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My Experience Traveling To Vietnam As An American Veteran’s Daughter: North (Part 1)


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Livvy High



As an American veteran’s daughter, traveling to Vietnam held a special significance for me. The country’s history and culture were intertwined with my father’s service during the Vietnam War. I wanted to explore this land that had played such a major role in his life and gain a deeper understanding of the people and their experiences.


My journey to Vietnam was not just a touristy adventure; it was a personal and emotional quest. I knew that exploring Vietnam would not only offer me the opportunity to connect with my father’s past but also give me a chance to appreciate the country’s natural beauty, vibrant cities, and rich heritage.


Throughout my trip, I aimed to immerse myself in the local culture, interact with the Vietnamese people, and create lasting memories. I wanted to experience Vietnam beyond the typical tourist traps and delve into its hidden gems. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene landscapes of Halong Bay, every moment in Vietnam promised to be an adventure.


Join me as I share my incredible journey through Vietnam, beginning in the northern part of the country. Discover the charm of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, pay homage to Ho Chi Minh at his Mausoleum, delve into history at the Vietnam Military History Museum, indulge in delicious Vietnamese cuisine, and embark on a mesmerizing cruise through the awe-inspiring Halong Bay.


Get ready to be captivated by Vietnam’s beauty, touched by its history, and immersed in its warm and welcoming culture. This is the story of my experience traveling to Vietnam as an American veteran’s daughter, and I’m excited to share it with you.


My Father’s Service in Vietnam

My father’s service in Vietnam played a pivotal role in shaping my family’s history and my personal connection to the country. He was a brave soldier who fought in the Vietnam War, and his experiences left a lasting impact on him and our family.


My father rarely spoke about his time in Vietnam, but I could see the profound effect it had on him. He carried the weight of those memories with him, and it was important for me to explore the land that had left such a mark on his life.


Before embarking on my journey, I took the time to sit down with my father and listen to his stories. He shared snippets of his time in Vietnam, the friendships he forged with his fellow soldiers, and the challenges they faced together. As he spoke, I could feel the mixture of pride and sadness in his voice.


It was clear that Vietnam held a special place in my father’s heart. He described the beauty of the country, the resilience of its people, and the complex emotions that came with being a soldier in a foreign land.


As I prepared for my trip to Vietnam, I carried not only my own excitement but also the weight of my father’s experiences. It was important for me to honor his service and pay tribute to all the soldiers who sacrificed so much during that time.


Throughout my journey, I felt a deep sense of connection to my father and all the veterans who had served in Vietnam. It was a chance for me to walk in their footsteps, to witness the places they had fought and to try and understand the impact war had on their lives.


Traveling to Vietnam as my father’s daughter allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for the sacrifices he and others had made. It was a reminder of the courage, strength, and resilience that define the spirit of the Vietnamese people.


My father’s service in Vietnam was a chapter in our family’s story that I needed to explore and understand. And so, with his blessing and support, I embarked on a journey that would not only satisfy my curiosity but also honor his memory and the memory of all those who had served alongside him.


Preparing for the Trip

Preparing for my journey to Vietnam was an exciting and meticulous process. I wanted to ensure that I made the most of my time in this beautiful country and had an unforgettable experience. Here is a glimpse into the preparations I made for my trip.


First and foremost, I researched extensively about Vietnam’s culture, history, and must-visit destinations. I read travel blogs, watched documentaries, and talked to friends who had previously visited the country. This helped me create a comprehensive itinerary and make a list of the places I wanted to explore.


Next, I obtained the necessary travel documents such as a valid passport and a Vietnamese visa. I made sure to check the entry requirements and validity of my passport to avoid any last-minute complications. With these in hand, I felt confident and ready to embark on my journey.


One aspect I paid special attention to was packing. I wanted to ensure that I had all the essential items for a comfortable and enjoyable trip. As Vietnam has a diverse climate, I packed a combination of lightweight clothing for the hot and humid days and a few warmer layers for the cooler evenings.


