My most recent trip. Unreal cuisine. Beautiful hardworking souls. Budget friendly. Authentic.
I travelled Vietnam with the best travel pal one could have- my partner Maxi. We booked return flights from Darwin(cheapest flights to anywhere in south east Asia FYI check it) to Ho Chi Minh city and that was itttttt. No hotel bookings, no itinerary, nuthin… just flights and travel insurance(always ppl).
Travellers seem to travel from either north to south or south to north due to Vietnam’s ‘boot shape’, she’s quite a skinny country. We opted for south to north as it was cheaper from Darwin 😊
ITINERARY WENT 😉:
HCMC– top notch street food and some of the cheapest prices we came across. Crazy, vibrant city. So.many.scooters.
My recommendation- Airbnb’s. We got decent one bedroom apartments in great locations for just $30 a night 😩🤯😌 (you’d be lucky to get a bed at a hostel for that in Australia) 😅
Also visit the War remnants museum. Talk about an emotional few hours… Vietnam as a whole has been through so much but are still some of the most resilient humans I’ve ever come across.
Right on the coast, beaches were beautiful. Definitely felt VERY foreign though lollol, minimal English.
My BF rode us to Ba Na Hills on a scooter(that brave). Golden hands bridge? It’s pretty amazing they have been able to build theme parks, hotels and a massive bridge at such an escalated level but for the 252,363,937 tourists you have to push through and the $55 it costs each to get up there. My opinion? Not a must do, although you do have to fly to Da Nang to get to Hoi An 😊
Sooooo many bodies…
Hire a bike off Lee @ the motorbike shop he had great English and gave us a good deal. We took our bike one way but was just over $20 a day. We considered buying a bike for the month but opted not to as we had more security/piece of mind being able to call Lee if anything went wrong! Nothing did, winning 🤘🏽
HOI AN about a 50 minute drive from Da Nang, the ever so gorgeous city of lanterns. Talk about having it all. The food. The MARKETS. Happy hours. So many accomodation options. The ocean. Mate… easily one of my favourite stops on the trip.
It was my birthday over this time(we went in October, off season= cheapest time to visit) so my partner splurged to the SH and got us a few nights at a boutique beach resort(I next level love the beach)
If you have the time I’d recommend staying 4 nights to a week. Tourists, but for good reason. A must do in Vietnam. The last few nights we stayed at Riverlife with Chi, do it she’s wonderful. Most of the ‘home stays’ that you’ll stay at in Vietnam have the family in the building with you, generally under 20 rooms and probably one of the best accom options, the families go out of their way, they’re unreal. $15-$30 per night. Breakfast is normally provided also. They’ll usually take your passport until you check out- totally norm.
Gioan cooking school in Hoi An was such a fun afternoon. Cooking, eating what you cook and being able to help yourself to the beer fridge. Tick, tick, tick.
Lively nighttime streets. Good food. Lots of history. Found sriracha here for the first time, thought it’d be everywhere in Nam- wasn’t 😩 Avon hotel was lovely and super cute. Then Why not hostel bloody ripper. $30 for a private room. Awesome bar staff and clean hostel.
If I moved to Vietnam tomorrow…
It would be to this gem nestled in the middle of mountains and rainforest. Numerous amount of caves to explore, cute cafes and coffee shops. In a few years this place is going to be loaded with tourists. I’ve called it.
Phuong @ little leaf was a legend. Cheap, stunning shipping container apartments right on the river. Too. Good.
A restaurant owner gave us insight to a locals secret. Moi moi. A few village ladies cooking out of their house in the mountains. They had little English and we had little Vietnamese so we just pointed to whatever on the menu(summarises the whole trip lol). It took about an hour to prepare from scratch 😩❤️ that day we probably had the best dumplings of our lives. A whole plate wrapped + steamed in banana leaves for $2.5. Droooool. They got left with a decent tip that day.
Easy tiger hostel was the bomb. $6 each per night. Partay partay hostel.
Do paradise cave– jaw dropping
And eat at Bamboo cafe– super eco friendly too.
(Watermelon juice for the hangover ftw)
Ninh binh is home to the beautiful Hang Mua, a hike of 500 steps. The top is stunning but I’d suggest sunrise over sunset. Very popular spot.
Stay at Mountain view homestay. Mona lisa cafe is where you want to be eating out, best pizzas and cocktails 🤪
Tam coc lush jungle. Simple living. Lots of young people. Local brewery.
