Tag Archives: Nha Trang

Lanterns

Vietnam – A Land of Many Faces (Top Tips)

Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam – pineapple seller

Vietnam is a land of many faces and places.  I say this because it was a huge surprise to me how big it was and how much it changed over our month of travel there.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Hanoi – Halong Bay – Hanoi – Hue – Da Nang – Hoi An – Nha Trang – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Now you can do this route, like us, from North to South or from South to North.

The first thing that hit me in Hanoi was the incredible movement of this city – we stayed in the old quarter and just dealing with the ‘how to cross the street’ was a steep learning curve. The traffic and, especially, all the scooters is a bit daunting at first, but there is a method to the madness. I liked to time my crossing of the road with another Vietnamese pedestrian and follow their lead or to just go boldly forward albeit slowly and not stopping.

Currency

You pay everything in Vietnamese Dong, but, often, you will find things priced in US dollars and they will take them as well.  I suggest you use the local currency when you can and for those Aussies and Kiwi with ANZ bank accounts, there are lots of bank machines in Hanoi and Saigon where you can withdraw money out with no ATM fees except of course the bank haircut with the  exchange rate!  (warning: check this before you go, as things can change with banks at any time!)

Safety

I never felt unsafe in Vietnam during our trip and, of course, you take the usual precautions: do not leave phones anywhere or bags unattended. Keep your bag close to your body when walking around or strapped in front as I did, as it was a small back pack style bag.

Back Pack purse

How I carried my small back pack purse.

Transport

In Saigon, we found that Vinasun taxis were the best to use. Never had a problem with meters being turned on at a higher rate than was legal or being taken to any back streets or shady destinations and the drivers were all polite. Between Hue and Hoi An, I hired a private car and Cong, our driver was terrific and he charged US$69 for a leisurely drive to Hoi An. We stopped at several sites along the way, which included the new Dragon Bridge in Da Nang which breathes real fire and water.

Dragon Bridge

Dragon Bridge in Da Nang – it breathes fire and water

Relaxing on the train to Hoi An

We used trains for our journey between Hanoi and Saigon. I booked all of them via the hotels we stayed. You pay a small commission but, we got a soft sleeper, air-conditioned and bottom bunk in a four bunk cabin. Some people book the entire cabin. We did not and ended up meeting some lovely Vietnamese people including two guides on their way to Hue.

You can take some snacks and water with you on the train or there are food trolleys.  I ate the food and didn’t get ill.  My husband had a coffee and he liked it.

There are Western and Asian toilets as well as a wash up area in each carriage with running water. All of the trains are slowly being refurbished. We got old ones but they were perfectly fine. To give you an idea of cost our two tickets for a night train from Hanoi to Hue was US$90. We did get one upper bunk for the train from Nha Trang to Saigon during the day which was comfortable and near the air-conditioning. Our entire train costs to Saigon were less than US$200 for both of us including two overnight trains.

Be polite

We hardly got troubled by pushy sellers or beggars at all. When people did approach us, a polite no thank you, keep walking on and a smile always worked. We, also, learned a few Vietnamese phrases such as ‘Hello’ and ‘thank you’ which, always, went over well even with our terrible pronunciation.  This is a general rule of thumb throughout all of South East Asia, being loud and having arguments in public is not the done thing and considered very rude.  Please do not confuse South East Asia with mannerisms that maybe more typical of other parts of Asia.

King and Queen Banquet

King and Queen Banquet meal

Food and drink

The food is wonderful and we ate at street stalls through to restaurants. In the restaurants, they always put ice in your water and we never got ill once. Sometimes we would ask where the water came from and the answer was filtered. We, also, carried a small disinfectant bottle for our hands when there was nowhere to wash our hands.

Beer is cheap in Vietnam and they have excellent fruit juices. Also, a tip, drink fresh coconut water from the coconuts themselves – this is the best way to rehydrate and replenish lots of fluids, even better than drinking water.   Motto: a coconut a day will help keep the dehydration away!

Depending on where we ate, the meals can range from a few US dollars up to $30. We ate at several restaurants recommended on trip advisor and it was a good way to find a place to eat if you did not want to get food from a stall off the street.

Below are links to some of my favourite restaurants on our journey beginning in Hanoi and ending in Saigon. My favourite was Noir, in Saigon, where you eat in complete darkness and the waiters are blind or visually disabled. The food was great and the cause brilliant.

