Two months in Vietnam

I wanted to eat A LOT of pho, banh mi sandwiches, and Vietnamese BBQ so knew I would need to stay in Vietnam for a while – and that’s what I did. 

Due to the fact that the Vietnamese really know how to cater to travelers (yes WIFI & bathrooms on the sleeper buses) I bought an open bus ticket and made the trek from the south to the north for two months in late 2014. As long as the bus company had a days notice of when you would be hopping on, you could travel at the pace that you wished. No need to stress about planning too much in advance. 

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Sleeper bus

My trip looked like this: Phu Quoc – Saigon – Mui Ne – Dalat – Nah Trang – Hoi An – Danang – Hue – Hanoi – Sapa – Cat Ba. 

Traveling with no time restrictions and in a place that is very affordable is the absolute best. Check the rest of my Vietnam stories to figure out details of the places I went. 

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Vietnam is 100% MY FAVORITE country I have ever visited.

Trekking in SaPa

Have you ever had to rely on a less than 100 pound elderly woman to guide you through the mountains and make sure that you wouldn’t fall flat on your face? Well, I have. 

Should I or should I not go to Sapa? That’s not even a question if you enjoy hiking, cooler weather, and a whole different experience from anything else that Vietnam has to offer. I spent a couple of days trekking through the hills in northern Vietnam toward the end of my two month trip. Although it was cloudy and rainy for the most part, it was still absolutely beautiful. It’s easy enough to do an overnight bus from Hanoi and be at the Sapa town center by morning. Be prepared for cooler temperatures. If you need any winter gear there are discounted North Face stores on every corner in the main parts of Sapa and Hanoi. I bought a jacket that I later forgot on the boat ride to Halong Bay – womp wommmmp.

A group of about 8 of us were going on the two day trek – I wish I had gone a little longer but that’s just more reason to go back. Each day we walked about 8-10 miles through little villages. After our first day of sightseeing we stayed in a village home-stay where they prepped us a fantastic meal. We were able to explore the village, get mulled wine, treat ourselves to massages, and enjoy these little lavender infused baths up in the mountains.

After the first night we continued our journey through the slippery terrain. The photos tell more than I can. But this was such a unique experience and I’m glad that I took advantage of seeing this part of the country. Don’t believe me or still a bit skeptical? Well good thing for Tripadvisor

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Boozin’ Monkey

I got in trouble for jumping off of a boat on the way to Halong Bay. Ok, it was a bit of a MESS. Yes, it is BEAUTIFUL. But it’s a tourist trap so BE CAREFUL! We took a sunset boat out to Cat Ba through Halong Bay. It was gorgeous but our tour guide was ripping us off horribly and so I just drank wine and fumed inside. Not my best moment, but I had been traveling in SE Asia for four months and was at the end of my scam tolerance. 

Anyways, there is a little place near Halong Bay called Monkey Island. I spent an afternoon climbing around, playing frisbee, and basking in the sun. The monkeys would LITERALLY come right up to you and sneak your beers. It was madness!

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**It’s a lovely area of Vietnam, but if you go make sure to do the research before and make sure to negotiate prices and deals.**

Poop coffee

I got to visit my buddy Long when I went to Hanoi. Once again, another city I am in love with in Vietnam. I met Long through my ultimate frisbee team in South Korea while he was studying at the university in Ulsan. We ate lots of Vietnamese BBQ, which is the BEST food ever. I love the night life and that everyone eats outside in the streets.

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I biked around the lake, walked around the city, and prepped for Halong Bay & SaPa.

Make sure to drink the POOP coffee! Just kidding, it’s not poop, but Hanoi is famous for the Weasel coffee that does partly come from their…. well imgres.

Make me a dress please

Hoi An is any gals dream. It is known to be the town that has tailors who create made to order dresses and clothing. I got sized and had a few dresses made for myself and my sister. I biked, explored, made pottery, went to the beach which had amazing waves, took an evening canoe ride, ate really good local food, stayed at the best home stay. We also rented motorbikes and went north to Danang for a day and explore that little town. 

 

I’ve said it a lot, but this was definitely one of my favorite towns. I stayed over a week because there was so much to do and I had such a cozy place to sleep.

MUST. GO. CANYONING

Dalat is a little town that is a MUST see. I spent about four days there exploring the area. From renting a motorbike and getting lost in the countryside, finding REALLY good coffee, buying some art, and cruising the night markets. Also, The Train Villa had AMAZING lasagna (yes, it’s OK to eat lasagna when you have been living in Asia for over two years). 

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The BEST part about Dalat is the canyoning. IT IS SO MUCH FUN – if you can deal with heights – and I HATE heights. I spent a day repelling off cliffs, sliding down rocks, swimming in the river, and picnicking with a small tour group.

Saigon won’t rip me off

SAIGON. It’s the COOLEST city ever. Ok, I’m lying I say that any time I go to a new city. I met up with my friends Kyle and Meghan who were living there at the time. They had a FIVE story house and paid $450 a month. WHAT!? Take me back PLEASE. They were both working and living there at the time and were great hosts for just over a week. We went to the pools, rode motorbikes, and ate great food.

Be careful if you are in a taxi. At one point I was in one and I could see that the driver was clicking the meter and making the price go up way too fast. A few blocks down the road it was becoming ridiculous so I asked him to pull over and let us out. I paid him his fee and he gave me back a very small amount of change. I looked over and saw he had hidden my $$ under his leg and acted as if I hadn’t just give it to him. I took his wallet, took my proper change, and got out of there. I had already been in SE Asia for over two months and didn’t have the patience to get ripped off. I was on a BUDGET. 

The Vietnam War museum was a really hard place to see in person. It was sad to see how it had affected so many people, both American and Vietnamese, horribly. I was impressed by all of the Americans who were drafted and refused to go because of their morals. They would burn their papers. People today are still affected by agent orange which can easily be passed down generation to generation.

During my last few days I got horribly sick and went to the doctor – so happy for my travel insurance! I was diagnosed with tonsillitis and laid in bed for a few days – NOT FUN. Luckily I had such wonderful hosts and wasn’t stuck in a hostel somewhere.

Overall, I really DID love the city, despite the circumstances. It was busy, loud, crazy, and there were tons of expats. I need to go live there someday.

For more history on Ho Chi Minh city click here

**Unfortunately I have no idea where my pics of this city went, but I have a great memory of them in my mind….

Welcome to Vietnam

Oops, my visa in Cambodia expired by a couple of days so when I crossed the border I got dinged $20. YES, $20 was A LOT OF MONEY at this time and area of my life. I sobbed inside, got over it, paid the fee and was off to what would be my most favorite country I have ever been to. 

I spent a few days in Phu Quoc; it’s a little island off the south of Vietnam that could easily be reached by boat. I stayed at the beach, got massages, read in the sun, played in the water (while trying to avoid jelly fish), and motorbiked all over the main land. At one point we motorbiked to some waterfalls and met a Vietnamese family having a picnic on the rocks. They asked us to join in and of course I couldn’t decline. It was fun to chat with a family and eat some of the traditional food and wine they had made. 

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