Travelling throughout Vietnam

While I was in Vietnam I got from destination to destination by bus, airplane, taxi, boats and scooters. On the map below highlighted were the destinations I went. The red is where I took bus/night bus and the purple is where I flew. The routes aren’t accurate as to exactly how I got there I just joined the departure and arriving cities. (Ie. Not the correct flight path or correct bus route). 

There are many  ways to travel about Vietnam. Personally I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. Many people are weiry of the night bus, but I had good experiences when I took them. (Mui  Ne to Hoi An, and Da Lat to HCMC). Make sure to do your research and do what’s most comfortable for you. I ended up taking a bus from Hanoi to Sapa versus the train because it was on that date cheaper and quicker. I’ve heard a lot of good and bad about the night trains, just as I had about the night buses so I just did what felt right, sent a few prayers to the universe and was just fine. I had no problems with transportation in Vietnam and would happily do it all again. Even going on a scooter in HCMC!

Here’s a bit of information for travelling within Vietnam:

  • Often on buses your required to take your shoes off. Wear shoes that can easily slip off, and for night bus you might be more comfortable if you pack some socks to stay warm. They provide a blanket but it can get cold on bus. You’ll also want some good ear plugs. There’s two levels on the bus, I liked being on top personally. Because I’m short I found the night buses to be comfortable. I could see it being crammed  if your on the taller side as your in a “pod” see picture below. 
  • The first time I took bus was a bit daunting. I  found someone that spoke English to make sure I got on right bus, and that I got off in the right place. Make sure the driver or employee on bus knows your travel plans so you get dropped off at correct hotel, or correct station. I didn’t know that I was assigned a seat, so I just sat anywhere, and was quickly corrected. If your not sure, just ask someone. I was lucky to always find helpful travellers, employees or locals.
  • The bus from Mui Ne to Hoi An was about 16-17 hrs with a one hour stop in NHA Trang. I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact amount of time, however most of the trip is overnight and with some good ear plugs I was able to get some sleep. 
  • The bus from Hanoi to Sapa was about 5-6 hrs (if no traffic stalls) and it has lots of winding roads. If you get motion sickness I recommend some gravol before travel. The scenery is well worth it.
  • The night bus from Da Lat to HCMC saves you about 2 hrs versus going in the day, but the road had a lot of twists and turns and I didn’t sleep at all. It took about 5 hrs, during the day it can take up to 8. You can also fly in between those destinations.
  • My flights were easy and straight forward. I checked one bag (my backpack) and had my carry on as well. They were not delayed and both flights were good experiences with good customer service. I’ve heard a lot of other opinions, but I had very positive experiences both with Jetstar and Vietjet.
  • Most buses have wifi but there is no plug to charge your phone. Charge your devices before you go, pack ear buds or bring a good book!
  • Most of the night buses have a toilet but check when you buy ticket. Normally there is 1-3 stops at bus stations that has a toilet. 
  • If you get picked up from your hotel usually they give you a 1/2 hr window of time. I usually was ready 15 minutes before that. If bus is behind quite a bit, it seems to be normal. Don’t panic, your hotel or hostel can call to double check for you. I waited about an hour in Mui Ne for my bus, and called them. They were late but they didn’t forget me!
  • When going to Sapa and Ha Long Bay I would recommend packing a smaller backpack instead of taking all of your gear. It’s common practice to leave luggage at your hotel in Hanoi and pick it up when you return. In Sapa you’ll likely be trekking with what you take with you if your going to a homestay. In Ha Long Bay it just leaves you more room especially when on tender boat to get you around the harbour. Pack light, most likely your doing a two or three day trip. 
  • Hand sanitizer and tissues will be your best friend while in Vietnam. I was impressed how many western style toilets there were, and most I didn’t have to pay to use. But occasionally there is no tissue offered, and you have to adapt to other cultural ways. It’s just nice to have some familiar options when needed. 
  • There are many great travel tour companies such as VK tours that can help book different excursions, tours etc.  There are also many destinations and things you can do on your own! I did a tour in Sapa and Ha Long Bay. Do some research and have a blast!
  • In travel things are bound to go wrong… You might miss a flight, get sick and stay in one place longer then you intended, or wind up like I did often hopelessly lost. So be lost. Enjoy the moment knowing that your exactly where your meant to be. Get so lost that you find yourself. And then maybe find where your trying to go. Ask for help, but be willing to go with the flow. Because when it comes to travel, plans change, or things go wrong. Don’t take it as a negative. Find the good in every situation. When things go a different way, they often lead you to a great adventure, or a unforgettable night, or to somewhere even better then you could imagine. There is no right way, or perfect plan when it comes to travel. Only your way, whatever that may be.

