There are a handful of countries I would go back to rather than visit somewhere new: Jordan, Peru, Iceland and Indonesia are on that list. Vietnam is another. I took a trip there in 2013 and loved it so much. This time I get to take Amanda and the kids.
My miles and points game is getting better and better. I scored business class tickets on Cathay with just 262k SPG points (in part due to an awesome one-time deal when Alaska merged with Virgin America.)
The only trick is we leave from JFK in New York. Fortunately Laurel, my sister, lives just 30 minutes away and we can leave our car with her for the week. Unfortunately, the ‘positioning’ drive takes 7 hours through Sunday New Jersey beach traffic and some bad accidents on 95.
My brother-in-law Fahad has an amazing Pakistani meal cooked for us when we arrive for which we are so grateful. We were in and out so quickly we didn’t even see our nephews/cousins. On the way back we’ll see them.
We told the kids that Amanda and I were upgraded to business but they had to fly in economy. Amanda went so far as to find empty seats in Economy they were ‘assigned’. We walked them back there and they got set for the 15 hour flight. Just before takeoff, we told them the gag and pulled them up to business.
Emma’s first words were ‘thank god’. Lily tried to act cool like she didn’t care but quickly the giggles came out and she and Emma were cracking up.
The flight was so empty. The J cabin was only a third full. We had pillow throwing fights two rows apart. And you could hear the girls and me laughing at the videos for the whole ride. 15 hours later, and fairly well rested, we stop in Hong Kong on our way to the first stop, Singapore.
But first – the full itinerary!
- Day 1-3 Air travel and Singapore: This part is an artifact of our tickets. I couldn’t get us straight to Vietnam so I stopped in Singapore for a day at Universal Studios and their new Aquarium.
- Day 4-6 Phong Nha Cave exploration: The largest caves in the world are here in Vietnam in Phong Nha park. The hightlight will be a 7KM trek in the dark through the first section of a 55km cave system in the middle of Vietnam. We’ll also drift on boats through river filled caverns. Most of these are unlit.
- Day 7-9 Cat Ba Bay on a Junk: Ha Long bay is one of the world’s most beautiful ocean scenery, but it’s hardly a secret. Day boats, even cruise liners criss cross between karst islands by the hundreds. We will go farther south to a less populated part of the larger area called Cat Ba and we’ll stay on a Junk for 2 nights, swim off the side, hike up karst islands and do some rock climbing.
- Day 10 Hanoi: We’ll be pretty stinky at this point, and maybe a little tired of each other. Amanda and I are going to strike out on our own to see some of Hanoi’s crazy streets and outrageous temples. In the evening we are taking a vegetarian street food tour. Emma and Lily will undoubtedly enjoy the hotel pool and ordering french fries from the hotel restaurant menu.
- Day 11-13 Motorcycle rides to Dalat: From Nha trang beach to mountainous Dalat and back down to the Mui Ne beach, we will each ride on the back of a morotbike driven by a Vietnamese ‘Easy Rider’. We’ll eat with and stay in the homes of local families along the way, seeing how they farm and cultivate. But mostly it’s about the views and the freedom of the road on a motorbike.
- Day 14-15: Travel home and Hong Kong: Cathay flights always go through Hong Kong and one tends to spend nights here once in a while. Last time we went to Victoria Peak. This time we’ll hit the night market before our flight back home in lie flat business.
Emma and I head out into the night heat of Singapore, still in jeans and leggings. We’re hungry and stop at a McDonalds for some fries. She feels comforted by some familiar food. Eating is hard for her, few things taste good and airplane food rarely satisfies, even in business class.
We wander through a mall that is shutting down for the night. Singapore is, as reviewed: highly developed and a little bit sterile.
In the morning the kids go back to that same McDonald’s and bring us some coffee, eggs and pancakes for about $10 – a much better deal than the $100 breakfast the hotel Indigo wants. An uber takes us to our first event: a long, long arduous hike up a mountain in the Singapore summer heat. Well, that was the story we were telling Emma to trick her, but Lily couldn’t keep the secret. We are going to Universal Studios, Singapore and the new aquarium.
Universal Studios is fairly empty and by evening the rides lines are empty. Amdanda and I split up from the kids and ride the Ceylon roller coaster 5 times, once in front. One of our memorable events dating was riding the superman coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey over and over as the sun set. We reminisced. The Mummy, Transformers and Jurassic Park rides are all good, although honestly, we all prefer a heart stopping roller coaster over any of these movie themed rides.
We break for a late lunch. Our go to meal on the road is Indian, and Amanda finds a place that offers plentiful meals of curry and samosa for vegetable and meat eaters alike. The aquarium is really good and a nice alternative to the amusement park. We miss scuba diving! Some of the glass walls for viewing are hundreds of feet long! It’s the closest thing to diving I have ever been. Beautiful Octopi, sea dragons, spider crabs and of course, sharks – lots of sharks.
We close the park – a Creekmore tradition since the girls were tiny. Amanda and I get soaked on the Jurassic Park river raft ride and are the second to last boat to go for the day. All three women sleep in the car ride back to the airport while I help the guide find our hotel with Google maps. The avaliablility of data everywhere (we get it included with our T-Mobile plan) is one of the biggest changes to travel for me. I can even help the lost taxi guide find his way in a city I have not been in for 24 hours.
I often find our first blog to be the most read, but it’s often the most boring as we are just getting started. Stay tuned! Some incredible stuff awaits in Vietnam, tomorrow’s destination.