We spontaneously decided to fly to Southeast Asia for a few weeks and our first stop was Vietnam 🙂 When flying into Vietnam, we decided to land in Southern Vietnam first and slowly make our way up north by the end of the trip. Our itinerary began in Ho Chi Minh City, then we flew to Da Nang, took an Uber down to Hoi An, went back to Da Nang to catch a flight to Hanoi quickly before heading out to Ha Long Bay, and back to Hanoi! Unfortunately, we were unable to stop by Sapa on this trip, which is located northwest of Hanoi, but we’d definitely try to find time on our next trip back to Vietnam.
HO CHI MINH:
When we first arrived in HCM, the biggest shock was the amount of scooters-motorbikes-mopeds on the streets! They were all around us, weaving between the cars, and honking consistently to make themselves known on the road. While in VN, we didn’t witness a single accident, which I thought was impressive and surprising since there were so many bikes everywhere!!
Once at our hotel, we quickly set our things down and went out to walk around and find something to eat. For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Com Tam Cali – our first meal in VN!! We spent the rest of the evening exploring the different areas and streets – Backpacker Street, designated “walking” streets, etc. We grabbed a few beers from the many bars we saw all around and got a mani pedi together too! All the spa and nail salon prices were reasonable and cheap!
The following morning we made our way to the “Ben Thanh Market,” which is basically a large warehouse filled with endless stands that sell clothing, jewelry, food, etc. The aisles were never-ending!! Don’t forget to bring your best bargaining/haggling skills so you can get the best deals on the what you want. If the price doesn’t seem reasonable, don’t hesitate to walk away!! You’ll find a better deal, or they’ll agree with your price as soon as you walk away. We also stopped by the Central Post Office (photo to the left), Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral (unfortunately under construction), and the War Remnants Museum as well – all must sees if here!
We really wanted to do a dining in the dark experience – at Noir Dining in the Dark – but we were terribly jet-lagged and slept the night away instead. If you’ve been or plan on stopping by during your time in VN, I’d love to hear about it! 🙂 Pros of jet-lag = we’re up bright and early, and ready to start our day! Cons = we’re extremely tired by post dinner.
Beautiful beach city!! Definitely a huge difference in terms of vibes and drivers when compared to HCM – it’s more relaxed, there aren’t as many bikes on the roads, and people here don’t honk!! It was a nice break from all the honking we heard in HCM 😀
We only spent a little over a day here, but I think that was enough! We rented a moped here and I’m glad we did. Ben has driven one before so I felt totally safe in the swarm of other bikes! The highlight was probably driving across the Dragon Bridge at night. The photo above shows the end of the bridge during the day time, but at night, the whole thing is lit up and gorgeous!! Also, if you love the beach, this is the perfect destination for you! The weather is blazing hot but the water is nice cool, and the the beaches run down the coast for miles! While we were there, we saw many hotels being built along the water, so I’m positive in the next couple of years, this will be a hot spot for a relaxing vacation!
This is definitely our favorite spot from our entire trip. Hoi An, also known as the Lantern City of Vietnam, was m a g i c a l (especially at night)!! We absolutely loved it 🙂 There are lanterns all over the city, beautifully lit up along all the streets and bridge. There are food stands, night markets, and clothing stores all over Hoi An so you’ll definitely find something you like! One thing to not miss out on is going on a boat on the Hoai River, where you’re given a small paper lantern with a candle inside so you can make a wish before putting it on the water! The ride lasted about 15 minutes round trip and was a memorable, sweet experience for the nighttime. I’m happy we did it ❤
Many people come to Hoi An to have suits, dresses, coats, etc. tailored and I would highly recommend BeBe Tailor. Our hotel recommended this spot to us and it did not disappoint. Ben got a suit tailored here and the service was professional and friendly. They gave us a variety of options for colors, fabrics, styles, and then took extremely accurate measurements. We were only in Hoi An for a couple of days, so the turn around was quite fast, but they went above and beyond by having us return a few times for fittings before finalizing the wonderfully made suit.
The dishes we made from the cooking class // Market // Bánh Mi 🙂
Central Vietnam is also supposed to have some of the best throughout the country, so we decided to take a morning cooking class through Hoi An Eco Cooking Class Tours. This was amazing and I would definitely recommend it! They picked us up bright and early at our hotel and brought us to a market where we gathered the ingredients needed for the class. The host explained the different herbs, fruits, and meats that were available at the market and how it would be used in the next 5 hours of the class. We learned how to make sweet and sour fish sauce, steamed rice paper (my favorite part!), spring rolls, mango/papaya salad, bánh xèo (crispy pancake), pho and grilled eggplant. There were at least 20 others in the class, but we were separated into smaller groups to have a more intimate session with the few instructors.
Also, on this part of our trip, we loved the resort we stayed at – Coco Resort and Spa – the employees were friendly, breakfast was included and the atmosphere was just extremely relaxing!! If you’re looking for a place to stay in Hoi An, you should definitely check this resort out 🙂
In my opinion, Hanoi is similar to HCM minus the weather. It’s probably the second most-touristy city in Vietnam and almost has just as many bikes as HCM. The photo to the right is of a railroad and the train runs through that residential street two times during the day! It’s crazy how close it is to the houses, as you can see in the photo. We spent most of our time walking around and seeing historical landmarks and eating good food. MUST EAT: Bun Cha Hanoi!! If you’re here, you must try the Bun Cha. It’s what north Vietnam is known for and it’s delicious!! We went back twice because it was so good 🙂 The pho here is also amazing and tastes a bit different compared to the pho in the South. Before leaving Hanoi, we walked around and stumbled upon a hole in the wall where we had the best Pho! Also, coffee all throughout Vietnam is tasty, but in Hanoi, they are known for “egg coffee,” but make sure you order it hot! It’s way better when served hot than iced 🙂
HA LONG BAY:
Panoramic View of Ha Long Bay
For Ha Long Bay, we decided to do the “2 days, 1 night” cruise through Paloma Cruise! They also picked us up from our hotel in a nice air conditioned van, which then took us to the cruise ships – about a 3 hour drive or so from Hanoi. As soon as we got on the boat, they gave us refreshments and the key to our room! The rooms all had a view out into the water and were the perfect size. The activities on board include kayaking around the mountains and islets, a sunset party, short class on how to make eggrolls, squid fishing in the evenings on the lower deck (!!) – but all are optional to take part in. Ben and I participated in all of the events and I’m glad we did – it allowed us to fully take advantage of the cruise amenities and mingle with others too!!
Ben catching squid // On the Deck of the Cruise // Kayaking through the Islets // Squid caught!
After an eventful time in Vietnam, we country-hopped to Thailand! I will write about my time in Thailand – more specifically Koh Samet – in my next post 🙂 xx