I was very impressed with Vietnam. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was very, very happy with it. A big part of it is that I spent most of the week with my good friend Lauren, who lives in Hanoi, but I could certainly tell that this was a fun / unique country.
If I had the time, I wish I would have bought a motorcycle or even a scooter, started in Hanoi, and ridden down to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The center of the country is supposed to be beautiful, peaceful, and just a lot of fun. It can take 10-14 days, but if you have the time, it could be totally worth it. So, look into it.
Hanoi (Spent 2 nights here, you can do this in 2, but skip if time constrained) –
I came to Hanoi first to see my friend Lauren. Hanoi is very obviously Communist. That sounds weird to say, but when you go you will see what I mean. There are lots of people, obviously impoverished (but not bad at all, it’s much better than a lot of places I have been to), but there is a ton of public infrastructure. The roads are massive, the buildings are large, concrete monoliths, and the lawns are well manicured.
I’d go ahead and skip the funeral home of Ho Chi Minh, it’s a long line for a dead guy. The only thing that I think is really worth seeing is the prison camp where John McCain was a prisoner. Other than that, there is a Buddhist temple, a nice lake, and a pretty central park, but really not too much else to see.
Really, I had a blast drinking with old friends, going to “Chicken Street,” and walking around the city. It can be a lot of fun, even though the bars close a bit early, and at times it can be blazingly hot, or incredibly foggy.
They sell this in front of the temple for some reason
Graduates taking photos at an old palace.
Lauren teaching a class!
Ha Long Bay (I spent 24 hours here, and this was the right amount)-
I flew into Hanoi but after a day or two, I was put in a van drove to Ha Long Bay for a 2 day, one night cruise, that is more like a 24-hour cruise. It’s beautiful in the bay. Check out the photos I have, and on Google, but photos don’t really do it justice. There are three different areas of the Bay, and I suggest the northern one. The two southern ones supposedly have a ton of trash and debris, and is super crowded, while the northern one you’re pretty much on your own as far as the cruise goes.
You can do either the three days two night, or two days one night, and either one is fine, just depends on how much time you have. Don’t be afraid to go solo, I did and I loved it. I met some amazing people and I think you will too regardless of which boat trip you do. I just recommend sneaking on some cheap alcohol, because it will add up if you don’t.
Weird water puppet show
These two little guys were awesome
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon (Spent 3 days here, 4 days or more is ideal) –
Saigon could not be more different than Hanoi. I did not expect there to be such resounding differences between northern Vietnam and southern Vietnam, but there are. Saigon is more developed, busier, and has a pretty great nightlife. I highly recommend coming here and it was easily one of my top 5 favorite cities in Southeast Asia.
In Saigon, I highly recommend going to the war museum (interesting that the south hosts the most famous national war museum in the country…), the Independence Palace, and then the Cu Chi tunnels. All three of these things are great. You can get a perspective you aren’t used to (where Americans are the bad guys), shoot some big guns at the tunnels, and overall, see a side of a war that most of us don’t know much about.
So, again, go see Vietnam. It is cheap, safe, unique, and a lot of fun. It was my first Communist country and there really is a noticeable difference that is worth checking out.
Country level of difficulty – 6/10This entry was posted in Southeast Asia