Dear Vikki and Tricia,
So you made it this far! What do you think? A trip to Vietnam on your bucket lists now? If it is, here are some of our details in case you want to do anything we did.
We started booking in early September. We planned and booked the entire trip ourselves. All our accommodation bookings were done through AirBnB except for the airport hotels, the cruise and the motorbike tour. We did realise that we missed a night (in Hanoi after the cruise) but were able to book that online in Vietnam. AirBnB also unlocked activities in places we stayed. We chose 2 of these and both were heavily discounted. Both were with local students looking to converse in English and both were excellent!
We didn’t book any activities before leaving home (except the cruise and the bike trip). We planned things when we arrived, took the advice of our hosts, checked Lonely Planet and googled. Much better than being tied to anything, just in case the weather turned bad, sickness hit or a day off was needed.
In total we had 16 flights (2 people), a cruise (2 nights), motorbike trip (5 nights), scooter rides, used Grab (think Uber) and taxis, booked limo buses or private drivers for transfers, walked and pedaled. We spent 34 nights in strange beds, some of them like sleeping on clouds and others traditionally hard beyond belief (our itinerary and accommodation details are here). We had 4 days of rain, 2 of which were while we were on the motorbikes. Thank goodness we went in the dry season. We visited 2 great museums, the Vietnam Women’s Museum in Hanoi and the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. We loved the pagodas and the temples, and discovered Cao Dai. There were some duds, like the Cu Chi tunnels and the Cholon Mystery of Dr Lam, as well as the infamous coconut scam! There was also one ugly head cold and a few days of travelers belly. But what’s a holiday without these glitches? It could have been much worse.
We have been to Halong Bay and Hoi An, both UNESCO World Heritage listed places. Phú Qúôc surpassed all expectations, giving us some amazing down time. We ate some fabulous and some interesting food, including fried crickets! We also drank some of the cheapest bia in the world. One night we paid a whole 15000 dong for a bottle. That’s 90 cents for 425mls. A real highlight of the trip was meeting Vietnamese people like Toan and Sunny our Easy Riders, Thom and Hieu our homestay hosts, as well as people on the side of the road and other places we went, like the scooter riding monk! We loved exploring Vietnam and learning so much about the country, it’s history and the beautiful people.
Normally I can’t wait to get home to my own house and bed, but the end of this trip came along too soon. Despite visiting so many places from north to south, we missed quite a few places like Sapa, Mūi Né, Nha Trang, Hué, Khe Sanh and Long Tan. So, contrary to what I normally say, we are planning to go back. We have resolved to learn to ride scooters, pack our helmets and boots and head back to explore on 2 wheels by ourselves. Scooter hire is US$1 per day (no typo). There are loads of other places in the world to go though, so it may have to wait 5 years.
For those interested the entire trip, cost us AUD$10,000 in total. Cheaper than our 3 weeks driving around New Zealand (in fact it was 2/3rds the cost) and the same price as our 4 weeks driving from Sydney to Hobart and home to Perth. We have a breakdown of every cost in a spreadsheet (of course) and the details are available here.
So now, it’s time to get on with this year and plan the next trip. But I can assure you almost every other trip I have made pales against this one and future trips will have to be pretty amazing to top it. Thanks Vietnam, you were simply amazing!