Vietnam had been on our bucket list for a very long time. It took us many months to finish all the preparations and somehow we thought it wasn’t enough. Then the day D arrived and we flew all the way from Prague (transfer in Moscow) to Hanoi. The flight was pretty traumatic and we landed at 9 in the morning tired and destroyed.
However, right after we left the airport hall and got on the taxi sent by the hotel we’d booked, all our worries disappeared and we almost immediately fell in love with the country.
This is how we spent two weeks in Vietnam and we hope you will be inspired. With our itinerary you will be able to visit a lot of beautiful places in Vietnam and enjoy this amazing country to the fullest.
Day 1 – 2 Hanoi
There is no better place to start your trip in Vietnam than Hanoi. The very first thing you notice when you arrive to Hanoi are the buildings. Most of them are very narrow although they have several floors. Later we found out that in Vietnam they tax you by the width of the front of the building you own. Fascinating, isn’t it?
The second thing that you notice is the INFINITE number of motorbikes all around you (though it’s much worse in Ho Chi Minh City). The traffic appears to have no rules or regulations. Most people drive without a helmet even though it is established in the law to wear one, and they carry around the most bizarre things you can imagine.
Crossing the street
In order to cross the street in Vietnam, you should follow this golden rule. Keep it in mind if you want to survive two weeks in Vietnam! Don’t wait for the green light or for the road to get empty because you might wait forever. Just go. Don’t stop, don’t turn around, don’t hesitate, don’t panic. Drivers won’t stop either but they will just avoid you like professional stunts. It might sound a little dangerous but believe us: it’s the only way if you wanna get somewhere. Ah, we almost forgot: horns! Well, the Vietnamese use it without anger or aggression. We would say it is more to keep the traffic flow “smooth”.
Hanoi is old. But not European old. It’s Asian old and you will understand what we mean as soon as you set foot to one of the countries in the southeast. Hidden temples, the atmosphere of the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, National Museum of Vietnamese History or the Grand Opera House: that’s some of the things the city has to offer.
In the Old Quarter you will find a lot of great examples of colonial architecture, pagodas and temples. Most of the original shops with silk, herbs and jewellery have been replaced, but you can still absorb the unique atmosphere of the good old times in the air. Hoan Kiem Lake will make you forget all the city noise with its peaceful water, with the Turtle Temple in the middle and the breathtaking Sun Rising Bridge leading to the Jade Island with its Ngoc Son Temple.
You can spend your first day of your two weeks in Vietnam checking these sights, or just simply take a walk in the tiny streets or around the lake, having a cup of Vietnamese coffee or a bowl of hot soup right in the street. In the evening make sure you visit the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and admire the artistry of Vietnamese puppeteers.
Day 3 – 4 Ha Long Bay
If you didn’t know Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hundreds and hudreds of islands of different sizes have a lot to offer. The bay is beautiful even in bad weather: the fog makes the place even more mysterious and kinda scary.
There is a large variety of offers and agencies that provide tours to Ha Long Bay, especially from Ha Noi (around 3.5 hours by bus). Basically all of them offer cruises that include:
- a trip to the Surprise Cave, on Dau Go Island – an amazing cave from which you will be able to take a lot of great panoramic pictures;
- kayaking in the bay;
- a visit to a floating village or to the Pearl Farm;
- accommodation on a boat, since you will have to spend at least one night there. There will be food, a bar and evening programme such as karaoke or squid fishing – although it is not very probable you’ll manage to catch one.
Day 5 – 6 Hue
The next stop in our two weeks in Vietnam is a city in Central Vietnam called Hue, the ancient capital. It is less chaotic than Hanoi but the traffic is very heavy anyway and we also saw some huge rats in the vicinity of the market. But we are adventurers and therefore we rented a bike to enjoy the city.
The most remarkable monuments of the area are not exactly close so you will probably have to join one of the tours to the emperor tombs. They are not expensive and we had a great guide who gave us a bunch of interesting information and was able to answer any questions that we asked. If you take the basic tour you will have the possibility to see three (most important) tombs:
- Minh Mang’s Tomb: it is probably the most beautiful one. Unfortunately, he did not have the chance to see it as he’d died before it was finished.
- Khai Dinh’s Tomb: Khai Dinh was one of the last Vietnamese emperors but he was actually just a puppet in the hands of the French. And here comes the spicy part of his story: it is believed that this emperor was gay and that his son was only adopted.
