The Travel Genius Explores Vietnam

The Travel Genius Explores Vietnam
Beach at Cassia Cottage Hotel Phu Quoc

Recently I took a 2 week holiday to explore the beautiful country of Vietnam. With such a short trip I decided to limit my itinerary to only a few stops so I could fully explore the cities I visited instead of trying to cram so much into a few days and not properly enjoying my holiday.

Know Before You Go

Budgeting For Your Trip: The cost of living in Vietnam is extremely cheap compared to prices we are used to paying in the UK. In Hanoi we found beer for around 60p and most of our dinners were around £30 for 2 including wine. Ho Chi Minh was a little more expensive, being a business city, costs were generally 20% higher there.

Visa Requirements: UK Passport holders do not require a visa for stays of 14 days or less.

When To Travel: This will depend on what parts you want to visit as the country has two monsoon seasons. Northern Vietnam has its monsoon season October to April and Southern Vietnam experiences monsoons May to September. In general if you plan to explore the whole country Autumn and Spring tend to have milder weather. We visited in November and while it rained a few times while we were there they were quick downpours that stopped very quickly so I don’t feel it affected our holiday too much.

My Itinerary:

3 nights in Hanoi

3 nights in Ho Chi Minh

5n on Phu Quoc Island

I would say this is a fantastic itinerary for first time travellers to Vietnam as you get to see all the main sights and have plenty of time relaxing on the beach before you come home. 

My Flights:

Vietnam Airlines – A380 Dreamliner
Heathrow to Hanoi – Premium Economy – 12 hours
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City – Economy – 2 hours
Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc Island – Economy – 40 minutes
Phu Quoc Island to Ho Chi Minh City – Economy – 40 minutes
Ho Chi Minh City to Heathrow – Economy – 13 hours

Luggage allowance on the international flights 23kg
Luggage allowance on the domestic flights 23kg

My Thoughts On Vietnam Airlines

I honestly wasn’t expecting too much of Vietnam Airlines but I was very pleasantly surprised with our experience. The food, hospitality, customer service, and aircraft were all of very high standard and we had a fantastic flight. As we were flying premium economy from Heathrow we had priority check in and priority boarding which made the process extremely efficient and low stress. We also received 2 hot meals and 2 drinks services on board the flight which featured a mix of Vietnamese and world cuisine options. The inflight entertainment was impressive with a large seat back screens and a wide range of films, music, and TV to keep us entertained.

On arrival in Hanoi airport we had pre-booked an airport transfer and we were extremely glad of our decision once we landed. The arrivals hall was chaotic and many passengers were jostling for non-licenced taxis and overpriced transfers.

Hanoi

Hotel – Hotel La Siesta Diamond

When booking our holiday we chose this hotel specifically for its location. It is right on the edge of Hanoi Old Quarter so it makes it easy to explore the main tourist areas on foot but it is far enough from the hustle and bustle to ensure a quiet night’s sleep. Another highlight of this hotel is the Sky Bar which offers panoramic views from the 13-15th floors of the hotel. If you are travelling in Hanoi over New Year’s Eve I would recommend making reservations at this bar for fantastic views of the fireworks.

Sightseeing

We did a mixture of organised tours and exploring under our own steam so we could get a feel for the city. I would recommend an Old Quarter Walking Tour to everyone visiting Hanoi as it is a good way to get your bearings and discover things that you might want to explore later. The guide will also be able to recommend some good local restaurants and bars as well. Our walking tour also included a quick trip on a cyclo rickshaw for fun and to give us a taste of the popular mode of transport.

Hanoi Street Market

The St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral was a fantastic respite from the heat, it has been likened to Notre Dame Cathedral and the resemblance is uncanny! One of my favourite stops however was the Hoa Lo Prison Museum which sits on the site of the prison which held many US Prisoners of war who ironically nicknamed it the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. It is a thought-provoking view into the lives of the POW who resided there during the American War.

St Josephs Cathedral Hanoi

The Heritage House is a place I would recommend to everyone. It is a lovingly restored traditional 19th century merchants house situated in the Old Quarter. It is set over 2 stories and 3 buildings which have two courtyards separating them. This type of traditional architecture is disappearing in the metropolitan cities so it is a great way to experience how people used to live in Hanoi.

Even if you aren’t one for visiting temples whilst travelling, Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi is the one temple you must see. It is built on a small island on Hoan Kiem Lake, connected to the shore by an elegant scarlet bridge called the Huc Bridge. In general it is a beautiful temple but there are also a few interesting legends surrounding the lake and the temple which are interesting to learn about. I would recommend visiting the temple in the evening when the whole area is lit with reddish light.

