Vietnam is a great place if you want to start exploring Asia from less touristic perspective. The easiness of arranging travel and accommodation and the safety of the country makes it the perfect destination whether you go alone or with children.
What we’ve visited
(1) Ha Long Bay – called “Descending dragon” bay. Gulf of 1,000 islands. It is one of the greatest natural attractions in Vietnam and Asia. On the area of 1500 square kilometers there are almost two thousand spread rocks (limestones and shales), islands and islets with a characteristic shape, creating a very beautiful landscape. Even in the fog it is amazing place.
(2) Hanoi – capital of Vietnam. The city is full of charm and old streets full of amazing miniature shops, cafes, etc. Love it.
(3) Trang An (Hoa Lu and Tam Coc caves) – is a beautiful area near Ninh Bình famous from ancient capital (Hoa Lu) and river boat trips through caves. Also you can do bicycle tour on the local roads. On 23 June 2014 the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(4a) Hoi An is a famous tourist attraction (UNESCO list). The historic old town is a maze of narrow streets with lots of beautiful Chinese architecture. On every corner you can find here small restaurants, teahouses, temples, galleries, craft workshops and shops. The prices for the clothes are not so attractive like they used to be and the quality and finish is not as good as in the European shops.
(4b) My Son are magnificent ruins of the holy city of the Cham Dynasty (IV- XII century). As a result of the American bombing not a lot left from Hindu temples and residential buildings. The place is quite picturesquely situated in the small valley among the jungle (covered by hills). My Son, like Angkor in Cambodia, for hundreds of years has been invaded by jungle and forgotten by the people. It was discovered at the end of the nineteenth century and declared a great archaeological attraction. Worth to go there on sunrise.
(4c) Hue – Vietnam capital of art, the city of artists with Forbidden Purple city (didn’t have time to visit)
(5) Con Dao is an archipelago of 15 tropical islands located more than 200 kilometers from the coast of Vietnam. The whole archipelago and the surrounding waters are a National Park. Thanks to that the natural beauty of islands remained almost intact. The area has many excellent places to dive on a coral reef. There are not a lot of European tourists – only local people so we were an “attraction” for them. Nice people, lovely local food.
(6) Phu Quoc is the largest Vietnamese tropical island. It is famous for magnificent, almost wild sandy beaches, coconut palms, delicious seafood on local night market, pepper farms and the production of fish sauce. A lot of tourists but very beautiful and relaxing place to go.
(7) Mekong Delta is a region in southern Vietnam with an area of almost 40 thousand square kilometers. Mekong creates here a maze of branches, canals and lakes entangling small pieces of land and islands where people live mainly from fishing and rice cultivation. Life here is directly connected with the water. Houses, schools, offices, churches stand on the shore, bazaars are organized in the middle of the river, and the sale takes place directly from the boat. Land transport is almost non-existent for most of the villages which can be reached only by boat.
Our Holiday Plan
OUT: Friday 28.03.2014 London Gatwick 12:08 (LGW) – Hanoi 6:05 (HAN), tickets bought:: http://www.skyscanner.net/ , £393 for 1 person, flight time : 11h , 30kg luggage , flight to north part of Vietnam
RETURN : Friday 04/11/2014 Ho Chi Minh City 0:40 ( SGN) – 6:45 London Gatwick ( LGW ) , tickets bought : http://www.vietnamair.co.uk , £ 503.50 for 1 person , flight time : 13.5h , 30kg luggage , flight from south part of Vietnam
- 29.03.2014 (Sat) arrival to Hanoi (06:05) – travel to Ha Long Bay – accommondation on the boat
- 30.03.2014 (Sun) Ha Long Bay – night on boat
- 31.03.2014 (Mon) return to Hanoi – visit the city – night in Hanoi
- 01.04.2014 (Tue) trip to temples in Hoa Lu & visit Tam Coc caves – Puppet Show – night in Hanoi
- 02.04.2014 (Wed) flight to Hue (08:10-9:20) – travel to Hoi An – evening shopping at the local tailors – night in Hoi An
- 03.04.2014 (Thu) visit the ruins of My Son – relax on nearby beach – receive purchases from tailors – night in Hoi An
- 04.04.2014 (Fri) trip to Hue – flight to Ho Chi Minh City (21:40-23:00) – night in Ho Chi Minh City
- 05.04.2014 (Sat) flight toCon Dao (9:55-10:55) – relax on local beach – night in Con Dao
- 06.04.2014 (Sun) snorkeling – explore the island on rented scooter – night in Con Dao
- 07.04.2014 (Mon) flight back from Con Dao (7:35-08:40) and flight to Phu Quoc (12:45-13:50) – supper in local night market – night in Phu Quoc
- 08.04.2014 (Tue) 1 hour massage on the beach – tour of the island on scooter – night in Phu Quoc
- 09.04.2014 (Wed) return from Phu Quoc do Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) (9:00-10:00) – travel to My Tho – trip on Mekong Delta and accommondation in local family
- 10.04.2014 (Thu) travel to Can Tho – an evening tour on the city – night in Can Tho
