Discover Vietnam - My Movie Travel Experience
Travel across Vietnam - Experiences and Tips
Exited as always when is about to reach a new territory and culture ahead... To get to Vietnam (which in my imagination) and dreams is the only image of the American movies about the war in Vietnam (a time when I wasn't born even) and beside of large green fields and bombs I kind of don't remember anything.
Now is time to get there with a Visa obtained super easy trough a Chinese agency based in Guangzhou (if u have the chance give it a go) takes 1-2 days and costs 50 $ and they don't need your passport just a photo of it and your details.
Arriving harbour it will be HANOI - capital
Here I attach you the video production during my trip in Vietnam.
Landing in Hanoi at 3 am local time caught me a bit sleepy but not only, the police border took probably more than 15 minutes to figure out my passport if is real or not (of course as I am international citizen). After that I smiled to him and say “thank u” but I received back just a very serious kind of angry face without any word. Well that's what I mean "warm" welcome.
Beside seemed very empty the airport no shops open and no info for tourist u have to look after yourself alone, u have 6 ATM where u can withdraw money but ATTENTION - better if u have MasterCard. Currency exchange should be 1 euro - 24.000 VND and 1$- 23.500 VND . Don’t whithdraw more than 20 $ or something similar, since the taxi ( in case you take it will cost ) 300.000 VND (in the beginning) but if u bargain a little bit you may reach 150.000 probably depends on your skills... Well they aren't that good at negotiating since they lost my last bid of 150.000 and in the end I took the bus number 7 which costs only 8.000 VDM. Also if u have Uber or Grab app will cost u under 100.000 VND to get in Hanoi .
The bus is quiet slow but worth as experience of once lifetime, at 5 am imagine people going to work and streets super busy and overcrowded with motorbikes. In daytime will shock you for sure, THE TRAFFIC! Also on the road you may see people having "breakfast" or take away for later probably. In the bus mostly everyone keep quiet and sleepy but after asking some locals I found out that is a law where people "MUST KEEP QUIET" otherwise they get pulled of the bus because they say "you disturb the driver while driving in such chaos traffic"- after knowing this fact is fair enough, just give a look at the road and u will understand what stress are exposed the bus drivers.
THINGS MUST DO ON ARRIVAL either TO KNOW before starting travel around VIETNAM:
- Accommodation u can star from 10$-15$ for 2 people somewhere nearby center
- Buy a SIM card Phone mobile Viettel - 1 SIM card with 3-7 Gb Internet - 5-8$ for 1 month
- Good restaurants - 3-4 $ /meal vs Street food - 1-1.5 $ meal
- Shops close at 10 pm so better keep yourself provided with some water, sweets, and other necessary things you may need during the night because 24h shops I haven't seen when I really need but they were some great people giving us a hand with necessary products.
- MONEY EXCHANGE RATES – 1$ - 23.5k / 1euro – 24k
MOTORCYCLE - If you want to rent a motorcycle the price starts from 10$ /day. 190$ /month with 400 $ deposit and u can drop it in another city in south (HOI AN) to Ho Chi Minh or somewhere half way but u must pay a delivery fee back to Hanoi (Around 50-70$). You have plenty of agencies all over the city center but if u are brave enough recommend u to give it a go by yourself and check your luck.
