January, 2017

Destinations visited: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh

Currency: Dong (check xe.com for rates based on your country/currency)

It doesn’t get better than writing a blog post while being on the plane, on a bed-seater, with the sun light entering from every side. This is just beautiful.

I especially like it when the plane is not super full. You still get to see and meet people, but not get uncomfortable moving, walking around or getting a faster service.

AH-MAZING.

Now, as for this trip. My first flight to Vietnam was as follows:

Kuwait – Doha – Bangkok – Vietnam.

Right, it sounds a lot. But not really. This is why I picked this flight:

1- Miles. I was able to book this flight with miles on business class, which made the decision much easier for me.

2- Short connections. The connection in Doha was around 1 hour 20 minutes, It went by so fast and I enjoyed a quick visit to the business lounge.

3- What more do you need? Haha. Or fine there’s one more: The layover in Bangkok was on board. Still enjoying the comfort of my bed/seat, stay asleep or finish writing a blog post like this one (#lifeofatravelblogger?), and then continue the trip for one hour and 30 mins to reach Hanoi.

NOTE: A friend of mine gave me a hard time for booking with miles. She has a very good point: when you book your entire flight with miles, it some how becomes more expensive than booking it economy, and then upgrading with miles. Her rational made a lot of sense, but my budget situation at that very moment, was very happy with my decision.

She on the other hand saved up some money, by booking a round trip to Bangkok economy class, and booked separately internally to Hanoi. She saved up, brilliant strategy! (Transit time of her flights were 5 hours in Bangkok)

LETS REVERSE A BIT. 

It all started when I was invited to go to Bali for two weeks on a sponsored trip.

I wasn’t planning anything, everything was being planned for me. So I was going with the excitement of not knowing what is being planned.

UNTIL, I got that phone call. The phone call that really annoyed me that day (only that day). Sorry did I say a call? Not even a call, it was a text message. (It felt like someone is breaking up with me… via TEXT MSG. Not cool!) apologizing and informing me that my trip is cancelled. Trips get cancelled that’s fine.. but a text message? Really?

That aside, It all started.

I moved things around,  had a chat with a friend who has the travel bug as well. The traveler in me was still anxious and excited about traveling. Ofcourse, I picked up the convo with my friend, myself and her both went online, started the research and our outcome was this beautiful trip.

First stop in Vietnam, Hanoi. 

Why Hanoi? So my plan was to leave from Vietnam to Indonesia, so I went on google maps and checked whats the closest point to leave from and shortest to arrive in Indonesia. According to the  map, it was Ho Chinh Minh. So that was my end point.

Arriving to Hanoi, Night 1

Hanoi is a city and it’s the Capital of Vietnam. In Hanoi, my friend Basma and I decided to stay in the center, Hoan Kiem.

We found a cute clean hotel, very well priced in the center called: Hanoi Delano Hotel and that was our choice for the night. (Around 53 USD including VAT and service charge including breakfast).

We immediately headed out after we’re done with checkin to walk around the center, and head towards their famous Lake. Hoàn Kiếm Lake – STUNNING LAKE! There’s a bridge in the middle of the lake, you can pay and access. I didn’t go on that bridge, I just enjoyed the walk around the lake its a must.

The hotel also informed us that since it was the weekend, there was a night market and that was our stop after the lake.

Night 2, Ha Long Bay

Our Ha Long Bay visit was arranged through Viator.com – we’ve booked prior to our arrival an overnight 4 star cruise to explore Ha Long Bay. (2-day Oriental Sails Junk Cruise of Halong Bay from Hanoi.

We were picked up from our hotel in Hanoi in a mini-van that seats 12 people, the drive was 4 hours which included a stop in a cafe.

We’re arrived to the bay, and hopped on the boat to take us to the cruise.

To be very honest… I was very pleasantly surprised. What a lovely cruise! Basma and I booked 2 single rooms, each of us got their own big bed, a little seating area with stunning view of the bay, jacuzzi, and a fully equipped wooden bathroom. Sweet!

Day 1 on cruise: HA LONG BAY

day one started off with an on board lunch which as included in the total payment (all meals were included minus drinks), and a welcome chat to go over the activities of the day:

  • Fishing Village visit by Bamboo Rowing Boat
  • There was a mini golf course on the top of the cruise
  • Cooking class on board

There was another option that included Kayaking and swimming, but the weather was too cold for a swim or to even get wet for that matter.

It was truly enjoyable! I was able to also cover live all our activities on my snapchat account .. If you’re not following me yet, Add Me! (Username: Hello965).

Day 2 on cruise: BAI TU LONG BAY

Alarm was set at 6 am, to enjoy the start of the day with Tai-Chi lesson on the sundeck.

Right after this session, breakfast was served. Right after breakfast we headed on a small cruise to see the caves. Honestly, it was too windy and too rainy, so to me, the caves could be skipped especially with the weather conditions.

