TRAVEL | Vietnam, The Journey
For those of you that didn’t know, I have been traveling through Vietnam for three weeks this last month and it was amazing!
Vietnam is definitely my new favorite country and I wish I could have stayed longer. I wanted to see as much as I could, which made us (me and my boyfriend) decide to do this crazy adventure of traveling from north to west in less than two weeks. It turned out that it was a bit too crazy and it gave us very little time of relaxing, but oh, did we see some beautiful things!
I figured that because we travelled so much through the country and have seen so many places, I’d not only share the pictures, but also give you information on where we went and the advice I have after experiencing it all:)
So for those of you that plan to go to Vietnam, please read my stories. And for the other 99% I included lots of pictures!! ;) And don’t forget to look at yesterdays pictures!
Hanoi to Danang (sleeper train)
Danang to Hoi An (bus)
Hoi An to Danang (taxi)
Danang to Ho Chi Minh City (plane)
Ho Cho Minh City to My Tho (bus & taxi)
My Tho to Ben Tre (boat & motortaxi)
Ben Tre to Tra Vinh (cargo boat)
Tra Vinh to Ho Chi Minh City (bus)
Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi (plane)
Hanoi to Cat Ba (bus, bus, boat, bus)
Cat Ba to Hanoi (bus, boat, bus)
Yes! We did all of these things in less than 3 weeks! We went from north to south, back up north and a bit to the east to end up in Hanoi again. It sounds strange, because we ended up in Hanoi 3 times, but that’s because my boyfriends mother came to join us and we wanted to pick her up from the airport.
So we started in Hanoi, the capital city. After a 20 hour trip, this city will be hectic! (It always is, but be prepared because if you are tired you need to hold up that little bit of extra energy to get used to the vibe) Once you are acclimatized, everything will be great! I loved Hanoi, especially the old quarter, it has loads of markets and people. It is the perfect city to walk around and experience live in the city. People mostly just leave you alone:)
Hanoi airport to Hanoi Bus 7
We decided not to take a taxi from the airport but the local bus. This is incredibly cheap and you get to watch the changing countryside from the bus, preparing you for the city. Bus number 7 (if you walk out of the airport all the way to the right) takes about an hour and costs us around VND 9.000
Sleeper train Hanoi to Danang
After one night in Hanoi we wanted to waste no time and booked a sleeper train. This train takes about 10 hours and is fairly comfortable. We didn’t sleep very well though, but that’s mostly to blame on the jetlag. The train moves around a bit and the beds are pretty comfortable. Plus you don’t lose any precious time by traveling overnight.
** Extra note, we are both vegetarians which can be a bit of a challenge in Vietnam. So when you know that you will be on a long train journey, remember to bring some food. Or you will end up having pringles for breakfast like we did;)
From the sleeper train in Danang we took a local bus to Hoi An.
Hoi An wasn’t our favorite destination to go, because we knew it was going to be very touristy. But I ended up convincing my boyfriend, because Hoi An is known for one thing: custom tailoring!
And I wouldn’t be much of a DIY blogger if I wasn’t fascinated by the Vietnamese tailoring process.
I came prepared, with pictures of the clothes I wanted to have made and started looking for some good shops. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought.
It seems that everyone coming to Hoi An has something tailor made, which makes it not very fun to shop, salespeople can be pushy and they really overcharge when you don’t know how much something is worth.
I found it very frustrating that a lot of people showed their purchases on the internet (tripadvisor), but never the prices. making it impossible to know how much to ask for something.
So, that will change today:)
I had these things made:
One long wool coat and a long flowy dress: 100 dollars.
One pair of high platform heels: 35 dollars.
One pair of non leather boots: 35 dollars.
Having things made here is a risk. You don’t know the quality and you probably don’t have enough time to complain and have them start all over again. My dress and coat turned out amazing! The quality is very good and they fit perfectly! I bought these at Kim Hien shop
The shoes I am not so sure about. The boots I bought by just walking into a shop and asked if they could make them. Later I googled the store and it turned out to be one of the stores people warn you about.. So my advice. Google good stores beforehand, think of what you are willing to pay for it and stick with that store! I must admit that I found it all to be more expensive than I had in mind. I know it’s all very cheap to western standerds, but this is still a lot of money in Vietnam.
I tried to ask and find out, who ends up making the custom pieces but I never got a real answer. Everyone will say that their family makes it at night. But most shops will send it to a local factory and has everything made there. I am not sure if buying here helps the local people, I guess I have to hope it does..
