Vietnam in Three Weeks
Thinking about going to Vietnam, but don't know where to begin to start planning? Well here's our tips and tricks to planning that perfect trip.
We were lucky enough to have 3 weeks in Vietnam. That was the perfect amount of time to feel confident that we experienced the culture and were able to see 80% of the places we wanted to. We went to Hanoi, Cat ba, Ninh Binh, Phong Nha, Hue, Hoi an, and Ho Chi Minh. We had the best combination of nature and cities.
In my opinion, the best part of Vietnam is the nature. The cities were cool, but they are very polluted and chaotic due to the traffic. I am both a lover of cities and nature, but the nature scenes in Vietnam won me over.
Many foreigners live in Vietnam as the visa process is very easy and teaching English there pays well. I'm happy that I was able to understand the working and teaching process there, to help other prospective teachers find jobs.
I was interested to see how I would like Vietnam compared to Thailand as they are similar in many ways. We both liked Vietnam to visit, but are not interested in living there. When you live in a place like Chiang Mai, it's difficult to even think about moving anywhere else, especially in South East Asia.
I will write a more detailed post about each place we visited, but I decided to write an overall opinion post about what's not to be missed and what can be skipped in your Vietnam travels.
Hanoi was great and I would highly suggest going. The traffic is chaotic as it is in all the Vietnamese cities, but it is an exciting place to explore. The street food was great, the restaurants were moderately priced and we even had amazing tacos.
Skip Halong Bay and visit Cat ba. Cat ba is an island, which is accessible from Hanoi. You can take a bus and a ferry and you are there in 5 hours. We did a full day boat tour and were able to see the breathtaking mountains and Halong Bay views, without the junk boat traffic and tourist floods. Cat ba is definitely one of the best kept secrets in Vietnam. We were able to view the famous UNESCO heritage Halong Bay sights at peace without the tourists.
Visit Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh is a very small city north of Hanoi. It is the perfect place to enjoy nature. We rented a motorbike, as the traffic is calm compared to everywhere else, and explored at our own pace. There are many caves, hikes and historical sights. We were in Ninh Binh for 3 days and we stayed at Tam Coc Mountain View Homestay. Three days is the perfect amount of time to enjoy the sights and relax in nature. I read an entire book at the homestay and cuddled their adorable cat. That's the ideal vacation for me.
Skip Dong Hoi and Phong Nha. We stayed in a beautiful homestay in Phong Nha and were happy for the downtime to relax. However, the area boasts prices quadruple the amount of other cities in Vietnam. This was very frustrating as it's a rural place in the middle of nowhere. Due to the price, it was very limiting as what we could do. The entire country of Vietnam is filled with beautiful caves that are either free to visit for have $1 entrance fee. We did not feel the need to pay $12 to enter a cave or any nature site in this area. We were disappointed and frustrated, but we decided to relax and gaat the rice paddies.
Go to Hue. We were only able to spend one night in Hue, but it was a nice city to experience. It used to be the capital city of Vietnam, so it is filled with banks and government buildings. However, the walking street was very nice and the market shopping was cheaper than many of the other cities we visited.
Experience the Hai Van Pass. The Hai Van Pass is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the entire world. I agree. You drive up a cliff and see moutains and the ocean. Many people rent motorbikes and do it, but we opted to do a motorbike tour where you get your own driver. This is much less stressful and relaxing as you can fully enjoy the views and take pictures. We took the tour from Hue to Hoi an. It was a long day, but it was beautiful. With the tour we stopped at waterfalls, the famous Marble Mountain and for a decadent seafood lunch where I had the best oysters of my life.
Go to Hoi an. Hoi an, is known as the city of lanterns and is the top city for many tourists in Vietnam. We loved it. The walking street was expansive and beautiful lit up at night. Our favorite part about Hoi an, was getting our clothes made. This city is known as the most famous city to get clothes made in all of Southeast Asia. It was quite the process. I would only suggest getting clothing made if you have at least 3 days. We used Mita Fashion and they did an amazing job. They take your measurements one day, the next day they make the clothes big so it can be adjusted, the third day if it is not perfect they will spend one more day making sure you're happy. It was a cool experience and I'd highly reccommend it.
Don't skip Ho Chi Minh. When we met many travelers they had to skip HCM because they did not have enough time and usually had a roundtrip ticket from Hanoi. We're so glad that we were able to fit it in our trip. It was my favorite big city in Vietnam. For me, I felt it was the most liveable. It is a large city and has many different districts. The business district was so modern, I was shocked that we were still in Vietnam. We only had 2 days to explore and were exhausted as it was the end of our journey. I would love to go back and get a tour from a local to check out all the spots.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam and have any questions feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. I kept our detailed itinerary, which I'm happy to share with you. Happy travels!