Vietnam is a great travel destination for couples as well as for solo women travellers. It is safe, beautiful and most of the time a bit loud :P. A few years ago, I went on a solo trip to Bangkok, Vietnam, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and I have found the 2 weeks I've spent back then in Vietnam were the right amount of time. Here is now an idea how to spend 14 days in Vietnam.
It was in September, when I flew from Europa into Bangkok first, then took my Air Asia flight to Hanoi, the northern biggest city of Vietnam. After picking up my visa on arrival after landing, I took an airport van transfer to the hostel, which I booked prior to my travel. I don't know the name of the hostel anymore and frankly, I don't really want to recommend it on my blog since it was bad. Really bad. ;) At least I've met some nice people in the hostel which accompanied me during my stay in Hanoi.
3 Days in Hanoi
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and the second largest city in the country. The distance between Hanoi (in the North) and the second most important city in Vietnam - Saigon (in the South) - is as much as 1760 km.
My thoughts on Hanoi? Loud, loud, loud! Did I mention loud? :) Oh yes, be prepared for an intensive cultural shock. I really felt stressed out on my first walk through the city! First of all, the amount of motorbikes is crazy! It was the first time, I saw so many motorbikes on a road! And the only option was to walk on the streets since the pavements were occupied by parked motorbikes, bikes and people's grocery stands ;) Secondly, it was hot and humid as hell. And thirdly, at the end of my 3-day stay in the city, I LOVED IT! I know, I'm weird. But after adapting on all this noise, the heavy climate and the chaotic situation, I was fine! I started to enjoy the city by entering into some of these small shops with paintings and other hand-crafted stuff and by eating their incredibly tasty food (if I knew at that time that this was just the beginning of a food paradise in Vietnam) - I wrote about their food and coffee here.
2 Days at Halong Bay
Karst limestone peaks are a symbol of Halong Bay and a UNESCO designation. With its 1600 monolithic islands, rising from the emerald waters of Halong Bay, the area makes it a great vacation spot. Some of these islands are hollow on inside and offer therefore a great cave experience.
In Hanoi, there are many tourist providers as well as hostels who offer you a 2-day or a 3-day trip to the world-famous Halong Bay. I decided to go for a 2-day trip which I booked in a party hostel where another friend of mine was staying. That was a HUGE mistake! Not the tour itself, but the booking through a party hostel! I'm going to explain it why: We were picked up by a van in front of the hostel and were driven 4,5 hours from Hanoi to the natural wonder of Vietnam. First hours seemed to be fun, we had the chance to kayak for 2 hours on this wonderful green water between the misty rocks. Such an amazing experience! After a while, I started to realise that we were a group of only women - ca. 20 women!! We finally reached our boat where we would spend the night. And then it started - crazy drinking with loud and extremely annoying people, screaming around, talking bullshit and so on... We even had a party organiser, which forced us to play some perverse games where people would have to take off their clothes or kiss with other drunk people. Just pfui. I like to have some drinks and have a funny night with my friends, but this was just getting out of control. I could go on and on what else happened, but that would be just a waste of time. So lesson learned! Be careful in choosing your Halong Bay provider to prevent a similar situation, unless you really are into these kind of theme parties!
Halong Bay can be indeed a very nice experience, if you rent out kayaks, sail on the great waters and take some nice pictures of the surrounding peaks. As the water in September was really warm, we could also have a swim. This was cool!
A 2-day tour will cost you about 100 US dollars, a 3-day tour 200 US dollars. And in my eyes, 2 days is enough to see the gem of Vietnam!
2 Days in Sapa
My highlight in Vietnam? Sapa, for sure! What a fantastic trekking experience! I booked a 2-day tour through a local provider in Hanoi (this time it turned out great!). First, we went on a night train to Sapa and arrived early in the morning. We were then picked up by a van which brought us to the starting point of the Sapa trail. Sapa is a quiet mountain town, located near the border with China. It is known for its picturesque rice terraces and luxuriant vegetation. After our arrival, we were happily greeted by the local Sapa people. On the first day, we hiked about 5 hours until we reached our base. The hike turned out pretty challenging due to the weather condition. Due to the heavy rain in the previous days, the trail was all wet and very muddy! So muddy, that everyone of us fell at least twice :) At the end, everyone was so dirty that we were all smiles. However, the fact that it was all wet shouldn't discourage you to visit Sapa! The landscape was breathtaking - something very unique!
2 Days in Hoi An
Another UNESCO Heritage Site is the ancient city of Hoi An. This was my favourite city of all the cities I've visited in Vietnam. It is a small city with yellow facade buildings. There are many clothes shops which are happy to sew custom-made clothes! With the people I've met on my trip through Vietnam, I enjoyed dining in restaurants, drinking coffees, visiting its food market etc. While being there, the water of the Hoi An river was extremely high, causing some floods. According to the weather forecast, a heavy storm was approaching towards Hoi An, therefore I was obliged to continue my travels via South.
2 Days in Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a tourist-friendly city along the Vietnamese East coast. Its jewel? A long sand beach with cute accommodation possibilities and fantastic restaurants! With its great ocean vibe, it makes it a great spot for some water fun and night life. Definitely not a place if you're travelling solo :/ It was the first time, when I felt a bit lonely on my solo trip! Baaah... :)
3 Days in Saigon
Saigon resp. Ho Chi Minh really surprised me. It is a well-developed city with modern buildings. It is also home to lots of foreign companies. While in Hanoi I had my coffee in one of the small cafes, in Saigon I was obliged to go in a huge international coffee chain ;) To me, it seemed that Saigon is a center of young people, who want to be a part of the modern world and are keen with latest fashion and technology trends. This city is worth it if you want to get an insight of the overall Vietnamese economic development - from traditional and rustic North to the modern and well-developed South.
Although I had some extreme situations during my Vietnam trip (party overdose, muddy trails, heavy floods), I felt in love with their food (btw. the best food I've ever eaten) and the diverse landscape. I would definitely do Sapa again, but I would add 1 day more; I would choose another provider for the Halong Bay trip or even try to go on my own; I would cut a day in the cities such as Hanoi and Saigon and spend it wandering down the streets of Hoi An! I would also include a half-day stop in Hue and do a daytrip to the desert sands of Mui Ne and try the sandboarding once again (as already done in Peru).
Are you interested in visiting Vietnam? Or have you already visited the country? How did your itinerary look like? Let us know in the comments below!