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!!!

    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 ☺️

    A little something about HCMC

    Car horns are honking. All hours of day and night. This is a busy city that I don’t think ever takes a moment to sleep. I arrived after 3 long flights and my fair share of movies, food and books. I am in Vietnam and overwhelmed knowing that I’ve finally arrived. The heat at 1130 in the evening is only matched by the amount of traffic. It’s Saturday night and everyone plus there dog is out. The amount of scooters sharing the roads with taxis and other vehicles is even more then I imagined. And I just saw a man driving his scooter with his dog holding onto the the handlebars. Anything goes around here.

    I’ve high fived my taxi driver as we didn’t understand one another but he got me here safely and was happy to escort me across the bustling road, checked in to my hotel and now it’s after midnight and I’m wide awake. Because it’s somewhere near 11 am back home and I feel slightly turned around. After very little sleep and being very thankful for earplugs I decide it’s time to take on the day. The carhorns haven’t stopped and I’m ready to see what this city has to offer in the daylight. 

    After a nice breakfast at the hotel  I’m ready to go. Have I mentioned the coffee here is extraordinary ? So good I had two cups. For anyone that knows me I’ve only started enjoying coffee in the last 6 months or so, and I usually stick to one or two cups a week.. But then I’ve never had coffee like this. Smooth and chocolate-y and beyond description.

    I head out the door ready to explore with my only plan to exchange some USD for the Vietnamese dong and get a Vietnamese SIM for my phone. Shouldn’t be too hard, and after wandering I find a few places to grab a SIM. For a few dollars I now have a Vietnamese phone number for the next month. How technology has allowed us to stay in touch with back home is amazing. Wander some more and I realize it’s Sunday. Banks aren’t open. I left on a Friday morning and arrived here on a Saturday just before midnight. Where did those days go? Oh well.. There’s a few other choices for exchanging money and after accomplishing that I continue to wander.

    Has anyone ever attempted to cross the streets in Ho Chi Minh city? Well it’s an art form and a science. Hesitate and you might not make it, hurry to fast or slow down and you won’t make it. Instead you just walk. The traffic moves around you. Nothing like countless scooters flowing on every side of you. My advice. Follow the locals the first few times until you understand the art too it. It’s not for the weak at heart. 

    So I’ve been wandering taking in the culture, the noise and the views. I’ve been offered several rides on the scooters to take me where I’m heading (aimlessly wandering) plenty of fruit and flowers, and food. I’ve declined politely as I have no agenda. I’m just walking. 

    After going through a market, stopping for another coffee and finding some peace in a gorgeous park in the middle of the hustle I know I’m lost. Not sure what district I’m in, and not worried in the least. I’ve been walking for hours. And the heat is near unbareable. But I love it. I’ve never felt so happy to be lost. Wander some more and I see a few similar faces and storefronts. It’s now early Sunday afternoon and the locals have been sitting on the sidewalks for hours enjoying their beer and playing games with friends. Some sidewalks you squeeze through dozens of scooters parked, and street food carts, and people sitting anywhere that fits for them. “Here miss” and “hello lady” and ” you want” are repeated too me as merchants try to sell me their art, food or a ride to where I’m going… I’ve never quite seen anything like this, there’s an energy to this city and at the same time a calm watching so many locals just relaxing, eating and drinking with no plans of leaving the sidewalks anytime soon.

    I enjoy the water out of a coconut and some food at the market that I passed through earlier. Pointing at a picture on the menu of something I want to eat. Banh xeo. A Vietnamese pancake filled with shrimp and bean sprouts, eaten with greens and dipped in chilli flakes and fish sauce. I’ve enjoyed this before back in Calgary and enjoyed here as well. The food here is unreal and I’m looking forward to taking it all in. Arriving back at my hotel I decide to freshen up and nap. The shower feels amazing but the nap doesn’t happen. Back home it’s the middle of the night, but three coffees in and having been in the sun all day, I’m tired but wide awake. I relax and read for a bit and then wander about some more. I’ve been lucky staying at a great hotel the Asian ruby central hotel. The rooms are clean and the air conditioning wonderful. I’m sure it’s a luxury I won’t have everywhere this trip. 

    The evening comes and I meet up with a girl named Stephanie.  I’ve been talking with her online for the last few months. Another traveller set to explore Vietnam without an agenda. We wandered the night markets and enjoy some food. Tonight it’s pho for me, with a few beer. My new friend doesn’t usually enjoy beer, but it’s readily available at every corner, and market, and costing roughly 49 cents American.. She gives it another try. It might take her a few days to see what others enjoy about beer. But I’m enjoying them. Not all the beer is ice cold as we enjoy back home. It’s served with ice here, or 1/2 warm… I don’t mind. It’s part of this busy hubs charm. 

    Vietnam I’m here, and thankful for my first full day. I was lost but enjoyed the feeling that I had nowhere else to be, so why not take in the moment  of being exactly where I am meant to be.

    Pictures are from my first and second day in  HCMC.   
        
        
       
    The beer is good, the foods great and kindness is the only language understood.
    Be kind- Vanessa ❤️❤️