3 weeks in Vietnam – Travel Blog
Vietnam was my (Catherine) first experience of Asia a few years ago with my friend, I still think back on this fondly and wanted to share this amazing experience with you.
It is an amazing country seeped in history and culture. I travelled from Ho Chi Minh and stopped at some amazing places on the way to Hanoi the final stop. This trip was an adventure and the only things we planned were the direction we were going in! It was the best feeling to just go out and explore. Every place we visited there was so much to see that I may not have covered everything.
This is the one country I did not get a bad tummy or food poisoning! The famous local dish is Pho, a noodle soup broth with herbs and vegetables that you can add chicken or meat. The food is so tasty and when we were on boat trips or islands the locals caught fresh fish and cooked it straight away.
Ho Chi Minh
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh city was a culture shock! Vibrant and colourful, this bustling city hits the senses.
My first time in Asia and on my own I was a little apprehensive. The hostel (this was pre posh backpacking phase) was in a back lane off the main road, I walked to the main street and I was immediately hit with the sights, smells and sounds. The roads are alive with a symphony of horns.
The Mekong delta tour took us in a boat along the waterways of the Mekong River and and we saw the floating markets, stopped for lunch at a local place and tasted the rice wine. Then as part of the wartime history we went to the Chu Chi tunnels which we climbed down into and crawled through, we walked around the tanks and then they took us to a shooting range and we shot an AK47.
We also visited Independence Palace.
How to get from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang
We booked the night train at the local travel shop. This was a great option which meant we got a bed and could sleep while we traveled. We booked the top bunk bed which was cheaper.
To break up the journey we did a short stop in Nha Trang and went on a boat trip and walked around. Long Son Pagoda is right next to the train station (Buddhist temple) there are Thap ba hot springs and you can venture to Palm Island to chill out.
Compared to Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An was a quieter and more relaxed. We had lunch along the river, visited the temples, strolled along the streets and stopped for a coffee. The iced coffee tasted amazing and is definitely moreish!
There are lots of shops so we stopped to get some gifts for friends and family. The tailors are famous and we had lots of recommendations to go and get some clothes made, so we picked a shop, got measured up, picked what dresses etc we wanted, which material and arranged to come back in a day or so.
The full moon festival brought locals and tourists all to the river for a beautiful colourful evening. Large lanterns floated down the river, everyone lit a candle or lanterns and floated it down the river.
We really enjoyed a Vietnamese cooking class, it was really fun there was a group of people so you can meet others, we made the food and all sat down to eat it which was the best part!
On one of the days it started raining and its was monsoon weather! A lot of water! It was ankle deep running down the streets, there was a fish in a puddle next to our feet then Helens flip flop floated down the street which we chased laughing. We had plastic ponchos on and umbrellas and we were soaking, so we deciding to get some of the moreish coffee and dry off.
This is a must do – a diving trip to Cham Island and a stop over. We headed out on the boat and did a scuba dive then headed to island and the locals cooked lunch, you could swim or walk round or go out on the canoe. We planned a stay over and there was only three of us,
Overnight stay. Deserted. Stopped in inner tent (already set up). Locals cook and leave cooler with drinks in. Fire on beach watch sun set. Beach dogs. Boats. Fishing. Only ones there.
How to get from Hoi An to Hue
We got a sleeper bus that has a bed so we could catch up on some much needed sleep!
We spent some time walking round the The Citadel (imperial city/forbidden purple city) and the tombs of Khan Dinah, Tu Duc and Ming Mang. The grounds are extensive, filled with water features, beautiful stone statues as well as inside the temples.
The best part was a Harley Davidson motorbike tour out through the city into the paddy fields, passing local houses, children and animals stopping at local villages, tombs and temples.
How to get from Hue to Hanoi
Again we got a sleeper bus so we could relax, read a book and sleep if need be.
Ha Long Bay – a must do! We booked a 2 day boat trip on as beautiful traditional large boat. The bay is beautiful we got to sunbathe on the top deck and take in the views. We stopped for swimming and jumping/diving off the boat and had fun and games in the evening. They next day we canoed across to caves and walked through to a pool to swim. Then made our way to the island. This was a beautiful trip with amazing scenery and islands, it’s a must do.
With a group of friends we met on the boat trip, we went to see the famous Thang Long water puppet theatre, I had never seen this before so unique and a great show!
We spent the little time we had left and went where our feet took us, which happened to be an amazing ice cream shop!
- Visa – Please ensure you give yourself plenty of time to arrange a visa.
- Haggling – when you are trying to negotiate lower prices for items there is a trick to haggling.
- First of all keep the haggling light and cheery, do not get aggressive.
- We would start by halving the price quoted and go from there.
- Good cop/bad cop – Haggling is a game and the locals are experts. The approach that tended to work for us (we stumbled upon while haggling) was one of us would be interested in buying the item but the other was not keen. If one of you is trying to leave and take the person wants to buy the item out of the shop because you think the price is too high they will tend to drop the price to make the sale.
- Bear in mind the people do not earn much and it is their living so do not go to low, respect them.
Vietnam is an amazing place, I would love to do this trip again. I hope you enjoyed this and get to experience it for yourself!
Date of trip August 2010