After about 24 hours of travel we arrive in Hanoi. Ready for a four week journey by public transport through Vietnam. From the busy streets of Hanoi to a bike ride through the green rice fields, from the beautiful Halong Bay to the Bounty beaches on the coast. A world to discover!
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Organised trip or do it yourself?
Of course you can book a ready-made trip to Vietnam, but we have arranged and booked everything for this trip ourselves. Our stays vary, sometimes we opt for a cheap hotel, sometimes we choose a slightly more expensive accommodation because there are no cheap options or because the more expensive variant still costs very little by Dutch standards.
We travel with two of our children, we considered together long in advance which sights and activities would be of interest to us. There are many possibilities and although almost four weeks seems like a sea of time, we still have to make choices. The emphasis is on natural beauty and cultural attractions. We love active holidays, cycling, walking and kayaking, but we also enjoy relaxing on the beach.
We travel by public transport such as the train and bus. In addition, in some places we arrange a car with a private driver, to visit certain places such as My Son.In Vietnam you are not allowed to rent and drive a car independently.
In the morning, after a long journey of about 24 hours, we arrive in Hanoi. Hanoi Amanda Hotel is located in the old city. A nice hotel. From here you can easily discover the old town on foot. We walk through the old quarter, which was founded in the 15th century.
It is busy and warm. The transition is great and we still have to acclimatize. In addition, we are still tired from the journey. The crowds make an impression. In some streets you can only get one product, for example plastic or shoes. We go to the Hoan Kiemmeer and the Ngoc Sound Temple.
The next day we walk to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It is very hot, so we cool down in a restaurant. In the afternoon we go to the Water Puppet Theater. It is a popular tourist affair. The music is played live, the puppeteers are in the water, behind a screened-off area. Nice how they play the dolls. There are funny bits and it is nice to observe the audience, but it is not really our thing.
Temple of Literature, Pagoda and Ho Chi Minh
The next day we go to the Temple of Literature, an old (1070) and impressive temple complex with garden, where Confucius taught his students. There is a lot to see here, including memorial stones of the various scholars who taught here.
After this we walk to the Pagoda with one Column (Chua Mat Cot), which stands in a pond with lotus flowers. After the Pagoda we continue to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This is in a huge empty square where the sun shines relentlessly. Independence was declared here in 1945.
After an ice cream at the Lotteria (the Vietnamese MacDonalds) we walk to the former Palace and the houses of Ho Chi Minh. They are in a beautiful botanical garden. The teak house on the water is particularly beautiful. In the evening we visit the Dong Xuan Market.
Dong Xuan Market
A busy and impressive market, where everything is for sale … vegetables, fruit, but also glassware, tombstones, clothing and mopeds.
The next morning we are picked up by a van from Etnic Travel to go to Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. There are several routes through Halong Bay, it is a busy tourist attraction, Etnic Travel chooses a quiet route.
We get on the boat and on the way we go kayaking and we visit a floating fishing village. The surroundings are beautiful! And the atmosphere on the boat, wherever we spend the night, is great. The group consists of about 15 people, of different nationalities.
Mr. Sau, the fishermen
The next morning we enjoy the sunrise in this beautiful area. Then we go swimming and kayaking. We return to Cai Rang Harbor where we will be waiting for us on the boat to Bai Tu Long Bay. We sail to Quan Lan Island.
Here we spend the night with a fisherman in the village, Mr. Sau. He has a luxurious house, with a sober room for everyone. In the evening we help the ladies in the kitchen make Vietnamese spring rolls. They taste great!
The next morning we cycle to the beach where our children take a dip in the wild China Sea. The beach is pristine and empty. We cycle to the harbor. After one more kayaking, we sail back to Cai Rang, where we have to wait a long time for the van, which unfortunately has a breakdown.
Tasteless Ninh Binh
So we arrive late at night in Ninh Binh. We spend the night in the Phuong Anh hotel. A cheap hotel with little charm. Sometimes you stay in places that are useful but ugly and that still stick in your memory.
We buy train tickets, do the shopping, do the laundry and arrange a tour to Cuc Phuong National Park with private driver. In the evening we eat in a restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet, but we certainly don’t think it is recommended … (just like all of Ninh Binh haha).
