A few years ago already, in 2017 I took a plane to Vietnam. I just turned 18 and I was super stoked for a big adventure far away from my daily life at home. I always had an urge to travel the world and Asia always had an appeal to me. After reading some blogs and going through the lonely planet about South East Asia I made my choice. Vietnam was going to be my destination for sure!
Vietnam is a vibrant country. It is full of people, amazing street food, authentic culture and some beautiful nature. It was my first trip in Asia so it was kind of a culture shock in the beginning. Everything is different in Asia when you are only used to the Western world.. haha. The hectic traffic, all the smells of street foods, 10 million people living in just one city, crazy!
When I arrived in HCMC I felt kind of overwhelmed, but it made me so excited as well! What a busy city and what a different world. I was only 18 years old, I had never been so far away from home, and it was my first ever solo-trip! My trip started with some bad luck because my backpack didn't make it to HCMC, it got lost somewhere on the way and nobody knew where it was.. However, this could not spoil the fun. I started my adventure in good spirits. I bought a toothbrush, a pair of slippers and some new clothes and I was ready for my trip.
After being in HCMC for 2 days I got this feeling that I had to leave this dirty and busy city. I went to a local tourist office and booked a ride on a bus to the Mekong Delta for the next morning. I visited the tropical south. I drank from coconuts and cruised the floating market with a boat. After a visit to the Ben Tre market I went for lunch in the jungle and then decided to go back to HCMC to take a bus to the coast.
My next destination was Mui Ne, a beautiful and cute coastal town. Mui Ne has these perfect and peaceful beaches. Back then there was still this laidback and relaxed vibe at the beach. It was kind of busy but definitely not overcrowded. Sadly this town is getting busier every year.. They built many resorts for Western tourists and it is almost impossible to
relax on the beach because almost all the pieces of the beach have now become private areas for the many resorts. Unfortunately, as a backpacker it is no longer so interesting to visit Mui Ne but I wanted to mention it because it was a super chill place in my time. I stayed at a super cute guesthouse and the owner invited me and the other backpackers every night for a BBQ and some beers. He made a campfire, made some music on his guitar and we had the best conversations together. I met so many cool people and I even tried surfing for the first time in my life. Mui Ne was a wonderful experience to me.
After Mui Ne I went inland again, I booked an overnight bus to Dalat. Traveling by bus is a cheap and easy way of transportation. The advantage is that many buses run at night, so it saves you the cost of staying overnight and you do not lose any time during the day. The buses are also arranged in such a way that you can lie and sleep comfortably in them. After a 6 hour bus ride I made it to Dalat. This city is located between the Vietnamese Highlands and is most known for its famous night market. What a feast for your senses to walk around this night market! In addition to all the delicious food, Dalat is also known for the many waterfalls around the city. I visited quite a few, very beautiful. There is no shortage of temples and pagodas in Dalat, what a spiritual place. Because the climate is also slightly colder in Dalat, everything here is also a lot greener, which in turn means more wildlife!
Meanwhile it was already the 5th day of my trip through Vietnam. Suddenly I got a call from an unknown Vietnamese number. It was HCMC Airport, they found my backpack! They would send it to Dalat for me and I could pick it up there. After 6 days I was finally reunited with my luggage, yay! Dalat was a pleasure, I ended with a visit to the famous weasel coffee plantations, I took a cable car to a holy place on one of Dalat's Hills, tried some fried bugs (they are actually really good) and then left for Hoi An.
I took a bus from Dalat to Hoi An with a stop in the coastal town Nha Trang. We had to stop there for a few hours to explore a bit of Nha Trang. For me this city is so overrated... It is full of resorts and expensive restaurants. Super overcrowded and there are only rich, western tourists, so nothing special if you ask me. After being in Nha Trang for 4 hours we continued to Hoi An. I was so excited for Hoi An because I heard so many good things about it from other backpackers. When I arrived at my cozy homestay I immediately met a German guy, he was travelling Vietnam all by himself on his motorbike. We went to a local bar together to enjoy some food and beer and he told me about My Son, the Vietnamese (smaller) version of Ankor Wat. We decided to go there the next morning on his motorbike. After a 45-min ride we arrived pretty early in the morning, it was a cloudy and rainy day so there were almost no other tourists! What a beautiful experience to see these old and authentic buildings! After My Son it was time to explore the center of Hoi An, the city center is totally car and motorbike free and you are only allowed to walk or cycle trough the city. Hoi An is a colorful, cultural and authentic city. I did some yoga there, had some amazing vegan food and enjoyed the lantern festival at night. The next day I rented a bike and went to the beach, I saw a few amazing temples and pagodas and I discovered the old town of Hoi An. What a pleasure to be there! I said goodbye to my German friend and the owners of the Guesthouse gave me the advice to try a ride with a local easy rider to my next destination Hue. It is a beautiful ride over the famous Hai Van Pass to Hue, the easy rider would take me for a whole day and would show me the most beautiful things along the way. I said yes to the offer and it was so worth it! He showed me some beautiful waterfalls (Elephant Springs), drove me to a super authentic Vietnamese fishing village, showed me the Marble Mountain in Danang and drove me over the amazing Hai Van Pass. This road takes you along rugged coastlines and through the mountains. Highly recommended if you are in Vietnam. At the end of the day I arrived in Hue.
