Hello my lovelies. About two weeks ago, Lomli and I traveled to Vietnam for the Eid break and let me just say it truly a serendipitous adventure. We spent eight beautiful days and I sorely wish we had more time to explore more of this wonderful country.
Knowing so little about Vietnam and discovering, its history made this trip so much more enriching and educational. Also, having never experienced Vietnamese cuisine before our trip, (I imagined it no different to Asian cuisine, you know, the usual- noodles, brothy soups, soy sauce and rice), my taste buds experienced absolute nirvana. Our eight days was pretty jam packed with a relaxing cruise as the perfect ending. Read about what we got up to and feel free to use this itinerary for your travels! Thanks for reading.. sit back and relax while I give you the low down.
Day 1-3 Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon
Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and lies along the Saigon River. The French colonization of the city is evident in the city’s architecture. Saigon was very charming and idyllic with a great sense of calm, cleanliness with some parts feeling very Parisian.
If you’re looking for history, this is where you’ll find it. Language can be a bit of a problem, so you might want to make sure you keep your hotel card with you at all times to guide you back to your hotel. Saigon is a relatively small city and you can cover all the site seeing places within walking distance in a day or two . Make sure to have your comfy walking shoes packed.
What we did in Saigon:
Get a taxi to the city centre Square, where you will find the Notre Dame Basillica -built in 1863 and still stands beautifully tall.
The Central post office, still operates as a post office but also a tourist attraction with a souvenir market.
Reunification Palace was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the war and the site of end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The palace grounds have Vietnamese tanks and fighter planes as reminders of the War. The Palace is huge , well preserved and entry is free. I almost got arrested crossing over the red rope wanting to take a picture on the Presidents chair- a word of caution don’t try it. I learnt my lesson that the Vietnamese are very sentimental and patriarchal and treat such things very seriously.darn my picture moment totally ruined!
Next we walked to the War Remnants Museum. This place was very evocative of a painful era and the pictures depicting the war and its effects made me very emotional. Outside you find large army tanks and jets which were used in the war now on public display. War is unnecessary and learning about the Vietnamese war, I could not think of a more unnecessary painful and destructive war than this one. Anyways its over now and Vietnam has overcome.
We headed to Ben Tahn Market, which is a street market offering everything from bags paintings, electronics and even make up. You can get amazing deals-but the trick is to bargain. The merchants enjoy the bargaining process so play along, if they don’t budge pretend to walk away and 8 out of 10 times, they call you back to settle on your price. There is however, a haggling exception, I don’t haggle the lone vendors on the roads because chances are they really struggling and need the money. I saw a post somewhere that we don’t haggle with the huge shops in the mall but have the audacity to haggle the little men who are fighting for a living. Harsh but true.
After the tiring and energy draining haggling, I was parched and in dire need of a good drink. Just a few meters from the Market, there stands the amazing Ben Thanh street food market that serves a wide variety of Vietnamese, other Asian and continental cuisine. My favourite place for cocktails was a place called
FixIt and boy did their strawberry Margarita fix me. The market has numerous eye catching food stalls and al fresco seating space. The ordering concept, pretty simple- you order from any of the stalls pay and they bring over your order to your table. If the drinks and food weren’t awesome enough, they have kick ass music playing in the background. This place is hands down so cool its no wonder we came here every night for our entire stay in Saigon. Click here for more
We decided to go dancing and stumbled upon Spark Club which had great views on Trip Advisor and man was it lit!!! Best hip hop RnB and EDM! Again totally unexpected fun..one of our best nights dancing ever. The people are super friendly and the owner amazing! They have laughing gas in balloons so get ready for a cracker of an evening. Get there.
We also went on a full day tour where we went to the CuChi tunnels, one of the war sites in the jungle with an underground network of interlinked tunnels. What an enlightening experience.
We also went to the North of Saigon, to see the Mekong Delta, the river flows through five Asian countries and leads to the China Sea. The Delta is a tropical and home to over 1000 animal species and plant life. Its definitely worth a visit.
Transport: The major source of transport is by motorbike so if you are feeling brave, hire one, if not then taxi’s are easily available. Use Vinasun very reliable and most drivers spoke English somewhat!
Currency is Dong so get ready to be a millionaire, their largest money denomination is a million with the exchage to a dollar being 1:22800.
Time to spend:2-3 days
Saigon in a nutshell...calm delicious and vibrant
We took an internal flight to Hanoi using VietJet, quite efficient and cheap.
Day 4-6 Hanoi
We arrived to a noisy, traffic congested Hanoi, filled with tourists, backpackers and a ton of restaurants, pubs clubs shops and malls. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is a stark contrast to Saigon. We stayed in Old Quarter where everything is a walk-able distance, the streets are busy and motorcycles everywhere so be careful.
What we did in Hanoi
We shopped alot at the street markets selling all sorts of original and duplicate shoes bags and clothes.
We went to see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of the Vietnamese Leader Ho Chi Minh. It is heavily guarded and if you go in the morning you can see his preserved body.
We saw the One Pillar Pagoda, which is a famous Bhuddist temple.
We also saw the Ho Chi Minh Museum and pretty Ministry of Foreign Affairs building.
We took an enjoyable bicycle rickshaw ride back to the lake where we went to see the Ngoc Son temple in the city centre.
You could go see the water puppet show, which everyone raves about but i don’t see why or the Opera House which has great cultural shows.
Time to spend : 2-3 days
Hanoi in a nutshell: Fun chaotic and exciting
Day 6-8 Halong Bay
We then traveled to Halong Bay, which is about 4 hours from Hanoi. The best way to experience Halong bay is by booking a cruise with one of the cruise liners which is inclusive of all the transfers. We used Pelican Cruises The boat was a little old but offered a great room with our own balcony and sun deck chairs.
We sailed off to the bay surrounded by towering limestone mountains covered in lush greenery. Halong Bay offers a perfect tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle and a perfect way to unwind. The cruise offers various optional activities such as kayaking, trekking and fishing or else you could sun bath on the upper sun deck. It was a lovely experience and I recommend this as the cherry on top after a busy holiday. After the two day one night cruise it was time to say goodbye to our magical holiday. Read about my cruise review Here
My verdict on Vietnam. This incredible country offers something for everyone, its full of culture, history, culinary delights, amazing people. Its great for families, solo travellers and couples. Vietnam you were simply a glorious adventure. I am really thankful to have experienced this truly amazing country. Have you traveled to Vietnam or planning to? What were your experiences?
Blessings and Light xx