So last time we were in Hanoi we stayed at an Airbnb in Tay Ho, the expat area. We were chatting to our host and we told her we were English teachers in the nearby province of Thai Nguyen. Coincidentally, she said she had a friend in Thai Nguyen so we got her friend’s email to contact her. It turned out that her friend runs an organisation called TeaTour and does tours of the tea plantations.
Thai Nguyen’s tea plantations have been famous in Vietnam for hundreds of years, and they export it to many countries also. We organised to go on her tour and knew nothing other than to show up at 8.30 am. I didn’t know what to expect, but was excited to explore where we live.
The tour was with university students who spoke English and were keen to practise it. They took us on the back of their bike to the tea plantations, which were surprisingly far away, especially on a bike! The journey there was long, and so cold. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been deprived of nice scenery for a while but the countryside was stunning. We went through rice paddies and saw lots of water buffalo as we spiralled up the winding hills to the tea plantations. We also passed Núi Cốc Lake, which I am dying to visit.
At the tea plantations we were shown how tea was made. First the leaves are harvested, then dried and ground, then dried again. The woman making it had been doing her job since 1992! Then she let us taste some of the tea she made.
We went to a nearby stream to have lunch. The water was so clear and would have been amazing to swim in if it was warm enough. The guys we were with even made a fire for us to sit around as it was so cold. We chatted and had lunch before it was time to leave.
The sun came out for the way back and I tried to get photos, but they really don’t do it any justice. It was one of those moments I wish I had a camera on my head the entire time because it was so beautiful!
I love unexpected tips and random meetings! January was our first full month spent in Thai Nguyen and we’re starting to settle in. It’s not so fast-paced here but it’s good to be able to slow down and enjoy the little things. Other moments from January:
- Went out for New Years Eve, and found out it isn’t really a thing here
- Had a new years day meal, which may or may not have contained cat (I definitely swerved the may or may not have been cat meat)
- We met a lovely girl on Couchsurfing and went for tea with her. She even invited us to her family’s house for dinner and we had the best hotpot.
- I booked a trip to Cambodia for Tet holiday in February
- Got some wheels in the form of an electric bike (I’m still not going near the Vietnamese roads!)
- Went out for hotpot with our friend from work – the prawns were still living and tried to make a jump for it.
- Went to the cinema with the same friend, it only costs £1.50!
- Discovered some new tea places – Vietnam in general has the best tea/coffee shops and their decor is amazing.
- Vietnam got the finals in the Asia U23 and everyone went crazy – anyone who knows me knows I’m not into football but I love how it brings everyone together. Trying to teach when the final was on was not ideal though! The kid’s faces were priceless.
- And subsequently lost the finals but were very gracious and still celebrated anyway. I was again working during the final and it was so cute to see them all dressed up.
- Had some new tasty Vietnamese food – Bánh cuốn
- Our lovely manager took us to have our nails done – acrylics and toes done for a tenner!
- Went to Hanoi and did all the shopping. I still haven’t seen anything very cultural in Hanoi because whenever we go we’re on a mad dash to get things, so need to go on a trip soon just to see the sights. We had booked a hotel and were meant to be staying the night but a) the hotel we booked looked like the dodgiest place ever and b) they wouldn’t let us stay because we didn’t have our passports because we had sent the off to get our residency cards. On the plus side we bought cheese and beans.
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can go look at my Flickr where I upload them all