I went to Vietnam on my own, as a first time solo traveller and I would recommend it to everyone. Solo travel is an adventure that I wish everyone experienced at least once in their life. You learn a lot about yourself, how strong you are and how much you can accomplish. I felt safe and comfortable and had great freedom.  I didn’t plan too much in advance, and even skipped some of the places I had intended to go, as I found others I didn’t want to miss. So many people along the way were there to help me, and  I couldn’t have enjoyed myself anymore. Take chances, enjoy new experiences and most of all be kind. All the best on your travels!!!

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    One last night in Saigon 

    I started out my journey in HCMC (commonly still referred to as Saigon), and went via bus, scooter, boat and plane to many destinations North before heading back south to depart again from HCMC.

     After leaving the lovely Da Lat I took a night bus and arrived back in Saigon at about 530 am. Now I’ve talked about how busy this city is before but at 530 am in District 1 where I was staying people were out on streets eating and drinking and having a grand time. It is truly a city that doesn’t sleep.

    sleeper/night bus
       

      I was way to early to check into my hostel, the Hong Kong Kaiteki so I sat down and had some tea and a smoothie while deciding my plan. It was my last full day in Vietnam, I hasn’t slept at all, and at 530 am the heat was already sweltering. I ate some Banh Mi op la from a local street vendor (Vietnamese egg sandwich) and asked the hotel to see if I could get some rest. I didn’t want to go through my last day feeling so exhausted I couldn’t enjoy it. I was able to check in by 630 to my capsule for the night. I found this hotel on http://www.agoda.com/ (like booking. com popular in Asia and other countries). This hotel sells beds for the night like a hostel does, except they’re capsules. I knew I had to check it out. 

    my capsule
     

    After a two hour nap, and the best shower ever (Hong Kong Kaiteki’s showers not only hot, but also has the best overhead shower faucet). Check the hotel out here for more info http://www.kaitekihotel.com

     I was able to start my day by 9am, feeling refreshed I decided to walk to the War Remnants Museum. I’ve been to plenty of museums, temples, purgulas etc while travelling Vietnam. This one brought me to tears. You’ll see in my previous blog post “War and Human Connections” my views and thoughts about the war in Vietnam. Between seeing the outstanding war photography by photographers that died, learning more about the war, agent orange, and the war crimes committed it was hard to grasp that such a beautiful, lush, kind and resilient country went through all of that. Being a photographer myself, I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like. The photos were heartbreaking and showed the true and very bitter nature that was the Vietnam War. This was a war filled with crimes against all people, slaughter and biological warfare (agent orange). 

    War Remnants Museum
      

      
       

      

    Comparisons between wars.

      

    After the museum I wandered about, took in some sightseeing  and enjoyed some food and refreshing cheap cold beer. 

       

      

        

    All day happy hours
        

    Quyen, my friend I met in Ha Long Bay lives in HCMC she and her friend Nam came and picked me up on there scooters to show me around town and have a great dinner. You remember my first post about traffic in HCMC? On that first day in Vietam if you had told me I’d get on a scooter I would have said not a chance. But this trip has been about saying yes to things, and taking in the adventure so hell yeah I got on the scooter with Quyen.😉 (By now I’d been on several just not in HCMC). It was crazy seeing what it was like in traffic from a drivers perspective. What fun we had! They drove around town showing me some sights and then we stopped for an amazing meal of hot pot, frogs legs etc. After dinner we went for ice cream and then it was off to my capsule to bed as my alarm was set for 02:30. Can’t believe that I was heading home after a month of travel. I wasn’t ready, but I was filled with appreciation for all the people I met, and the amazing adventures that I had along the way!  I’ll post soon about the best of Vietnam and some travel guides etc.

    Quyen and I
      

       

      Me on back of scooter down less busy street, safer for a video ☺️

    War and Human Connections

    After a month in Vietnam, and meeting hundreds of wonderful people I have had countless interactions, connections and stories to share. On my last full day I went to the War Remnants museum. I was moved to tears and filled with pain knowing our history as humans, and even now today that the world is still at war. In Vietnam the war isn’t the Vietnam war. It’s commonly referred to as the American War.