Cuc Phuong National Park
With a driver and an English-speaking guide, we go to the National Park the next morning. The ride, about 50 kilometers, takes about an hour and a half. We take a walk in the park to the 1000 year old tree. It is very quiet. Beautiful wild vegetation, lots of insects.
We have lunch at the entrance of the park and then we go to the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, where a guide shows us around. This center, which receives support from Apenheul and Blijdorp, has saved about 150 langurs and gibbons from poachers.
Van Long Nature Reserve
After a visit to the turtle center, there is time left and we go to the Van Long Nature Reserve. What a gift, this visit to this beautiful nature reserve! We can sail with a boat, it is wonderfully quiet and the beautiful karst mountains make a great impression. We also see a langur in the wild! The next day we cycle through beautiful karst mountains to Tam Coc
Bicycling to Tam Coc
On the way we see farmers working on the land, cows and goats on the road and we cross a downpour. We take shelter with a family. We don’t speak each other’s language, but they offer us their shelter. In Tam Coc we pay a visit to the Lotteria which has just opened with a lot of fanfare.
In a Soft Seat to Danang
In the evening we take the train to Danang. It leaves at 6 p.m. It is extremely busy at the station, it looks like a migration. You are only allowed to go to the platform when your train is almost coming. People walk with all their possessions and cut across the tracks.
The train is old. It doesn’t cost much, but you don’t get much either. The night lasts long, hanging, sitting in our Soft Seats. We are happy when it gets light, 1 pm on this train is not a party. In Danang we buy tickets for the next route.
Paradise in Hoi An
Mr. Phu from Botanic Garden Homestay is waiting for us. He takes us to a paradise! Lovely spacious bungalow, beautiful garden, a nice pool and very friendly people. The food is delicious!
The next day we go to the beach by bike. That evening we are met by Mr. Phu invited to join in for dinner along with all the other guests. A table full of delicacies and interesting encounters. A very nice initiative!
Hoi An Old Town
From Botanic Garden Homestay we cycle to the center in ten minutes. It is a nice city with a pleasant atmosphere, even though it is touristy. The streets are closed to all traffic in the afternoon and all lanterns are switched on in the evening.
We have lunch at the Cargo restaurant and then we buy a strippenkaart with which you can visit the old houses. Highly recommended because you can decide for yourself which house, temple or museum you want to visit.
We start at the house of Tan Ky, then we go to the house of the Tran family. In every house you are received differently and you see different things. The people still really live there, it is not an open-air museum and that is nice to see. We also go to Quan Thang, Duc An and the Handicraft Workshop. The gardens and courtyards are especially impressive.
Today we arranged a car with driver to go to My Son.
That means we get up early because we are there for the busloads of tourists. It is an archaeological site of the Cham Kingdom and Chamber Civilization. This place was founded at the end of the fourth century by Emperor Bhadravarman. It was a political and religious center.
The site is divided into 8 places, where remains are. The whole complex was unfortunately bombed in the Vietnam War. Archaeologists are still researching. Because all buildings are in the middle of nature, within a bowl of hills, it is a special place.
Bicycling in Hoi An and surroundings
From Hoi An we take a 17-kilometer bike ride through the area. We pass rice fields, small villages, fish farms. The paths are sometimes narrow, sometimes a bit busier, but it is great fun to see the surroundings from the bike. Here you can find an example of a bike route.
The next day we go to the beach.
Today Mr. Phu us to Marle Mountain. A Marble Mountains consisting of five limestone hills, which are named after the five elements. They used to be in the sea. Marble is mined here, the area is full of marble shops and factories.
By the way, most marble comes from China, because the quantity here has already decreased considerably … You can climb the mountain via the stairs or take the ugly elevator. We go up the stairs and come across all kinds of temples and caves. At the top we have a view of the surroundings and the sea in the distance. We don’t think this is the most spectacular outing … if you’re short on time, feel free to skip it.
The train to Nha Trang
The train to Nha Trang is delayed by two and a half hours. Instead of 9 p.m. we arrive at half past eleven. Fortunately, the transfer to Ki’em Art House, our stay, awaits. That transfer also takes an hour and a half, so we arrive in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night …
Only the next morning we see how beautiful it is here! The beautiful bungalows are spread in a large garden, along with a beautiful beach and the lovely blue sea. It is paradise! And the food is delicious too! We don’t want to leave here for the time being …
Relaxing on the beach
We fill our days with sunbathing, swimming, relaxing, reading, taking pictures, walking along the beach, hanging out in the hammock and so on … Three wonderful days and nights long.
