In April 2014 I spent 12 days in Vietnam. It was a flying visit as I already had plans to go on with in Thailand (for the fourth time!) …
I regard Vietnam as my ‘surprise country’ and like to think I’ll go back again one day.
I travelled it with my friend Jen. We started in Saigon, Ho-Chi-Minh and worked our way North.
I have written this post backwards as I know the reader in question starts his trip North, in Hanoi …
HANOI (Vietnam’s capital city, North Vietnam)
Walking tour – I used to think ‘walking tours’ were for people with too much time on their hands; until I did one! You learn so much and are taken to all the best spots. We booked ours through our hostel:
Hanoi Backpackers – The place to stay if you’re looking for a good time! It was fab, it’s modern and full of fellow travellers. Most of whom are there for the infamous:
Castaway Tour – We heard about this before we got to Vietnam. It has since been in the news, described as a ‘holiday from hell’ … if you don’t wanna party, don’t do it!. You spend a day on a crazzzyyyyyy boat and a day on a party island. By the time it’s time to leave you feel like a dead person walking. It it TOO MUCH FUN, if you want a crazy experience, DO CASTAWAY. (I nearly died on Castaway, it was 100mph at all times).
(Cheap!) Luxury Hotels – After Castaway we booked into a luxury hotel, which was just up the road from Hanoi Backpackers. I remember thinking I had never been so excited by clean sheets and pillows in my entire life!.
(Cheap!) Amazing food – Again, after Castaway, we needed some ~real food~. There are loads of upmarket restaurants in Hanoi. Get out on foot and see what you can find.
Get inked – I found a tiny little tattoo shop down a back alley for a new addition. I walked away a Dove on my wrist. Dove’s signify ‘aspiration and hope’ after the war in Vietnam. Don’t be afraid to get inked abroad, if the studio looks good it probably is!.
Things I didn’t do (and wish I did!) in Hanoi – Castaway was our main goal for our visit in Hanoi, that coupled with the walking tour and luxury living at a fraction of the price gave us a quick insight into the amazing city. I wish I had stayed there longer but otherwise I felt I saw a lot in a just a few days.
HOI AN (central Vietnam coast)
Hoi An is the kind of place you can visit as a solo traveller, as a couple or with your family. It is a prime example of ‘the best things come in small packages’. It is quite simply, beautiful. I wish I was there right now!.
The Sunflower Hotel – Sunflower is one of the best places to stay in South East Asia. It’s known for having the ‘best free breakfast in Vietnam’. We didn’t know this until we were checking out, we were too busy partying with our roommates to care about food. For fun – it’s THE PLACE.
(Cheap!) Spa’s – The Sunflower lifestyle wears you out pretty quick – but you’ll be OK, there’s a spa across the road to save you with massages!. Spa treatments are around $15 AUD. Always a bargain and yes, you always deserve it!.
Market – Get made to measure dresses, suits (and just about anything you need in your wardrobe) here. You get measured one day and pick it up the next. The quality is superb, designer style at a fraction of the price. It’s cheap so stock up!.
Bike – Explore Hoi An on a push bike, you should be able to get one for free / hire one super cheap from wherever you stay. It’s the best way to get around.
Things I didn’t do (and wish I did!) in Hoi An – We didn’t make it to An Bang Beach, we heard it was beautiful – we missed out!. I absolutely LOVED Hoi An and would go back there in a heartbeat. It’s the kinda place you imagine yourself being while you’re on your way to work.
HO CHI MINH, also known as SAIGON (South Vietnam)
I have previously written a full Ho Chi Minh write up, check it out here, which gives lots of details on what I did and why I LOVED it. I read it back this morning and wanted to give up my Sydney life and be there RIGHT. NOW!.
As I travelled Vietnam from South to North, Ho Chi Minh was my first stop off – it was a culture shock for all the right reasons.
THINGS WORTH KNOWING ABOUT VIETNAM
Visa – You hear horror stories of visa problems at border crossings but we had no issues. Do your research online (via the Vietnam Consulate website) before you go and you’ll be set.
Money – $10 AUD / is worth 172,000 Vietnamese Dong, 10GBP / 290,000 VND (the exchange rate is insane, enjoy it – you’re a millionaire!;).
Getting from A – B – Internal flights are frequent, we flew between our three destinations as we were short on time. Many of my friends have done the dreaded overnight busses. These cost next to nothing but are notorious as being trips from hell. I wish I had done one so I could say I had done it but travelling with chickens and no seat for 24hrs might not be your idea of fun! 😉
Where to stay – Your options are endless, you can do budget hostels for a few bucks per night, find guest houses, or ramp it up to expensive hotels where your every whim is catered for. It really is up to you and how you wish to spend your hard earned cash. I recommend using Booking.com as you can book for free, with free cancellations and then only have to pay on arrival.
Safety – I felt (and was) super safe during my whole trip, the locals are amazing people. Hopefully you will find them as welcoming and kind as I did.
History – You absolutely MUST take in the culture and the history. The war museum in Ho Chi Minh is something you should know about and respect. It will help you appreciate the country even more than you imagined you could.
It has been a pleasure re-living my brief stint in Vietnam. It was amazing, I love, love, LOVED it.
I usually use my own images for my posts but have written this one quickly today as I realised the reader in question leaves home on their 28 day trip TODAY! Wishing them the best trip ever!
Thank you for reading. Please share with anyone interested in Vietnam.