We have started our ASIA adventure in Thailand but the final and most desiered destination was in fact Vietnam. I am passionated with vietnam since I first saw “Good Morning Vietnam” with Robin Williams interpretation. I have no idea what made me want to go there but I always wanted to. And finally I got the chance to go.
What you need to know before you go:
- You need a valid passport and a VISA. In Portugal a VISA is not easy to get because we do not have embassy of Vietnam. However, is possible to get an on arrival VISA online, you provide few information as your name, passport number, arrival and departure date and for a fee you can get your VISA in the airport at your arrival. We used the following website vietnamvisapro.com. Easy, cheap and fast! And well it works aswell.
The first stop of the adventure was Da Nang, in central Vietnam. Da Nang is the fourth largest city in Vietnam and its location on the path of National Route and the North-South Railway makes it perfect if you want to quickly travel for other destinations.
The city itself do not have a lot see, is a contemporane city with an interesting life. You can enjoy the My Khe Beach one of the most picturesque beaches in Vietnam and the lightning view of the Dragon Bridge at night.
The city offer many many cofee shops and the Vietnamese coffee is just amazing! YOU MUST TRY to find a Cộng Caphe , this coffee shop chain has a pure Vietnamese theme and you can have a cup of coffee (they have a lot of options) while listen Vietnamese songs. The coffee shops of the chain are decorated with propaganda posters and hava a clear reference to communism and vietnam war.
Near Da Nang you can find UNESCO World Heritage sights as the UNESCO as My Sonruins (we did not get the chance to go) and Hoi An ancient town (above you can see the detailled info about the tour) at the edge of the city you can visit the Marble Mountain. Our Hotel provided free transportation to many sights in the city including Marble Mountain, and we took a ride there the view of the mountain is astoniching.
The ancient folklore tells that many years ago dragon emerged from the water of Non Nuoc Beach and laid an egg. Many days and many nights followed before the egg hatched. The fragments of the shell were left on the beach and eventually grew into the five mystical Marble Mountains.
Today can climb the Marble Mountains and enjoy the view across the My Khe Beach, see the beautifull pagodas and hike the stone steps to Tam Quan Gate and enjoy the view to Metal Mountain.
Stay in: The Blossom City Hotel (50 night for two persons, includes free transportation for many sights and a Japonese bath experience)
Hoi An ancient town
The Ancient town is amazing you cannot miss it. We got there from Da Nang and spend the all day there. To enter the town you pay a small fee and these fee allow you to visit in the inside 3 temples or Ancient houses, to help you choose you have a map with the description of all visitable places. The most interesting part is that many of the houses are still being used as permanent residence of the ancient families therefore is very common see the old people taking a nap during your visit or having someone of the family presented to you. The locals are very nice we visit Hoi An in rainy day and we had an warm welcome in all the houses we visit were we was served a tea.
Besides the cultural part Hoi An is known by its great and cheap tailors. Therefore if you have any special ocassion coming or just want an handmade souvenir from Vietnam do not miss the opportunity of going to a Tailor and get that dress you are dreaming on. The process is easy you enter in one off the many tailor shops in Hoin An choose the model you want and come back in the next day to try the dress they ensure the deliver in the day. You have also many markets in the ancient town where you can buy a little bit of everything, I have bought a handmade lantern and is my favourite souvenir.
Hué the imperial city
Our second big destination in Vietnam was Hué, the imperial city. We planed to go from Da Nang to Hué by motorcycle throught Hải Vân Pass THE VIETNAM HIGHEST PASS and well known due to the programme Top Gear where was called “a deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world.” Infortunatly when the day come, it was raining a lot and having in consideration the historic of accidents and my lack of experience riding a motorcycle we just give up and we bought a train ticket. That’s truth! I am such a girl!
The train trip did not disapointed, the train was super confortable with airconditionate and really cheap (4,5 euros per person), even in the train you can enjoy the fantastic view of Hải Vân Pass.
To easily buy train tickets in Vietnam use: baolau
In the 1st day in Hué we went to visit the imperial city.
This sprawling complex in Hue was where the Emperors of old would have lived and conducted all their business. There was even a part of the citadel known as “The Forbidden Purple City,” which, much like China’s Forbidden City, was reserved for only the most important people in Vietnam.