Nighttrain to Saigon/Ho Chi Mincity and bus to Can Tho
We continue our journey fully rested. The train to Saigon / Ho Chi Minstad is also delayed, we arrive at 7 in the morning and feel miserable. The Ki’em Art feeling is completely gone. We take a taxi to the bus station and here we take the minibus to Can Tho.
We arrive there four hours later. It is raining terribly and we meet a headstrong taxi driver. He keeps going in circles and doesn’t want to drop us off at the hotel. n the hotel we arrange a tour for the next morning to visit the floating markets on one of the side arms of the Mekong. Unfortunately we have to get up at five … we have felt fitter at times.
Floating market of Cai Rang
That morning we first go to the floating market of Cai Rang, a market with large boats. Then we sail to Phong Dien market, where mainly small boats do business. Finally we go to My Khanh Village, here our guide Nguyen takes us for a walk along farms and lunch.
Living on, in and at the water
Here people live on, in and near the water. They do the laundry, brush their teeth, wash their children or the vegetables before meals. Nguyen is doing her best, she is very enthusiastic. The tour is very varied and luckily we have good weather!
Back to Saigon/Ho Chi Mincity
The next morning we go back to Saigon / Ho Chi Minstad. From the bus station we take a taxi to our hotel, La Jolie,(now called Silverland Jolie) which is located in the first district. We take a city walk that is in the Lonely Planet and in this way we pass most of the sights of the city. Close to our hotel is the Opera or the Municipal Theater, located on a large square. Here is also the Continental Hotel from 1880.
We see a number of propaganda boards about family life, work and education. The teachers here are greatly appreciated, from our guide in Can Tho we heard that teachers are highly regarded and receive lifelong retirement. Further on is the statue of Ho and the City Hall.
The little sister of the Notre Dame and the post office
Many buildings are reminiscent of the French history of this city. Notre Dame does not resemble its sister in Paris in the slightest, but it is a tourist attraction. The cathedral was built with materials from France.
The post office is also built in the French style. It still has old telephone booths and has beautiful murals, tiles on the floor and beautiful fencing at the doors.
The Palace of Reunification is located in the middle of a large park. It became famous because in 1975 a tank of the North Vietnamese army drove through the fence and the war between the South and North was over. It is now a museum and everything is still standing as it was in 1975.
At the Centec Tower we have a drink in the Shri Lounge on the 23rd floor with a beautiful view of this busy, warm and crazy city.
The Mekong river and the colorful market
The next morning we finish our city walk.We start at the Mekong River. There is a statue of Tran Hung Dao, a warrior against the Mongols. We walk past the Majestic Hotel, which played an important role in the Second World War. The Bitexco Financial Tower towers above everything, it is a modern shiny skyscraper.
We go to the colorful market. At the Ben Tanh market, another tourist attraction, is one of the largest roundabouts in the city. Traffic is coming from all sides and it is always going well! Difficult to cross here! Always keep walking …. the traffic will pass behind you. We don’t think the market is that special, so we leave fairly quickly.
In the hotel we let ourselves be pampered in the Spa. A wonderful massage!
Our last day in Vietnam, a visit to the Zoo.
The next morning we pay a visit to the zoo. It is our last day. We enjoy the delicious breakfast one more time and then walk to the large park in which the zoo is located. It is Sunday and many Vietnamese families are having a picnic. It is busy, there are gambling games, merry-go-rounds and other fairground entertainment.
The animals do not all have the same size cages, but the circumstances are not too bad. The monkeys are delicious, because they are on the outside of their cage!
In the evening we take a taxi to the airport. We leave at 8:50 PM and the journey goes smoothly. We will be home at 1:00 pm the next afternoon and have had another 24 hours!
A beautiful, varied journey with several highlights. Traveling through Vietnam takes more effort than, for example, Thailand. The population is friendly but does not speak English well everywhere. You have to go the extra mile to get in touch as the Vietnamese are humble. The country has many beautiful attractions such as Halong Bay, Hoi An, the nature parks and the beaches. The people and the way they live, on the water and on their mopeds and in the rice fields, were the most impressive.