Personal experience – I bought a Motorcycle in Vinh city for 210$ second hand
Travel around 750 km with it around central Vietnam with ending point in DaNang. My plan was to travel also until Laos but on the road plenty of issues with the bike so had to spend almost another 100$ in fixing small things like flat tire, engine issues and the biggest one was the consume – I did a calculation and average full (3.2L of gas = 60.000 VND) were enough to ride 60-70km, thing that for long distance trip I think wasn’t convenient. The bike worked quiet fine I can’t complain and used it for 10 days and did around 750 km, but I had to sell (and you are lucky if you sell it fast) in the end for a bit less than 200$, kind of 180$. I miss it already because of her (the bike) I ve seen plenty of virgin spots and unreachable villages. The motorbike for sure gives you the feeling of flexibility and freedom on the road which is GREAT but not that cheap if you do a “budget travel”
You can use the website to book your tickets but online payment had a issue when I tried to do that so better go to the office in main train station and pay in cash. For example a train to Vinh (300km away ) takes 6 hours and costs about 5-6$/person a normal seat and double price for sleeping bed. The train is a bit different from what you may imagine and it has hard wooden seats and very crowded. Is better if u book at least 1 day ahead. Also the train is very crowded sometimes u will find people stand or more surprising for me, on the floor, laying down on a beach mattress...but you would ask where they can lay since isn't much space anyway in the train, well they unfold those mattress in between the 2 seats and go down in such way that their feet are half under one seat and the head under the other seat,
You must be careful and feel a bit privilege cause u can step properly on people and they wouldn't mind it...is fine for them but again you must experience that if you like adventures.
BUS – They are several Bus agencies which are travel all over the country and they go same as the train as time but you can book a HopON –Hop OFF ticket for 50$ and get in and off anytime you want on the way to south and while you visit one city can rent your own bike.
I will present here some experience of hitch hiking in Viet Nam during my trip but I will make a special post about that. So far from my experience Hitch Hiking is working surprisingly good if you follow some good tips and you are ready to face the language barrier and crowded traffic around the big cities. I did around 600 km of HH in central Vietnam until the border with Laos (Xayden) and I felt very lucky. I totally recommend this experience if you wanna give it a go. More details in the special post of Hitch hiking.
Outside the center and new areas in Hanoi very hard to find people speaking English so you must use your body skills to tell them either a google translation. The difference between rich and poor you can say it easily and is terrible huge, well I think there is no middle class yet here, or the middle class is still quiet struggling about basic needs such as home, food (I mean in clean conditions), health care, education etc. Important I found them extremely friendly (not like in the airport) but not that flexible as other places in South Asia...and as they say in south and central Vietnam situation may change dramatically in those points of view. People there become much more friendly and helpful even if not speaking English. Talking to girls also it was quiet hard since seems quiet traditional approach so if you want to invite one girl out you may get many negative replies either before 8/9 pm they have to be home.
Highlights in different CITIES in VIETNAM
Well if u want an accommodation you have several options as cheap hostels, Airbnb either CouchSurfing depends on your luck and also a new concept which is developed here especially for travelers is called "Homestay" and is kind of exchange of your time of teaching English or other language and the accommodation/food they provide. Prices in city center are quiet high compare to the quality and cleanliness of common spaces. From this point of view could say isn't that clean and also enough pollution more heavy than I could ever imagine. Well those details won't cover the authenticity of the local market and the most amazing thing is The Traffic. Something unbelievable and hard to adapt or understand. Motorcycles in front, behind, left or right even beneath your feet or above your head, is possible, all over you can see with your eyes...traffic jam and rules not respected. The police leading/observing the traffic in several junctions but in such bad way that maybe every traffic light change are more than 30-40 people crossing the traffic rules... and from these big amount of people, police guys pick up (same as fishing) randomly, few people and expect some money in exchange. U must be very unlucky to stop you.
Staying in a CouchSurfing home with Kien was perfect beginning experience, share and enjoy the Valentine's Day in family . I bought some drinks and he cooked the famous Vietnam dish Pho; delicious honestly and super simple it look at. We shared a crazy unique night by going out after dinner and invent some social games that will be hard to forget for all of us. Thanks again Kien – (if you want to stay with him can contact him by whatsap here +841664476216)
The experience in Vinh city (even quiet small one and “not important”) on the list of main stream travelers, I will underline few of the great experience had in this place.
Firstly not far from the city is the native birth place of famous president HoChiMinh, where I had the chance to learn more about his history, and how change his life and his vision for his country. The most interesting thing about him (to me) was that he changed his name for 8 times during his life. So is possible right?
