Updated: Jan2013

Wendy, England Aug 2011

Following the beaches – 10 days in Vietnam

Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Nha Trang -> Saigon

I flew into Saigon and got an immediate flight to Da Nang to meet the other half. It was such a smooth transfer and so cheap that if you have limited time in Vietnam it is a really good way to get around. We had just one night in Da Nang but if I went back I would probably move straight on. It is a big city but doesn’t have that much to offer. The beach is nice but quite far from centre of town and so costs you in a taxi to get there. 

However it was whilst on the beach we met one of the easy riders and he convinced us to take a motorbike ride with him down to Hoi An. We were just going to go by taxi but it worked out cheaper for us to use them. So the next day we jumped the back of a Harley Davidson and went to Hoi An via the Marble Mountains. What a great way to travel and the mountains are definitely worth a visit. We spent 2 nights in Hoi An where we paid for the cultural ticket to visit some of the ancient houses but it wasn’t really worth the money. It is just as nice to wander around the streets yourself and for free. The market is great and they do some fab local food – tasty and cheap my favourite. A boat trip on the river is not a bad way to spend an hour or two in the early morning. We then took an overnight bus to Nha Trang which was surprisingly comfortable. 

Nha Trang is a nice beach town it is quite touristy but the beach is definitely the draw and it was here I had my first experience of diving which I loved. We stayed for 3 nights. If you only do one thing in Nha Trang go for a sunrise swim in the sea with the locals it is a great experience but don’t take your valuable to the beach with you. Another overnight bus took us to Saigon where we spent our last two nights in Vietnam. The museums there are really interesting in particular you should pay a visit to The War remnants museum where there is a display of war photographs it is very moving. Ten days in Vietnam went very quickly but was made easier by the smooth and efficient transport system the country has.

Martin, England June 2012

Here there and everywhere – 3 months

Saigon -> Mui Ne-> Dalat -> Nha Trang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Phong Nha -> Hue -> Hanoi -> Ninh Binh -> Hanoi -> Halong Bay -> Hanoi -> Sa Pa -> Hanoi

The first port of call was Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh if you prefer). Not bad place to stay for 10 days with plenty to do a bit further afield as well. A day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels is well worth it. Not so sure about the trip to the floating market on the Mekong, unless you get there really early around 5am you don’t get to see much. The museums of Saigon are interesting as are the markets and the parks. 

From here we travelled by bus to Mui Ne, expecting the amazing beaches that the guide book told us we’d find. Not so. The Fairy Spring was fantastic but the beaches were a big disappointment and there were far too many sand flies for my liking. 

From Mui Ne we took a rather cramped mini bus to Da Lat. This town was a massive contrast to our Vietnamese experience so far – for a start it was cold! The sites in Da Lat town are clearly aimed at local tourists (think flower teddy bears, plastic giraffes and horse rides) but take a day trip with the easy riders for a more authentic Da Lat experience and great local food. 

From Da Lat we had a rather bumpy bus ride to Nha Trang and found the lovely beach we were looking for. The Cham towers, Giant Buddha, Marine Museum and Island hopping trip kept us more than entertained for 10 days. 

From Nha Trang we went by overnight bus to Hoi An. The bus was comfortable but make sure you take some layers as they can be cold! Hoi An is a really lovely town and the market has some excellent local food. We hired bicycles and headed out to the beach which was also much better than Mui Ne. If you are lucky you may catch the full moon festival where the river is consumed by floating lanterns and great sight to see. Another overnight bus took us to Hue

Hue - the best thing here was the Indian food! We hired a motorbike to head out towards some of the tombs and spent a very hot day exploring the Imperial Palace. There is enough to keep you entertained for a day or two and it is a good stopping off point heading north (or south!) From Hue we got off the beaten track and made our way to Phong Nha. We ended up hitching a lift with a tour company who were taking a group there for the day. We paid over the odds for the ride but we wanted to explore ourselves and not do a day tour. Using local transport would have involved a night in Dong Hoi so it worked out cheaper this way. The caves are amazing and Paradise Cave in particular is breath taking. Hire a motorbike and take yourself throught the national park for some stunning scenery. We managed to get the local bus back to Dong Hoi and from here back to Hue, just as a stopover as we then took an overnight bus to Hanoi. If you do this check where you are going to be dropped off as we were quite a way out of the centre of town and got ripped off by the taxi driver. Hanoi is good base for exploring Chi Minh mausoleum complex is interesting although we didn’t go and see his body. From here we arranged an overnight trip to Halong Bay which is definitely worth it and even in the rain the scenery is stunning! We also went to Ninh Binh by bus from Hanoi where we spent 4 great days exploring the area by motorbike. At Tam Coc you can take a boat into the caves rowed by a lady who is uses  her feet. It is also worth the drive out to Cuc Phuong National Park to visit the Endangered Primate centre and see some of the great work that they do. From Ninh Binh we went back to Hanoi and then onto Sa Pa where we soent 4 night which included and two day one night trek with a overnight stay in a local house. If you go to Sa Pa make sure you leave yourself time to do this as you get to see so much more than in the main town. We were lucky enough to be there whist they local families were harvesting their rice, the colours and activity were amazing! One final overnight bus back to Hanoi for a few days and then a flight to Bangkok. In the end I think that 3 months was a bit too long and you can do what we did in less time. If you do go to Vietnam try and break off from the usual tourist route it you won’t be disappointed.

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