A personal story about my trip to Vietnam. Including tips on where to go, stay, eat and drink in Vietnam.
Last month I’ve spent several weeks in Vietnam. It was my first time to go backpacking and I have to say, I almost shit my pants the day before I left. What the hell was I thinking going alone to a country I did not know?
It all started by an awkward staring contest at myself in the mirror with this huge red backpack. Fashionable? Nahh… Big? Yep. Heavy? Yep. Comfortable? Maybe.
But this was something I had to do. I always wanted to do it, and this was my chance. Thanks to Cathay Pacific Airlines
I had the opportunity to discover Vietnam. Starting out in Ho Chi Minh City and ending my trip in Hanoi.
The route as planned?
Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon > Mui Né > Dalat > Nha Thrang > Hoi An > Hue > Ninh Binh > Ha Long Bay > Hanoi > Sapa
I got this from Backpacken in Azië. A Dutch website with loads of information about backpacking in Asia.
When I booked my trip I was over excited and couldn’t wait to leave. But the day before I left it hit me.
I was so scared! It was only for 4 weeks, so I managed to push myself and went to the airport. Not without any
severe heart beatings and a few tears.
As soon as I boarded and took a seat in the premium economy seat next to the window with extra leg space I relaxed. With a cold glass of champagne and my Lonely Planet guide I felt like a princess and let my fears go. Except for my constantly present fear of flying. The flight was perfect as always, so again, worried about nothing. Nevertheless this won’t seem to go away. I’m also always worried when my loved ones are on a flight, so yeah.. I am a bit of a chicken sometimes.
After 14,5 hours with a short stopover in Hong Kong I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily for me I had the luck to stay in the renewed business lounge of Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong, where I took a shower in my own private bathroom so I felt fresh and a bit more awake when I arrived.
I booked a bed in a real dorm in the New Saigon Hostel. A real backpackers hostel in the backpacker area of Saigon.
I was tired and a bit nauseous of all the tension so I switched to a private room to relax by myself first.
I’ve never stayed in a hostel before so it was quite the experience.
After spending 2,5 days in Saigon I was happy to leave this busy city. It’s the same with Harry Potter. You hate it or you love it. For me, personally, Saigon wasn’t it. But I know people who absolutely love this city, so don’t listen to me and see it for yourself. Read this article for tips: 5 things to see in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon.
After spending 4,5 hours in a sleeper bus, I arrived at the Backpackers Village in Mui Né.
It was a pleasant change to go from a crowded city to a small village at the beach and have a hostel with
it’s own pool. The food over here was perfect and the vibe was great! I met my first friends over here and most of them
were going North so I stayed with them. The beach in Mui Né is a hotspot for Kitesurfing. The wind is good (most of the times) and if you want to learn it, this is a good spot!
After spending 3 days in Mui Né we went up further North to Dalat. A place in the mountains where it is
less hot and where you can do adventurous things like canyoning. It took us around 5 hours to get here by bus from Mui Né
and though it was a bumpy road, the views were spectacular. So much green everywhere. I stayed in the most crazy hostel I probably will ever see: The Dalat family hostel. It is owned by a mom with kids and she is crazy! Crazy in a fun way…
One night, she literally stand on the table with a bottle of liquor in her and, showing off her moves. And every single day
they are in the kitchen to make you breakfast and one of the best dinners I have ever had in my life. So friendly, but crazy as hell. The dorms were not that great, but the vibe and fun over here are so good that you have to stay here!
And please do the canyoning! It is crazy as hell and very scary sometimes, but I felt like a true badass coming down a 25 meter high waterfall. The temperatures here are around 20 degrees, so do bring a sweater. I stayed here for almost 5 days.
Other things to do here: Visit the waterfalls by bike and go to The Maze Bar. This bar is literally a maze and It was one of the best and funniest bars I’ve ever visited. Don’t get too drunk though.
