Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Trip date: May, 2019. Overall the trip was decent, took around 3 weeks to visit Hanoi, Nim Bhin,
Sapa, Catba, Danang, Hoi an, Saigon and Mui Ne. Dalat is another place worth visiting which I did not. Predominantly stayed in bag pack hostels, AirBnB during the travel. Vietnam has very good coordinated transportation system coordinated by the people where you stay, almost traveled entirely in the bus. You can also rent motorcycles which are available for cheap price to go around the local area, just make sure the bike is in good condition. Just like in any developing country try to negotiate for everything. Based on how you dress, which country you come from, whether you are white or black the prices of the product vary. So ask around at the places where you stay about general prices and places. Grab App on mobile is pretty convenient to transport from airports to your local stay. Generally if tourists travel in India they were flocked by locals however, I have not seen such a behavior in Vietnam, also not not encountered any stealing of that sort . Places are decently maintained and not dirty when compared to India :(.
I do not find Vietnam as breathtaking views as compared to Europe or North America when it comes to landscapes nor the architecture is that great. Their temples are pretty simple and less art work. So if you are looking for these you are mistaken.
One thing I noticed is almost entirely all of the local stores are run by women, they work a lot and basically do the managing of the place, men seem to do physical hard work especially in the restaurants. Since they work very hard they are physically in shape and their diet contain less of carbs and more of meat. Avg women are smaller and they are better looking than average Indian women. But I guess Indian women dominate on the upper range of the beauty.
Food is amazing especially sea food. If you are a meat lover this is the place to go. They have huge varieties of seafood and very less vegetarian items. In India we have the opposite, lot of vegetarian items and full of carbs. Indian people prefer full of snacks which are heavily carbs however, in Vietnam people rarely go for snacks but their meals are just high in protein which makes them look lean. Some fruits are really delicious like Jack fruits, pineapple, bananas, mangoes, dragon fruit are my favorite
Hanoi is a decent place to stay for couple of days. You can walk around the old city which leads to
new city. There is a temple which is pretty simple in its form. It is the new capital of vietnam (changed from Saigon ). The food was great as usual and you should try their sandwiches. The city lights up during the night and food courts are on the both sides of the street as you see in the picture. Too many Europeans and Americans tourists in this area and they are loud :(. You can plan to visit Nimh Binh or Sapa or Cat ba from here through the bas and make sure to ask the person where you stay to book the seats.
Nim Binh is very close to Hanoi, I took the bus to get there. But you might as well rent the bike and ride to get there for cheaper price. The main attracting is the kings temple and the cluster of mountains. Apparently King Kong movie was made here depicting these mountains. There are 2 ways to view these mountains, either hike up the hill or take the boat. I took the boat but based on other tourists I think hiking is a better way have good views of the mountains.
Sapa is refreshing its up in the mountains near the border of china. It was good weather and met an
italian friend here. We rode around the mountains and was excited to ride here. There are some hiking spots and water falls near by which we went around. I dropped my phone here and was so much pissed as my travel, bookings were on that. Later found out only the screen was damaged and got replaced for 50$. Again food here was great. After 2 days took overnight bus to Cat ba, Ho Long bay.
Cat ba is great way to relax on the boat. You can either rent a cruise with other tourists or you can rent a private boat with your friends to see moral local spots, I did the later. I reserved for 3 days but you
can do it in 2 days.First day I spent exploring Cat Ba peninsula.
Stay at this guy's newly built motel. It was pretty good, ate tons of food, had lot of rice wine. Apparently i was the first customer for his new motel. Jack fruit served here is so delicious as it melted in my mouth. There is a small hike up on to the mountain where you can see Cat ba shore and all the boat restaurants as you can see in the above picture.
Next day we took the boat again and went to Ho Long bay, I loved the boat ride sitting in front of the small boat. We tried some fishing but it was not my day. Ho Long bay is a UNCEIF protected area and there are around 2000 small islands. Had lunch on one of the islands where the guide cooked meals for us. Here I tried my
first ocean swimming experience and walked around one island to another as the water is shallow. As we drove around the islands one can notice huge farms for raising shrimps, scallops, fishes, etc. We went around the those islands and returned to a boat house in the evening. At the boat house I met these 3 germans -- Max, Felix, Tobias -- (will call them 3G from now on )and had fun conversation. We later met again in Danang, Hoi An, Saigon and kind of remained in touch. Had great food on the boat house, the place is bit not that clean though.
Last day I did some kayaking and then returned to Hanoi and later took flight to Danag. Overall the place is good and I would say 2 days is enough. Again negotiate on the trip price.
DaNang is an upcoming place as the buildings are new. Lot of coffee shops are upcoming here as there is a new trend among people to meet and work at the coffee shops. I see more foreigners are
moving to this city. My friend Edwin who was my ex-colleague in US is living here. In fact he helped me in some of these places to visit. I met him on the same day at some local bar. I was surprised sheer size of the restaurant where they have all sorts of sea food displayed and you pick them and they cook right in front of you. The place is called BeMan. I again met my 3G friends and we did some great motorcycle riding on the hills of Hoang Sa to see buddhist temple.
My Edwin friend took us to Lang Co beach and we visited a picnic area to hang out with locals . There was a small water fall and pond where we hiked to and this is my first time jumping into the pond, as I am not good at swimming. I would definitely suggest riding on Lang Co as it gives a hill top view of the DaNang city and very nice road. Motorcycle enthusiasts will love this road.
Visited the Marble buddist temple the next day, its an 30 minutes ride from Danang. Pretty decent and simple in its architechture.
Hoi An is another historic small city. We rode there on the independence day of Vietnam and the city is light with lights all over the river in the night. Lot of folks in traditional dresses which is similar to north indian dress code (check in the first picture below to the left side). We also visited ruins of a Hindu temple which is preserved by both Vietnamese and Indian governments.
Saigon, I took the flight from DaNang to Saigon which is the old capitol of Vietnam. Lot
of history around Vietnamese war. The place is very crowded and lot of coffee shops. I got sick here and was coughing all the time, may be I caught some bug or something. Saw Harley Davidson Street Bob parked on the street, this model is pretty light compared to my bike.
My last days went to see Mui Ne beach and rested at the beach resort for 3 nights for around 100$. It was not expensive at all and well kept.
Overall it was satisfying trip and food was awesome.