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I am Elaine Elizabeth Jinto, and I am 13 years old. I am from India, and I love to travel. Along with traveling, I enjoy reading, writing, eating, and innovating. I dream of becoming a writer and a business woman.

In my blogs I am going to write about some of the trips, books, restaurants, and unique experiences that captivated me. I hope my blogs will encourage you to experience new things too.

So, recently I went to Vietnam, which is a country in South East Asia, and I want to share my experiences. But first I have to tell you that before I went there I had no idea that Vietnam was such a beautiful place. As far as I knew, it was a place where people ate Pho noodles and made Pho noodles all their lives. Luckily, the moment I got there I realized that it was one of the most amazing places I have ever been to.

Vietnam has a lot of nice places you can choose from, Halong Bay, Hoi an, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and De Nang to name a few. My family chose De Nang city. (You might have heard of it because Bill Gates has been there.)

Anyway, De Nang is really nice, and it is close to many of Vietnam's tourist highlights.

First let me tell you about all the places you can visit.

Hoi An- A UNESCO World Heritage Sight.

Hoi An is an ancient city close to De Nang. It was a busy port in the 15th-16th century, and now it is a busy tourist spot. The area is famous for its historical landmarks, cultural vibe, shops, and most importantly—lanterns.  A whole day would be required to take in and experience everything at this unique tourist spot. A walk around the ancient city should be the first thing to do. The street food and shopping is really delightful, and there are many museums and temples you can visit. You can get the tickets at the Hoi An tourism desk and wander around and see what you like at your own pace. There are also cultural performances, near the riverfront museums in the evenings, and you can spend a wonderful hour there, seeing Vietnamese culture at its best. The best part of the show is when you can join the performers and play Bai Choi, which is a traditional Vietnamese game, which is a lot like bingo and housie. At night you can see the lit up, iconic lanterns which make Hoi An famous. A good place to observe the beauty of these lanterns would be at the riverfront, where you could also go on a mini-cruise or ride on a cycle rickshaw, and take in the wonders of Hoi An. Whatever your age, interests, likes and dislikes, you will definitely find something you like at Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.

P.S: I would suggest that you prepare an itinerary before you go. Also remember the afternoons can get really hot.

Take me to Sun World, Ba Na Hills

Ba Na Hills used to be a French settlement in the 18th-19th century, built because the Europeans could not bear the Vietnamese heat. It was bought and renovated by Sun World, who made it a theme park. A lot of the original buildings are still there, and now they house restaurants, shops, theatres, gaming arcades, and much more. After a 45 minute drive from De Nang city, you have to ride a record-breaking cable car to get to the top of the hill. Literally record breaking, because Ba Na hills had the longest, unsupported cable car system for many years. The views from the cable cars are spellbinding, especially the waterfall, and the small streams that lead up to it.  Once you get to your desired cable car station you can grab a brochure, and spend the day doing what you like, where you like, and when you like. I enjoyed Luna Castle, the Atlas Statue, the French village, pagoda and the Debay wine cellar. (It is really cool, and you can get child-friendly wine there!)

The gardens were epic, and there was one I really loved with Roman columns, French mills, and ballerina topiaries. Another awesome part was seeing actual suits of armor, with griffins emblazoned on them. I must warn you that there is a lot to see, and you will have a lot of walking to do, so it would be a good idea to use the quaint, old fashioned Funicular trains whenever you can.

The highlight of the trip was seeing the golden bridge, which is held up not by pillars, but by two giant hands made of rocks.

Ba Na Hills is just the place to spend a hot afternoon exploring a fine fusion of Vietnamese and French culture.

Marble Mountains

The 5 Marble Mountains are sacred places of worship, and only one is open for tourists. The 5 mountains are named after the elements and are filled with beautiful Buddha shrines, statues, and tranquil areas for meditating. There is a lift that goes all the way up, and you can use the stairways on the way back, and see everything. There is a beautiful view, and you can see the beach and the city from up there. You do not need much time at Marble Mountains, but whatever you do don't miss it.

P.S: There are many beautiful souvenirs made of marble which you can get there.

De Nang City

Amidst all this beauty there is a big city, with a plethora of sky scrapers at the center of the city. The place looks amazing at night, and there are cruises along the river at night. The main attraction there is the Dragon bridge, which is, no surprise, shaped like a huge golden dragon. At night it breathes fire and water, and it looks totally amazing. A good place to eat dinner when you are at the city would be the Hilton Hotel, which rises above the other buildings and offers you an unobstructed view of the city. Later you can visit the bridge or maybe go on a short cruise, and see the fire show.

