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My 10-day Vietnam tour (copied from I&Y forum)

  • 15-01-2018 6:22pm
    Registered Users Posts: 109 ✭✭

    I just came back from there this weekend, was there for 10 days.

    Hit Hanoi, Hoi an and Ho Chi Min (Saigon) in that order, Think you would need 2 or 3 visits to fully discover the country.

    You will need to get Viatnamese Dong over there (Can get Dong Outside of Vietnam), what we did was took enough euro with us in cash and converted it over there, as depending on your bank you can get charged between 2 and 10 euro for transaction fees and withdrawing money via an ATM depending on the amount. Pay all hotels via credit card if possible, my card was locked by the credit card company as I visited China before hand and they locked it so needed to use debit card for first hotel while waiting for credit card to be unlocked and was charged 8 euro for the transaction by the bank. (Please inform your credit card company before going over).

    I also topped up my shots before I went over, my girlfriend didnt and no bother on her but it is advised. You can visit your local tmb center location (link below) but shots can be expensive, think medical insurance can cover up to 50% of costs up to a limit of 150.

    Link for Vietnam Shots:

    I will say that the temperatures this time of year suit me as I am not a fan of places that are too hot and I didn't get bitten as badly this year as I did this same time last year in Bali, temperatures averaged 15-20s in Hanoi to 20s-30 in Saigon which suited me perfectly.

    We started off in Hanoi, Stayed in the old district where everything is very close by. Visited the Ho Chi Mausoleum (long queue but moved quickly), seeing Ho Chi Minhs coffin is an interesting sight if only seen for a few seconds as your pushed through quickly, there is a big communist propoganda museum onsite also and the french style residence of Ho Chi Minh is cool to see but unless your interested in history it isn't a must see. 

    We also did a day trip to Halong bay and tbh for me it wasn't all its cracked up to be, maybe because it was very cloudy/Foggy on the day we went there (probably get better pics in the summer and have more options like swimming etc). For me personally I wouldn't do the 2-3 days on the boat. Even the one day takes 3 plus hours to get there from Hanoi so be prepared for a long journey on the bus.

    There is also military museum in Hanoi (not too far from Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (we did both on the same day)). Its full of crashed planes and tanks (also some in tact) but it is not as good or as stirring as the war museum in Saigon. Whats interesting about it though is that right across the road there is a massive statue of Lenin in a park which is strange to see (the base of the statue is mostly used as a rail for scatters to do tricks on).
    We also visited the Maison Cenrale (Hanoi Hilton) where US soldiers stayed as POWs during the war, worth a visit for an hour or 2.

    If you get up early in Hanoi you can see people doing Tai Chi around the lake and get some good shots.

    As for Shopping I felt that Hanoi offered better shopping (especially the night market in the old district or the shops close to the lake) if your looking for your knock off north face etc and souvenirs as both the quality is better, options are better, prices are cheaper and the people at the stalls will haggle. (I did not find this so much in Saigon where people would only knock off 50,000 dong off their asking price (less than 2 euro) and refused to haggle). Although if going to Saigon visit the Saigon center shopping mall (full off look a like brands), there is also a new shopping mall across the road from it full of designer brands (proper ones) and restaurants and its only 10-15 min taxi from district 1. I literally got lost in the Saigon Center loads of times its so big. Id also agree with the poster above to watch you wallet if your going to these types of places as foot fall is so dense and the areas can be quite tight.

    We then went to Hoi An for 2 days, did marble mountain/monkey mountain etc all in the day tour and spent rest of time chilling in the town (which at night is quite beautiful with the lanterns hanging off the old style french buildings beside the canal, lots of people do boat rides there by night (row boat) and you can light lanterns and put them on the river etc.

    The beaches we went to were very quiet and quite chilled and numerous people just sit on beach all day reading books and availing of the cafes etc adjacent to the beach. After constantly watching my back for scooters for 3 days in Hanoi this place was a welcome relaxing atmosphere in between Hanoi and Saigon. Its pretty much dead central between Hanoi and Saigon, we flew both to Hoi an from Hanoi and from Hoi an to Saigon and both flights are roughly just over an hour (flew with Viatnamese Air). If flying to Hoi an you will fly to Da Nang Airport and it will take 40-45 minutes by car to get to Hoi An. (we usually organised the hotel to pick us up at airport 12-15 euro it cost roughly 1 way). 

    Forgot to mention that we also went to My Son when in Hoi An (miniature version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia) to see the old temples. We went early in morning in tour organised by hotel and went with one other couple. Its worth the visit, some of the temples were destroyed by B52 bombers during the war and you can see some of the craters left by the bombs. 

    One other thing to mention is that most hotels are out a bit from the canal but do have bikes to use for free which we availed off, they are great to get to the beach or to the pub, just dont get your bike nicked as it can cost you 90 euro. The hotel people said to pay at a bike parking site to get a local to mind your bike but we always parked them outside the pub/restaurant we were sitting and had no issues.  Locals may try to charge you obscene amounts to mind your bike, ignore them. There is an Irish bar called "Dublin Gate" there which was one of the most lively bars in the place, always has live music etc (Also a Dublin Gate in Saigon which we found accidentally one night).

