1. Ho Chi Minh City
This City also known by its former name of Saigon, is as metropolitan as it gets. It definitely has the old charm but most part of the city is covered with high rise buildings and malls. Saigon is as noisy and dynamic as it gets. The city that rarely sleeps, with a complex history and plenty of culture to soak up.
What Did I do?
I flew into HoChi Minh City, and like most of the times decided to book an Air BnB on the spot.
The Air BnB was in this quaint neighborhood but was a little outside the city Centre. Anyways, decided to head straight there and catch up on sleep before heading out for the night.
Recommendations- Ho Chi Minh like most south east Asian cities comes alive during the night. Depending on the arrival time of the flight, you could either explore the city center or just visit the night market, the well-known one is ‘ Ben Thanh Market’.
Ben Thanh and its surrounding streets comprise of Saigon’s liveliest area. There is literally nothing you cannot find here. From swanky Souvenirs to silk boutiques and antique stores you find it all here. Vendors are determined and prices are usually higher than elsewhere, so bargain vigorously and ignore any fixed priced sign.
Tips- Beware of Taxi Scammers outside the market.
Travelers to the city are normally told to take Mai Linh or Vina Sun taxis as both are reputable. One will see many Mai Linh taxis outside the market , but please make sure you get into the ones which are all GREEN in colour, because rest all are fake. Vietnam is known to have these taxi scams since 2010, so when the tourist get into these fake taxis, the meter is rigged and travelers are charged way higher. So make sure of the following: -
1. If you're taking a Mai Linh taxi, make sure it's GREEN.
2. Before getting into the cab, snap a photo of the number plate.
3. Do a quick check of the locks and door handles before getting into the cab, anything sawed off is a giveaway.
4. Ask the driver to switch on the meter before you get in.
5. Avoid taking parked cabs from areas known for taxi scams, such as Ben Thanh market.
2. Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels presents a scant evidence of the vicious fighting and destruction that trembled Cu Chi during the war. To see what went on, you have to dig deeper underground. At its peak , the tunnel system stretched from the South Vietnamese Capital to the Cambodian border is more than 250 Km.
What Did I do?
Second day started with idea of doing and seeing too many things. I visited a nearby travel agency to help sort out my plans for the day. I confused between one of the biggest Floating Villages ‘ The Mekong Delta’ or the distressing Cu Chi Tunnels, but since I just had a day in Ho Chi Minh, and my next trip was to Cambodia ( where I would have visited the Floating Market as well), I decided to go visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
Requiring several changes of bus, it is very difficult to visit the tunnels by public transport. By far the easiest way to get there is by guided tours from Ho Chi Minh City and since the competition is stiff, the tour prices are extremely reasonable.
3. Hoi An
This is Vietnam's most cosmopolitan and civilized town, this ancient beautiful port is bursting with hip bars and cafes, quirky boutiques and gourmet restaurants.The influence of the Chinese and the Japanese can be seen throughout the ancient city from architecture to food.The city would light up at night with lanterns while people from everywhere gather and mingle along the river.
What Did I do?
On my third day, I took an early morning flight to Danang, which makes a great base for day trips and which is about halfway between Hanoi and HO chi Minh City. From here there are taxis easily available for Hoi An, which is about 30 mins away.
UNESCO has preserved more than 800 historic buildings in Hoi An, so much so that the entire town looks as it did several centuries ago.
Spend at least two days in this beautiful town, and in the evening see the town come alive with beautiful lanterns glittering everywhere.
This deeply evocative place still resonates with the glories of Imperial Vietnam even though many of its finest buildings were destroyed during the American War.
Most of Hue's principal sight lie within the moats of its citadel and Imperial Enclosure. This is a fascinating site easily worth half a day
The main bus station, about 4 Km south east of the center, has connections to Danang and Hoi An, and it is the best and the affordable way to reach this place.
5. Phong Nha-ke Bang Caves-
These caves are my personal favourite, since i wanted to visit them for the longest time and one place which looks even more spectacular when you visit them in person.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, these remarkable caves contains hundreds of cave system.
The spectacular boat trip through the cave is an experience in itself. These cruises start as early as 7 in the morning and are operational up to evening 4.
This phenomenal capital is the home to over 1000 years of trade, commerce and activity with no signs of slowing down.
Sights not to be missed in this city are the Old Quarter and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex.
There is no better way to spend time here than wander, soaking up the sights, sounds and smells, and immersing yourself in the unique flavors of Hanoi's Street side kitchen.
7. Ha Long Bay-
Halong translates as 'where the dragon descends into sea'. Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets is a vision of ethereal beauty.
One can take cruise or a day trip boat which includes entry to atleast a couple of caves, an island stop-off and a visit to one of Halong Bay's floating villages.