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How to plan your Dream Trip to Vietnam – The North

By jane

Are you about to plan your Vietnam Dream Trip, but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry any longer! I’m giving you an overview which places offer unique sights and cultural value to your itinerary!

Did you know that Vietnamese culture got influenced by the Chinese, Japanese, French and American colonial? Depending in which city you are you will see very remarkably how the history is clearly present. Let us start with the northern part of Vietnam.


Interesting Facts

 

  • Vietnamese food is one of the healthiest amongst the world.

 

  • The famous nutshell-fisherboats were invented to avoid the fee that locals had to pay for having fisherboats during the time of french colony.

 

  • “Phu” also known as rice -noodle soup is the second most popular food in Vietnam.

 

  • Motorbikes are the commonly used transportation way and their horning is one of the undeniable traits of big Vietnamese cities.

 

  • Vietnam is one of the main producers of cashews, pepper and fish sauce.

 

  • Hanoi is the capital City of Vietnam whereas Ho Chi Minh City has the biggest population.

 

  • In Ho Chi Minh City’s Mausoleum you can see the body of Vietnam’s first president.

 


Northern Vietnam

 

Hanoi is the big capital of Vietnam. Personally, I experienced this city as one of the most bustling ones and quite chaotic with the uncountable motorbikes making their way trough all the narrow streets. So be prepared to feel a little overwhelmed by all the busy people countering your way.

Hanois Old Quarter is the common place most backpackers and travelers choose to stay. It’s close to all the main attractions and where the biggest part of the lively life takes part. If you prefer it to be a little bit calmer I would recommend you to choose an accomodation close to the lake where live gets a little less hectic. You will find some motorbike free zones there and some of the more fancy places.

What to do:

Hanoi has a lot to offer especially cause it’s starting point of many great tours. But the city itself has some interesting spots to see too. You don’t need too much time for the sightseeing highlights, everything is very close. These are the most popular things to do in Hanoi followed by day trips to the famous surrounding areas.

Mausoleum

Old Quarter

Water Puppet Theatre

Lake


Cat Ba

 

Many people complain about how touristy Halong Bay got and recommend to go to Cat Ba Island instead. I wasn’t very keen on going on a party boat and liked the idea of seeing some still quite tranquil parts around the famous Halong Bay. So I gave Cat Ba a go.

First you will have a bus transfer from Hanoi to the ferry terminal that takes about 2 hours. The ferry ride is just half an hour and from the port in Cat Ba you get picked up by another bus that takes another hour to your hostel. You can buy the ticket for the whole journey with return at every travel agency in Hanoi. For one way from Hanoi you pay $10 and in Cat Ba the return ticket costs $5. Or if you buy both in Hanoi it will cost $20 for both ways.

Once on the island you just go and ask for a tour to Halong Bay at one of the agencies. The tours are offered for about $20. The one I choose was with 1 hour kayaking in the morning and another kayaking and swimming in the Bay in the afternoon. It’s very beautiful, especially the floating fisher villages. To see how the people live in the middle of the sea, together with their kids and even their dogs joining them, is incredibly fascinating!

Another highlight was the kayaking. It wasn’t in Halong Bay but close by. Surrounded by the jade green sea and big rock formations you get the chance to paddle through dark caves and feel totally united with nature’s beauty.

Cat Ba has a lot of good places to eat and has this very nice, relaxed vibe of the fisher village it still is. Almost no motorbikes and no honking. It also offers the opportunity for hiking. If you’re just interested in the tours to Halong Bay though, two nights will be enough to stay here.

 


Tam Coc – Ninh Binh

 

Despite the fact that Tam Coc has the saying it’s like Halong Bay but without the sea, I would strongly recommend it to everyone who has the time to go there. It’s a UNESCO worls heritage site and personally I wouldn’t want to compare it with Halong Bay as offers very unique sights

With an approximately 2 hours ride from Hanoi it’s not too far and the tour costs between $30 35. I was lucky enough to get on a very luxurious bus, in a small group of just 6 people, due to low tourist season in May.

The tour was great. Firstly we saw some temples where our guide told us a lot about Vietnamese history and later on we got on a kayak tour along the green river in between big rock formations and lush green jungle plants. The most fascinating though was that the Vietnamese people who drove the boat did so with their feet. How amazing is that!

 


Sapa

 

Sapa lies close to the Chinese border in northern Vietnam. It belongs to the very few places in Vietnam where snow falls and has a cooler climate than the rest of the country. Locals tend to say that if you are lucky you will see all four seasons in one day.

One of the most popular things to do in Sapa is the trekking for either 2 days / 2 nights, or 3 days / 2 nights with a home-stay or a hotel. Personally I would definitely recommend you to have at least one night at a home-stay as it is so much more authentic and you will have such a great time with the locals. Their English is very good and their totally welcoming and lovely. The locals belong to tribes that still speak their very own language. One is the Hmong tribe and the other ones are called Tay and Dao.

The trekking, if you’re not used to it, can be quite challenging also due to weather conditions. When I was doing the tour I definitely had the wrong footwear, so make sure to have shoes with a good profile or preferably hiking shoes. You will walk through rise fields, rivers, bamboo forests, muddy, small trails and often it’s mainly downhill.

The view though is so worth it and the whole experience of walking together with great people and the local tribe is a once in a lifetime experience. The Hmong tribe women will guide you through the whole Trip and give you support wherever they can. If you’re in northern Vietnam Sapa is a must-see and was overall one of my favorite places in Vietnam. For the 2 days / 2 nights tour I paid $55. It was one night sleeper bus and one night homestay, including all the meals and the bus ride back to Hanoi.


This is the first out of three parts where you’ll find informations and tips to Vietnam. It’s never easy to decide which places to see and which ones to skip, especially not for a country that offers so much. So I hope this post will clear your mind and help you to plan your Dream Trip! ❤️

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