I can’t believe I have waited this long to write about Vietnam. It was truly the most enjoyable stop on our South East Asia trip. The people were so nice and so friendly. The food was amazing and the country has so much history. I cannot wait to go back.
If you are looking for the authentic experience, this is the way to go. The tours are pretty pricey though, between $80 – $100/a day. They include accommodations, but not food. The guide takes you to locals only restaurants, so the prices are astonishing. If you tell them what types of sites you are interested in and what type of food you want to try they will cater the tour to you. This is an excellent way to get around, especially because the roads are so terrible in Vietnam; motorbikes are the fastest way to travel.
If you do book a tour, keep in mind that you are riding on a motorcycle and you will have to carry your luggage. We also ended our tour early because we got stuck in the rain. The guides are very knowledgeable and they are prepared for any weather condition. I am a little more high maintenance, so this travel style wasn’t the right fit for me.
Where To Go
I did a lot of research and made a list of all the places I wanted to see in Vietnam. We decided the best way for us was to start in the North and head towards the South of Vietnam.
We flew in to Hanoi, and it was complete culture shock to me. I had read online to make sure to book a hotel with a window. I did not know what this meant until we landed in Hanoi. The city was jam packed. We stayed in the Old Quarter. There a motorbikes going every which direction. We had got in late, so we made our way to tourist corner. The restaurants put small tables and stools outside, for people to sit and eat. I still can’t get over the hustle and bustle of this city.
We had very limited time. Our hotel front desk clerk was very helpful. He booked us to go to Halong Bay and wrote us a note to show our taxi driver and the bus station, so we could tell them where we wanted to go. Unfortunately we did not spend very much time in Hanoi, we left the next morning and went straight to Halong Bay/ Cat Ba Island.
We were told that we should skip Halong Bay and go to Cat Ba Island. It is pretty horrible getting to Cat Ba Island. There is a long bus ride, with at least 4 – 5 stops, then a ferry ride and then a bus ride again.
There is no night life at all here, it is pretty sleepy. We ended up only spending one day here. Cat Ba is good because it is very cheap to get waterfront accommodations. It is known for hiking trails,rock climbing, and boat trips. We did not stay overnight on a boat, instead we just did a day trip.The rock cliffs are amazing and there are lots of cool caves to see.
This place is amazing. It is really hard to get to. We had to take a bus to the closest town and then take a taxi. We rented a bike and rode up to the cave. We were intending to stay the night, but this is another sleepy area. We ended up paying for a hotel, having a shower and then booking the first night bus out. Some other travelers had hyped Hoi An, so we decided to head straight there. The cave is worth the trip though, I have never seen anything like this in my life.
Hoi An was the place we spent the most time in, we loved it here. It has such a good small town vibe. The hotel we rented had bikes, so we were able to explore on our own. It is situated close to the beach and the “downtown” of the city is called ancient city, which is very beautiful. Like most Asian cities, they have a night market. There is also river cruises that serve dinner and quite a bit of nightlife here.
We did a cooking class, which was fun and included a free cooking book. We learned how to make spring rolls, a fish stew, asian pancakes and some other small dishes. We also had the most amazing lunch at a place called Bale Well. I would highly recommend going here, although for Vietnamese standards it is a little bit expensive.
We got slightly carried away with getting clothes made. I made the mistake the first day we arrived and went to the first tailor I saw. My boyfriend made fun of me and said I am an easy mark. Literally every shop keeper pulled me in and tired to sell me things. I then read online that most of them just have the clothes pre-made and they make small alterations to them. I did some research and found the best places to go to. My boyfriend and I got some tailored business clothes made by Bebe. The people there are truly amazing, everything is amazing quality. It is fairly pricey for Asia, so be choosy with the items. I get compliments on the pieces to this day. If you need a suit, this is the place to go.
For more casual and trendy clothes, I recommend going to Anna the Tailor. Her prices are super reasonable. I got a lot of silk casual clothes made, you can bring her a picture and will make it exactly how it looks. Be sure to be clear with your instructions. Although her English is very good, she does send everything out to get made, so there is always a little bit of room for error. I had the dress above made at her shop.
Nha Trang was one of our highlights in Vietnam. It is another beach town. There are a lot of Russians here, you almost feel like you are in a different country. With that being said, it is very hard to find anyone who speaks English here. Most people speak Vietnamese or Russian. I also found the people not as friendly here.
We spent a couple days in Nha Trang. We booked a waterfront hotel with a rooftop pool, which only cost us $20. We did a mud spa, which was fun and super cheap. DO NOT take a taxi. There is a shuttle to get there. The lady at the hotel insisted we take a taxi, which was a silly idea, considering there is a free shuttle that comes right to the hotel.
VinPearl was the coolest amusement park I have ever been to. It is not busy at all, and everything is included with admission. There is rides, an arcade, an aquarium, a water-park and a golf course. The total cost $20! So awesome! I highly recommend going, even though it is not the most cultural experience.
Our guide from our motorcycle tour, recommended that we should make sure we go to Dalat. Maybe we didn’t give it the best chance, but it wasn’t really for us. It is very beautiful, and it is at a high altitude so it is a bit cooler here. It was so weird because it was around eighteen degrees Celsius, but all the locals were wearing winter jackets. We spent only one night here. We went to the place where they produce weasel coffee and then woke up early and went to the Crazy House, which was kinda cool. We decided that we were more beach town people, so took the first bus to Mui Ne.
Mui Ne is beautiful. We booked an amazing hotel, with its own private patio overlooking the water. I loved it here. There are white and red sand dunes, which are definitely worth visiting. We only spent three days here, but if we had a week we would of signed up to go Kite-boarding. Mui Ne is known for Kite-boarding and there is Kite-boarding schools all along the beach.
Hoi Chi Minh
We ended our trip in Hoi Chi Minh city. This is where our trip got a little more serious. We went to the War museum and learned more about the history of Vietnam. We also went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. There is so much to learn about the culture and the war. It was a very eye opening experience. We hired a private guide with a private car. This was worthwhile, our guide was very thorough and well educated. He has a degree in History. He also gave us a list of dishes to try and restaurants to go to.
Sapa – I really wish we had made it here. We had heard so many good things about it. It is located in the mountains and has amazing views of the rice patties. All the travelers we met raved about this place.
We finished off the trip, with a big bowl of pho at the airport. I can’t wait to go back. Everyone in Vietnam wanted to learn more about us, and show us their country. On our motorcycle tour, we were caught in the rain up in the hills. The guide knocked on a strangers house, and he welcomes us in and made us tea. This really is a testament to how warm the country truly is. I would highly recommend added Vietnam to your itinerary if you are headed to South East Asia.