Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was our first stop, a 2 hour flight from Manila. We stayed in Sunny Saigon, I can not put into words how amazing this location was. If you’re up for nightlife and being within the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh, this is definitely a good budget hotel for you. We spent the day Visiting the war museum (40k entry), the palace (40K entry), Notre Dame and no I am not confused with Paris, there really is an imitation of the Notre Dame here! I would definitely recommend the war museum, it was an upsetting afternoon but so interesting to find out what happened in the Vietnamese war. If you’re looking for all things fake, Bin Tham market is your place! Bargain hard, you can definitely cut the price in half.
Mui Ne, a 5 hour bus from Ho Chi Minh. I’m pretty sure every backpacker comes here for one reason, the sand dunes. We stayed in Vietnam backpackers village. The hostel offered a sand dunes tour for 150K p/p, this was great as it didn’t just include the sand dunes. You set off at 4:30am for sunrise at the white sand dunes, when you arrive you can either climb for 20 minutes or pay £6 P/P for a return quad bike to the top. Pierce and I decided to get the return quad trip, prepare yourself they drive super fast. From here you drive to the red sand dunes, fishing village and lastly the River.
Another 5 hour bus journey to our next stop, Dalat. People tend to miss out Dalat if they’re short on time, it’s not considered a ‘must see’. Dalats a very quiet, quaint city in the mountains. A lot of beauty comes with staying in the mountains along with pretty cold weather! Wrap up warm, we had rain every day here.
We spent our days trying out the cool activities Dalat has to offer. We visited Crazy house, this was very wacky and cost just £2 P/P. Another cheap activity is hiring the swan boats on the lake, £2 for one hour. Renting a motorbike (£4.50 P/D) is a great way to enjoy Dalat. On our road trip we Drove around Tuyen Lam Lake, this was a beautiful drive. See if you can spot the creepy hotel ruins! We then visited Datanla waterfall, here you can do the alpine coaster down the mountain. The alpine coaster was £5 for a return trip, including entry to the waterfall. Top tip! Grab, like everywhere else will be your cheapest way around the city so it’s worth downloading.
Night life is nearly non existent in Dalat, we did however visit the famous 100 roof bar. This was an incredible maze bar with free entry with a purchase of a drink. Top tip! Dalat is famous for its coffee, you should definitely try out their many coffee shops. I’m not a coffee drinker so I enjoyed many hot chocolates.
Getting to Hoi An from Dalat would’ve been an extremely long 17 hour bus journey. Instead we flew to Danang (£30 P/P) and then get a grab to Hoi An (£10). There is also an option to get a bus to Hoi An from Danang airport as a cheaper option.
We stayed in Vietnam backpackers, the chain of hostels you’l see throughout Vietnam. The hostel is more like a hotel however the location is very bad in Hoi An so maybe look to stay else where. We moved to Green Apple Hotel, this was more central and cost the same as a dorm.
The hotel offered free bicycle rental, we cycled around old town and to the beach. We also booked a basket boat ride, market tour and cooking class through the hotel. We paid £20 P/P, this was cheaper than any price we found online. It was an excellent day out! The guide was so friendly, we learnt how to cook 5 dishes which we later enjoyed for dinner and the basket boat ride was a great experience. I would definitely recommend!
Unfortunately for us, the weather was very bad during our time In Hoi An. We wanted something to do that wouldn’t involve getting drenched so we visited the lantern lady’s class. We paid 90K (£3) each and got to hand make a lantern using whatever materials we wanted. The owner was so friendly and done a great job of teaching us. Our mission is now to get our lanterns home in one piece< UPDATE! We did in fact manage to get them home without breaking!
In Asia you will realise it’s hard, nearly impossible to find a good bit of beef. We have craved a steak for the entire 4 months of travelling, luckily for us my mum and dad treated us. Hoi An steakhouse was absolutely delicious. It was pricey for Vietnam, £12 for 350 grams of tenderloin steak with a side and sauce. Despite one meal costing a days budget, I could not recommend this anymore for a treat! After all, backpackers need a break from noodles and rice.
Pierce used our time in Hoi An to buy what they’re famously known for, tailored suits. He was able to pick the material, colour, lining and then was measured for his suit to be made. He chose the best quality material and paid just £110 for a 2 piece suit, this also included a tie and a pocket square. He used Bi Bi silk, a very highly rated tailor shop in Vietnam. The quality of the suit was impeccable, he was very happy to say the least!
Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills is a must see when In Vietnam. Most people will visit when in Danang as it’s a lot closer than anywhere else, as we didn’t stop in Danang we visited from Hoi An. I initially looked on the typical tour websites and was shocked by the price they were charging. All tours from Hoi An were £100+ P/P. I booked us a private car via Klook for a return journey from our hotel to Ba Na Hills for £16 P/P. I separately booked us a ticket into Ba Na Hills which included everything (except the wax museum) including the return cable car for £22 P/P. This saved us £62 each.
We requested to be collected at 5:30am so we would be first on the cable car at 7am. Although the weather wasn’t great and it’s pretty foggy at this time of the morning, we were the first and only people on the golden bridge. We later went back to the bridge around 12 and it was heaving with people, the early rise is 100% worth it! Fun fact! The cable car at Ba Na Hills is the largest continuous cable car in the world. We spent our day exploring the french village, walking around the flower gardens, enjoying the games dome and taking in the views. We spent 7 hours here before returning back to Hoi an. Top tip! I would definitely bring a jacket, this high into the mountains it can get very cold.
Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van pass, famously know because of top gear! There is an option to do this in a jeep or to hire a motorcyclist to drive you and your luggage from Hoi An-Hue. As mentioned before Pierce and I prefer to do things our own way. We booked a one way motorcycle rental and baggage transfer for £6 P/P via Vietnam backpackers. We had our motorcycle dropped to us at 8am and baggage collected. We set out on our incredible day trip through the mountains to Hue. I’ve put a screen shot below of the places we stopped along the way. Treat the Hai Van Pass as a day trip rather than a drive from A-B. Take your time, stop off often and enjoy the beautiful views! Top tip! Bring water and snacks, you will definitely need them.
We enjoyed our time in Hue a lot. There’s not all that much to do but there’s a really nice vibe about it. we visited the abandoned water park, around a 20 minute drive from the main centre. This isn’t an automated activity, instead you pay the security guard 20K to let you enter. Once you’ve walked through the slightly eerie forest into the water park you can explore wherever you like. It’s got a very creepy feel but we loved exploring the old slides and abandoned aquarium.
Theres a lot of restaurants and bars around the main centre, we stayed in Ibiza guest house which was walking distance to everything. Top tip! Jalapeño restaurant was an insanely good restaurant for all Mexican lovers 🌮
Phong Nha is where we discovered Central backpackers hostel. Our favourite hostel in Vietnam with daily free activity’s, free beer for 1 hour every night and a great bunch of people.
We joint the free cycling tour, you cycle for around 8km and visit a local home stay. Here you participate in picking crops for spring rolls that your later taught how to make along with a peanut dip. You pay the home stay 70K for the spring roll making class and a beer (60K without a beer).
The hostel offered a tour to dark cave, paradise cave and 8 ladies cave for £45. Alternatively you can do it alone and hire a motorbike for around £7 then separately pay 450K entry to dark cave. Entry includes the zip line, mud bath, kayaking and obstacle course. Around a 25 minute drive from dark cave is paradise cave, the longest dry cave in Asia. This entry alone is 250k. We found the tour to be pricey and could’ve definitely done it cheaper alone. Although we prefer to to avoid tours, the guide was great and it was a good opportunity to make new friends.
We added Ninh Binh to our trip last minute after seeing a friend at the most incredible home stay. We got the overnight bus from Phong Nha, arriving at 4:30am. From the drop off point it was a further 10 minute taxi to our accomodation. We stayed at Trang An River view homestay, we paid £10 P/P P/N for deluxe double bungalow. If you’re a solo traveller and that’s slightly pricey they also offer a dorm for cheaper.
The home stay was in the most beautiful location, the scenery was some of the best we had seen our entire trip. We spent our 2 days here laying by the water, watching the sun set and relaxing.
We got a bus to Hanoi from Ninh Binh, this takes just 2 hours. We spent One night in Hanoi luxury backpackers as a stop over before Ha long bay the following day. We had heard good things about beer street so we thought we would check it out for a night out. It was super busy and can be quite intense however it’s super cheap and has a good vibe about it.
Top tip! When you stay in any central backpackers hostel you can get 20% off your next stay. We used our discount from Phong Nha to stay in Buffalo backpackers in Hanoi. Although a different name, this is still the same chain as central backpackers.
When looking online we found that the famous ‘train street’ has now been shut down. We walked there anyway to see if we could see the old cafes and the train track. When we arrived the front entrance was closed off with security, however if you walk to the street along side and cut in you will be able to walk on train street. Luckily for us 1 or 2 of the Cafes remained open. Top tip! Go early to avoid crowds, it’s only a matter of time before everyone figures out there is another way onto train street.
Post-It note cafe is a really cute place to visit. It says it in the name, this is a cafe where you are given post notes to write little messages and stick them to the walls.
If you are lucky enough to be in Hanoi on a Sunday evening, you must visit Hoan Kiem Lake! Every Sunday there are live performances, street games and a great atmosphere.
Ha Long Bay
There are many, many company’s offering Ha Long Bay cruises. We chose to book a deluxe double suite with flamingo cruises. We booked with booking.com to avoid any disappointment.
Top tip! Many tours offered on the street often aren’t what they seem so make sure to do your research. We paid £87 P/P for 2 days, 1 night. This included a welcome soft drink, Lunch, dinner, breakfast and then one last lunch before heading back. This cruise was very quiet, definitely aimed at people who want to relax rather than party.
The activities on our boat included Kayaking, a view point, sunset at the beach, largest cave in Ha Long Bay and an on board cooking class. Not to mention the insanely beautiful views right from your bedroom window. Additionally we paid £20 P/P with Flamingo cruises for a return journey to Ha Long (4 Hours). Top tip! I would definitely advise stocking up on drinks as they were a lot more expensive on the boat.
After speaking to a few locals we heard that Mai Chau was incredibly beautiful and a lot less touristy than Sapa. We got a 4 hour bus from Hanoi for £8 each. After falling in love with the home stay in Ninh Binh we chose to stay at Eco home stay. Once again we were not disappointed. We were in a double bungalow with views of the valley and endless mountains.
The home stay offered free bicycle rental, we rode around the valley and stopped off to watch sunset in the mountains. Our entire cycle we were amazed by the authenticity of this place, it felt like true Vietnam. During our stay there was the rice harvest celebration. We were invited to the family dinner and party to celebrate with them. We sat amongst the locals and enjoyed home cooked food and rice wine. This was one of our favourite moments in Vietnam. Is there a better Vietnamese experience than being part of a local family celebration?
On our second day we paid £10 each for a three hour trek through the mountains with a local and lunch. This was a great way to learn about the village you’re staying in and see the scenery from a local that knows all the best spots.
Throughout our time in Asia we had heard nothing but incredible things about Vietnam. The country truly is a beautiful place, extremely cheap, has endless activities and things to see. The only negative thing I could say about our time in Vietnam was the weather. Although it rained a lot and we were cold at times, this small problem doesn’t change the fact that Vietnam was a highlight of our time in South East Asia 🇻🇳