    I was moved to tears for a few reasons, and wasn’t sure if I’d share my opinions but I will say this. Have we as humans learned anything? My biggest fear when it comes to war is that we’re not doing better today. Nobody wins in war. Vietnam, America, and the world, they all lost in this war that lasted over 19 years. Crimes that were committed have just come to light in the last 15 years. I have two stories to mention here that stuck with me when we talk about war.

    1. I met two men who fought in the war while I was in Ha Long bay. We had a moving conversation over lunch. One was discharged from the war after a land mine explosion, and the other that served in the army over 20 years. He has come back to Vietnam the last 3 years in hopes of healing, but mostly he’s looking for a few Vietnamese men that fought in the war that were his allies. He hasn’t seen them since the war, has no idea where they live and if they’re still alive. He has been travelling to small remote villages in hopes of reconnecting with these men. He also came back because as he said during the war, they saw what a beautiful country it was. Now they can safely appreciate the beauty. He had tears in his eyes, and gave everyone at the lunch table goosebumps as he told his stories. Both these men lost a lot in the war. Friends, a brother, they saw things that will change a man. It’s moving to see them back in Vietnam with a love for the country, as well as hoping to reconnect with some of the Vietnamese from the war. I would like to think, maybe this trip or the one he has planned to come back next year that he will find who he’s looking for. The universe works in incredible ways. This man still has traumas from the war and he spoke about how he’ll never visit certain areas such as the tunnels in Vietnam, but he also has love and hope in this country. I think he’ll find what he’s seeking.
    2. In Da Lat on the news at every restaurant and bar was the attack on Brussels. I choose to not watch the news. Not because I am naive about what’s happening. I don’t like the glorification of war or of breaking headlines. The news creates fear, and they sell fear. I sat at the bar one evening with a man from Brussels and his friend. He’s now living in Vietnam and has been for several years. He hadn’t slept in days watching what’s going on in in his home on the media. He spoke about his views and how these attacks are happening around the world and it’s causing fear. But when do we learn as humans? He had the same concerns as me. We focused our conversation on the kindness that we’ve seen while travelling, and the people that help you along the way. We talked about how a simple kind gesture from a stranger can renew your faith in humanity. We talked about the beauty in nature, and in likeminded humans. This in my mind is what humans should focus on. The good. The kind. The love that still exists in our world. We hugged as we all parted ways and they thanked me for listening and for still seeing the beauty that exists around us. There are no words to explain how moving these conversations were.

    These two experiences will stay with me. Even in war, there are human connections and stories of love. How do we change and do better? I’d like to think when we talk about war, or terrorism, or any of the major news headlines that we speak about the humans that have made a difference, or the stories of sticking together and being positive. Choosing kindness and love not fear. It might not be possible everyday or in all things. But when we share some light with another human, the world does shine brighter.

    Kindness is contagious. Go forward with it, and you’ll receive it back. People were nervous or afraid of me travelling solo. I wasn’t fearful one bit. Because I chose to believe in the kindness of others. And everyday I was shown it. I had no negative experiences. I was sick at times, but people helped me. I was lost at times. People helped me. One time I was charged extra in a taxi and for a moment felt devastated. And then you know what happened? Someone helped me. I told the guesthouse what had happened, and they made my one night stay free. Solo travel is popular because it teaches love, kindness and tolerance of oneself and others. It restores faith in the goodness of others.

     My whole trip went smoothly and my experiences were unbelievable. Many cannot be put into words.  So I’ll leave it at this. 

    The world is still kind.

    💜💜❤️❤️

    Da Lat ( is where it’s at 😉)

    I flew into Da Lat from Hanoi and knew right away I was going to love it. A quick tip when you arrive the airport is quite far from the city centre so make sure to arrange a shuttle from where your staying, or take the bus. The taxi service is pricy to get you to the city centre.

    Da Lat is in the central highlands and is often referred to as refuge from the humidity and heat in Vietnam. It does still get hot, and there’s no shortage of the sun but by mid afternoon the tempature cools down and it’s a nice break from the sweltering heat of other places in Vietnam. They make  wine in Da Lat as well as coffee beans. So who wouldn’t want to go!

