You know I can’t help myself when it comes to corny headlines 🙂 Happy New Year! Although we have made it to 2019, I’m just getting to my 2018 trip wrap-ups, and I’m so thrilled to share my Vietnam vacation with you…it has left a lasting impression on me.
Thanks to This Is Us, I’ve been reminiscing on this trip! I actually got a little sad and wondered when I could squeeze in the time to head back. The show gave us a glimpse of the Vietnam War, and featured Jack’s fight alongside his younger brother Nick. Finally, we witnessed Kevin’s travel journey to Vietnam as he retraced his father’s story.
In February 2018 I went to three cities–Ho Chi Minh, Halong Bay & Hanoi and I traveled with Gate 1.
First Stop: Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam, and where I was introduced to Vietnam’s indescribable motorbike culture. For traffic and cost reasons, motorbikes are wildly popular in Vietnam. But I was terrified riding on them! There seemed to be no traffic rules followed…couple this with poor roads and chaotic traffic and I was honestly SHOOK!
We stayed at the Northern Hotel Saigon. I LOVED the rooftop pool and overall location of this hotel.
My absolute favorite activity on this leg of the trip, and possibly the entire time was an Airbnb Experience that involved us riding on motorbikes and experiencing nightlife with local students. Duy, our tour guide, was awesome.
For four hours we enjoyed the best street food in Saigon and a hidden destination that provided the best view of Saigon! As an added bonus, we exchanged numbers with Duy and he provided assistance throughout the trip, translating for us as needed. He was very personable. See below video as he described how Vietnam reacted to President Obama’s visit, and later President Trump’s.
You know this Maryland girl enjoyed this crab dish!
My new friends!
Incredible view of Saigon!
It is recommended that you tour the Cu Chi Tunnels and other monuments of Ho Chi Minh, to include the Notre Dame Cathedral, but I opted to relax by the pool and enjoy street food at night. Adjusting to the 12 hour time difference was very difficult for me!
I was so excited to get to Halong Bay, as I knew it would offer the most picturesque views. We stayed at the Halong Palace Hotel. The service was great and the staff were friendly. We only stayed here one night, the sole purpose of visiting this city was to offer a view of the thousands of limestone islands rising out of the sea during the Halong Bay Excursion.
Apologies for sounding cliche, but this excursion was breathtaking, and it became clear why Halong Bay is considered to be a natural wonder of the world. Positioned near the Chinese border, Halong Bay is often featured in movies and I was mesmerized by the emerald waters.
Hanoi, an old and antique city, is the capital of Vietnam and was the final stop on our trip. We stayed at the May De Ville City Centre and this hotel featured a rooftop bar we enjoyed.
My favorite memory of Hanoi was the Thay Pagoda & So Village with lunch. As you all know, I love culture, it’s what fuels my love for travel. This day was filled with culture and fascinating facts about the community. What I remember the most is meeting Black Teeth Women of Vietnam. Black teeth were considered to be a sign of beauty and we met some women chewing Betel nuts to preserve the color.
I also remember how welcoming and friendly the people were. We were led into homes of people who told stories and gave us gifts. The people were so warm.
Know Before You Go
- Asia is CHEAP! One of the reasons I fell in love with Asia was how affordable it was while there. I withdrew $200 USD and by the end of the trip, I had so much money left over I went shopping and had a spa day. $200 USD for an entire week! Where else can you travel to with this much spending money? If you find yourself in this predicament (leftover cash), check out Hanoi La Belle Spa. Although extremely affordable, the services are of high quality.
- Those Tiny Chairs. It’s true, if you opt to enjoy street food (which you should, you’ll enjoy the freshest and cheapest foods available), you’ll be confined to plastic toddler sized chairs. I’m 5 feet even, so no biggie for me…but be warned.
- Bathroom Etiquette. In my most recent post, I gave a list of 10 things I don’t travel without, including bathroom essentials. Vietnam is responsible for this addition. Do travel with toilet tissue handy and be mindful of waste bins to toss your used tissue if you notice the sewage system is not efficient.
- Visa Nightmares. It took me about a day to get to Vietnam, and I had no idea I would have to wait around for hours to finalize my visa at the airport. RUN to the approval area as soon as you land and do what you can to speed up this process prior to landing…do some research!
- Haggle! Haggle! Haggle! Haggling is expected by the Vietnamese and your trip to Vietnam is the perfect opportunity for you to to test your negotiation skills. I got some cool stuff from Vietnam, and paid great prices for it all.
Have you booked your trip yet? 🙂