Vietnam - You Can’t Get Enough Of This Country!

Tripoto
12th Oct 2018
Photo of Vietnam - You Can’t Get Enough Of This Country! by Amruta Gadgil
Day 1

This one night while I was browsing my Insta, I came across a beautiful picture and got stuck. It was love at first sight - it was Halong Bay! Of course, I couldn’t just stop at that one pic and started googling more about it and by now I was head over heels with this beautiful location and promised myself to go there soonest.

We all know how it goes when we start googling about a place, we can never stop at that. I realized that Vietnam has soooo much more to offer. The country from north to south has different landscapes and is a total package to visit. So I started researching more & more about it and jotted down places I surely can't miss.

Fortunately, I was able to visit this country this year, however, for a short span (9 days) and experience the magic. So here, I would like to pen down my experiences and findings of this gorgeous country.

We planned a trip for 9 days, not enough to cover the whole of Vietnam so the idea wasn’t to go all the places, but go to a few and experience that place in total. The trip goes as Hanoi-Halong bay-Phong Nha-Hoi An-Hanoi.

We flew down to Hanoi - our first destination.

Starting from the start, we landed in Hanoi by 12 pm and completed the immigration process. There is a visa on arrival for Indians. You have to apply for Visa approval letter online on their website, fees for which is about USD10. Once applied, they send the approval letter on your email within a day or two. This approval letter along with one passport size photograph, passport, and visa application form is required at the airport to obtain the visa. The stamping fee is USD25 which needs to be paid in cash at Hanoi airport. The procedure is pretty hassle free and quick.

Transportation - There is a shuttle service from the airport to any place in Hanoi every 10 minutes, which is the cheapest way to commute from the airport to your hotel/hostel. But if you are lazy like us, opt for a private cab which is 10 times the bus fare but hey, we were tired after a 12-hour long flight.

Where to stay - Old quarters is the place to be. Everything is around and the streets are lit. I would suggest staying in a hostel as the vibe is a whole different and exciting than staying in a hotel with room service but no random conversations with other travelers.

We stayed at The Chein hostel, which was right next to St. Joseph Cathedral and walkable distance from the lake. The private room costs USD20 (accommodates 2) and dorms cost USD7 for a night.

We headed straight towards the lake post-sunset which happens by 5.30-6pm here.

Hanoi is NOT TO BE MISSED on a weekend, the streets around the lake which are also the highlight of Hanoi is closed for vehicles which gives the locals an opportunity to enjoy the weekend their way and buoy they certainly do that. The street comes alive with people skating around, dancing, painting, playing, singing etcetera. You look around and there are so many things happening at the same time, it's amusing! The vibe here is amazing and puts up a smile on your face which mind you will stay for a long long time :)

You can dance along on the streets with the locals, groove to the music played by those talented musicians, play Cau with the kids, chug a beer which is quite cheap and tasty, eat street food or just sit there and absorb the vibrant atmosphere around.

Hanoi also has amazing pubs to party but my preference was to be on the street than get drunk in a pub and dance which we get to go back home anyway.

Photo of Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Day 2

We headed to the place that brought me to Vietnam in the first place - The surreal Halong Bay!

You can book the cruise from your hostel or pre-book it. I suggest staying on the cruise at least for a night if not two instead of a one day tour because you wouldn’t want to leave this beauty just in a day.

We went for Oasis bay party cruise as we wanted to party. They pick you up from your hostel and drop the next day. The rooms are excellent and the party is crazy. It cost us USD150 p.p which includes the stay, activities, food and transportation.

Coming back to Halong Bay - this place surpassed my expectations and left me mesmerized! Apart from the never-ending beauty, this place also offers some great activities.

Kayaking in Halong Bay was so peaceful and dreamy. You can hear nothing but the cool breeze, water sound, birds chirping and Yes! Sometimes a siren from a big ship if you come in their way. Its a beautiful & fulfilling experience to kayak in such a big big bay, where we see only limestone mountains spread across perfectly in this emerald water.

Kayaking was followed by jumping off the boat. You know it's going to be a great story to tell later once it starts with “so this was shit scary”. Jumping off the boat into the water made me nervous and scared, which is exactly why I decided to do it, so without giving any further attention to my fear I counted to 3 and jumped off. Did I mention before that this was going to be the best story to tell? It was pure bliss and experience of a lifetime.

Of course, then we partied our hearts out in the night, did alcohol yoga on the deck under the stars and made memories :)

Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Day 3

Woke up to this beautiful view of Halong bay, it was a dream come true! I was mostly quiet this morning to soak in this feeling of actually being at this place and experiencing it all in reality. Post lunch, we left for Hanoi again.

Leaving this place was hard, but the experiences we had here will be cherished for a lifetime, so we left this place being grateful and happy.

Day 4

This was our last day in Hanoi, so we had breakfast in the hostel and left to wander around the streets of Hanoi and feel the vibe once again. The Hoan Kiem lake is beautiful and not to be missed. We strolled around the lake, clicking beautiful pictures and creating memories. By eve we left for our next destination - Phong Nha-Ke Bang

Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Day 5

Phong Nha-Ke Bang is a national park in the north-central of Vietnam famous for its of caves, underground rivers and tropical forests.

Today we experienced the magnificent and magical Paradise and Dark Caves. There is a reason they are named the way they are.

