Vietnam

In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!

Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.

U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/vietnam.html
Currency: http://www.xe.com/currency/vnd-vietnamese-dong

Helpful Web Sites

Accommodations

I have a feeling that not just figuring out accommodations, but everything during our Vietnam visit, will be done more “on the fly” compared to other countries/regions. Partly because it is so unknown to us, but mainly due to the low cost. This will give us the flexibility to not have to worry so much about getting the cheapest place we can find that is decent. We also won’t have to worry if the only place we can find available is a private room that costs a little bit more.

It will make financial sense for us to stay in the low cost countries longer than the higher priced ones in order to lower our overall year-long budget.

With that said, we want to find one or two areas in Vietnam to spend a prolonged period of time (several weeks) to just stop, relax and really get a feel for the area. The thing is, until we get there and see it, we won’t know where these prolonged stays will be. Will we want to stay in a city for a while to give time to try out tons of different food and feel the vibe of a bustling area? Or will we opt for a smaller coastal town to enjoy more beach time and explore nature?

Airbnb and home stay options are most likely going to be our main type of accommodation in Vietnam. But, there also may be times we stay in hostels simply due to location and to hang out with a bunch of fellow travelers. My hope is to do homestays as much as possible to allow us to immerse ourselves in the culture more, as I mention below when talking about Sapa. So far after researching all the different areas of Vietnam, Da Nang, Cat Ba Island, and Hoi An look like good areas to consider for a longer stay. Here are some potential accommodations I found in these areas:

Transportation

Trains, buses and scooters, oh my! Transportation will be half the adventure in Vietnam as we span long distances from destination to destination. It may take us 6 hours some trips and up to several days for others, but the scenery is supposed to be amazing along the way. It also will be interesting to see how purchasing train/bus tickets goes. Some sure-to-be-helpful websites to navigate this are:

Both bus and train transportation have options for night travel, which will be great so we can use that for our accommodation while getting to our next destination. Whether we do bus or train will depend on the length of the trip (train for longer distances most likely) and where the train versus bus depot is in relation to our final destination. For example, when traveling from Hanoi to Sapa, the train arrives in Lao Cai, which is about 20 miles outside of Sapa. So if we take the train, we will then have to arrange for transportation from the train station to Sapa. Options for this include minibus, public bus, and taxi. I have read several posts about which option is best and the consensus is taxi, merely for safety. It will cost a bit more (between $20-25 versus $2-3), but apparently the road from Lao Cai to Sapa is treacherous and the buses are severely overcrowded, so the cost for a taxi is worth it. If we decide to take the Sapa Express Bus from Hanoi to Sapa, it is less expensive to begin with and a direct route with no extra cost, but the travel is supposedly not as comfortable or safe.

Two-wheeled Fun!

A popular mode of transportation around Vietnam is by scooter or motorcycle. I don’t foresee Pete and me driving a scooter among the thousands of bikers along crowded city streets, but I do think we may take advantage of the opportunity in a quieter area such as the Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang. Also, this could be a cheap option for us during those longer stays we are planning in a couple of places. I don’t know about you, but I can totally picture us cruising around on something like this for $7 per day!

Scooter

Landmarks/Activities

I decided in this section to break it up into each city/town we are tentatively planning to visit. Our wonderful friend in Australia gave us an outline of his whole itinerary of SE Asia he had done in the past, which was extremely helpful as a template to work from. We will continue to use this suggested itinerary for guidance as we continue our SE Asia adventure into Cambodia and Thailand. As always, these activities and destinations are certainly not set in stone and very likely to change as we get to know Vietnam better and we get more insight from fellow travelers, friends and family.

One thing is for sure, now matter where we are in Vietnam we plan to eat, eat, eat!!!

I love to cook and try things I have never eaten before, so I am so excited about visiting Vietnam and tasting all the wonderful flavors it has to offer. Pete and I have been watching video after video on YouTube about the traditional food found in Vietnam, but also some of the not-so-typical stuff like coconut worm larva and vit lon (cooked half hatched duck egg) to prepare us for what we might find. Yum!! Well, we will see about that. I think Pete and I will have to have a contest of who will eat the most obscure thing, don’t you?

Rather then bore you with all the details of each activity/landmark, here is a list of potential stops and the fun things we may do in each as we travel North to South:

Hanoi
Sapa
Halong Bay
  • Book junk boat tour in Hanoi
  • Cat Ba Island (Possible cave tour, potential long stay)
Da Nang
  • This is an area that we may stay an extended period of time depending on our impression once we arrive.
  • Marble Mountains
  • Son Tra Peninsula (rent scooter; hike at reserve at end of peninsula)
Hoi An
Ho Chi Minh City
  • Mekong Delta – My Tho & Ben Tre Tour
  • Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Canyoning in Da Lat – From Ho Chi Min City, a sleeper bus takes 8 hours, so this would be another multi day trip.
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!