A Beautiful country with wonderful people.
We landed at the airport In Hanoi and travelled by bus to the Old Quarter where we got a taxi to our hotel.
My first impression of Vietnam was amazing as it was clean with well looked after gardens and rivers. When entering the Old Quarter I was amazed at the diversity of the city as you will find old houses and buildings together with big glass buildings and modern finishes.
We visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City also known as Saigon while we were in Vietnam and although I loved both I can honestly say that Hanoi was my favourite as it has a much more homey type of feel to it.
We stayed in the Old Quarter and I will definitely recommend that to anyone wanting to travel to Hanoi, Vietnam as you are close to all the action and can walk where ever you want to be.
Although Hanoi’s traffic is absolutely crazy and there are more scooters on the road than anything else, the city really has a calm feel to it and makes you feel right at home.
Of course one of the first things I noticed was all the little clothing boutiques we passed with the most amazing clothes hanging in their windows. I would definitely categorise Hanoi as a shopping Hub and it is a must to visit their boutiques.
You will also find lots of family restaurants on the streets and lots of night markets.
The people are so friendly and eager to help and know where you come from even though they cannot speak English so well.
You are able to get a taxi to take you where you need to be or you can hire a cyclo which is literally a bicycle with 3 wheels. The cyclo’s are a bit more expensive to hire as it is a tourist attraction and they charge you more than you would like to pay. I would recommend doing it at least once though.
Other than that walking is the biggest way of getting around as I said, everything is walking distance and when walking you see more than when riding in a taxi.
Pho is their traditional dish or the dish that Vietnam is famous for. It is strips of chicken or beef together with noodles in water with spices and as I know it, leaves.
You will find a lot of rice and noodle dishes to choose from and although it might sound bland they will definitely prove you wrong when tasting it for the first time. The flavour in their food is clean and earthy.
I had my first sugar cone drink there as well. It is a real local favourite and I do understand as it is delicious.
What to do :
If your not exploring the Old Quarter and visiting places like the Prison, where you will learn more about Vietnamese people history, you can take excursions such as visiting Ha Long Bay and Sa Pa.
Unfortunately we could not visit Sa Pa but we did visit Ha Long Bay for a day and it was amazing!
There are so many markets you can visit during the day and night and there is the most beautiful river in the middle of the city where the local people get together at night time and visit together. It is just amazing to be apart of.
Ha Long Bay
We drove there for about 3 hours by mini bus and when arriving at the harbor we took a boat out for the afternoon where they gave us a big lunch and fruit to enjoy.
We docked at Ha Long Bay where we canoed though the caves and also enjoyed a ride with a local woman on a bamboo boat.
Very interesting about the people of Ha Long Bay is that some of them have never even been on land. They are born at sea and live and work at sea and die at sea.
They live on man made floating villages.
We then went to visit one of the most beautiful and biggest caves I have seen in my life. They have colored lights inside the cave which makes it even more dramatic and a must see.
At the one point in the cave the sun shines though and as they believe it is the light of Heaven and it definitely looks like it as well. It is absolutely breath taking.
Ha Long Bay is definitely a must see and I do hope to visit Sa Pa myself one day to see the beautiful rice landscapes.
Saigon reminded me a little bit of Pataya in Thailand. It has loads of bars and restaurants and in comparison with Hanoi it seems to be sin city.
My favourite thing about Saigon was Saigon Square. It is a mall / market where you can find any brand name product from shoes to clothing to watches to you name it for a much cheaper price than you will buy it here so I loved that.
Saigon too has beautiful parks in the middle of the city so finding a little peace in the middle of the busy city and traffic is amazing.
The same as Hanoi you can get a taxi any where. To be honest I cannot remember any other method except for walking that I saw the tourist making use of. I did see scooter taxi’s as well.
You are able to hire or buy a motorbike or scooter to travel with while there to if you are brave enough to face the traffic.
We walked most of the time as it is so easy and so much fun as you can stop and go where ever you feel like.
What to do:
Night life in Saigon is buzzing and you have so many places to choose from for your night out.
There are also a lot of massage parlours for a quick massage in-between drinks and if you are up to it you can buy a few bugs for a snack 🙂
Traveling by Train:
We travelled in a over night train from Hanoi to Saigon and spent an overall two days straight on the train.
The train is very neat and clean and the beds are comfy.
We shared a room with two old Vietnamese locals and it really made the experience more interesting and memorable.
I will include that after the first 24 hours we could not wait to get off as it can get a little boring.
I made use of that time to catch up some sleep so that helped a lot.
We paid about VD 33 000 – VD 35 000 for a meal on the train which is about R 25.00 . I am speaking under correction though but that sounds about right.
The food was good and it was a lot so I would say it was worth the money.
You basically have the choice of chicken and beef with rice so its not very diverse but doable.
I would recommend traveling with the train as it is something different but I would also recommend trying to keep it to one day and not an entire two days.
We were also the only two foreigners on the train so they did not make announcements in English. So we did not understand what was going on but just went with the flow and arrived where we had to be so it wasn’t all that bad. It’s much better than traveling by bus I would say from my personal experience.
Vietnam is amazing and I would love to go back and see more as I feel like there is so much to see and a weeks time is not enough to take it all in.
I would recommend Vietnam to any one and it definitely stands as my favourite Asian country thus far.
Have you visited Vietnam?
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