After arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam, some of my words were: “I could live here forever”, unfortunately I only had ten days, so I had to make every day count. Luckily for me (and all you other travelers out there), the Vietnamese people are some of the most helpful, beautiful, welcoming people I’ve ever known, and so planning our trips, sorting itineraries, organising transportation, you name it! They made it so easy.
Days 1-4: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels – War Remnants Museum – Mekong Delta River Tour – Moto-ride through the city – Traditional coffee and street eats on Phạm Ngũ Lão Street
Days 5-7: Hanoi and Halong Bay – The Old Quarter – Bach Ma Temple – Overnight boat trip around Halong Bay
Days 8-10: Hiking Through Sapa – Trekking through the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley – Visiting the different viallages and ancient tribes such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao.
Củ Chi Tunnels:
Get ready to feel claustrophobic! This network of tunnels was built during the Vietnam war by the Viet Cong to hide from the American troops, as well as supply routes for food and weapons, and living quarters for soldiers. These tunnels expand to around 250kms from the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh city all the way to the borders of Cambodia. Some of the tunnels now have been widened for tourists benefit – and even these were so narrow, we could not believe that the Viet Cong soldiers lived and moved down here for months on end! Unmissable!
The Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta – a network of rivers running through south Vietnam, where one can find floating markets and villages, surrounded by rice paddies
Phạm Ngũ Lão Street
This bustling street is a haven for backpackers and locals alike. Full of some of the best street eats and most amazing Vietnamese cuisine. One can spend hours sitting a quaint cafe sipping on a traditional coffee (made using a Phin filter and served with condensed milk!) watching the world go by.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Now up to the North, and to the capital city of Vietnam: Hanoi. One of the top spots to visit, the Old Quarter consisting of streets vendors, scooters and bicycles swarming every which way, you learn pretty quickly here how to handle the traffic like the locals do! Here the people are so welcoming, the food so exquisite, you’ll feel like you belong.
Halong Bay, thousands of limestone islands topped with rain forests and long boats cruising through emerald water. About a three hour drive from Hanoi, we spent two nights sleeping on a BoatHouse, cruising through and around the islands by day, exploring caves, kayaking and visiting the floating markets.
Trekking through the hill tribes of Sapa
Sapa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam. We got an overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai arriving at 6am and a local bus straight to Sapa, where we checked into a guesthouse and arranged a tour guide to lead us on our first trek through the rice terraces and villages.
This was the highlight of my trip through Vietnam. Our tour guide’s name was ‘Pang’, a member of the Hmong Tribe that occupy a village in the hills near to Sapa. We spent two days trekking with Pang, she told us about the different tribes, how they all speak different dialects even though they are just a few kilometers from one another. Pang showed us how her tribe make clothes from hemp to sell to tourists in the town.
We walked through valleys, up mountains and along suspension bridges across rivers. Cascading waterfalls were seen as were tribesman working hard in the rice terraces from dawn til dusk. We were able to go into some of the locals homes to experience how they live. This was such an eye-opener I could not speak more highly of these people!