Cau go Vietnamese Restaurant – Hanoi restaurant we loved
Cherish Hotel Hue restaurant where we got to dress up as King and Queen
Samari Kitchen Hoi An restaurant
Coffee CongVien Hon Chong Nha Trang cafe – we liked to sit and watch the beach
Saigon restaurant where the waiters are blind

Tours we loved doing.

There were three tours that stood out during our trip to Vietnam. Halong Bay, Hanoi Kids and the XO Scooter tour through the streets of Saigon.  In the height of the travel season book all these tours in advance, otherwise you may miss out!

  • Halong Bay Cruise

    There are a multitude of companies selling cruises to Halong Bay. We went up market and did the 2 night and 3 day cruise with Viola Cruises booked through our hotel.  I would recommend to do the 3 day trip and not the one night trip as it gives you more time to enjoy the scenery, swim and kayak.  Plus, it makes the four-hour drive each way to Halong Bay and back worth the narrow seats and rather uncomfortable ride.

Hanoi kids is a charity where young university students who are learning or improving their English take you on a guided tour around Hanoi. They tailor the day to what you want to do and see. It is great to have a resident guide, as they take you to some of their favourite places which may not be on any tourist tour and it is free, yes free!  At the end of the day you can make a donation to the charity which we did and you pay for taxis, lunch and entrances for your guide. We really enjoyed our tour and would recommend it to first time visitors to Hanoi.

My husband was a bit wary of this tour which I had booked, he quickly changed his mind. It was a great morning, whizzing around Saigon, seeing the sights and I never felt unsafe.  It cost us each US$40 for over three hours and included a few snacks and drinks along the way.

Good luck on your trip to Vietnam!
Any questions, please submit through the comment form below and I will do my best to get back to you within 72 hours of posting!
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Nha Trang

Week 47 – A City with Two names and a Beach – Saigon and Nha Trang

‘People cry, not because they’re weak.  It’s because they’ve been strong for too long.’

[How this works is, each week, I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach its destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

Nha Trang Dragon Bridge

Nha Trang Dragon Bridge – shoots out fire and water

What a week!  Fire and water shooting dragon bridge, a beach with the locals, and a city steeped in the last centuries’ wars.

On our drive to the train that would take us to Nha Trang, I was keen to make one quick stop to see the new bridge which breathes fire and water – it’s so cool.  They have the show on Saturday and Sunday evenings for about 20 minutes in Da Nang  (Be sure to check out my video blog for May to see the action!)

An Overnight train later, we arrived in NhaTrang – a beach resort area.  We wanted to not be in the ‘downtown’, so we went to the second bay in the area where there are mostly locals and Russian tourists.  It was great to be out a bit from the main tourist area to just relax and catch up on travel fatigue.

Nha Trang Beach

Nha Trang Beach

Nha Trang Beach

The Rocks – Nha Trang Beach

It’s a beautiful beach with locals only coming out in the evening.  There is lots to do here – mud baths, islands and temples, but we decided the beach was enough for us.

Then, a day travel to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon.  This is mostly a modern city with a few older buildings still intact, like the main post office,

Post Office

Post Office

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

and temples.

Oldest Temple

Oldest Temple in Saigon

A lot of the older buildings have either been lost in the Wars or modern development – seems they make more money tearing them down rather than preserving them – it’s the same the world over.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City at night

Saigon

Alter to 1963 monk

This is the city where the monk in 1963 set himself on fire and the last helicopter left for America with a que of people which was much longer than what they could carry – 2 very famous black and white photos from this time can be found on Google (or through the links above.)

Helicopter

This is the building where the helicopter landed.

One experience we had here was at a restaurant called ‘Noir’.  It’s where you eat in the dark while being served by blind waiters/waitresses.  A really great experience and not one I can show any pictures of – sadly.

Ao Dai

Ao Dai – traditional dress, which I had made for me and worn to ‘Noir’ Restaurant

This marks the end of our time in Vietnam, as we head to Cambodia.  I’ve learned so much about that notorious Vietnam War and seen a country and people of great strength, friendliness and a quick smile.  I’m so glad we came and hope we’ll be back soon!

What country/city has surprised you the most in your travels?

XO Tour

XO Tour through Saigon on moped

Love

Debx