2 weeks in Vietnam

August 2016

This really wasn’t a budget holiday at all, we used the money we were given as a gift from our family and friends for our wedding, as well as some of our savings. Saying that, if you don’t take into account the luxury hotels and international flights, we spent only around £200/pp on food, drinks, souvenirs, entrance tickets, taxis etc. during our 2 week trip. 

Night 1 – Hanoi 

We arrived in Vietnam early on Saturday Morning, we had arranged a pick up through the hotel but it was too early to check in so we had a lovely 1.5 hour massage while we were waiting for our room. Once we checked in we dumped the bags and went for a stroll around the streets.

There wasn’t much I specifically wanted to see in Hanoi, it was more just about taking in the culture and mainly people watching. We got completely lost (on purpose) in the old quarter, then we found a nice bar and watched the wold go by while we tried to adjust to the temperature and humidity.


Night 2 – Ha Long Bay

We were picked up at 8am and driven to Ha Long Bay, it takes about 3 hour including a little break half way. I’ve written a separate post on our amazing trip, click here to read it.

Night 3 to 5 – Da Nang

This was Sean’s favourite place on the planet, our room in the Novotel was on the 27th floor and had an amazing view of the river. There was also a rooftop infinity pool and a rooftop night club. We struggled to hire a bike in Da Nang and everything was quite spaced out, we did a lot of wandering around and we went to a local market, which wasn’t aimed towards tourists at all but it was an experience.

We took a taxi to the Marble Mountains which is about 25 minutes away. The marble mountains are when most of the marble in Vietnam is extracted and sculpted. The main mountain has some stunning temples ranging from a few different eras, and one cave in particular was so much fun to climb through. You do need to be quite fit for parts of it and I wouldn’t recommend flip flops. There is a small admission fee of a few dollars. At the base of the mountain is the sculpting village where you can see work in progress and buy some souvenirs.

It was only £8/pp for a night time river cruise which was about an hour long and took you under all the bridges. Buy tickets at the pier about 5 minutes walk north of the Novotel. The boats all sail at about 8pm every night.

Night 6 to 12 – Hoi An

My favourite place in Vietnam, it has a small village type feel to it, we stayed in a stunning beach front resort which was a shirt bike ride into the town centre. It was really easy to get a bike here, our hotel offered them for free but there was loads of places in the town centre where you could pay to hire them, the roads weren’t too busy and we felt really safe.


There were so many places to eat and drink really cheap, and a lot of the places are catered towards foreign tourists, it’s a backpacker’s paradise. I could easily spend a month in Hoi An.

 
I booked a few different tours for while we were in Hoi An using www.vmtravel.com.vn, the service was really good and the prices were the best I could find online.

Tour 1: Mỹ Sơn, 
I really recommend this tour if your into ruins and beautiful countryside, its al long drive form Hoi An so take plenty of water with you. Coming home we only drove half way then stopped at a local fishing village and jumped on a boat for the final leg of the journey.

Tour 2: Cham Island, it’s a shame to see the island become littered and busy, we were on a snorkelling trip, but there were so many other boats in the bay that the fish had all been scared away, and you had to be very careful not to be hit by another boat while you were swimming.

Tour 3: Farm tour and cooking class, the farm was only a short bike ride away from our hotel and it was a really informative day. We got to help the farmer pick ingredients for our meal then his wife showed us how to cook a traditional dish. The tour guide spoke fantastic English.


 

Night 13 to 14 – Ho Chi Minh

 
We only really had 1 day here because we arrived late and left early. Things not to miss are:
 
The day time indoor market (Bing Tay Market) and the outdoor night market
– we did all of our souvenir shopping here, it’s really well catered to tourists but be prepared to haggle. The night time market is out on the street right next to the daytime market.

Saigon Sky Deck – for a stunning view over the city at night, we got there at sun set and it was practically empty, there were only a handful of people at the top. There is also free bottled water and a museum at the top.

AO Show – I booked this online before we travelled, the show involved traditional dancing. There was a strict no photography rule but I managed to sneak this one photo.

We didn’t have time to get to the Mekong Delta but it’s on the bucket list for next time.
 
Essential Info


Visa: 
UK Passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter Vietnam providing that you are staying less than 15 nights.


Vaccinations: 
At the time of writing we only needed a tetanus, Hep A and Hep B vaccination. No malaria medication is required unless you travel into the mountains. 


Money: 
As of today, (March 2017) the exchange rate is:

1 GBP = 27,904 VND
1 USD = 22,805 VND
1 EUR = 24,271 VND

It was really easy to find a cashpoint (or ATM), if you can’t find one on the street then pop into any large hotel complex, they usually have one in the lobby.

When buying anything of value many vendors will agree a price in USD, but they require payment in VND.
 
Would we do anything differently?

If I could change anything, I would have liked to stay one more night in Hanoi to get used to the climate before we travelled to Ha Long Bay and one less night in Da Nang.

I think we could have fit a trip to Hue and Sapa if we really tried, but we only had 2 weeks and we still wanted to fit in a bit of relaxation time. We are going back to Vietnam as part of our around the world trip and I plan to spend at least a month there this time.


TOURS:

For Hoi-An use: www.vmtravel.com.vn 
For Ha Long Bay use: www.bestpricevn.com
 
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and we will do our best to get back to you.

Thanks for reading xx

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HaLong Bay

HaLong Bay – July 2016

Vietnams number 1 tourist attraction, and for good reason! the scenery is absolutely breath taking, and if you can drag yourself out of bed at 5:30AM, sunrise over HaLong Bay is not something you will easily forget.

Prices can be high to cruise HaLong Bay, but usually local pick up / drop off is included as well as all meals and excursions when on board.

We booked onto the Aphrodite Supreme Cruise through bestprice.com and we would fully recommend the service, it was one of the more luxurious of ships and couldn’t be faulted. The staff at bestprice.com organised everything, including our visa’s into Vietnam. Once on board, the food was amongst the best we have ever tasted (and that’s saying something!), and when our flight to DaNang was unexpectedly pulled forward by 2 hours, the staff on board did everything they could to get us to the airport on time, including a private speedboat ride to get us back to shore on time.


Different tour operators offer different excursions, ours included 3 main activities:

  • A guided tour into caves inside one of the islands, we had the option to wander off on our own if we wanted but Mary was really interesting.

  • Kayaking through a cave, which then opened up to a massive private lake. The battery died on our GoPro here so we didn’t get any photos, Typical!
  • A climb to the summit of Ti Top island followed by a swim to cool off, which was defiantly needed after all those steps.

Cons: Being Vietnams number 1 tourist attraction means crowds! There are dozens of ships out in the bay at any one time, and as Vietnams tourism industry grows, HaLong Bay is at risk of becoming completely over run with tourists. Our advice is don’t wait, get there as soon as possible!

I would recommend HaLong bay to anyone visiting Vietnam, it’s not a sight to be missed and is up there as one of my best experiences ever.