FINAL THOUGHTS ON VIETNAM
Myself and Phil (a friend from home) are eroute to Hong Kong and after booking the correct date but the wrong month I was lucky to get a seat! Not to mention I was sent good news about my luggage which has been AWOL for 3 weeks now, but more on that here in the Hong Kong Series.
Phil was always going to come out for a few weeks and as it was up to me always going to be Vietnam. So I was guaranteed that Vietnam would go down as a highlight regardless of what happened because the company was never going to be a problem.
I ACTUALLY FELT GUILTY AT HOW NICE THE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE WERE
That was until I arrived and my bag didn’t. This was either going to be a sign of things to come or a blessing in disguise. Which means not having to carry my backpack around Vietnam.
I’m passed the stage in my life of giving enough of a sh*t that my luggage is missing and had too many things to look forward to. None more so than the Castaway Cruise around Ha Long Bay with Vietnam Backpackers Hostel. This is the original party boat and known by many as the highlight of Vietnam.
WHERE IS VIETNAM?
Here we met some a group of Sweds, an English couple, and Irish lad and a South African. I’m not overexaggerating but when I say we got on like we had been best frineds all our lives we did! The bond was insane and the click was instant, something extremely rare even in the backpacker world!
The few days are highly evolved around the social aspect but there are also options to do two activities. We choose rock climbing before the cruise and wake boarding after but in hindsight should have dropped the latter for a go on the donut boat. In all honesty Phil should have dropped both!
The party boat was after the activities and everyone was in great form. The great thing was there was only around 30 people which meant everyone was included. It didn’t get off to the best start as the anchor rope got jammed on the propeller but after Dylan and Reece pretty much sacrificed themselves for everyone else, we were good to venture around one of the natural wonders of the world, singing songs and really having the best time!
- PEOPLE – 9/10, warm, polite, helpful and generous
- BACKPACKING – 8.5/10
- WEATHER – 8/10, colder up north, great down south
- THINGS TO DO – 8/10, Plenty to do and see; activities, history, beaches, nightlife
- FOOD – 7.5/10, I love asian food, try the Vietnamese coffee!!
- VALUE – 8/10. Cheaper than most but no longer what it used to be
After the wakeboarding it was back to Hanoi and the next few days were spent trying to catch our breath and waiting for my baggage! It was then time to buy a pair of bikes were it would take no length of time for me to learn and even less to crash….TWICE! That night was spent with some of the most hospitable people I have ever met where we were given unlimited beer and oysters!
It was here the real adventure started as we drove over the Hoi Van Pass, made famous by Top Gear a few years before. Later we arrived in Hoi An, the tailoring capital of the world where we would enjoy our Castaway Reunion and a few wild nights with the old crowd!
It was also the place were I would be reunited with my bag which turned out to be someone elses, the chances of seeing mine again were dwindling to say the least!
On our way to Quy Nhon we stopped at the scene of the My Lai massacre where 500 innocent Vietnam were murdered by some rouge members of the US Army. Then as a day of huge contrast we experienced some of the most insane superclubs around, fruit bowl shisha and first class service included!!
The roads to Nha Trang were a different level altogether taking you along the best beaches in Vietnam. We kept bumping into more locals, one helped us find and talk to a local mechanic and gave us his only pineapple to share – what a place to try your first one.
BROKEN BIKES, AK47S & A STABBING
For the longest day driving of the trip we had almost 15hrs to do on the road through the mountainous Da Lat. This wasn’t great for the bikes but it was equally problematic as it was stunning. That was until Phil’s bike just fell apart.
We then drove through the night to Nui Ne where we could finally rest up before another long day tomorrow. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels were mind blowing and another unforgettable experience were we explored the entire complex and then tried our hand at some AK47s! Our final stop was Ho Chi Minh were we sold our bikes and witnessed a stabbing happen right in front of us.
There is no doubt Vietnam is a special place but its USP is something you will not get anywhere else. Due to the large amount of motorbikes in the country it makes buying a bike actually feasible! The shape of the country also lends itself very well to be explored via the main spine road with only short detours.
What really surprised me the most was the attitude and how welcoming the local people are. Considering what would the western world (America) put them through during the war I didn’t notice any ill feeling and they were clearly trying to move on, something I’m sure would be more difficult had it been the other way around.
As visitor numbers continue to increase, Vietnam is no longer the cheaper alternative to Thailand but if you are willing to get off the beaten path you’ll be able to experience the value that everyone talked about in the past. Not to mention the authentic experiences also on offer.
Who should go to Vietnam? If you are looking for something a little more off the beaten path than Thailand, more value for money and if you are a little (I mean a little) more adventurous. Even if you are on your own you cannot go wrong with taking a bike and driving it south. Does the thought doing this on your own scare you? Don’t worry the Vietnamese people will look after you, I can assure you!
If you do end up going, make me a promise; do the Castaway Cruise and talk to the locals when ever the opportunity arises!
Myself and Phil are currently on our way to Hong Kong to catch his flight home. I’ll be staying to try the food, apply for my Chinese visa and do the Worlds Highest Bungy jump! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
This post is part of the Vietnam Series, click to explore
- Did you ever visit Vietnam
- What were your highlights
- Any recommendations for me if I was to return?
Let me know in the comments below . . .