Travel Diary: 9 days in Vietnam

“Never in my life i’ve seen a dish prepared and served this simple yet so rich and vibrant. The texture, the flavor, everything’s fit together to form this delicious and such an amazing cuisine.”

If you want surprises you’ll probably get it here. When we plan our trip to Vietnam the first thing that excites us was the Ha Long Bay tour, little do we know it’s the distinctively strong Vietnamese coffee and how simple and delicious Vietnamese cuisine is would surprise us the most.

Another thing that would stand out the most on your first day in Vietnam are Motorbikes! I have no idea motorbikes dominate Vietnamese travel, yes it’s their main transportation in Vietnam. Out of its 93 million population, 53 million Vietnamese owns a motorbike . The number of motorbikes might have you thinking, Isn’t it too many? Surprisingly it’s not that bad. We managed to cross the streets without bruises, took us 10min though

We booked a nine days tour to Vietnam, Our itinerary? Ho Chi Minh > Da Nang > Ha Noi > Ho Chi Minh, and yup! your guess is right we got our tickets on sale so we have to go back to Ho Chi Minh to fly back home 🙂

Our Complete Itinerary Guide

First Day High – Welcome to Saigon

“Nothing is more precious than Independence and Liberty”. – Ho Chi Minh

The moment we landed at Ho Chi Minh’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the first question was “Where do you want to eat?”. We are hungry and excited at the same time. Vietnam is known as one of South East Asia’s culinary superpower. First thing first though before getting a cab to our hotel we go first with the basics, get our WIFI which is probably the second most important thing that you have to carry after VND. Booking a cab (via grab) isn’t that hard, The only thing we’ve noticed is that some cab drivers doesn’t speak english at all. Not a show a stopper just show the map tp them and they’ll know the place.

We arrived at hour hotel around 1pm, left our luggage and went straight to this place called Bun Bo Nam Bo – Ba Ba, This place doesn’t look #13 of 3,942 Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City but the taste surely do.

Bún Bò Nam Bộ – Sautéed lemongrass beef with rice noodles salad

We went back after a short sight seeing of the area. Take rest for a full day tour tomorrow. We’re kinda sleepy which usually happens when your stomach is full.

2nd Day! Full Day Excursion To Mekong Delta

After a short sight seeing on our first day we started our tour the following morning by booking the Mekong Delta Tour from Klook. Our tour guide Grace fetch us at The Hammock Hotel Fine Arts Museum which by the way I highly recommend, best hotel we had in our entire trip. Anyway from our hotel we took a 90min bus ride going to seaport and from there the tour will start. I thought we’ll have one boat the entire tour but didn’t realize that transferring and getting a boat to get you from one place to another is like calling a cab, I won’t be surprise if these boats will be on grab app someday.

Our first stop is to a small village where we had fruits and honey tea, we then visit rice paddies, fruit plantations, some cocoa/chocolate making machine of sort and all kinds of places where you’ll see traditional Vietnamese products, After that we had our lunch at the Tortoise islet, highlight is probably the food! its always the food. Lastly we went back and visit some buddhas outside the Vinh Trang Pagoda. Although it says Full Day Excursion To Mekong Delta it wasn’t actually full day as we finished at about 3pm. I’m not complaining at all, it was really hot and humid that day. We go back straight to our hotel, take a rest and get out again for dinner. If you ask me the best part of Ho Chi Minh? it’s actually that simple walking outside, eat, drink coffee, repeat…

Mekong River Delta Tour

3rd Day! Ho Chi Minh City Tour

Our last day at Ho Chi Minh is more of a city tour that does not involve any kinds of transportation. We went to some of Ho Chi Minh’s famous tourist spots. Ben Thanh Market, Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, City Hall etc… These places are very close to each other, So as long you’ve plan them in order, walking is a better route. Also the advantage of walking is you get the see and feel the ambience of the city up close, you get to stop on some local coffee shops and restaurants. Meet and greet some locals, It’s an amazing experience.

4th Day!, Welcome to Da Nang

Ho Chi Minh was great and our expectation went up for our next destination. So we head straight to Da Nang via VietJet, it’s a low-cost airline from Vietnam that offer best deals anywhere Vietnam. SeaShore Hotel is where we stayed, location of this hotel is great but I would advise tourist to go somewhere city instead of beach area. Our place is in front of Man Thai Beach not bad but it doesn’t have that wow effect for a beach (at least for me) overall it’s an okay experience as the place was very quiet at night. So if you want a quiet place to stay? go beach area, but if you want a place where you can have coffee or grab a bite in an instant go city. Beach and city area is about 2-3km away, so you can’t go wrong either way at least it’s not something very regrettable. Preferences I would say.