About him: 19 May 1890 – 2 September 1969; Chữ nôm born Nguyễn Sinh Cung, also known as Nguyễn Tất Thành and Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader who was prime minister (1945–1955) and president (1945–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, as well as the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the Việt Cộng (NLF or VC) during the Vietnam War. He led the Việt Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the Communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at the battle of Điện Biên Phủ. He officially stepped down from power in 1965 due to health problems, but remained a highly visible figurehead and inspiration for those Vietnamese fighting for his cause—a united, communist Vietnam—until his death. After the war, Saigon, the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam, was renamed Hồ Chí Minh City. Leave a bit the history besides and tell you about the great experience in Vinh
Accommodation – FREE
I’ve got a privilege to stay in the local’s home family together with miss Thuong Nguyen
( I call her LOVE). They have English center for kids and are so welcoming that offer almost everything beside accommodation, food, drinks and hang around the city. During this trip I visited different schools where kids probably never seen a foreigner and this was a moving experience in my life. I felt bringing so much happiness on their life just by being there. Dancing in the school courtyard traditional dance (for more than 30 minutes), visit the amazing “Tea Island” somewhere nearby in the province, see how they produce and share a meal with land lords in their modest “island house”, dance on the boat trip, cooking and exchange culture with different age kids in front of the home (kind of street home party) with more than 50 persons around, dance together and taste delicious food, have breakfast and meet a sexy mammy in pajama, try to cook the local food and taste the grandmas filled in tofu recipe, uuuuummm amazing. Go find a motorcycle to buy for my trip and many others memories they aren’t in any tourist guide. If you pass by you must meet them and share a bit of your time you will never forget. Here is their contact Facebook “Thuong Nguyen” (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001705523311) – local phone number 0984307740
“Soup LUON” - Eel soup ( local delicatessen probably around 1$ price and very spicy.) they use a lot of coriander, well not a lot…exaggeratingly much. Eel soup is something you must try if you come here always in company of local baguette.
“Bánh cuốn” - is made from a thin, wide sheet of steamed fermented rice batter filled with a mixture of cooked seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots. Sides for this dish usually consist of chả lụa (Vietnamese pork sausage), sliced cucumber, and bean sprouts, with the dipping sauce which is fish sauce called nước chấm.
“Grandma’s Filled in Tofu” (I don’t know where you going to find it) and the home made “Spring rolls” also the “fresh spring rolls” were absolutely delicious in company of a garlic fish sauce they prepare.
From Vinh city motorcycle around 1000 km and on the way of many adventures I will mention the “Paradise Cave” in Phong Nha (QuangBin province), very famous place where many Hollywood movies were produced (due to that also the amount of tourists is so big), also there had to change the tire of the bike since got flat in middle of nowhere. A total adventure to reach the nearest shop to repair. Well about the famous “paradise cave” I can say only just is overpriced for sure for the service they offer. Maybe 250.000 VND (12 $) and you have no guide no transport, no water, nothing included. Anything you want it costs you extra. Also the bike parking if you pay after when you leave they want the ticket back to re use it, things I didn’t like and had to argue with them to give me the ticket (as I want it as souvenir).
Another crazy experience on the way (don’t know where) just at night time joined a strange wedding party (thinking to get some food or drinks for free) things which worked out but the plan of sleeping was a bit unsure, since the guy who promised me to sleep in his home, at some point comes to me and says “oh see you tomorrow, bye bye” and I asked him “but I don’t sleep in your home, you said that?!?” and he say “oooo nooo, I go home alone, you don’t sleep in my home” so surprise the night wait under the sky probably until another participant at the wedding invite me in his home. Well very modest house but the first thing was to wake up at 6 am (consider came at 1 am from the wedding). The cute thing was that he during the night start to touch insistent my leg…and not only…I couldn’t react properly was shocked. Next day dint talk about this thing at all. Just said good bye and left for next destinations.
