Now that we’ve settled into our new base in Chiang Mai, Thailand we though it would be a perfect time for us to discuss our most recent experiences traveling in Vietnam; including what was our favorite places/destinations, food, transportation and budget travel tips. As a brief introduction, Vietnam is one of the most under-rated countries in SE Asia for backpackers and/or travelers given what it offers in terms of value. As a country with diverse landscapes, regional uniqueness and mouthwatering cuisine, I’m still surprised more people aren’t flocking here.
In terms of our specific journey, we started off in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and ended up covering the Mekong Delta, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Halong Bay, Hanoi and Sapa. If we had more time we wish we could have explored Hanoi longer (we really just used it as a transportation hub) and visited the likes of Dalat and Mui Ne.
Ha Long Bay scored high on our list given the extreme beauty of the Karst Limestone cliffs we got to witness up close and personal. Staying overnight on a boat and having the opportunity to interact with other travelers – from all walks of life and different ages – proved to be a top highlight; also, we had the opportunity to try kayaking together for the first time along with visiting a cave and several beaches.
Hoi An is a place we could both potentially see ourselves considering strongly as a base in the not too distant future. It had everything we desired in a city including great food, fascinating architecture, local markets worth exploring and countryside & beaches nearby.
Sapa, was otherworldly. We’ve never had such stunning views from our hotel room before and when we decided to venture off trekking we were treated to scenery even more spectacular than our hotel room views – which blew our minds in the first place. The problem with narrowing things down to just three places/attractions is that you leave out a lot of things you really enjoyed.
Our preferred method of transportation was taking the train (even though buses were cheaper) given it was the most comfortable journey. If you do take the buses, especially the overnight ones, be prepared for plenty of swerving, honking and random jolts. Even though we were able to sleep through most of the night, it was not restful sleep by any means. A few times, we awoke feeling as though we were going off of a cliff; not terribly pleasant to say the least. If we had to do it over again, we’d have done the entire journey by train.
In terms of accommodations we found that we were able to find excellent value around the $17-20 range and when we splurged at $30 we were getting boutique value. In Malaysia (and even Cambodia to a certain extent), we were scrimping and not willing to pay a bit extra for comfort. In Vietnam, we changed our strategy and – in turn – were rewarded with more comfortable beds, air conditioning and reliable wifi; it was certainly money well spent.
Overall, Vietnam was our favorite country in SE Asia that we explored over the past three months and we HIGHLY recommend it to others whether you’re vacationers, travelers, backpackers or digital nomads.