Knowing that I would be exploring various landscapes, I also packed appropriate footwear, including sturdy walking shoes and sandals. Additionally, I made sure to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout my adventures.


Another important aspect of my preparation was learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases. While many locals in popular tourist areas speak English, knowing a few words of the local language can go a long way in establishing connections and showing respect. I practiced phrases such as hello, thank you, and asking for directions, which proved to be invaluable during my journey.


Before leaving, I also checked the weather forecast for the duration of my trip and made any necessary adjustments to my itinerary or packing list. This ensured that I was ready for any changes in weather conditions and could make the most of my time in each location.


Overall, the preparation process for my trip to Vietnam was a combination of thorough research, organizing travel documents, packing strategically, and familiarizing myself with the local language and customs. These preparations gave me a sense of confidence and excitement as I embarked on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.


Arriving in Hanoi

Stepping off the plane in Hanoi, I was immediately enveloped in a whirlwind of sights, sounds, and smells. The bustling capital city of Vietnam welcomed me with open arms, and I knew that my journey had truly begun.


The first thing that struck me was the energy of Hanoi. Motorbikes whizzed by, honking their horns, while street vendors lined the sidewalks, selling a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, and local delicacies. The city seemed to be in constant motion, with a vibrant atmosphere that invigorated me.


I checked into my hotel in the heart of the Old Quarter, a historic neighborhood known for its narrow lanes, ancient architecture, and bustling markets. As I walked through the labyrinth of streets, I couldn’t help but marvel at the charm and authenticity that permeated the area.


The streets were filled with a fascinating mix of traditional Vietnamese shops, trendy cafes, and street food stalls. I couldn’t resist the temptation to sample some of the local delicacies, like pho, the iconic Vietnamese noodle soup, and banh mi, a delicious baguette sandwich filled with flavorful ingredients.


One of the highlights of my time in Hanoi was visiting the Hoan Kiem Lake, a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. Surrounded by lush greenery, the lake offered a peaceful respite from the bustling streets. I took a leisurely stroll around the lake, taking in the scenic beauty and observing locals engaging in Tai Chi and other activities.


Another must-visit attraction in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university. This historic site beautifully showcases Vietnamese architecture and is a testament to the country’s rich history and dedication to education.


One evening, I decided to experience the vibrant nightlife of Hanoi and ventured to the Bia Hoi Corner, a lively intersection known for its cheap draft beer. Sitting on small plastic stools, I joined the locals in enjoying a glass of refreshing Bia Hoi, soaking in the lively atmosphere, and striking up conversations with fellow travelers and locals alike.


Hanoi is a city that seamlessly blends the old and the new. It boasts modern skyscrapers alongside ancient temples, and traditional street markets next to trendy boutiques. This unique contrast made Hanoi a captivating and dynamic destination.


Arriving in Hanoi was like diving headfirst into the heart and soul of Vietnam. The city’s vibrancy, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality set the tone for my entire journey. As I bid farewell to Hanoi, I knew that I had only scratched the surface of the wonders that Vietnam had to offer, and I eagerly looked forward to exploring more of this captivating country.


Exploring the Old Quarter

Located in the heart of Hanoi, the Old Quarter is a charming and bustling neighborhood that captures the essence of Vietnamese history and culture. As I ventured into its maze-like streets, I embarked on a journey back in time, immersing myself in its rich heritage.


The Old Quarter is famous for its narrow streets, each specializing in a specific trade, giving it a unique atmosphere and character. Walking through these streets, I discovered a treasure trove of traditional shops, art galleries, and bustling markets. From vibrant silk boutiques to street vendors selling intricate handmade crafts, the Old Quarter was a haven for those seeking authentic Vietnamese souvenirs.


One of the highlights of exploring the Old Quarter was the opportunity to visit its traditional houses, known as “tube houses.” These narrow and tall structures offer a glimpse into the daily lives of the local residents. Inside, I discovered countless stories woven into the architecture and design, showcasing the ingenuity of the Vietnamese people.


