Visa & Air ticket: We got our tickets on a promotional offer of Malindo Air. It costed nearly 27500 BDT for each return ticket.For visa you have to apply for a letter of invitation through an agency which will cost you around 6500 BDT per person. You will need to get a stamp worth 25 USD on arrival at Vietnam.
Day 1- Hanoi: it was almost afternoon when we arrived at Hanoi. We had booked our hotels at old quarter which is the main tourist hub. Right beside the Hoan Kiem Lake, old quarter is packed with colonial architecture, Buddhist temples as well as café, bars, a variety of restaurants, bakeries and boutique shops. As it was almost evening by the time we were done with our late lunch, we took a stroll around the lake and the night market and tried the delicious Vietnamese street foods ( yeah, right after that lunch) and horrible egg coffee ( don’t fall for that hype) at note café. We also went to see the 45 mins water puppet show in the evening but you can skip this one if you are taking cruise to halong bay next day as most of the cruises offer the show for free. If you are planning to buy any local stuff, I would recommend buying it from Hanoi as you will get them cheapest here. There is a beer alley where you can see many pubs and bars with plastic chairs placed outside. You can get world cheapest beer Bia hoi here. Most the bars and pubs get closed by 12am due to the Hanoi’s rather strict laws. We left early for hotel as we had to wake up early next morning for our cruise.
Day 2 & Day 3 Halong Bay:
Most of the questions I get about Vietnam tour are about the cruise to Halong Bay. Most of the people take 2 days- 1 night cruises and we did the same. You can select a half day tour which will be a short trip around Hanoi, Ha long Bay and Cat Ba and 3 days-2 night trip with more activities. I had to google a lot and visit many websites find the right cruise as I didn’t know many people who have one before me. There were lots and lots of options which I divided in three categories.
1. The romantic/ honeymooners cruises where the activities and the rooms are designed for couples. The boats are comparatively smaller in sizes but the rooms are usually far much better, especially with Jacuzzi and veranda in your room! The cost per person for a luxury cruise is usually 170- 250 USD. Orchid cruise, Aphrodite cruise, Paradise luxury cruises are some of the best cruises for couples.
2. The young adult cruises are mostly the fun budget cruises those are known for their parties filled with backpackers. The cost per person ranges from 120 – 190 USD. You can choose some 4 stars cruises as Calypso Cruise,, L’Azalee Cruise, Princess Halong Junk, Oasis Cruise etc.
3. The longer route cruises are the one we went for. We chose Dragon Legend cruise as this was one of the very few cruises that go to Bai Tu Long Bay. The ship looked like it has come out of a fairytale. The food was amazing, the ambience was amazing and my pictures came out amazing. I wanted to go to Bai Tu long Bay as it was less crowded by ships unlike Ha long Bay thus I could enjoy the scenic beauty in peace. The days were filled with activities like Kayaking, Swimming, squid fishing, cooking demonstration (it’s more like how to eat Vietnamese roll). 1 night 2 days trip was 400 dollars after some negotiation.
Day 4- Danang:
After Hanoi, we were kind of overloaded with history and wars. So instead of Hue like we had planned before coming here ,we decided to stay at Danang for one day. And what a surprise it was! The amazing blend of French architecture, modern American city vibe and natural beauty. One day was not just enough. Before planning the trip I got recommendations for Hanoi,Hoi An, Hue, Sapa,Na thrang and Ho Chi Minh. Danang is definitely worth a visit. Here are somethings you can do if you decide to go there:
Ba na hills: If you love European architecture, ancient castles, Disney/universal studio like I do, you will love this place. It’s located on the top of Ba na mountain and the castles there are inherited from the French. The ticket price is 32 dollars per person. You get to go there riding world’s longest single cable car. There is a French village with church, shops, numerous eateries and hotels, music and everything that screams European and a hill with 9 gardens. The place is not really artificial like Disney feels sometimes,more like a better version of london countryside. However, there are options of 4D movies, roller coasters, laser shows if you are going there for amusement. I didn’t get to see all as I had very limited time. But it was absolutely one the best times I have spent while traveling. Btw, the infamous giant hand bridge is also there.
Son tra peninsula: if you like beaches and views of sea from cliff , this is a place for you. Its 14 km away from the city center.This place has the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam that reminds you of the Jesus’s statue in brazil. You can get the top view of danang city from here. There are also white sandy beaches, heritage banayan tree, hot springs and secret cove there and visiting all these may take a whole day.
The amazing beaches in Danang: only visiting the Danang beaches may take days if you are relaxing there. The water is so clean even near the shore , you won’t be able to resist the urge to swim there. Some of the beaches are just by the side of the city center and will remind you of Miami/Californian beaches. My khe, Non Nuoc ,Thanh Binh and beaches around son tra peninsula are my favourites. I also heard about Cham island where you can go for water sports but as we didn’t have the time we had to skip that.
Day 5 Hoi An:While planning the itinerary for our trip I had read about the floating lanterns festival on full moon nights in Hoi An city. Our tickets were already purchased in a way that we would miss the festival by one day. For some reason they carried on the festival on the second night too and made our trip an unforgettable one. The awe on a kid’ face, the dance on s/he on his feet, the shine on his eyes when he walks into a room of thousands balloons, we had the same expression when we roamed on the roads of Hoi An city among thousands of lanterns on the full moon night. Hoi An is like an oven during day. We visited My son city which is an ancient ruin and if you are an admirer of all the things that feels old only then you should go for this one as you will be half baked within an hour there. If you are giving it a miss, book a cycle and roam around the yellow city.We went to ao nong beach in afternoon. This place was a bit crowded but the worth a visit for the amazing food( yeah,me,foodie) and the beautiful sand.
Day 6 &7: After Hoi An, we flew to Ho Chi Minh, the capital city.Ho Chi Minh is modern, scorching hot and vibrant. The museums in this city will give you goosebumps and will make you hate America a bit. The best thing about them were while the showcased the unimaginable torture violence and losses caused by years of wars , they also talk about hope,how the bounced back as a nation even after going through so much difficulties.They perfectly reflect their strong heritage and patriotism, what Vietnam is as a country. All the tourist places are close to each other, so you can walk and cover all the places like the old post office, cathedral, war museums ,independence palace,Saigon notre dam etc. Only the chu chi tunnel is a bit far and you have to start early morning for that one if you are staying at Saigon. I am never a city person while travelling,so Ho Chi Minh didn’t feel that great compared to the other places. But if you like bars,pubs and big malls, this is your place. If you want to party with the backpackers coming from all over the world ,go to Bon Vuen street.Hotels and food are cheap here too like all other places in Vietnam. Don’t buy any brand stuff though,as because of the higher tax they will cost you almost double than usual.
Day 8: Flew back to Dhaka with a still hungry heart.
Phew!i think this is the longest post I have ever written.Hope this helps!
P.S don’t forget to keep the environment clean wherever you are travelling and let other enjoy the same beauty you have witnessed.