I strongly recommend buy a guided tour so you do not miss any interesting detail.
After the visit to the Imperial City we went for a cruise in the perfume river towards the Thien Mu Pagoda. Funny fact somehow our boat was being filled with water and the drivers wife was literally taking the water off the boat with a bucket and trying to convince us that everything was fine as if the situation was really normal. We did actually manage to go to the Pagoda and come back without any insident.
In the 2sc day we went on a tour to Tam giang lagoon (the tour cost 21 euros per person in HUESTOURIST) the tour guide pick us in the hotel and so began our fishing day.
Tam Giang Lagoon have 22,000 hectares there flow three big rivers. During our day we had the chance of visit the village nearby and and join a local fishermen in his day to day job learning to fish how locals do.
By the end off the day we went to a floating restaurant where the fish we catch was cooked and we could see the sunset while eating a tasty meal.
Stay in: Alba Spa Hotel (40 night for two persons)
Hanói the caotic capital
After an amazing experience in a night train from the old capital city Hué (a 13 hours trip in a good bed cost 35 euros per person, to easily buy train tickets in Vietnam use: baolau) we arrive at the current capital Hanoi.
Hanói is a good mix between the old and the new, first thing I noticed was the traffic – the sound of horns everywhere while the locals walk quietly between endlee lines of the scooters and the tourists arrive in number ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of this vibrant city.
There’s certainly plenty to enjoy in Hanói between the restaurants, coffee shops, night markets to traditional entertainment, additionaly Hanoi has that fascinating culture of a city that has survived to a colonial occupation and to a war and manage to keep its spirit intact.
In Hanói we have wander in the old town and old town nigh markets, visited the Lake Hoan Kiem, Jade Mountain Temple and even get the time to watch a water puppet show. Water Puppets origins come from a time when the rice paddy fields were submerged and villagers would gathered and entertain by standing in the waist-deep water telling stories with puppets. Knowadays this is a unique storie telling act in vietnam.
While in Hanoi we also took the opportunitie to go in a One Day tour to Ninh Binh province. Ninh Binh province is located in northern Vietnam with its hundreds of limestone cliffs emerging from the ground scattered across the rice fields, due to these caracteristics it is usually named “Halong Bay in land”.
We departed Hanoi in the early morning and head to Ninh Binh province where we habe visited the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Later, on arrival at the Tam Coc we went for a ride in the sampan boats throught the Ngo Dong River. Ngo Dong River flows between the rice fields and karstic rocks, the ride was an amazing experience, the boats are mostly drove by vietnamese women and drove it with the feet. During the route we crossed several tunnels where we needed to bow our head while passing through. In the lunch pause we were served a buffet lunch featuring all the musts from the Vietnamese cuisine. Before returning to Hanói we had the chance of cycling around countryside villages . We bought our tour in Getyourguide and it cost 30 euros more or less.
Stay in: The Ann Hanoi (68 night for two persons)
By the end of the trip with many kms traveled we end up in a cruise in Halong Bay! This area, dotted with many limestone islands and islets, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We booked a 3 day all included cruise in Halong bay.
A shuttle bus picked us from our hotel in Hanoi and drove us to Tuan Chau marina where we were welcomed aboard the cruise. In the first day we explored the Surprising Cave (Hang Sửng Sốt) and found out how the cave was named a Surprising. At the afternoon we enjoyed a dive in the Titop island area and went in a short trek to the top of island to have the overview of Halong bay from here. At night we went back to the boat were a typical Vietname dinner was served and after we head up to the sundeck to enjoy a cocktail party. The guys also had the opportunitie to fish squids! They loved it!
In day two we could rise early and participate in a Tai Chi session on the sun deck, but we did not. Lazies!!! When we wake up we manage to visit the Maze Cave, kayak in the calm emerald waters of the Cửa Vạn floating Village, visit a Peal Farm were we witness the whole process to make a valuable pearl from first step of growing to harvesting pearl in Halong Bay.
In our last day after a cooking lesson and morning dive we were drove back to Hanoi where we took the flight home. Richer with this amazing trip.
Places to eat that I recommend:
- The Rustic Kitchen & Chill Bar (Hué)
- Lantern Lounge (Hanói)
- Cafe Nola (Hanói)
- The Hanoi Social Club (Hanói)