Time follows its serpentine course as we make merry by the side, all engulfed in fun and frolic. It was a little more than 30 months, Sayantan proposed me a plan of Nam escapade. Now, I am a Thai travel veteran and in love with the tiny nascent beaches by the Andaman sea. I had my apprehensions before saying yes to Vietnam trip.

While I was growing up in Kolkata, during the last lap of Left front government, I learnt to revere the red flags of Communism with no flaw. For me, the quite summer noons were all about finishing Sunil Ganguly’s literature, depicting West Bengal of 1970. As the new world beckons with the Naxalbari revolution breaking hard on the suburbs of Kolkata, Bangladesh emerging as a new democratic, secular country, there are frequent mentions of Vietnamese war with their communist leaders’ prowess and dedication. So there, I knew Vietnam, the country to be a winner against hostile and humongous opponent, United States of America.

Air Asia offered generous discounted tickets, only catch was a long waiting period in between. I was allowed to plan, re-plan and change the whole itinerary for long 12 months. Elation knew no bound as I began with the DIY trip. And overwhelm came in the way shortly for the country is spread across varied terrain, each unique in culture and heritage and it breaks your heart several times if you have to give a place amiss!

Flight tickets: Bangalore to HCMC (INR 14000, $200 Per Person)
(Fly during weekdays for cheaper rate)

Ensuing days had kept us busy in delving deeper into Vietnamese history. We sourced a lot of books and watched all the war movies (a religious practice over the weekends) because traveling in Vietnam is experiencing a load of emotion, way beyond the realm of natural wonders of beaches or mountains. The dog-earred book Street without Joy, the photograph of Kim Phuc, weary account of Bao Ninh from Sorrow of War and many more became our companion for after work hours. Hence the initial plan of traveling to Cambodia from Vietnam got shorthanded to Vietnam only, further truncated to the Northern part of the country. Two weeks did not suffice. If you want to soak in the glory of Nam culture, I suggest devote ample time to the cities of Hanoi and Saigon.

Also read: Two weeks in Malaysia: A Complete Itinerary!

Town Hall Vietnam Opposite Rex Hotel where war was brodcasted
Downtown Saigon
Burning dollar, takes strong heart! A rather wistful find on Saigon Streets!
Cafes on the streets of Saigon
Hoi An, river bank and evening scene
Peace be upon us!

A poet renders the Vietnamese love for lotus flower…

“In the pond, the lotus flower is beautiful
Green leaves, white flowers, yellow stamens
yellow stamens, white flowers, green leaves
near mud but it does not stink like mud.”

As I write this Vietnam travel blog, I go back to my journal and smile at the multiple lists, stricken off in disdain. The North of the country is influenced with Chinese culture, people are different, weather is soothing and boasts of gorgeous Fansipan mountain ranges as well as Halong Bay, the dragon’s abode.
However the south of Nam has the melancholy of the river Saigon. The river remembers history as she busied herself making the Mekong delta. A round boat kayak will take you to the sombre villages fisherman’s villages and whispers :
“There are no memories
of dead bodies floating
bloated, lonely
or of massacres…”

Ninh Binh
A pagoda, the beautiful Ninh Binh. Remember the movie Cong, the Skull island? It was shot extensively in this area.
Serene life in Vietnam Country side
Serene life

What we did:

Arrive at Saigon, stay the night

Leave for Hanoi, celebrate vivacious life for 3 nights

Head out to the distant mountains of Sapa, tour the villages for 2 nights. We spend 3 days traveling in Sa Pa and explored the beautiful Fansipan mountains!

Head to Hanoi, do not spend the night, the affair becomes serious>

Take the flight to Danang, cross the bridge to go to Hoi an. 4 long nights here, go ahead, find an abode. Rent a scooty so that you can quickly commute to the violent beach or the ruined temples of My Son.

From Danang, you may also find a way to visit Da Lat if you are smitten by the option of Civet coffees.

More than just a quiet town nowadays, Da Lat offers a surprising array of great activities for even the most tricky of traveller, although you won’t see the hordes of tourists or those with TEFL jobs you’d usually find Vietnam’s more popular city spots.

Head back to Saigon. Stay put at the District one. Spend the night before heading towards Bangalore.

I strongly recommend you to get done with a prior Visa to Vietnam.Visa on Arrival is a lengthy process. We tagged along with VFS office, Bangalore 3 weeks prior to departure date and paid around INR 2500 ($40) to get the Visa done.

The famous bridge over Hoem Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old quarter
The famous bridge over Hoem Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old quarter
A beauty, indeed
A fruit seller on the streets of hanoi
Ferrying simple pleasures of life!

Also read: Things to do in da Lat in 3 days

Penny talk!

We took along us about a grand. Mind you, hotels and flights were pre-booked. We spent around $750 and rest of it is safe-kept for the next destination.
Know for sure, Vietnam underwent a massive inflation resulting in heavy exchange rate. Exchanging few hundred dollars will make you a millionaire in Vietnamese dong. The lowest of it starts with 1.000 VND(Vietnamese Dong). Pay attention when paying for bills for you may end up paying more than what is required.

About lodging: Airbnb and cute little hotels costing about $35 per night (I will elaborate when I write about each Nam town)

About food: Most days we had a heavy breakfast leaving us little space for lunch. We snacked on street food and indulged in elaborate dinner. Unlike Thailand, Vietnam does not offer much for your taste buds when it comes to street food, however their restaurants are class apart. And boy, do they serve fish, well cooked fish! The memory of Indo China rule lingers in gourmet dishes, be it a rare done steak or the fine blend of a creamy sauce. Even after splurging, expenses never crosses $30

About transport: We had trusted Uber in all the major cities. In Sapa and Hoi an, we rented scooty on a daily basis. In Saigon, I saw Uber Bike taxi in action. If you are traveling solo, you may trust them while exploring the city.

Hanoi streetfood galore: the seafood Pho
Hanoi streetfood galore: the seafood Pho
Hanoi Royal guest house Old Quarter
Luxury! My bit on Luxury!
Vietnamese egg coffee at nola Cafe, Old Quarter Hanoi
Vietnamese egg coffee at Nola Cafe, Old Quarter Hanoi
The President's palace, hanoi
The President’s palace

The cultural shocks or what I call as “Mithi Si Mushkil” (the adorable problems)

Sapa Hmong Made fabrics
Hanoi Flower Market
Early morning Scene in Hanoi. The Calmness is profound. ANd what a beautiful moving Flower Market!

The important Vietnamese Phrasebook

I used Xin Chao abundantly without knowing the real meaning of it! It means good afternoon while I used it to mean good bye! Nonetheless the effort counts. Nam people sure smiles back. They are adorable.

Hopefully these will help you break the ice. We used to learn with the Duo Lingo app. It is indeed helpful!

Fall in north Vietnam
Fall in Hanoi. The Pretty colors!
In front of the dilapidated My Son temple ruins!
US bombers carpet bombed the area in search of communists.
US bombers carpet bombed the area in search of communists.
Hoi an limns bright in my heart
The Farm
Vy the Ang Bang Beach Hoi AN
Andaman Sea, the beach in hanoi
Andaman Sea

I was overwhelmed after the Nam travel. I hardly had a clue about being a travel blogger back then, however my photographs garnered some in Facebook and many of my friends suggested I write about the trip. Needless to say I am exited that it is happening finally. I plan to write about each and every city I visited, the food I ate and the books and movies I finished before the visit. Do let me know in case you want to know something specific. I will sure try to help you!

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11 Responses

    1. Thank you. It took us one month to get the Vietnam Visa. I will soon be posting a blog post on the same.

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