- Tu Duc’s Tomb: Minh Mang’s grandson, he was still alive when the tomb was finished. Once in a while he visited the tomb and lived there, medidated, wrote poetry and (naturally) spent some quality time with his concubines.
Once you’ve seen these amazing tombs you can check the Citadel. A huge part of it has been destroyed and the restauration works are still going on so you will meet a huge number of workmen. Even one of the most important of the Citadel, the Purple or Forbidden City, is basically just a ruin. Anyway it is a pleasant walk and we always enjoy the spirit of history floating around us on a hot summer day.
Day 7 – 8 Hoi An
If we had to choose one place that made the biggest impression on us during our two weeks in Vietnam, it would be Hoi An. Although it is full of tourists somehow it lacks the typical Vietnamese rush and heavy traffic. Once again we rented bikes but this time without fear of being run down by a car or a motorcycle and we went as far as the beaches. We managed to find one with amazing white sand and nobody around.
The whole place is truly magical and you will understand right away why it is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city is basically built around the river Thu Bon and it used to be a very important trading port. You will probably start your walking tour at the Japanese covered bridge and continue to various museums, houses and temples.
Make sure you visit the Cantonese and Fukian Assembly Halls, the house of Tan Ky or the central market (full of stuff that you have never seen before). Another thing that Hoi An is famous for are its tailors. You will come across an infinite number of shops selling high quality clothes such as formal dresses or suits and as basically everywhere in Vietnam you can negotiate prices.
If you want to know more about this beautiful city, here’s a great guide to Hanoi Old Town. Have a look at it!
Day 9 – 12 Phu Quoc island
This was the first exotic island that we had ever visited. And it was worth it. We don’t believe this island is ever crowded with tourists as not many people know about its existence. Don’t expect a superhigh quality of services because you won’t get it.
We found a small beach resort not so far from the airport and we rented a motorbike (!) and rode around the island to its wonderful hidden spots.
The very first day on the island we totally undervalued the sun intensity and got sunburnt in the most bizarre way you can imagine…therefore we were suffering a little for the rest of our stay. Anyway, the island is a Vietnamese jewel. The beach that we found in the south of the island was truly beautiful. The beach close to our resort was also very nice but the water there was full of tiny and annoying jellyfish.
The second day we went northwards where we found not so perfect (sometimes completely non existent) roads but we also managed to arrive to a completely empty but beautiful beach. On the way back to the resort we found another wonderful spot which was however pretty difficult to reach and we had some issues getting there with the motorbike.
During your two weeks in Vietnam, your stay on the island might help you “recover” from all the sightseeing which can be really tiring sometimes (especially in hot weather), right?
Day 13 – 14 Ho Chi Minh City & Delta Mekong
Probably one of the most crowded and hot cities we have ever visited! It’s always swarming with tourists and…well, people in general. However, it’s more about the atmosphere as it is definitely young-friendlier than Hanoi. Hanoi leaves you nostalgic as it is kinda stuck in the past while Ho Chi Minh City goes mercilessly forward grabbing all the positive and negative aspects of becoming an international city, offering everything that you can wish for.
If you’re looking for a young and liberal dynamic city (yep, sex tourism included), Ho Chi Minh is a very good choice. Don’t forget to visit the War Remnants Museum. Although it will leave you sad and depressed it is good to keep in mind the horrors of the past to avoid them in the future.
You can also visit the Ben Thanh Market. It’s a huge market full of souvenirs, food, fake branded clothes and so on. We actually did not like it so much since the sellers are a bit too pushy, the prices are high and the entire market has “lost its soul”.
As far as Delta Mekong is concerned, we only had a day before our departure. We chose the cheapest tour and that’s what we got: a really old and not really reliable boat and a tour full of tourist traps (you can try everything and they expect you to buy it afterwards). Anyway, a boat ride through mangroves was very nice and we are only sorry we couldn’t experience more of the Delta Mekong’s hidden beauties.
If you are interested in moving around with trains, check this guide. You will find everything you need to know!
This country was one of our dream destinations, and we got more than we expected during our two weeks in Vietnam. It is becoming a favourite tourist destination but that’s only understandable since it offers a little bit of everything: remarkable history, wonderful sights, splendid beaches, adventurous nature and (save the best for the last) delicious food.
Have you ever been to Vietnam? Anything to add? Let us know in the comments below!
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