Vietnam was always on my bucket list – I was dreaming of an exotic country with blissful beaches, beautiful landscapes, impressive architecture and delicious food. And after travelling the country this year in May I can say – it is all this and so much more! Stunning beauty, unforgettable places, world’s greatest food, lively and dynamic cities as well as quiet and peaceful places to find happiness. Like India, I heard mixed opinions – people either love or hate it. I loved it, so I’m happy to share our itinerary, favourite places to stay, to see and to eat.
*Scroll down for pics
Ho Chi Minh City
Landing at night and leaving the next day around lunch time, we didn’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City. The city has an incredible energy! When starting your trip here make sure to visit the Vietnam War Museum, stroll around the Ben Thanh Market and the close by streets which sell antique goods.
Hoi An is such a charming town, it’s easy to loose your heart there. It’s having a great mixture from Vietnam, China, Japan and France and you will stop at every corner saying – look how beautiful! Wohaa! Lovely! The Old Town is having cobbled lanes and no cars or motorbikes are allowed so it is nice to stroll around. Hoi An has such a variety of restaurants and street food you won’t know where to start and to stop. We took a plane from HCMC which was the easiest way to get to Hoi An. Choose VietJet for cheap flights, you can even book very short term (same day or day before) and still get good prices.
Places to stay: The Earth Villa . This was the best hotel of our trip! The prices were quite low in general because it was low season, so we were able to book good deals. The Earth Villa has an amazing garden, a nice pool, lovely rooms and best service. It’s located between town and the beach and you can rent bikes for free. The breakfast was an incredible choice of all you could have asked for and the staff will do everything to make you feel home.
Places to Eat: There are so many so I just highlight a few: Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant – lovely restaurant which serves local specialities, traditional food and exceptional dishes. Although it is a bit crowded, it’s still worth it!
Hoi An Roastery – we LOVED the vietnamese coffee! It is locally planted (in Dalat where they also plant wine) and the best way to have it was on ice with a sweet condensed milk. So good! The Hoi An Coffee Roastery is a nice place to enjoy it, go upstairs, sit by the window and watch the Old Town from above.
Street Food: Try the Banh Mi Sandwiches at Madam Khanh . Banh Mi Sandwiches have a French look and a very Vietnamese taste. Each sandwich is only 20.000 VND (1$)
Tailor shops – Hoi An is full with tailor shops. We didn’t tailor any clothes just because we didn’t feel like it and most times I think you won’t wear the things anyway at home. If you feel like getting something done it is the best place to be but don’t feel you have to just because everyone else is doing it.
Must go: The beach! The beach was so much better than expected. When heading to the beach from town, keep going to the left because that is where the nice part starts. Rent a sunlounge from a nice resort or make some locals happy and use their sunbeds and enjoy a cold smoothie in their bar.
It was my birthday on the trip and my boyfriend spoiled me with two days in the lovely Spa and Resort Pilmigrage Village . It is located in the quiet countryside surrounded by lush gardens. We had an amazing bungalow with an outdoor shower and made use of the yoga sessions in the morning and some spa treatments. They have an amazing pool which make you want to never leave the place. We popped to Hue with the hotel shuttle bus one day, it’s a lovely town! Being the cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam it offers a lot of temples and palaces. Make sure you visit the Citadel which is a magic place! We got to Hue with a private transport from Hoi An (around 3-4 hours) which was organized by the hotel. It’s not cheap (40$) but the best and shortest way!
Hanoi is a great base to travel to Sapa and Halong Bay but plan in a couple of days in Vietnam’s capital as it is such a graceful and atmospheric city with an amazing vibe to it and a beautiful old town which is pulsating in life, bubbling with commerce and buzzing with motorbikes, old, historic buildings and plenty of street food. Make sure you stay in a hotel in the Old Quarter. We stayed 3 times in Hanoi and the last hotel is a good recommendation: Artisan Boutique Hotel . My best moment here was to wake up early in the morning and strolling through the streets, watching the town awakening and enjoying breakfast on the street (1 $ smoothies – oh yes!!).
Places to see: we liked the Temple of Literature, it is a peaceful place and nice to get lost in.
Places to eat: Uu Dam Chay , amazing design, vegetetarian / vegan menue and a modern vibe, you wouldnt expect this to be found in Vietnam!
Highway 4 – its a family run restaurant with quite a few in diffenrent locations in Hanoi. Vietnamese cuisine at its best!
Around the Hoan Kiem Lake: it a nice lake in the middle of the town close to Old Quarter with lots happening. We spoiled ourselves on the last night with the Ly Club restaurant . It is set in an elegant French colonial mansion and offers Asian and Vietnamese dishes as well as some international options. Such a gourmet place and absolutly worth it!
Tip: Don’t be scared to cross the streets in Hanoi. It is CRAZY full with motorbikes, just walk slowly, the motorbikes will take care and drive around you.
Another highlight of our trip! Most common way is to go by the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa. The best way in my opinion: Go by bus! It is cheaper (even adding up a night in a cheap hotel in Hanoi and the travel). They will pick you up at the hotel in Hanoi and drop you off at your hotel in Sapa. They leave early in the morning so you’ll arrive around lunch time in Sapa.
Nice place to stay: There are plenty of good places to stay in Sapa, we choosed Elite Hotel with mountain view.
Sapa is a stunning town which overlooks valleys of rice terraces and mountains on all sides. It’s an epic scenary which you won’t forget. There a many local hill-tribe people who are selling colurful goods. The first day we walked around the town, discovered beautiful places (The Hill Station) and walked down the Cat Cat Village. For the next day we booked a trekking tour with a homestay with a local family through our hotel (there is big tour operator, the Sapa Sisters which probably do a good job but we found them very overpriced). Unfortunately, it started to rain heaveny at night, so the trekking got cancelled. We hired a scooter and we driving around the mountains which was so much fun. The streets are quite empty, so it is kind of safe!
To eat: Panorama View Hotel – there is no panoramic view in the restaurant but amazing food!!!
Fasipan restaurants. There is a cable car going up the highest mountain in Vietnam (Fasipan), just going to the station is an experience by itself, you will feel like being in Dubai, entering a huge restaurants with overacting service but a really tasty Pho soup!
A MUST-DO. We almost wanted to skip it, which would have been insane. This place is truly beautiful and staying on a boat overnight a fun experience. The stunning combination of karst limestone peaks and a shimmering sea is an unforgettable experience. We booked our trip with Bhaya Cruises (got a last minute deal on booking.com). It was perfect! It was a rather small boat, our cabin had an own balcony and the service and food they offer is so much worth it. We decided to go on a one night / two days trip which includes a kayak tour at a floating village, Tai Chi in the morning, some cooking classes in the evening and a cave visit the next day.
Phu Quoc Island
For the last days we decided to fly to Phu Quoc Island which is located in the Gulf of Thailand. It is fringed with white-sand beaches and tropical jungle and is still very undevelopled but is supposed to be THE new destination. It felt so different to the rest of Vietnam, but is truly a treasure and if you have a chance, enjoy it’s beauty before more hotels and resorts will take over. We stayed in the Mango Beach resort, which is an Eco-Hotel so it doesn’t have air-condition and its using renewable sources. We stayed in a bungalow at the beach (something I always dreamed of!) and again, after a couple of days I was in total relaxed zone I wished I could stay for a few weeks. The hotel is offering yoga at the beach with one of the best yoga trainers I’ve had and their spa is a dream! I had the best massage of my life. Oh Mango Bay, let me come back soon 🙂
I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience with Vietnam, drop me a comment when you have any questions! Love, Sarah xx