Vietnam was not really on the agenda for this long-haul trip. From the Philippines, I imagined going directly to Cambodia. And then I met Trang, a Vietnamese expatriate in Manila, who was kind enough to welcome me to Couchsurfing in the Philippines. When she offered to join her for her return to her family for her few days of vacation, I didn't hesitate for long. Opportunities like these, we don't have them every day.
So I take a ticket on the same plane as her. And that's a good thing because his departure falls just before the end of my Philippine visa.
Ho Chi Minh
Also known as Saigon, Vietnam's economic capital has enough to baffle many. With, in my humble opinion, as many scooters as inhabitants, the city gives rise to unlikely situations where to avoid traffic jams, drivers take all the sidewalks and bitumen tips available … who are also getting clogged up! Crossing the street as a pedestrian is scary at first… and then we quickly understand how to do … moving slowly, step by step.
So that's where I spent a few days with Trang and his family. In addition to discovering the delicious Vietnamese cuisine that was like a deliverance after the und worked dishes of the Filipinos, I took the opportunity to visit the city. First, the unmissable war museum that provides a better understanding of the country's painful history. You will find countless photos that show the atrocities that the population has experienced. Some can be shocking, be warned. Then head to the colonial-style post office as well as the town hall and cathedral.
For my second stop in Vietnam, I wanted to be close to the sea and get some fresh air. Head to Mui Ne, a very small town where the main activity is kitesurfing. If you're not a fan, there are many other things to do around Mui Ne: the fairy river, the white and red sand dunes and the fishing village with its basket boats.
My recommendation for accommodation in Mui Ne: Mui Ne Garden (dorm: 100,000 VND / 3.70)
Nha Trang is also by the sea but it is a much larger city than Mui Ne. It is possible to go diving or snorkeling, I stayed on earth to visit the surrounding area: the Gothic Cathedral of Christ the King, the Long Son Pagoda and the Po Nagar Temple.
The accommodation I recommend to Nha Trang: Backpack Hostel (dorm: 100,000 VND)
Hoi An is an authentic and extremely charming little town. Its architecture is a mixture of genres between Japanese, Chinese, and European culture. The Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Once a merchant port, it has preserved the remains of the time: wooden buildings, canals, bridges… More and more travellers enjoy spending a few days away from the chaos of Vietnam's major cities.
Accommodation I recommend in Hoi An: Hoi Pho (dorm: 100,000 VND)
Hue is known for its imperial city. For my part, I did a tourism of a very different kind, going to an abandoned water park.
The accommodation I recommend in Hué: Kim's Homestay (dorm: 100,000 VND with dinner and breakfast)
I then head to Hanoi, a city very similar to Ho Chi Minh by its size and the number of scooters per square metre but with more charm. A must-see: the Lake of the Sword and the Ngoc Son Temple, the historic district, the museum of ethnology, the temple of literature. You also have to go and see the railway that runs through the city and its houses. The inhabitants live almost on the track, as if nothing had happened while the trains were still passing. Incredible! Don't also miss the street food and markets that explode with colors and flavors.
Accommodation I recommend: Hanoi Backpackers Hostel (dorm: 90,000 VND with all-you-can-eat beer during happy hour)
From Hanoi, I go to halong Bay where I will spend 2 days and 1 night admiring these unusual landscapes. Halong Bay is one of the 7 new wonders of nature... and it's easy to see why, apart from the many tourists on the site.
Also known as the terrestrial halong bay, the landscapes are impressive. There are the same types of karst rocks as on halong bay. The must do is to take a rowing boat to sail along the river. Don't be surprised, here we row with our feet! I also visit some temples but for lack of time I could not do more. Be aware, however, that this is the ideal place for a bike ride.
My opinion on my own itinerary
My itinerary was day-to-day, following the recommendations of the people I met and what I was reading on the Internet. With a little hindsight, there are things that I would change in this itinerary if I had to do it again and that I had the knowledge that I now have about the country. For example, I would choose to stay only 2 days in Ho Chi Minh and not go to Nha Trang who did not really like me. I would replace this stage with Dalat and its mountains. If I had more time, I would also go to Sapa, north of Vietnam, on the border with China. For the rest, no regrets.
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Budget for 2 weeks in Vietnam
Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Conversion rate at the time of travel 1 – 27000 VND
[Edit Janvier 2019 : 1€ = 26308 VND]
|On-site transport (mainly by bus)||2,337,000 VND ($87)|
|Housing||768,000 VND (28 euros)|
|Meal||2,000,000 VND ($74)|
|Activities||2,257,000 VND ($84)|
TOTAL on site
7,371,000 VND (€273)
Flight Manila to Ho Chi Minh City
So I spent 273 euros on the spot for a trip from South to North Vietnam (not counting flights).
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Vietnam was THE Southeast Asian destination where I found the lowest cost of living. Transport is very modern, comfortable and cheap. On average, 1 euro per hour of travel… Unbeatable!
Accommodations are also very inexpensive, around 4 euros for a bed in a hostel. Buses mostly have berths, which will save you hotel nights for long journeys, while being able to actually sleep.
Street food is a good option for those who monitor their budget. It is not only cheap but also delicious. On average, you can expect 1 to 2 euros. At the restaurant, count a little more… between 3 and 5 euros for a well-stocked meal. On the other hand, imported products are expensive… a packet of Pringles will cost, for example, not far from 2 euros.
As for the activities, they are not expensive either. Only my stay on Halong Bay blew up my budget with a cost of 67 euros for 2 days and 1 night. It's still reasonable.
A question? Reaction? Don't hesitate to post me a comment below…
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This article was written in partnership with Comptoir des Voyages. The editorial content is entirely mine.