Hue is located exactly on the border between the former North and South Vietnam. It used to be the imperial capital of Vietnam, nowadays it is on the UNESCO world heritage list. The most famous sight in Hue is Tu Cam Thanh: the forbidden city. This used to be a closed city, but nowadays you can enter it as a tourist to visit the beautiful old imperial palaces, very impressive in my opinion. After exploring the old city for a day I took a bike to the famous Thien Mu pagoda. Some other sights in area around Hue are the abandoned waterpark and the Vinh Moc tunnels (Vietcong tunnels from the Vietnamese war).
After 2 days in Hue I booked a bus to the town of Phong Nha which is known for its impressive caves. I booked a bed in a dorm room in a super luxurious hotel. I paid 7 euros a night and the hotel had a huge bar and a huge garden with swimming pool (+ breakfast included), not bad in my opinion! Phong Nha-Ke Bang National park consists of more than 300 caves! You can even visit the largest cave in the world (for a high price). The most famous cave here is the Paradise cave, and it certainly lives up to its name. I rented a bike together with some other backpackers and we went out exploring! We drove through this huge and beautiful NP, an absolute feeling of freedom. For the next day a booked a 5 km kayak tour to the Phong Nha cave. We (a German and Australian girl, our guide and me) left early in the morning with our kayaks, it was still a bit cold and most boat tours started later in the morning so we had the cave completely for ourselves! We kayaked through the cave and stopped at a small beach for lunch, which consisted of fresh self-rolled spring rolls! After lunch we climbed through the caves and then we went back to the cave opening. There all the tourist boats were ready to start their tour, lucky us!
I had an amazing experience in Phong Nha but it was time to continue the journey, I only had 9 days left in Vietnam. Together with the German and Australian girls from my kayak tour I booked a bus to Tam Coc. This was definitely my favorite place in Vietnam! There is so much to see in Tam Coc. We decided to rent a motorbike again to discover everything on our own. Driving along the many rice fields gives so much freedom. The food at Tam Coc is also super good and you can stay in the most adorable tiny houses or hostels. The landscape here is very diverse and extensive, there are hills that you can climb for the most beautiful views and it is definitely recommended to cruise around the river on a small boat. The local people row the boat with their feet, great to see how agile they do this.
From Tam Coc it was only 100 km to my next destination: Hanoi, the country's capital. I absolutely fell in love with this city! It is full of culture, they have the most amazing and authentic food of the country and the people are super friendly. A totally different vibe than in HCMC. After exploring the city for a day I thought it was time to move on to the far North: to Sapa. A sleeping bus took me to this remote mountain village. I slept in a homestay at the local people's home. The women who run the homestays in Sapa are called Mama's. They will walk you all day through the rice fields, the valleys and the mountains. The walks are tough and it is a lot colder in Sapa than in the rest of the country. The first day I was also unlucky with the weather, it was foggy and rainy so I saw very little of the surroundings. The second day was a lot better and the sun came out! We did some beautiful walks through the Sapa area and I even had a view of the Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam. In the evening the Mama's cooked for me and I drank rice wine with the locals. I had some great days in Sapa, but after 3 days of hiking it was time to go back to the city, I left for Hanoi again.
Hanoi is the perfect base for trips to other highlights in the area. I left from Hanoi by bus to Cat Ba island. This island is mainly known for the famous Halong Bay area. Cat Ba was already my last destination in Vietnam. Enough reason to enjoy it even more. This island is so beautiful, so diverse and so special, it really felt like a little paradise. I enjoyed the beautiful views from the hills, the wonderful beaches and the delicious food. I went kayaking for another afternoon and drove around on the motorbike on the island. After 3 days I left for Hanoi again to spend the last 2 days of my trip there. It was time to soak up the city vibes in Hanoi. I went to the memorial sign of Vietnam's hero Ho Chi Minh and I ate my last Vietnamese delicacies (the food in Hanoi was so GOOD!). After 5 weeks my trip came to an end, Vietnam was a great experience. It was a pleasure to travel around this country, highly recommended for everyone who is in for some amazing food, nature & culture!
For anyone who has some more questions about Vietnam, you can always send us an e-mail or a message via Instagram. And if there are people interested we can also write a blog about do's and don'ts, proc and cons, best places to eat, scams or just about things you must know before visiting Vietnam! Let us know what you guys want to know :)
Thank you for reading our blog and happy travels!
Lots of love,
Jens & Romi
Nha Trang is known as the most beautiful beach city in Vietnam. And besides, one of the best ways to pleasantly explore Nha Trang is cruising alongside the Cai River - the longest and exquisite river in Nha Trang. Here, you can head west to discover real countryside and pass by Whale Shrine to learn more about the fishermen’s culture , scenica