Solo Traveler's guide to 5 days of Vietnamese Culture & food

Photo of Solo Traveler's guide to 5 days of Vietnamese Culture & food by Rashi Mathur

Vietnam has something for everyone- nature, beaches, history, food, night markets, art, and above all the most amazing people who are kind, humble, sometimes shy and have the most amazing stories to share.

I took a direct 5-hour flight from New Delhi to Hanoi, then took Grab Taxi to my Hotel. I stayed in the old quarters of Hanoi close to Hoan Kiem Lake & on Hang Dao Street where the night market is during the weekend.

Day 1

My start to the day was supposed to be with a visit to the HCM Complex which has Mausoleum of HCM, the colonial Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda & HCM Museum, however due to a holiday this complex was closed. So instead, I headed to Temple of Literature which was built in 1070 to worship the Chinese philosopher Confucius. With its ancient architecture and lush gardens, this is also the place for young kids to celebrate their graduation ceremony.

Next stop was the famous Train Street, charming, beautiful narrow lanes with houses, shops on both sides and train track in between. Enjoyed local coffee – Bac Xiu at one of the cafes. Headed back to old quarters to visit Ngoc Son Temple, which is situated amidst Hoan Kiem Lake, lush landscape & architecture adds to the beauty of this place.

This trip was highly featured on trying local food which I thoroughly enjoyed starting with Pho, a household Vietnamese soup with broth, noodles, veggies & meat. Spent another hour exploring local streets of old quarters, buying little souvenirs, visiting art galleries & devouring a Burnt cheesecake at Coco Bakery.

After a late afternoon nap, the evening was lit with the night market right outside the hotel. It was worth checking out the small stalls, grilled food on stick being sold alongside, shopping and plenty of bargaining. Dinner was a simple yet delicious Honey grilled chicken & cheese Banhs Mi at Banh Mi 25.

Day 2

I booked a tour through my hotel for a day long Cruise to Halong bay. Early morning pickup from the hotel and 3 hours’ drive with a stopover to see the process of pearl extraction, polishing to the final product, & if you want to buy some pearl jewelry shopping as well. Boarded the cruise at Tuan Chau Island, started with an early lunch and relaxed on the deck to enjoy Halong Bay’s unique beauty. The first stop is Titop Island, where one can do a small trek to the top of the mountain or just relax on the beach. Next stop was Kayaking in Luon cave which is situated between mountains and seems like your own oasis. Lastly visited the famous limestone Sung Sot cave at Bo Hon Island which is also a UNESCO world Heritage site. After lot of walking, come back to an evening tea on the cruise and headed back to the Harbor to drive back to the Hotel.

Pro tip: Halong bay can get unpredictably cold so take a jacket, and a swimsuit/short for kayaking and beach.

After a 15 mins rest, headed to Tung’s kitchen for dinner. They have a balcony seating on the first floor where you can enjoy a view of the street with your meal. I tried Cha Ca which has grilled Ca lang fish accompanied with dill, herbs, dips, and rice noodles. This is by far my most favorite Vietnamese dish.

Day 3

Took a short flight to Da Nang, I chose a hotel on the My Khe Beach, where the balcony presented a beautiful view of the sea. Lunch was at the hotel, where I tried another Vietnamese dish Tod mun pla.

Booked a Taxi for half day to Coconut Forest and Hoi An. I went to Coconut Forest around late afternoon, and it turned out to be a super fun place where I took a basket boat ride, clicked so many pictures which almost felt like a photo shoot courtesy the boat rider, enjoyed a scenic ride through the mangroves & a basket boat dance by the locals.

Next was Hoi An town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This place is simply mesmerizing with the canals, pagoda’s, ancient culture, and the streets lit up with lanterns. It was a perfect evening to just take a walk down the colorful lantern streets, absorb & experience everything happening around. Visited a sacred place- Phúc kiến hội quán, tried a Silk nest cake from a local vendor, chilled out at Co Smoothies with a coffee & live music, went to the Hoi An bridge- lit a lantern, took a boat ride & watched the Bai choi play. I tried Bun cha for dinner and like all other Vietnamese food, enjoyed this one too.

On the way to Da Nang did a quick stop at Golden dragon bridge, with thousands of crowds watched the Dragon emitting fire in different colors.

Day 4

Post a scrumptious breakfast in the hotel, took a 45 mins car ride to reach Sun world and from there took a 20 mins cable car ride to reach Ba Na hills. The entire experience of man-made French village, funicular, gardens, food courts with multiple cuisines & buffet, golden bridge, Renaissance fair, fantasy park on top of a hill is surreal. You can spend an entire day here, my suggestion to anyone who visits here is take your favorite picks from the brochure and focus on what you want to visit as per your interest rather than tiring yourself trying to see everything.

Came back to the hotel late in the afternoon, and after taking some rest headed out to My Khe & My Anh beach in the evening to take a stroll and relax. After having Vietnamese meals so far in the trip, last day was meant for a good ol’ pizza at Pizza House.

Day 5

Spas are my personal favorite and a must do on all my trips, so before check-out took a nice relaxing Spa and spoilt myself with some Vietnamese desserts at the breakfast buffet. It was time to check-out and head back through a connecting flight from Hanoi to New Delhi.

This short trip to Vietnam was simply amazing, and I take back beautiful experiences & memories of Vietnamese culture, food, architecture, rich ancient history and so many UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Travel Tips:

Taxi & Bikes: Grab- local transport app. Just download it, super easy to use

Currency: Local shops and food joints take cash so take Dollars & get them easily converted to Vietnamese Dong, you will easily find currency exchange stores.

Food: Enjoy local food, you will find something for your palette. For vegetarians, there will be 1 or 2 veg dishes in each section of the menu so you will not go hungry.