Many have asked why Vietnam? I wish I could tell you that there is a sane and well thought out answer and yet ... there isn't!

I simply felt in my soul that it is a place I want to visit. You see I love people and cultures, I love getting into the heart of a country, not just the pretty fluffy stuff but actually walking the streets, wandering through the markets and sampling the traditional and native foods and cultural mannerisms.

I am the spontaneous type and while I like my trip to be planned and to know that I will be safe, I also like the spontaneity of exploring alone, getting lost, getting frustrated and succumbing to the fact that not everything is in my control. After all, if we never miss our creature comforts how will we ever truly appreciate the uniqueness and distinctive defining qualities of a faraway land?

So it was along these lines that I started to plan my first overseas holiday in 17years at the beginning of this year ... destination North Vietnam (Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay)!


NORTH VIETNAM ON A BUDGET
So let's, first of all, discuss the budget, after all, that is the deciding factor no matter what the destination. The purse strings are always tight unless you are one of the fortunate who don't have to fret the bank account (lucky you!). For me as a single woman, paying a bond, a car and all the insurances and day to day living expenses ... let's say it can get tight some months.

That being said, I knew that if I didn't start making a plan, life is somehow going to pass me by and leave me one day saying "what the hell happened" or worse yet "I wish I hadn't waited". You see life passes by in the blink of an eye and if there is one thing my dad's frail health has taught me ... it's that tomorrow is never guaranteed!

At the beginning of the year, I really felt prompted by God and the word I got was "LIVE", I later went to a wedding and on the keepsakes there were messages and once again mine said "LIVE". I have pretty much put my life on hold since getting divorced and have dedicated myself to the church and to my family, it was clearly time to choose me ... and take a chance.

As a result, when Hyperli advertised travel packages to Vietnam, it pulled at both my heart and purse strings. After rolling the idea around in my head I spoke in passing to another single friend and before I knew it I had a partner in crime. I purchased our deals online for less than R5000 (7 nights and 8 days) each and there was no turning back.

The flights we had to wait on so that we could accumulate some funds to purchase our tickets and so we perhaps paid a little more than I liked in the end. Originally we could have got flights at about R11 000 if we had bought 6 months ahead of time, however, we landed up paying R12 700 in the end (minus our taxes, visas and insurance).

THE NITTY GRITTY
So I want to share the whole experience in bite-sized portions because it is a lot to write and a lot to take in. But, in the meantime here is the nitty-gritty of planning the holiday and what you need to look at spending.

VIETNAM VISA'S
Okay, so this was a mind shift for me who has travelled quite extensively. In Vietnam, you get your Visa on arrival in the country. There is a separate counter before customs, you head on over, take your papers which include:
- 2 x photo's
- 1 x paperwork
- 1 x Visa approval letter (from your tour agent costs approx $20 USD)
- $25 USD for the Visa

Take a seat and watch for your image on the TV screen as they call you up to pay. Once this is done you can proceed through customs.

TRAVEL INSURANCE
There are so many options however I must stipulate one thing, DO NOT SKIMP ON THIS! Vietnam is a country with zero medical infrastructure, and anything more than a broken leg will require airlifting to a major hospital. Cover yourself, you never know when you become an unlikely victim of Murphy. Oh yes, I used JETKLIK which was R800 for both of us.

We spent our last night on our own in a quaint Air BnB called The Little Prince home, we wanted to experience a night in a local apartment and do a few touristy things on our own before returning ... and it was great. Our hostess Yhen Nhi was super friendly and always quick to respond making it a great experience.

So there you have it, for now, watch this space for more.