It was a different kind of experience as we seldom get to visit such beautiful caves in our travels. Right from the start, the Paradise cave amazed us. You can feel the moisture & coolness in the air right from its entrance which is quite inviting. Its the largest dry cave in Asia with a total length of 31kms of which only a km is open for public. The shapes of limestones, their formations and the moisture inside the cave is pretty alluring. We don’t often happen to get such an experience. This cave is so pretty in its own way and truly justifies its name. There is a trek of about a km and then 524 steps to reach this cave, but mind you it's totally WORTH IT!

Dark cave - as the name suggests its pretty dark inside which makes it very adventures and exciting. Our entry in this cave was quite dramatic because we zip-lined our way to this cave. Whoa! What an experience it was! Zip-lining followed by a walk for about 800m in chest-height water with torches on our helmets on to see the way towards the mud bath area. Yes, you read it right, there is a mud bath inside this cave. A natural mud bath with mud from the cave walls rich in minerals. Never had I ever imagined to have a mud bath inside a cave, but that happened here - unexpected surprises has its own charm and they totally woo your heart, isn’t it?

Well, it doesn’t end here. Post mud bath we swam our way back out of the cave and then canoed our way to the place we started. And with this, I started thanking God for the wonderful experience we had. The little did I know its not over yet, there was an option to zip-line without a harness and jump straight in the water. Yes, it scared me. Yes, I did it anyway.

We stayed at Heritage by night hotel which has a pool overlooking the national park. The caves tour costed us 1.2 million VND which includes transportation, lunch, water and guide to the caves. You can save approx. 500,000 VND if you go on your own, however, I would recommend going with the tour guide. Its a jungle with no proper directions, so chances of getting lost are high

Photo of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Day 6

It was time to travel to the last destination of our trip - Hoi An. We left from Phong Nha in the morning and took a bus to Hoi An right from across the street of the hotel we stayed. The buses in Vietnam are also to be experienced I must say. They are so different in every way, the seating is fabulous.

We reached Hoi An by evening and the first look of this ancient town made me speechless. How would you feel walking on the streets with the canopy of trees and lanterns all over them. Yes, I did sing to myself “lights will guide you home”.

This town looks nothing less than a fairytale land and leaves you spellbound with its beauty. I’m sure you would want to keep quiet and soak in this beauty around. Walking on these streets is nothing less than living your fairytale story. This town has an ancient charm and you don’t want to miss this place. We went boating in a canal, of course in lantern shine. You have to experience it yourself to understand the true beauty of this place, the wooden Chinese shops, the colorful French buildings, iconic Japanese bridge, the night market and many more. Words can do no justice.

Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Day 7

Today we decided to go to the beach - An Bang beach. Our ride to the beach was a bicycle. You can rent a bike or a bicycle in Hoi An for commuting. Bicycle rent is quite cheap about 32k VND for a day. We bicycled to the beach and the way to the beach is just beautiful.

An Bang beach is gorgeous with pristine clear turquoise water and smooth sand. Sun-bathe, sip a beer or get into the water - there is no way you won’t enjoy this beach.

Photo of An Bang Beach, Hai Bà Trưng, Cẩm An, Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of An Bang Beach, Hai Bà Trưng, Cẩm An, Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Day 8

It was our last day in this quaint, charming and magical town so we just wandered around to get a feel of this wonderland - one last time! Obviously, we shopped while we wandered around. Bought beautiful lanterns that will always take me back to my time here and I would miss this place a lil less, maybe!

There are many more places in Vietnam that we couldn’t visit in this trip like Sapa, Bana hills, HCM, etc to name a few, however, I sure am going to come back to this country to explore and experience it all.

One just can’t get enough of this country.

Bye bye Vietnam, until we meet again!

General Info - we booked our intercity flights in via Vietjet.com. They have a promotional offer category where the tickets are very cheap. The flight takes about an hour from Hanoi to Dong Hoi (nearest airport to Phong Nha) and Danang (nearest airport to Hoi An) which saves a lot of travel time.

Also, bus is the most economical option while traveling to Hoi An from Phong nha. Its a direct bus costing just 230,000 VND p.p. The buses are quite different and very comfortable. Another option is train, however, from Phong nha you have to go to Dong hoi station and board the train till Danang and then a cab from Danang to Hoi an. Its troublesome and expensive.

Hope this info helps. Have a great trip to this gorgeous country :)

Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Amruta Gadgil
3 Comment(s)
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Wow... Simply awesome.. Very descriptive and informative article... I don't have to look anywhere else for itinerary.. Keep up the good work dear.. looking forward for more... Vietnam coming soon..
Sat 10 27 18, 08:55 · Reply (1) · Report
Yayy! So happy to know that :)
Sat 10 27 18, 22:54 · Report
Thanks for the detailed write up! Viet Nam may very well be my next vacay destination after reading this! Thank you
Sat 10 27 18, 01:35 · Reply (1) · Report
Glad to know that!
Sat 10 27 18, 01:41 · Report
Beautifully penned down with all the necessary details. Keep it up. Looking forward to reading more of your trips.
Sat 10 27 18, 01:17 · Reply (1) · Report
Your feedback means a lot to me :) i’m happy you liked it
Sat 10 27 18, 01:25 · Report