Vietnam

So I have taken a 6 month sabbatical from work and my first stop was Vietnam.
I arrived in Vietnam and met my friend at our hostel Cocoon Inn. Great location, lovely staff, 6 bed female dorm with a shared bathroom and it was alright for the price and a night or two. The tour desk staff were really helpful and it is clearly a favoured hostel with tonnes of people to meet. We were on a very tight time line for Vietnam about 10 days so we immediately booked a tour to Ha Long Bay which left the following day. The next priority was food so we went to a street food restaurant called New Day. Hanoi is VERY VERY HUMID and the heat really doesn’t let up not even at night which I have to be honest I struggle with a bit. However it’s a really vibrant town, very busy and there’s constantly stuff to look at and things going on.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recently nominated as one of seven Natural Wonders of the World with it’s near 2000 islets. We booked the Oasis Bay Cruise for $189 usd for 2 nights, the 1 night tour was $129 usd. The cruise is definitely aimed to be a party boat but we only had a small group so that was really nice. It’s around a 3/4 hour bus ride from Hanoi to the port. I would recommend buying snacks before as the stop off is expensive. The first day we went kayaking, swam in the bay, did beer yoga, ate and partied. There are several jacuzzis on the boat and if you want to sleep good luck as the music doesn’t go off until 3am and it is loud. The beds however were super comfy, it was a dream waking up being surrounded by the water. The second day we moved onto a smaller boat to stay on Freedom Island. We stopped off half way for a quick dip and then later arrived on the Island. Here we stayed in a mixed dorm around 18 people. On the island there is volley ball, hammocks, kayaks to take out and it is called Freedom as you are free to do whatever you like with your time. The next day you are out early doors to go back to the cruise ship. Once on the boat we learnt how to make spring rolls, were fed and then finished up.
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We arrived back in Hanoi about 6pm and by 9pm we were already making our way to our next trip, Sapa. Before our journey we went to a restaurant called Grandma’s which had been recommended but I would say stick to the street food as it’s a different experience and super cheap.
Sapa
The journey to Sapa was by sleeper bus, another new experience for us. The journey takes around 5 hours arrives around 3am, you can sleep on the bus until 6am and then it is time to get going. We met our guide off the bus and another two people who were also going to be at the same homestay as us. The tour was $70 usd with the exception of drinks but at our homestay we got free water. We didn’t set off to hike to the village until 9am which was a bit annoying considering we left the bus at 6am. We trekked about 2/3 hours to lunch and then carried on for another 2 hours before arriving at our homestay. Again I had never been to a homestay before but our hosts were amazing and from what I hear we were pretty spoiled. There were already another couple of people at the homestay so a nice group of us, we had WiFi, a room each with a fan and mosquito net, new showers with hot water (sometimes) and free water. We had dinner with the family and there were many rice water shots or happy water as they say. I have to be honest I barely took part in the drinking as shots and I are not friends but the few sips I did take didn’t have much of an after taste which is always a bonus. The second day we trekked through the rice paddy fields to a waterfall about 2 hours away. We got to swim in the water but it was fairly crowded. We were given the option to take a dip in the river below beforehand but most of us declined as we were heading to the waterfall. Despite the current at the bottom being strong if you get the chance it may be better to swim there as there are less people. We then had lunch and then were taken back to Sapa on a scooter taxi which was exhilarating but also a bit dubious as the roads are pretty bad but it was fun and the views are amazing.

From Sapa we arrived back to Hanoi did a little street food dinner and then headed to bed. We got a free night in our hostel (Cocoon) due to booking the Sapa tour with them. We were however in a mixed dorm this time and I am pretty sure there was a couple having sex and I can assure you that they definitely didn’t arrive as a couple ha. The next day we flew from Hanoi to De Nang which takes about 1.20hr.
Hoi An
De Nang Airport is closest to Hoi An and about a 45 mins taxi ride from the airport. We stayed in Garden Aroma Homestay where we could walk to the beach in about 15mins and then a short taxi to the town centre. The Homestay cost us about $55 between the two of us for 3 nights. The room was nice and the showers were lovely, there was a modern small pool and free breakfast although we didn’t get up in time for it once ha. Hoi An is a gorgeous little town, the river in the centre is full of boats taking people around and it is stunning at night. There are plenty of places to eat. The first night we ate at Streets a non for profit restaurant helping underprivileged youth and the second night we got Japanese takeout from grab app and the last night was the sister restaurant to Morning Glory, originally named Morning Glory II. The food there was delicious, the prawn curry was so yummy and it came with rice, potatoes and bread! In the day we either stayed by the beach or by the pool however there are day trips to the marble mountains or the Cham Islands which I will definitely do the next time I come back here.

Ho Chi Minh
We flew from De Nang to Ho Chi Minh which takes about 1.15hr. As we were short on time we only had a day in Ho Chi Minh so we decided to do a hop on and hop off tour to see as much as possible. We saw the Vietnamese Notre Dame, Independence Palace, the Central Post Office and more. We stopped to go into the War Remnants Museum which contains artifacts from the Vietnamese War against the United States. A truly diabolical war which the aftermath from chemical weapons especially Agent Orange effects thousands still today. After the tour we decided to find Pho as we hadn’t had Pho since being in Vietnam which really is just wrong. We went to Five Oysters restaurant and the mushroom/tofu Pho was excellent. For dessert we went to Maison Marou which does the best hot chocolate in town and probably the best hot chocolate I have ever had. We tried their signature and their mint hot chocolate and I have been dreaming about it every day since. As we had time to kill before our long bus journey we went to one of the night markets, a few bars and then got a pedicure to relax before what was meant to be a 14hr bus trip to Siem Reap.
Things we missed:
Due to our short time in Vietnam we missed out on a lot of places that we wanted to go to or places that had been highly recommended to us. Huế a city in Central Vietnam which oozes in history. Nha Trang is a coastal city known for its beaches and diving spots. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is another UNESCO Heritage site and famous for its huge caves. There are so many places to visit in Vietnam and I could spend a lot more time here. The people, the food the crazy busy streets (crossing the road is a lot of fun). So thankful that I got to start my trip here.
The next part of my trip will continue in my next blog post about Cambodia.

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