Vietnam from north to south is written by Jesper Munk Hansen
The classic round trip in Vietnam
Why travel to Vietnam? On a cold January day, my boyfriend and I went to a travel lecture to get inspiration for new travel destinations. Asia quickly piqued our interest as I have been in the past Thailand og Malaysia, and she has been in China twice.
The country that caught our attention the most was Vietnam. Soon after, planning began. We found a trip called "Vietnam from North to South", which was prepared by a Danish travel agency in collaboration with a local Vietnamese company. The journey started in Hanoi in the north, and via Hoi An in the central Vietnam we ended up in Ho Chi Minh after two weeks.
Took to the food in Hanoi
After a 16-hour flight from Copenhagen with a stopover in Dubai, we landed in Hanoi in Vietnam.
The first days in Hanoi went with a planned city tour and we also had some time to explore the city ourselves. Here it was, among other things, a visit to "Train Street", which is a street with restaurants and bars, where you sit and eat and drink a little, and all of a sudden you hear the train pushing in the distance. When that happens, all the tables and chairs have to be removed, because then the train arrives. It is quite ordinary procedure and no one is in a hurry because they have tried it many times before. Fortunately, the train does not run fast. It is enough to drive 30-40 km / h, I think.
Temple time and puppet theater
On the city tour of Hanoi, we visited temples and got up close to the Buddhist culture. We also visited a water puppet theater where for 45 minutes we watched a Vietnamese puppet theater in water where they only spoke Vietnamese. This meant that we understood absolutely nothing of what was going on, but we take that with us as part of the experience.
After a few days in Hanoi, we had also gotten used to the traffic. The rule is: Green light go, yellow light go, red light go anyway. Hanoi has 9 million inhabitants and 6 million motorcycles / scooters. So we quickly got used to the fact that you just go out on the road and then you do not stop. You continue and meander through the traffic. The scooters should probably drive around you. They are used to walking on the road. It only becomes really dangerous if you stop in the middle of the road or start walking back. Because the scooters try to avoid you by driving around.
After three days in Hanoi, it was time for the next point on our journey to Vietnam – our cruise.
Vietnam's nature: Indescribably beautiful Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a 2-3 hour drive to Hanoi. After a short visit to a pearl farm, we boarded a small cruise ship with room for 75 people. Here we were to spend the night, relax, eat, bathe and enjoy the tranquility of the bay.
The nature in Ha Long Bay is completely unreal. Reality lived up to expectations and Ha Long Bay is some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen. I have also written about nature in Toscana, but Ha Long Bay definitely gives Tuscany battle to the line.
Peace on water, hustle and bustle on land
A visit to a larger cave in Ha Long Bay made me a little bit (very) annoyed. I love to travel, but at the same time may have difficulty with too many people gathered in one place. That is why I also enjoyed Ha Long Bay, where it was far to everything, but in this cave I stood in 35 degree heat surrounded by hundreds of tourists and locals - if not thousands.
It was Saturday and therefore there were even more on Ha Long Bay and in the cave. You could neither move forward nor backward and just had to wait until there was a little bit of freedom so you could get forward. I guess it took half an hour to go up stairs, which would normally take 1 minute. It was worst in the beginning until there was a little spread of people so you could walk around a bit inside the cave.
Back on the ship we enjoyed the evening and looked out over the water. The next morning we did the same. The clock rang at 6 o'clock because we wanted to see the sunrise, but it had already gotten up, even though we could see that it had to get up at 6.30. But then we had got up and sat and had morning coffee on the deck, while we again looked beyond the water.
Night train to Da Nang
One of the few mistakes we made on the trip was booking night trains instead of planes. We thought it might be nice to ride the night train to the next place, but now we have tried it and next time we will take the plane.
The trip was scheduled for 16 hours, but it took 17 hours. The distance was no longer than about 750 km, so we only drove at an average speed of almost 45 km / h.
It was a very small train where we had our compartment and sleeping space, but not much else. We were accommodated with two foreign Dutch, who were fortunately our own age, so we could talk together. But no matter how little or how much you know each other, you can not sit and talk together for 17 hours, so it became a lot of time where we just lay in our bed and relaxed or listened to music while the train ran along the Vietnamese east coast.