- 11.04.2014 (Fri) tour of the Mekong Delta – return to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – departure from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to London Gatwick (LGW) (0:40 – 6:45)
http://www.vietnam-visa.com – $ 20 per person for servise to prepare all documents and get permission. Visa fee is paid at the airport in Vietnam: $ 45 or $ 65 per person (depending on the visa: single or multiple travel)
- Hepatitis A – in UK for free, the vaccine is given in 2 doses: the second is given 6 months after the first one. After that it is no longer needed to do it for the rest of life
- Diphtheria , tetanus , polio (in UK for free, repeat after 10 years)
- Typhoid fever (in UK for free, repeat after 3 years)
- Hepatitis B – in UK for free, this vaccine is a 3 dose vaccine: the second vaccine is given 1 month after the first dose and the third dose is given 6 months after the first dose (optional)
- Rabies (optional)
- Malaria – tablets cost about £60 – £120 for 2 people for 2 weeks, prices vary significantly therefore worth asking in few farmacies to get the best deal. There are few different types of tablets, the ones were bought you need to start to take 1 day before departure (1 tablet per day) and finish a week after return
- Information found on internet suggests that the best months to visit the northern Vietnam are April to October. In the Southern Vietnam you can travel throughout the whole year.
- From May to October there is the rainy season.
We visited Vietnam in March-April, and the weather in the north was warm but cloudy (about 25 degrees) during daytime and the nights were a little bit colder (about 20-21 degrees). At this time of the Year there are mists in Ha Long Bay. In the south it was very hot during the day (around 30 degrees) and nights were also warm (around 23 degrees)
- On the Internet you can find few different local airlines to choose from, we chose Vietnam Airlines which supossed to be the most expensive but reliable (no delays or cancellation) so we bought our internal flights tickets with them. We were however not 100% satisfied because they changed the flight time for one of our flights. It was only a half hour, but for example if You do not have access to the Internet to check the flights time – You can be late
- Another very popular local airline is Jetstar. They supposed to be the cheapest and have more flights than Vietnam Airlines, but on the internet I found information about many canceled flights, however at the airport I didn’t notice any. It seems to me that it is worthwhile to risk and buy the tickets from them.
- Prices of flights do not change a lot – a little cheaper is to buy tickets 2-3 days before the flight.
Notes taken during our journey
- You can’t withdraw money in every cash mashine and if You want to withdraw more than standart amonut (2 500 000 VND) you can do it only in the “international” cash mashine
- If your holiday time is very limited like ours (only 2 weeks) – buy some trips in the tourist offices (even on the airport) or hotels. Very often the prices are pretty much the same as if you want to do it by yourself. But remember: always bargain, they will always come down from the original price (min 1/3)
- Be carefull with friedly “helpful” people on the streets – they will offer you help (for example find the hotel) but later they want some money for this
- Local buses are very very very cheap
- Take with you a small notebook with a pen. Local people almost do not speak English so before you go on holiday write in a notebook a few useful words / sentences in Vietnamese, for example. “How can I get to the bus station”, “Please book me a taxi to the airport tomorrow / today …. at. Besides the notebook can be very useful for example when you want to write some useful information (the bus number) or when asking for price in a shop and the seller can’t speak english – they can write the price for You (always negotiate the price)
- Take with you small guide with maps. If you can’t speak Vietnamese and you want to ask somebody how to get somewhere you can show the place on the map
- Wherever you are in Vietnam always carry with you business card (or leafleat) with the address where is your accomondation. This is just in case if you are lost. Even if you do not know the language just catch a taxi and give the driver a business cards with address or just show it anybody around you – and they will help you to get back
- “Information points” at the airports are “fake”. All of them are travel offices (or private travel companies), so of course they will give you an advice where is the best place to visit but they will not give you information how to get there with the lower costs. When you ask them about local bus or local transport they will always say “There is no local connections, you need to use our service”. Walk 50-100m in front of the airport and …. surprise: local bus stop
- Buy a backpack with a built-in water protector – just in case of rain.
- Do not take jeans – are impractical (to hot, long dry)
- Take microfiber towel: is lightweight, quick drying and space saving. 120x60cm are too small. In the hotels you will get towels but not in small private houses.
You can continue reading about My travel to Vietnam here: Vietnam – Ha Long