Travel

Nicki Chapman: I'll never forget my first visit to Vietnam

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WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE HOLIDAY?

My first visit to Vietnam with my husband in 2014. Hanoi was a baptism of fire, a complete assault on the senses.

I’ll never forget my first sight of the chaotic, dusty roads with thousands of cyclists.

I loved the bustling night market and munching on street food such as shrimp pat ties, known as bánh tôm.

We arrived during Tet, Vietnamese New Year, and stood by families, dressed in traditional costume, watching fireworks exploding over the Hoàn Kiem Lake. It was magical.

AND YOUR WORST?

Losing my luggage in Botswana was dire.

I was filming a holiday programme and had to take a light plane to the Makgadikgadi Pans, a huge salt flat where you can actually see the curvature of the Earth.

I was so excited until I arrived and realised the pilot had left my suitcase on the Tarmac.

I filmed for three days without make-up or a change of clothes.

WHICH SOUVENIR DO YOU CHERISH MOST?

A beautiful, wooden angel sculpture I bought in Thailand.

I asked my taxi driver to find an off the beaten track market and we drove to a huge field, about 20 miles from Phuket, which was jam-packed with furniture and artefacts.

I spotted my 2ft tall angel and had to sweet talk the airline into letting me take it home in hand luggage.

She has pride of place in my sitting room.

BEST HOLIDAY READ?

Terry Hayes’s thriller I Am Pilgrim.

I went hours without talking to my husband.

And I adore Above Sydney by George Hall, a coffee table book I found in Bondi.

It has incredible aerial views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge which still take my breath away.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME ON HOLIDAY?

If there’s a boat to be hired I’ll be there.

We’ve been to the Sandpiper hotel in Barbados for years and always hire a catamaran to sail along the west coast to Bridgetown, where we swim with turtles and snorkel.

WHERE WOULD YOU REVISIT?

The Amazon rainforest where I had an incredible experience staying on a floating hotel.

Our guide woke us at midnight, putting flashlights on our heads to go searching for crocodiles or caimans.

We went piranha fishing which I loved until our guide showed me his three missing fingers.

WHERE NEXT?

My brother’s getting married in Portugal next month so I’m looking forward to glorious food in the Algarve.

Then it’s Australia in July to film Wanted Down Under and St Lucia in November for a holiday.

• Nicki presents BBC1’s daytime coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show from Monday. rhs.org.uk


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