As we sit on the plane flying to Vientiane, Laos (country #6!!), I am reflecting back on our time in Vietnam (I find planes the best place to reflect, perhaps because there are no distractions and I’m forced to be with my own thoughts for the flight duration). I had an amazing time in Vietnam, but in our 10 days, we barely scratched the surface of the country, staying mainly in the north. Reason being, the inter-country flights aren’t cheap and it takes a long time to travel the country by bus/train.
We had planned to do (per a friends suggestion of a week long itinerary) Hanoi-Ha Long Bay-Sapa-Hoi An, but our plans were slightly derailed by an AMAZING three day, two night trip to Ha Long Bay and a crush. We decided to stay an extra two days in Hanoi when our plans to Hoi An were cancelled after discovering the travel time combined with the fact that there were no flights from Da Nang to Laos.
As a city, Hanoi probably wouldn’t rank all that high on my list, but as for our experience and time spent in Hanoi, it’s up there. By the end of our stay at the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel it kind of felt like our home. When you’re traveling, people are constantly moving in and out of your life and it was nice to spend a few days (well a week really if we count the island time) with the same group of folks and feel like you actually get to know them.
- Hello: Xin chao (sin jow)
- Goodbye: Tam biet (daam bee-uht)
- Thank You: Cam on (Gamm ern)
- Beer: Bia (beer)
Fun Fact: Vietnam has GOLDFISH! The Pepperidge Farm kind of Goldfish, a.k.a my fave snack food. I got wayyy more excited than I should have when I saw this, but I haven’t eaten these delicious treats in over two months. The knock off brand (Marine Boy) is NOT good. Nor is it really Goldfish, despite the packaging. Don’t be fooled like I was.
1. Ha Long Bay/Castaway Island 3 day 2 night Rock Hard Rock Long trip – the most wonderful, awesome, rad trip/group ever! Highly recommend as a Ha Long Bay trip. And Ha Long Bay is a must do if traveling to Vietnam. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Staying on a private island for two days with tubing, wake boarding, rock climbing and night time swimming with phosphoresces, only makes it that much better!
2. Hanoi Backpackers Hostel (Ma May) – this could be my favorite hostel we’ve stayed at so far. Spectacularly clean, cheap (we did share a double bunk bed, but still…), free breakfast, friendly staff and a great menu with cheap prices. Somewhat ashamed to admit how much we ate there. It was A LOT. They also have a plethora of fun, nightly activities. I may have had a crush and perhaps this is why I liked it so much, but even so, we met so many great folks and it felt like our home at the end of our stay in Hanoi.
3. The Anthony Bourdain Trail – after two delicious Bourdain recos in Bali and Singapore, we decided to continue on his path and see if he led us to any local gems in Hanoi. And lead us he did. The Sunday we returned from Sapa, I used some of my precious global data MB’s (Verizon…why don’t you offer the unlimited global data anymore?!?! Agghhh!!) to look up his recs and low and behold, one was just around the corner.
It was a VERY local selection. We were the only westerners in the joint. Anthony won again though. Fantastic meal, including a big beer, all for $2.50. We tried another one the next day and although delicious, it was more of an appetizer than meal. I look forward to seeing what AB brings us next!
4. Sapa– a quiet mountain town located in the Lao Cai Provience in northwest Vietnam (just south of the China border). Sapa is beautiful and is surrounded by mountains and rice fields. Make sure to head to Sapa and trek to the local villages. You can even do a homestay, however we opted to stay in town at the Sapa Luxury Hotel. Eat some Pho for breakfast. It’s delicious!
5. Water Puppets – when visiting Hanoi, make sure to check out Thang Long, a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show. The show tells of Vietnamese legend, folklore and history and is accompanied by an orchestra musical background. Quite enjoyable! You can catch an afternoon matinee or go to one of the evening shows (if you are trying to avoid getting sucked into the nightly hostel outing. Ha!).