Updated: Jan 1
Itinerary (October 12-28):
Ho Chi Minh (1 night)
Da Nang (2 nights)
Hoi An (3 nights)
Hue (2 nights)
Hanoi (1 night)
Ha Long Bay (2 nights)
Hanoi (1 night)
Ho Chi Minh (3 nights)
My arrival into Vietnam, Da Nang and Hoi An are covered in my first Vietnam post.
To get to Hue from Hoi An, you need to go back to Da Nang and catch a train from there or you can take a bus, but I think you have to change buses in Da Nang, or it at least stops there for a bit. We opted for the train since we heard it has a gorgeous view along the coast. We caught a bus and got off in Da Nang with the sweetest Vietnamese woman who walked us to the train station. We bought our tickets in person and then that same woman bought us lunch across the street, even though we insisted we pay. She was waiting for her friend who was coming off the train that we were about to depart on. We didn’t ask for it, but by some miracle, we got seated front facing (I get motion sick) and on the right-hand side of the train when looking forward. This was where the magic happens, by offering fabulous views of the coast. Twenty-five minutes till arrival in Hue, they cranked some Vietnamese music on the train, full volume, for some unknown reason. So don’t panic thinking the apocalypse is coming.
As I mentioned before, there was no Grab in Hue, so taxi it was. There were tonnes waiting outside the Hue train station. Always stick to a metered taxi and not the rate that the driver suggests, even with the Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis. The verbal price the driver offered was more than the meter that I insisted we turn on.
Hue is the ancient capital of Vietnam, if I remember correctly. There are some famous tombs where kings were buried and a large Palace. The hotel we stayed at (Purple Hue BnB_Central Hub) had a great breakfast, fresh fruit with your choice of a few different things. It was a tad noisy in the am since school children sing really loud in a courtyard that happened to be next to where our room was. We splurged and got a private taxi driver to take us to the three tombs. Biking wasn’t really an option and we didn’t want a tour. We spent 580 000 Dong (23 euros) for the two of us for half a day in the taxi with driver. I know, steep. The benefit of this, was we could leave right at 08:00 so we beat the hoards of tourists. If you buy a ticket to all three tombs at once, you save a bit of moola.
Time spent at each tomb:
Tomb of Tự Đức: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Tomb Of Dong Khanh: 20-30 minutes
Minh Mang Tomb: 30-40 minutes
After, we returned to our hotel to freshen up. Then we walked to the Imperial City, Hue Palace. You can spend 1.5-3 hours here, we did about 2.
There isn’t much in the way of street food in Hue so we went to a few restaurants (Quán Bánh Khoái Hạnh and Quán Nina Cafe), which were on the pricey end of my budget. If I was spending more than 2 euros on a meal, I deemed it pricey. The restaurants were about 5/6 euros for drink and main and both good.
We were flying from Hue to Hanoi and as far as I could tell (I asked and did research) there was no public bus to take us to the airport. There is, however, a shuttle. Our hotel gave us the address of 20 Ha Noi Road to catch it. You will see a Vietjet Office where you can buy your ticket. You can also do so in advance the day before, if you would like. It costs 50 000 as of Oct 2019. Note that the shuttle more or less, will leave less than two hours before your flight will depart. When you walk in, they ask what time your flight is at and they tell you to come back two hours before your scheduled departure. We rocked up at 08:40 the day of our flight, aiming to catch the shuttle for our 11:40 flight and she said the bus will depart at 10:00 and to be 10 minutes early. For someone who arrives ridiculously early for flights, I felt like it didn’t leave much wiggle room for panicking. Especially since it apparently takes 30 minutes to drive there with the normal traffic. And they wonder why Vietjet flights are always delayed. We ended up leaving at 10:00, arrived by 10:22 with no traffic and were early for our flight that was delayed.
Hue too good
When you walk out of the Hanoi airport domestic arrivals and take a left, you’ll see a bunch of buses and shuttles. Since the Vietjet shuttle turned out so well, we decided to take their shuttle (it has a big Vietjet logo on it). We ended up waiting 25 minutes for it to fill up. In case you don’t know about these “airport shuttles”, basically the large van/ shuttle won’t depart until it is completely full. If they can squeeze one more person on the floor, they will. It is a waiting game, in Thailand I waited 45 minutes before it filled up.
The shuttle from the Hanoi airport dropped us off at the Hanoi train station about a hour later, which was no where near where the driver said we would get dropped off at. That meant a long walk to the hotel, such is the life of a backpacker. There is also a bus service from the airport which would have been better, since it dropped us off closer to our hotel but we made our bed, so they say.
