Nina is a contributing writer at BookAllSafaris.com. Recently bitten by the wanderlust bug, her dream is to explore the world for what it truly is while spreading her love for food, the environment, and all animals. Read her recommendations to know Vietnam in two weeks!
They say that one must stay in a country for some time in order to truly understand and learn about their culture. That is why backpacking trips are always a good idea! This kind of trip not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, but it also allows you to get to know parts of yourself you never thought you had. For me, there is no better place to do this than Vietnam, so here’s the perfect two week itinerary you will need to make the most out of this wonderful destination.
Hanoi: 4 days
Since Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, expect it to be crowded and busy, especially during peak season in August. Traffic can also get hectic some days, so I suggest booking an accommodation that’s near downtown, or better yet in the backpackers’ area. Hostels here are affordable and are close to some of the best local finds such as eateries, convenience stores, and shops. Shopping may not be as cheap, but it’s worth some window shopping.
Tours to places such as Halong Bay and Trang An will take one day each. In your third and fourth day, you should explore the city of Hanoi, which offers from popular attractions to hidden gems.
Highlights: Bai Dinh, Halong Bay and Trang
Halong Bay and Trang are UNESCO World Heritage sites. In Halong Bay, you will be able to experience an awesome safari cruise, where they serve some of the best Vietnamese food: rice, iconic Vietnamese spring rolls, vegetables, and fruits. Top your meal with a good bottle of beer and you’ve got the ultimate trip in your hands. There are packages where you can stay overnight, but I suggest going for just a one-day-tour here, because it’s enough time to see everything that Halong Bay has to offer.
As for Bai Dinh and Trang An, they usually go hand in hand in a tour package. You get to see and learn a lot of history about Buddhism in the Bai Dinh complex, which makes for an insightful and serene trip. And in Trang An, you will be dazzled by nature at its finest. Kong: Skull Island (2017) was shot here and I don’t exaggerate when I say that pictures don’t do it any justice. You have to see it for yourself.
Bonus: You can try one of Hanoi’s most scrumptious and famous specialties, bun cha, in Bun Cha Huong Lien, also known as Bun Cha Obama. This is where Barrack Obama and the late Anthony Bourdain shared a meal together. There’s even an Obama special which includes the noodle dish and Hanoi beer.
Hue: 2 days
Traveling from Hanoi to Hue takes about fifteen hours by bus. Hey, a backpacking adventure would be nothing without these long bus trips, right? My recommendation is for you to do your research and choose the best bus operator out there, so you won’t have a problem at all. You will be able to meet fellow travelers from other countries and sleep comfortably since most overnight buses provide seats that could double as beds, and yes they're clean as well.
If you play your cards right, you should arrive in Hue in the morning of your fifth day. Unlike Hanoi, Hue is a lot more quiet and peaceful. The best tour to book once you arrive is the Perfume River cruise. You can go for a DIY city tour the next day and explore attractions like the Imperial Palace before another bus ride to your next destination.
Highlights: The Perfume River, the tomb of King Tu Duc, and the Thien Mu Pagoda
There's plenty of history and culture in these places. You’ll get to see ancient ceramics and calligraphy inscriptions by the Thanh Toan Bridge. Then, you'll get to marvel at one of the most impressive royal mausoleums. Courtyards, pavilions, and chambers galore. It’s all about royalty and elegance in Hue and its quiet charm is what makes it even more amazing.
Hoi An: 4 days
Another day, another bus ride. But the good news is you don’t have to travel that long from Hue to Hoi An; it’s only three hours away! You can either arrive on the night of your sixth day for a late check-in, or in the morning of your seventh day. Either way, Hoi An will welcome you with open arms.
Known as the city of lanterns, Hoi An is my personal favorite destination in Vietnam. Although I have zero ability in riding a bike (first mean of transport here), let alone a motorcycle (second mean of transport), this charming town took my breath away. That's why it's worth staying for four days in this town. There are a lot options for tours in Hoi An, including visiting the My Son Sanctuary, the Thu Bon River, An Bang Beach, and more!
Highlights: Marble Mountain and the Old Town.
