What can I say but what an epic adventure!
Our Itinerary Overview..
We booked a Luxury Escape Package which included 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh and 6 nights in an Hoi An resort. We then hit Hanoi for a night to go on the must do Halong Bay cruise, then another night in Hanoi, before heading back to Ho Chi Minh before we flew out.
What I Packed…
I have always been a serial over packer. Like serial. However, I had a realisation travelling light is a way better option. No luggage to haul around, no waiting for baggage, just get off the plane and explore.
So on this trip I packed light (6kg in fact);
- Long pants and t-shirt (wore on plane)
- Dresses x3
- Workout Gear – sports bra, top and leggings
- Demin shorts
- Tops x3
- Large scarf that doubles as a sarong
- Long sleeve sun shirt
- Rain jacket (as it was rainy season)
- Flip Flops
I thought I was taking too much, but it worked out well. Packing cubes were my best friend, it allowed me to seperate dirty and clean clothes when I didn’t have time to hand wash. Not to mention how awesome they are to keep everything together, and save on space!
We opted for Visa on arrival, so we previously organised our letter through a travel agent that we booked our Hanoi/Halong Bay Tour with. We also got sucked into paying the $25USD for the “fast-track” where you have a local assistant at the airport, this is something that I really wouldn’t opt for again.
Ho Chi Minh
We ended up having a total of four nights in Ho Chi Minh (thanks Jetstar for chainging our flight) at the start, and I am glad we had this extra night, it was well worth it. There is so much to see and do!
Through our hotel we organised a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels and that was an interesting and eye opening experience. Seeing and hearing our guide talk with pride about the “American War” and the acts they undertook, was propaganda like. We fired an AK47 at the firing range, which was my first time shooting a gun. The following day we set out early on a day trip to the Mekong Delta. We were lucky that it turned out to be just the two of us on the tour. We got to see the brick making factory, see how people go about their daily lives, ride through the streets on push bikes, have a go at weaving traditional sleeping mats and not to mention eating tasty food.
Our fourth day we spent exploring the top Ho Chi Minh City sights by foot. The War Museum was filled with similar propaganda to that of the Cu Chi Tunnels. However, it was confronting; in one room there were foetuses in a perspex container, highlighting what the museum referred to as the ‘American War Crimes’. We then went on to explore the Ben Thanh Markets, Notre Dame Cathedral (from the outside as it is under renovation), the Post Office and Reunification Palace. The Reunification Palace also referred to as the Independent Palace was definitely my pick of the day. The rooms are beautiful, not to mention all the secret tunnels and passages where the president could escape.
On our last night in Ho Chi Minh we opted for a street food bike tour. This was a really awesome experience, and I am so glad we did it. Not only did we taste some awesome food, we got to see where the locals go to eat, and we got in amongst the hectic traffic. Our first stop was a roof top bar, this was one of my highlights of the night, it was really incredible to see Ho Chi Minh City from that perspective.
This part of the trip was all about relaxing. And we did that well. We stayed at the fabulous Vinpearl Hoi An, which had the all the luxuries of a five start resort. We filled our days with eating delicious buffet breakfast, going to the gym, lazing by the beach, the occasional trip to the Old Quarter, drinking cocktails, spa treatments and eating the most amazing buffet dinners. I would recommend a cooking class, the one we did was so much fun. It was so good to use all the amazing fresh produce and create simple yet incredible tasting dishes.
We stayed in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, and I really liked the area. Wandering through the tiny lanes with the overflowing shops on to the walk ways, sitting on the curb sipping a 25cent beer on a tiny stool at a Bia Hoi watching people go about their day lives like getting their shoes shined at the lights, there is something romantic. And for this I would say I prefer Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh.
The Cop Nerd treated me to a night out at one of the many nice restaurants, where we had some incredible food and a few bottle of wines. One mistake we made though in our slight tipsy state was filling out the feedback card like we would if we were back home. Our feedback was positive but we just made one minor suggestion and the poor girl took it so harshly, she was nearly in tears! We felt so incredibly guilty, so from that point forward we were more cautious.
For our last meal in Hanoi, I found this baguette bar around the corner from our accommodation thanks to TripAdvisor and it was the best baguette I have ever tasted. There is something about a freshly baked bread with amazing fresh produce that makes my soul happy.
I loved Halong Bay, it is truly an epic adventure. We opted for Orchid Cruises, which is a mid-range company and it was an incredible boat. We had the most amazing room with a bath in front of a massive window, so that you could sit back and relax while taking in the breath taking scenery. As beautiful as the scenery was, I was quite shocked and incredibly disappionted at the amount of rubbish that was around the area. Whilst cruising we had the option to kayak and go on a trip to explore some caves. It was quite a surreal experience when were out on the kayaks cruising in the bay, you really feel small in comparison to the large bay. And not to mention I had the best night sleep, the mattress was actually soft! Prior to this I had been waking with a sore back and neck as the mattresses were so hard, it was like sleeping on concrete.
It was probably the best holiday I have been on and I was so lucky to be able to do it with my best friend. I cannot wait to go back to Vietnam!