Hi! Many of you have requested me for my Vietnam itinerary. I have been to Vietnam twice in 2019. The first trip was in Feb for 22 days and the second one was in December for 24 days. Do watch my vlog series for Vietnam uploaded in April and also the recent vlogs.
Many of you will wonder, who spends 46 days in Vietnam? and why?
The answer is very simple. You have to travel all the countries in SE Asia to understand. I probably have the unique distinction of traveling entire SE Asia with Thailand 7 times, Malaysia 3 times, and once each for Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The diversity and the beauty visible in one country is beyond words and so is the kindness of people here. The smiles and words are genuine and they do not want anything from you. Such is the experience here that you have to travel there to believe it.
Coming back to the topic, I was fortunate to always start from Hanoi and head downwards, why? because its always cold up there and so its good to end the trip on a good warm note.
Hanoi is a darling and tourists stay in Old Quarters which has most tourist attractions scattered. With cheap Grab taxi options you are not far away from anywhere and it is quick too. A minimum of 2 nights is recommended here to seep in the culture, the food and the people here. A lot of places, alleys, and shops actually have an uncanny resemblance to Old Mumbai. I know because I have lived there. A mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, a couple of Museums, temples, and lakes is what you have on offer to visit and also the night market if you happen to be around on the weekend. But it can be expensive though!
Hanoi has a couple of attractions scattered around. Like the Cat Ba island and the Ha Long bay. It’s not too far away too.. just 2-3 hours to reach Cat Ba or Ha Long Bay. Cat Ba is a huge island and the city center is far from the Harbour, your ticket covers the bus ride to the main city center. You can spend a max 2 nights here doing National Park trek, View Point trek, some Caves and of course the beaches. Don’t miss hiring a scooter and going around as its the easiest way around. I spent 4-5 days in Hanoi because I loved the city and its nightlife. Cheap beers costing just Rs. 15 and which are also 100% safe to consume. You will find tons of locals and travellers on the streets enjoying coffee/ food / beer. Also sometimes there are live performances in the beer street for you to enjoy.
Ha Long Bay is a beauty in itself. Magnificent limestone formations over a clear blue sea and a cool blue sky, if you are lucky. I was not quite as few days were overcast and cloudy. But I still jumped into the sea from my boat and had a good time swimming around. Watch out for my next video vlog on Youtube for that. Budget travellers can do a day trip here from Hanoi for 20-30 USD is what I believe. Some people spend on 1 or 2 nights on a cruise boat or on an island on the Ha Long Bay. Either way it is till around 100-250 dollars depending on the package. Do your research at local travel agents before embarking on one. I spent 2 nights and 3 days in Ha LOng Bay.
From Hanoi is also a quaint little town called Ninh Binh and nestled within the same area is another beauty called Tam Coc. Now this area is full of rice paddy fields that look insanely beautiful in the backdrop of huge mountains. Has to be seen to be believed. Then it also has this river running through its length and breadth that creates its own beautiful curves. Add to it the tens of small boats that take tourists up and down the river and yo its a sight to behold. so again a couple of treks, temples, and river of course. The short Mua cave hike has by far the best views I have ever seen. Then there is a boat trip to Trang An which takes you on a small boat through the local river and within several caves. The scenic beauty and 3-4 hours of fun. There ate temples and a small island where Godzilla movie was shot. Although 2 nights is recommended in Tam Coc, you can do a lot in just one. Take a cycle or a motorbike on rent and a readily available map with every hotel with all sights listed down. Just go exploring. Do your research on what all can be done here. Everyone’s choice is different. You can reach Tam Coc/ Ninh Binh by bus from Hanoi as well as Cat Ba. Just 3-4 hours journey from either destination.
