If you’re in two minds about visiting Vietnam, let me assure you that it should most definitely be high on your list of priorities. From Ho Chi Minh in the south to Hanoi and beyond in the north, there is a great opportunity to travel the breadth of the country and find all that it has to offer. Today, instead of concentrating on one place in time, i will give you a quick overview of travelling in Vietnam, and the main stops to visit.
Travelling in Vietnam is easy to do by yourself or in a tour group, so it is personal choice which you prefer. Similarly, it is fairly easy to hire a motorcycle and drive around the country, and you will see the best views this way, especially in the Hai Van Pass. Renting a 100cc moped is cheap, from around US$5 per day, usually with unlimited mileage. However, there is a possibility of injury due to the rather haphazard road conduct found in the country. If you take this option, keep your eyes open and make sure your travel insurance covers it! An option with less risk involved and more style is the overnight sleeper trains. They cover the country from north to south, and ensure you save on accommodation costs while travelling. Just make sure that you choose the right class berth for you, as going for the cheapest options may leave you an uncomfortable night on a wooden row of benches! The tickets are not particularly expensive however, so a comfortable bed berth in a four bed bunk room is easily achievable. Other options include boat travel in areas such as the Mekong Delta and Halong Bay, local bus travel in larger cities which are incredibly cheap, and if you are feeling like adding a bit of luxury to your trip, you can usually hire motorbikes and cars complete with chauffeurs/tour guides.
So what are the standard places to visit? I wont go into much detail here, i will just outline popular places to visit and the highlights to be found there. If you want to know more about any of the places mentioned, just ask me or ask google!
Ho Chi Minh – A great starting point for your journey and the largest city in Vietnam, it is full of museums and historic buildings. The reunification palace is a sight to see, as are the Cu Chi tunnels northwest of the city. I would also recommend taking a trip to the Mekong Delta from the city for some beautiful river vistas, which you can see in my previous post called “Muddy Mekong”.
Da Lat – This mile-high mountain city is highly popular with travellers, and not just for its fresh air or cooler temperatures. Its relaxed atmosphere lends itself to a leisurely exploration of nearby sights, which include some wonderful minority villages.
Nha Trang – This is one of Vietnam’s beach party capitals, with bars galore attracting revellers with long happy hours, or fun boat tours to local islands and beaches. Those who want to see something other than the fun night life can hit the nearby Cham ruins, then sink into a wonderful mud bath.
Hoi An – This small city draws almost universally positive reactions from visitors: its food is the best in the country and you can have cookery classes to try and imitate it; its lantern-lit buildings are truly spellbinding at night, it is a UNESCO site for a reason; the nearby sea is great for diving; and the majestic Cham ruins of My Son are close by to the city. You can also get tailored clothing of the highest quality for brilliant prices.
Hue – Notably relaxed for its size, Hué was the capital of Vietnam’s last dynasty, the Nguyen empire. Make sure you cross the Perfume River to the old Imperial City, a maze of opulent buildings that were home to emperors as recently as 1945. Watch the traditional hat makers weave their traditional head gear, or head out on a bike tour to see the surrounding ruins, or visit an orphanage and meet the most wonderful children who think Manchester United are the best football club in the world.
Hanoi – The Vietnamese capital provides a truly startling contrast to Ho Chi Minh city – it has a far more traditional air and is home to some superb examples of colonial-era architecture. Visit the parks and the traditional structures and decorations will blow you away. That said, its bars, restaurants and entertainment are excellent too.
Halong Bay – There are few better ways to round off a Vietnamese tour than a trip to Ha Long Bay, a collection of impressive limestone peaks jutting from the sea. You can do a day tour of the Bay, or extend to a two or three day tour which allows you to visit some of the bigger islands, such as Cat Ba island.
Most of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups live in the rugged hills of the north, and a circular journey from Hanoi passes several of the most interesting groups, a good trip to do as a tour group or by motorcycle (just make sure it is a more hardy bike such as a minsk!!).
Is there anywhere i have missed off the list? Any activities that you simply have to do while in Vietnam? Comment below and share your travel anecdotes! Tomorrow i shall be back to my normal format blog, so until tomorrow fellow travellers!