In Hue city had the most weird and strange meantime meeting ever. My host (couch surfer) “Ri” seemed quiet nice and welcoming in the beginning and took me to nice spots where had delicious food like:
Bún bò Huế - Price around 35k but so far properly delicious dish, maybe the best I tried so far in Vietnam after grandma’s Tofu.
Bánh xu xê – Price around 5k(piece) 20k(for 4)
Cha sausage - Price around 20k
But the things after a night meeting with other travelers and want to hang out maybe probably a bit more than 9pm, things already start to get bad direction. He was very angry and never said just behaved very unfriendly and woke up me at 6 am again to go with him to a “date” with a girl. Can u imagine at 6:30 am ride on the bike to go meet this girl that he didn’t even talk to her. They were looking to each other and seemed like Facebook would be helpful to connect them. I remember only him telling me to help him to ask some things. Beside the coffee shop where we went looked very cool in city center, but the toilets were properly disgusting and not well cared. A total contrast about the face of this place.
Also another part was visiting the “abandoned waterpark” in the suburbs of Hue city, which worth the 10k VND and seen some cool “attractions” ,“wrecks” I can call them. Well unique place must visit I think beside the super famous “ancient city” of Hue which rips you of around 10$ for entry. About The Imperial City (Vietnamese: Hoàng thành) is a walled palace within the citadel (Kinh thành) of the city of Huế, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. The building was built in 1362, and took 203 years to complete. Many consider this building to be a symbol of wealth and power as boars carried the materials from Hoi An.
In Hue (as see seems very nice city and things to do around) but after this experience I thought the local people are to weird for my understanding but hope is not everyone. I hope to go back one day and change my “taste” about the “local experience” and enjoy more the beauties of the city.
Just getting close to my destination Da-Nang don’t know what to expect but just on the way passed by one of the biggest and emptiest beaches even seen in my life “Bãi biển Lăng Cô” – LANG CO beach - Located in north of DaNang city the “beach” is spread around more than 20 km length and is terrifying to walk around. The best way to get around Lang Co is by a motorbike or a bicycle, especially going around the tranquil lagoon. There are no specific attractions within Lang Co. Aside from the 15 km of white beach on the East Sea, a visit to the local market in the middle the village would be interesting. Most of the women selling in the market only speak Vietnamese. You will find some abandoned houses/residences in the area…where probably some fisherman living into now, seems like a “American failed dream” that intrigue me to find out more about it and see why the tourism isn’t working here.
Also a great Panoramic viewpoint from mountain next to Danang city is one of the best mountains view ever seen in my life. You have clean blue sky, the sea contrast with the wild green of the mountain forests. For sure this is one of the main spots, and if you stop there to take some photos they are few restaurants they surcharge for the view of course so a normal drink you can pay up till 30-40k and a meal around 80-100. (you pay for the view for sure)
Well if you ever cross DaNang you MUST stay with miss Moon (CoCo) I call her in her coffee shop not far from airport. This experience will power up and will make you discover the local culture more than an usual tourist. The only thing I offer in exchange was a bit of my time to share and talk with the students passing by her coffee shop and play games, debate different topics and more. Also the top experience was the cooking competition when I put on the table my favorite recipe against their TOP dish called “BANH XEO”. The exchange and competition was totally great and we learned a lot from each other’s culture. Of course my dish was more tasty and won the competition with 8 votes to 6 J but not sure if was no cheating on it. Important that we had a memorable fun. So talking about food why not now I going to repass for you probably the best places to eat in town and in the area, and some recipes you MUST TRY!!!
The competition beside the good vibe teach me few new things like – Do NOT offer flowers to a lady or a girl, well a special kind of flowers, because I bought in the market these beautiful yellow flowers and when about to give them everyone start to SCREAMMMMMM! I was shocked why they don’t accept my flowers and been a bit frustrated and lost for a while until they explained to me those flowers are only for DEATH people. So better no offer flowers there…you may pretend you go to a funeral. Well for me flowers are flowers no difference. Another thing I learned is to eat the Banh Xeo use only hands and it takes quiet “long” process until taste it because you have to add a lot of veggies, sauces, things until you can taste it. Is not cook and eat J). And I learn the third thing that the local people are extremely nice and friendly especially in the young environment I hanged around. So Thumbs UP for DaNang!
