Visiting Vietnam, a short guide to visiting this beautiful country
From Laos, I decided to travel to Vietnam. I did the classical journey through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and I had 2,5 months of travel time in all 3 countries. Many people travel by bus from Northern Laos to Hà Nội but I decided to fly. It seemed like the easiest option to cross the border and I wasn’t looking forward to another 30+ hour bus drive. So I took a plane from Luang Prabang, straight to Hà Nội.
I decided to stay a couple of nights in Hà Nội to see the main sights and to get organised for a month in this beautiful country. One of the things I most looked forward to seeing was Train Street! And it was insane to see the trains so close to the houses! They had recently changed the rules for tourists to go near the tracks and we were only allowed here if we would have a drink in one of the cafes.
Other sites worth seeing are The Temple of the Jade Mountain, Hồ Chí Minh’s Mausoleum and the night market! Or get to know the local food during a Vietnamese Food Tour and enjoy a Puppet Show afterwards.
For all tips regarding your arrival in Vietnam, please read my Hà Nội blog post. Having a SIM card is always super handy so you don’t get lost and you can use local Apps. As in many countries in South East Asia, Grab is one of the easiest ways to get around. I arrived in December and I noticed the temperate was a lot colder here compared to Laos. So I had the opportunity as well to stock up on some warm clothes before going to Sapa.
I travelled from Hà Nội to Sapa with the Sapa Express. After some time on the motorway, it was a gorgeous, windy road that would take you to the rice fields. In Sapa, I wanted to go hiking and enjoy the beautiful nature in this area. I organised the hike with Seek Sophie and they offered an incredible service! They allowed me to leave my luggage in a hotel for a couple of nights so I only had a day-pack to carry around. I ended up staying 2 nights in a homestay in the hills of Sapa and 2 more nights in Sapa town. It was the perfect way to get some work done as well as enjoying some much needed offline time in nature.
Halong Bay and Cát Bà
From Sapa, I took a night bus to Halong Bay. I was going to meet a friend here from Berlin and celebrate Christmas together! I splurged a little on a nice hotel for a few nights and I visited the famous karst mountains in the bay. It was definitely one of the most beautiful sights in Vietnam and a must-see!
If you’re stressed for time, I’d suggest to visit Cát Bà instead and book your boat tours from there. You can even book short trips from Hà Nội or Ninh Binh to make the most of your time. I’m a big fan of slow travelling so I made time to visit both and take it easy.
From Cát Bà it’s also super easy to book your transport to Ninh Binh. I believe Sapa, Cát Bà and Ninh Binh are the most famous places to visit in Northern Vietnam and I must admit, all three places are beautiful and cannot be missed! I really wanted to do the Ha Giang Loop as well in the north but the weather was too bad! It rained a lot there and the mountains were covered in fog. So I had to leave that to another visit to Vietnam.
Ninh Binh is a great place to explore more karst formations and enjoy nature. Go on a boat ride in Tam Cốc, visit the Bái Đính-Tempel and enjoy the view from Hang Múa.
Admittedly, Hue wasn’t my favourite place to visit. But it also didn’t help that it rained a lot! You can walk along the Perfume River or take a boat trip here. Visit the tombs of the Ancient Emperors, explore the Imperial Citadel and visit the Bach Ma National Park.
Hội An, on the other hand, was amazing! I loved it so much, that I nearly stayed a week! The weather was better and there was a beach to enjoy! I stayed in a guesthouse between the rice fields and close to the beach, yet close to the old town. Hội An has a friendly vibe and there are tons of nice cafes, shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to make your own lantern here!
Nha Trang is another beach town but touristy in a different sense. It has more of a city vibe and you’re met by skyscrapers! Nonetheless, there are some great sites and I had one of the best days here in the Chua Suoi Do Temple. Enjoy a day at the beach or take a boat tour to one of the many islands!
Mui Ne is another great spot along the Vietnamese coast and there are some beautiful places to visit. Go to the White and Red Sand Dunes and explore the Fairy Springs. There are tons of great fish restaurants here as well!
Hồ Chí Minh City
From Mui Ne, I took a bus to Hồ Chí Minh City where I stayed another couple of nights before flying to Kuala Lumpur. Visit the Saigon Central Post Office, the Notre Dame and the Cafe Apartments for some shopping. Art lovers can enjoy the Hồ Chí Minh City Museum of Fine Arts. And there are countless markets to visit such as Vuon Chuoi Market and the Binh Tay Market. There are daily trips to the Cu Chi Tunnels or you can venture out towards the Mekong Delta.
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