Backpacking mystical Vietnam

Tripoto
28th May 2015
Photo of Backpacking mystical Vietnam 1/1 by Gaurang Garg

My overall experience in Vietnam was fantastic. The country is beautiful and the people here are caring and helpful. In this blog, I have shared some of my tips and experiences.

My trip started with a Thai airways flight from New Delhi to Hanoi via Bangkok. Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. It is located towards the north of the country. I was in Hanoi for two days in total. One day at the start of my trip and another after returning from Cat Ba island ( I will discuss later). The main tourist place at Hanoi is the Old quarter. This is where all the hostels/crowd are.

 You can find tons of hostels here, along with some great Pho Bo or Pho Ga( rice noodles with beef or Chicken). I stayed at the Vietnam backpackers hostel , downtown. This is a great cheap place to stay at if you want to party it out. The music is blaring all night (not recommended for people who want to sleep in peace). They do some insane bar hopping. For people who are looking for peace, there are a bunch of hostels around old quarter. You don't need to book in advance. 

Just show up. Apart from the Old quarter, there is the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum. This is recommended for those who are interested in war history and the life of Ho Chi Minh. For the history junkies, there are loads of pagodas and temples around the city. You should get a map and just wander the streets to find them (a stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake is blissful). Be sure to visit Halong bay before moving south.

Ngoc Son Pagoda by the lake

Photo of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Photo of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Hoan Kiem Lake

Photo of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Halong Bay is a must for everyone visiting Vietnam. It is truly a breathtaking landscape. Isolated limestone mountains popping out of existence from nowhere. I did the two day one night tour with a drop off at Cat Ba island. I had pre booked my tour before leaving India which I would not advise. Pre booking just gets you higher prices. It is much better if you just show up at old quarter and book the tour through one of the numerous number of travel agencies. 

I got my tour pre booked from Travel Agent Hanoi which turned out to be two times the cost. The tour pickup is from Hanoi. Followed by a bus ride to haiphong harbour. Then you take a small junk boat into halong bay. I would advise against taking the vietnam backpackers hostel tour unless you just want to be smashed throughout your trip to Halong Bay. There are loads of better party cruises available in which you will actually experience the place, rather than just get drunk (find the balance).

 The activities that these cruises include are kayaking and swimming. Also, you get to spend a night in the boat itself. The rooms in the boat and not great but for one night they should suffice. If you are a vegetarian be sure to mention this at the time of booking. Cat ba island is the biggest of all the islands in halong bay. I stayed at the Catba hostel which was the best hostel in town.

 I decided on going to Cat Ba specifically because of the first vietnam full moon party. The party was a disappointment and my dates also clashed with a national holiday. So all the streets and beaches were super crowded. One thing that I would advise in Cat Ba island is to rent a motorbike and explore the island by yourself. I could not do this since I did not know how to ride motorbike, but it is highly recommended by everyone I met. Also, I would advise doing the full day kayaking toward of Lan Ha Bay through asia outdoor adventures. On the way back from cat ba island I took a ferry to hai phong and then a bus back to hanoi.

Haiphong Harbour

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Cat Ba National Park

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Trekking group at Cat Ba National park

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Cat Ba National park

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

floating market

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Halong Bay

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Kayaking Lan Ha bay

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Exploring an isolated beach while Kayaking

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Ferry ride back from Cat Ba island

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Floating fish farms

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

The junk boat crew

Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg
Photo of Cát Bà Island, Trân Châu, Haiphong, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Phong Nha is a small town towards the Center of Vietnam. It is known for its national park which includes the world's biggest cave (Son Doong cave). I took the night bus from Hanoi to Phong Nha (experiencing the night bus is a must). This bus runs everyday from Hanoi backpackers Downtown. I stayed at the Phong Nha backpackers which was nothing great. Easy tiger hostel comes highly recommended amongst backpackers I did not do Son Doong cave since it takes 3000 dollars to see it. Instead, I did a full day tour of dark cave and paradise cave. Followed by the highlight of my trip, a two day one night excursion to the Tu Lan cave system through Oxalis Adventure tours. Though this tour is expensive, I would highly recommend it. This includes trekking through pristine jungles followed by a lot of swimming in the caves. Also, you get to stay in the Jungle for one night.

Paradise Cave

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

The Oxalis crew

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Trekking through pristine untouched forests

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg
Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

TU Lan cave

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Campsite with the staff

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

before the dip

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

crew once more

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

room for the night

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

complete darkness

Photo of Phong NHA, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Hue is a historical place located towards the Center of Vietnam. It was the Center of the country during the rule of the Minh Dynasty. It is also not very far away from the DMZ, which was the line dividing North and South Vietnam during the war. I took the night bus from Phong Nha and stayed at two different places in Hue. First was a beautiful resort called the beach bar. This was located half an hour away from Hue on Thuan An beach. 

This is a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Hue. Be sure to find people from the bus to share a cab with (it can get expensive doing so alone). Second was the Hue backpackers hostel located on Pham Ngu Lao ( This is the main backpacking district in Hue). Hue has a lot of historical places. Unfortunately a lot of these have been destroyed during the war and are under restoration. The most important out of these is the Imperial City and the tombs of former emperors. The tombs are a little far away from the city so you probably need to rent a motorbike to see them. All in all I would say, if you are short on time, this is one place you could skip.

