Vietnam- From South to North

Tripoto
24th Aug 2018

My journey started into Vietnam when I entered into this beautiful country from Phnom Penh, Cambodia in a very comfortable bus. I had already got myself an E-Visa so did not have to go through the hassle of getting one done at the land border of Moc Bai, but I am not sure for what had to pay extra $1 to the Cambodian bus company that got me to Ho Chi Minh, there was just a notice at the pick up point stating "$1 for tourists carrying E-Visa". Vietnam is cleaner, cheaper and much more developed than Cambodia is but not as developed and touristy as Thailand.

Day 2

Ho Chi Minh

I had booked us place at Bui vien Street which is a backpacker/party area of the city. This is where our bus from Phnom Penh dropped us, the hotel was barely 2 mins walk away. That evening we enjoyed the crazy night life of Bui Vien Street. The next morning we hired a bike and went to explore the Cu Chi Tunnel. That was a mistake because cabs are a much easier option since the place has zero signboards and its called "Dai Dao" in Vietnamese (a lesson we learnt the hard way because we got blank stares everytime we asked for direction to Cu Chi Tunnel). Cu Chi tunnels are worth the visit though, the network of underground tunnels is mind blowing. Overall Ho Chi Minh is a vibrant city with great food and awesome nightlife.

Hoi An

I regret planning my trip a little too much and booking my flight tickets in advance cause I would have loved to spend more than just 2 days in this gorgeous town. The place doesn't have major tourist spot apart from the ancient town and the beach nearby is okay but the holiday vibe and the laid back pace of the town puts you in a happy mood as soon as you enter the town. Enjoyed whesalking around the ancient town, visiting the Chinese houses, just chilling in one of the many road side cafes. The lanterns does magic to the town. Avoid my mistake and spend a day in Danang too, the beach there is far better than any other beaches in central Vietnam, also I skipped Hue for Ha Long Bay, the biggest mistake of the trip, there is a tour that takes you to Hue, please do that.

Ha Long Bay

Let me be honest, I was skeptical about Ha Long after reading mixed review but not visiting Ha Long would have been like going to India and not visiting Taj or Paris and Effiel Tower. The town caters more to Chinese tourists so there are amusement parks and way too many Casinos. If you do not intend to do the overnight cruise, do not visit Ha Long. We ran into some travel bad luck and it poured cats and dogs the moment we arrived and stopped probably just for a couple of hours the next day, we wanted to leave the next day itself but like I mentioned before my excessive planning and I had already booked and paid for our bus tickets to the next destination.

Day 8

Ninh Binh

My favorite place in Vietnam. It is true for any country that it is in the villages that you find the best scenery, the friendliest people, the yummiest food and the awesome hospitality. It was a 6 hour bus ride from Ha Long to Ninh Binh but feels like a different world altogether. The landscape is dotted with krast landforms, lily ponds and paddy fields. The homestay we stayed at was at Trang An and to wake up to the krast mountains and the pond at our door step was bliss. We just hired a bike (unlike Saigon, its the best way to explore the place) and rode around everywhere, stopping wherever we found a pretty spot. The 400 steps climb on Mua Cave to see the view is totally worth it. I felt bad leaving Ninh Binh and moving on to Hanoi to catch my flight to Bangkok.

Tips

Read up but dont book everything in advance, public transport is fantastic so you will get bus, train tickets easily. Keep your schedule flexible you might love some places and you might hate some.

Almost all places have happy hours (6 to 8) make use of that for cheap beer (I once had a pint of draught beer for as cheap as INR 15)

Taxi drivers are going to quote absurd amounts, just ask them to put the metre down and go

Pho is usually the best in cheap road side stalls, not in any fancy place. Also try the lotus stem juice

All the tourist spots have Vietnamese name so if you are exploring on your own and not using guides learn those place names in advance and it is more useful to learn phrases like "where is..." than hello/thank you.

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