So many people have been traveling around Vietnam, therefore the internet is flooded with photo diaries, tips and everything else.
So this blogpost is going to be a bit different. I took a photo of every bed I slept in throughout my trip and I am going to give you a review of the hostel and the place it was in. Sounds good? So let’s go!
#1 Hanoi – Nexy Hostel
My first stop in Vietnam was Hanoi. The city is a very busy place and you gotta get used to the craziness, especially on the streets, first. So if you arrive after a long flight, take your time in the hostel, maybe get a recommendation for a coffee shop and watch the traffic before you start losing yourself in it.
I stayed at Nexy Hostel for a night. The hostel is located in the old quarter close to the lake and a lot of coffee shops, restaurants and street food places.
During the weekend, the streets around the lake are closed off and you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of vietnamese families and tourists around there without having to worry to get ran over by a bike.
A few tips:
- Banh Mi 25: best Banh Mi I’ve had.
- Women’s Museum: you can learn about traditions around marriage, kids and family but also about women’s roles during the war.
- A walk around the lake: tourists mixed with locals of all ages. Plus free wifi.
#2 Halong Bay – Lemon Cruise
From Hanoi I left to go see Halong Bay, one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. I chose to take the Lemon Cruise, since our hostel highly recommended it and it included another, less travelled route around the bays than all the other tours I looked at.
The cruise itself was good, the food was great and I also liked the room. I booked a double room but since there were only 8 people on the boat i had the luxury to have the room for myself – but only paid for one bed.
I am not a big fan of guided tours à la “now we take a photo here” or “now we visit this pearl farm/coffee plantage/pottery place (and you better buy something) there” but unfortunately there are not a lot of other options if you wanna be on a boat around the bay.
So I’d say go with it and just blend out the tour-y parts of it, like I tried to do 🙂
We went kayking and swimming, which I really enjoyed. We were lucky enough to be all alone at the beach for most of the time! On top of that we also visited a cave (with a million other tourists unfortunately).
All in total I would recommend it but you have to know that it’s still a guided tour.
#3 Hanoi – Sapa: Night Bus
One of many night busses I took. Vietnam is a huge country and a lot of the distances take around over 6-8 hours so night busses are the way to do it.
My first sleeper bus experience was from Hanoi to Sapa. We left around 6pm and got to Sapa at 3:30am but luckily they let us sleep for 2 more hours before we were released into the world of finding a homestay in between all the local women that were waiting on us outside the bus. But more about that later.
A few tips for the night bus:
- you never know if it’ll be too hot or too cold so try to bring a sweater and socks but also wear a t-shirt under it so you can easily take off the sweater. They also offer blankets.
- a lot of times they only stop once for a toilet break so even if you don’t have to.. GO!
- try to reduce your hand luggage to as little as possible, because your body and handluggage have to share a pretty small bed for a normal-sized western girl. (I don’t even want to know how a tall man feels like in one of those beds).
#4 Sapa – Homestay with a Hmong Family
After a night in the sleeper bus arriving early in the morning, two of my favourite days of this trip started – a trekking trip through the rice fields around Sapa.
Like already mentioned above, at the arrival in Sapa you get overwhelmed by all the ladies from the village around town to get you to stay with them. (Here‘s a very good guide by Haute Culture on how to deal with the arrival in Sapa.)
I am glad I’ve met a German couple in Halong Bay and decided to do the whole tour with them. Otherwise I know I would have been way too overwhelmed by all the choices.
We decided to go to the Sapa Sisters office in town and book a tour there. And I am very happy we did. Why? Because it was a private tour, so we had all the “attention” of the guide to ourselves, we could stop wherever we wanted, ask as many questions as we wanted and enjoy the homestay even more without intruding too much into the daily life of the Hmong people (which is the tribe we stayed at).
Tipp: Since Sapa Sisters only does private tour and only has a limited amount of guides as well, they are booked out easily. So if you want to go with them, it might be best to book it in advance. You can easily do that online. We were lucky enough to arrive so early, that we still got one of the few tours that were left for that day.
The first day we went trekking along the rice fields into the valley, where our guide’s house was. We walked for around 15km with a stop for lunch at a local restaurant, which was included in the tour price of around 75$. (The price varies depending on the amount of people you have in your group.) When we got to the homestay, we had a few hours to ourselves, which we used to have a beer and walk around the village a bit more until we had a great family dinner with a lot of delicious Vietnamese food to try.
The next day we got a ton of pancakes for breakfast before we headed back to town, with a stop for lunch again. This time we walked around 8km.
Like I’ve said before, Sapa was one of the best things I’ve done throughout my time in Vietnam. Not only because of the experience of a stay in a local family but also because of the beautiful nature. I highly recommend you to do it and if you’ve got the opportunity to go with Sapa Sisters, that’s even better!
So yes, this was the first half of my trip to Vietnam.
After Sapa I went back to Hanoi and stayed at Nexy Hostel for another night, before I made my way down to Hue with another sleeper bus.
Stay tuned for my second part of this blogpost coming online soon, starting in Hue.