Sleeping in Hoi An
We stayed at The Homeland River Homestay. A lovely family run hotel that is just outside of the tourist area. Finding it took us a while and it’s a bit of a walk. But once you are there, you can rent bicycles for free, so you actually just have to walk it once:)
Also when you have finished all of your custom clothing orders, it’s very recommendable to rent a motorbike and explore the area!
I will keep this short, not the best place to go. It attracts tourist busses during the day, leaving it very boring at night. Not many hotels and the ones that we found, were not ideal. We were looking for a place to explore the mekong during the day and to come back to at night and this was not it:)
My Tho to Ben Tre
The one good thing about ending up in a place like My Tho: it made us very anxious to get out and we would have excepted any escape. So we finally excepted the boat tour that our pushy hotel owner kept forcing on us for the tenth time, under one condition: to make it a one way boattrip and to drop us of in Ben Tre.
And what do you know, it turned out to be pretty nice actually! We quietly floated trough beautiful waters. We stopped at a factory that wasn’t a factory and we made it very clear to the guide that we didn’t fancy making stops to look at caged animals or be forced to buy candy. And he surprisingly accepted that and the next stop was on a quiet island where we just walked around looking at all the beautiful plants and fruits.
After the boat trip he arranged two motortaxis for us that took us to our new hotel, the fabulous Oasis Hotel. That day started to feel as a lost day because of My Tho, but it definitely turned out pretty great!
Ben Tre to Tra Vinh
Ben Tre itself isn’t all that, but the area is beautiful. We actually finally took a break and hang around the hotel a lot! Reading in our hammocks, swimming in the pool and going out for something to eat. We rented bikes one day and cycled around, it was very pretty!
From Ben Tre, we decided to go to an even more remote place called Tra Vinh. And how did we get there? By Cargoboat!
Yes, we spend about 7 hours on a very basic and old cargoship, while we could have taken a 3 hour bustrip. And it was totally worth it!
It gave us the change to see how the Mekong really works. We learned that there are small villages on the water, that the Vietnamese are the best at getting as much coconuts on a boat as possible and that it takes about 30 minutes to load as many sugar packs on our cargoship :)
Tra Vinh is a small place that doesn’t see many tourists, which made it perfect! Everybody greeted us on the street, we could easily walk around go to markets and felt very welcome. We rented a motorbike and drove around for a whole day, driving through villages that obviously hadn’t seen many tourists before. It was magical to be greeted so enthusiastically and to visit all of these gorgeous temples and areas.
Ho Chi Minh City
What is there to say besides: big, busy, modern, old, rich, poor, pretty and faded. We only spend one full day here and it was way to short to experience any real feeling of the city. We decided to visit the museums and catch up on the Vietnamese history, since they don’t really teach you that in school in Holland.
We stayed in a hotel that people recommended to us, and it turned out to be in the lonely planet but for a much larger price. We were traveling in the low season, so we got a pretty good deal. It is called The Elegant Inn, the people are very nice there and it is located in the best district if you are only staying for a night or two.
Hanoi- Cat Ba
Let’s skip ahead, we took a flight from HCMC to Hanoi at night, stayed at an airport hotel and the next morning we picked up my boyfriends mother from the airport. We took her to Hanoi for one night to acclimatize and the next day we spend traveling to Cat Ba.
Why Cat Ba and not Halong Bay?
Halong Bay is the famous area that you may know from pictures with rock formations sticking out of the water. It is amazing and visiting Vietnam without seeing this would be a sin. But.. it is almost impossible to go to Halong Bay without an organized tour. You may have noticed that we are not the biggest fans of touristspots and organized tours is just something we try to avoid.
We read and heard that Cat Ba is very close to Halong Bay and is just as beautiful but a bit harder to get to from Hanoi if you travel without a tour. We found this website called Asia Outdoors and they are the best! They explain on their website how to get to Cat Ba Island and offer a lot of information.
We ended up booking a fun kayaking day trip with them. It was so pretty, kayaking through this unusual landscape. (me and my boyfriend shared a kayak, and it turns out that we are both extremely bad at it, so I may have missed some beautiful sites by “discussing” our skills with him;))
Back in Hanoi
After our 3 day trip to Cat Ba Island I enjoyed one last day in Hanoi, before leaving to go back home. I tried to capture as many pictures, memories, smells and sites as possible to take back home. I bought souvenirs, we walked around and I realized how much I had gotten used to all the motorbikes, the warmth and the smells of all of the delicious food. I was going to miss this place!