Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa & Hoi An, Vietnam

Route: Ho Chi Minh City is a good base to start off your adventure in Vietnam. After exploring the city and its vicinity, this trip continues to Hanoi in the North, from where we do an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay, after which we come back to Hanoi. The Vietnamese capital is also a major starting point to travel up to Sa Pa on an overnight train.

Following the journey in the north, we take a plane to Hue to see the old imperial capital. Hoi An is in close proximity of a two hours ride away. Hue also serves as our last hub before going back to Ho Chi Ming City and from there to back home.

See map below:

See map on Google Maps.

Transportation: You can arrive to Vietnam into Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi from many locations. Motorbiking is for the adventorous. It is quite intimidating even to walk across crossways in cities.

To get around within the country, Vietnamese Airlines is extremely afforable and has good coverage.

Biking is highly recommended in Hue, to see the royal mausoleums.

Accommmodations: Although there are numerous places to stay at tourist destinations, make advance reservations nevertheless. They fill up quickly during high seasons, and they are very affordable.

In Hanoi, be careful of hotel pretenders. You would never think that the cautionary words would ever apply to you, but they sure do. The taxi from the airport may take you to a different location nearby your hotel where his friend greets you to take to his hotel.

This trip used the following accommodations:

  • Ho Chi Minh City: Ngoc Minh: It's very clean, affordable and safe. Location is superb.
    Legend Hotel: If you'd like something five stars, but yet so much affordable for what is compared to other countries, this hotel with a lovely swimming pool at the city center can be your choice.
  • Hanoi: Hanoi Gecko Hotel: In downtown historic Hanoi, this hotel is close to everything, safe and clean. It maybe a bit noisy though, given where it is.
  • Sa Pa: Thai Bin Sa Pa Hotel: This is a lovely hotel to stay at. The owner and his daughter are adorable. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. They help arrange local guides to take you to villages and markets.
  • Hue: Tran Li Hotel: This hotel is on the main stretch, right on one side of the Perfume river, with an easy 20 minutes walk away from the Citadel. If you mind the noise, this is not your option.
  • Hoi An: Long Life Hotel: This is a very good option at a summery setting, with a swimming pool, garden and dominance of the white color in its decoration.

Food: Eating out is easy, accessible and affordable. You can dine at luxurious restaurants and also taste street food, which tastes, at times, so much better than restaurant food. Try the famous pho and fresh spring rolls. Following are some recommendations:

  • Ho Chi Minh City: Quan An Ngon: Good Vietnamese with a very nice atmosphere. You can see the food stations.
  • Hanoi: Bobby Chinn Restaurant: World famous chef's restaurant in Hanoi can surprise you with its intriguing blends. Nevertheless, it may stop just a notch away from wowing you.
  • Hoi An: Mango rooms: Haoi An has some very delicious local specialities, but this restaurant puts a modern spin on its dishes. It's very tasty and somewhat pricey. Make sure to weed out bay leaves from your dish, if you have any. It stuck to someone's throat in our party, but it was all good. After an email of suggestion, the restaurant owner graciously invited us over to the restaurant to apologize.

    Hoi An's night market is also a great place to taste Cao Lau and White rose.


  • Ha Long Bay: Baitho Junk: There are many levels of comfort that you can visit the Ha Long Bay. Baitho Junk provides couple of alternatives. Regardless, you will see the same enchanting cliffs.
  • Sa Pa: Tulico Express: They books train compartments to Lao Cai, from where you should have a pick up to take you to Sa Pa (Ask your hotel, they will arrange one for you). Each compartment can have as much as four people, and if you book for two, you'll still have the space for four people, but it will be all for your group.
  • Cooking class in Hoi An: Red Bridge Cooking Class via Buffalo tours: This is a very fun way to learn about Vietnamese cooking, while also enjoying a boat ride. You get to eat your own creation, and you'll be surprised to see how well you can cook Vietnamese food.

For more: See Lonely Planet's Vietnam section.

A trip with friends to a destination filled with history, trekking, eating, drinking, and everything in between.

This video is about: Ho chi minh city, hanoi, Ha long bay, Sa Pa, Hoi an, Vietnam

From: December 2009