For many years, people I know have been urging me to go and explore Vietnam. Finally I made it this year. Initially I thought that 3 weeks of travel time would give me adequate time to get to a good range of sites and regions – until I started to do my research! Vietnam, like many countries, has its set of ‘go to’ traveller picks. It is easy to fall for the easy option when planning journeys and stick to the places that always hit the top of the lists on generic itineraries. But this is always something that I seem keen to sidestep in some way. A little of that is travel snobbery – it’s true, can’t lie! – and a lot of it is that desire to see a more authentic side to a culture. However, if you are like me and don’t have endless months to sit and soak up a place at whim, there is always the restriction of time. Alongside that is the fact that, whilst I am brave enough to travel solo, I don’t like to go without good plans in place. So how did I choose where to go when I am plotting a future journey?
At the age of 52, I have just returned from a trip that felt like the biggest I have done for a very long time. I took myself from the Chilean Atacama across into Bolivia to trail across the desert and the salt flats up to the highest capital in the world, La Paz. From there I ‘turned left’ and headed for Lake Titicaca into Peru and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Machu Picchu was a life goal. Unable to resist the relative proximity, I tacked on an 8-day cruise through the West, Central & Eastern islands of the Galapagos archipelago; stopping in Quito on the way.