The Inspiration For My Trip To Vietnam
It was a trip with my boyfriend and we both wanted to go to Asia and a country we both haven’t been to, which does not leave us with many options. But additionally, Vietnam also attracted us as we heard many good stories from friends about it and obviously Vietnamese food is delicious!
How We Planned For The Trip
We booked the trip only 3 weeks in advance, we already knew for several months that we wanted to travel in February but were waiting for the right time to book. Flights and hotels were all booked in advance. The trips to Sa Pa, Mekong Delta, Ba Na Hills, and Lan Ha Bay cruise tours were all booked before arrival as well. We used Klook a lot for booking these trips including getting local sim cards.
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What We Packed
We had to pack for nearly all seasons!! We went from North to South.
In the north in Hanoi, during the days that we were there, the temperature was around 15 degrees. But then we went to Sa Pa, all the way in the north, close to the border with China, and it was even colder there, even 0 degrees Celsius during the early mornings and evenings.
In Ninh Binh, we also had one day 32 degrees, and the other two days only 15 degrees. While heading south it became warmer and warmer and finally, it was tropical weather around 35 degrees in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon.
We had one big suitcase and one small carry-on and we didn’t want to overpack so for the colder areas, we decided to layer as much as possible. As for camera equipment, we brought a camera, a gimbal, a drone, and a GoPro.
Other stuff that we brought were sunscreen, plasters, some medication, sunglasses, I guess normal holiday stuff.
Specifically, we brought many masks with us, hand disinfection gels as well as wet wipes, just as a precaution, as we went in February 2020, which was when the COVID-19 outbreak had its peak in China and other Asian countries.
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The Itinerary For Our Trip
We actually booked a roundtrip Amsterdam - Singapore, because it was cheaper. From Singapore, we flew to Hanoi and traveled for about 3 weeks from north to south of the country. Within Vietnam, we took busses, trains, and planes to get from one place to another.
Day 1 – We took an early morning flight from Singapore to Hanoi, after arrival, we went straight to the hotel, checked in, and then went out for lunch and to explore Hanoi Old Quarter.
Day 2 – We were picked up in the morning by a bus that took us to Haiphong Harbor where we took a boat to our cruise in Lan Ha Bay. After welcome, lunch, and settling in the room, it was time for some activities. We visited Cat Ba Island and specifically Viet Hai village where we learned more about Vietnamese culture and the island. In the evening there was a cooking class on the boat.
Day 3 – We woke up early in the morning to participate in the kayaking activity in Lan Ha Bay. While kayaking we also passed some fishing water villages. After that, it was time to pack, have lunch and say goodbye. We took the boat back to Haiphong and then the bus back to Hanoi where we arrived around 3 pm. After checked into the hotel, we went out exploring again.
Day 4 – We had a full day of exploring Hanoi starting with trying Vietnamese egg coffee at the Pho Co Café, a hidden café with a view of Hoan Kiem Lake. This was followed by a quick ‘outside’ visit to the Hanoi opera house and lunch at what they say is the best Banh Mi in town (Banh Mi 25). We went to Dong Xuan Market and then the Water Puppet Show at the Than Long Theater with full bellies. Please remember to buy tickets beforehand for the show. In the evening, we took a night bus to Sa Pa.
Day 5 – We arrived early in the morning around 3 AM in Sa Pa but we could sleep until 6 AM on the bus. We were then brought to a hotel where you can leave your luggage and pack a small bag with necessities for the evening because in the evening we stayed with a Vietnamese family somewhere in the mountains (Homestay). After packing, a guide picked us up, and the trek in the foggy weather on muddy mountain roads towards rice fields started. It was about a 12km hike and halfway the sun started shining and the views were amazing! In the evening we had dinner and Vietnamese rice wine shots with the host family.
Day 6 – After waking up and eating breakfast, it was time to start the trek back to Sa Pa city. We arrived there late afternoon and once we were back in Hanoi, it was evening, so no more activities for that day.
Day 7 – Another full day to explore Hanoi. We went to the Thang Long Citadel, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and the One Pillar Pagoda. The rest of the time was spent just wandering around. In the evening, we took the train to Ninh Binh, which takes approximately 1.5h.
Day 8 – The first day in Ninh Binh was really hot, around 33 degrees Celsius. We rented a scooter from the hotel and visited two places: Bai Dinh Pagoda and Mua Caves.
Day 9 – On the second day, we first did a boat ride and we decided to go for the Trang An Grottoes boat ride. After the beautiful 3h boat ride, we went to Hoa Lu ancient capital.
Day 10 – The last day in Ninh Binh was spent first at the Bich Dong Pagoda, we then scootered around a bit and then did another boat ride. The temperature dropped about 15 degrees so it was cold and we were quite tired from the first few days. So we took the Tam Coc Boat ride, afterward, we took a massage and just chilled and freshened up until it was time to go to the station: 14h night train to our next destination – Da Nang!
Day 11 – We arrived around noon in Da Nang, we first went to the hotel and then wandered a bit around town and My Khe beach.
Day 12 – We booked a day trip to Ba Na Hills, again with the website Klook. The package included the transport as well as entrance tickets to the theme park. This theme park is mainly famous for the Golden Hands Bridge! Unfortunately, we had bad luck with the weather: it was raining and extremely foggy the entire day. We could not even fly the drone or see the entire bridge. Therefore we ended up spending most of the day inside, as it was also cold!
