Since we were traveling during the Christmas holiday, the kids didn’t get the typical Christmas morning when they wake up and find presents under the tree. The presents for everybody this year was the trip itself, but we did want to do something special to recognize the holiday.
We were in Ho Chi Minh City on Christmas Eve and our “something special” was dinner on the Saigon River. We booked a Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise through Bonsai Cruises.
Okay . . . So there are thousands of places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City, so I can’t say the best . . . but this place was pretty darn spectacular for my family. I’d give Riverside Apartments a full recommendation to any other family traveling to Ho Chi Minh City.
I’m a writer. I’m accustomed to spending quiet days at home, staring at my computer, dreaming up imaginary people and writing their stories. When I go out and about anywhere (even the shopping mall . . . or the grocery story . . . or, well, any crowded social gathering), I usually find myself on sensory overload. Now, putting myself onto the extremely chaotic streets of Southeast Asia . . . especially Vietnam . . . let’s just say I was thankful for the oasis that Riverside Apartments was for us.
During our stay in Phu Quoc, we tried a couple of tours around the island. Our hotel (Famiana) used a company called John’s Tours which offered a menu of land and boat/snorkeling tours. Another company called Red River offered similar tours.
My kids weren’t big enough (nor could they swim well enough) to go snorkeling, but even if they had been old enough, I had read (and heard) too many poor reviews of the snorkeling around Phu Quoc island. Based on what I had read, Phu Quoc is not the best place to go snorkeling.
But we still decided to give a couple other tours a try. We went on a Night Squid Fishing Tour and a South and East Island Land Tour.
In my last post I talked about Vinpearl Safari and Conservation Park and what a great time my family had there during our trip to Phu Quoc Island. Vinpearl Land (an amusement park and water park) is located right next to the Safari Park. You can find their official website here.
We had such an unexpectedly good time at Safari Land that we had high hopes for the amusement park as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this park was worth all the hype it had received.
The day my family spent at Vinpearl Safari and Conservation Park was probably my favorite day in Phu Quoc, and we almost decided to skip this attraction completely. I’m so glad we decided to go.
I started the day disappointed that our original plans were canceled. We didn’t intend to go to the Safari Park because, despite the good reviews, we watched some unimpressive YouTube videos that made it look like a rather mediocre zoo. Yes, it is a zoo (and my family has been to a number of zoos), but it’s not mediocre by any means.
In recent years, Vietnam has made a humungous effort to make Phu Quoc Island into the next Phuket. They have built a new airport and have been consistently adding direct flights to the island from all over the world. They have also relaxed visa requirements. While a visa is still required to go to mainland Vietnam, many tourists who go to Phu Quoc, plan to stay on the island, and will leave in less than thirty days don’t need a visa. And it’s worked. Take a short drive around the island and you’ll see all kinds of development projects. Open your ears and you’ll hear a huge variety of languages. While there, we met families from Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Russia.
When I moved to Asia in 2005, I made a list of places I wanted to visit. Vietnam had been on the top of that list from the beginning, and yet for thirteen years I never went. I know . . . how can I come up with excuses for thirteen years, right? But as we all know, life happens. One time I actually had tickets in hand and tours and hotels booked, but Hubby had a health crisis only a couple days before we were scheduled to leave, and we cancelled all of our bookings and thanked God it didn’t happen while we were traveling. After that failed attempt, every time a holiday rolled around, we had other things to do. My son and daughter were born, and we wanted destinations that would be easier to do while toting preschooler and toddler around with us. Or Hubby was in grad school, and we had to forego our vacation to pay tuition (and so he could use the time off work to write those papers). There was always something that took precedence . . . for thirteen years.
Sri Lanka never really crossed my mind as a destination, but my husband happened to get a bug in his brain and started doing a ton of research, discovered that it was a direct flight from Beijing, found decent-priced airfare, and ended up planning a trip there during our spring break. I went not really knowing what to expect—just willing go along for the ride and see what we would find.
It ended up being a spectacular break. We loved it so much we could see ourselves going back.
View of Hong Kong from Ocean Park Tower
Hong Kong is a popular destination among many of my Beijing friends, and for good reason. It’s an inexpensive flight, and once you’re there, it’s an easy city to travel within. The public transportation system is extensive and easy to use. There aren’t any language barriers because so many people speak English. Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It’s clean. And there is a lot to do.
There is so much information out there already about what to do in Hong Kong and how to get around, I feel a bit silly writing about it myself, and yet, we had such a good time visiting during the Chinese New Year holiday, I can’t help but chime in and add my two cents.
When we returned to China in August this year, my family decided to be committed to exploring China rather than remaining in our expat bubble here in Beijing. I really did have good intentions of recording and sharing our adventures, but intentions are one thing . . . and (clearly) our actions might not match them in the long run. But now, here I am, remembering my commitment to record our adventures. The most significant one we took this year I absolutely loved, but it was ages ago, and I have yet to talk about it.
During the China National Holiday in October (yes . . . it’s taken me that long!), my children were released from school for a week and we decided to try something totally new and go on our first road trip in China to the city of Hohhot in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. We really enjoyed our time there. It was nice to see parts of China outside of Beijing where we live, and it was a trip that I would definitely recommend to other expat families here.