Night 3, Back in Hanoi

The trip back from Ha Long Bay takes 4 hours. By the way, I heard that there is a new tour company that offers a short cut to Ha Long Bay (1 hour 30 mins), but you need to double check cause I just heard the info but didn’t research it.

Any how, so basically decided to take the day slow, and spend the night in Hanoi, and book an early ticket to Hoi An the next day.

My flight to Hoi An was at 7 in the morning, I had to wake up and go to the airport around 5 am.

Night 4, Hoi An

Made it to Hoi An.  My stay in Hoi An is unfortunately short (1 night).

I booked myself on a super early flight to Hoi An. My flight was on VetAir, at 7:10 AM.

Since I’ve decided to spend only one night in Hoi An (BIG MISTAKE!) I wanted to take advantage of the full day spent there (GOOD CALL!).

I arrived to Hoi An at 8 AM, and had arranged before hand a pick-up from the airport by the hotel (cost: $22, ride hours: 3040 minutes). I think the option of taking a taxi is also a good option (and probably is cheaper!)

Note – I would like to also extend a thank you for the Four Seasons hotel in Hoi An, for trying to organize for me to visit and feature their resort on hello965, and experience their offerings, too bad it didn’t work out, there’s always a next time 🙂

Night 5 & 6, Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh was my last stop in Vietnam. At this point, I’ve had spent a beautiful beautiful week in Vietnam. I realized how much Vietnam had exceeded my expectations.

After seeing all those lovely places, I was honestly too tired to go explore Ho Chi Minh! So this is what I did: I wanted to see specific places and get specific things from Vietnam before I leave, so every time I wanted to go to a place; I request an UBER.. UBER MOTO!!!! So basically, its a scooter uber! SUPER AWESOME! For only 10,000 Dong, he’d take me to my stop. Along the way, I get to see the city!!!! Once I get down, I just walk around and explore the area.

During our Ho Chi Minh Visit, we did a Full day Tour Mekong Dong River and Cu Chi Tunnels.. very much worth it and I recommend it.

Most people with more time spent in Ho Chi Minh, do those tours separately (each half day), but since I didn’t have much time, I combined both of them. The only part that was sort of annoying was the drive since its long from one place to another.. but to be very honest, I slept the entire drive haha so it didn’t really bother me..

Our tour was a full-day private tour from Ho Chi Minh City combines visits to the Cu Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta. We experienced Vietnam’s wartime history as well as modern day life in the agricultural region at the mouth of the mighty Mekong River. 
We enjoyed discovering the lush beauty of the Mekong Delta as we cruised down its famed river with island stops at local farms and villages. Later, a drive to Cu Chi tunnels, and an explanation about the full history behind it.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh:

  • Binh Tay Market
  • Ben Thanh Market
  • Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda)
  • Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)
  • Lam Son Square

Note – A big THANK YOU. 

Finally, An extra big THANK YOU for Basma for almost planning the whole thing for the both of us! She took fast measures in trying to find the best suitable deals for this whole trip to Vietnam. Thank you Basma! ♡

SUMMARY: 

All my options below are based on my budget for this trip. There are plenty of other options, and different level of stays all depends on your preference and choice and number of travelers. At the end, try to find what suits you, and what goes along with your plans.

For instance, I was in between Hoi An and Nha Trang as a destination. I had to choose one of them; before I traveled I called a friend who’s a fellow traveler who was in Vietnam one month before my trip, and from her feedback, I knew Hoi An was the right choice for me.

You should always decide on what you want, not on what others think you should want.

Hotels

All my hotels were booked researched and booked based on: 3-5 star budget friendly and clean. All hotels I booked through booking.com

  • Hanoi: Hanoi Delano Hotel & Golden Lotus Luxury Hotel (Verdict: Cute hotels! I preferred the first one over the other)
  • Halong Bay Cruise: Star Light (Verdict: LOVED IT! Recommended!)
  • Hoi An: Palm Garden Resort & Spa  (Verdict: OMG this place is amazing! I loved it!)
  • Ho Chi Minh: Alagon Saigon Hotel (Verdict: also… LOVED IT!!! amazing rooftop!)

Flights

  • Indonesia AirAsia – This was my last flight leaving from Ho Chi Minh to Bali, Indonesia. I’ve had 2 delays, unhelpful staff and an issue because I booked via kiwi.com and not directly from their website. If you find another airline, Id recommend to go for the other airlines to avoid such matters.
  • Come to think about it, most domestic flights I took were on AirAsia. Try VietAir instead.
  • Keep in mind, domestic flights only allow 7 kg on board, and you need to buy baggage if you have something to checkin before hand.

Restaurants

In terms of restaurants, to be honest, I randomly found and walked into places, or used TripAdvisor to find good rating street food shops. The one I found and would recommend you to try is in Hanoi (French Vietnamese) called: Green Tangirene which I also mentioned earlier in this post.

Food you must try in Vietnam? Checkout my hashtag on instagram

All my activities were booked via Viator.com – Some of the tours I met people who booked their tours through a website called: Get Your Guide