We stayed in a cute little bamboo hut here for $35 a night
Head to Banana tree hostel for a drink while you’re there, mint place
Next up was Cat Ba. We decided on Cat Ba over Ha Long due to less pollution. Although Cat Ba was pretty polluted also. It’s really sad to see but the locals really just don’t know any better. Cat Ba Central was a great homestay. We partied a lot here, so many happy hours 🥳 $3 cocktails hellloooooo. 4 nights was perfect here. We even splurged the last night and paid $60 for a 5 star hotel, kinda unbelievable .
We decided on a sleeper bus —> Hanoi –> Ha Giang city. What an experience that was. 100% the cheaper option to get around in Vietnam but 14 hours on a bus 🙃 I was getting pretty agitated. It’s full of pillows and cushions that have probably never been cleaned. Gotta do what you gotta do but we ended up getting a ‘private limousine’ bus on the way back to Hanoi and it was an extra $10 each. Worth. Every. Cent.
Ha Giangggggg is a destination I could talk about forever + ever. The best way to end our trip. It’s a motorbike loop that is situated in northern Vietnam right near the Chinese boarder. Some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. It seemed so untouched and pristine. The locals were dressed so colourful, wearing beret’s and massive smiles. We had 5 nights but could have had a week. I’d strongly suggest doing the week! We didn’t want to leave.
We hired a bike from a hostel for $10 a day. Loads of options. You can also hire an easy rider to take you at an extra cost. Heaps of travellers seemed to do the easy riders and loved it! Talk about wanting to stop every 5 minutes. Those viewsssss
A few recommendations for Ha Giang- it really hasn’t been that ‘discovered’ yet in my opinion(so get there now). Don’t expect too much in terms of home stays/accom. Limited options with food also as it’s so remote. It was all part of the experience. But unless you are going peak season(mid year) I’d only book a night or two in advance.
Dong van Bar hotel and Little yen were pearlers we found along the way.
Recap of ‘Nam:
- Do your research in terms of bike rentals. Hiring off someone that has limited English will be hard. Make sure they’re trustworthy. Even pay those few extra dollars to make sure you’re covered
- Make sure you’ve applied for your visa before entering the country. With that have enough dong at the airport to pay for it. Ours cost us about $60 each.
- Travel insurance. Travel insurance. Travel insurance. I felt safe in Vietnam. The only thing I was concerned about was phone theft but honestly just be sensible, keep it out of sight etc. You’ll have no problem.
- I wouldn’t book too much prior as I don’t think Vietnam is THAT full on with tourism yet. (Depending on time of year of course)
- It was really hard to see all of the single use plastic and use multiple plastic bottles everyday. But just do what you can. Try not to get straws. Refill when possible(wasn’t ever offered as even the locals seem to buy water too). Eat in instead of take away. But they really don’t have the recycling systems/knowledge that other parts of the world has. Don’t let it get you down.
- Download Grab it’s the Asian version of Uber, saaa cheap
- Tip when you can, even tipping $0.40 we’d get the biggest smiles from local vendors. They appreciate it and need it much more than we do.
- Travel lightly- we took 7kg backpacks and it was the best thing ever. It was a pretty active holiday so I’d suggest gym wear/comfy clothes mostly. And a good rain jacket! October was fairly wet but it added to the experience. Vietnam gets a lot of rain.
- Budget: Vietnam is one of the cheapest destinations I’ve been to. I’d say I spent $2,500 over the whole month. This was cocktails, nice hotels every few days, beers with lunch and occasionally 4 meals a day 😛 we could have done it cheaper for sure, but it’s how you want to travel amirightttt. This would have ended up being $80 per day but I do think $50 a day is do-able.
- Transport. We did most of the country on a scooter(over 1000k’s at 40km’s per hour 😹) I’d change it up. Train, bus, scoot, private cars. It all depends on what you’re willing to spend but I’m someone that will do anything to avoid busses/trains. More freedom.
- The Vietnamese work hard. Working long days in fields in 30 degree heat for as little as a few hundred dollars per month. You have it so good wherever you are. Enjoy going to work today!
Vietnam is wonderful. If you haven’t been yet- go. The organised chaos of the cities, calmness of the mountains and jungles and happy locals make for a great destination. Eat ALL of the Phó, $0.80c Banh Mi, rice paper rolls and take advantage of those $1 room temperature beers.
I hope this blog helps anyone that is considering Vietnam. Be prepared to eat mouthwatering food, drink some of the best coffee in the world, embrace the humidity and be uncomfortable, struggle with the language barrier and have the best time of your life!
“May your journey always lead you home”