Vietnam Overview – An Excessive Amount of Motorbikes, Beautiful Landscapes and a Maze of Limestone Casts
As part of our South East Asia trip we spent two weeks exploring Vietnam. Below is a roundup of my itinerary, where we stayed and how we got around.
Currency = Vietnamese Dong
Capital City = Hanoi
Biggest Tourist Attraction = Halong Bay
Beer Drank = Saigon green or red and Hanoi
Best Food Eaten = We had some amazing food in Vietnam but the best meal has to have been pineapple and bacon fried rice in a pineapple
We travelled around Vietnam much slower than Cambodia and I have to say that because of this I enjoyed it much more. Two weeks was the perfect amount of time.
Day One and Two
We arrived in Vietnam via the Bavet/Moc Bai border from Cambodia. Saigon has the craziest traffic I have ever seen with barely any cars on the road but hundreds of mopeds. Trying to cross the road is an impossible task unless you forget everything you learnt as a kid. The city has much more of a western mix than any place we visited in Cambodia.
Day Three, Four and Five
The first day was spent on a bus from Saigon where we had a quick stop in Mui Ne. The drive in to Nha Trang was beautiful and we were instantly excited for our time here. We spent our time snorkelling and renting sun beds by a pool. Nha Trang was a bit touristy and I can see why people would dislike it, however we had a great time here. On day five we took our first over night bus, my it was cramped and bumpy!
Day Six, Seven and Eight
We had such a great time here: buying tailored clothes, taking a photography course, walking by the river, exploring the old town and marvelling at all the lanterns at night. The old town was beautiful and it was so nice to be in a quaint little town instead of in a tourist trap city. I loved taking the photography course and getting to explore some proper rural Vietnam.
Day Nine and Ten
We didn’t expect much from Hue but wanted to break up the journey instead of doing 20+ hours on a bus. Therefore our time in Hue was a pleasant surprise. We took a motorbike trip around the surrounding area, visiting the Tu Hieu Pagoda, Tu Duc Tomb and the Citadel (Video Coming Soon). We had a favourite night out here at the Les Gardens bar where the waitress came and sat with us, played jenga and taught us some Vietnamese.
Day Eleven and Fourteen
I’m afraid I really wasn’t a fan of Hanoi. It didn’t seem to have any heart to it and there seemed to be scammers everywhere due to it being the gateway to Halong Bay.
Day Twelve and Thirteen
We had an amazing two night stay in Halong Bay, spending the first night on the boat and then another in a Bungalow on an island. We spent our time kayaking, cycling, sunbathing and visiting various attractions among the limestone casts. Despite all the worry of booking our trip through our hotel it turned out to be fantastic! Our boat was the Luxury Imperial Cruise.
Where To Stay
Saigon – Vinh Guesthouse 3/5 – brilliant location and lovely room, however I disliked the fact that there was no communal area.
Nha Trang – Truong Giang Hotel 4/5 – a lovely hotel and staff who gave us a whole run down of everything to do in the local area upon our arrival; we were also given an upgrade on our room.
Hoi An – Sunflower Hotel 4/5 – a hotel located slightly out of the town but with a shuttle bus free of charge, a beautiful free breakfast and a pool onsite.
Hue – Binh Duong 4/5 – a lovely little hotel down a side street, super friendly staff and a beautiful room.
Hanoi – Bluebell Hotel 3/5 – good location and lovely staff who helped us book our Halong Bay trip and invited us out every evening; however the bed was extremely hard.
How To Get Around
Open Tour Buses – There are several companies and plenty of rip offs, especially in Hanoi. We used the original Sinh Cafe which has been renamed as the Sinh Tourist due to so many fakes being around. Sinh Tourist Website (the REAL ONE). Our ticket from Saigon to Hanoi with all stops as above cost US$40.
Train – We didn’t use the train, however it is a great option to avoid being cramped on those overnight buses.
Taxi’s – All taxis in Vietnam are metered and there are NO tuk-tuks. You can hire motorbikes or bicycles on every street corner.
For Vietnam you will need to purchase your Visa in advance, many hostels in Cambodia and Laos offer this service however if you are like me and want to keep sight of your passport then you can head to the Vietnam Consulate – We did exactly this in Sihanoukville and here are the brilliant set of instructions I used from Global Goose.