Beach Bar

Photo of Huế, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg
Photo of Huế, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Entrance to the Imperial city

Photo of Huế, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Inside the Imperial city

Photo of Huế, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Hoi an is a small European town, also located in the Center of Vietnam. It has the feel of an old French town. This was another highlight of my trip. I stayed at Dk's house but I would advise doing a home stay here. There is no direct transport to Hoi An. You have to go via Danang, which is a short bus/train/motor bike ride away from Hue. Danang to Hoi An is a half hour cab ride. The motorbike is highly recommended for anyone who is comfortable riding a bike.

 The hai van pass is one of the most scenic roads you will come across. I would not recommend taking the bus since it does not go via the scenic route. I took the train just because I do not know how to ride a motorbike. The train route is also very scenic but the only thing is that you don't have the option to go at your own pace. The train goes until Danang. From there you need to take a cab to Hoi An

. A lot of people are looking for cabs to Hoi An, so try to find people to go with. Hoi An has a lot of pagodas and heritage houses. You need to get a pass for 120000 dong to see them. Just rent a bicycle and roam the streets. Apart from that it's got a vibrant night life, great food and awesome tailors. Yes, I said tailors. You can get anything stitched/customised for cheap prices (USD100 for a suit). Just select the design, fabric, lining, buttons and they will stitch it for you in a day. There are some great places to eat. Out of all, I really loved the Bazar Cafe. Try the chicken curry there.

Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk. it's a must.

Photo of Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

chilling with fruit vendors

Photo of Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

The hoi An gang

Photo of Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

streets and lanterns

Photo of Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Hoi an at night

Photo of Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Ho Chi Minh City, just like Hanoi, is all hustle and bustle. You would be surprised by how developed it is as compared to Hanoi (even though Hanoi is the capital city). The traffic is insane even for us Indians who are used to it back home. I took a Vietjet flight from Danang to Ho Chi Minh city. The main backpacking district is Pham Ngu Lao, District one. I stayed at New Saigon hostel which was by far the best hostel I stayed at, in Vietnam.

 Ho Chi Minh has a bunch of museums in the city. The war remnants museum is the best out of them all. This museum is very anti-american and shows only one side of the war story. Nevertheless, it is worth the visit. Other museums include the art museum (I loved it) and the reunification palace. Don't forget to do a bit of shopping at the Ben Thanh Market. It has got all the good brands for dirt cheap prices. 

Make sure you bargain to less than half the price that they quote for anything. About an hour away from Ho Chi Minh city are the Cu Chi tunnels. This is also one of the Vietnamese war sites. It is a famed spot for the guerrilla warfare by the Viet Cong. Ho Chi Minh city has a vibrant nightlife. Be sure to check out some of the rooftop bars. The clubs in the backpacking district are a cheaper option

club hopping

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Ho Chi Minh

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

war museum

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

rooftop bars

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Cu Chi tunnels

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Crawling

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Ben Thanh market

Photo of Cu chi tunnel, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

Phu Quoc is a small island off the Vietnam mainland. It is located in the gulf of Thailand, towards the south of Vietnam. Vietnam, in general is not famed for its beaches. That being said, the beaches at Phu Quoc are probably the best in the country. This is a great place to just go out and relax on the beach or rent a motorbike and explore all the far fetched beaches on your own. Be sure to go only during the peak season because the place is quite dead otherwise. I took a jetstar flight from Ho Chi Minh city to Phu Quoc and stayed at the Langchia Hostel. 

This is probably the only hostel here and it was my worst hostel experience in Vietnam. During the off season there is nothing much to do here apart from chilling on the beach/relaxing or reading a book. If that is what you really enjoy doing, then go for it. The night life is non existent during off season. The night market is the only place to visit at night where you can find fresh sea food. Scuba diving or snorkeling tours are a good option during the day. John's island tours do a great all day snorkeling and fishing tour which is recommended. There are a few dive shops in and around the area. So doing your licences here is not a bad option.

John's island tours

Photo of Phú Quốc, Phu Quoc, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

trying my hand at fishing

Photo of Phú Quốc, Phu Quoc, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

beautiful sunset

Photo of Phú Quốc, Phu Quoc, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg

White sand beaches

Photo of Phú Quốc, Phu Quoc, Vietnam by Gaurang Garg
9 Comment(s)
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Vietnam is one of the best destinations in Southeast Asia for both natural and cultural tourism. Have a closer look at Places to visit in Vietnam and Best time to visit Vietnam. https://www.mundoasiatours.com/top-10-places-to-visit-in-vietnam/
Wed 03 06 19, 15:05 · Reply · Report
how much was the total expense
Tue 04 24 18, 19:22 · Reply (2) · Report
about 1 lac flights inclusive
Sat 07 28 18, 17:42 · Report
about 1lac flights inclusive
Sat 07 28 18, 17:42 · Report
Which would be better way to book the Halong Bay cruise , online or reach in Hanoi and Book it through local operators
Tue 02 13 18, 16:02 · Reply (1) · Report
reach and book. they are much cheaper. about 50-60usd tops
Tue 02 13 18, 21:17 · Report
How many days it would take to explore vietnam in a proper way in your opinion?
Fri 10 27 17, 12:01 · Reply (1) · Report
i did about 75% and rushed through it. depends on if you wanna travel slow. i spent an average 2 days at each place and was there for 14 days.
Fri 10 27 17, 21:22 · Report
Great and fantastic trip!
Sat 06 25 16, 08:50 · Reply (1) · Report
Thank You
Sat 06 25 16, 21:18 · Report
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