The streets of the Old Quarter are also famous for their delicious street food. Exotic aromas wafted through the air as I wandered from vendor to vendor, sampling mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes. From crispy banh xeo pancakes to flavorful bun cha, each bite was a culinary delight that left me craving for more.


Exploring the Old Quarter is not just about the sights and flavors but also about the vibrant culture that fills the streets. It’s a place where ancient traditions coexist with modern influences. I encountered street performers showcasing traditional Vietnamese music, artisans honing their craft, and locals engaging in lively conversations.


One of the standout features of the Old Quarter is its beautifully preserved architecture. The buildings display a fusion of French colonial and Vietnamese styles, with their vibrant colors and ornate details. As I wandered through the streets, I couldn’t resist capturing the intricate balconies, delicate shutters, and vibrant facades with my camera.


With each step, the Old Quarter offered a glimpse into Vietnam’s past, its resilience, and its ability to adapt to the changing times. It reminded me of the rich cultural heritage that lay at the heart of the country’s identity.


Exploring the Old Quarter was like stepping into a time capsule, a captivating journey that brought history and culture to life. It was a vibrant and enchanting neighborhood that left an indelible mark on my travel experiences in Vietnam.


Visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

One of the most revered and iconic landmarks in Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi is a testament to the profound respect and admiration the Vietnamese people have for their revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh. Visiting this historic site was an essential part of my journey through Vietnam.


The mausoleum is an imposing structure that stands in the center of Ba Dinh Square, a significant historical area in Hanoi. It was built to honor Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Vietnamese independence movement and the first president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.


As I approached the mausoleum, I was struck by its grandeur and the sense of reverence that surrounded it. The exterior, made of gray granite and rising over 21 meters high, exuded a sense of strength and resilience, reflecting the ideals that Ho Chi Minh upheld.


The highlight of my visit was the opportunity to pay my respects to Ho Chi Minh by walking through his final resting place. Inside the mausoleum, a dimly lit hall led me to the embalmed body of the beloved leader, preserved for eternity.


Visitors are required to maintain a solemn silence as they pass by Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body. The atmosphere within the mausoleum was one of solemnity and reverence, as people from all walks of life paid their respects to the man who had dedicated his life to the liberation of Vietnam.


After exiting the mausoleum, I explored the surrounding grounds, which included the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the Presidential Palace. The museum offered a detailed insight into Ho Chi Minh’s life and the struggles he faced in leading Vietnam to independence.


The Presidential Palace, where Ho Chi Minh once lived and worked, provided a glimpse into the simplicity and modesty that characterized his life. The stilt house, set within lush gardens, showcased how Ho Chi Minh chose to live in a modest and unassuming manner, despite his position of power.


Visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was an emotionally stirring experience. It allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the profound impact Ho Chi Minh had on the people of Vietnam and the enduring legacy he left behind.


This sacred site holds significant historic and cultural value, a symbol of the unwavering spirit and determination of the Vietnamese people in their quest for independence and unity.


Walking through the mausoleum, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of respect for Ho Chi Minh and the sacrifices he made for his country. The visit left me with a profound appreciation for the resilience, courage, and unwavering spirit that defined the Vietnamese people throughout their tumultuous history.


Reflecting at the Vietnam Military History Museum

During my time in Hanoi, I had the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Military History Museum, a place that offers a comprehensive perspective on Vietnam’s tumultuous past, its struggles for independence, and the heroic efforts of its people. Stepping into the museum, I knew I was about to embark on a profound journey through Vietnam’s military history.


The museum is located within the sprawling grounds of the Dien Bien Phu Exhibition and Cultural Center, which adds to the overall ambience and significance of the experience. The exterior of the museum is adorned with various military equipment, including tanks and aircraft, giving visitors a glimpse into Vietnam’s military prowess.