P.S: The famous My Khe beach is pretty close to the city, and you could visit that too. If you are lucky, you can also get a glimpse of the beautiful Lady Buddha Statue, on the edge of the coastline.

All in all, De Nang has many nice places to see, and each place opens up new vistas of Vietnam. What I like about the tourist spots here is that each one is different, yet with an invisible thread of connection, which makes each place truly Vietnamese.

Anyway after seeing all this, I felt that I should try the cuisine that makes Vietnam different. Being an Indian, I found some things rather strange, but others were very nice. Here are some of the dishes and restaurants, I really enjoyed:

Pho Noodles

Pho is the lifeline of Vietnamese people, and it was my family's lifeline while we were there. It is made of chicken or beef broth, flattish, thick rice noodles, pieces of meat, sprouts and spring onions. If you want you could also add spicy sauces and other things. It was through Pho that I finally learned how to use chopsticks, though in a rather roundabout manner.




Beef Rendang

This curry is rather like my hometown's version of beef roast. It has a sweetish and spicy taste and goes well with the Jasmine rice. I think the main reason I enjoyed it was because it showed me that different cuisines have some threads of connection.

Hoi An fried rice

This was another dish my family loved. It consists of turmeric rice, fried onions, bits of meat, sauce and plenty of greens. It makes a light meal, just what someone needs before traveling somewhere.

Coconut crackers with sauce

These crackers are shaped like Indian Pappad, but taste entirely different. It has spices, coconut bits, and a fishy taste. With the sauce, it tastes funny but different, and I liked it. It did take me some time to get used to the taste though.

Chocolate-flavored tender coconut juice

This was the best drink I have ever had. It is made of tender coconut water, chocolate syrup, tender coconut ices, and bits of coconut. It was delicious because it was a fine mixture of western and Vietnamese cuisine, in a way all children will love. Chocolate is one thing I did not find much in Vietnam.

The other local delicacies I tried were Banh Mi Kep, Shakshouka, sweet coconut crackers, Tac Se Deo, and Banana cashew spring rolls. These I realized, were too exotic for my liking.

Table 88

This is one of the top restaurants at De Nang, which offers food from diverse cuisines. As for the Vietnamese food we tried there, it was simply mind-blowing. What I liked about the restaurant was that though the food was authentically Vietnamese, it was enjoyable to people used to other flavors. Another thing I loved was that the staff taught me to use chopsticks and gave us frozen towels to cool down once we arrived.

La Plage

This was a seaside restaurant that offered Italian food. It was started by a chef who went on a road trip in Italy, and fell in love with the cuisine. The difference was that, there was a lot of seafood included as it was close to the sea. The chicken sheeshtok was the dish that took our breath away. Vietnamese Mama Mia!

The Sail

Whatever you do, don't go there for the food because it is not very enjoyable. The reason you need to go there, is for an unobstructed view of De Nang city, and the river. At night it is truly stunning and the not-so-good food is worth it.

On the whole Vietnamese food, is very different compared to Western  food. It is however related to other South East Asian cuisines, and it also has some likeness with Indian food. Anyway, my culinary experience at Vietnam will never be forgotten.

The last thing I tried was some traditional crafts. Here is a little information about the ones I liked the best.

Conical Hat Painting

The conical hat is donned by almost everyone at Vietnam. It is made of some kind of palm frond, and it keeps the sun and rain out. We can paint the hats, and also flip it over and use it. It is like having 2 hats in 1! I could feel some sort of togetherness between all the people just because everyone wore the same hat. I also felt that it was diverse because of the pictures, names, and colors on them.

Hoi An Lantern making






We made small versions of the iconic lanterns with the help of the guide. We used a factory-made frame, and stuck brightly-designed cloth on it using hot glue. Then we cut out the remaining bits of cloth, added tassels and attached a handle. Then we got some lights to put in it. It really looks nice now, hanging near my other souvenirs. I think the same kind of cloth is used everywhere because we found a lantern that looks exactly like mine at a café in Hoi An.

On the whole my experience at De Nang was very different compared to the other places I have visited. It is a lovely mixture of the old, the mundane, the modern, the bright, the dark, the tranquil, the lively, the traditional and the cultural aspects of life.

I would definitely go to De Nang again, if I have the chance, and I hope to meet one of you out there.

In my next blog, I will be writing about Malaysia. See you there!

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