The next stop is Hue, your busto Da Nang or Hoi An will stop at Hue even if you dont want it to. There is a routine bus change here and I had to wait 4 hours for my next bus. It was a relief as I had to relieve myself as well as freshup and have some good Vietnamese Coffee and Bahn Mi that I packed the evening before for my bus ride. Not Bad. The bus ride is overnight and for budget, travelers saves one night of stay. Hus for me was not so much, spent only one night here as there not much to offer. There is an Imperial Palace which looks in a dilapidated condition. And tons of coffee shops here and there. There might be something more interesting, but do let me know about that. A small night market with performances happens sometimes I guess, it happened when I was there so not sure if its an everynight affair.
Danang is 3 hours from Hue, and is a beach town in all modern glory, you will be surprised if its really Vietnam. Its modern with gleaming buildings, beautiful beach, amazing roads and a really colorful night with all buildings light up like it was christmas every night. Impressive indeed. I love sea and beaches and hence Danang is my choice. Lot of options to do things like a local market shopping, cathedral, temples, etc. The Bana Hills park with cable car ride, french village and golden bridge take the icing on the cake. Then there is the Dragon bridge which spews Fire and water on weekends for a full public show, an attrative but expensive night market and many many many restaurants and cafes to hangout. Beautiful. Loved every moment there. I would recommend atleast 2 nights here.
Hoi An is the quieter version and older as well. Much much older. Goes back to the French rule and so do the building architecture and decor. Yes the entire old city of Hoi An has a lovely decor with lamps everywhere and also colorful boats in the evenings with lamps floating in the river. Then they play soft music through small speakers all across the old city and its simply romantic. You can do a day trip here from Danang with busses and taxis plying all day long. Do chk the timings beforehand. You can also plan a 1/2 night stay here. Far away from the old city is a beach which is equally impressive as Danang but much less occupied.
The next logical stop after Hoi An is Nha Trang, again which is similar to Danang in every respect. It is a good beach too but with a lot of tourists compared to Danang and Hoi An. Not really a lot of things to do here. Buddhist temple, museum, pagoda, the Buddha Statue, hot springs, mud bath, shopping, fishing village and some waterfalls. So many things to do. You can do a half/ full day island hopping boat tour. Snorkeling and Diving and Water sports are all available. Other than that its just another city, but beautiful indeed. You can skip if you have done Danang. Nha Trang is an overnight journey from Da Nang, but our crazy driver managed to reach 3.5 hours early and we were scouting for a place to sleep at 2:30 am. Can you believe that?
Muine and Dalat come after Nha Trang. Mui Ne is a very basic beach town. Nothing more than a beach and resorts on both sides of the road, also a cheap backpacker heaven. People come here to chill and spend a few days relaxing. Beach is huge by far and is very less populated. A good place to find your private space. Its upto you as a traveller if you want to enjoy this lifestyle. There are huge red and white sand dunes it is famous for, just like a sandy desert. Then fishing village, kite surfing and water sports activities. I skipped Mui Ne as I had my fill of beaches and Vitamin Sea.
Dalat is a flower paradise with its gardens in full bloom and wonderful weather. More of a picturesque Alice in Wonderland landscape. Too girly for my taste, but surely beautiful. I may do it on future travels. Summer palace, lakes, waterfalls, lush green jungle, pagodas, flower gardens, local market, train station, local markets, cathedral, cafes, national park, in short a lot to keep you entertained. Gosh, I think I need to take my words back. By now you would have realized why you need atleast 2 nights here.
From Dalat, Muine and Ho Chi Minh is about 5 hours in the day time and 3 hours in the night by bus. Ho Chi Minh is a modern version of Hanoi but a lot more crowded despite larger roads. Also very hot. Can be difficult to move around in the day during summers. Also Ho Chi Minh has only 2 seasons, rainy and summer. So plan wisely. A huge local market, an impressive War Museum, full day Chu Chi tunnels tour, full day Mekong Delta tour, post office, cathedral make it all interesting. The best part if the view of the city from atop the Bitexo Tower. Expensive but worth it.
Everywhere you go, you will find tons of streat food outlets and coffee shops, Vietnam being one of the largest exporters of coffee, they love their coffee. Food and Coffee is so ingrained that major brands like Burger joints and Coffee chains have all but failed miserably. If you are not a vegetarian, food there is a paradise. Enjoy your travels.