A super weird, classic Asia thing happened, where when we arrived at our hotel, sweating and looking like shit from that massive walk. The front desk guy tells us there is no running water, so we will get moved to another hotel. He assures us it is close by. We sit with the bottle of cold water that they gave us and then before we finish it, someone comes in and we are meant to apparently follow him, since he goes to grab our bags. We put our back packs on then follow him to a scooter. I get on, my cousin gets on a different bike. We then have a crazy ride where the entire time, I kept looking around to make sure she was following. It was wild. We arrive at a completely different named hotel that doesn’t look like it has any affiliation to the one we were supposed to be at. We check online and the new place has about the same rating and costs slightly more than the first one but we only had to pay the first hotel prices. Hanoi had the hardest to find hotel room when we booked beforehand since they were more costly than in other parts of Vietnam but then also a bit shittier.
Ha Long Bay
The reason why we went to Hanoi (other than the AHmazing street food) was to go to Ha Long Bay. When planning, my cousin and I both searched ages for a suitable cruise and we came to the conclusion that you saw nothing on a day trip or one night cruise from Hanoi since the drive to the bay alone is 3 hours one way. In the end, we went with a two-night cruise, which turned out to be the the most luxurious thing I could imagine. My standards aren’t high, I did live in station wagon for almost two moths while in oz. But I assure you, this was fancy. I didn’t even want to sit on their chairs because I thought me being filth would ruin them. We booked via booking.com a few months before (I think end of August for our October cruise) and a few weeks before the cruise I received an email that we got a free upgrade and the cruise ship is now called Doris Cruises (formerly Rosa Boutique Cruise). Turns out pretty much everyone got a free upgrade since the original cruise ship didn’t exist anymore. We were put on a new 10-month-old boat and it was glorious. The only thing not glorious about it was the fact that you had to pay for all drinks EVEN water. So stock up beforehand because the glass bottled water costs about 4 euros. When you arrive, they give two small plastic bottles in your room, which don’t get restocked. My cousin and I luckily had a 1.5 litre bottle each and I managed to buy an extra two bottles when we went on an excursion for a fourth of the price when compared to on the boat. The other drinks are just as expensive (the cheap cocktails were 6 euros). Other than that, the food was good, the people lovely and the cruise ship facilities were spot on. An absolute highlight were these women in boats who would come along side the cruise ship, while it was still moving, and they try to sell you stuff. I ended up purchasing a horrible bottle of Vietnamese wine (didn’t know Vietnam made wine, which should have been an indication on how good it would taste). Our room was on the second floor but she had a long stick with a net on it to collect the money. As far as excursions go, the majority of the cruises follow the same ones. Although, I did want to do a hike to somewhere high up to have a panorama view and we didn’t.
Once back in Hanoi, we stayed at a different hotel. For the bus to the airport, we caught the 86. It costs 35 000 Dong (1.50 euro). The hotel said it would take 1.40 hours to get there and it took only 40 minutes.
Ho Chi Minh
Back in HCM is where my food disappointments happened. Try as we might, we couldn’t find any good street food. It could be because we were in the tourist area of the massive city and you have to go to the residential to get something good but alas, nothing outstanding came our way. It was either over priced or meh food. And I assure you, we looked. We changed to a different hotel called Acacia Saigon Hotel this time and it was good, it had a complementary buffet breakfast. The pictures as always are more polished then in reality.
We did the adventurous route to the Chu Chi Tunnels. Well worth it. Cu Chi Bien Duoc took 1.5 hours each way to get there by public transport, needing to switch buses once. These Cu Chi tunnels are less crowded and cheaper than the other ones since it is more of a challenge to get to. The tour buses all go to the other one. When we arrived, there was one Spanish couple who got off the bus with us. And I still can’t believe this but they didn’t bring any cash. This place, is in the middle of nowhere and they didn’t bring any cash with them. Unbelievable. When getting there, it was more or less okay to navigate with directions from this great blog. And Vietnamese people were quite friendly in pointing out where we needed to go since we obviously looked confused.
I don’t like coffee or eggs but apparently the Egg Coffe from Little Hanoi in HCM is delicious.
My flight left relatively early so I had to catch a 530am Grab to the airport. I was worried that there wouldn’t be any available at the ungodly hour, but there was, so don’t worry your pretty little head. I arrived 3 hours early partly because I am paranoid and partly because the Grab got there in no time since there was no traffic. I couldn’t even check my bag in yet so I had to wait 40 minutes on a bench.
This blog will end on a high note. As in one Evian bottle in the HCM airport costs a whopping 88 000 dong (3.50 euros) and I still think about it to this day. Such a rip off. There was a smaller convenience store at the very ground level after security but I was too ashamed to ask how much the water cost there. There was a water fountain though and I saw one guy with a bottle ask a restaurant to fill up his bottle from behind the counter. I chose not to bring my water bottle because in Thailand I couldn’t fill it up anywhere. I could have saved myself almost 4 euros and prevented near dehydration if I had. Silly me.
October roundtrip flight AMS- HCM 500 euros
2-night Ha long Bay Cruise (for two people) 320 euros
Everything else (flights within Vietnam, accommodation, food, train rides etc.): 350 euros
Total spent for two weeks: just over 1000 euros