Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide

Tripoto
13th Feb 2014
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 1/20 by Tsai Wharton
Boats along the Hoi An riverside
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 2/20 by Tsai Wharton
Caravelle Hotel, Saigon
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 3/20 by Tsai Wharton
Floating Villages
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 4/20 by Tsai Wharton
Fusion Maia, Da Nang
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 5/20 by Tsai Wharton
Ha Long Bay
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 6/20 by Tsai Wharton
Ha Long Bay
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 7/20 by Tsai Wharton
Hanoi Streets
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 8/20 by Tsai Wharton
Ho Chi Minh City
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 9/20 by Tsai Wharton
Ho Chi Minh City
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 10/20 by Tsai Wharton
Hoi An Nights
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 11/20 by Tsai Wharton
Vietnam Streets
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 12/20 by Tsai Wharton
Old Quarter, Hanoi
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 13/20 by Tsai Wharton
Phu Quoc
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 14/20 by Tsai Wharton
Saigon Center
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 15/20 by Tsai Wharton
Saigon Old Corner
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 16/20 by Tsai Wharton
Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 17/20 by Tsai Wharton
Sunset Solitude
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 18/20 by Tsai Wharton
Sunset, Ha Long Bay
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 19/20 by Tsai Wharton
The Chen Sea Resort, Phu Quoc
Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide 20/20 by Tsai Wharton
Over the West Lake, Hanoi

To cover such a vast country in 10 days, yet feel like you’ve done more than just scratch the surface, is definitely ambitious. However, with some careful planning, it can be done.

There are many airlines that fly London to Vietnam and many stopover choices, including Europe, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. So, it’s really down to personal preference. However, in December 2011 Vietnam Airlines started flying direct from London Gatwick to Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City. Vietnam Airlines also operate all the internal flights, so booking with them makes organizing your complete trip far easier.

I started in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital; 1000 years of history and the most intoxicating blend of Viet culture, Chinese-inspired monuments and French colonial architecture. Depending on what time your flight arrives in Hanoi either jump straight into the tours and do everything in an afternoon, staying just one night, or split it over a day and a half, staying two nights. One of the main sights is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (closed October, November, every Monday and Friday, and also afternoons).

Behind the mausoleum are Ho Chi Minh’s house and the One Pillar Pagoda. For an insight into Vietnam’s turbulent past visit Hoa Lo prison, known by the American inmates as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. I’d recommend getting a guide to take you between the various sights as the traffic is beyond hectic. Just crossing the road involves a leap of faith. Slowing the pace for a while, a personal cyclo tour is a great way to take in the old part of the city, often referred to as “36 streets”.

I stayed overnight in the Sofitel Metropole. It’s a beautiful colonial building with three restaurants. It’s split across two wings, my preference being the Opera wing as I feel it has more of the French colonial atmosphere. If you want to venture out for food, then I’d recommend the Wild Rice Restaurant for fantastic Vietnamese cuisine, or the Press Club located just across the street from the Metropole Hotel.

From Hanoi, it’s a 3.5 hour drive to Halong Bay. You need to leave your hotel around 8am as all the boats leave Halong at 12.45pm.The drive is slow due to the volume of traffic but well worth it. I had a fantastic time during the two days-one night trip with Paradise Cruises. There is also a three day-two night option. As one of the new ‘seven wonders of the world’ this really should be on your itinerary; a truly stunning yet tranquil setting.

The boats usually arrive back into harbor at 10.45am. Plan to head straight to Hanoi airport and fly to Da Nang. Most of the upmarket resorts are close to Da Nang and about 20-25 minutes from Hoi An. Lots of the hotels offer shuttle buses so transfers aren’t an issue. I loved Fusion Maia, a fairly new spa-style resort where all the standard rooms have their own pool. You get two treatments per day included in the price – pure unadulterated indulgence!

Make the most of this, but there’s also plenty to do in Hoi An, so I would recommend three nights here. Ms Vy’s cooking course (as featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “Gordon’s Great Escape”, May 2011) is fantastic. It lasts six hours, but the time flies by as it includes a tour of the local market, starting at 8.30am. This is a real eye-opener and helps you understand and appreciate all the local produce. The cooking itself is fascinating and you get to eat everything you cook. Ms Vy’s courses sell out in advance so it’s best to book before you fly.

Another really good outing is the Hoi An countryside bicycle tour, which shows you another side to the town, including the beautiful Japanese Covered Bridge where the Quiet American (starring Michael Caine) was filmed. Every second shop is a tailor, so this is definitely the place to refresh your wardrobe. Yaly tailors is by far the best and there is a reason why they are more expensive than the others: they only promise what they can actually deliver! The end results are excellent. It’s a good idea to take pictures of dresses or suits with you. The more information you give them, the better.

Hoi An really comes to life at night. The lantern-lined streets look magical. There are so many good restaurants, but two of my favorites were Mango Mango (45 Nguyen Phuc Chu +845103911863) and Cargo Bar. If you want somewhere cool, but fun for just a drink, then heads to Q Bar (94 Nguyen Thai Hoc, +845103911964).

Ho Chi Min City was my next stop after Da Nang, with Vietnam Airlines again. The locals still refer to it as Saigon. It’s a lot more westernized than Hanoi and, for me, didn’t hold quite the same level of cultural interest, so I felt two days and one night was enough. I would recommend going straight to the Cu Chi tunnels, flight times permitting. If you go on an organized tour it can take up to five hours so I would recommend a private guide if you like to go at your own pace. It’s an hour’s drive from the airport and then 1.5 hours back to Saigon. The tunnels certainly aren’t for the claustrophobic. I’m not into guns, but I took up the offer to shoot an AK47 whilst there, and have to admit it was an interesting experience.

