Finally, I got the chance to go to Vietnam! A country that has been on my bucket list ever since I started travelling. Vietnam seems to have everything, big cities, diverse culture, beautiful nature and amazing food. All so affordable which makes it even more enjoyable. Plenty of activities, plenty of different scenes and plenty of cultural experiences all in one country. Additionally, I’ve never felt unsafe (except for crossing a road through the chaos of motorbikes) and I felt so welcome everywhere. Thus, when in doubt of which South – East Asian country you would like to visit then I’m sure reading this blog post will make you take the plunge.
For more information about Vietnam’s transportation, Visa requirements and other tips and tricks read our blog post on How to travel Vietnam!
The trip took about one full month of relaxed and unrushed travelling. In the meanwhile I took an IKO kite surfing instructor course in Mui Ne for one week and stayed on Cat Ba Island to relax for a few days as well. I can recommend you to take your time and take approximately three weeks to explore this gorgeous country.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Approx. time: 3 days
This journey starts in one of the two biggest and busiest cities of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh is a well established and rather modernized city rich on history and full of beautiful chaos. There is plenty to do in and around Ho Chi Minh such as visiting the War Museum or a taking a boat ride on the Mekong Delta.
You can get a 360 degrees areal view of this immense city when elevating to the roof of the Bitexco Financial Tower or crawl down the tunnels of Củ Chi, an immense network of connecting tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City.
Read Gerald’s blog post (Ho Chi Minh City) on his adventures and activities in this marvelous city.
Approx. time: 2 days (more when interested in kite surfing)
A 5 hour bus ride brings you to Mui Ne, a touristic coastal area especially known for kite and windsurfing but also a hub for Russian tourists looking to relax in one of the all-in five-star hotels along the ocean. If you are keen to learn how to Kitesurf and/or you would like to do an instructor course it is definitely an appealing and cheap area to stay in. I would recommend to contact C2sky when interested. They are a very professional and well-equipped kite – center that works with IKO qualified instructors.
When not interested in water sports Mui Ne might not offer that much for you except for a relaxing time near the beach, cheap food and some festive occasions. A sunrise trip to the Red Sand Dunes is probably the only touristy activity around. I didn’t have time to do this myself but heard it is beautiful when the sun rises and the sand turns completely red while the heat of the day comes kicking in!
Approx. time: 2 days
Da Lat is situated in the Central Highlands Region only a short trip inland at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level. It has all four seasons in one day: the morning is the spring, the noon is the summer, from the afternoon to the evening is the autumn and from the night to the sunrise is the winter. Surrounded by hills of green, waterfalls and temples this city should be on your itinerary.
Use one day to wander around this rather small city, visit Da Lat’s central market for example or fill your tummy with all the delicious delicacies Vietnam has to offer. Use the second day to hire a motorbike/scooter and drive out of the city towards all the waterfalls, temples and viewpoints. You will not be disappointed!
Approx. time: 3 days
The city of Lanterns, Hoi An‘s old town is the most picturesque and Disneyland like phenomenon in Vietnam. During the day there is nothing better than getting your new suit tailored or buy real silk made clothing. At night this old town transforms into a light festival with hundreds of lanterns lighting up the small cozy streets. You’ll never be hungry in this city, there are plenty of restaurants, food stalls and street food vendors day and night. Definitely try the Wonton, Lac Lou, White Roses and of course my favorite the Bahn Mi Sandwich.
Another great way for exploring Hoi An and its surroundings is by renting a bike. You can bike through rice fields and little villages all the way towards the beach (which isn’t as beautiful as it sounds). See how farmers plow their fields with the help of their Yak’s, how children wave to you when you cycle by and experience how welcoming and kind locals are.
Hoi An was for sure one of my favorite places in Vietnam, even when it rains and floods this town has something very surreal!
Approx. time: 1 day
Hue is often a stopping point for those travelers making their way from North-South or South-North. Either you drive the Hải Vân Pass yourself by motorbike or you go by bus. The biggest draw here is the Imperial Citadel, which is a Chinese style town and settlement dating back to the 1800s. Just bear in mind that the weather in Hue is notoriously bad. Usually it’s misty, drizzly or outright rainy. Exactly the weather when I was there (haha).
Nonetheless, I did like my short time in this rather modern city. There are plenty of local pubs and restaurants, most of which are set along the backpacker streets of Pham Ngu Lao, Le Loi and Nguyen Cong Tru.
Approx. time: 2 days
A can’t miss in Vietnam only 100 km’s from Hanoi!
With its hundreds of limestone cliffs emerging from the ground scattered across the rice fields, this place is known as the Ha Long Bay in Land. Get up early to see the sun rise in Hang Mua and take a three-hour boat trip on the small rivers through the gorgeous landscape of Trang An (definitely do the boat ride in Trang An and not in Tam Coc). Last but not the least rent a motorbike and visit the Bai Dinh Pagoda, South East Asia’s Largest Buddhist temple complex.
It is best to book accommodation in Tam Coc. There are plenty of beautiful small hotels and several cheap hostels close and some nice restaurants along the Tam Coc river. From here it is easy to hire a motorbike to start exploring. Also, it is easy to book a bus ticket to Hanoi or Hue in one of the bus offices in the middle of town.
Approx. time: 3 days
With a population of fifteen million Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. Located on the banks of the Red River and one of the most ancient capitals in the world you can find well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums within the city center. A great place to explore on foot, this French-colonial city is also known for its variable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, silks and handicrafts, puppet shows and small streets. Just get out of your accommodation and start wandering around this immense and beautiful city because I’m sure there is a surprise around every corner.
Hà Giang Loop
Approx. time: 4 days
Would you like to travel back in time? Do you want to get to know what reality really means? And do you want to see the most beautiful landscapes and views you’ll ever see? Well then for sure take a three or four day motorbike trip along the Ha Giang Loop!
You can either do this yourself (some motorbike experience recommended) or do this in a group with easy-riders. An easy rider is a local that drives you around the loop safely and knowledgeably on his own motorbike. This way you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery without having to watch the road. As I didn’t have much motorbike experience this was the best way to explore this breathtaking piece of Vietnam.
Cát Bà Island
Approx. time: 2 days
Ha Long Bay is probably one of the most famous areas’s of Vietnam. It is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Nonetheless, it is full of tour boats filled with tourists all wanting to see this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A little less known but very comparable (some say even more beautiful) and upcoming is Cat Ba Island. It is easily accessible from Hanoi by bus and ferry and has a lot to offer. There is a beautiful National Park situated in the middle of the island as well as some of the best sunset views you’ll ever have. From here there are several boat companies that will take you out into the Ha Long Bay heritage and it’s gorgeous pristine beaches ( i.e. Monkey Island).
More places to explore
If this itinerary is not filling your full trip than there are still some more places that are worth going to. For example;
- Phong Nha National Park with world’s largest caves.
- Famous Ha Long Bay and it’s thousanth islands.
- Sapa rice fields and mountain hiking trails.
- Cat Tien National Park filled with beautiful flora and fauna.
- Phu Quoc Island, an island getaway.