If you’ve ever been to Vietnam, I'm sure you'll agree that it has absolutely breathtaking landscapes.  I was only able to explore the north, but I can say without reservation that it is the top country to visit for a life-changing experience.   The history in itself is worth going for, but then you throw in a floating village in Halong Bay and some remarkable caves and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a trip you’ll never, ever forget.

Thailand may be my favorite country, but Halong Bay, Vietnam, is definitely my single favorite place.  The mountainous islets sit stoically in place as boats glide by with travelers from all over the world.  From what I’ve heard, party boat tours are cropping up more and more (which feels a bit out of place), but the boat my friends and I boarded was classic.  Full fish dinners, swimming in the moonlight, kayaking excursions, honest conversations with Vietnamese crew members, and a tour of ancient caves filled with incredible stalactite formations lit up with an array of colors.

Before we experienced Halong Bay, we stayed in Sapa for a few days.  Sapa is a small town with access to the rice patty villages dispersed across hundreds of acres of tiered landscape.  We went on a few days worth of treks with our Australian twanging Vietnamese tour guides through a variety of villages.  Their inflections are a dead giveaway from whom the locals learned English from. 

Some villages we passed through focused on the use of indigo, providing it for other villages who focused on making fabric later utilized for the production of clothing, bags, etc.  We tried real sugar cane, but avoided the beetle nuts (a signature cause of rotten teeth in the people of the area), we saw how rice is collected, and we also had the BEST authentic pho I’ve ever tasted.

I certainly plan to go back to Vietnam one day to explore the central and southern parts, but not without swinging by Halong Bay for another magical getaway.