Vietnam, where to begin? Well I guess the beginning is a good a place as any. Vietnam is a place that has always been on my peripheral and my Bucket list. I had heard amazing things and everyone I know that has been has only had good things to stay. So it seemed only logical when my long distance love decided to meet ‘somewhere in the middle’ (of the UK and Australia) Vietnam be the destination of choice.
We had two weeks to fill with the sights and delights of Vietnam and we decided to travel from Hanoi to Hoi Chi Minh, via Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nah Trang and finally Saigon.
During my travels, I’ve pulled together my tips and tricks to ensure that you can make the most of your trip to this stunning country.
I flew with Malaysia Airlines from Sydney, via Hong Kong to Hanoi and paid $1,400 return (which was over the odds as typically I booked only 14 days prior to departure – Around $800 is the normal fare).
Other flight carriers to Hanoi from Sydney include:
Korean Air, Air Asia, China Southern, Vietnam Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, China Eastern, Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Australia.
Once you get to the airport, if you have your hotel booked, you can get a taxi at the front of the arrivals. Just makes sure you have an estimate from the hotel of the fare so that you don’t pay over the odds.
Where to stay
It was mid December when we arrived in Hanoi and the weather wasn’t the best, it was rainy and we definitely needed a jacket. We’d booked to stay at the Pullman Hotel – central to the center of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old & French Quarter.
The Pullman in Hanoi is very grand and has an outdoor pool, which unfortunately we were unable to take full advantage of. However if the weather is on your side, it would be a great place to relax and unwind after a long flight.
The rooms are modern, comfortable and have everything you’d expect from a 4* hotel. It really was a great place to recharge after a long flight.
We opted for bed and breakfast, which we really glad about, the buffet breakfast had absolutely everything you could imagine in terms of cuisine and catered for all tastes – the perfect way to set yourself up for a day of exploring. The friendly helpful staff couldn’t do enough for you and always have a smile on their faces.
Another option that would be worth considering if you’re looking for somewhere in the thick of the action with absolutely stunning design is the Hotel Apricot.
When searching for places to stay in Hanoi, this did come up as one of the best, and I can absolutely see why! We spotted the hotel when wandering around the Lake and couldn’t deny how stunning it looked. It’s also a perfect place to call in for a coffee (or something stronger) when wanting to shake off the chill in the air outside.
What to see and do
To say that Hanoi is hustle and bustle is putting it mildly! We were told that there were over 20 million scooters in the city, which is very hard to imagine, well perhaps not so much when you try to cross the road. The one piece of advice that we’d give is to have your wits about you when crossing the roads, but be confident and walk across the roads at the crossings at a steady pace and don’t stop. It is mad but the scooters and cars simply weave around pedestrians with ease, and whilst it is quite scary, it is an experience that you’ll never forget.
It’s amazing how you can go from fearing for your life crossing a road to being amazed in wonder at the archeological delights with reminisce of French influence and post war wear and tear.
On our first day we stumbled across the Temple Of Literature completely by accident whilst negotiating our path from our hotel to Hoan Kiem Lake.
It is a definite must see with the creativity and soul practically oozing from the grounds and the interior buildings.
As you explore the grounds you can make out the names of previous students who graduated from the university with honors, which really is a sight to behold when you imagine some of the inscribing’s are over 600 years old.
You can’t visit Hanoi without hearing about the infamous leader Hoi Chi Minh (not to be confused with his namesake – the airport). Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is a marble edifice. Despite his request for a cremation, the mausoleum, which is in a glass sarcophagus is the frail, pale body of Ho Chi Minh. It is a place where locals go to pay their respects and where visitors go to see the once great leader of Vietnam.
As this is a place of rest, visitors are expected to dress modestly: vests, shorts or hats. You may be requested to store your valuables before you enter. Talking, putting your hand in your pockets and photography is strictly prohibited in the mausoleum. The queue moves along at a slow pace towards the mausoleum, where you’ll go past Hoi Chi Minh.
When exploring Hanoi, it is clear to see that there is a lot of independent industries, including electrical and fashion. In fact, it’s interesting to witness the juxtaposition between the shops on the streets vs. the palatial designer outlets playing host to the likes a Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior. Don’t head here hoping for a bargain, it’s pretty much dollar for dollar for Australia. If you’d like to check out the designer stores for yourself, you can find them at Trang Tien Plaza Hai Ba Trung Street, Trang Tien Ward Hoan Kiem District.
What to avoid
THE WATER PUPPET SHOW! Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for immersing yourself in local culture and embracing it, even if it’s not your ‘bag’ so to speak – but this is just confusing, not entertaining and I hate to say it, but very boring and not worth the money.
Please feel free to check it out for yourself as I appreciate that everyone is different, but I am honest to a fault and, well this wouldn’t be a city/ travel guide worth reading if I weren’t.