The place I knew the least about when I first step foot into it, with no real idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see, I just took each day as it came and ended up falling in love with a country with its fair share of personal battles, beautiful cultures and 9 pence beers. I secretly loved that it wasn’t quite so accommodating to backpackers and that it did sometimes challenge me, but there were definatley a lot of signs that the industry there is growing to accommodate the huge influx of tourists. I found the museums and history around the colonialism fascinating, the remains of the war still visible both architecturally and also in the way the locals behaved towards tourists. After being landlocked in Laos it was perfect to be able to dip my feet into the ocean once again.
SO WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO SPEND THERE?
ACCOMMODATION – they were generally pretty cheap, most of your average hostels were about 130,000 VND (£4-5 GBP), with double rooms at about 360,000 VND. There was not always a lot of choice, and in a few places, such as Hanoi, we did opt for a hotel as a bit of a treat to ourselves for Cals birthday and to recover from the nightmare 25 hour bus journey from Vientiane. I stayed in some really nice hostels as well in Vietnam, swimming pools, beach fronts and a free breakfast were regularly included, it did feel like we were on more of a holiday! There are plenty of home stays in Vietnam, which are a really nice experience to live and eat with families.
FOOD – Ahh the food was amazing, noodle soup for days.There are plenty of street food vendors available, for around 20,000 VND. The sit down restaurants are also pretty cheap, expect to pay around 40,000-90,000 depending on how nice it is, and which location you are in. A lot of the sit down places are out on the pavement as well, using tiny little stools and tables, they are usually shared between any number of people as they are quite long tables. One place you must try is Balewell in Hoi Ann; I consider myself a spring roll extraordinaire after the amount I ate in my time in Asia, and this place is the best and will leave you in a food haze for days, so go try!
GETTING AROUND – I really wanted to travel Vietnam by motorbike,but somehow found myself purchasing a hop on hop off style ticket for the length of the country. It was very cheap for the distance covered, however I cant quite remember the price! I know we opted for several overnight buses, to save on a nights accommodation, but the small bed spaces meant I barely got much sleep, my only advice is to stock up on snacks, and have some headphones ready. Other modes of transport open to you include the train, for a long journey from Da Nang to Hanoi it would be 750,000 VND, and also consider checking for cheap internal flights using one of the several low cost airlines. .
WHAT SHOULD I DO THERE? – there really is so much diversity and different things open to you in Vietnam, so it really depends on what you fancy. Some of the things I covered were rock climbing on Cat Ba Island, getting in a jeep for a full day out in Mui Nei which includes walking up the Fairy Stream, sand boarding and quad-biking over the famous desert dunes. If you enjoy theme parks then a visit to VinPearl is a must, an island on its own which offers everything from dolphin shows, to arcades to theme park rides. There are also so many fascinating museums, specifically the war ones and the Chu Chi war tunnels day out. There is also canyoning you can do in Da Lat, due to my crazy sunburn I was not able to do this, and if relaxing is more your thing there are plenty of national parks, stretches of beaches and mud bath spa days to be had, or why not try your hand at designing some clothing to be personally made for you in Hoi An. Am I forgetting something? Of course I am, only bloody Halong Bay! I am sure if you are heading to Vietnam you already know about this place, my only advice is opt for the 2 night trip, so you can get to a slightly more isolated area and away from all those bloody boats and their garbage!