If you ever have a problem with you phone “iPhone” you can take it here to fix. Very cheap and fast service in city center.
Banh Xeo – pancakes. Prices around - 6k/1
Rau Muong - green veggie stir fried - 5k
Mi Tron - noodles with carrots and veggies +tofu - 10k
O qua soup - Taro soup (included always in the menu with rice and other vegetables)
Restaurants MUST GO
THE BEST and honestly I say with the hand on my heart, the BEST restaurant I tried in ASIA from point of view quality and price, besides is a VEGETARIAN restaurant where they change the recipes every single day is THIS – “QUAN CHAY” 866 Ton Duc Thang
Prices from 10k a full meal plus topping and extras you can end there by paying maximum 25k and eat like a KING and eat no MEAT, totally vegetarian and I can’t talk about the taste. Inside there is a proper ARMY of ladies (aunties) who cook everyday and prepare manually every single dish. Well if you don’t wanna’ miss something in your life YOU MUST GO THERE is THE BEST, and with this I end up my speech about food because it makes me wanna’ take flight and jump in there for dinner. Here you have the address and the name of the restaurant. It will be easy to communicate just by pointing what you want they will understand totally.
MyCasa restaurant – Located in central area, western restaurant with a Asian touch, where I can definitely go back again and again to try their cocktails. Well when they have happy hour 1 cocktail from 100k is half price (50k). Incredible and trust me properly well made. I am so glad to try such a small heaven of cocktails in this area. Never could imagine is possible. I tried almost all of them (don’t think I got very sober home) but for sure very satisfy and happy. The food is ok probably not prices for local people or medium class since the prices start from 60k one small bruschetta (bread with different toppings). Delicious but my goal is their Cocktails. If you want to buy western ingredients there is a market called “JellyMart” and in central. There you will find more things closer to your taste, bring a wave of home products. I bought there the yogurt for the food competition and cost me 400k (the most expensive yogurt I ever had it in my life) but well worth.
In general my experience in DaNang beside all small “touristic” things was GREAT and I can’t wait to go again. I felt like home in a big family and the love I received is unmeasurable. SO LET’S VISIT DANANG and the SURROUNDINGS.
As all the people I’ve met told me this is THE BEST place in VietNam to visit. And of course got curious about it so I went to see but I hadn’t the same feeling as I heard. Probably because I expected to much from it or I didn’t got the real highlights of this place. My trip in the city was 1 day and while wondering around I found out is packed of tourists, maybe more than all the places I’ve been so far. I’ve seen some “activities” doing like take photos with the Buffalo and keep the animals beside the road, feed them and wait only for people want to touch them or take a photo. Well huge rice fields (I’ve seen that all over Vietnam), restaurants thousands and coffee shops. The Pottery village, the Japanese cover bridge, Terracotta museum and Ancient city are the most interesting and important in the whole village. Honestly didn’t impressed me much and don’t know why probably I should give it another go and see it again with someone else since I’ve been there on my own. Another remark the prices are relatively high in every little corner or restaurant you get, and some other point I will add it at my “negative experiences” at the resume of this trip in the end of the article.
I had the chance to experience in between DaNang and KonTum province/City hitch hiking and was really good. More details at the HitchHiking section. Once arrived in the city I had the luck to meet Mr. Tan or call him “Man Metalrock” who study tourism and wants to promote his region more and more trough the spots must visit in VietNam. He in charge to offer me a place to stay in one of his friends homes during the 3 days I had there. Beside the hospitality and the free food I received I had the chance to learn more about this beautiful place. With amazing landscapes and wild surroundings KonTum area also gain a spot in my heart very easy. Beautiful deep blue sky, plenty of indigenous communities mixed with the locals, all those create a beautiful and colorful culture perfect to explore.