Again, with the bus to our next stop: Nha Trang. Our bus driver thought he was Michael Schumacher I guess, because he went downhill in a way so that I couldn’t keep my eyes open all the time. Brrr… But we made it! The group became bigger in Dalat and we all went to Nha Trang. People told us that this place is not a very nice place to stay. A lot of Russians are
here and the vibe wasn’t good. At least, that was what we heard. None of it was true, except for the large amount of Russians.
I think it depends on when you are going. I didn’t mind them at all! And we stayed here for 4 days because we enjoyed it so much. The beach was beautiful and I did my first diving experience over here! It truly is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life! I felt completely zen underwater. There also is a fun theme park with a look-a-like Hollywood sign up the hills
and there are lot’s of karaoke spots (where I lost my voice). I had some of the best day’s here.
Supposingly one of the best towns in Vietnam. I agree! I stayed here for almost a full week! This town is historical, colorful
and sometimes almost unreal. It is so cute that it felt like a theme park. It is very touristic and the shops sell a lot
of junk, but it is very cosy at night and the bars and clubs here are a lot of fun. We had a nice hostel with bikes so that was perfect.
I had the luck to have a break from the cheap hostels when I went to the Victoria Resort at the beach with my friend Kate Boyle, which was truly amazing and beautiful. We fully recovered and did a fun bike tour across the country. The resort was gorgeous and not even that expensive. You can read the full article over here. Unfortunately one of the last night a part of my tooth broke off so I had to leave my group and head up north sooner then I expected. So after 5 amazing days spent in Hoi An I took a night train to Ninh Binh.
I arrived in Ninh Binh after 16 hours in the worst train ride of my life. The airconditioning in the train was on freeze mode
and the ‘beds’ where hard as stone. I even ordered a ‘soft bed’.. Better take the bus next time. I felt alone after leaving my group and wasn’t sure if it was the best decision leaving them. But I had to go up North because of my tight schedule.
I went to the Nguyen Shack, which was a hostel in the middle of a valley between water and mountains. The peace and calm where overwhelming here. Loved it! The small houses provide beds, ventilators, a bathroom and free toiletries. No modern
stuff here.. It was truly awesome. I met a very nice French girl, Agathe, and together we took a cooking class here and we went up doing a boat tour along the beautiful Tam Coc river. She was also headed for Hanoi so I joined her further up North to go to my last destination of my trip.
This time no uncomfortable train ride, but a perfect busride to Vietnams biggest metropolitan of the North. Hanoi is huge, crowded, but not like Ho Chi Minh City at all. I loved Hanoi! The French influences are clearly visible here and riding on the back of a scooter seeing large parts of the town, we went from lakeside roads that reminded me of Venice, to luxury neighborhoods with one villa after the other, to markets where every shop only sold one kind of product. The huge touristic markets sell a lot of junk, but it is nice to see and visit them. There are a lot of places here to have a drink and have a good meal, but I have to say I had my best meal here in a small deserted street where they served Bun Cha. This is basically grilled meat which they put in a bowl of broth and you can add noodles, vegetables and herbs at your taste. I believe this was the most tasty thing I ate during my whole journey. It’s a bit like Pho, but better in my opinion.
I had the best coffee here as well. It was more like coconut sorbet ice-cream poured with cold coffee, but it was so so soooo good. Couldn’t get enough of those. I start drooling talking about them now honestly.
After 2 days in the city I had to leave to the airport. An unexpected turn to my trip and I missed Ha long Bay and Sapa, but I left with a big smile on my face and surely had an amazing time. I met so many nice people from all over the globe. We made lasting friendships, though we are now apart. I miss them and hope to see them again someday.
I learned a lot during this trip about myself, even though I didn’t even spent months abroad. I am more open to other people then I was before and I learned how to turn off that ‘workmode’ button in my brain that is usually on 24/7. I felt inner peace and though this sounds very corny, I can’t wait to find that peace again. Back in the modern world made me realize how fast we live and hardly stop to enjoy the little things in life. In 2,5 months I will leave to Bali and Australia for a long time and I can’t wait!
A special thanks to Cathay Pacific Airlines to make this trip possible and giving me the best service as always and the most relaxing flights I know.
Hope you enjoyed!