We went on a backpacking adventure through Vietnam. All we had booked was our flights into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the south of Vietnam and out from Hanoi, the north of Vietnam. We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City with our 2 backpacks and a Lonely Planet. We travelled through Vietnam by overnight busses and made use of some internal flights as they were quite cheap. They do have overnight trains as well which travels through the whole of Vietnam, but you have to book that quite in advance as most people prefer that mode of transport. Travelling in Vietnam is so easy and convenient by using either their public transport (if you can stomach their driving skills) or alternatively by hiring scooters and travelling from one town to the next. We started our trip in Ho Chi Minh City and moved through Nah Trang, Danang, Hoi An, Hue, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay and ended in Hanoi. The Lonely Planet really helped us to plan our whole trip, all our stops, what mode of transport to use as well as where to stay.
Ho Chi Minh City
There is quite a buzz and it seems like no one sleeps in this city. The streets are filled with scooters, street vendors and people eating next to the roads. One thing we battled to get was cold cokes as they don’t really make use of fridges. Also, when asking for a frozen daquiry, it will be a mixture with some blocks of ice in. They see the ice as being frozen.
At the zoo, they have elephants, zebra’s, giraffes, crocodiles, bears and off course some monkeys. But the one thing we did not bargain on finding was this little lizard sitting on an ashtray in the Zoo’s cafeteria with a cigarette by his mouth.
Nah Trang is a little seaside town where we got to spend some time on the beach and at the local market. If you have a sensitive stomach and you don’t really like the smell of fish sauce you should rather avoid the local markets. We found some lovely restaurants and bars with good food and cocktails. This town also has a lovely evening market where you can buy toys for kids, eat some authentic Vietnamese food and have some beer as you sit by a side walk bar in the night market.
We didn’t really stop at Danang, but just did a drive through on our way to Hoi An. But we saw some interesting things.They make use of scooters to transport and move just about everything. You will find families of four on a scooter or something odd which they are transporting.
Hoi An is a very romantic little town and it is filled with lovely restaurants, little bakeries and there are tailors all over the town ready to make you a tailored suit, dress or coat. If you plan on going to Hoi An, stay at least 3 or 4 nights as there are so much to do and to see.
Hue is a very historical town in Vietnam and is surrounded by temples and pagodas. Definitely worth the visit if you are interested in getting a more historical background on Vietnam. You can go on a day tour where they take you to visit 5 Pagodas and to have a look at how they make incense. They have incense at all the Temples and Pagodas.
This is a very small little town, where they hardly see any westerners. They treated us like royalty as they waved at us walking through the little town. They didn’t believe that we are South African as they couldn’t believe that there are white people who live in South Africa. We were in Ninh Binh on the day of the Royal Wedding (Prince Charles and Kate) and the whole town were glued to their TV screens sitting on the side of the road or in their little shop watching the wedding.
About 5 to 10 km’s outside of Ninh Binh there is a river which runs through rice paddies and is surrounded by limestone karsts. You can pay a guide to take you on the river. They row with their feet, how awesomely strange is that.
The water market. You need to advise your guide to turn around before you reach the end of the river unless you don’t mind being bombarded by the vendors. They do not let you go without you buying something.
With day tours and overnight tours, you can stay on board of the cruise ship; you can view all the limestone karsts at Halong Bay.
At the end of our trip, our last stop before going home was Hanoi. Very busy city where no one sleeps. They have loads of little street markets where you can bargain on watches, clothes and anything you can dream off. They also have night markets with loads of restaurants and bars.