Thinking of heading to Vietnam and not sure of what route to take or where to go? Well i have decided to put together a little post to give you some insight on how you can spend nine action packed days travelling from the south to north in Vietnam. I like to keep on the move constantly when travelling and smash out as many places as can be done but i think i may have slightly over estimated that extent of travel time from Ho chi Minh City to Hanoi. This sample itinerary is not for those who prioritise relaxing, instead it will find you waking up in a new location almost everyday. We wanted to cover every inch and we gave it our best go(i am proud of us ladies). In saying that we only missed one destination on our list which was Hoi An. Yes i know its like one of the main places and i am truly sicked we didn’t have the time or energy to explore in this historic city. I am still dreaming of all the custom made clothes we missed out on…tear!
So here we go, my 10 day itinerary of time well spent in Vietnam..
Day 1- Ho Chi Minh City
This city is the most craziest biking city iv ever laid eyes on. I thought Bangkok was something else until i set foot on the insane streets of Ho Chi Minh. Its amazing that it has over one million motorbikes, crossing the street here(they do not believe in pedestrian crossings) is like playing with fire each time. If you manage to survive the streets why not spend time doing a river cruise on the Mekong Delta. A half day feels like plenty despite the two hour travel time to reach the Delta. You get to cycle(on the most wonky bikes ever), drink snake wine( optional of course, but why the hell not), see coconut candy being made and sample the deliciousness, and supposedly a floating market that was pretty much non existent due to bad weather when we were there. On a good day you will see tonnes of boats cruising along the waters selling fruits and veg. My highlight of this trip was the slow boat ride in the traditional Vietnamese wooden boats, wearing the signature Vietnamese hat of course. Culture at its finest.
Day 2- Chi Chi Tunnels
Spend a half day tour seeing the tunnels, traps and escape routes used during the Vietnam war. Getting to crawl through the 121km long, sweaty and dark tunnels is scarily good and gives you insight into what soldiers might have endured during those times. If at any stage the heat gets to much or your feeling too claustrophobic, they are little escape routes set up along the way. We made it to the end and were some seriously sweaty Bettys at that stage. Afterwards why not have a shot on an M16 rifle or an AK-47(which i had a blast of) at the shooting range.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh? Blue River hotel, which is a stones throw away from the backpacker street (Bui Vien). The hotel itself is down a cute and quiet lane way, just off the bustling streets.
Day 3- Dalat
The next leg of the journey took us to Dalat on a 7 hour sleeper bus. Yep there is little beds on the bus…not the comfiest bed iv ever lay in but beggars cant be choosers. The best and most exciting way to see Dalat in a day is by an easy rider motor bike tour. Hop on the back of these big ass bikes and let the trusted drivers take you on a scenic ride with flower farms, waterfalls and views for days. Why not try some weasel coffee too(as ya do when in Vietnam) while taking in striking mountainous views all around you.
Where to stay in Dalat? Without a shadow of doubt, you need to stay at The Crazy House( see my previous post) in Dalat. Being a tourist attraction in itself, this place is listed as the top 3 strangest hotels in the world. There is a reason its called crazy house when it looks like it does.
Day 4- Nha Trang
Take potentially the most terrifying but incredible 3 hour cliff drive on a bus from Dalat to Nha Trang. It lashed rain when we did this bus journey and honestly i was fearing for our lives. What is it with countries in Southeast Asia not believing in slowing the hell down when its poring out of the heavens? Our bus driver was taking cliff corners like he was a some sort of racing pro. After making it there in one piece(just about) spend you day at Vinpearland. This island has it all, were talking amusements, rides , water park, beach, shopping and dining areas. This is a whole day of fun for any age group. To get here you go on the Longest cable car in the world over water. Its 3.320m long( its as amazing as it sounds).
Day 5- Mud baths and Rooftop bars in Nha Trang
We spent an extra day here in Nha Trang, because after 4 days of being non stop on the move and having had little to pretty much no sleep we just needed to stay in a chill out place like Nha Trang with the beach at our front door. Get down and dirty at the mud baths at Thap Ba and then unwind in the hot springs here. Not the most spectacular hot springs but still worth it. Spend your evening at Skylight 360 rooftop bar and soak up the city beach views from a height at night.
Where to stay in Nha Trang? Ha Thu Hotel is only 100m from the beach. Its a basic and budget friendly stay but in a really convenient location, minutes away from all the attractions.
Day 6- Hanoi
We caught a flight from Nha Trang to bustling Hanoi because it actually worked out cheaper than the sleeper train that most backpackers will do and it saved us s*** loads of time. Spend time wandering the street shops, and soaking up the atmosphere in Vietnam’s capital city. This is where we did the majority of our shopping, there was silk every corner you turned. Silk robes, scarfs and even silk sleeping bags(can you imagine rocking up to a camping festival with one of those?) Silk heaven overload! Check out the Hoan Kiem Lake with its eye catching red bridge.
Where to stay in Hanoi? We stayed in the Old Quarter at Hanoi Royal Palace. Located right in the center of the historic quarter, amazing restaurants and hustle and bustle at your door step.
Day 7- Ha Long Bay–
Whats a trip to Vietnam without getting to see the world famous heritage site that is home to some 1,600 islands and islets? The limestone pillars arise from the sea that provide postcard worthy shots. Simply breathtaking! We did the 2 night trip on Monkey Island boat. Hmmmmmm… so this boat was not exactly what we had expected or paid for(175usd each….ouch) and because we had thought we were getting on party/junk boat, but instead to be on a boat with only 6 people and the girls and i counted for 3 of those people…. it was a major let down boat and the furthest from a party boat i have ever experienced . Lets just say the staff on board had some pretty fiery and angry Irish women to deal with. Aside from the lack of partying(i am clearly still not over it) we did get to see and do some spectacular things. We also met an Australian girl, Amanda who was nothing short of a legend….. honestly she made our trip with her mad ways. The food on board the boat was mouth watering, so they got that much right. We got to explore amazing lit up caves and kayaked through islets with rock tops towering over your head .
Day 8- Monkey Island Resort, Cat Ba
So i do have to give some credit to Monkey island boat for taking us to the magical Monkey Island resort where we stayed for our second night in utter paradise. We had a wooden bungalow right on the isolated beach. Now this place is the kind of holidays you dream of! We spent our time climbing rocky hills to see monkeys on a hidden beach. Iv seen many a monkey in my time, but these guys had attitude. They bit one of the girls that was on the trip with us, so do not get too friendly with them unless your willing to risk it!. We also hiked to the tower at the top of the mountain to bask in views like this……
Day 9- Hanoi Rocks Hostel
We made the journey back to Hanoi where we stayed for one more night at Hanoi Rocks hostel. This hostel has it all, bar, club, restaurant and free beer for an hour as well. I don’t even drink beer but i became partial to it for that hour of course. Its loads of fun here and a great place to meet fellow like minded travellers. Book your junk boat to Ha Long Bay from this hostel, they will guarantee you on a fun filled boat….oh hindsight is a wonderful thing.
So there you have it, this itinerary will give you some ideas of what you can get up to in a 9 hectic day trip in Vietnam.
Thanks to Katie and Emma for being awesome travel buddies, as always! I am ready for the next adventure when ye are girls!
If you have been to Vietnam i would love to hear your thoughts on how you found it? As for me, i had a truly fantastic time but would i go back? Unfortunately i don’t think Vietnam will see me anytime soon! Nomadic Matt you may be right!