Tuesday 24 November 2020

Vietnam has to be one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on, probably because it was also the last trip I took before Covid came about and ruined all our fun. Aside from that, it really is a country where you can experience everything. Paradise beaches, mountain treks, city life, and some of the best food on the planet. If like me you're already itching to make travel plans for 2021, here's my guide on 10 experiences to have in Vietnam. 

vietnam guide tea with gi

1. Halong Bay

Cruising through Halong Bay is probably one of the most popular activities to do in Vietnam. Depending on who you're travelling with, there are a couple of ways you can experience this. I was travelling with my friend Rebecca and we were recommended the Castaways Island tour that's run by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels. 

This was a 2 night trip to their private island which included a boat party, shared accommodation in the Bungalows on the island and 3 meals a day. They also include activities throughout the day like kayaking, rock climbing, tubing and of course, drinking games. They usually have around 30-40 people on this trip, but we coincided with an American school who all booked onto it, so we had around 100 people on our trip. Which was great if you're looking to meet a lot of people. Also it's probably worth mentioning, there is no wifi on the island! 

castaways halong bay

2. Eat local

I had to dedicate a post to all the great food I had in Vietnam. One of my favourite things about travelling SE Asia is the amount you can eat and drink for a 1/4 of the price of what it would cost back home. On our first day in Hanoi, we were recommended to stop by Banh My P, which only has one thing on the menu - Banh Mi's. Which in essence translates to a baguette, but boy was it a good one. It usually includes pate, pickles, carrots, coriander and whatever protein you fancy. They also make vegetarian varieties too. 

Don't leave Vietnam without trying:

Banh Mi - a tasty baguette
Pho - a simple yet filling bowl of broth, rice noodles, herbs and chicken or beef. 
Banh Xeo - little crispy crepes that are filled with pork or fish and garnished with herbs. 
Goi Cuon - lighter spring rolls as they're not fried and rolled in rice paper. 
Bun Cha - a variety of meat served with a bowl of rice, broth and a basket of herbs. 
Egg coffee - tastes better than it sounds! the egg is whisked in with a coffee making it quite a thick drink.

bun cha

Places to try:

The Note Cafe (Hanoi) - quirky little cafe where the walls are filled with post-its left by customers, great place to try egg coffee too, or a simple cappuccino. 

Madam Tran (Hanoi) - found in the Old Quarter, popular restaurant serving local dishes and the staff are friendly and even helped me mix my Bun Cha since he saw me struggling with the chopsticks. 

NYC Pizza (Hanoi) - pizza in Vietnam? acceptable if you've been out drinking in Beer Street and want some authentic NYC pizza after. Justin Bieber has also been!

Bo Nuong Xuan Xuan (Hanoi) - you can BBQ your own meat here. 

Pizza 4Ps (Hanoi/Da Nang) - this place was the BOMB, it's usually packed so make sure to book a table beforehand. 

Altitude Rooftop Bar (Nha Trang) - great cocktail bar overlooking all of Nha Trang. 

Sailing Club (Nha Trang) - serving a variety of asian and western food, I had seabass, wine and cheesecake all for £10. We also got some free cocktails as they had a special mixologist in and wanted some photos of customers trying them!

Chill Sky Bar (Saigon) - vibrant cocktail bar with live DJ's and overlooking the Saigon skyline. 

the note cafe hanoi

3. Sa Pa

We didn't have quite the experience we expected as the weather was horrible and misty, but when things don't go to plan as long as you're in good company it always makes for a fun and memorable experience right? We did the Sa Pa 2 day tour from Hanoi which was a 7 hour drive but the coaches had reclined 'bed like' seats so the journey was actually quite pleasant. You spend your time trekking the mountainous area and through the local villages, and spend your evening in a Home Stay where you'll also have your food prepared for you. Sa Pa is in the north of Vietnam so as expected, it's going to be a lot colder so make sure you pack adequately. 

