Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh Cityyyy!!!!
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Thought I should really write everything down about the trip because I'm actually starting to forget stuff, hopefully will be useful for someone as well!
So, on my Birthday, 20th Aug, I flew in Hanoi to stay there for a couple of days. I stayed right in the middle of the Old Quarter, next to the Ngoc Son Temple in a great new hotel, which, unfortunately, I don't remember the name ofJ On the first day I've done a walking tour around the Old Quarter, the one in Lonely Planet, it's a bit complicated as it's a nightmare finding names of the streets. The market is interesting but quite disgusting, with the food lying around on the pavement and tiny cages with 5 dogs inside sold for some dodgy purposes. The restaurants are really nice, not the one's advertised in Lonely Planet though, these ones were crap.
I’ve also done a day trip to Perfume Pagoda through our hotel, which was great, highly recommended! Sightseeing wise, Temple of Literature & National University, Fine Arts Museum Presidential Palace were really interesting. Ho Chi Minh's Residence, Museum of History, Night Market was cool, lots of cheap stuff but obviously low quality.
Next day I booked a trip to Ha Long Bay with Ocean Tours. I’ve done a 2 day trip with kayaking and mountain biking. There’s an option of doing 3 days with mountain biking on the 3rd day. The trip was amazing; the places in Ha Long Bay are perfect for kayaking. At night you stay in a hut, it’s one house divided in 2 rooms, so you don’t actually have the whole house for yourself. The room is FULL of lizards and mosquitoes. The beach isn’t great, lots of stones in the water so can’t really swim, BUT a short journey by boat takes you to the Cat Ba Island, where the beach was the best I’ve been to all over Vietnam - the water was clear, gold sand and only a few people, probably because it isn’t advertised much. The dinners and breakfast were great, that’s all inclusive in the ticket. On the 2nd day, the bike ride was actually one of my favourite memories from the trip - you’ll never forget going up the mountain on the bicycle for a few hours in at least 40* heat. I was the only girl who made it, others had to be picked up by car.
After Hanoi, I took a plane to Hue. On the first day I went to the Hue Citadel and Imperial City, which was great. The rest of the day I’ve spent looking for any cold and flu medicine for myself, and failing that, took Nurofen and slept for the rest of the day in hope that it would go. Amazingly, it did. Somehow, I’ve ignored the advice on my flight tickets to go to the quarantine office in case you’ve got sore throat, high temperature etc.J
Next day, first thing in the morning, I rented the bicycle and went to different tombs which are situated outside of the town.
This trip turned out to be quite eventful also because of the storm, which started when I was in the middle of some village.
Next - every girls dream - Hoi An. Got there by train, very convenient and cheap. Basically, it’s the town of tailors, out of 10 shops 7 would be making tailor made clothes. Got a coat for $30, which was made in 10 hours. Also a dress, lots of souvenirs, you can get really cool paintings for $50, so the place is great for shopping. Also, the most amazing restaurant I’ve ever been in my life, and I’ve been to lots and lots. In fact, all the restaurants were great. But, absolutely non-existent night life, not even one bar open after 10 or 11 pm. From the centre of Hoi An I rented a bicycle and it took about half an hour to get to the beach. The beach was great - very clean and nice sand, but Do rent a deck chair from some cafe, if you pass along further down, they get much cheaper. If you don’t, you will be attacked by women selling fruits, tiger balm, toys and necklaces, and they keep coming up to you every two minutes and even if you try to ignore them, they sit next to your head and stare at you.
There is a few things to see in Hoi An as well, the system is that you buy tokens from somewhere and use them at the attractions.
After this, I honestly can’t remember how I got to Nha Trang. J Most probably by train. At this point starts the disaster part of the trip. I didn’t do much in the first morning, or afternoon, or evening. Because I got drunk. And the rain was pouring down, but I was happy. Because I was drunk. At night, after realizing that I’ve wasted the whole day I decided to go to the beach and have a swim at night. The only name of the hotel that I’ve remembered from the whole trip is the one in Nha Trang, for the wrong reasons, of course.
Next day it was still raining and all rubbish and dump from the street washed off into the water, so for the next 2 days it was impossible to get in to the water because it was full of plastic bags, used syringes, dead cockroaches and basically everything that was washed off the streets. Something had to be done fast, as this was the destination where I planned to spend some time on the beach and relax. Hotel staff recommended going to Vinpearl, kind of a resort where you get by elevating cabins like on ski trips. God knows how much money they’ve put into this project, but apart from me there were around other 10 people on the whole island. There are a few shops that are more expensive than in town. Lots and lots of water rides, I’ve done two or three, nearly had a heart attack and gave up.
The definite highlights of this town are spas and clubs. I went to SuSpa, which is right in the centre. They aren’t the cheapest ones, but the service and the actual massage were unbelievably good. I’ve had a 1.5 hour full body massage combined with Hot Stone Massage. For $30. The club that is right on the beach was called the Sailing Club. I think it’s kind of a posh place for Vietnamese people because the prices were same as in London, although I was drinking Long Island, for $15, but it’s served in a plastic container from what looked like ex - pickled gherkins and it lasted all night (see pics). The sound system was great, nice music as well, packed with tourists and locals so a definite must if you’re there!
And, at last, Ho Chi Minh City. Took a plane from Nha Trang, only takes 40 min or something. At last back to civilisation. Great cheap hotels, nice shops, good restaurants, people still trying to rip you off but now you know the real prices more or less, so it’s not as easy as it used to be.
From sightseeing, I loved Reunification Palace. War Remnants Museum was ok-ish, but, of course, only one side of the story, plus too many pictures of disfigured children after the chemical attacks and not enough history. Wanted to see Cu Chi tunnels, but was fully booked for the next day. The famous Apocalypse Now club is cool, nothing special though. All restaurants in Ho Chi Minh are much more expensive than anywhere else but there’s a few cheap chains, like Pho 24, which I, personally, found disgusting.
So, that was the end of the trip! If I had more time, from what I’ve heard from other people I’ve met, I would also want to visit Dalat, Sapa and Mekong Delta.
Most important tip from me would be to take as much medicine with you as possible, as if you do eventually manage to find a pharmacy, all medicine is fake and doesn’t work, in some cases (insect repellent, bites cream) made it even worse J
My list would be: antibiotics, nurofen, cold and flu pills, sore throat pills, laxatives, anti-diarrhea pills, food poisoning pills, insect repellent and insect bites cream.
Also, the REAL COST OF A SMALL BOTTLE OF WATER IS 5.000 Dong. I’ve been paying 20.000 for the first 2 weeks. On my last day bought one for 3.000. Bargaining though doesn’t work well, max you’ll get of the original price is something like 20-30%, not like in other countries you divide the original price by 10J
It’s a shame I don’t remember the names of the hotels I’ve stayed in, but they all were in med range in Lonely Planet + good reviews on Tripadvisor.
Hope this will be helpful to at least someone, but it’s great to keep it for myself as well because I don’t want to forget a single moment from this amazing trip. Well, maybe apart from the night in the toilet after eating raw oysters in some lovely restaurant in Nha Trang. J