    I arrived before my check in time at the guesthouse, so I walked about until I found Pho Trang. What a lovely experience. The beef is served rare and the broth is full of flavour. They also have all the spices you can add if you want it more on the spicy side. More then the great pho was the great service. The owners sat with me and talked for along time about things to see and do in Da Lat including the best restaurants, and things to do during day and night. It was so nice to talk to Robert and Heo and I ate there everyday for breakfast or lunch that I stayed in Da Lat. Located at 79 Hai Thuong, just up the street from the nice guest house I stayed in called Nguyen Minh.

       

    the amazing Heo
     
    Robert is an accomplished photographer and has lovely photos on the walls there. Be sure to stop by and eat there, and tell them Vanessa from Canada says hello 😊.

    One of the places that was suggested to me was the escape bar. They play live music every night at 9 pm so I decided to go check it out. I was glad I did. The band there was incredible. I spent three evenings with them and became great friends with the band and bar owner. When you go to Da Lat this is a must stop! https://m.facebook.com/TheEscapeBarDalat/?rf=438523539505876

    The bassist Teemu suggested a hike for me the following day up a mountain. So I was off that next morning taking a short bus ride to Lang Biang mountains. It was already hot and I started my 16 km hike at 1030. It was no walk in the park. The elevation gain is no joke and it was truly at times heart over brain to keep continuing.And of course I choose to go to the highest peak. But what an accomplishment when I did get to the top!

    When you go, you need plenty of water and snacks, or pack a lunch and enjoy it once you get to the top. Also allow at least 4-5 hrs for the hike and be aware last bus back to Da Lat is at 17:15. 

    I hiked up the road, until the provincial park where there’s a gate you can’t miss. After paying the enterance fee I met some kind Japanese tourists who were stopped for lunch. They greeted me and gave me some snacks and I was deeply moved by that kind gesture. (I had eaten my snacks and still had 4 km to reach the top before going all the way back down). As I had considered quitting a few times, which I wasn’t going to allow myself, the act of kindness motivated me to keep on going. I hiked through pine forests, into the rainforest and up steep steps to reach the top. It wasn’t the easiest hike I’ve ever done, but the reward of making it to the top was incredible. I was filled with gratitude that I had done it, and that it was recommended to me. It was a clear day, and birds were swooping over, and overlooking the other mountains and down on the city of Da Lat. It was an accomplishment going at it alone. After going all the way back down the mountain I caught the bus back and stopped for a well deserved bowl of Pho. 😉

     

    Made it to highest peak
      
        
       

    The next day after a nice walk around the lake my friend Teemu picked me up in the afternoon and we headed for a coffee. Da Lat grows the coffee beans in Vietnam and they do it well! From there we took his scooter up to Paradise lake. It was the perfect afternoon to take in the gorgeous views and enjoy the peacefulness. I then enjoyed taking in the crazy house. It’s a house that is an architectural masterpeace that can only be described as being built by a brilliant and creative mind. It was interesting to see if you have the time. 

    Crazy House
      

      

    Paradise Lake
     
    That evening I went to the market and bought balut. I think when travelling abroad you have to be brave and adventurous enough to try some of the “delicacies” Teemu said earlier in day he hadn’t tried it yet so I figured best to do with another person then alone. Can’t say he was thrilled but… Don’t tell a Canadian girl your up for the challenge! He was a great sport about it and although I’m glad I tried something new I can speak for both of us that we won’t feel the need to do that again! 

     

    before attempting Balut
     
    My last day in Da Lat I walked to the Cam Ly waterfall and then to the golden Buddha statue. Both were beautiful. The Buddha was breathtaking and there was a lot to see there, many temples and Buddha statues.
     
    Cam Ly waterfall
      

     
        

     That evening was my last in Da Lat so I went back to the escape bar and even got the nerve to sing a few songs with the band! I’ve been trying to say yes to as many opportunities that come up during my travels, so I allowed myself to say yes to this too. I sang 4 songs with the band and enjoyed every minute. It was the perfect send off before heading out on the night bus back to HCMC (Saigon).

       

    me with the band 😎
      

    Da Lat you were so good to me and I enjoyed every moment. The people in Da Lat were friendly and helpful, and made it such a great experience. I’ll be back one day, you can count on that.

    Let’s just talk about the food 😉

    The food in Vietnam has been epic so far. So let’s just look at some pictures. I hope your not hungry!!

    Depending on the region in Vietnam, the food has different flavours or different dishes. So for example the Pho in the south tastes very different then the Pho in the north. Also some dishes can only be found in certain cities such as Cao Lau is only found in Hoi An.