Sa Pa

4. Ninhvana hostel

I wouldn't recommend more than 2 nights here as there isn't much to do in the area, but it's such a great place to sit back and relax, meet other travellers and sip cheap cocktails. We flew into Nha Trang and then had a 1 1/2 hour drive to Ninhvana. Even though it's a hostel there are also private rooms available which is what we opted for. They host activities everyday and have DJs and entertainment in the evening. 

ninhvana vbh

5. Hoi An 

Hoi An is probably one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to, it definitely lives up to what you see in photos and on postcards. During the day there are a bunch of activities you can do in the area, such as hopping on a basket boat along the river or hiring a bicycle and exploring the Old Town. A lot of people also get tailor made dresses and suits made in Hoi An, so if you've got a wedding or special event coming up this is the place to get something unique for it. 

In the evening, head to the Hoi An Ancient Town to see the array of lanterns and lights that light up the place. Here you will find a ton of restaurants ranging in price, bars, shops and street vendors. You can also ride along the river on a boat full of lanterns that will make you feel like Rapunzel in Tangled. 

Hoi An

6. Hai Vahn Pass

For the more adventurous folk up there, this is a 20km road that crosses Da Nang to Hue and is one of the most scenic routes you can take. Most people decide to do this on a motorcycle, either at their own leisure or on a Motorbike Tour with a local company. If you've been to Vietnam you know how crazy the roads can be, so if like me you're too uncoordinated to do this then you can experience by sitting on the passenger seat of a Jeep instead.

Hai Vahn Pass

7. Train Street, Hanoi 

Ever experienced a train crossing 1m in front of you whilst you're sat drinking an egg coffee and cake? You will in Train Street in Hanoi. They can sometimes be a bit funny about letting you enter, but if you say you're heading to one of the cafes then you should be fine. The train passes every half hour so you likely won't miss it! It's also a great spot to get a pic for your Instagram, obviously. 

train street hanoi

8. Ba Na Hills 

We didn't have time to make it here, and I'm gutted because it looks like such a unique place. The area is an hour away from Hoi An or Da Nang and you have to take a cable car to get here. Here you find a mini 'European village' filled with castles and french bakeries. I saw this in Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father and couldn't believe we missed it. Here you'll also find the Golden Bridge which if you get there early without the mass of tourists, you're in for some epic photos. 

Ba Na Hills
Photo Credit

9. War Remnants Museum, Saigon 

I was not prepared for how moving this museum was going to be, I think all of us came out of it a bit teary eyed and had to go have a drink to cheer ourselves up. There is a range of themed exhibits, including weapons and machinery used in the Vietnam War, propaganda, and graphic photographs covering the effects of Agent Orange and Napalm bombs on the vietnamese people. It really was horrific and some of those images I will never forget. The aim of the US army was to disfigure the people of Vietnam for generations so they would never be able to form another army, and even to this day you still see the effects that their attacks have had on people. 

war museum saigon

10. Chi Chi Tunnels, Saigon

If you're claustrophobic then you're probably going to want to skip this, but here you have the chance to experience how the Viet Cong guerilla fighters lived during the Vietnam War. You'll get to visit the underground bunkers and learn about all the traps they set and hidden kitchens and spots they had. The original tunnels were quite small, but they have actually been widened in order to accommodate every type of traveller who wants to fit in the snug space. 

We spent a total of 16 days in Vietnam and could have easily spent another two weeks there, but I feel like we saw all the highlights and did everything we wanted to do. I didn't have any bad experiences in Vietnam and i'd definitely go back, once I have explored the rest of Asia! 


For this post I collaborated with the very talented Beatrice who created this illustration for me based on my favourite spot on my trip, Hoi An. Beatrice spent 6 months living in Vietnam, so I'm sure she could have filled this post with 50 more things to do there! 

You can find the The Hoi An Art print on her online store, and until the 30th November she is offering 10% off using the code 'TEAWITHGI' at checkout. 

You can check out her work and collections on her website Beatrice Garcia and find her on Instagram here.


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