As I entered the museum, I was immediately struck by the vast collection of artifacts and exhibits on display. The museum’s exhibits cover various periods of Vietnam’s military history, including the pre-colonial era, the French Indochina War, the Vietnam War, and the modern Vietnamese military.


The exhibits were meticulously curated, providing a comprehensive understanding of the country’s military struggles and victories. From historical documents and photographs to weapons and uniforms, these artifacts transported me back in time, allowing me to witness the events that shaped Vietnam’s destiny.


One of the most moving exhibitions within the museum is the “Road to Victory” section, which focuses on the Vietnam War. The exhibition is a powerful tribute to the resilience and determination of the Vietnamese people in the face of adversity. It showcases the struggles they endured and the sacrifices they made during the conflict.


The museum also offers a thought-provoking outdoor exhibition area, where various military aircraft, tanks, and artillery pieces are displayed. These remnants of past conflicts serve as a reminder of the brutality of war and the impacts it has on the lives of those involved.


Walking through the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions. On one hand, there was a sense of sadness as I witnessed the devastating consequences of war. On the other hand, there was admiration for the courage and resilience of the Vietnamese people who fought for their country’s independence.


A visit to the Vietnam Military History Museum is a humbling experience, as it prompts deep reflection on the human cost of war and the importance of peace. It is a reminder of the price that has been paid for the freedom and independence that Vietnam enjoys today.


Leaving the museum, I carried with me a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Vietnamese people in their quest for freedom and unity. The museum allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s military history and left me with a renewed sense of respect for the indomitable spirit of the Vietnamese people.


Enjoying Traditional Vietnamese Cuisine

One of the highlights of my journey through Vietnam was the opportunity to indulge in the exquisite flavors of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the charming food stalls in Ho Chi Minh City, every bite was a culinary adventure that delighted my taste buds and opened my eyes to the diverse and vibrant food culture of the country.


Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and artistic presentation. The balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors creates a harmonious symphony of tastes that is unique to the country.


My culinary journey began with the iconic dish, pho. This aromatic noodle soup is made with a flavorful broth, rice noodles, and various toppings such as thinly sliced beef, fresh herbs, and bean sprouts. It was a comforting and soul-nourishing dish that I savored in Hanoi’s local eateries, where the rich aroma of simmering broth filled the air.


Exploring the local street markets, I discovered an array of other delectable dishes. Banh mi, a French-inspired baguette sandwich filled with a combination of meats, fresh herbs, and pickled vegetables, was a delightful fusion of flavors and textures.


Another favorite was bun cha, a dish that featured grilled pork served with rice noodles, herbs, and a tangy dipping sauce. The combination of smoky grilled meat, the freshness of the herbs, and the zing of the sauce created a burst of flavors that was simply irresistible.


One of the most memorable dining experiences of my trip was sitting down for a traditional Vietnamese family-style meal known as com nieu. This unique culinary tradition involves cooking various dishes in clay pots and serving them with steamed rice. The communal nature of the meal fostered a sense of togetherness, as I shared delicious dishes with newfound friends and immersed myself in the convivial atmosphere.


Vietnamese cuisine offers a wide variety of vegetarian options as well. I was delighted to try dishes like fresh spring rolls, known as goi cuon, which are made with rice paper wrappers filled with an assortment of vegetables, tofu, and herbs. These refreshing and light rolls were a perfect balance to the rich flavors of other dishes.


No Vietnamese meal is complete without a vibrant array of sauces and condiments on the table. From the popular nuoc cham, a zesty fish sauce-based dip, to the fiery sriracha chili sauce, these accompaniments added an extra layer of flavor and depth to each dish.


The beauty of traditional Vietnamese cuisine lies in its simplicity and emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. It’s a cuisine that embraces the natural flavors of each ingredient, allowing them to shine through in every bite.


