Have you considered a Family Trip to Vietnam?
Once a place that you may not have considered visiting, Vietnam is quickly gaining popularity as a family travel destination. In 2015 our family spent 16 days in Vietnam, including a guided tour with Intrepid. After months of research we were looking forward to the adventure, but about 30 minutes before we landed in Ha Noi the realisation set in that we had no idea what we were in for.
We left Ho Chi Minh City 16 days later with a deep appreciation for the history, the culture, and the people of this incredible country.
If you choose to visit this amazing country, here are 5 things you will learn on a family trip to Vietnam:
1. There are at least 2 sides to every story
I do not pretend to understand all aspects of the Vietnam war (and the first thing we learned was that locally it is called the American War). After visiting countless museums, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and speaking to our guide and other locals, there is one thing I do know: it’s complicated. Learning the history of a country from the local people will teach your family to consider that there are many perspectives to any issue.
2. Communication is more than just words
Arriving with approximately 3 Vietnamese words in our vocabulary, we quickly learned to be resourceful when it came to communication. Facial expressions and hand gestures became our primary means of obtaining food and asking for directions. During one particularly comical attempt to purchase head lice shampoo from a pharmacy we even resorted to Google Translate.
Most of all we learned that on a family trip to Vietnam, a smile is universal and the ability to laugh at yourself is appreciated everywhere.
3. Those who do not speak English are not illiterate
Of course we knew this well before we arrived in Vietnam. However, struggling to communicate and function in a country where we did not speak the primary language gave us a real empathy for those who come to Australia and do not speak English. We appreciated those who took the time to try to help us and resolved to be more patient with non-English speakers at home.
4. Trying new things is scary but rewarding
I am a picky eater and I was anxious about the food. I honestly thought I would find it difficult to find food that I could eat, and even packed Weetbix and long life milk for emergencies. At the same time, I resolved to try the food to be a good example for my children.
I have never been so wrong! In Vietnam I sampled some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted. A particular highlight was a vegetarian restaurant run by nuns with nary a chickpea in sight.
5. An appreciation for our “boundless plains”
With 7.5 million people in Ha Noi and 8.5 million in Ho Chi Minh City, you will encounter chaos such as you have never seen in any city in Australia. Crossing the road is an art and you will come home with several photos of people on scooters carrying objects such as beds, TVs and fridges.
You will notice that footpaths are multi-purposes spaces that are not so much for walking on as repairing scooters, giving haircuts, playing checkers, eating food on tiny plastic chairs, and playing badminton.
When we drove from Ha Noi to Ha Long Bay, it took over an hour before we saw open space of any kind. While Vietnam does have beautiful rural regions, we came home with a new appreciation for our ability to access “the country” with very little effort.
Vietnam is an excellent choice for a family trip if you wish to give your children a learning experience rather than just a holiday. Two years later our children still mention things that they remember from this trip, and I know the lessons that I learned will last a lifetime and continue to shape how I see the world.