    So enjoy some food photos and be inspired to go travel and enjoy some of the Vietnamese cuisine.

    seafood hot pot, frogs legs and good company
    Overcooked rice. you rip it apart like bread! It was great!
    close up of hot pot and frogs legs
    pork wonton with yellow noodles
    fried rice
    coconut icecream. so sad only had this on last night! it has ice cream,coconut, sticky rice, and even corn. was so great!
    well… I had to try at least one “delicacy”. my friend and I indulged it Balut. And when I say indulged I mean attempted it. Its certainly not for everyone. … It wasnt for us!!
    The Pho is different in every region. Personally I think the North (Hanoi) and Central (Da Lat) do it best. I had Pho everyday in Da Lat at Pho Trang. It’s a must
    Oh the coffee in Vietnam! ❤️
    I rarely enjoyed anything except Vietnamese food. Except for 1 pizza, and one Mexican meal. This pizza in Da Lat was fabulous, from Primavera
    tofu, beef, chicken, pork etc etc. What a great spread!
    steamed fish
    spring rolls, bean sprouts, veggies, chicken and so much more
    spring rolls, cabbage, chicken and more
    the Sangria with watermelon and passion fruit was unreal!

    bbq’d oysters. So good!
     
    When someone offers you to try this. you do! great fried noodle with shrimp and pork
      

    rose dumplings
    cao lau

     

    always say yes to the coconut dounut
      
    one of my favorite dishes. Banh Xeo, also papaya salad. delicious! One of my best meals at the waterwheel in Hoi An.
     
      
       
        
       

    Hello Hanoi

    Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and I believe the population is close to 9 million people. It’s a very busy city but there’s a lot of history and beauty throughout it.

       
     I arrived to Hanoi from Sapa in the evening and was quiet sick. Luckily by the morning I was doing better and was able to view the city. I had previously stopped in Hanoi overnight before going to Ha Long Bay but was such a short visit I didn’t  get to see much. I stayed at the Hanoisy Hostel which was surprisingly quiet for being in the backpacking district. Being sick is never fun but there were two lovely girls staying there that got me some medication and checked on me a few times. Was a huge help.

    I went to the Hoa Lo prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton” that imprisoned Vietnamese political prisoners before the war and US pilots during the war. It was a sobering view of history. I’ll get into the Vietnam/American war talk in a future post.
     

    Hoa Lo prison
      

     I also visited the temple of literature which is a tranquil getaway from the noise in the city as well as an important part of Hanoi’s history, as it was the first national university in Vietnam. I got to witness a bunch of graduates taking there class pictures there.

       

    Temple of Literature
       

     

    I was pleasantly surprised by how clean this city was considering how densley populated it is. There’s lots to see and do in Hanoi especially when it comes to the history of Vietnam.   

    In the evening I met up with Nguyen of VK Tour Co, Ltd. We connected through Instagram as he has stunning photos of Vietnam posted. He used to be a tour guide, and branched out to start his own company. If you need help booking a trip to Vietnam, or booking tours I would highly recommend you contact him. http://www.vktour.com/

    He was able to help book my flight the following morning to Da Lat. It was a pleasure to meet him. 

    We ate some of the best pho I had on my trip at Pho Cuong. Hanoi is famous for their pho. I wasn’t disappointed !

     

    Nguyen and I
     
     
    my ride to Da Lat
     
    Hanoi wasn’t big on my list of places to spend much time in, but I’m glad I spent the two nights and one day. There was lots to see and I’ll have to make it back one day to explore some more.

    Sapa 

    After Ha long Bay I was on my way further north to the mountain town Sapa. When you see pictures of Vietnam, Sapa always stands out with beautiful tiered rice fields, and lush greenery. I couldn’t miss seeing it.  I packed some warmer clothes, jumped in the bus and away I went!

    Highway to Sapa

     I set up a 2 night 3 day tour including home stays and trekking through APT travel. When I arrived I enjoyed a lovely lunch and then it was time to explore Sapa. 

      
      

    The best way to see Sapa? On foot.  And with a guide who knows the route. When you set up your trip to visit Sapa you’ll likely be doing some trekking. Make sure you have good footwear. Runners or hiking boots are a must, as your days will be spent trekking an average of 15 km. You’ll also want to dress appropriately. I had met a few girls when I was travelling in the Mekong Delta and they were very cold while up in Sapa, they bought jackets and blankets etc while they were out there. When I arrived about 10 days after they were in Sapa it was hot and sunny. Being in the Mountains up north the weather can fluctuate, especially between January and March, they’ve even had snow a few times.