Day 13 – Luckily the next day was sunny again! We rented a scooter and first visited Marble Mountain and then we went to Hoi An! We spent the entire day wandering around there and in the evening we tried the delicious local dishes.
Day 14 – The last day in Da Nang, we went to the Upside Down Museum and decided to spend the rest of the day on My Khe beach tanning a bit until it was time to leave for the airport for our flight to the last stop! It was a 1.5h flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh city.
Day 15 – Another day trip booked with Klook, to the Mekong Delta in Ben Tre province. It was a hot sunny day but nice to escape the city life and see the more rural side. We learned about different cultural aspects, did a cycling tour and a boat tour! In the evening, back in Ho Chi Minh City, we had dinner and visited EON51 in the Bitexco Tower, which is a sky bar with 360 degrees view over the city!
Day 16 – The next day we explored the city itself: Ho Chi Minh city hall, Notre dame cathedral of Saigon, Saigon Central post office, and in the evening, we went to Ben Thanh market and had different types of street food! So many good options to eat there!
Day 17 – The last full day in Vietnam! We decided to do a bit more exploring, and then relax for the rest of the day.
Day 18 – End of our Vietnamese adventure, we had an early morning flight back to Singapore!
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Length Of Our Trip
We had a bit more than 2 weeks and while planning and asking advice from friends who have been there, many people said our schedule was too tight.
Looking back, both my boyfriend and I think that the schedule we had was sufficient. We did not feel that we had to rush and nor did we feel that we missed out on things, at least not because of the lack of time, as we even had a few days in each city to relax a bit. We could not take more than 3 weeks off and we also wanted to have some time in Singapore, so naturally, you have to compromise on certain sights, for example when we have a chance to revisit Vietnam, I would love to also visit Mui Ne and Hue as well as spend more time in Hoi An. But for this trip, we were happy with all that we could do and see!
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We Met Some Great People On Our Trip
We spent most of the trip just us enjoying each other’s company and the trip. But during the Sa Pa trek that we booked with Klook, we met some other international travelers and of course our Vietnamese guide.
At the last destination, in Ho Chi Minh City, we met a friend who was also there from The Netherlands. It is always nice to meet people on travels, but I think the experience is different compared to when you travel alone or with your partner.
During the Sa Pa trek, there were also some girls and women from the Hmong ethnic minority group joining us, from them and from our Vietnamese guide we learned very interesting facts about the culture. It is always nice to learn about other cultures and traditions to broaden your horizons.
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We spent in total around 1800 euros on the full trip, including flight tickets, all transportations, hotels, food, souvenirs, and sightseeing (this price includes our activities in Singapore too). Vietnam is very cheap and budget-friendly, so we did not make a daily budget nor did we daily discuss what to do to spend as little as possible.
Other ways that we used to keep the costs low were waiting for the right moment to book the flight tickets, not staying in overly expensive hotels, and we found one exchange office in Hanoi with good deals to exchange euros to Vietnamese Dong, so we went there several times the first few days. But besides that, we wanted to just do and eat what we felt like.
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Food That You Can't-Miss Out On In Vietnam
Must tries are in our opinion all the Vietnamese food, think of Bún chả, Phở, Bánh xèo, Bún thịt nướng and also Bánh mì. For Bánh mì, we can recommend Banh Mi 25 in Hanoi and Banh Mi Phuong in Hoi An. When you are in Hoi An, I recommend you try the local dish Cao lầu and Mì Quảng, which is a noodle dish from Quang Nam province where Hoi An is located. Another tip, try to eat like the locals, try those small cafés and restaurants on the streets where you sit on those plastic chairs next to the road.
We are also fans of bubble tea, especially brown sugar bubble tea, so if you like me, we’d recommend trying The Alley and Tiger Sugar, which are in all the big cities we’ve visited (Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh city).
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Favorite Memory From The Trip
The entire trip was an amazing experience that I will always cherish. All memories were unforgettable, I guess it is very hard to choose one haha. Just being together and exploring together was already memorable enough!
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Our Recommendations For Hikes & Sights Not To Be Missed In Vietnam
Mua Caves 🡪 definitely one of the highlights, the views after a hike of 500 steps are some of the most magical views. But honestly, the whole Ninh Binh area, where Mua Caves are located, is a must-visit. It is only 1-1.5h from Hanoi and it is so nice to be in the countryside and have amazing nature. We heard from many people that they only do a day trip from Hanoi, which is understandable due to time constraints, but if possible, we would totally recommend staying at least 2 nights.
Our Advice To Anyone Visiting Vietnam For The First Time
I guess it depends whether you have already been to Asia! Because I can imagine if it is the first time going there you can get a culture shock.
I would suggest reading in advance blogs and other experiences about it to have a feel of what it’s like and once you’re there, have an open mind, be curious about the people, culture, and traditions and mostly just enjoy the wonderful views and amazing food.
Also check the weather in the different places that you are planning to visit, as you read before, the temperature can differ hugely between north, middle and south Vietnam.
Furthermore, check the season you are planning to travel in, as there are rainy seasons. If you are both a city and nature person, this itinerary is perfect as you will have enough variation between the city and the peaceful countryside with breathtaking nature.
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