Cities visited: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon
In an earlier post I commented on the crazy traffic in Bangkok, but it was nothing compared to what we experienced in Hanoi! We stood on the side of the road, backpacks on, and waited what felt like forever for a gap in the traffic, which of course never came. We probably looked like the world’s biggest tourists! The hundreds of motorbikes and constant beeping of horns took a lot of getting used to, and I’m not sure if we ever fully did. In Hanoi we ate street food, walked along the busy streets, and hungout at our hostel bar, at Hanoi Rocks.
From Hanoi, we took a boat trip to beautiful Halong Bay. We spent the first day kayaking through caves and swimming in the bay, and arrived at Cat Ba island later that evening. We spent the night on a private beach resort, and our room was right on the beach and had a huge open window facing the water. It was amazing!
The next place we went to was Sapa. It was never a place that Seán and I had talked about going to, but we met so many backpackers who said we couldn’t miss it! Sapa did not disappoint. The endless rice fields looked like something out of a postcard. Our guide, Koo of Black H’Mong tribe, led us on a trek through the fields and later showed us her home and village. It was incredible to see how different their lives are from our own.
After Sapa we took an overnight train to Da Nang, and two men on taxi motorbikes took us to Hoi An (we were a little nervous about that last bit but when in Vietnam I suppose?). Hoi An is a charming ancient city built on canals. When I think of Hoi An I think of lanterns everywhere, amazing restaurants, lively night markets, and fun backpacker bars. There was also a beach! We definitely spent a day or two lounging under an umbrella sipping on coconut water – straight from a coconut of course. (I don’t think I can ever drink the imported coconut water in Canada ever again, there’s no comparison!) We also discovered Banh Mi here, and it quickly became our new favourite food. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich on French bread with pickled vegetables, chilli sauce, and some form of meat or in my case – tofu! It is the most wonderful sandwich to ever exist, and even more wonderful still – it costs about $1.
After a few spectacular days in Hoi An, we took an overnight bus to Nha Trang. To us, Nha Trang seemed very touristy. It was not one of our favourite places because of that. Regardless of that, we had so much fun there! We stayed at an incredible hostel called Mojzo Inn. The people working there were so friendly, and actually took the time to learn everyones’ names! The hostel had a rooftop bar where we met so many other backpackers. We were in Nha Trang for Canada Day, and after (semi) joking that I wanted to find a bar that was celebrating the day, we happened to stumble right into one! It had red and white balloons and Canada flags everywhere. It was so surprising to see Canada being celebrated in the middle of Vietnam!
Our next and final stop in Vietnam was Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City. We really enjoyed our time here! We spent our days exploring the American War Museum, eating street food, and drinking the local beer, Saigon Special.
Overall, we loved Vietnam! We wished we had had more time there, as some people we met said we were crazy for trying to see it all in 3 weeks. We did skip a few cities, but I’m very happy with the ones we did see! From Saigon we took a minivan to the Vietnam-Cambodia border, and headed on to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.