I had a few ideas of what to expect heading to my trip to Hong Kong and Vietnam, which are separated by only a 1.5-hour flight on Hong Kong Airlines. I was prepared for dumplings, pho, a lot of people (tourists and locals), hot weather, foot and vehicle traffic, and a whole lot of adventure.
I got all that and so much more.
Here are 9 things I saw on my trip that really opened my eyes and stood out to me — things that if you have been to these destinations, you will know are so distinctly Hong Kong or Vietnam.
Vietnam morning exercise
When I saw “observe morning exercise” on my itinerary for 5:00 am on my last day in Hanoi, I was a bit skeptical — both of the hour and of the activity.
It turned out to be the most mind-blowing thing I witnessed on my whole trip. I have never felt lazier in my life than cruising around Hoan Kiem Lake on the back of a scooter at the break of dawn and seeing locals of all ages doing every type of exercise imaginable. I’m talking tai chi, aerobics, biking, running, yoga, laughing yoga (it’s a thing), badminton, ballroom dancing, weightlifting at the outdoor weight stations, or just standing solo doing some funky stretching or hip swivels.
I would recommend observing this to anyone going to Vietnam; it’s worth the early morning wake up call.
Hong Kong nightlife
I had heard the party scene in Hong Kong was off the hook, but until you wander the streets of SoHo or Lan Kwai Fong at night (affectionately referred to as the party district or “expat area”) you will never understand what it means to go HAM in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a thriving expat scene and paired with locals who know how to get down, this city brings a whole new meaning to the work hard, play hard lifestyle. You can bring your glasses from the bar out onto the streets, and people are dancing, mingling, drinking, and partying until the wee hours of the morning.
Compared to another epic party city like New York, where the liquor laws strictly shut down alcohol service at 4 am, Hong Kong partying has no curfew. The only limits here are the ones you impose on yourself, so do us proud and go hard.
Vietnam head-to-toe sunblock outfits
In Hong Kong, it was umbrellas that were the shield of choice from the blinding, blistering sun.
In Vietnam, I really enjoyed seeing all the full-body suits worn by scooter drivers, usually of the floral variety. Covering the entire face and body of their wearers, these fashion statements were somethin’ else. Definitely a less sticky option than sunscreen, I’ll give them that!
The comfort of flying
I had no idea what an amazing experience flying could be until I flew with Hong Kong Airlines — this was an eye-opening way to start my trip, in the best way possible! Flying with Hong Kong Airlines Business Class blew me away with its ease and comfort. I literally didn’t want the flight to end!
With their full flat seating, menu by Chef Gabriel Choy, full service SkyBar, and amenity kits (complete with skin care products from L’Occitane) that made us feel fresher than we thought was possible while mid-flight, this is a must-try. Totally worth spending the extra money to turn a sometimes stressful experience (flying) into a fantastic one!
Ha Long Bay’s natural beauty
Southeast Asia has no shortage of majestic island paradises. Palawan in the Philippines has many hidden gems, and cruising through the islands of Komodo National Park feels like a dream.
However, Ha Long Bay felt especially unique due to its astounding beauty and volume of islands that are dotted throughout the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. With 1,969 limestone cliff faces jutting out of the water, Ha Long Bay is truly a place that has to be seen to be believed.
Hong Kong skyline
I definitely knew I was in for a skyscraper overload on my trip to Hong Kong, but it was hard to imagine the sheer volume of them until I saw them in person. Literally everywhere I looked was never-ending skyscrapers — and these buildings are TALL.
Fun fact: the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre, has 118 floors, followed by the Two International Finance Centre at 88 floors.
Fun fact round 2: Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world — 30% more than New York City, and twice as many as Dubai.
That’s a lot of skyscrapers, guys.
Scooter traffic in Hanoi
Scooter traffic in Southeast Asia is not a shocking revelation, but something about the organized chaos on the streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter really stood out to me. Street lanes are just a gentle suggestion, and you will see intersections with 20-30 scooters coming at each other from all different directions.
Crossing the street is a feat in itself, as no one is slowing down for pedestrians but somehow you always find yourself safely on the other side. There’s no rhyme or reason for an outsider to understand, but it just all works!
Early morning market
When my guide told me we were leaving the hotel at 4:30am to go check out a fruit market and flower market, I thought he was joking. But scooting through Long Bien market before sunrise was one of the most hectic sights I have ever seen in my life.
There were rows upon rows of produce that had made its way from across the country and were getting prepared for vendors of all sorts — street food, restaurants, hotels — to come pick up their fresh goods for the day. Scooters were weaving in and out of carts carrying fruit, people were carrying stacked baskets slung across poles on their shoulders, and everyone was yelling and honking and hustling.
The flower market was just as impressive, although slightly less chaotic. Though I’m told that the busiest time is actually around 3am, when everyone is just arriving and getting first dibs on the best product. I told my guide that’s a wake-up call we can save for my next trip around.
Hong Kong dripping air conditioners
Wandering the streets of Hong Kong in mid-summer meant that I was coated in a nice layer of sweat approximately 2 minutes after walking outside. While I was walking, I kept feeling a drip falling on my head from the sidewalks. When I looked up I realized that no, this wasn’t just my own sweat dripping in some weird anti-gravity situation (I’m not a scientist, okay?), but it was from the air conditioning units attached to the exterior of apartment buildings throughout the city.
This to me is a classic Hong Kong scenario — endless residential skyscrapers just trying to keep cool on a humid summer day. The rest of my Hong Kong strolls were spent dodging the drips.
The beauty of both Hong Kong and Vietnam is that you will constantly be coming across things you didn’t expect — these are just a few that I observed!
If you want to discover your own surprises, you’ll just have to hop on a Hong Kong Airlines flight via Hong Kong Airlines and go find out for yourself.
For more information on Hong Kong, visit Discover Hong Kong.
For more information on Vietnam. visit Bestway Tours & Safaris.
Enter for your chance to win the following prize:
- 2 x Economy class return tickets from Vancouver – Hong Kong – Ho Chi Minh City, provided by Hong Kong Airlines
- 3 x nights accommodation in Hong Kong for two people on a twin-sharing basis, provided by Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)
- Airport-hotel return transfers
- Two tours for two people in Hong Kong (choice of hotel and tours are at the discretion of HKTB)
- A trip for 2 people to Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, provided by Bestway Tours & Safaris
- 3 x nights accommodation for two people (choice of hotel and program are at the discretion of Bestway Tours & Safaris)
- Transfer services
- Entrance fees and boat fees where applicable
- Vietnam Visa on Arrival Approval letter
- Pre-arranged meals
- Guided by an English-speaking local guide
Blackout dates: 11 December 2018 – 5 January 2019, 29 January – 17 February 2019, 16-25 April 2019, 22 Jun – 10 Sep 2019, 11 December – 5 January 2020
To enter for your chance to win the prize listed above, courtesy of Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Tourism Board, and Bestway Tours & Safaris, fill in the Google form below:
Contest entries will be accepted from the time and date of publishing until 11:59 pm on December 10, 2018. One winner will be chosen at random and contacted directly from Hong Kong Airlines.