The main sights in Saigon are the former Presidential Palace, now called the Reunification Hall, the War Remnants Museum, which includes some horrific scenes, and the Colonial Post Office. Once again a cyclo tour is a very good way to see the city, but make sure you stop off to walk through the fantastic Ben Thanh Market.

The area either side of the Opera House is the best place to stay. This is where you’ll find the Caravalle and Park Hyatt hotels. The executive club lounge at the Caravelle has lots to offer, but the bedrooms aren’t as luxurious as at the Park Hyatt. However, they’re still really comfortable and combined with a great pool, gym and all the added extras of the club lounge, the Caravelle is a very good hotel choice. Don’t forget to have a drink in the famous Saigon Saigon bar on the 9th floor.

You are of course spoilt for choice for dining out in Saigon. Two of my favorites were Nam Phan (34 Vo Van Tan St, District +84839333636), serving the most exquisite Vietnamese dishes, and Xu Restaurant, very conveniently located just round the corner from the Caravalle.

After the traveling frenzy between and in these bustling cities, it’s a great idea to end your trip with three to four days of utter peace and relaxation. The island of Phu Quoc is a one-hour flight south of Saigon. It’s gorgeous! The Chen Sea Centara Resort, (20 minutes north of the airport, but away from the busy Long Beach) has only 36 villas and is really tranquil. Opt for a Jacuzzi villa, but, as tempting as it is to just soak up your wonderful surroundings, do venture out one more time to see the vibrant night market.

So, ambitious but ‘doable’! An excellent 10-day Vietnam experience that I know you’ll really enjoy.

I would recommend the following split: Hanoi - 1night / Halong Bay - 2 nights / Da Nang & Hoi An - 3 nights/ Saigon – 1 night / Phu Quoc - 3nights.

I started in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital; 1000 years of history and the most intoxicating blend of Viet culture, Chinese-inspired monuments and French colonial architecture. Depending on what time your flight arrives in Hanoi either jump straight into the tours and do everything in an afternoon, staying just one night, or split it over a day and a half, staying two nights.

Photo of Hanoi, Vietnam by Tsai Wharton

A beautiful colonial building with three restaurants. It’s split across two wings, my preference being the Opera wing as I feel it has more of the French colonial atmosphere.

Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide by Tsai Wharton

I had a fantastic time during the two days-one night trip with Paradise Cruises. There is also a three day-two night option. As one of the new ‘seven wonders of the world’ this really should be on your itinerary; a truly stunning yet tranquil setting.

Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Hàng Bạc, Hanoi, Vietnam by Tsai Wharton

Most of the upmarket resorts are close to Da Nang and about 20-25 minutes from Hoi An. Lots of the hotels offer shuttle buses so transfers aren’t an issue.

Photo of Da Nang, Vietnam by Tsai Wharton

A fairly new spa-style resort where all the standard rooms have their own pool. You get two treatments per day included in the price – pure unadulterated indulgence!

Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide by Tsai Wharton

There’s plenty to do in Hoi An, so I would recommend three nights here. Ms Vy’s cooking course (as featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “Gordon’s Great Escape”, May 2011) is fantastic. It lasts six hours, but the time flies by as it includes a tour of the local market, starting at 8.30am.Another really good outing is the Hoi An countryside bicycle tour, which shows you another side to the town, including the beautiful Japanese Covered Bridge where the Quiet American (starring Michael Caine) was filmed.

Photo of Hoi An, Quang Nam province, Vietnam by Tsai Wharton

The locals still refer to it as Saigon. It’s a lot more westernized than Hanoi and, for me, didn’t hold quite the same level of cultural interest, so I felt two days and one night was enough. I would recommend going straight to the Cu Chi tunnels, flight times permitting.

Photo of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by Tsai Wharton

The executive club lounge at the Caravelle has lots to offer. The bedrooms are really comfortable and combined with a great pool, gym and all the added extras of the club lounge, the Caravelle is a very good hotel choice.

Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide by Tsai Wharton

After the traveling frenzy between and in these bustling cities, it’s a great idea to end your trip with three to four days of utter peace and relaxation. The island of Phu Quoc is a one-hour flight south of Saigon. It’s gorgeous!

Photo of Phu Quoc, Phú Quốc, Kien Giang, Vietnam by Tsai Wharton

The Chen Sea Centara Resort, (20 minutes north of the airport, but away from the busy Long Beach) has only 36 villas and is really tranquil. Opt for a Jacuzzi villa, but, as tempting as it is to just soak up your wonderful surroundings, do venture out one more time to see the vibrant night market.

Photo of Exploring Vietnam: My 10 Day Guide by Tsai Wharton
4 Comment(s)
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wanted to visit Vietnam any guidance where to land up were to reside from India
Fri 02 10 17, 13:10 · Reply · Report
Hello
Fri 02 10 17, 13:09 · Reply · Report
What you write very authentic and interesting. Your journey is too great and almost as perfect when traveling Vietnam. If given the opportunity to Vietnam again, I advise you to visit Sa Pa Town, Paradise Cave, Son Doong Cave, Hue City,... Thanks.
Tue 05 17 16, 19:37 · Reply · Report
got to go there. Cool post. Thumps up!
Tue 11 17 15, 05:52 · Reply · Report