As a young, hard-working Australian, you might only get four weeks or so off of work every year, and — let’s be honest — you probably spend half or more of those four weeks with family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with that; I like a summer BBQ as much as the next guy. Though what about your primal, blood-borne yearning for adventure? You know, the one you buried under your business ties and “adult” responsibilities. To a certain extent, we all have that yearning, that instinct inside of us — it’s only human to explore, to see what’s over the hill — yet so often do I hear people say they don’t have the time, that they’re just “flat out” with work.
I’m going to tell you how to sate that yearning in just two weeks, having done it myself. So feed your tie through the shredder and kiss your responsibilities goodbye; you’re going to Singapore and Vietnam.
No matter where in Australia you’re flying out of, you’ll want to stop on the island city-state Singapore on the way to Vietnam, whether you can get a direct flight to Vietnam or not. Why? First, it’s cheaper than the direct flight, and second, while a stop in Singapore is worth it for the airport alone, there are many other reasons to step out of that airconditioned wonderland and into the sweaty streets.
Gardens by the Bay
One of those reasons is Gardens by the Bay, a monument to Singapore’s value of sustainable development and conservation. Of these waterfront gardens, which were put together and are led by a multidisciplinary team of international and local experts, there are three, each bearing a range of attractions. For brevity’s sake, I’m only going to tell you about one of the attractions I visited when I went on my two-week adventure — Supertree Grove.
Of the eighteen Supertrees in the Gardens, twelve are in the Grove. But what are they? While the answer is fascinating, it’s unfortunately not that they were brought here from a planet other than Earth. The Supertrees are actually human-made structures fitted with a “living skin” — a vertical garden to which cling over seven hundred varieties bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and climbers. Some of these trees are as high as a sixteen-storey building, and you can rub noses with these giants by following the walkway that passes between their enormous trunks.
The ArtScience Museum
While there’s plenty to see at the ArtScience Museum, I visited it specifically for the Future World exhibition, a futuristic universe of interactive digital art installations, which is constantly changing but will remain a permanent feature. Really, the museum’s architecture is a marvel on its own; shaped like a lotus flower opening to the sky, and as “The Welcoming Hand of Singapore,” it’s almost, almost as awe-striking as the Bell Tower of Perth.
Look, you can’t go to Singapore and not swing into the Raffles for a Singapore Sling. The Raffles Hotel is a famous heritage hotel with a famous bar, at which you can break peanut shells over the carpet and loosen your nine-to-five shoulder knots with one or five Singapore Slings, the hotel’s signature cocktail. Just be sure to fancy yourself up a bit, as it’s smart dress (maybe you shouldn’t have shredded your tie). When you realise how much a Singapore Sling costs, depart through the darkening streets for Clarke Quay, a bayside strip of restaurants and bars. Wash down chilli crab after chilli crab with beer after beer, and then, when the beers have done their job, you may feel like going out for a bit of a boogie.
Of the many reasons to step out of that airconditioned airport, I’ve mentioned only a few, when, in reality, Singapore is packed like a sardine tin with things to do. There’s the pool atop the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, a Chinatown, a Universal Studios, the zoo, and a whole lot more. If you get worried that you’re saying goodbye to too many of your hard-earned “dollarydoos,” remember that you saved a few hundred of them stopping in Singapore rather than taking a direct flight to Vietnam. Overall, of the fourteen days (the two weeks) that you’re budgeting, I’d say to spend no more than two nights in Singapore.
Admittedly, Singapore isn’t a quest to Mordor, especially when you compare it to Vietnam. There are a million things to do in this Southeast Asian country, though don’t forget your temporal budget. On my two-week adventure, I split my remaining twelve days into equal thirds, allocating four days to Hanoi, four to Ha Long Bay, and four to Sa Pa, as they’re all relatively near to each other, and all had something unique to offer me.
Hanoi is great ice-breaker, especially if you’ve never visited a Southeast Asian city. While it can seem like chaos, it’s actually more like organised chaos, and nowhere near as much of a commotion as Ho Chi Minh (the city). For each of your destinations in Vietnam, I’m only going to share one highlight. For Hanoi, it was strolling through the markets in the Old Quarter, where I loaded my forearm to the elbow with beaded bracelets and smashed down street food while watching street performances. Of course, there’s more to Hanoi than that, such as the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh (the man), the Vietnam Military History Museum, Hoan Kiem Lake, and St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Ha Long Bay
For many who visit Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is the biggy, and it’s easy to see why — irrespective of the eerie haze which veiled the days that I spent there. What, aside from sailing between limestone karst formations and crawling through caves, was the highlight of my visit? I’ll tell you what wasn’t — Monkey Island. Do not go to Monkey Island. Heed my warning. Heed it, and save yourself! On a different sort of warning, the weather is sometimes too rough for cruises to go out into the bay, and your cruise could get cancelled. For this reason, I recommend staying on Cat Ba Island, as there’s plenty to do there without dipping a toe in the usually glistening waters. How long is too long in Ha Long? Look, I don’t really have an answer for that; I just wanted to share my terrible pun.
This will likely be the most adventurous part of your two-week trip. Sa Pa is a district-level town stacked upon cascading terraces of rice, and, especially compared to Hanoi and Ha Long, it’s straight-up cold. The best way to soak in the phenomenal scenery is to get among it, to follow the muddy tracks that weave through the rice fields and terrace villages, dodging ice-cream coils of cow dung all the way. When you set out to the terraces, find yourself a length of bamboo for a walking stick; it saved me from at least one embarrassing fall. As for a highlight, I admit it was lovely curling up in a firelit bar after a two-night trek through the terraces, but my highlight has to be the trek itself, and all the little mountain ladies who held my hand along the way.
Vietnam is great because there’s so much variety just within the country, and it’s all vastly different from the Land Down Under. Just like with Singapore, I’ve only mentioned a few places in Vietnam, and only a few activities within each of those places. I haven’t even touched on some of the country’s other famous destinations — Hoi An, Da Lat, and Tam Coc, to name a few. With the twelve days you’re budgeting, you certainly don’t have to divide Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Sa Pa into equal thirds nor book any accommodation prior, as you may want to reduce or extend your stay in one or more of those locations.
Your Nine-To-Five Beckons
After dropping the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, Sam and Frodo went home. You, you’re unfortunately taking a Boeing 737, not a giant eagle, and you’re not returning to the Shire, but to your nine-to-five and your responsibilities. You’ve got to love those things too. Especially those “responsibilities.” You did kiss them goodbye before you left, didn’t you?
Written by Chad Gerber
Disclaimer: I, Nick Petrou, wrote this blog post purely for use as a sample. I worked with Chad Gerber, a photographer, videographer, and travel blogger, writing it as if he were hiring me as a ghostwriter to create this blog post, and he provided me and gave me permission to use his images, which remain his copyrighted property. The content of the blog post was conceived by Chad, and he directed it thereon. We chose to approach it this way because, as a ghostwriter, I would not usually receive public credit for or be able to share the content I create for a client, and because I could post it here on my own website. If you want to see examples of the content I have actually edited for Chad’s photography and videography website, please see my commercial portfolio, and if you want to see more of Chad’s work and travels, please visit his website or Instagram. Everything hereafter is the ghostwritten blog post.