Seafood is everywhere in Da Nang and most restaurant offers Paluto type, where you choose from a list of seafood then they cook while you wait. We opt to visit Da Nang night market instead of restaurant. The variety of food (mostly seafood) is very rich, the range goes from fish to whatever that seashell is. We tried the butter grilled lobster which cost us around 300,000-400,000 VND which is about 17-20 Singapore Dollar (not bad for lobster price) yes bargaining is available, its a market after all.

Butter Grilled Lobster

5th Day! Ba Na Hills and The Golden Bridge

One mistake we had on this trip is not booking a shuttle bus to and from Ba Na Hills which klook offers and recommend. We are under the impression that it’s easy to book a grab instead of paying 9 SGD for each, Apparently Ba Na Hills is not that close to our hotel and we have to pay 350,000VND for a cab, that’s 700,000VND (41 SGD) back and forth, rookie mistake!

Our cab drop us at Ba Na Hills entrance area where we redeem our Klook ticket and from there we have a long walk going to cable car and make our way to the peak of Chua Mountain. There’s 3 cable car station that you can choose from, doesn’t matter what you choose as all of them goes to Ba Na Hills, just a different entrance point.

Ba Na Hills is a French inspired tourist destination, you’ll get to see its French village and architectural work of French colonists. There are few attraction such as Le Jardin d’Amour Garden, Linh Ung Pagoda and more but the most famous (probably) would be the Golden Bridge. If you want a good picture or selfie with the bridge I suggest go late in the afternoon as the bridge is so crowded to the point that you can’t walk seamlessly.

If I need to give feedback to this tour I would say it’s our lunch, we went about 11:30 am, in anticipation of the crowd. It’s buffet lunch but the Vietnamese flavour isn’t there, they lost the flavour by doing too much I guess. The crowd control was bad as well, we have somebody (a family of four) sharing us the table. Our table can only accommodate 4 person. We have to hurry so others can sit down, we feel like they’re pushing us away. Their eyes telling us “can you eat faster please?” 🙂

The Golden Bridge, Da Nang Vietnam

6th Day! City Tour and The Asia Park Sun World Da Nang

We knew that Ba Na Hills tour would be tiring so we plan the Asia Park Sun World and Da Nang sight seeing on our last day, no pressure as Asia Park starts at around 3PM (you would know why)

Just like Ho Chi Minh we visit some of Da Nang’s famous tourist spot, Dragon Bridge, Han River Bridge, Da Nang Cathedral and more. We opt not to enter to 3D museum art paradise as we don’t want to pay (we are cheap hahaha, fine! we feel like it’s not worth it).

Before going to the Asia Park we decided to have a coffee break at this place called Moc Mien Garden Coffee, Ive mention from the start that coffee is very good in Vietnam, It’s everywhere in Vietnam. They’re famous for its Robusta coffee beans. Anyway I can write a whole article just for Vietnamese coffee culture, This coffee below is the best I have tasted! In vietnam.

Moc Mien Coffee, Da Nang

It’s almost 3PM so we redeem our klook ticket. It’s indeed very hot and humid outside and we cannot wait to get inside Asia Park, We queue up and realize that most of the rides are outdoor hence they open at 3pm or you’ll burn yourself. We waited at about 4’ish pm before trying some of the rides.

Asia Park isn’t a bad experience the dinner buffet is better than lunch buffet at Ba Na Hills, but the rides are pretty limited – Yet!. I’m sure the management is aware of this as there’s construction everywhere. Overall it was okay and still recommend this trip. We left at about 7’ish pm. Outside there’s a market where you can eat street food and buy some local Vietnamese bags and clothing. It’s a nice ending to a very hot Da Nang tour.

7th Day! The Capital of Vietnam – Welcome to Ha Hoi.

