Now, let me tell you about Vietnam! We have such an abundance of pictures and information about our trip, that I do apologize in advance if this post is rather picture overloaded and “word vommity”.. just keep scrolling! So, we spent two weeks in Vietnam, and planned our trip starting from the South (in Ho Chi Minh City) and then worked our way up to the North, ending in Hanoi. We didn’t spend months planning and researching our trip, nor did we even know we’d be heading there at all until about a month or so before. We knew our time in New Zealand was coming to an end soon, so we decided that we needed to go to South East Asia before we left this part of the world. We talked about a few different ideas, but settled on Vietnam for two weeks, and we thought that probably wasn’t even enough but we’d try our best to cover it all.
We landed in Ho Chi Minh City, and had a few plans for our time there, but not too many as we were only spending 2 nights. We walked around town and explored the beautiful buildings that were everywhere we looked. Daniel loves craft beer, so we hit a few of the local breweries as well (of course). It ended up pouring rain, so we got drenched on the way back to our hotel!! We didn’t bring any jackets or umbrellas with us, which was a big mistake that we didn’t make again.. The next day we had a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels planned, with an added countryside experience afterward. We had a fantastic tour guide, and were shown the ins and out of the tunnels that were used during the war. It was an interesting experience and we really learned a lot about the other side of things. The countryside tour took us through rubber tree farms, organic vegetable farms, and cricket farms!! We were even taught how to make rice paper rolls, which is actually super hard. We met a nice family who runs the cricket farm, and they prepared a delicious meal of cricket spring rolls for us… yum…. (I was freaking out but Daniel thought they tasted great!) After the Cu Chi Tunnels tour we were picked up by a few local tour guides that showed us around the city on the back of their scooters! We ate local food and drinks and had a great time exploring the area with them. Driving in Vietnam is no joke, so it got pretty crazy at some points, but being in the open air driving around at night under the city lights was a really amazing experience, and a great start to our trip.
After Ho Chi Minh, we were off to Hoi An. Our time in Hoi An was probably our favorite in Vietnam. We received recommendations to stay at a beach resort in Hoi An which is located right between the beach and the river, which are on opposite sides of the street. It was an amazing resort to stay at, and we loved every minute. We spent every day waking up to a delicious breakfast buffet, hanging out by the pool and the beach (usually both every day) reading our books, and then cleaning up before heading into Old Town Hoi An, for dinner and drinks. The Old Town is amazing: It’s full of bars, restaurants, and about a thousand shops, where people will try to convince you to let them make you custom fit clothes or buy their handmade items. I love buying trinkets and fun stuff while in other countries so I was in heaven, but man it took me a few times to get the whole bartering thing down – they drive a hard bargain! We had some incredible food in the Old Town and just couldn’t get enough of it (and the price). The river goes right through it as well, so a lot of the restaurants had a great view, especially when the lanterns come out and everyone is riding around in the canoes putting them in the water. We enjoyed our time in Hoi An so much we could’ve spent our entire time there. We were really looking forward to a relaxing holiday so having 6 days by the beach and no firm schedule was exactly what we needed. However, we were looking forward to our second week in Vietnam near Hanoi since we had a lot more activities planned for it.
We landed in Hanoi with one whole week left on our trip, and we jam-packed it. We allotted a few days/nights in Hanoi city, where we stayed in the Old Quarter. We went to see a traditional water puppet show, walked around the markets, and just explored what we could in the city. We didn’t originally plan for a day trip the next day, but since there wasn’t a whole lot we wanted to do in the city we decided to book it. We were picked up and taken to the Ninh Binh district, where we went on a long boat ride down the river through the caves and biked through some rice fields. The setting was beautiful and it really lives up to its colloquial name of the “Ha Long Bay on Land”. When we got back to the city that night, we went out for dinner and noticed it had started to rain as we were arriving. As it turns out, a massive storm was rolling through and we got a full on thunder and lightening show while we were eating because the restaurant had an open air vibe to it, and there were no front doors to close. We ate and drank as we watched the rain just pour down, and because it was raining so hard we were stuck there for a couple hours until it started to lighten up. Once it did, we thought we would just make a run for it – we were about 10 minutes away from our hotel. Well as we were getting back to our street, it was flooded, so we thought we’d go around. We get to the other side… flooded. Our hotel was blocked in on an alley with one entry point and both sides of the street were flooded. It was late, and raining, and we eventually just sucked it up and walked through the almost knee deep street water (YUCK). It was probably the only unfortunate thing that happened to us on the trip, and we survived so all good.
The next morning we were picked up nice and early for our overnight trip to Sapa! It was a long drive to get there, but once we arrived it was great. We spent both days hiking and trekking through various villages and the rice fields. I think we did over 20km between the two days, and boy were we sore!! There were some incredible views from our hikes there, and it was a really cool experience. The weather held up for us as well, which was great for the views and hikes, but our drive back to Hanoi was very hairy as we got caught in another lightening storm with the bus driver from Hell. We’re just glad we got out of that one alive. We spent the night in Hanoi, and got up the next day for our tour to Ha Long Bay. We decided to spend 2 nights on the boat cruise because we thought one wouldn’t be enough. Turns out most people only do one night, but we still enjoyed all the extra activities we were able to on the second day. Although, because it was the end of our trip, we were kind of ready to get off the boat by that third day and I’m not sure we’d do it again. Anyway, the views were gorgeous!! We had such a great time just being on the water and waking up to such amazing views. We went kayaking, squid fishing, cave exploring, visited a pearl farm and met a lot of really nice people. It was a good, relaxing way to end our trip. We drove back to Hanoi and flew out to head home the next morning. We had 4 flights in the span of 24 hours, but it was all good. Luckily everything went smoothly and we made it back (and so did our luggage)! That much flying gave us a lot of time to reflect on all our favorite places and things we did. We were shocked that everything on the trip went according to plan, everything we booked was great quality, and no one ripped us off or anything. It was such an amazing trip, and we can tell that Vietnam’s economy is growing, so we are really excited to go back in 5 years time to see how much it has developed and grown.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned, Daniel and I have some big news coming! 🙂
Here are some fun facts about our trip for anyone interested in going to Vietnam!!
Time of year we travelled: Early May
Weather: Mostly sunny, occasional afternoon storms, a few heavy storms.
Good activity booking site: Getyourguide.com
Transport: We booked domestic flights between major cities. For tours, they pick you up by bus.
Company for Ha Long Bay Cruise: V’Spirit
Money: We used cash for a lot of stuff like local restaurants and shops, but used card for practically everything.
Price: It is very cheap to eat and drink beer in Vietnam – wine is SO expensive.