Enjoying traditional Vietnamese cuisine was not just about satisfying my culinary cravings; it was a cultural experience that connected me to the heart and soul of Vietnam. Each dish told a story of the land, its people, and the shared joy of good food.


Cruising in Halong Bay

One of the most breathtaking destinations in Vietnam is Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site that boasts stunning natural beauty and ethereal landscapes. I had the opportunity to embark on a cruise through this majestic bay, and it was truly a highlight of my journey.


The moment I set foot on the cruise ship, I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation. As we sailed through the emerald waters, I was mesmerized by the sight of numerous limestone karsts jutting out of the sea, creating a surreal and magical atmosphere.


The cruise took me through the maze-like passages of Halong Bay, revealing hidden caves, secluded beaches, and picturesque floating villages. Each turn offered a new, awe-inspiring view that left me in awe of the natural wonders surrounding me.


One of the highlights of the cruise was visiting some of the famous caves in Halong Bay, such as the Sung Sot Cave and the Thien Cung Cave. These magnificent caverns are adorned with stunning rock formations and are filled with legends and stories that have been passed down through generations.


As the sun began to set, the boat anchored in a quiet bay, allowing us to witness the mesmerizing spectacle of the golden hour. The sky transformed into a canvas of vibrant hues, casting a warm glow over the limestone cliffs and creating a truly magical ambiance.


During the cruise, we had the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities. From kayaking through secluded lagoons to swimming in the tranquil turquoise waters, each experience allowed me to intimately connect with the natural beauty of Halong Bay.


The crew on board the cruise ship was incredibly hospitable, ensuring that every detail of the journey was taken care of. They provided delicious meals featuring fresh seafood and local specialties, allowing me to savor the flavors of Vietnam while enjoying the breathtaking surroundings.


Waking up to the gentle rocking of the boat and the serene beauty of Halong Bay was a surreal experience. The mist-covered karsts and the tranquil waters created a sense of peace and tranquility that made the cruise a truly rejuvenating and unforgettable experience.


Cruising through Halong Bay allowed me to immerse myself in the natural wonders of Vietnam. It was a journey that reminded me of the immense beauty this world has to offer and the importance of preserving it for future generations to enjoy.


Leaving Halong Bay was bittersweet, but the memories of its awe-inspiring beauty will remain etched in my mind forever. Cruising through this mesmerizing landscape was an experience that transcended words and left an indelible mark on my journey through Vietnam.



My journey through Vietnam as an American veteran’s daughter was a deeply meaningful and enriching experience. From exploring the vibrant streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter to reflecting at the solemn Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and from immersing myself in the rich history at the Vietnam Military History Museum to indulging in the flavors of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, every moment was a testament to the beauty, resilience, and warmth of the Vietnamese people.


Throughout my trip, I felt a profound connection to my father and his service in Vietnam. It was a way for me to honor his sacrifices and understand the impact of war on both individuals and a nation. Walking in his footsteps and exploring the places that held significance during his time in Vietnam allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for his experiences and the experiences of all those who served.


Vietnam captured my heart with its breathtaking scenery, rich history, and vibrant culture. Cruising through the majestic landscapes of Halong Bay and witnessing the ethereal beauty of limestone karsts rising from the emerald waters was a captivating experience that left me in awe of the natural wonders of the country.


But it was the people of Vietnam who truly left an indelible mark on my journey. Their warmth, hospitality, and resilience were evident in every interaction, reminding me of the strength of the human spirit and the power of unity.


My journey through Vietnam was not just a travel adventure; it was a personal and emotional odyssey. It allowed me to connect with my father’s past, gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s history and culture, and create lasting memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.


As I bid farewell to this captivating country, I carry with me a renewed perspective, a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Vietnamese people, and a greater admiration for their unwavering spirit.


Vietnam has transformed me in ways I never expected. It has taught me the power of resilience, the importance of cultural exchange, and the beauty of embracing new experiences. My journey as an American veteran’s daughter in Vietnam was a profound and transformative chapter of my life, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.