Old Quarter, Hanoi

We arrived at Ha Noi noon time and first thing we notice when we book a cab is that the airport is far from the old quarter which I think needs consideration when you plan your trip. There is a bus that you can take but we took a cab and travel for about 80mins. We stayed at La Paix hotel, This hotel is actually perfect because it’s in the quite area of old quarter (yes there’s a quite place there) I would highly recommend La Paix Hotel for its location but the room is a bit small and the breakfast is average, but then again you don’t travel to stay in your hotel.

From a vantage point of view old quarter might look crowded and chaos to some extent but it wasn’t. After dropping our luggage we went out and a few meters from our hotel we visit some of its famous attraction, Explore old quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake and Chua Tran Quoc. It was very sunny that day thus the lake absorbed all the heat hence humidity. We had a coffee at this high rated place called Cafe Pho Co, I had their famous egg coffee latte which to me taste weird. It’s good just weird. Finally we had our dinner at Hoang’s Restaurant where my wife was taught basic Vietnamese cuisine, how to properly prepare and put all the ingredients together to compliments each other’s taste. It was a very sweet gesture by Grace to show us some Vietnamese culinary art.

Bun Cha (Hanoi traditional fried pork)

8th Day! The Hạ Long Bay

“Here you have a giant threw stones from the sky that form trees, mountains, islets that are disorderly scattered and yet somehow it’s one of the Amazing place this planet will ever have”

Ha Long Bay, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam

The moment we’ve been looking forward has come, This is the place that triggers us to visit Vietnam.

Our tour guide fetch us at the hotel around 8am, It’s almost a 4hr bus ride to Quảng Ninh province, but don’t worry there’s a stop over where you can pee and grab a bite or even buy some of the towns local products. It’s probably 12pm when we arrived at the seaport area where the same group board on one of hundred boat queuing up to go Ha Long Bay.

The boat crew serves lunch (mostly seafood) and fruits while we are cruising. You can go out or go on the upper deck of the boat for sight seeing and selfie. The first attraction would be the Two Fighting Rocks/Cocks, See the picture below and create your own imagination. Does it look like a fighting cocks?

You will see hundreds of towering limestone and island so don’t feel bad if you miss this, But please don’t and listen to your guide as your boat wont stop and only passes by to this attraction.

We have our first stop at a cave, The place is a bit steep and very humid inside so I would recommend to stay if your not keen in climbing or you think you’re not fit enough. esp for old people.

Our last stop was the highlight of the tour. We did a 20-30min kayaking and as a paddler I cant help but row it like how I do with dragon boat my wife really hate me when I do that but hey we are faster than the others and if its a competition? we probably have won, If!

We wrap up the day with biscuits and fruits going back to our bus. We just have a small bite on one of the stop over and sleep the rest of the night at our hotel. It was tiring!

9th Day! Hanoi City Tour

We usually plan our sight seeing of the city after the excursion as it gives us more time to sleep and rest, No pressure from somebody waiting for us. We start at about 11am and had a brunch at Madame Hien (highly rated in trip advisor) My wife choose a set lunch which include 3 course meal while I have a Fresh roll in mango prawn salsa. Not a bad choice but i’d rather have the set lunch as well, I eat a lot but I thought my wife could not finish her meal, I was wrong!

Fresh roll in mango prawn salsa. Madame Hien Restaurant.

After lunch we decided to taste the famous coffee shop in Vietnam, Trung Nguyen Coffee is everywhere, literally everywhere and there’s no surprise at all once you tried their Sang Tao 8 which is to me the best coffee blend there is.

We started our tour by going to St Joseph’s Cathedral and visit HaNoi’s famous tourist spot, like The Hoa Lo Prison Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, The Temple of Literature and more. These places are very rich in history but I always pick a highlight and this day it would be The Hoa Lo Prison Museum maybe because i’m familiar with the history of war in Vietnam. We didn’t take cab or any form of transportation even though this places are not close to each other. To me walking is always the best route. I would recommend tourist to visit these places if they want to learn and see more history of Vietnam.

We finished our day by having the best Banh Mi In Vietnam, The Banh MI25 and no I’m not exaggerating, I can’t remember how many banh mi we’ve try but you will only remember the best and I remember this.

Our time in Vietnam is almost over, after nine days of wandering we go back to Ho Chi Minh and fly back home..

We left Vietnam with tons of beautiful memories and coffee beans (of course). If there’s a reason I would go back here it’s definitely their food and their coffee. Truly Vietnam is one of culinary superpower in South East Asia and a Timeless charm.

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