Bike ride to the beach in Hoi An
After arriving by train to Da Nang, we were picked up and driven to Hoi An, which is a short drive of just under half an hour. There we stayed in a fantastic hotel with pool and garden area, and of course there was also a restaurant, breakfast and pool bar. Here we were to stay for 3 days without any official planning. Hoi An is a small city in Vietnam with only 100.000 inhabitants, so it was nice to get a little away from the million city.
One of the days we borrowed bikes at the hotel and cycled to the beach. My bike was way too small because they are not used to seeing people at 189 cm in Vietnam at all, so it could not be adjusted to my height. That’s why I often got my knees up in the handlebars during the bike ride. In addition, the bike did not have functional gears, so it was just a matter of getting a flow in the bike so that you did not have to go up and down in speed.
Traditions and full moon in Vietnam
Hoi An also has an old town, which is known for its lanterns, which light up in the evening. Hoi An actually has its own lantern festival associated with full moon. Here you honor your ancestors, and you also launch your own lantern with wishes for the future.
Despite the fact that Hoi An is a small town, there are still many people. Still, we happened to meet the two Dutchmen from the train, who we due to busyness did not manage to say goodbye to at the train station.
Two days later, they suddenly stood on the same bridge as us in Hoi An. Then we just got to take a picture and follow each other on Instagram so the rest of the journey could be felt.
Hoi An is definitely my favorite place on our trip to Vietnam and I wish we had more than three days there. We better go back one day.
Traces of war in Ho Chi Minh City
The last part of the journey was traveled by plane. We were going down to South Vietnam and visit Vietnam's largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. It is not the capital, but it is the largest city.
After exploring Ho Chi Minh City on our own for the first few days, we were going to go out and see the Cu Chi Tunnels and get a little idea of what was going on during the Vietnam War. None of us were born in 1975 when the war ended, and we generally had very little knowledge of what happened during the war.
We were given the opportunity to get down into the small tunnels that the Vietnamese used to hide, but again because of my height I had to content myself with seeing it from the surface of the earth.
It's a little scary to think that the American soldiers who were stationed in Vietnam were told that they should be away for 3-4 months when they left. But most of them ended up being in Vietnam for 13-14 years without being home.
In addition to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which are an hour and a half drive from Ho Chi Minh City, you can also visit the war museum in the city and get up in the Saigon Skydeck, so you get a great view of the city.
On a boat trip to the Mekong Delta
Three hours' drive from Ho Chi Minh City lies the Mekong Delta, which is only 2000 km2 smaller than the entire Denmark.
Here we were to go sailing - both by motorboat and rowboat - and we were to visit local families who make a living from producing rice and wine. We tasted a snake wine, which despite the name did not have much bite in it.
Once again, my height was 189 cm. noticed when a little boy stood looking directly at me for several seconds with his mouth open without saying anything. He was shocked and had probably never seen a tall man before.
I now do not think that 189 cm. is so bad if you look at Denmark in general, but in Asia it is obviously extreme.
Another local family provided lunch for us, where we had to help make our own omelette with a lot of ingredients that we did not know. For the omelette, a whole fish was also served, where nothing was removed. The whole head of the fish was still there. It is a little different than what we usually know from Denmark.
Vietnam at sea again
At the end of the trip to the Mekong Delta, we had to go out and sail a bit with one of the locals, who would take us on a 30 minute boat trip into something that looked like jungle out in the middle of the delta.
It was a little lady of max 50 kilos who sailed us around by hand. As Europeans, you can feel a little bad about sitting there and relaxing while a little Asian sails around with us to make some money. Her conscience was challenged even more when we were told that she earns, on average, the equivalent of three kroner on such a 30-minute sailing trip. Therefore, it is natural to give her a little extra money.
Tips, by the way, are completely natural in Vietnam, and it is expected that one gives it. Sometimes they stand and wait for it and even say if you are not giving enough gratuity, while others just hope you will give a little. The latter was the case with the little lady in the Mekong Delta.
Vietnam must be experienced again and again
Vietnam can definitely be recommended - and especially a trip from north to south, as it provided a really exciting insight into the country's nature, history and culture. The different cities each had their own touch and offered many distinctive experiences. Vietnam has without a doubt become one of my favorite destinations, and it doesn't take much else!
Have a nice trip to Vietnam!
You must see this on your trip to Vietnam
- Ho Chi Minh
- Take a boat trip in the Mekong Delta
- Hoi An
- Ha Long Bay
- Train Street in Hanoi