    We had a choice of Hue or Hoi An and didnt make our mind up until a day before leaving Hanoi but were told by so many locals and tourists to go to Hoi An instead, it was a good choice.

    Lastly Saigon,

    Basically a more western version of Hanoi, more traffic but dosent seem as bad because the streets are a lot wider then Hanois roads and back alleys (especially in the old district in Hanoi).

    Did the usual, Chu Chi Tunnels (not advised if claustrophobic, Im 6,2 and smashed my head a few times, needed to crawl, girlfriend just had to bend back as she is a lot smaller, You can still do the tour and not go into the tunnels if you wish). Very interesting place and unreal to see how innovative the VC were. About 2 hours to get there depending on time of day and traffic, our tour brought us there late evening as they said there was less tourists there at this time. Fired an AK47 also, firing range there but the bullets arent exactly cheap, lots of different types of guns they have if your in to that sort of thing.

    We visited the Mekong Delta for a day tour also, which for me was well worth it (again maybe 2 hours to get there). Got some great shots on the camera and a bit of biking. Seen how the locals make money by making products from coconut etc.

    Other stuff in Saigon worth visiting for a few minutes is the Notra Dame Cathedral which is across the road from the famous french style central post office which is class looking inside (but be aware there is a huge amount of pick pockets in there as there is so many tourists in there and you will be looking up and around a lot that its the perfect scenario for an opportunist to pinch your wallet). 
    We also visited the Independence Palace which was very impressive and worth visiting also (this was the last defended position by the South Viatnamese Army after the USA pulled out, the VC brushed them aside and rammed the gates with 2 tanks which are to this day positioned on the grounds to the right of the gates).

    The most impressive place I visited in Saigon in my eyes was the War Museum, we covered all of the above in the previous paragraph and the war museum on a day tour but I will come back here myself then next time I'm in Saigon as the tour only allowed us an hour there and I spent most of the time taking shots of the numerous planes/tanks etc outside that I only briefly seen the 2nd/3rd levels of the museum which are harrowing and shows the devastating effects of war, pictures of victims etc were brutal and very graphic (again like the Millitary Museum in Hanoi, the messages displayed beside pictures are very much influenced by communist propoganda, its not exactly a balanced view but it is still a view worth looking at as normally we see the western version of the Viatnamese war)

    So thats my two cents worth, sorry for boring everyone,
    Just some other things to note in general...

    1. We stayed in mostly 4 star hotels as we wanted a bit of comfort, expect to pay anything between 40-80 euro for a night (we booked late so paid on the higher end). There are definitely cheaper options out there and if you book in well in advance you should also get the same standard of hotel we did for a bit cheaper. We filtered hotels on tripadvisor looking for hotels that included AC/Wifi and breakfast in price and airport pickup. Having breakfast included is useful as if your doing day tours you will be collected usually between 8-9am so getting a quick breakfast in before hand is handy.

    2. Also no need to go to top end restaurants, we ate a lot of street food and it was brilliant and cheap as chips but it all depends on how strong your stomach is.

    3. Flew back with Etihad on 20 hour itinerary to Dublin from Saigon (1 stop for 2 hours in Abu Dhabi to transfer). Flights expected to be anywhere from 400-900 depending on how long in advance you book it and how short you want the travel time to be, number of stops etc. Got ours for around 700 economy but again we booked flight back a bit late.

    4. Booked all our tours through the hotel, handiest thing to do on limited time, they collect you from your hotel and all.

    5. Be aware the hotel wifi a lot of the time is as slow as Christmas, we purchased 2 Vietnamese sims (have adaptable cards to suit all phones) in a vending machine in an airport in China but you can also get them at the international terminals at airports in Vietnam. Cost 5-10 euro and the our internet was flawless and very quick with mobile data turned on. They last about a week or there abouts but are well worth it especially on long day trips that you spend a few hours bored off your head on a bus.

    6. Tipping is not expected in Vietnam but you can tip if you want if the service is good, usually 100,000 dong is sufficient (4 euro) or 10% of meal (if they havent charged you a surcharge) which will usually be less than 100,000 for 2 people.

    7. Bring insect repellent and cream if going in Summer, didnt get bitten as much as last year but still got bitten about 10 times so can only imagine how bad it will be in summer, bring factor 50 also.

    8. Usually wore tshirt and shorts with flip flops but always had light rain jacket with me as it did open up the odd time and you can get drenched when it does. Also handy to have it on when on a rocky boat. Can buy a northface one for 12-20 euro at the stalls.Stuffed it into the backpack when going on daytrips.

    9. Some tours will stop on the way to destinations to let you off for a rest, usually its at some ceramic and craft centers where the products are made by people with a disability (missing hand or foot etc). Do not feel inclined to buy these goods as they are not very different from the stuff you get at the stalls and have big price tags on them. Myself and my girlfriend felt compelled to buy something and looked at something small assuming it was cheap, it was 40 euro (the cheapest thing there) which can be bought at most stalls for 5-10 euro

    Vietnam is some spot and its definitely in the top 3 spots I've ever been to, I'll definitely be back!