*Once a month, we will be chronicling travel throughout the world, with tips on what to bring, where to stay, what to do, and what to eat. This month, our Roanoke manager Lauren will be sharing her experiences in Vietnam.
I finally land in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, Vietnam at 11pm. As I exit the plane onto the boarding bridge, balmy warmth washes over me. It’s a glorious feeling compared to the 25 degrees Fahrenheit of February in Roanoke, Virginia, where I left over 24 hours ago. Luckily, I wore layers to keep me warm on the plan and easily removed once I am greeted with 80+ degree temps. My Fleur’t tank and matching joggers are a perfect combo to wear under a matching hoody. I feel it’s important to combine fashion and comfort when traveling. Good loungewear that is not too much like sleepwear is my favorite. I also bring 2 extra pair of panties in my carry on, just in case my luggage is lost. Luckily, this time, I head to baggage claim and my backpack is waiting for me. Despite the lack of sleep (next time, lie-flat business class seats!), I am fully awake and running on adrenalin. I head to an airport ATM and then purchase a SIM card for my phone (an absolute necessity when traveling in Southeast Asia), then grab an Uber to head to my hotel for some much needed sleep. I prefer Uber over taxis. Plus, Uber offers a motorbike option which is incredibly inexpensive and very fun! Its 1:30am when I finally fall asleep. As a note, the vast majority of hotels are extremely affordable, especially compared to western prices. What would cost $100-$200 a night will cost $30 to $50. Breakfast is provided and consists of fresh fruit (and I mean FRESH OFF THE TREE), Pho, coffee, tea, as well as bread, jam, and a few other items to appeal to the Australian, British, and American travelers.
The next 3 days are spent in Saigon where I explore and eat (and eat and eat some more). I wander the streets and markets, finding shops, food stalls & restaurants, French colonial churches, museums, and reminders of the “American War”. The traffic, despite the first impression of utter chaos, is a beautiful, living, and perfectly functioning organism. On the 4th day I head down the Mekong river delta on a sampan and then hop on a tuk-tuk heading to a village where I will explore more and eat an amazing lunch of fresh fish and local delicacies. I highly recommend sports bras on days like this, particularly the Anita Air Control and then a cotton panty (think White Rabbit thong or brief). Vietnam, especially the Mekong delta, is very warm with high humidity. Function over fashion.
On to Hoi An…. Of all of Vietnam, I found this city to be the most ‘touristy’. And I understand why: Hoi An is beautiful. So beautiful, that the throngs of tourists soon disappear and I feel as if it is only me in this vibrant psychedelic city where the scent of temple incense permeates the air. I spend the day strolling through the markets and temples and finally decide to walk in to what is probably the best tailor in Hoi An, Yaly Couture. Hoi An is the tailoring capital of Vietnam and Yaly Couture is the best. For a total of $140USD, I had a bespoke made to measure silk jumpsuit and silk blouse made. And delivered to my hotel in 24 hours. If you are going to visit one of these brilliant tailors, make sure to wear a pair of panties and a bra that you would wear underneath the type of garment you will be purchasing to ensure a perfect fit. As far as hotels, I stayed at the Hoi An Rose Garden Hotel and would place this at the top end of 3 stars. And for about $30/night. I also recommend going to a one of the various spas for a full body massage. You can get an hour long therapeutic massage for about $25-$30 USD. After all the travel, your body will thank you for it. I spend the last evening eating, drinking rice wine, and laughing with a local family and friends I have made on my voyage.
I then travel to Lang Co for a little beach break on my way to Hue, the old imperial capital. The beach is stunning and idyllic. I never want to leave, but I have to. The day in Hue is extremely warm and sunny. I am so glad I brought only non padded, non contour bras with me. I know a lot of women worry about showing nipple, but trust me, no one cares and you will want to have as much breathable fabric as possible. Something with mesh, like the Fortnight Luna, the Empreinte Cassiopee, or anything lacy by Simone Perele is perfect. I spend the remainder of the day touring the restorations being done on the old imperial city. I felt as if I was transported back in time before the French and Americans arrived. The next day I prep for traveling to Hanoi and Ha long Bay, but before I do that I hop on a motorbike and spend the day touring the countryside. Flying past rice paddies, fairytale homes, ornate and colorful family burial plots, and the occasional small restaurant where I grab a quick and very satisfying meal. Despite being caught in a rainstorm, it is a brilliant day and I couldn’t be happier. Once back at the hotel, I pull out my travel bottle of SOAK and do a little laundry. Overall, I prefer the Chantelle O/S Soft Stretch Seamless in the thong and boy short. They take up practically no space (a good thing if you travel with a backpack), are easy to clean, and dry very quickly.
I head to Ha Long bay for an overnight cruise and words cannot describe the beauty. I will let the photos speak for themselves. Hiked to the top of an overlook for a breathtaking sunset view. #nofilternecessary
Hanoi is the end of my journey. I will be staying here for a total of 2 nights and plan to enjoy every minute. I spend my first night chowing down on street food and washing it all down with bia hoi, aka home brew beer. Don’t expect anything fancy, but it is refreshing and perfect with the endless food options available. I check into my hotel and am upgraded to a suite (thank you Hilton points!!!), which delights me. I wake up and take a taxi to find the best bahn mi in Hanoi. I am not disappointed. One thing to note about Vietnam: food is incredibly inexpensive. You can eat like an empress for barely anything. That afternoon I planned something special for myself. I put on my 1940s dress, Simone Perele bra & panty set, and a pair of Louboutin flats and head to the Sofitel Legende Metropole for tea. With the potted palms, light filled solarium, and the ceiling fans, I have been transported to French colonial Indochine. If you can, and you must, either stay the night, have drinks outside by the street, enjoy afternoon tea, or indulge in the be all end all of all brunches. In the evening I take a taxi to Uu Dam Chay for the best vegan meal of my life. Trust me, it could convert a die hard carnivore.
I wake up early the morning after and do the last amount of packing and begin getting ready for 30 hours of travel back home, a home which seems unreal after two weeks. Two weeks that I wish could last for six months. I put on the most comfortable clothing possible which includes my Cosabella lace thong with matching Curvy Sweetie bralette. After a leisurely meal in the hotel lobby, I grab an Uber and head to the airport. As we speed past motorcyclists and transport trucks, I already feel sentimental and know that Vietnam will always be in my heart and has changed me forever. Tam biet!