    Our first trek was to the first homestay I would be staying at. It was 15 km and we went through many different villages and walked and talked with some of the locals.  The trek went through rice fields, villages, streams etc. Was a hot day so there were a few breaks to stay hydrated. 

    A homestay is  chance to rent a room with a local and experience life in their village. Often they’ll have several beds available to accommodate a few people at once. I find it to be a humbling and wonderful way to travel as you’ll be living in their village and seeing the day to day life of people that live in different parts of Vietnam. Usually they’ll let you cook with them or show you a more authentic version of life where you are travelling. I highly recommend it. When I get back to Vietnam I’ll extend my time in certain places so I can stay in one place longer with a family.   It’s been my preferred method of lodging while abroad Vietnam and I’ve been lucky to stay in some wonderful ones.

       
       

    One of the many tribes in Vietnam, the black h’mong

     Once arriving I was greeted by the hosts of the homestay. They welcomed us and prepared a snack of homemade garlic French fries. I met some of the others staying at the same place, and we were entertained by the young daughters laughing and playing. We helped make spring rolls as part of the dinner and the hosts put on quite a meal for us. Was a great evening with kind and gracious hosts.

        
    The next morning before breakfast I was up early enough I walked to a waterfall that was nearby and climbed up to see it. There’s giant rocks surrounding it so I was able to sit right on it. It was a lovely and calm morning and I could relax and take in the moment.

       
          

    After a nice breakfast one of the girls I met the previous night, Jeanette and I met our local guide who would be trekking with the two of us 17 km to the next homestay  called Hong located in the village Ban Ho which is a mostly Thai speaking village. We trekked through bamboo forests, rice fields, villages, and down the mountain taking many breaks for pictures. Sapa is breathtaking and the views are stunning. Shom, my guide was wonderful and we all had a great day travelling through Sapas rugged terrain.

       

    Children in Sapa. Be sure to bring some pens when you visit as they need for school

      

       

     

    We arrived mid afternoon at the 2nd homestay. It was wonderful. The  hosts were so kind, the place was perfect and even though we didn’t speak their language they were hilarious and great company.

      We walked down to the waterfall an then enjoyed a great dinner with another couple from Paris. After dinner we played a card game and whenever someone lost they had to dance. It was a memorable night. It’s a beautiful thing when a group gets together not knowing one another, speaking different languages, from different places but everyone is laughing and enjoying their evening.

       

    Such a fun night!
      

     

    Jeanette and I
      
    Shom and I
      
       
    grinding root vegatables for pig food
     
     Sapa you were beautiful and I promise I’ll be visiting you again one day.   

       
      
     

       
       

    Dreams are made to come true

    Years ago I wanted to travel to Vietnam. Due to responsibilities and finances getting in the way I didn’t go. Time past by and the opportunity came back and I wasn’t saying no. On March 17th that dream of seeing Ha long Bay came true.

    There are days that I’m out here in Vietnam that I’m so grateful I’m brought to tears. This was one of those days. The bus picked me up from the Hanoisy Hostel I was staying at in the early morning. As we drove away from Hanoi and towards Ha Long bay silent tears rolled down my cheeks because I was going to see this incredible world heritage site. My desire for travel has always been strong, and I’ve often dreamt of places I’ve never seen before. And here I am. On my way. In VIETNAM! It’s been over two weeks of travelling through this gorgeous country and I still wake up every morning in a disbelief that I’m finally here. And I’m loving travelling on my own. There’s something powerful and inspiring about solo travelling.

    As the bus arrived at the harbour and we boarded the tender boat to get to my ship (Viet Beauty) I was nearly dancing with excitement.   

        
     
    After a welcome drink on board we headed out into Ha Long Bay. It was a misty foggy morning, something out of a Stephen King novel. But that only made the bay more mystical and mysterious. What a sight to see, junk boats on the water and mysterious limestone islands standing tall. I felt like I had arrived in Neverland!    

      
     After an incredible lunch with the others aboard our boat we soon were off to go kayaking.

    What can I say, I’ve crossed that off my bucket list. Myself and my new friend I called “Germany” jumped into our Kayak and off we went!  

    After exploring for a few minutes on our own we followed the rest of the tour to an underwater cave we could paddle through. 