The moment I set foot on the Old Town, I fell head over heels. Lanterns in every corner, aged yellow and orange-colored buildings, and street food that will capture your eyes and nose. There’s nothing to dislike about this place. Well, except the crowds at night. I was there during peak season and by night time there were people everywhere, mostly fellow travelers. So, if you want to keep it chill, it’s best to visit the Old Town during the day. But if you want to see the magic the lanterns bring, be there for the evening. Plus, there are so many food stalls and charming restaurants here that will rock your taste buds off!
As for Marble Mountain, it is not for the faint hearted. You’re in store for a lot of climbing. Though slippery for all the marble, I promise that the view at the top of the mountain will be worth your while. There are also hidden temples in caves and fascinating pagodas you will be able to explore. And at the end of it all, you get rewarded with a healthy and hearty lunch! What’s not to love?
Nha Trang: 1 day
We shall now move on from Hoi An to Nha Trang. The bus ride is ten hours long, so it’s another good opportunity to get some sleep before exploring your next destination. You should leave Hoi An in the evening, so that you will arrive in Nha Trang in the morning.
There are two options for you here since you’re spending only a day in Nha Trang. The first one is for you to bring all of your stuff with you wherever you go for the entire day, which doesn’t cost much money but will probably kill all muscles in your body. The second one is that you book an accommodation ahead of time and inform them that you’re staying for only a few hours and that you merely need a place to leave your bags. You’ll be surprised by hotels that will offer you a reasonable price.
Highlights: Nha Trang Beach
Since all you’ve done for the past several days is walk, climb, and explore, it’s about time that you chill out and relax. And Nha Trang beach is the perfect place to do that. If you manage to arrive at around four in the morning, you will be able to watch the sunrise here. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the bus drop-off. The most interesting thing you’ll see though is the amount of people at this time of the day. There are even locals exercising, whether it’s jogging near the beach or practicing tai chi by the pavilion.
You can take some time to rest in the beach lounge chairs (at a certain price) or leave your bags and freshen up at your booked accommodation. Eat some good food in any local restaurant and then head to the beach to keep the good vibes rolling. It’s a great time to reflect on what you’ve experienced on the trip so far and take in all the beauty around you.
Ho Chi Minh: 3 days
Last but not the least is Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon. Should you choose to take the train, the journey will last eight hours, but if you opt for the bus, the ride will last eleven hours. Travel by night of your tenth day, so that you arrive in Ho Chi Minh in the morning by day eleven.
Since you're most likely going to arrive really early in Saigon, I suggest heading straight to your accommodation and taking a short rest. Go on a DIY city tour on your first day here, because most of main landmarks and attractions are near each other. Next day (twelfth), it’s best to opt for a Mekong River tour and then, later on, experience Ho Chi Minh’s vibrant night life. On your last day, go wild with shopping and food tripping to wrap up your unforgettable trip.
Highlights: Mekong River and the Bui Vien walking street.
There's something truly breathtaking about the Mekong River. Part of its charm is the surrounding nature you'll see (or at least most of it). The woman rowing the boat is also a delight, which will add to the pleasant experience. Despite the river’s murky waters and the enraged heat during the day, I guarantee that cruising along this iconic attraction will blow you away.
Then, there’s the Bui Vien walking street, where all the magic happens. You get to taste the best pho and buncha, plus coconut coffee in this area. And when the night comes, boy does it come alive. Some of the previously quiet restaurants turn into the loudest and liveliest bars you will ever see. Alcohol is cheap, so you don’t need to worry about shelling out much money! One bucket of beer costs around $3, and each bucket has at least five gigantic bottles of Saigon beer. It couldn’t get any better than that.
Whether you choose to travel solo or with friends, going on a memorable safari holiday in Vietnam will be one of the best decisions you will ever make. You get to visit all sorts of amazing sites, meet new people and experience new things, as well as gain meaningful insights. The world truly is a big place and each of us is a tiny speck of dust compared to the rest of it. So, why not take every opportunity you can get to understand it better and change your life in more ways than one? I know I would, always and forever.
It may not be everyone’s safari travel style since it mostly focuses on nature and culture, as opposed to wildlife, but it’s worth a shot. Ready for an adventure of a lifetime in a fascinating destination? Well then, you simply must embark for Vietnam!
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