Vietnam guide

The food is delicious, the landscape is unreal and did I mention the food? We are big fans of this place, with sleeper buses that you can actually sleep on, this is a great country to visit.

Destinations visited:

Ho Chi Minh

Or Saigon. Saigon is the name of the capital of South Vietnam before it fell to the Communists. It is an endearing and symbolic name especially to refugees.

We found it to be a nice place but if we are going to compare, then we preferred Hanoi. We felt Saigon didn’t quite have the same vibe, but obviously this can come down to personal preferences.

If you walk around the backpacker area (Phạm Ngũ Lão) there are a stream of massage shops, bars and cafes. It can be a good people watching spot.. but it will be mainly western people you will be watching. Going into the evening the streets feel like there is a bit more of a buzz going on.

If you want to find the good cheap food then we recommend getting stuck into Banh Mi. These are basically just sandwiches. You can get an egg Banh Mi (literally means bread) for about 10,000 (0.45 USD) and probably the equivalent to eating a 6 inch subway.

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Banh Mi
War Remnants Museum

From the Vietnam war that lasted 17 years. The museum is really good in regards to showing photos and giving stories from the people of the war. There is not a lot of information regarding why it all started or what happened back then. If wanted to learn about the war this place is helpful but very one-sided. The museum is very anti-American, this is very apparent from the beginning.

There are very powerful photos showing the effect of the agent orange. This is not for kids, the pictures are difficult to look at. Some days there are people with side effects from agent orange sitting in downstairs in the museum, to show the real people.

Outside the museum is the place for the boys. There are military planes, helicopters, big tanks and artillery from the war.

Start from the top and work your way down, this gives information in the correct order.

Mekong Delta

This is basically just a tourist trap if you go on the one day tour. Read about our $8 experience here

Nha Trang

This is a very touristy place to stop, however I would probably not go back. What Magaluf is for the british, Nha Trang is for the russians. The beach is beautiful, however packed with people. Many fancy hotels, high rice buildings by the beach front. From the beach there is a view of an island which is turned into a theme park. One way of getting there is by the Eiffel tower cable car !?! It’s like Vietnam is trying to turn this into a Vegas or Cancun. I guess for some people this is the ideal, however not something for us.

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Nah Trang beach

There is one good thing about this place. A hostel. The hostel Mozjo Dorm has the nicest staff we have ever come across in a hostel. The ladies on reception remember almost everyone’s names. This is pretty insane as there are a lot of people staying there. They are also just so friendly in terms of helping out. Even after checking out, they still provide free towels, let us use the shower, join in with both free beer and tea time. In regards to staff, this is the best.

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Theme park in the distance from Nha Trang beach

The beds are also comfortable, free beer, tea, breakfast and bananas daily. They serve cheap family style dinner in the evenings, which makes for a great way of getting new friends (I am looking at you Emily) If you are going to Nha Trang, please stay here. Only negative is there are only dorm rooms available, no private rooms.

Getting here from Ho Chi Minh by bus is around 12 hours, read our “fun” story here of getting there.

Hoi An

The city of lanterns. In the ancient old town of Hoi An there are lanterns everywhere. This is specially beautiful in the evening when the lanterns all shine with the different colours lights, hanging in the trees, along the shops and over the streets.

In the old quarters there is the Japanese covered bridge, this was build in the 1590s by the Japanese community to to link them to the Chinese quarters. It’s actually cost money to cross the bridge of 120,000 ($5.50) however going in the evening we didn’t have to pay or were even asked.

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Japanese covered bridge

Apparently you are supposed to pay the 120,000 just entering the old quarters, keep the ticket for the whole time there. Like I said, we never got asked and we didn’t pay.

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This brings luck, apparently

Hoi An is a very touristy place, so be prepared for a lot of “you buy from me”, “it’s free to look” kind of talk from the locals. It’s impossible to walk past fruit merchant without being asked if you want to hold her fruit basket and give her a tip.

The lantern festival is monthly around full moon, if in the area definitely stick around to check this out. Find the dates here

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The night market

The night market in Hoi an is very impressive. Starting daily from 5pm and finishing around 10pm. There is plenty to time to shop around the markets for the little trinkets, the delicious street food and get a picture with one of the many lanterns.

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Night Market Hoi An

If in need of a little luck, you can buy a lantern from one of the ladies on the street and release them on the water for only $0.20. Apparently it will bring good luck.

You can also enjoy a 20 min boat ride on the river for only 100,000 ($4.40) and then release the lanterns in the middle of the lake. Not sure this bring any more luck, but it’s pretty.

 

 

 

Textile market

This is the perfect cheap place to get a custom clothes made. There are more than 100 stalls and the ladies can make the clothes very quickly. We got talking to the lovely lady at stall no. 50, here she measured Jeremy and made him a perfect fit shirt in only 2 hours. The shirt was so nice that we ordered another one straight away, only $12 USD per shirt.

They can literally make anything you like. See a dress/bag/pants you like, show them the photo and they will make it.

If you end up getting something made, ensure you keep an email address from them. They will keep your measurements for around 2 years and within that time you can email them and order, they will ship worldwide. This way you can get a super cheap custom fitted shirt from Vietnam (which is where most clothes are made anyway) and you don’t even have to leave your home.

Find the market on MAPS.ME

Sapa

This is the beautiful area in the very north of Vietnam, sitting the in the mountains surrounded by rice fields and amazing landscape. Read about the experience and how to book here

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Hanoi

Before we got to Vietnam everyone we met along the way told us Hanoi is way better than Ho Chi Minh, we agreed.

The city is very lively, especially at night-time. In the center of the city there is lake, which at the weekend turns into a market street. Street performance, food choices and music is all happening. We saw a local school playing some traditional games which everyone can join in.

 

 

 

There is a street for everything here, if it’s shoes you are looking for go down the shoe street, flower street, spices street. I think you get me. They all seems to be in the same place which is pretty handy.

Hanoi in the evening is probably the best time. Sitting on one of the many  benches around Hanoi we got approached by lots of kids. They are not trying to sell anything, simply trying to improve their english. This is definitely something to applaud. Typically if people want to learn english they have to pay around $50 USD per lesson so the kids taking the initiative to improve themselves is great.

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Egg hot chocolate at Cafe Bong

So Vietnam is famous for egg coffee. However I don’t like coffee so I had to cross this of my list and leave that one to Jeremy. Egg hot chocolate is delicious. To thick to drink, I ate the egg kakao with a spoon. It’s so light and fluffy, reminds me a little bit of chocolate mouse, just hot. When we finally found this place we went back again and again. The rest of the world should start selling this as a standard version of hot chocolate.

 

 

 

You can find Cafe Bong here

Halong Bay

We joined the cruise around the wonderful Halong Bay area with Sails of Indochina, read about the experience and booking process here. This is one thing not to be missed whilst in Vietnam.

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Getting around

Vietnam is a very big country but the good part is that there are sleeper buses. This means actual sleep when going on an overnight bus. There are also trains, slightly more expensive than the bus. The train has both sleeper berths and normal seating.

Visa for Vietnam

A visa is needed for most countries for entering Vietnam. This is not possible to get by crossing the land border between Cambodia and Vietnam. This must be done in advance. There is an embassy in Phnom Penh, here it takes a couple of days to sort out the visa. For a select few countries there is a free 15 day tourist visa (including UK, Denmark) which can be arranged on arrival either via air or international overland border.

Get the online visa here

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