       
      

    “Germany & Canada”
      
      

      
    Unbelievable! That’s how this day was. Between green beautiful water, and the occasional jellyfish was this incredible scenery leaving me completely in awe.

    After kayaking we had some free time on the beach. “Germany” and I were the perfect mix of just crazy enough to go swimming in the cold water. Here I am in Ha Long bay! There is no way I wasn’t getting in the water!!! It was Cold. There’s no denying it. But with a beachful of people we were the only ones to get in. We changed that and convinced a young couple to join us so we all went in. For me it was just as cold the second time in. But I can say that I’ve swam in Ha Long bay. And that’s pretty amazing.

     

    just before convincing these two to go for a swim!
     
    After a nice hot shower in my room and a snack we sat down for a great dinner. The food onboard was incredible. BBQ chicken, oysters, fish, and pork as well as vegetables, noodles, steamed rice etc.  

    learning to make spring rolls before dinner
       

    Our evening concluded with some drinks and Karaoke. What can I say. We all had a blast. Everyone was up signing and dancing and enjoying the moment.

      
    The next morning we explored the biggest cave in Ha Long bay. It was a sight to see! Three different chambers. Felt like you could walk for hours in there. Then it was off to an oyster farm to see how they farm pearls. 

    Since I was doing a two night tour I switched to a boat that was going to cat ba island. Had another amazing lunch, went digging for clams on monkey island  and then arrived at the island. It was another misty day but that wasn’t going to stop from a 5 km bike ride. The group biked uphill and downhill to where I was staying for the night. You can either stay in a hotel in cat ba harbour or do what I did and enjoy a private quaint bungalow for the night. I’m so glad I did that. I needed a night away to relax and it was a beautiful spot to stay in a national park. I highly recommend doing the 3 day 2 night cruise if you decide to go to Ha Long bay. It makes the stay even more worthwhile as its not rushed, and you get to see and do more things. I heard the hotel was gorgeous and people quite enjoyed that option, but I had such a great time at the bungalow. It gave me time to write in my journal as well as wander around the national park.  I had a wonderful dinner of rice, steamed fish, chicken, vegetables etc.

      
     

    my perfect bungalow at Whisper Nature
      


      

    The next morning I rode my bike back to the harbour where I was picked up by my boat. We enjoyed the view and scenery as well headed back to Ha Long Bay’s harbour. 

    my view while biking to harbor
       
    I would highly recommend doing a tour of Ha Long Bay
    I went through APT travel and they were well organized, had a beautiful boat and incredibly friendly. There are so many options to book a cruise. You can book in advance or right in Hanoi.  I booked while I was still in Hoi An. The tour picked me up from the airport on arrival, took me to hotel for the night and were there in the morning to start our bus ride to Ha Long Bay! They were very helpful. http://apttravel.com/ With so many varied price points it’s affordable for every budget so do your research and find what works for you. I do believe from things I’ve heard you might not want to do the very cheapest option, but most boats offer similar options and a great tour. It’s worth looking into and I hope you all enjoy Ha long Bay as much as I did!

    Don’t be afraid to dance, sing and have fun with people you haven’t met before. They might just become a great friend ☺️. And even more life lessons: Follow your dreams and your passions. Don’t let fear stand in your way. We were meant for incredible things.

    Xo- Vanessa   

    Marble Mountains by motorbike 

    My friend Oanh knew that I had to get to Danang airport and could arrange a taxi or bus to get me there. Or she said I can hire a motorbike and he’ll take me and my luggage and drop me off at Marble Mountains for a few hours, and from there go to airport. The night before I wrote in my journal to be fearless and try new things. Yes I’ve been on the back of a bike before, even here in Vietnam but this was about a 40-50 minute trip on the highway. I was ready and excited for the adventure. 

    It was another gorgeous hot day in Hoi An when we left on the bike and I enjoyed the ride so much. The fresh air felt amazing.

    I arrived at Marble Mountains and started climbing step by step. (You can take an elevator up if you have mobility issues but I wanted to take in the full experience).  The steps are uneven and at times challenging but the sights were well worth it.

       
        
      Marble Mountains is a collection of 5 mountains just outside of Danang.  It is also called the element mountains. The five mountains are named after the five elements; Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). There are many statues, temples, caves and purgulas along the way. There are different steps and different paths you can take but I chose to go all the way to the top. It felt like a great accomplishment!

     Me at the top of the mountain.  
             