Together with Tan/Man I found out about the local production of coffee (one of the most famous in all country and also exported), the local handicrafts and about the minorities (indigenous) beliefs and lifestyle. Even if now they don’t have a great life and is harder for them to adapt to the society they have nice particularities could help to expose and promote for travelers and tourists from all over the world. One of the things that seemed interesting to me were the funeral beliefs, when someone pass away they just build a statue of the person (mostly in wood sculpture) and put it next to their grave. Like that they believe the spirit will company them forever. Second, the Cristian religion impact in the area and the local organization. KonTum has several vestiges of the French colonial period, as well as several tribal villages directly in the suburbs of the Vietnamese-reconstructed town. Among the town's landmarks, there is a Roman Catholic wooden church on discrete stilts and a large French-built seminary which hosts a small museum on local hill tribes. French missionary presence in KonTum traces back to 1851.
At night I was invited to eat a French baguette with plenty of things inside (super delicious) BangMi and had some snails and beers with some university students in there. As food/dish I will underline a MUST TRY "BUN NUOC" for 20k price. Super friendly and nice guys, we sang together, we play guitar and also volleyball. As a last highlight in KonTum I would underline the magic “Orchid garden” organized and product of Hung Phung’s thoughts. After spend half day in his garden I learned more about him and his passion for flowers and gardening. Phung said to me: “Orchids come to me accidentally. It was first a source of livehood of mine, but after a while become a part of my life. I purchase orchids, cultivate them myself and take care of them till they bloom. These orchids are sold throughout all the country. I've always been fascinated by the orchid's beauty and fragrance and NOW they are MY LIFE” - With such beautiful words about flowers is time to say "goodbye" to Vietnam!
Time to say “Goodbye Vietnam” for now and head (of course hitch hiking) to the border in XAYDEN towards new adventures in LAOS. I will make a short resume in experiences Positive and Negative things about this trip and also the full budget spent during those 3 weeks in Vietnam.
RESUME of EXPERIENCE
- Generally super friendly people
- Very cheap food and mostly everything
- Delicious vegetarian food in DaNang
- Beautiful landscapes still virgin
- Great motorcycle experience to ride and the traffic (I LOVE IT)
- Beautiful girls/women but traditional.
- Invite for food and drinks almost always just to hang out with you.
- Buy a motorcycle for 200$ and sell it almost for same price 180$
- Been cheated or discriminated few times on prices. They asked me double price of meals or services since saw me a “foreigner”. Pay attention to this things even if you don’t care about that is a quiet ugly behavior of some people who want to take advantage. (1 time in restaurant and 1 at the barber shop)
- Dirty and the biggest amount of rats I’ve ever seen in my life. Disgusting but should make something in this matter.
- Hard to communicate – No English speakers
- To shy almost impossible to manage invite out a girl or stay over 8-9 pm with her. She will say has to be back home otherwise parents will ….(who knows?!? J) )
- No possible to stay in their home if they are going to work. You must wake up at same time and leave the house.
- Not FLEXIBLE
- Pay parking of motorbikes everywhere even if you are in the middle of the field with nothing.
- Pay toilets :O Whaaattt???
Visa cost – 50$
TOTAL for 3 weeks (21 days) – 1650 RMB / 240 $ / 220 Euros
That means an average of 11.5 $/day including everything.
From those expenses shared parts are
Souvenirs – 70$ in local crafts and food
Transport – 100$ ish (including the motorcycle, buses and trains)
Food – 50$ (including the try of very expensive western restaurant and its cocktails)
Accommodation – 20$ (only one night in Airbnb in Hanoi for test)
TOTAL = POSITIVE my vote to go again and experience more. J
Thank you VietNam – thank you all the people who support my travel and experiences. This blog and feelings are all dedicated to you.