“Same Same but Different”
Oh, Vietnam! What a truly beautiful and wonderful country. We weren’t really expecting much from Vietnam, but whenever anyone asks us what our favorite country (ever) is, we always say Vietnam.
For our Vietnam itinerary, we flew into Hanoi for a day (although, the coffee was great, a day was certainly not enough), sailed for 3 days along Halong Bay, motorbiked from Hue to Hoi An, got stitched up in Hoi An (for Jack’s suits and Jenn’s face), relaxed on the beaches of Nha Trang, repelled down waterfalls in Da Lat and ended with a Cu Chi Tunnel culture fix in Ho Chi Minh.
All in all, Vietnam was an absolute wonder–full of delicious coffee and delicious (and healthier) food, adventure, art, culture, history, and unreal landscapes. Despite our misfortunes in Vietnam, we still claim that Vietnam was the best country of our Southeast Asia trip! And with my stitches scar, I have a permanent memory!
Things To Do
ONE – Explore Hanoi
Although we only really had one full day to explore Hanoi (unfortunately), the best thing we did was to walk. We stumbled into the old quarter, the Temple of Literature, the Hao Lo Prison museum, The Air Force Museum, Hoan Kiem Lake (home to Turtle Tower), and tons of cute and trendy cafés (where we were introduced to Vietnamese drip coffee!!). Hanoi was full of cultural wonders and tiny gems.
TWO – Cruise Halong Bay
Of course you have to visit the famed Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to experience Halong Bay is by cruise. Tour companies offer several different types of tours–everything to a party boat, to a casual one day tour, or even a five star luxury junk boat. Regardless of the way you do it, it is a must!!
THREE – Visit the countryside by motorbike
Do a motorbike tour from Hue to Hoi An. We went with Le Family Riders and it was an amazing way to see the country side of Vietnam. Not to mention, the abundance of delicious food and free beer was definitely a plus! This was a huge highlight of our trip.
FOUR – Get some custom tailored clothing
Get some clothes and accessories custom made in Hoi An. Jack got a fantastic deal ($540) and had about 14 pieces custom made, including shoes and shipping to Australia! Do your research or window shop around for a good tailors. I panicked and had no idea what I wanted to make. We went to Kimmy’s and Rubin’s and their services was fantastic. 1 year later and Jack has made great use of his shoes and suit!
FIVE – Visit Vietnamese Beaches
Stop and enjoy the beaches in Da Nang and Nha Trang. Nha Trang is also a hot spot for some good partying! Definitely check out the infamous Why Not bar…it will make you say “why” the next morning!
SIX – Go Canyoning
If you are looking for a new type of adventure, you have to go canyoning in Da Lat! Canyoning is an extreme sport where you repel down boulders and waterfalls. It really gives you a huge adrenalin rush! We booked through our hostel, Enjoy Da Lat, for $25 for a full day tour. It was the cheapest we found (yet still safe and included all safety gear and lunch!) and our tour guide was a legend! This was easily one of our coolest experiences while backpacking Vietnam!
SEVEN – Take a cooking class
Food is a huge part of Vietnamese culture, so why not take a cooking class! We took one in Hoi An called Pink’s Cooking Class for $15 each. The class included a market tour, a mixed fruit shake, 4 dishes of our own choosing to cook, all the ingredients, and a little notebook to write all the recipes.
The food was so delicious and filled us up! We will definitely be cooking some of these recipes at home, especially the spring rolls! Yum!
You are required to have your Vietnam visa prior to arrival. You can apply for one at any Vietnam embassy or get a letter of approval online at least a month before hand.
We got our visa online while we were in Hong Kong, and it only cost $19 for a processing processing fee and $30 for the visa on arrival. Your approval letter will be sent by email, all you need to do is print out the form and bring it to the airport along with a passport picture. If you are crossing by land (through Cambodia or Laos), you must obtain a visa at a Vietnamese embassy, which can take up to a few days, so make sure you allow proper time for that. Or you can get these guys to organize everything for you. They are amazing and make everything super easy and straightforward!
Where to Stay
The best place that we stayed while we were in Vietnam was Huang Trinh Hotel in Hoi An. Despite the little accidentthat happened to me it still remains a favorite. For a huge aircon room (enough for 4 people, heck, 8 if you love cuddles), a TV, comfortable beds and shampoos, it was only $15 for a night! That’s $15 between Jack and I. It was also was in a great location–located in the old quarter of Hoi An, perfect for finding an amazing tailor!
The people who run the hotel were extremely friendly and welcomed us each day with a juice, smoothie, tea or fresh cut fruit. We could not have asked for better service and we would easily stay there again.
They were professional, welcoming and an absolute delight to be with. I am not mad that this happened, in fact, I have a permanent memory of one of the greatest trips of my life! Plus, I was known as ‘bandaid girl’, so it seems like even I left my own mark in Asia! Even though this happened, I would still stay here again and name it one of our favorite places we stayed at in Asia.
What to Eat
Vietnam has the BEST street food! There is a huge French influence in Vietnam which means the baguettes are fluffy and magical! Street food in Vietnam ranges fresh baguette sandwiches to Bahn mi’s to Pho Ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soups) to beef fried rice. Vietnamese street food was undeniably tasty and best of all, it was ridiculously cheap.
We were able to eat a fulfilling meal for $2, if that! Best of all, beer was only $0.25. Yes. $0.25. So let’s do some math- 6 beers is $1.50. So when in Vietnam, right? ;)
We usually ate at street restaurants that had these tiny little plastic chairs out in the front. The more plastic and grungy looking it was, the more authentic the restaurant was. This was our judgment, whether or not it was true, we thought we were on point with this theory! We found many BBQ places where you could cook your own beef and veg on a hot plate. With a beer each, it would only cost about $6 for the whole meal! So yum, we are salivating.
We wanted to treat ourselves to a nice dinner on our last day in Vietnam. We went to this unreal Indian restaurant (not Vietnamese, we know) called Baba’s Kitchen. We got 2 curries, na’an, dips, a wrap, and 2 beers all for $10. And we thought this was treating ourselves! So if you want to “splurge”, this would be a great place to do so! :)
Since we traveled Vietnam during the beginning of June, it was actually classified as the wet season, however, the rain was never an issue. It would pour for a maximum of one hour then go back to being sunny. Throughout the day the temperature hovered around 30 C degrees hitting a max of 38 one day in Hoi An. It really only rained in Da Lat, in the south, but it made for a nice change!
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