     
       It was sweltering hot and I underestimated just how high up I was going. I was prepared with good footwear but I hadn’t eaten lunch before I left and it didn’t take long for me to feel depleted. If you go to Marble Mountains my advice is to have lots of water, good supportive shoes and make sure you’ve eaten a proper meal. I had a snack halfway through walking about and felt much better. I was very thankful for my keens while on this mountain. They are the perfect supportive sandals for travelling with. Mine are the rose sandals and the toe protector has been  a lifesaver on the uneven sidewalks and stairs in Vietnam! Plus they’re pretty cute ☺️ http://m.keenfootwear.com/en-ca/product/shoes/women/rose-sandal   

       

     
      

    Was a great way to spend the day before taking my flight to Hanoi. Another wonderful day in a beautiful and kind country. I’m thankful to be travelling like this!

    For more pictures of my travels be sure to check out my Instagram learningtofly.live is my username 💜 
             

    Unforgettable nights 

    I spent a total of 3 nights in Hoi An. I could have stayed for weeks biking around, exploring, laying on the beach, and of course eating.  Hoi An is known for its culinary excellence and there’s no end to the cooking classes offered.

    Hoi An is a world heritage site recognized by UNESCO. It’s a city full of flavour and romance. I posted about it once but I have to continue as so many wonderful things happened. 

    I stayed my last two nights in Hoi An at the Lilac Villa. It is a wonderful place with a big hearts. I became good friends with Oanh who works there. She was so helpful, kind and always had a bright smile on her face. If you want to feel right at home, and a part of the family you should stay here. Plus they also have a pool and a nice big shower! 

     Oanh and I  

        
        

    The Lilac Villa    

      
      

    My second night I wandered again around the night market and somehow got hopelessly lost on way back to my villa. One thing that’s given me some insight these last few days is you can walk or bike  up and down the same streets everyday but once you cross the street you see a completely different view. A new perspective. I like that. Sometimes taking a step back and seeing a different perspective is exactly what we need. However, it seems to be a contributing factor in me losing my way to my villa. The thing is I’ve enjoyed so much losing my way that I don’t try to change it! However this time was late at night, and the back alleys cast giant shadows and my mind started playing tricks on me. Using the app maps.me helped me find my way back. It’s a free app that’s awesome for traveling. You can find information about it at this link maps.me I was very happy to find my bed that evening. ☺️

     My friend Steph that I met through trip advisor arrived in Hoi An on my 3rd day.  Her and I met at the very beginning of my trip in HCMC so I was thrilled to see her again. The world brings people together that are like minded at the right time. As wonderful as solo travelling is, it was the perfect night to have a friend. She is a kindred spirit and beautiful soul.

    After I enjoyed some time at the beach I met up with her. We wandered through ancient town, bought some artwork, took in the sights and enjoyed each others company as well as a few refreshing drinks. I got to be her culinary guide enjoying the street food. Chicken fried rice, soup, Cao Lau, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sub) just to name a few things! We had a blast together and some very memorable conversations. Steph I’d be happy to travel again soon with you !

     Local artist. He let us try our hand at painting. Lol lets just say he’s the expert.  Quote in one of our restaurants we stopped at. 
    Choosing some art to bring home. 

      

    Steph and I.
        
      Night market 
    Enjoying the night market and a visit with Mr Thanh at booth 34. He insisted we try his dinner. It was delicious 😝  
       

    I spent the rest of evening dancing with friends and wandering the streets and meeting some of the people living in Hoi An! Vietnam stays up late and it was nice to visit and take in the nightlife. The bar was packed but I met some fellow Canadians and some lovely girls from France. We danced til late in the night and then walked back to hotels. Along the way we even enjoyed some “happy water” shots with some locals.

    The next morning I booked my trip to Halong bay and Sapa. It has been a longtime dream of mine to go to Halong bay. No words can explain how grateful I am that this trip is actually happening !!! 

     I then went to the beach knowing that Northern Vietnam is a bit chilly and I’ll miss the ocean and sun. After I enjoyed the beach for awhile, it was back to villa to pack up, say goodbye for now to my wonderful host Oanh, and start my next adventure!!!

       
     
      Did I mention it includes a motorbike and climbing countless steps up a mountain before a plane ride to Hanoi? Life is good! And it’s a grand adventure 😎
    Hoi An you have a piece of my Heart. I’ll make sure to visit again soon ❤️