The Huc Bridge (Hanoi)
Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh

Hotel – Hotel Lotte Legend

Most of the hotels in Ho Chi Minh are built to cater for corporate travellers and this hotel is no exception. The rooms were styled in the sleek minimalism you’d expect from a corporate hotel and the service was impeccable. The concierge team in particular were extremely efficient when organising some private tours for us. 

Sightseeing

We did a general city tour to get the lay of the land when we first arrived in Ho Chi Minh and got to see some amazing sights. The Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, and Opera House are all stops on this city tour and give a great sample of the French colonial architecture present in Vietnam.

Statue of Ho Chi Minh – can be found in the middle of District 1, right in the city centre

One of the most famous places to visit in Ho Chi Minh is the War Remnants Museum. It is aimed completely at tourists rather than locals and documents the devastating cost of the Vietnam War on the country and its citizens. It is a really harrowing exhibit but one I recommend people visit if they are up to it.

War Remnants Museum HCMC

The Reunification Palace is another relic from the Vietnam War. It was used as General Ngo Dinh Diem’s base of operations during the Vietnam War and is still laid out almost exactly how it was during those days. The Reunification Palace is well known for having a tank crash through its gates and end the war and today two of the tanks used in the capture of the palace are still parked in the grounds.

The Cu Chi Tunnels are another must see attraction for people interested in the Vietnam War. It is a chance to see the conditions the soldiers endured as they lived and moved through the underground tunnels. There are over 120km of underground tunnels just at this site alone and each of them are fitted with trapdoors, living areas, storage rooms, hospitals, command centres, and armouries. The tunnels are located an hour and a half outside of Ho Chi Minh so it is advisable to pre-book a tour.

Cu Chi Tunnels near HCMC

 The Mekong Delta is an amazing place to visit so that you can appreciate the lush greenery on offer in Vietnam. The River is a major waterway of East Asia, running through six countries and providing for small villages, rice fields, and for the towns that live on the water itself. A trip to the Mekong River is a lovely way to see the rural life of Vietnam.

Mekong Delta

Phu Quoc Island

Hotel – Cassia Cottage

A spice trader’s retreat that has been renovated and is now a gorgeous boutique hotel with 3 swimming pools and onsite cooking classes. There is even a dive centre onsite so you can take advantage of the abundant marine life.

Yoga at Hotel Cassia Cottage Phu Quoc
Beach at Cassia Cottage Hotel Phu Quoc

Sightseeing

After an itinerary that had been packed with exploring it was lovely to take a few days to relax on the beautiful tropical island of Phu Quoc. Here you will find plenty of white sand beaches, clear water, breath-taking sunsets, and some amazing reefs to dive or snorkel. While we didn’t do much sightseeing we did see a few things that we thought other people would enjoy too.

Cable Car To Hon Thom Island – At 7,899 meters in length this is the longest cable car in the world. It travels over three islands, allowing guests stunning 360 degree views. The island that this cable car leads to it currently being developed and will soon open a waterpark and theme park. I am torn about this as it will bring more tourists to the area but Phu Quoc feels so much like paradise with its long, peaceful sandy beaches that it would lose some of its majesty if it became too touristy.

Cable car over to Hon Thom Island Phu Quoc
views from the cable car Phu Quoc

Duong Don Night Market – The market is open everyday from 5pm til 9pm allowing tourists to buy souvenirs, jewellery, Phu Quoc pearls, and handicrafts to remember the place by. More than 100 stalls reside here and stretch along both sides of Vo Thi Sau Street.

Please contact me if you would like a quote for a holiday to Vietnam or any other destination.

michellestammers

I have worked within the travel industry for over 30 years and now run my travel business from my home town, Sutton Coldfield. Running my own business allows me to offer impartial and truly independent travel advice, whatever your requirements might be. Whether it’s the trip of a lifetime, a honeymoon or a family holiday, I’d be delighted to help and will listen to your needs to create a perfectly tailored itinerary and make suggestions to enhance your trip. Would you like more time to discuss your plans and hear my suggestions? Please email or call me to arrange a free private consultation (within 10 miles of Sutton Coldfield). All holidays are ABTA and ATOL bonded via my preferred travel suppliers, so you have peace of mind that your holiday is in safe hands. Email - travelgenius@brillianttravel.co.uk ABTA - 13759 ATOL - 5346

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