wearing hazmat suits and leaf blowers) and drove off like nothing had happened.
Then, very casually, the hotel staff told us that we were now officially under government quarantine at the hotel. We could not leave. Our flights home would be canceled. We were going to be there for two straight weeks.
It was like 2am at this point, and I remember just laughing in response. Maybe it’s because I was tired. Or, perhaps because this was ridiculous and I didn’t know how to cope anymore since it was the most anxiety I’ve ever felt in my entire life, haha.
We laid in bed for another hour or two, texted and messaging people, trying to reach the US embassy, and Mikael’s boss. Eventually, we gave up and slept horribly, tossing in turning, spending more time stressing than sleeping.
The next morning we went upstairs for the included breakfast. It was delicious, and there was a beautiful view. At least there was that to look forward to for the next two weeks.
We explored our prison… errr, hotel, for the rest of the morning, and I started sending frantic emails out.
But then, as I was laying in bed crying in our TINY, 240 sq ft hotel room with a slit for a window, Mikael emerged with crazy news.
“They are letting us go!!”
Whaaaaaaat. It was 11am. Somehow, our two weeks of quarantine became one night, and all was good in the world. Except not really. Our cruise was still canceled, we had nowhere to go, and we were totally anxious messes. But hey, we were FREE! What we think happened is that the person who allegedly stayed at our hotel from the London-Hanoi flight tested negative for Coronavirus. So there was no need to quarantine us.
We packed as quickly as possible and booked a new room at the final hotel we were supposed to stay at in two days, the Grand Peridot Hotel. It was only a few blocks away and was an extremely fancy hotel with a huge rooftop pool and everything. We booked a massive suite with a balcony so that even if we got quarantined (a very real fear at this point), we’d be stuck somewhere comfortable.
It took over two hours for us to check-in, because the hotel did NOT want to take us after we spent the night before at a blacklisted “quarantined hotel.” We agreed to stay only one night and remain in our room as much as possible. This was a bummer because I really wanted to swim in that pool. But the general manager had come in on his day off to talk to us. He graciously offered us accommodation, even though there was a threat that his entire hotel could be quarantined just because of us. We took baths, ordered room service, drank wine, and changed our flights. We managed to move the flights two days earlier, and depart the next day.
Our entire stay at this fancy hotel, the flight home, everything, was tinged with this “I don’t trust anything” feeling. I felt a constant threat that at any moment or any time, we could be stopped, quarantined, and had absolutely zero control. It was a really new experience for me. Despite it all, we made it home safely without any major snafus. We’ve been self-quarantining for weeks at home since.
It was NOT the end of the honeymoon we wanted. However, we are still so grateful we got to have the experience we had before everything got crazy. COVID-19 cases in the US, specifically in Oregon and Washingon, skyrocketed while we were abroad. It was like coming home to a different world. I have a feeling we may have been safer in Vietnam than if we had been living our ordinary lives in Portland, but I’ll never know. Either way, it was undoubtedly a memorable experience. And I’ll sure as hell go back again so that I can take that dang cruise someday. Because I really, really want to.
If you loved these images, feel free to head over to my landscape print shop! You can order a print of any of these images!