This list was given to us by Grainne and we will try to utilise this as best we can! I hope this helps other people also who are thinking of taking on what Vietnam has to offer…
So the route me and Ciara chose to take was travelling predominantly along the coast from south to north. A friend of ours had previously taken a similar route and we roughly followed her trail. I say roughly because as you know, plans go out the window nearly the moment you make them!
So having managed to escape Bangkok we landed seriously hungover in Ho Chi Ming city. Like I told you culture shock didn’t even come close to describing my reaction! We decided to be savvy and get the public bus from the airport to the area that backpackers stay called, Pham Ngu Lao. Do not pay more than 4000d for this journey, it lasts about 20minutes. Unlike Bali and Thailand you can’t rely on being able to ask locals for help or information. You will rarely be able to find someone who can speak more English than is needed for them to sell you something. We simply showed the name Pham Ngu Lao to the bus driver, stayed near the front and hoped for the best. Luckily he was cool and remembered us. Once you get off the bus the road signs etc are very easy to use. I am going to say something controversial now. I would really recommend the use of the Lonely Planet. I have travelled without using one and I have travelled using one and you definitely make your life easier by using it. I’m not saying live or die by it but it is great in a country in Vietnam where the locals are out to do you over and you can easily miss a really cool experience, cheap hostel etc by not using it. So we eventually arrived on the main street where the hostels, restaurants and bars are called D Bui Vien. Once you are on this street you are sorted, do the usual of shopping around and from having spoken to a lot of people there the great places to stay are up the little ally ways off that street. They may look shit on the outside but they are worth it apparently.
We spent 2 days here (we spent 2 days in most places, there was rarely a day the alarm wasn’t set and we weren’t doing something). First day was the war museum, palace, markets….you can easily walk it once you have a map. The tunnels are another must as is china town. The night life is great. On the street D Bui Vien you will see people sitting on tiny kids chairs outside newsagents drinking. Walk along here and the little granny’s who own them will have you pulled in sitting on top of a stranger downing 20cent vodka before you can blink. It is brilliant. This is where you will have the craic and meet tons of people. Oh and at 10pm Michael Jackson comes out J
It is here that we bought our open bus ticket that got us from south to north with 7 stops along the way. We shopped around and paid about 40 US Dollars, bargain. Again it is the buses where you will meet your travel buddies and come away with hilarious, traumatising and mental stories. You gots to book your place on the bus the day before and no matter how much you are promised you can choose where you want to sit/sleep ye can’t. Vietnam is without doubt the most racist country I’ve been in. The locals get the best seats the locals get the blankets the locals pay 1/100th of what you pay. Just don’t let it wind you up I had one row with a driver and even I had to admit defeat.
To say they like to beep their horns over there would be the understatement of the century but I’ll let you discover that lil treasure for yourselves, all I will say is ear plugs were my best friend oh and Scott the buses get cold are usually not that clean and have a funky smell bring your own hoody and socks J
So like I said we spent about a month all in all we knew we were giving three days at the end to Halong Bay but everywhere else we generally only spent 2 days. Our one
regret was not spending longer in Dalat. This is inland and up in the mountains. From here you can do “easy rider” tours where you hop on the back of a local’s bike and get to see Vietnam in a way others just can’t imagine. Me and Ci were constricted by time and money so just did one day which was amazing in itself but you can do much longer ones which involve staying in home stays and can bring you from Dalat all the way to Nha Trang or even further. It’s pricey for Asia but everything is included and I would really really really recommend you to do it! (mind yourselves at the waterfall I went on my arse, so embarrassing)
So after Dalat is Nha Trang where you will party your arse off….it’s so cool try stay at Backpackers (that’s literally the name) do the theme park and mud baths.
After Dalat was Hue and we only spent a night here. It’s quiet enough and there isn’t a huge amount to do.
Next was Hoi An it’s really famous for getting tailored clothes. The beach is pretty nice J There is a really good restaurant called café 43 you will get big portions for next to nothing, everyone loves and raves about it!Defo try the local dish I loved it but cant remember what it was called for the life of me!!!!
Next is the capitol Hanoi. Hanoi backpackers is the place to stay but it’s hard to get in but that’s not a big deal because the street it is on is littered with places to stay! It’s from here you will do the Halong Bay trip. All I’ll say is you pay for what you get. There was dodgey looking stains on my bed and the food was shit but there was a big gang of us and we made the most of it and had really good fun!! Stock up on your own drink and “discreetly” bring it on the boat with ye and let the good times roll 😉
So that’s all I can tell ye boys there is also Sapa north of Hanoi but this is a trekkers heaven so needless to say I had zero interest in that!!! Ha ha