Naomi, Matt and their two kids, aged 12 and 14, recently set off on their family adventure to Vietnam and Cambodia. Starting at the impressive man-made temple, Angkor Wat, they gradually made their way into vibrant Vietnam, and Naomi tells us all about her family’s travels…
We’ve never taken the kids out of Europe before, and as expected it was a total culture shock at first. But at the same time, it was really eye-opening for us all and exciting to experience something totally different. There were many times where our daughter was very anxious about the new experiences, but she (and we) pushed ourselves completely out of our comfort zone and it certainly paid off with the amazing, memorable experiences we’ve come away with. It’s safe to say it’s definitely made us hungry for our next adventure.
We loved our time in Cambodia. All our guides and drivers were punctual and super friendly, especially in Angkor – we couldn’t fault our guide Hun. One of our highlights was the bike ride through the countryside with Grasshopper adventures. We really got to see how the locals live and couldn’t recommend it enough for future visitors. We also visited Artisans Angkor, a social business that creates job opportunities for young people in the surrounding areas. The shop was expensive but sold beautiful local crafts and jewellery, where the money all goes to a good place. We weren’t ready to leave Cambodia; we would’ve loved to stay longer but we couldn’t wait to see what Vietnam had in store for us.
First stop, Ho Chi Minh. What a crazy, yet loveable city. The evening Vespa tour was by far the highlight – scooting through Saigon on a vintage Vespa whilst tasting some local street food on the way… what’s not to love? Even my 12-year-old daughter now wants to buy a motorbike…
After travelling to the jungle on the hunt for monkeys, we arrived in Hoi An, a lovely city with a gorgeous hotel but it was very, very HOT. We went to a local family’s house for lunch and learnt how to make noodles from scratch, as you can imagine the kids loved that and have taken plenty of knowledge and skills away from it. The bike ride around the city was an experience, to say the least… cycling through the busy Vietnamese traffic on old bikes was a definite challenge. Before leaving the city, we managed to find a lantern-making workshop (which my daughter absolutely loved) and we found a dressmaking shop, where we got some shirts and dresses made for us – quite the souvenir, but I don’t think we’re very good at haggling!
Hanoi to start with was overwhelmingly hot – 38-40 degrees and very humid. We struggled a bit with the heat, but it was still an amazing experience. The old town is crazy, but we managed to keep stopping for drinks to keep cool. The best find was the Harry Potter café where we drank Polyjuice potion and butterbeer. Later that day we headed for the street food tour, which was very interesting, especially when showing us where the locals lived. Our daughter was less keen on this bit as the food was not to her taste, but we found it delicious and they were very good for catering me as a veggie.
Next up, Ninh Binh. It was fantastic, probably the best bit of the whole holiday, and the Tam Coc bungalows were amazing – everyone’s favourite hotel by far. We couldn’t fault the staff; they were really welcoming, and they even gave us a little foot bath each night before bed – what a lovely touch!
Bai Tu Long Bay was beautiful. We loved every minute of the stay on our junk boat. Kayaking to the beach and watching the sunset from the boat alongside our brilliant host, Vinny; an experience not to be forgotten. After another night in Hanoi, it was time to say goodbye to our family adventure. We were sad to leave but happy to get home for a bit of cool air.
We had an incredible family adventure, and the cuisine was amazingly tasty and fresh. Our favourite parts had to be the Vespa tour in Saigon, rowing boat in Tam Coc and the incredible Angkor Wat. The kids also loved the junk boat stay in Bai Tu Long and learning how to make rice noodles…Y-U-M!
My top tip for travelling to Asia with kids would be to choose a month when the weather isn’t super-hot and if we were to do it again, we would love to have spent more in Cambodia.
Vietnamese and particularly Cambodian people were so friendly, relaxed, welcoming and tolerant – we in the west could learn a lot from them and their attitude towards life. No road rage – everyone just works around everyone else. We have all learned to be more open to new experiences and to not be scared to try different things. After all, since the noodle-making lesson, my children have even started making me breakfast – I know… we’ll see how long that lasts!