I left Vietnam a few days ago after spending 2 weeks there. At the beginning I fell in love with Vietnam as it was much more appealing than Cambodia, but after a while everything I was doing and visiting blurred into one. I visited quite a lot of towns and cities, and although they were all beautiful, they were all very similar so it became quite repetitive.
The only place I visited that was not similar to the rest of Vietnam was Halong/ Halong Bay. Now, I have both positive and negative things to say about this area of the country. I shall start with the positives. Halong Bay is absolutely beautiful. The bay is full of rock formations everywhere you look, no photos can live up to seeing them in real life. The rocks fill up the whole of the horizon in the distance and it’s amazing to see. I kayaked here which was so much fun, although I can safely say I am no good at kayaking due to having zero upper body strength. We arrived with the intention to be able to swim and sunbathe, however the water appeared to be very dirty and had quite a bit of litter in the waters. After seeing this, no one wanted to have a dip.
Halong itself is the weirdest place I have ever been to, and I have been to a lot of weird places. Over the past 2 years Halong has been developed into a more touristy area, the only problem being… is that there aren’t enough tourists. Effectively what has happened is Chinese businessmen have invested in the area lots of bars and clubs, these clubs were blasting out loud music however there was no one in them. The group I was with and myself went out to find dinner and were only able to find 1 place who actually sold proper food where you were actually able to sit down. After this we decided to try and find a bar so we could sit down and have a cocktail and chat. There were only loud clubs we were able to find before eventually finding somewhere just to sit. The bar we found had some of the best customer service I have ever received, purely for the fact they never have any customers. As soon as we all turned up, all the staff were very attentive to prevent us from leaving and them missing out on the smallest amount of business they could receive. It was like a ghost town. My advice, spend 1 whole day in Halong Bay and try and avoid Halong at all costs.
The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi, and it’s not that great. The only way I can describe the city is like a real life supermarket. Each street is lined with different items you’d find when shopping. Some streets are lined with swim wear, others lined with house hold essentials and loads of streets designated for clothes. It was like I was doing my weekly shop. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Hanoi either, other tourists I have spoken to also found Hanoi boring. If you’re in Hanoi however, it is worth going to Banh Mi 25. Banh Mi is a traditional Vietnamese cuisine and the best way to explain it is a subway, but better. Banh Mi 25 is the most highly rated in the city on tripadvisor and it did not disappoint at all. In Hanoi I also decided to watch a water puppet show as I had seen so many everywhere I visited and I really wished I hadn’t. The show lasted 50 minutes which was too long. There was traditional music, and puppets in water which was interesting at first, but it got repetitive. Also everything was said in Vietnamese so no one understood anything, which was strange as it was a tourist attraction. Other than this, I believe the main reason to stop in Hanoi is a stopover before heading up further north to see all the mountains which I have heard are beautiful. I will definitely be planning another trip to Vietnam in the distant future to see this.
A final town I visited was Hue and I had one of the best days of my trip here so far. I went on a motorbike tour of Hue and the surrounding area, it was so much fun. For anyone who has been to Vietnam, you will know just how crazy the traffic is. The main mode of transport for them is motorbikes, because 1: it is so cheap and 2: it’s the quickest ways to manoeuvre the streets. When crossing the roads you just need to walk out and the motorbikes will just disperse around you. It is like an extreme sport trying not to get run over. I got hit by a motorbike once and a few other people I know did as well. Back to Hue, the motorbike tour was brilliant, we were shown the perfume river, the pagoda, rice paddies, taught all about their love of rice and visited many temples. If you’re in Hue this is an absolute must.
Most people travel around Vietnam via overnight trains, mostly because they’re the quickest form of transport and also the cheapest. Surviving these trains can prove a difficult task. First things first, do not expect anything luxury. I purchased a deluxe ticket as spending a night in an overnight train, I needed to be comfortable otherwise I would have been very cranky in the morning. The deluxe carriages where not luxury at all, they were very small, with dirty toilets and 4 people per a room. Some of the rooms had cockroaches and others smelt like smoke. If that’s what the deluxe carriages were like, you can only imagine the lower classes. As the train pulled up we were able to look at the other classes, some bedrooms had tiny rooms for 6 people, other sections were laid out like airplanes and the bottom class were just benches. It’s not great. Another point I just make is, do NOT eat the food at all costs.All reviews I have read are terrible and everyone I know who ate the food ended up sick. The food comes a long in cardboard boxes and there are suspicious meats on sticks. I spent a lot of time on these trains and the main things I picked out were, take your own water and plenty of food and download as much as you can of music and netflix, this will be what gets you through the journey.
Next stop.. Laos.