I don’t know why, but planning our 10 days around Vietnam were the hardest of our 2-month trip around Asia. I had high expectations because friends and blogs I read both raved about how amazing Vietnam is.
At the same time, I read stories about scams. This made me nervous about booking things in advance but we only had 12 days so I needed to plan ahead in order to take the most advantage of our trip.
Between my excitement and nervousness, I changed the itinerary thousands of times. There is so much to see in Vietnam and it’s so hard to choose where to go. For us, Hanoi and Halong Bay were a must. After a bit of research we decided that the route we would take within Halong Bay would be Bai Tu Long Bay which is a less touristy route. Hoi An and Hue were also on the “must-see” list, we wanted more history and Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, during the Nguyen Dynasty.
The hard part was defining the remaining 4-5 days. At one point we considered Sapa but we considered we didn’t have enough time because you loose one day travelling there. Then we considered visiting the caves but again time was an issue. So we decided to visit Ho Chi Minh.
Finally, after A LOT of research , our itinerary looked like this:
- Arrive at night from Laos to Hanoi and spend the night in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. We got the e-visa, make sure you plan to have an extra hour at the airport for the whole process.
- Day 1: Hanoi
- Day 2: Bai Tu Long Bay (within Halong Bay but less touristy…)
- Day 3: Bai Tu Long Bay and Hanoi airport to fly to Ho Chi Minh
- Day 4: Ho Chi Minh
- Day 5: Ho Chi Minh
- Day 6: fly to Hue and spend the afternoon in Hue
- Day 7: car / bus from Hue to Hoi An
- Day 8: Hoi An
- Day 9: Hoi An
- Day 10: fly to Hanoi
- Day 11: Hanoi
- Day 12: fly to Bangkok
Would I change anything now that I have been in Vietnam?
Yes. If you are pressed for time, we did not find Ho Chi Minh to be a must-see and would suggest using more days to explore northern Vietnam (Sapa) which is known to be beautiful. If you want to relax, Hoi An is very relaxing because it has beach and a beautiful old town where you can walk around and have a nice dinner or even get a suit or dress tailor-made. In Vietnam, the rule “less is more” applies more than ever.
Did Vietnam fulfill my high expectations?
Yes!! It exceeded them! The people, the food, the landscapes are amazing. It’s a beautiful country.
While planning for Vietnam, I learned to stop asking around as much (I got really confused) and to trust my gut instead. Of course it’s very helpful to read a couple of blogs and ask for a couple of recommendations but don’t over do it, everyone’s way of travel is different. That’s why it’s important to trust your gut feeling and plan (or not plan) your trips to make sure you’re happy.